Migration Period

The Migration Period was a period that lasted from 375 AD (possibly as early as 300 AD) to 538 AD, during which there were widespread migrations of peoples within or into Europe, during and after the decline of the Western Roman Empire, mostly into Roman territory, notably the Germanic tribes and the Huns. This period has also been termed in English by the German loanword Völkerwanderung[note 1] and—from the Roman and Greek perspective—the Barbarian Invasions.[2] Many of the migrations were movements of Germanic, Hunnic, Slavic and other peoples into the territory of the then declining Roman Empire, with or without accompanying invasions or war.

Historians give differing dates regarding the duration of this period, but the Migration Period is typically regarded as beginning with the invasion of Europe by the Huns from Asia in 375 and ending either with the conquest of Italy by the Lombards in 568,[3] or at some point between 700 and 800.[4] Various factors contributed to this phenomenon, and the role and significance of each one is still very much discussed among experts on the subject. Starting in 382, the Roman Empire and individual tribes made treaties regarding their settlement in its territory. The Franks, a Germanic tribe that would later found Francia—a predecessor of modern France and Germany—settled in the Roman Empire and were given a task of securing the northeastern Gaul border. Western Roman rule was first violated with the Crossing of the Rhine and the following invasions of the Vandals and Suebi. With wars ensuing between various tribes, as well as local populations in the Western Roman Empire, more and more power was transferred to Germanic and Roman militaries.

There are contradicting opinions whether the fall of the Western Roman Empire was a result or a cause of these migrations, or both. The Eastern Roman Empire was less affected by migrations and survived until the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453. In the modern period, the Migration Period was increasingly described with a rather negative connotation, and seen more as contributing to the fall of the empire. In place of the fallen Western Rome, Barbarian kingdoms arose in the 5th and 6th centuries and decisively shaped the European Early Middle Ages.

The migrants comprised war bands or tribes of 10,000 to 20,000 people,[5] but in the course of 100 years they numbered not more than 750,000 in total, compared to an average 39.9 million population of the Roman Empire at that time. Although immigration was common throughout the time of the Roman Empire,[6] the period in question was, in the 19th century, often defined as running from about the 5th to 8th centuries AD.[7][8] The first migrations of peoples were made by Germanic tribes such as the Goths (including the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths), the Vandals, the Anglo-Saxons, the Lombards, the Suebi, the Frisii, the Jutes, the Burgundians, the Alemanni, the Scirii and the Franks; they were later pushed westward by the Huns, the Avars, the Slavs and the Bulgars.[9]

Later invasions—such as the Viking, the Norman, the Varangian, the Hungarian, the Moorish, the Turkic and the Mongol—also had significant effects (especially in North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, Anatolia and Central and Eastern Europe); however, they are usually considered outside the scope of the Migration Period.

Invasions of the Roman Empire
Basic view of second- to fifth-century migrations (see also map of the world in 820)
Timec. 375–568 AD or later[1]
PlaceEurope and the Mediterranean Region
EventTribes invading the declining Roman Empire


Bracteate from Funen, Denmark (DR BR42)
A Migration Period Germanic gold bracteate featuring a depiction of a bird, horse, and stylized head wearing a Suebian knot sometimes theorized to represent the Germanic god Wōden and what would later become Sleipnir and Hugin or Munin in Germanic mythology, later attested to in the form of Norse mythology. The runic inscription includes the religious term alu.

Origins of Germanic tribes

Germanic peoples moved out of southern Scandinavia and northern Germany[10][11] to the adjacent lands between the Elbe and Oder after 1000 BC. The first wave moved westward and southward (pushing the resident Celts west to the Rhine by about 200 BC), moving into southern Germany up to the Roman provinces of Gaul and Cisalpine Gaul by 100 BC, where they were stopped by Gaius Marius and Julius Caesar. It is this western group which was described by the Roman historian Tacitus (56–117 AD) and Julius Caesar (100–44 BC). A later wave of Germanic tribes migrated eastward and southward from Scandinavia between 600 and 300 BC to the opposite coast of the Baltic Sea, moving up the Vistula near the Carpathians. During Tacitus' era they included lesser known tribes such as the Tencteri, Cherusci, Hermunduri and Chatti; however, a period of federation and intermarriage resulted in the familiar groups known as the Alemanni, Franks, Saxons, Frisians and Thuringians.[12]

First phase

The first phase of invasions, occurring between AD 300 and 500, is partly documented by Greek and Latin historians but difficult to verify archaeologically. It puts Germanic peoples in control of most areas of what was then the Western Roman Empire.[13] The Tervingi entered Roman territory (after a clash with the Huns) in 376. Some time thereafter in Marcianopolis, the escort to Fritigern (their leader) was killed while meeting with Lupicinus.[14] The Tervingi rebelled, and the Visigoths, a group derived either from the Tervingi or from a fusion of mainly Gothic groups, eventually invaded Italy and sacked Rome in 410, before settling in Gaul, and then, 50 years later, in Iberia, founding a kingdom that lasted for 250 years. They were followed into Roman territory first by a confederation of Herulian, Rugian, and Scirian warriors, under Odoacer, that deposed Romulus Augustulus on 4 September 476, and later by the Ostrogoths, led by Theodoric the Great, who settled in Italy. In Gaul, the Franks (a fusion of western Germanic tribes whose leaders had been aligned with Rome since the third century AD) entered Roman lands gradually during the fifth century, and after consolidating power under Childeric and his son Clovis’s decisive victory over Syagrius in 486, established themselves as rulers of northern Roman Gaul. Fending off challenges from the Allemanni, Burgundians, and Visigoths, the Frankish kingdom became the nucleus of what would later become France and Germany. The initial Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain occurred during the fifth century, when Roman control of Britain had come to an end.[15] The Burgundians settled in northwestern Italy, Switzerland and Eastern France in the fifth century.

Second phase

The origin and dispersion of Slavs in the 5-10th centuries
Migration of early Slavs in Europe between the 5th-10th centuries AD

The second phase took place between 500 and 700 and saw Slavic tribes settling more areas of central Europe and pushing farther into southern and eastern Europe, gradually making the eastern half of the continent predominantly Slavic.[16] Additionally, Turkic tribes such as the Avars became involved in this phase. In 567, the Avars and the Lombards destroyed much of the Gepid Kingdom. The Lombards, a Germanic people, settled in Italy with their Herulian, Suebian, Gepid, Thuringian, Bulgar, Sarmatian and Saxon allies in the 6th century.[17][18] They were later followed by the Bavarians and the Franks, who conquered and ruled most of Italy.

Old Great Bulgaria and migration of Bulgarians
Bulgars' settlements in the 6th-7th centuries AD

The Bulgars, originally a nomadic group from Central Asia, had occupied the Pontic steppe north of Caucasus since the second century, but after, pushed by the Khazars, the majority of them migrated west and dominated Byzantine territories along the lower Danube in the seventh century. From this time and onward the demographic picture of the Balkans changed permanently becoming predominantly Slavic, while pockets of native people survived in the mountains of southwest Balkans, Albania and Greece.[19][20]

During the early Byzantine–Arab Wars, Arab armies attempted to invade southeast Europe via Asia Minor during the late seventh and early eighth centuries, but were defeated at the siege of Constantinople (717–718) by the joint forces of Byzantium and the Bulgars. During the Khazar–Arab Wars, the Khazars stopped the Arab expansion into Europe across the Caucasus (7th and 8th centuries). At the same time, the Moors (consisting of Arabs and Berbers) invaded Europe via Gibraltar (conquering Hispania—the Iberian Peninsula—from the Visigothic Kingdom in 711), before being halted. These battles broadly demarcated the frontiers between Christendom and Islam for the next millennium. The following centuries saw the Muslims successful in conquering most of Sicily from the Christians by 902.

The Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin from around 895 and the following Hungarian invasions of Europe, and the Viking expansion from the late 8th century conventionally mark the last large movements of the period. Christianity gradually converted the non-Islamic newcomers and integrated them into the medieval Christian order. After that, the German eastward expansion (german: (Deutsche) Ostsiedlung) started in the 11th century in Eastern Europe.

Climatic factors

A number of contemporary historical references worldwide refer to an extended period of extreme weather during 535–536. Evidence of this cold period is also found in dendrochronology and ice cores. The consequences of this cold period are debated.


Barbarian identity

Analysis of barbarian identity and how it was created and expressed during the Barbarian Invasions has elicited discussion among scholars. Herwig Wolfram, a historian of the Goths,[21] in discussing the equation of migratio gentium with Völkerwanderung, observes that Michael Schmidt introduced the equation in his 1778 history of the Germans. Wolfram observed that the significance of gens as a biological community was shifting, even during the early Middle Ages and that "to complicate matters, we have no way of devising a terminology that is not derived from the concept of nationhood created during the French Revolution".

The "primordialistic"[22] paradigm prevailed during the 19th century. Scholars, such as German linguist Johann Gottfried Herder, viewed tribes as coherent biological (racial) entities, using the term to refer to discrete ethnic groups.[23] He also believed that the Volk were an organic whole, with a core identity and spirit evident in art, literature and language. These characteristics were seen as intrinsic, unaffected by external influences, even conquest.[24] Language, in particular, was seen as the most important expression of ethnicity. They argued that groups sharing the same (or similar) language possessed a common identity and ancestry.[25] This was the Romantic ideal that there once had been a single German, Celtic or Slavic people who originated from a common homeland and spoke a common tongue, helping to provide a conceptual framework for political movements of the 18th and 19th centuries such as Pan-Germanism and Pan-Slavism.[24]

From the 1960s, a reinterpretation of archaeological and historic evidence prompted scholars, such as Goffart and Todd, to propose new models for explaining the construction of barbarian identity. They maintained that no sense of shared identity was perceived by the Germani;[26][27][28] a similar theory having been proposed for Celtic and Slavic groups.[29]

A theory states that the primordialist mode of thinking was encouraged by a prima facie interpretation of Graeco-Roman sources, which grouped together many tribes under such labels as Germanoi, Keltoi or Sclavenoi, thus encouraging their perception as distinct peoples. Modernists argue that the uniqueness perceived by specific groups was based on common political and economic interests rather than biological or racial distinctions.

The role of language in constructing and maintaining group identity can be ephemeral since large-scale language shifts occur commonly in history.[30] Modernists propose the idea of "imagined communities"; the barbarian polities in late antiquity were social constructs rather than unchanging lines of blood kinship.[31] The process of forming tribal units was called "ethnogenesis", a term coined by Soviet scholar Yulian Bromley.[32] The Austrian school (led by Reinhard Wenskus) popularized this idea, which influenced medievalists such as Herwig Wolfram, Walter Pohl and Patrick Geary.[26] It argues that the stimulus for forming tribal polities was perpetuated by a small nucleus of people, known as the Traditionskern ("kernel of tradition"), who were a military or aristocratic elite. This core group formed a standard for larger units, gathering adherents by employing amalgamative metaphors such as kinship and aboriginal commonality and claiming that they perpetuated an ancient, divinely-sanctioned lineage.[33]

The common, track-filled map of the Völkerwanderung may illustrate such [a] course of events, but it misleads. Unfolded over long periods of time, the changes of position that took place were necessarily irregular ... (with) periods of emphatic discontinuity. For decades and possibly centuries, the tradition bearers idled, and the tradition itself hibernated. There was ample time for forgetfulness to do its work.[34]


Historians have postulated several explanations for the appearance of "barbarians" on the Roman frontier: weather and crops, population pressure, a "primeval urge" to push into the Mediterranean or the "domino effect" of the Huns falling upon the Goths who, in turn, pushed other Germanic tribes before them. Entire barbarian tribes (or nations) flooded into Roman provinces, ending classical urbanism and beginning new types of rural settlements.[35] In general, French and Italian scholars have tended to view this as a catastrophic event, the destruction of a civilization and the beginning of a "Dark Age" that set Europe back a millennium.[35] In contrast, German and English historians have tended to see Roman/Barbarian interaction as the replacement of a "tired, effete and decadent Mediterranean civilization" with a "more virile, martial, Nordic one".[35]

Rather than "invasion", German and Slavic scholars speak of "migration" (German: Völkerwanderung, Czech: Stěhování národů, Swedish: folkvandring and Hungarian: népvándorlás), aspiring to the idea of a dynamic and "wandering Indo-Germanic people".[36]

The scholar Guy Halsall has seen the barbarian movement as the result of the fall of the Roman Empire, not its cause.[35] Archaeological finds have confirmed that Germanic and Slavic tribes were settled agriculturalists who were probably merely "drawn into the politics of an empire already falling apart for quite a few other causes".[37] The Crisis of the Third Century caused significant changes within the Roman Empire in both its western and its eastern portions.[38] In particular, economic fragmentation removed many of the political, cultural and economic forces that had held the empire together.[39]

The rural population in Roman provinces became distanced from the metropolis, and there was little to differentiate them from other peasants across the Roman frontier. In addition, Rome increasingly used foreign mercenaries to defend itself. That "barbarisation" parallelled changes within barbaricum.[40]

For example, the Roman Empire played a vital role in building up barbarian groups along its frontier. Propped up with imperial support and gifts, the armies of allied barbarian chieftains served as buffers against other, hostile, barbarian groups. The disintegration of Roman economic power weakened groups that had come to depend on Roman gifts for the maintenance of their own power. The arrival of the Huns helped prompt many groups to invade the provinces for economic reasons.[41]

The nature of the barbarian takeover of former Roman provinces varied from region to region. For example, in Aquitaine, the provincial administration was largely self-reliant. Halsall has argued that local rulers simply "handed over" military rule to the Ostrogoths, acquiring the identity of the newcomers.[13] In Gaul, the collapse of imperial rule resulted in anarchy: the Franks and Alemanni were pulled into the ensuing "power vacuum",[42] resulting in conflict. In Spain, local aristocrats maintained independent rule for some time, raising their own armies against the Vandals. Meanwhile, the Roman withdrawal from Lowland England resulted in conflict between Saxons and the Brythonic chieftains (whose centres of power retreated westward as a result). The Eastern Roman Empire attempted to maintain control of the Balkan provinces despite a thinly-spread imperial army relying mainly on local militias and an extensive effort to refortify the Danubian limes. The ambitious fortification efforts collapsed, worsening the impoverished conditions of the local populace and resulting in colonization by Slavic warriors and their families.[43]

Halsall and Noble have argued that such changes stemmed from the breakdown in Roman political control, which exposed the weakness of local Roman rule. Instead of large-scale migrations, there were military takeovers by small groups of warriors and their families, who usually numbered only in the tens of thousands. The process involved active, conscious decision-making by Roman provincial populations.

The collapse of centralized control severely weakened the sense of Roman identity in the provinces, which may explain why the provinces then underwent dramatic cultural changes even though few barbarians settled in them.[44]

Ultimately, the Germanic groups in the Western Roman Empire were accommodated without "dispossessing or overturning indigenous society", and they maintained a structured and hierarchical (but attenuated) form of Roman administration.[45]

Ironically, they lost their unique identity as a result of such an accommodation and were absorbed into Latinhood. In contrast, in the east, Slavic tribes maintained a more "spartan and egalitarian"[46] existence bound to the land "even in times when they took their part in plundering Roman provinces".[47] Their organizational models were not Roman, and their leaders were not normally dependent on Roman gold for success. Thus they arguably had a greater effect on their region than the Goths, the Franks or the Saxons had on theirs.[48]


Based on the belief that particular types of artifacts, elements of personal adornment generally found in a funerary context, are thought to indicate the race and/or ethnicity of the person buried, the "Culture-History" school of archaeology assumed that archaeological cultures represent the Urheimat (homeland) of tribal polities named in historical sources.[49] As a consequence, the shifting extensions of material cultures were interpreted as the expansion of peoples.[50]

Influenced by constructionism, process-driven archaeologists rejected the Culture-Historical doctrine[50] and marginalized the discussion of ethnicity altogether and focused on the intragroup dynamics that generated such material remains. Moreover, they argued that adoption of new cultures could occur through trade or internal political developments rather than only military takeovers.

Depiction in media

See also


  1. ^ Literally "wandering of peoples", sometimes anglicised as "folkwandering" in older sources. The term Völkerwanderungszeit is the German for "Migration Period". See Völkerwanderung according to Collins.


  1. ^ Allgemein Springer (2006), der auch auf alternative Definitionen außerhalb der communis opinio hinweist. Alle Epochengrenzen sind letztlich nur ein Konstrukt und vor allem durch Konvention begründet. Vgl. auch Stefan Krautschick: Zur Entstehung eines Datums. 375 – Beginn der Völkerwanderung. In: Klio 82, 2000, S. 217–222 sowie Stefan Krautschick: Hunnensturm und Germanenflut: 375 – Beginn der Völkerwanderung? In: Byzantinische Zeitschrift 92, 1999, S. 10–67.
  2. ^ Halsall, Guy. Barbarian migrations and the Roman West, 376–568. Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  3. ^ As shown in the title of Halsall, (2008), Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376–568
  4. ^ "The Migration period (fourth to eighth century)", p.5 Migration Art, A.D. 300-800, 1995, Metropolitan Museum of Art, ed. Katharine Reynolds Brown, ISBN 0870997505, 9780870997501
  5. ^ Peter Heather (2003). The Visigoths from the Migration Period to the Seventh Century: An Ethnographic Perspective. Boydell & Brewer Ltd. p. 54. ISBN 978-1-84383-033-7.
  6. ^ Giovanni Milani-Santarpia, "Immigration Roman Empire", MariaMilani.com
  7. ^ John Hines, Karen Høilund Nielsen, Frank Siegmund, The pace of change: studies in early-medieval chronology, Oxbow Books, 1999, p. 93, ISBN 978-1-900188-78-4
  8. ^ The delimiting dates vary, but often cited are 410, the Sack of Rome by Alaric I; and 751, the accession of Pippin the Short and the establishment of the Carolingian dynasty.
  9. ^ Bury, J. B., The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians, Norton Library, 1967.
  10. ^ "Anatolien war nicht Ur-Heimat der indogermanischen Stämme- Eurasisches Magazin". Eurasischesmagazin.de. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  11. ^ Wolfram Euler, Konrad Badenheuer; "Sprache und Herkunft der Germanen: Abriss des Protogermanischen vor der Ersten Lautverschiebung"; 2009; ISBN 3-9812110-1-4, ISBN 978-3-9812110-1-6
  12. ^ Bury, Invasion, Ch. 1.
  13. ^ a b Halsall (2006, p. 51)
  14. ^ Wolfram 2001, pp. 127ff..
  15. ^ Dumville 1990.
  16. ^ Zbigniew Kobyliński. The Slavs in Paul Fouracre. The New Cambridge Medieval History pp. 530–537
  17. ^ Bertolini 1960, pp. 34–38.
  18. ^ Schutz 2002, p. 82
  19. ^ Fine, John Van Antwerp (1983), The Early Medieval Balkans, University of Michigan Press, ISBN 0-472-08149-7, p. 31.
  20. ^ The Miracles of Saint Demetrius
  21. ^ Wolfram, Thomas J. Dunlap, tr. History of the Goths (1979) 1988:5
  22. ^ Anthony D. Smith, The Ethnic Origins of Nations (Oxford, 1966) pp. 6ff., coined the term to separate these thinkers from those who view ethnicity as a situational construct, the product of history, rather than a cause, influenced by a variety of political, economic and cultural factors.
  23. ^ Noble (2006, p. 29)
  24. ^ a b Kulikowski (2007, p. 46)
  25. ^ That was influenced by the 'family tree' model (Stammbaun) of linguistics in that relationships between related languages were seen to be the result of derivation from a common ancestor. The model still is very influential in linguistics
  26. ^ a b Halsall (2008, p. 17)
  27. ^ Todd, pp. 8–10) There is no indication that the Germani possessed a feeling that they were a "separate people, nation, or group of tribes"
  28. ^ Noble, p. 29)
  29. ^ For example, The Celtic World, Miranda Green (1996), p. 3 and The Making of the Slavs. Floring Curta (2001)
  30. ^ Archaeology and LanguageL:Correlating Archaeological and Linguistic Hypotheses. "The Eurasian Spread Zone and the Indo-European Dispersal." Johanna Nichols. pp. 224
  31. ^ Kulikowski (2007, p. 48)
  32. ^ Halsall (2008, p. 15)
  33. ^ Geary (2003, p. 77)
  34. ^ Noble (2006, p. 97)
  35. ^ a b c d Halsall (2006, chpt. 2)
  36. ^ Noble, p. 236)
  37. ^ Noble, p. 247)
  38. ^ Curta (2001) [T]he archaeological evidence of late fourth- and fifth-century barbarian graves between the Rhine and Loire suggests that a process of small-scale cultural and demographic change took place on both sides of the Roman frontier. Can we envisage Roman-Slavic relations in a similar way?
  39. ^ Halsall (2006, p. 42)
  40. ^ Green, D. H. (2000-08-28) [1998]. Language and History in the Early Germanic World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (published 2000). p. 143. ISBN 978-0-521-79423-7. Retrieved 2016-10-09. [...] the first centuries of our era witness not merely a progressive Romanisation of barbarian society, but also an undeniable barbarisation of the Roman world.
  41. ^ Halsall (2006, p. 49)
  42. ^ Halsall (2006, p. 50)
  43. ^ Curta (2001, pp. 120–180)
  44. ^ Halsall (2006, pp. 50–52)
  45. ^ Noble, p. 251)
  46. ^ Barford (2001, p. 46)
  47. ^ Pohl1998, p. 20)
  48. ^ Geary (2003, p. 146)
  49. ^ Pohl (1998, pp. 17–23)
  50. ^ a b Kulikowski (2007, p. 61)


  • Barford, Paul M (2001), The Early Slavs: Culture and Society in Early Medieval Eastern Europe, Cornell University Press, ISBN 0-8014-3977-9
  • Börm, Henning (2013), Westrom. Von Honorius bis Justinian, W. Kohlhammer, ISBN 978-3-17-023276-1
  • Curta, Florin (2001). The Making of the Slavs: History and Archaeology of the Lower Danube Region, c. 500–700. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-139-42888-0.
  • Curta, Florin (2006). Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 500–1250. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-81539-0.
  • Dumville, David (1990), Histories and pseudo-histories of the insular Middle Ages, Aldershot, Hampshire: Variorum
  • Geary, Patrick (2003), Myth of Nations. The Medieval Origins of Europe, Princeton Paperbacks, ISBN 0-691-11481-1
  • Fouracre, Paul, ed. (2006), The New Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. 1: c. 500 – c. 700, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-36291-1
  • Halsall, Guy (2006), "The Barbarian invasions", in Fouracre, Paul (ed.), The New Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. 1: c. 500 – c. 700, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-36291-1
  • Halsall, Guy (2008), Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376–568, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-43491-2
  • Heather, Peter J (1998), The Goths, Wiley-Blackwell, ISBN 0-631-20932-8
  • Kleineberg, A.; Marx, Chr.; Knobloch, E.; Lelgemann, D.: Germania und die Insel Thule. Die Entschlüsselung von Ptolemaios' "Atlas der Oikumene". WBG 2010. ISBN 978-3-534-23757-9.
  • Kulikowski, Michael (2007), Rome's Gothic Wars: from the third century to Alaric, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-84633-1
  • Noble, Thomas; Goffart, Walter (2006), From Roman provinces to Medieval kingdoms, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-32742-3
  • Pohl, Walter (1998), "Conceptions of ethnicity in Early Medieval Studies", in Little, Lester K; Rosenwein, Barbara (eds.), Debating the Middle Ages: issues and readings, Wiley-Blackwell, ISBN 1-57718-008-9
  • Todd, Malcolm, The Early Germans, Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 0-631-19904-7
  • Wolfram, Herwig (2001), Die Goten. Von den Anfängen bis zur Mitte des sechsten Jahrhunderts, München: C. H. Beck

External links


The Angles (Latin: Angli; German: Angeln) were one of the main Germanic peoples who settled in Great Britain in the post-Roman period. They founded several of the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England, and their name is the root of the name England. The name comes from Anglia, a peninsula located on the Baltic shore of what is now Schleswig-Holstein.


A bracteate (from the Latin bractea, a thin piece of metal) is a flat, thin, single-sided gold medal worn as jewelry that was produced in Northern Europe predominantly during the Migration Period of the Germanic Iron Age (including the Vendel era in Sweden). The term is also used for thin discs, especially in gold, to be sewn onto clothing in the ancient world, as found for example in the ancient Persian Oxus treasure, and also later silver coins produced in central Europe during the Early Middle Ages.

Chip carving

Chip carving or chip-carving, kerbschnitt in German, is a style of carving in which knives or chisels are used to remove small chips of the material from a flat surface in a single piece. The style became important in Migration Period metalwork, mainly animal style jewellery, where the faceted surfaces created caught the light to give a glinting appearance. This was very probably a transfer to metalworking of a technique already used in woodcarving, but no wooden examples have survived. Famous Anglo-Saxon examples include the jewellery from Sutton Hoo and the Tassilo Chalice, though the style originated in mainland Europe. In later British and Irish metalwork, the same style was imitated using casting, which is often called imitation chip-carving, or sometimes just chip carving (authors are not always careful to distinguish the two), a term also sometimes applied to pottery decorated in a similar way.

Elder Futhark

The Elder Futhark, Elder Fuþark, Older Futhark, Old Futhark or Germanic Futhark is the oldest form of the runic alphabets. It was a writing system used by Germanic tribes for Northwest Germanic dialects in the Migration Period, the dates of which are debated among scholars. Runic inscriptions are found on artifacts, including jewelry, amulets, tools, weapons, and, famously, runestones, from the 2nd to the 8th centuries.

In Scandinavia, beginning from the late 8th century, the script was simplified to the Younger Futhark, and the Anglo-Saxons and Frisians extended Elder Futhark, which eventually became the Anglo-Saxon futhorc. Anglo-Saxon futhorc and the Younger Futharks remained in use during the Early and the High Middle Ages respectively. Knowledge of how to read the Elder Futhark was forgotten until 1865, when it was deciphered by Norwegian scholar Sophus Bugge.

Frisian Kingdom

The Frisian Kingdom (West Frisian: Fryske Keninkryk), also known as Magna Frisia, is a modern name for the Frisian realm in the period when it was at its largest (650-734). This empire was ruled by kings and emerged in the mid-7th century and probably ended with the Battle of the Boarn in 734 when the Frisians were defeated by the Frankish Empire. It lay mainly in what is now the Netherlands and – according to some 19th century authors – extended from the Zwin near Bruges in Belgium to the Weser in Germany. The center of power was the city of Utrecht. In medieval writings, the region is designated by the Latin term Frisia. There is a dispute among historians about the extent of this realm; There is no documentary evidence for the existence of a permanent central authority. Possibly Frisia consisted of multiple petty kingdoms, which transformed in time of war to a unit to resist invading powers, and then headed by an elected leader, the primus inter pares. It is possible that Redbad established an administrative unit. Among the Frisians at that time there was no feudal system.

Germanic Heroic Age

The Germanic (or "German") Heroic Age, so called in analogy to the Heroic Age of Greek mythology, is the period of early historic or quasi-historic events reflected in Germanic heroic poetry.

Germanic paganism

Germanic paganism refers to the indigenous religion of the Germanic people from the Iron Age until Christianisation during the Middle Ages. Rooted in Proto-Indo-European religion, Proto-Germanic religion expanded during the Migration Period, yielding extensions such as Old Norse religion among the North Germanic peoples, Continental Germanic paganism among the continental Germanic peoples, and Anglo-Saxon paganism among the West Germanic people. Among the East Germanic peoples, traces of Gothic paganism may be discerned from scant artifacts and attestations. According to John Thor Ewing, as a religion it consisted of "individual worshippers, family traditions and regional cults within a broadly consistent framework".


The Goths (Gothic: Gut-þiuda; Latin: Gothi) were an East Germanic people, two of whose branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Western Roman Empire through the long series of Gothic Wars and in the emergence of Medieval Europe. The Goths dominated a vast area, which at its peak under the Germanic king Ermanaric and his sub-king Athanaric possibly extended all the way from the Danube to the Don, and from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.The Goths spoke the Gothic language, one of the extinct East Germanic languages.


Grogarnsberget or Grogarnsberg (lit. "The Grogarn Mountain" more appropriate "Grogarn Hill") is a plateau hill on the Östergarn coast, on the Swedish island of Gotland. On the hill are the remains of former hillfort, the second largest on Gotland and the fourth largest in Scandinavia.


The Lamellenhelm (plural Lamellenhelme) was a type of helmet used in Europe during the Early Middle Ages. Examples are characterized by caps made from overlapping lamellar scales, in addition to a brow plate, cheek guards, and camail. They are distinct from the contemporary spangenhelm and crested helmets also found in Europe; unlike those, which are influenced by Roman designs, Lamellenhelme display eastern influence and have primarily been found in southeastern Europe. They are mostly associated with the Avars of Pannonia and the Lombards of Italy.


The Lemovii were a Germanic tribe, only once named by Tacitus in the late 1st century. He noted that they lived near the Rugii and Goths and that they had short swords and round shields.The Oksywie culture is associated with parts of the Rugii and Lemovii. Also, the Plöwen group (German: Plöwener Gruppe) of the Uecker-Randow region is associated with the Lemovii.The archaeological Dębczyn group might comprise the remnants of the Lemovii, probably identical with Widsith's Glommas, who are believed to have been the neighbors of the Rugii, a tribe dwelling at the Baltic Sea coast in today's Pomerania region before the migration period. Both "Lemovii" and "Glommas" translate to "the barking". Germanic sagas report a battle on the isle of Hiddensee between king Hetel (Hethin, Heodin of the Glommas) and Rugian king Hagen, following the abduction of Hagen's daughter Hilde by Hetel. Yet, there are also other hypotheses about the location of the Lemovii, and that their identification as Glommas, though probable, is not certain.The Lemovii have also been equated with Jordanes' Turcilingi, together with the Rugii with Ptolemy's Rhoutikleioi, also with Ptolemy's Leuonoi and with the Leonas of the Widsith.

Migration Period art

Migration Period art denotes the artwork of the Germanic peoples during the Migration period (ca. 300-900). It includes the Migration art of the Germanic tribes on the continent, as well the start of the Insular art or Hiberno-Saxon art of the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic fusion in the British Isles. It covers many different styles of art including the polychrome style and the animal style. After Christianization, Migration Period art developed into various schools of Early Medieval art in Western Europe which are normally classified by region, such as Anglo-Saxon art and Carolingian art, before the continent-wide styles of Romanesque art and finally Gothic art developed.

Migration Period spear

The spear or lance, together with the bow, the sword, the seax and the shield, was the main equipment of the Germanic warriors during the Migration Period and the Early Middle Ages.

Migration Period sword

The type of sword popular during the Migration Period and the Merovingian period of European history (c. 4th to 7th centuries AD), particularly among the Germanic peoples was derived from the Roman era spatha, and gave rise to the Carolingian or Viking sword type of the 8th to 11th centuries AD.

The blade is normally smooth or shows a very shallow fuller, and often has multiple bands of pattern-welding within the central portion. The handles were often of perishable material and there are few surviving examples. Blade length measured between 28" and 32" (710 and 810 mm) in length and 1.7" to 2.4" (45 to 60 mm) in width. The tang has a length of only some 4" to 5" (100 to 130 mm) long. The blades show very little taper, usually ending in a rounded tip.

Surviving examples of these Merovingian-period swords have notably been found in the context of the Scandinavian Germanic Iron Age (Vendel period).

Net register tonnage

Net register tonnage (NRT, nrt, n.r.t.) is a ship's cargo volume capacity expressed in "register tons", one of which equals to a volume of 100 cubic feet (2.83 m3). It is calculated by subtracting non-revenue-earning spaces i.e. spaces not available for carrying cargo, for example engine rooms, fuel tanks and crew quarters, from the ship's gross register tonnage. Net tonnage is thus used in situations where a vessel's earning capacity is important, rather than its mere size. Net register tonnage is not a measure of the weight of the ship or its cargo, and should not be confused with terms such as deadweight tonnage or displacement.

Gross and net register tonnages were replaced by gross tonnage and net tonnage, respectively, when the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted The International Convention on Tonnage Measurement of Ships on 23 June 1969. The new tonnage regulations entered into force for all new ships on 18 July 1982, but existing vessels were given a migration period of 12 years to ensure that ships were given reasonable economic safeguards, since port and other dues are charged according to ship's tonnage. Since 18 July 1994 the gross and net tonnages, dimensionless indices calculated from the total moulded volume of the ship and its cargo spaces by mathematical formulae, have been the only official measures of the ship's tonnage. However, the gross and net register tonnages are still widely used in describing older ships.


The Onoğurs or Oğurs (Όνόγουροι, Οὒρωγοι; Onογurs, Ογurs; "ten tribes", "tribes"), were Turkic nomadic equestrians who flourished in the Pontic-Caspian steppe and the Volga region between 5th and 7th century, and spoke Oğhuric language.

Romano-Germanic culture

The term Romano-Germanic describes the conflation of Roman culture with that of various Germanic peoples in areas successively ruled by the Roman Empire and Germanic "barbarian monarchies".

These include the kingdoms of the Visigoths (in Hispania and Gallia Narbonensis), the Ostrogoths (in Italia, Sicilia, Raetia, Noricum, Pannonia, Dalmatia and Dacia), the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in Sub-Roman Britain and finally the Franks who established the nucleus of the later "Holy Roman Empire" in Gallia Aquitania, Gallia Lugdunensis, Gallia Belgica, Germania Superior and Inferior, and parts of the previously unconquered Germania Magna. Additionally, minor Germanic tribes, like the Vandals, the Suebi, and the Visigoths established kingdoms in Hispania.

The cultural syncretism of Roman and Germanic traditions overlaid the earlier syncretism of Roman culture with the Celtic culture of the respective imperial provinces, Gallo-Roman culture in Gaul and Romano-British culture in Britain. This results in a triple fusion of Celtic-Roman-Germanic culture for France and England in particular.

Romano-Germanic cultural contact begins as early as the first Roman accounts of the Germanic peoples. Roman influence is perceptible beyond the boundaries of the empire, in the Northern European Roman Iron Age of the first centuries AD. The nature of this cultural contact changes with the decline of the Roman Empire and the beginning Migration period in the wake of the crisis of the third century: the "barbarian" peoples of Germania Magna formerly known as mercenaries and traders now came as invaders and eventually as a new ruling elite, even in Italy itself, beginning with Odoacer's rise to the rank of Dux Italiae in 476 AD.

The cultural syncretism was most pronounced in Francia. In West Francia, the nucleus of what was to become France, the Frankish language was eventually extinct, but not without leaving significant traces in the emerging Romance language. In East Francia on the other hand, the nucleus of what was to become the kingdom of Germany and ultimately German-speaking Europe, the syncretism was less pronounced since only its southernmost portion had ever been part of the Roman Empire, as Germania Superior: all territories on the right hand side of the Rhine remain Germanic-speaking. Those parts of the Germanic sphere extends along the left of the Rhine, including the Swiss plateau, the Alsace, the Rhineland and Flanders, are the parts where Romano-Germanic cultural contact remains most evident.

Early Germanic law reflects the coexistence of Roman and Germanic cultures during the Migration period in applying separate laws to Roman and Germanic individuals, notably the Lex Romana Visigothorum (506), the Lex Romana Curiensis and the Lex Romana Burgundionum. The separate cultures amalgamated after Christianization, and by the Carolingian period the distinction of Roman vs. Germanic subjects had been replaced by the feudal system of the Three Estates of the Realm.


Seax (Old English pronunciation: [ˈsæɑks] pronounced; also sax, sæx, sex; invariant in plural, latinized sachsum) is an Old English word for "knife". In modern archaeology, the term seax is used specifically for a type of sword or dagger typical of the Germanic peoples of the Migration period and the Early Middle Ages, especially the Saxons, whose name derives from the weapon.In heraldry, the seax is a charge consisting of a curved sword with a notched blade, appearing, for example, in the coats of arms of Essex and the former Middlesex.Old English seax, sax and Old Frisian sax are identical with Old Saxon and Old High German saks, all from a Common Germanic *sahsą from a root *sah, *sag- "to cut" (also in saw, from a PIE root *sek-). In Scandinavia, the words sax, saks or sakset all refer to scissors, which are used for cutting various materials.

The term scramaseax or scramsax (lit. "wounding-knife") is sometimes used for disambiguation, even though it is not attested in Old English, but taken from an occurrence of scramasaxi in Gregory of Tours' History of the Franks.The name of the roofer's tool, the zax, is a development from this word.

Vendel Period

In Swedish prehistory, the Vendel Period (550-790) comes between the Migration Period and the Viking Age. The migrations and upheaval in Central Europe had lessened somewhat, and two power regions had appeared in Europe: the Merovingian kingdom and the Slavic princedoms in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. A third power, the Catholic Church, had begun to expand its influence.

In Scandinavia, the Germanic clan society was still very much alive. In Uppland, in what today is the east-central part of Sweden, Old Uppsala was probably the centre of religious and political life. It had both a well-known sacred grove and great Royal Mounds. There were lively contacts with Central Europe, and the Scandinavians continued to export iron, fur, and slaves; in return they acquired art and innovations, such as the stirrup.

Finds from well-preserved boat inhumation graves at Vendel and Valsgärde show that Uppland was an important and powerful area consistent with the account of the Norse sagas of a Swedish kingdom. Some of the riches were probably acquired through the control of mining districts and the production of iron. The rulers had troops of mounted elite warriors with costly armour. Graves of mounted warriors have been found with stirrups and saddle ornaments of birds of prey in gilded bronze with encrusted garnets.

These mounted elite warriors are mentioned in the work of the 6th century Goth scholar Jordanes, who wrote that the Swedes had the best horses beside the Thuringians. They also echo much later in the sagas, where king Adils is always described as fighting on horseback (both against Áli and Hrólf Kraki). Snorri Sturluson wrote that Adils had the best horses of his days.

Swedish expeditions began to explore the waterways of what was to become Russia, Ukraine, Belarus at this time.

Games were popular, as is shown in finds of tafl games, including pawns and dice.

Timeline of the history of Scandinavia
History of the Germanic peoples
Pagan society
(until about
Early Middle Ages)
Middle Ages
Middle Ages
Middle Ages
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Classical antiquity
Middle Ages
Early modern
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