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Barbarians

This illustration shows Huns (in green, on horseback) riding into battle against the Alans (from modern-day Iran), in blue. Both...Read More >>This illustration shows Huns (in green, on horseback) riding into battle against the Alans (from modern-day Iran), in blue. Both were regarded as barbarian peoples by the Romans. The word “barbarian” originally came from the ancient Greeks, who used it to describe anyone who spoke a language they could not understand—a foreigner. The Romans applied the word to the peoples outside their vast empire—for example, the Huns, Goths and Vandals. It was these barbarians who finally brought an end to the Roman Empire. The Huns came from Central Asia, while the Goths and Vandals may originally have come from southern Scandinavia.


Huns, Goths and Vandals

A map of barbarian invasions of the Roman Empire in the 4th and 5th centuries
The Goths and Vandals were Germanic tribes. The Huns originated in Central Asia. Some time after AD 370, the Huns attacked eastern Europe, overrunning the Goths, who had occupied much of the region. Under their leader Attila, the Huns went on to attack Gaul (France), a land controlled by Rome. The Huns collapsed following the death of Attila in 453. King Alaric leads his Gothic army into Rome in AD 410.The Goths split into two groups: the Ostrogoths ("Eastern Goths") and the Visigoths ("Western Goths"). The Visigoths invaded Italy itself, looting Rome in 410. The Vandals moved across Gaul and Spain. They later invaded northern Africa in 429, taking over the Roman provinces there and established a kingdom which also included Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, Malta and the Balearic Islands. From here they sacked Rome in 455. The Visigoths later settled in Spain and Portugal, while the Ostrogoths founded a kingdom in Italy.

The Huns practised what is called cranial deformation: wrapping tight bandages around the heads of newborn babies so that their skulls grew very long and conical in shape.

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