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Terms in this set (12)

ome time after A.D. 370, the Huns attacked the Germanic tribes of Goths who lived around the Black Sea. The Goths were divided into two groups. The Ostrogoths lived north of the Black Sea. The Visigoths lived north of the lower Danube River. In the attack, the Ostrogoths were overrun and absorbed into the Hun Empire. Many of the Visigoths, however, fled into the Western Roman Empire. Under their leader, Alaric, the Visigoths invaded the Italian Peninsula and took Rome by force in A.D. 410. Leaders who came after Alaric led the Visigoths into lands that are now Spain and France.

Threatened by the Huns in eastern Europe, a Germanic tribe called the Vandals also moved west. In A.D. 406 the Vandals crossed the Rhine River from what is now Germany into Gaul and took control of it. Three years later, they crossed the Pyrenees mountains and entered what is now Spain. Under the Vandal leader Genseric, who ruled from A.D. 428 to A.D. 477, the Vandals invaded northern Africa and set up a kingdom.

In A.D. 455 the Vandals attacked Rome. They looted shops and government buildings, stealing items of value. They also destroyed monuments and temples. The Vandals were actually no more destructive than the other Germanic tribes. Yet today we use the word vandal to describe someone who purposely damages property.

After being attacked twice by Germanic tribes in A.D. 410 and A.D. 455, Rome finally fell in A.D. 476 to a Germanic leader named Odoacer. As a young man, he had joined the Western Roman army. He soon became a leader of the Germanic troops serving in the Roman army. When the Roman government would not give his troops land for settlement, he led them in a revolt. With the overthrow of the Western Roman emperor Romulus Augustulus, Odoacer became the first Germanic king of the Italian Peninsula. Many historians consider this event in A.D. 476 the end of the Western Roman Empire.
After the Western Roman Empire ended, Germanic tribes continued to claim Roman lands in western Europe. Among those to invade Britain during this time were the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. Together they are known as the Anglo-Saxons.

Legend says that a British king named Vortigern asked the Anglo-Saxon tribes for help in defending his lands. Vortigern's kingdom was under attack by the Picts, the ancient people of Scotland. The allies quarreled, however, and soon the Anglo-Saxons began to drive out the Britons. By the late A.D. 500s, the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes controlled most of eastern and southern Britain. There they set up a number of small kingdoms. Over time, these and other kingdoms united their territories into one new, larger kingdom. It was called England, from Anglo-Saxon words meaning "land of the Angles."While this was happening in Britain, the Franks invaded northern Gaul and the Lombards took control of the Italian Peninsula. Both Germanic tribes would have a lasting influence on these lands that are now France and Italy.

In A.D. 486 Clovis, the leader of the Franks, led an invasion of Gaul. He defeated the Gauls, Romans, Visigoths, and others in the territory and set up his own kingdom. By the time Clovis died in A.D. 511, the Franks held firm control from the Rhine River to the Pyrenees mountains. Gaul came to be called France in honor of the Franks.

At about the same time, the Lombards took over what is now Austria. From there they crossed the Alps and invaded the Italian Peninsula. By A.D. 568 they had taken control of much of it. They settled mainly in the part of northern Italy that today is still called Lombardy. Their kingdom lasted more than 200 years.
Historians today know more about Charlemagne than about most rulers of the Middle Ages. This is because of a biography written about him by one of his government officials. Einhard's Life of Charlemagne describes the leader as more than 6 feet (1.8 m) tall. This was very unusual at a time when most men were little more than 5 feet (1.5 m) tall. Charlemagne had piercing eyes, fair hair, and a thick neck.

Einhard describes Charlemagne as a great warrior who conquered parts of Spain and central Europe. Charlemagne controlled an empire from the Pyrenees mountains in the west to the Danube River in the east. His goal was to unite all the Germanic tribes into a single Christian kingdom.

Charlemagne was the son of Pepin III, a Frankish king. Pepin had helped the pope by defending the city of Rome against the Lombards. Like his father, Charlemagne helped the pope. When the Lombards attacked Rome again in A.D. 774, Charlemagne marched into Italy to protect the pope and to defeat the Lombards. On Christmas Day A.D. 800, Pope Leo III rewarded Charlemagne by crowning him Augustus, or emperor of the Romans. Charlemagne had reached his goal of uniting Christendom under his rule.

Like Augustus, the first Roman emperor, Charlemagne wanted to make his empire strong. He improved education so that more people could read and write. By granting large estates to loyal nobles, he built a system of officials to govern the lands. In return, the nobles provided military and political services to him as emperor. The nobles also kept up the roads, bridges, and forts on their land. This system became the basis for European feudalism, the political and military system of Europe. Feudalism lasted for the next 400 years, until the end of the Middle Ages.