It Wasn't Just the Goths...

Discussion in 'Historical European Swords and Sword Arts' started by Jonathan Randall, Dec 7, 2006.

  1. Jonathan Randall

    Jonathan Randall Senior Master

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    It Wasn't Just the Goths who gave the Roman Empire trouble - there was also the Alamanni:




    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alamanni

    Conflicts with the Roman Empire
    [​IMG]
    The Limes Germanicus AD 83 to 260.


    The Alamanni were continually engaged in conflicts with the Roman Empire. They launched a major invasion of Gaul and northern Italy in 268, when the Romans were forced to denude much of their German frontier of troops in response to a massive invasion of the Goths from the east. Their raids throughout the three parts of Gaul were traumatic: Gregory of Tours (died ca 594) mentions their destructive force at the time of Valerian and Gallienus (253–260), when the Alemanni assembled under their "king", whom he calls Chrocus, who "by the advice, it is said, of his wicked mother, and overran the whole of the Gauls, and destroyed from their foundations all the temples which had been built in ancient times. And coming to Clermont he set on fire, overthrew and destroyed that shrine which they call Vasso Galatae in the Gallic tongue," martyring many Christians (Historia Francorum Book I.32–34). Thus 6th century Gallo-Romans of Gregory's class, surrounded by the ruins of Roman temples and public buildings, attributed the destruction they saw to the plundering raids of the Alemanni.
    In the early summer of 268, the Emperor Gallienus halted their advance into Italy, but then had to deal with the Goths. When the Gothic campaign ended in Roman victory at the Battle of Naissus in September, Gallienus' successor Claudius II Gothicus turned north to deal with the Alamanni, who were swarming over all Italy north of the Po River.
    After efforts to secure a peaceful withdrawal failed, Claudius forced the Alamanni to battle at the Battle of Lake Benacus in November. The Alamanni were routed, forced back into Germany, and did not threaten Roman territory for many years afterwards.
    Their most famous battle against Rome took place in Argentoratum (Strasbourg), in 357, where they were defeated by Julian, later Emperor of Rome, and their king Chondomar ("Chonodomarius") was taken prisoner to Rome.
    On January 2, 366 the Alamanni yet again crossed the frozen Rhine in large numbers, to invade the Gallic provinces, this time being defeated by Valentinian.
    In the great mixed invasion of 406, the Alamanni appear to have crossed the Rhine river a final time, conquering and then settling what is today Alsace and a large part of the Swiss Plateau. Fredegar's Chronicle gives the account. At Alba Augusta (Aps) the devastation was so complete, that the Christian bishop retired to Viviers, but in Gregory's account at Mende in Lozère, also deep in the heart of Gaul, bishop Privatus was forced to sacrifice to idols in the very cave where he was later venerated. Although this, it is thought, may just be a generic literary ploy to epitomize the horrors of barbarian violence.
     
  2. Jonathan Randall

    Jonathan Randall Senior Master

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    Thoughts on what Western Martial Arts Weapons were used most effectively by these Germanic Tribes? What were the best ways they countered Roman military tactics and formations?
     
  3. exile

    exile To him unconquered.

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    Jonathan, isn't there another factor as well? By the time these Germanic peoples started making serious dents in the Roman military perimeter, is it not the case that the Roman army was pretty much a shadow of what it had been under, say, Claudius and Hadrian? This is far from any area of mine, but my impression is that it wasn't just new methods of warfare (including mass attacks on horseback, I think?) by Rome's `barbarian' enemies but also the depletion of supplies, training and in a sense committment in the Roman military...
     
  4. Touch Of Death

    Touch Of Death Sr. Grandmaster

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    I've heared recently that Rome fell more to weather and subsequent plagues, more than to any enemy.
    Sean
     
  5. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

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  6. exile

    exile To him unconquered.

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    You're right, XS---Armenius was quite unusual in defeating the Roman army while it was still approaching the peak of its strength... and not one elephant to his name! Guy was apparently a military genius. Do you know what it was that he did right, in that battle?
     
  7. Rich Parsons

    Rich Parsons A Student of Martial Arts

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    Carthage?
     
  8. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

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    To be completely honest not exactly, the Romans did consider him a friend and he did ambush them in the Teutenberg Forest and I think it was a terrain thing that much I remembered. Is that it?

    I know he took the Roman legion standard and that really made Rome rather angry.
     
  9. Ken Pfrenger

    Ken Pfrenger Green Belt

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    Don't forgert about Brennus sacking Rome with his Gauls in the 4th century BC. He is known for saying "Vae Victis" woe to the vanquished.
     
  10. Jonathan Randall

    Jonathan Randall Senior Master

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    I think you're right. These folks would have fallen to Trajan's legions, IMO. However; I did need to tie it into WMA in some way, lol.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trajan
     
  11. exile

    exile To him unconquered.

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    But you know, it's possible that the tactics, the WMAs, that had made the Romans so successful against the Germanic and Celtic peoples they had defeated were no longer usable under the degenerating conditions in the late empire. That the training of soldiers and the actual military expertise that had worked so smoothly from Claudius to Trajan no longer made it feasible to use that advancing triangle tactic---the one where you have a line displaying several `sawteeth' each side of which consists of a shieldwall with soldiers stabbing between the shields using their short swords, and those caught between two sawteeth cut to ribbons as the line advanced---which had crushed Bodicca's forces somewhere in the midlands
    and pretty much doomed any resistance which relied on one-on-one fighting, as the Celts and the early Germanic opposition did. I suspect you had your best shot at the Romans fighting in dense forests where that formation was unusuable, which was probably why Armenius was successful even against a very capable Roman force.

    The trick with that Roman `rolling wedge' tactic is that it requires tremendous discipline, and I suspect the training of the late-era Roman soldiers didn't enforce nearly as much discipline as you'd have found in a couple of hundred years earlier. I'm also not so sure about the use of cavalry against the late empire armies---my impression is that mounted assaults gave the legions a great deal of trouble...

    ... so really, the issue of WMAs is involved here, eh? :)
     
  12. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

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    OK I cheated and went and looked it up, and I found that it was pretty much exactly that he trapped them between a marsh and tree covered hilly terrain which did prevent them from making the famous wedge formation.

    And form what I have read and seen in documentary the later armies of Rome where very much effected by the influx of non-Romans in the legion and the discipline did break down, some of that I imagine due to language issues (but language issues are pure speculation on my part).

    Incidentally the fall of Rome could also have something to do with the collapse of the centralized religion on which they where based. They would not be the first major civilization to fall to this. The belief system changes as do the philosophies and goals that held it together. Of course it could also be the reverse too. The civilization begins to fail and then people look to other religions for answers.
     
  13. matt.m

    matt.m Senior Master

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    In Non Commissioned Officers School while I was in the USMC we were told that it was the incest, syphillis, and lead poisoning that led to a whole host of medical problems that destroyed Rome.

    Remember in WWI and II that more people died of disease and trench foot than of bullet. The same with things brought on in Korea and Vietnam.

    Medicines and vaccines have gone a long way.
     
  14. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

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    Certainly a factor, I had forgot about this until you mentioned diseases

    The plague
    http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/H/history/guide03/timeline34.html

    Also just because one can drink wine from a lead cup does not mean one should, this is also suggested as a possible reason for the madness, bizarreness and/or brutality of the emperors, Nero and Caligula if I remember correctly
     
  15. exile

    exile To him unconquered.

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    There's a lot of evidence that environmental factors such as illness and decline in public health did contribute mightily to the fall of Rome. But syphilis is unlikely to have been implicated---the current evidence, as I understand it, is that the first definite evidence of syphilis that we can identify places it in Europe, at epidemic scale, at the very end of the fifteenth century, and that it was brought over from the New World---substantially different from (and far more virulent than) what it had become by the mid-16th century.

    I think a long-term factor that contributed to the decline in the quality of Roman life was the phenomenal amount of money that successive emperors wound up pouring into the gladitorial system. By the latter days of the Roman empire, a huge proportion of all surplus income generated by the state through taxes and conquest went to the importation of slaves and animals for the `games' from distant parts of the world and the production of elaborate acts of carnage on huge scales, particularly in Rome itself but throughout the empire. The cost of these shows was phenomenal, and the the whole setup was apparently demand-driven---much of the population seemingly driven by compulsive bloodlust to witness these staged massacres. I remember reading somewhere that when particularly long-awaited mass slaughters had to be cancelled for whatever reason, there were riots and serious political repurcussions.

    So from this angle, the wealth of the empire, that should have been going into upkeep of infrastructure, of military security and support for the far-flung economy---food, at the bottom line---basically dried up. That had to have led to severe consquences across Roman society---certainly, it wouldn't have helped the army any, where many times soldier's pay is said to have been put on hold so that the imperial administrators of the gladatorial games had the bucks to stage their shows...
     
  16. Blindside

    Blindside Senior Master

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    Which centralized religion are you referring to? Christianity? Before the adoption of Catholicism by Constatine, the Roman empire didn't have a centralized religion, unless you call a potpourri of different borrowed gods from various pagan groups, the Greeks, and Persians as a centralized religion. Christianity/Catholicism as an official religion was ascendent during the fall of the western Roman empire, as shown by the Theodosian edicts forbidding all other religions in 391 AD.

    Lamont
     
  17. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

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    First that was kind of a side note, note the main focus of the post

    But sorry, did not mean to offend by calling Rome’s original basic religion centralized.

    How’s this the major religion on which Rome was based which are multiple Gods in a hierarchical system, they left that for monotheism and Rome may have already been in decline by then or it may have started then, that I would have to look up

    Similar declines have happened to other societies when the original religion or religions that they had decline, Egypt went the same root.
     
  18. exile

    exile To him unconquered.

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    XS---there's another take on that issue, which kind of reverses it. In a lot of cases, choice of religion reflects political realities (remember the Huguenot prince, Henri IV, who converted to Catholicism in order to become King of France, uttering the immortal words that are usually translated into English as `Paris is worth a mass'---a good tolerant King by all accounts, but what a cynic, eh?) So a change in religion may signal a shift in political interests, or social structure, or spiritual `mood', where the new religion is more consistent with the changed circumstances. Roman religion started out as a kind of translation of Greek religion, which was a perfect fit with a loose-knit network of city-states: Athena is the patron of Athens, Dionysus was originally a local Theban minor deity, and so on, over hundreds of communities. In ancient Italy the same conditions held, originally, but what happened there was quite different from what happened in Greece: the evolution of a superstate, with rulers of increasingly absolute power, and the emperors themselves eventually becoming gods with their own temples. The diversity and almost chaotic abundance of deities, minor deities, nymphs, spirits and so on reflected in Greek religion is increasingly replaced by a centralized state religion headed by a Big God who, though nominally Jupiter, was identified more and more as the empire grew with the emperor---in other words, a typical match between a centralized absolutist government and a centralized absolutist religious `pantheon' in which the Big God was increasingly the only player, as far as the state was concerned.

    Somewhere along the line, as the empire began to show definite signs of the rot setting in, the whole mood began to change and a lot of so-called mystery religions began to flourish---local cults centered on secret rites. At the time of the emergence of Christianity in Rome, my money would have been on Mithraism, based on the Roman soldiers' tutelary god, their protector, apparently originally Persian---a huge deal in the Roman army. But while some elements of Mithraism seem to have been incorporated into early Christianity, the Mithraists lost out in the competition. You have to ask why. My own guess is that Christianity, with its somewhat anxious emphasis on the condition of the individual soul, the central role of original sin and the helplessness of individuals to ensure their own salvation except through contrition and penitence, reflected the mood of an imperial society that already realized it was in some sense at the end of its tether. The soldier's god didn't really cut it. And while Jupiter and the emperor-gods fit well with the haughty arrogance of the Empire at its height, by the time Constantine embraced Christianity early in the 4th century, there was probably a sense that the game was up. So it might be useful to stand your correlation on its head: the `switch' in Roman religion from the (heavily Jupiter/emperor dominated) `pantheon' (where the others gods and goddesses became seriously subordinate to Mr. Big) to a Christian framework was a kind of natural outcome associated with the sunset mood of the late empire. Remember, Alaric the Visigoth sacked Rome less than a century after Constantine's conversion.

    So maybe it wasn't the switch in religion that led to the drop in imperial morale and the will to defend the Western Empire, but vice-versa: the adoption of an introspective religion focusing on the individual soul reflected the sense of an imminent collapse of the cultural supremacy the Romans had taken for granted for so long?...possibly? Just an idea...
     
  19. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

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    Yes I fully agree, that is why I said earlier in the thread that the belief system changes, as do the philosophies and goals that held it together. Of course it could also be the reverse too. The civilization begins to fail and then people look to other religions for answers.

    However that statement "The civilization begins to fail" could just as easily be that the civilization begins to change and to accommodate that change the religion too had to change.
     
  20. exile

    exile To him unconquered.

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    So the question is, what factors would have led to to that sense of decline and being at the end of the line?.. I kind of think of the tenor of the times for Rome in the fourth and fifth century as being something like what comes across in Bob Dylan's song `Knockin' on Heaven's Door'. And what I wrote about earlier, the massive misguided channeling of $$$ into the gladitorial `exhibitions', again strikes me as one sign a society that desperately want to be distracted from its own rotten state of being---one factor that probably accelerated the downward spiral, but wasn't the ultimate cause, more a reflection of whatever else was really sucking the lifeblood out of Roman society. The cause(s) of that sense of things falling apart are still elusive...123
     

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