The following points highlight the seven known Barbarian Kingdoms of Italy:- 1. Kingdom of the Ostrogoths 2. Kingdom of the Visigoths 3. Kingdom of the Burgundians 4. Kingdom of the Vandals 5. Kingdom of the Lombards 6. Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms in Britain 7. The Frankish Kingdom.
Barbarian Kingdom # 1. Kingdom of the Ostrogoths:
Upon Odoacer’s assumption of power after deposing Romulus Augustulus the Vandal rule began, and continued in Italy for seventeen years. Odoacer had seized the territories of the wealthy Italians and divided them between his followers. His feeble government was, however, brought to a close by the invasion of the Ostrogoth’s, i.e. the Eastern Goths under Theodoric.
The Ostrogoths came from the Lower Danubian region and they had been guarding the Danubian frontier of the Roman Empire as faederati. Theodoric was a nominal ally of the eastern emperor and proved himself to be a costly friend. He obtained a seeming permission from emperor Zeno to invade Italy which was then under the Vandal chief Odoacer.
It is also suggested from the Byzantine source that emperor Zeno himself had hinted to Theodoric the project of Italian conquest. At any rate, the Ostrogoth chief Theodoric proceeded against Italy with his 200,000 followers in the’ fashion of a migrating horde. Italy was not simply to be plundered but occupied as a permanent homeland.
The genius and daring of Theodoric, the greatest of the Ostrogoth chiefs, coped with the dangers that beset the long trek of seven hundred miles from the Danubian region to Italy through snows and severe cold and the treacherous attacks of the bands of Gepides and other tribes.
The intrepid spirit of Theodoric’s followers, the prospect of the rich booty that awaited them made the march a success against numerous obstacles. In 489 the Italians were again startled by the apparition of a Gothic horde issuing from the defiles of the Alps.
Odoacer and his followers fought for the defence of Italy continuously for three years which meant terrible suffering for the people of Italy. In 493 Ravenna surrendered and Odoacer was taken captive and was treacherously murdered by Theodoric at a banquet. Theodoric assumed the sovereignty of the entire Italian peninsula and distributed among his followers all the best lands.
Theodoric, however, compensated Italy by a quiet, good, prosperous rule like of which Italy had not experienced since the time of the Good Antonines. Theodoric’s rule of thirty-three years offers a great relief in the history of the barbarian rule. This kingdom which owed so much to Theodoric’s genius existed only twenty-seven years after his death (526). In 553 Italy was freed from the barbarian rule by the generals of Justinian, the east Roman Emperor.
Barbarian Kingdom # 2. Kingdom of the Visigoths:
The Visigoths or the western Goths had already spread themselves into Spain and south Gaul when Odoacer assumed power in Italy. The chief of the Visigoths, Euric was comparable in ability and efficiency with Theodoric of the Ostrogoth’s. Euric made his mark not only in the whole of Europe, but his fame spread as far as Asia.
From the south of the Pyrenees, i.e. the southern Gaul, the Visigoths were driven out by their kindred people the Franks but they held most of Spain under their control till the beginning of the eighth century when the Saracens crossed over to Spain and defeated Roderick, the last of the Gothic kings in Spain (711). The Visigoth rule however, lasted for about three hundred years in Spain.
Barbarian Kingdom # 3. Kingdom of the Burgundians:
The Burgundians, a kindred race of the Goths, established their permanent settlement at Savoy in the middle of the fifth century with the permission of the extension to Romans. By conquest and diplomacy later on they acquired a considerable portion of Switzerland and modern France.
In France, a portion is still called Burgundy from the name of the German settlers of the fifth century. The Burgundians, however, came in collision with the Franks on the north before they were firmly settled in their kingdom and were reduced by the Frankish king Clovis.
Barbarian Kingdom # 4. Kingdom of the Vandals:
During the latter half of the fourth century and early fifth century, the Vandals left their seats in Pannonia for overcrowding, came to Gaul, Spain and northern Africa. In Africa they made Carthage the capital of their kingdom in that region. The Vandals were the most ruthless and violent of all the German tribes and their name today stands for destruction, pillage and marauding.
Their name was a terror to the entire Mediterranean world. They are also called the ‘Vikings of the South’ and even walled and well-protected cities could not escape the audacious attacks of these people. Besides conquering north Africa, they seized Corsica, Sardinia, Balearic isles, etc. Their persecution of the African Catholics has no parallel in history of cruelty.
The eastern emperor, Justinian took up their challenge and sent his able general Belisarius to drive the barbarians from north Africa, at a time when the Vandals were engaged in, the conquest of Sardinia. The expedition of Belisarius was successful and North Africa was restored to the eastern empire. Many of the Vandals now began to enlist themselves in the army of the eastern empire, and others were gradually being absorbed by the native population and after a few generations there was no trace of barbarian population that could be detected.
Barbarian Kingdom # 5. Kingdom of the Lombards:
From the region of the Middle Danube came the Lombard’s, probably so-called for their long beard. They first came into the service of the eastern emperor and entrusted with the task of exterminating the Gepidae. Thereafter they turned to the conquest of Italy just after the expulsion of the Ostrogoth’s by the generals of Justinian. The Lombards, like the Ostrogoth’s, crossed the Alps and entered the valley of the Po, and gradually subjugated a large part of the peninsula.
The cities on the sea coasts, Rome and the southern portion of the peninsula could not be conquered by them. The Lombards were next to the Vandals in cruel orgies and in acts of destruction and pillage. Albion their king had slain the defeated chief of the Gepidae and married his daughter Rosamund.
Albion’s studied cruelty is to be found in the story of his compelling his bride Rosamund to drink wine from her father’s skull which Albion had made into a drinking cup. Rosamund did not forgive Albion for this insult and plotted his murder and when Albion was actually murdered, she married the murderer in gratitude.
The Lombards, however, became tamed and civilized and in process of time became ardent patrons of art and learning. All this was due to the influence of Roman Christianity and Italian manner of life and living upon them. The Lombard kingdom in the northern part of Italy survived till it was conquered by Charlemagne in 774.
Barbarian Kingdom # 6. Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms in Britain:
The withdrawal of the Roman legion from Britain by emperor Honorious in 410 when Italy was threatened by the barbarians left the Britons defenseless. They were simultaneously attacked by the Picts and the Scots from the north and the German races Called the Angles and Saxons or the Anglo-Saxons from the seaside. The Britons incapable of defending themselves vainly appealed to Rome for help, which the latter was not in a position to render.
In different waves of conquests the Jutes, the Angles and the Saxons began to pour into Britain and conquer portions for themselves. The result was the rise of a number of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in Britain. By the close of the sixth century the invading bands set up eight to ten, perhaps more, separate kingdoms, somewhat inaccurately designated as Heptarchy or seven kingdoms.
Among these the kingdoms of Mercia, Northumbria, Wessex, Essex, enjoyed prominence. These kingdoms were constantly at war and eventually all of them were conquered by Egbert, king of Wessex, who ruled from 802 to 839. Egbert was the first King of England.
Barbarian Kingdom # 7. The Frankish Kingdom:
In the third century the Franks had their settlements west of the river Rhine. They were then in a semi-barbarous state. It was the Franks, however, who gave a new name to Gaul-France, and formed the nucleus of the French nation. The Franks were of two main groups—the Ripurian and the Salian Franks.
The latter were more important and traced their origin from Merwing an early chief of their race. Of the several kings of this line of the Franks, Clodovech or Clovis was the most cruel and treacherous. The fall of the Roman Empire gave Clovis a chance to fulfill his ambition of founding a Frankish kingdom upon the ruins of the Roman Empire. He attacked the Roman governor of Gaul and at the battle of Soissons won a decisive victory in 486 and thus cut off from the Roman Empire Gaul which was conquered by Julius Caesar in the first century B.C. for the Roman Empire.
Soon after Clovis conquered Paris, so called from an ancient tribe called Parisii and made it his capital. After reducing the Teutonic tribes in the neighborhood Clovis conquered the whole of Gaul. He was supported by the Church in the hope of turning the Pagan Franks into Christians.
The Eastern Emperor also sent Clovis the insignia of a Roman Consul. Clovis was only a viceroy of the eastern emperor in name but in reality his independence was unquestioned. But Clovis’ death which was followed by division of his kingdom between his sons according to the Teutonic custom of inheritance, led to dissensions and wars. The Frankish kingdom was then divided into two parts, the eastern and the western, also called Austrasia and Neustria respectively. The eastern part or Austrasia was more thoroughly Teutonic than the western or Neustria which was more Roman in its elements.
The Frankish kings having been rois faineants in each of the two houses, there ruled a high official called Mayor of the Palace or Major Domus. After some time the Mayor of the eastern division gained ascendancy and set aside the Merovingian line and thus gave to the Frankish monarchy a new line called the Carolingian. It was from this house that Charles the Great or Charlemagne arose.