The Middle Ages

The Roman Empire geographically established the original concept of a European boundary. With all of it’s great achievements likee
civil law, politics and literature, the collective willpower of the Roman Empire would eventually degrade over time and give way to new ideas andd
influences. The empire of Rome did not fall- it fizzled. The Western Roman Empire gave way to the Middle Ages around 476, when the Barbarian,,
Odoacer, overthrew the emperor Romulus Augustulus. Other historians give the year 410, when Alaric, king of the Visigoths, sacked Rome. Still,,
others say about 500 or even later. In any event this early medieval period is often referred to as the Dark Ages because of the apparent collapse off
Greco Roman culture. During this time their was no effective government and no sense of state, just small autonomous tribes and peasantt
communities. Local life was isolated, fragmented, dreary, illiterate and superstitious..

For various reasons, Germanic people to the North had long desired to expand into Roman territories perhaps because of pressures from
overpopulation, wars, or food shortages.These Barbarians were semi-nomadic tribes led by warrior chiefs. They advanced forcefully against the
Empire in the fourth century as the strength and determination of the Roman Empire was being degraded by political decay, civil war, economic
problems and social decadence. Various Barbarians such as the Ostrogoth, Vandals, Lombards, Franks, Angles, Saxons and other tribes overcame a
disintegrating Roman Empire. The advanced systems of Roman law, culture and government gave way to crude forms of Barbarians. These invaders
lacked the ability to continue the achievements in art, literature, and engineering. However, these invaders also brought with them new ideas and
traditions that changed Roman culture to a more diverse and defused culture which altered the course and development for later Europe. The
Germanic people brought with them their customs and traditions, but the idea that most influenced later Europe was the belief in the rights of the
individual. To the Romans the state was more important than the individual. It is from this merging of cultures that the idea of personal rights, the
concept of government by the people, and crude but representative law courts emerged. These ideas paved the way for the acceptance of new ideas.
This individual thinking allowed for the broad acceptance of Christianity, the most important ingredient that went into the making of Europe. The
cultural legacy of Greece and Rome, combined with the new ideas and traditions of the Germanic people was glued together with Christianity.
As Germanic minorities mingled with what was left of the Roman population, they created new hybrid societies that would differ in ways that would
have great consequences for centuries. How did these various Germanic people assimilate and what kind of governmental and social structures
developed in these early Middle Ages that would later influence the making of Europe? The answers are numerous and complex, but here are a few
underlying basic reasons: Germanic tribes were originally ruled by individuals who were chosen because of their dominance and success in battle.
Germanic warriors were modified by their increased exposure to Roman civilization. Barbarian war bands acquired the concept of stratified ranks from
the Roman armies they encountered which assisted in the evolution of a class structure. As the most elite acquired land and wealth, social inequalities
emerged that would define nobles from peasants in later Europe. German tribes developed regulations or laws that applied to the Romans as well as
their own people. For example, the Franks developed the “Wergeld Value System” where a certain value was placed on every person. Fines were
charged for a violation on that person and varied depending on their status. These Barbarian law codes would later evolve into the “Feudal System” in
Medieval government was a disorganized affair that grew out of Germanic tribal ties of kinship and personal loyalty. Their greatest gains in this
transitional period were made for them by their kings. Most kings tried to rule according to Roman law. But, gradually, by a painful process of political
pioneering, the kings learned to rule in their own names without the benefit of imperial restrictions. By the end of the sixth century, this Germanic style
had totally replaced the Roman administrative system.

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