It has been suggested that well over a million foreigners crossed the Rhine and Danube frontiers during just one century, from circa 250 to 350 c.e.98 One would think that such significant migration would have offset Europe's pronounced population decline in late antiquity. But the "barbarians" themselves were ravaged by epidemics.99 Moreover, those barbarians who survived and then settled within the empire - becoming more sedentary in the process - suffered further from disease.
Goths, Franks, Burgundians, and so on often supplemented rather than displaced what was a disappearing Gallic population. This perhaps explains why Gallic nobles were willing to part with gold rather than agricultural laborers, and why native Gauls offered little or no resistance to invaders.100 Although the Gallic Chronicle of 452 suggests that the settlement of barbarians was encouraged by the Roman government, there clearly were significant tracts of land available for settlement, presumably owing to disease-induced reductions in the native Gaulish population. Thus, the Chronicle tells of Alans who were allotted "deserted lands" around the city of Valence and still other invaders who divided the land with the Gauls.101 In the region about Tours, there is likewise archaeological evidence of dramatic settlement shifts in circa 270 c.e. that may reflect reoccupation of Roman villas by Germanic invaders and the withdrawal of remnant groups of Gallic speakers to hamlets in the more remote parts of the Touraine.102 In northern Gaul and in the lower German province, there is clear evidence that the Franks, who were an amalgamation of small tribes who came together in the first and second centuries between the Weser and Rhine rivers, expanded for the most part peacefully across the Rhine and into Belgium, settling in
98 Whittaker, Frontiers of the Roman Empire, 231.
99 Boak, Manpower Shortage, 112, 128-129; Hopkins, Princes and Peasants, 23; E. A. Thompson, Romans and Barbarians: The Decline of the Western Empire (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982), 236; Zinsser, Rats, Lice and History, 136; Whittaker, Frontiers of the Roman Empire, 220-222.
100 Thompson, Romans and Barbarians, 16, 37, 239.
101 The chronicle does include one instance where Alans were opposed by local inhabitants. See Steven Muhlberger, The Fifth-Century Chroniclers: Prosper, Hydatius, and the Gallic Chonicler of 452 (Leeds: Francis Cairns, 1990), 176-177.
102 Clare Stancliffe, "From Town to Country: The Christianization of the Touraine, 370600." In The Church in Town and Countryside, ed. Derek Baker, pp. 43-59 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1979), 45-48.
areas abandoned by Gallo-Roman landlords, and coexisting with what remained of the local Gallic-speaking population.103 What happened in Gaul happened in Spain. According to Isidore of Seville (570-636 c.e.), epidemics devastated the indigenous population of Spain, paving the way for the "barbarians:"
In the era 449 (411), after the terrible destruction of the plagues by which Spain was destroyed, finally through God's mercy the barbarians were moved to make peace and divided Spain's provinces by lot for their occupation. The Vandals and Suevi took Galicia. The Alani obtained the provinces of Lusitania and Cartagena, and the Vandals called Silingians received Baetica. But the Spaniards in the remaining cities and strongholds, having been struck down by the plagues, placed themselves in subjection to the ruling barbarians.104
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