Page:Western Europe in the Middle Ages.djvu/44

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WESTERN EUROPE IN THE MIDDLE AGES

tough, inured to extremes of heat and cold, content with meager rations, spending most of their waking hours in the saddle, hitting hard and suddenly, they could be defeated only by well-disciplined troops operating under first-rate commanders. The Germans, in spite of their bravery as individuals, could offer no effective resistance to the Huns, and the wedge of nomad invaders drove through the strongest Germanic peoples into the heart of Europe. Many of the Germans became subjects or tributaries of the Huns; those who escaped this fate milled around frantically looking for a place of safety. The most obvious refuge was behind the fortified lines of the Roman frontier, and tremendous pressure built up all along the border. From the Rhine delta to the Black Sea the Germans were on the move, and the Roman government could do nothing to stop them.

Since the Germans could not be stopped, the obvious move was to regularize the situation by admitting them as allies serving in the Roman army. This policy was followed with the Visigoths, the first group to cross the frontier. It was not entirely successful, since the Visigoths became annoyed at being treated as a subject people and repeatedly revolted, asking for more land, more pay, and higher offices for their leaders. They defeated a Roman army at Adrianople in 378; they pillaged the western Balkans and moved into Italy, where they sacked Rome in 410. Then they were persuaded to continue their migration to Spain, where they drove out another group of invaders and set up a Visigothic kingdom. In spite of these excesses, the bond between the Visigoths and the Roman government was never entirely broken. They served the Empire occasionally in wars with other Germanic peoples and one of their kings died, fighting for Rome, in a great battle against the Huns in 451.

Meanwhile, the push across the frontiers continued. The Vandals marched from central Germany, through Gaul and Spain, to North Africa. The Burgundians occupied the valley of the Rhone. A mercenary army in Italy set up a king of their own in 476, the