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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

The Alemanni destroyed Strasburg and Mayence


the death of Constantine, in 337, the quarrels of his sons and brothers for the Imperial throne gave the Germans a new opportunity to repeat their invasions of Gaul. The Franks were the first to take advantage of it: they got possession of Belgium, which was not afterwards retaken. The Alemanni followed, and planted themselves on the western bank of the Rhine, which they held, although Strasburg and other fortified cities still belonged to the Romans. About the year 350, a Frank or Saxon, of the name of Magnentius, was proclaimed Emperor by a part of the Roman army. He was defeated by the true Emperor, Constantius II., but the victory seems to have exhausted the military resources of the latter, for immediately afterwards another German invasion occurred.

This time, the Franks took and pillaged Cologne, the Alemanni destroyed Strasburg and Mayence, and the Saxons, who had now become a sea-faring people, visited the northwestern coasts of Gaul. Constantius II. gave the command to his nephew, Julian (afterwards, as Emperor, called the Apostate), who first retook Cologne from the Franks, and then turned his forces against the Alemanni. The king of the latter, Chnodomar, had collected a large army, with which he encountered Julian on the banks of the Rhine, near Strasburg. The battle which ensued was fiercely contested; but Julian was completely victorious. Chnodomar was taken prisoner, and only a few of his troops escaped, like those of Ariovistus,

400 years before, by swimming across the Rhine. Although the season was far advanced, Julian followed them, crossed their territory to the Main, rebuilt the destroyed Roman fortresses, and finally accepted an armistice of ten months which they offered to him.

He made use of this time to intimidate the Franks and Saxons. Starting from Lutetia (now Paris) early in the summer of 358, he drove the Franks beyond the Schelde, received their submission, and then marched a second time against the Alemanni. He laid waste their well-settled and cultivated land between the Rhine, the Main and the Neckar, crossed their territory to the frontiers of the Burgundians (in what is now Franconia, or Northern Bavaria), liberated 20,000 Roman captives, and made the entire Alemannic people tributary to the Empire. His accession to the imperial throne, in 360, delivered the Germans from the most dangerous and dreaded enemy they had known since the time of Germanicus.

[Sidenote: 375. TERRITORY OF THE GOTHS.]

Not many years elapsed before the Franks and Alemanni again overran the old boundaries, and the Saxons landed on the shores of England. The Emperor Valentinian employed both diplomacy and force, and succeeded in establishing a temporary peace; but after his death, in the year 375, the Roman Empire, the capital of which had been removed to Constantinople in 330, was never again in a condition to maintain its supremacy in Gaul, or to prevent the Germans from crossing the Rhine.

We now return to the Goths, who already occupied the broad territory included in Poland, Southern Russia, and Roumania. The river Dniester may be taken as the probable boundary between the two kingdoms into which they had separated. The Ostrogoths, under their aged king, Hermanric, extended from that river eastward nearly to the Caspian Sea: on the north they had no fixed boundary, but they must have reached to the latitude of Moscow. The Visigoths stretched westward from the Dniester to the Danube, and northward from Hungary to the Baltic Sea. The Vandals were for some generations allied with the latter, but war having arisen between them, the Emperor Constantine interposed. He succeeded in effecting a separation of the two, and in settling the Vandals in Hungary, where they remained for forty years under the protection of the Roman Empire.

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