THE GERMAN TRIBES
 TWO thousand years ago the land and people of Germany were a subject of deep interest to Roman writers.
These set down in the Latin tongue descriptions of a great cold stretch of country, covered with
desolate heaths and swamp, or matted with vast, wild, dark sweeps of forest. Among these naked
heaths and through the dusky woodlands roamed men of giant stature, with fair skin, blue eyes, and
long, yellow hair, the men who formed the many tribes of Old Germany. They were hunters and
warriors. They were free men and loved to dwell apart, each in his own homestead or village, rather
than to gather in towns. When they marched to battle they were led by the chief of their tribe, who
was looked upon as king and head of the great family which the tribe formed.
It was about a hundred years before Christ when the Romans first began to feel the presence of these
fierce warriors, coming down from their northern wilds in search of new homes and of plunder. There
was desperate fighting when Roman legions were sent
 to bar the march of the Germans into Italy, and, though the march was checked, it was not until
several Roman armies had been destroyed by the wild tribesmen.
Fifty years passed, and the great Roman general, Julius Caesar, subdued the German tribes dwelling
along the Rhine. In later days the Roman legions were pushed forward until the land between the
Rhine and the Elbe was made tributary to Rome. But the Germans, always lovers of freedom, were eager
to throw off the Roman yoke, and in the year 9 A.D. they struck a terrible blow
at the Roman power. The Emperor Augustus sent one of his friends, a general named Varus, into
Germany with a vast army. The Germans, under a great leader named Herman, rose and attacked him on
the march. There was a fierce battle, and the Roman army was cut to pieces. When Varus saw that all
hope was lost, he threw himself on his sword and perished. When the news of the great disaster was
brought to Rome it caused a panic in the city. Augustus himself was in an agony of distress, and
wandered to and fro, calling out wildly: "O Varus, give me back my legions!" But they were lost
beyond recall, and Varus with them. A few years later, the Roman leader Germanicus won his name for
his exploits in Germany, but he returned to Rome in
 17 A.D. and the Germans were once more left to themselves.
The Roman power was then employed to keep the fierce marauding tribes within their proper
boundaries, and the Old Germans fought amongst themselves now that no foreign troops entered their
land. Tacitus, the great Roman writer, tells us many things about these wild tribesmen. He praises
them for their bravery in war, for the bold and hardy life to which their sons were bred, for the
deep respect which they paid to their women, for their faithful conduct and their kindness to
strangers. But, on the other hand, he points out their faults, saying that they loved to drink so
deeply that a feast often ended in a fierce riot, and they were so fond of gambling that they would
often throw away all they owned on the cast of the dice, even to the losing of their own freedom.
Three hundred years passed after the great victory of Herman, and then there began that strange and
wonderful movement of the peoples which is called the Migration of the Nations. From the vast
forests of Germany there began to pour in various directions great streams of adventurers seeking
new abodes for themselves, north, west, or south of their old home-land. There were two reasons for
this mighty movement. One was that the German tribes were being pressed upon by enemies from the
east, but the second and chief was that the Roman power was failing, and the rich and fruitful lands
hitherto guarded by the swords of the legions now began to lie open to attack.
 The chief tribes of Germany were the Saxons, the Franks, the Goths, and the Alemanni. The Saxons
sailed north and west, crossed to Britain, whence the Romans had now departed, and formed the
kingdom of England. The Franks moved west-ward into Gaul, and in time gave their name to the land of
France. The Goths formed a great and important tribe, famous among their kinsmen because they were
the first Germans to become Christians, and to become polished and civilised in their mode of life.
The Goths won wide lands for themselves in the south of Europe, marching as far east as Athens. They
were the first German people to feel the assault of a new and terrible foe which appeared in Europe,
The Huns were a wild barbarian race which came from Asia, and they swarmed westward in countless
hordes, the warriors marching ahead, while vast trains of waggons rolled after them bearing their
women and children. They were of Mongol blood, short, dwarf-like men, but thick-set and powerful in
build. They were very hardy, caring nothing for cold, heat, hunger, or hardship. They were so ugly
with their flat noses, yellow faces, tiny eyes, and big, upstanding cheek-bones that the people of
Europe believed that they were the offspring of demons, and dreaded them as much for their horrible
appearance as for their fury in attack.
Upon the Goths fell the first onset of these terrible little savages, and some of the chief Gothic
tribes were conquered. A great branch of the Gothic people, the Visigoths, turned for help to their
old enemies, the Romans, and were allowed by the
 Emperor Valens to cross the Danube, and settle on the Roman side, the southern bank, in order to be
safe from the dreaded Huns. But the Goths were so badly treated by Roman officers that they rose
against Valens and overthrew him in a great battle in 378. These were the people who were to strike
the blow which shattered Roman authority, and showed that Roman power was but the shadow of its
former greatness. In 408 they marched into Italy under their great commander Alaric, and sat down
before the walls of Rome. The Romans, once so stern a fighting race, trembled at sight of the Gothic
horde, and begged for peace. Alaric offered peace, but it must be paid for, and he demanded so vast
a ransom for the safety of the city that the Romans were aghast. "What should we have left?" they
cried. "Your life," was the grim answer of the Goth.
He received the money and went away, only to return the next year. Now the gates of the Eternal City
were opened to him by treachery, and he and his Goths swept in and Rome was sacked. For six days the
plundering hordes rifled the city and swept together a vast mass of treasure, then marched away to
southern Italy. Here Alaric suddenly died, and the Goths gave their famous king a wonderful burial.
A river was turned aside from its course, and in the dry river-bed a deep grave was dug and a great
vault of masonry built in it. In this vault was placed Alaric clad in full armour and seated on his
war-horse. Around him was heaped a vast pile of glittering treasure, the choicest of the immense
spoil which he had taken. Then the river was turned into its former
 bed and rushed along over the grave, so that no one might know where the great King of the Goths was
DOLMEN IN A GERMAN FOREST
A BURIAL-PLACE OF AN ANCIENT GERMAN CHIEF.
The next great conquest of the Goths was the land of Spain, where another German tribe settled
beside them. The latter was the tribe of the Vandals, who seized a province called by them
Vandalusia, but now known as Andalusia. These Vandals also crossed over to Africa and seized the
Roman possessions there, and formed a Vandal empire whose capital was the famous city of Carthage.
The Vandals were a ferocious race who did such terrible mischief wherever they went that their name
has lingered to this day, and we still use the term vandal for one who destroys for the mere
pleasure of destruction.
The Huns now drove their way into the heart of Europe and settled in the land still called Hungary.
But they pushed on westwards under the banner of their terrible leader Attila, known as the Scourge
of God, and feared all over Europe and Asia. With a vast army Attila swept over Germany and marched
deep into Gaul, till he was brought to bay in 451 on a great plain near Chalons, on the Marne. Here
a great army of Romans, Goths, and Franks had gathered, the last hope of Europe in face of the
swarming hordes of savage Huns. The battle was long and desperate, and vast numbers were slain on
both sides. In the end the Huns were driven back and Europe was saved.
The next year saw Attila marching on Rome, but he turned aside on receiving a great ransom and
retired to Hungary. In a short time he died, and
 after his day the Huns, having no great leader, were no longer a terror to their neighbours.