The fall of the Western Roman Empire in AD 476 was certainly one of the most events in world history, but unfortunately, it is often misrepresented in popular histories. The collapse is generally depicted as taking place due to the immense pressure and attacks of numerous Germanic tribes – Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Vandals, and Franks, to name a few – and some non-Germanic tribes, most notably the Huns.
Although these tribes were the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, Rome had by the late fifth century done an efficient job of destroying itself through numerous internal problems, including epic levels of corruption, economic malfeasance, demographic stagnation, and a general decline in culture and the social order, to name a few. Outside of the halls of academia, the perspectives and backgrounds of the numerous Germanic tribes who issued the coup de grace are rarely considered.
The somewhat menacing and often colorful names of these tribes referred to collectively as “barbarians” due to Roman historiographical influences, are well-known. Yet, their origins and early movements are understudied and rarely discussed in popular media. Why these Germanic tribes began migrating and settling Europe, attacking and sometimes cooperating with the Romans, remains a mystery. Still, details of the process and how they attained the names they are known by today are known.