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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

The Visigoths immediately occupied the remainder of Spain


the king of the Visigoths, was murdered soon after establishing his people in Southern France. Wallia, his successor, crossed the Pyrenees, drove the Vandals out of northern Spain, and made the Ebro river the boundary between them and his Visigoths. Fifteen years afterwards, in 429, the Vandals, under their famous king, Geiserich (incorrectly called Genseric in many histories), were invited by the Roman Governor of Africa to assist him in a revolt against the Empire. They crossed the Straits of Gibraltar in a body, took possession of all the Roman provinces, as far eastward as Tunis, and made Carthage the capital of their new kingdom. The Visigoths immediately occupied the remainder of Spain, which they held for nearly three hundred years afterwards.

[Sidenote: 445. ATTILA, KING OF THE HUNS.]

Thus, although the name and state of an Emperor of the West were kept up in Rome until the year 476, the Empire never really existed after the invasion of Alaric. The dominion over Italy, Gaul and Spain, claimed by the Emperors of the East, at Constantinople, was acknowledged in documents, but (except for a short time, under Justinian) was never practically exercised. Rome had been the supreme power of the known world for so many centuries, that a superstitious influence still clung to the very name, and the ambition of the Germanic kings seems to have been, not to destroy the Empire, but to conquer and make it their own.

style="text-align: justify;">The rude tribes, which, in the time of Julius Caesar, were buried among the mountains and forests of the country between the Rhine, the Danube and the Baltic Sea, were now, five hundred years later, scattered over all Europe, and beginning to establish new nations on the foundations laid by Rome. As soon as they cross the old boundaries of Germany, they come into the light of history, and we are able to follow their wars and migrations; but we know scarcely anything, during this period, of the tribes which remained within those boundaries. We can only infer that the Marcomanni settled between the Danube and the Alps, in what is now Bavaria; that, early in the fifth century, the Thuringians established a kingdom including nearly all Central Germany; and that the Slavonic tribes, pressing westward through Prussia, were checked by the valor of the Saxons, along the line of the Elbe, since only scattered bands of them were found beyond that river at a later day.

The first impulse to all these wonderful movements came, as we have seen, from the Huns. These people, as yet unconquered, were so dreaded by the Emperors of the East, that their peace was purchased, like that of the Goths a hundred years before, by large annual payments. For fifty years, they seemed satisfied to rest in their new home, making occasional raids across the Danube, and gradually bringing under their sway the fragments of Germanic tribes already settled in Hungary, or left behind by the Goths. In 428, Attila and his brother Bleda became kings of the Huns, but the latter's death, in 445, left Attila sole ruler. His name was already famous, far and wide, for his strength, energy and intelligence. His capital was established near Tokay, in Hungary, where he lived in a great castle of wood, surrounded with moats and palisades. He was a man of short stature, with broad head, neck and shoulders, and fierce, restless eyes. He scorned the luxury which was prevalent at the time, wore only plain woollen garments, and ate and drank from wooden dishes and cups. His personal power and influence were so great that the Huns looked upon him as a demigod, while all the neighboring Germanic tribes, including a large portion of the Ostrogoths, enlisted under his banner.

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