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The Great Empires of Prophecy, from Babylon to the Fall of Rome

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    The Alemanni Take Vindelicia—Alemanni and Franks Enter Gaul—From the Rhine to the Seine—The Franks and the Alemanni of To-day

    OF all the barbarian nations that divided the Roman Empire, the Alemanni “were the first who removed the veil that covered the feeble majesty of Italy.”GEP 599.1

    2. “In the reign of the emperor Caracalla [A. D. 211-217], an innumerable swarm of Suevi appeared on the banks of the Main, and in the neighborhood of the Roman provinces, in quest either of food, of plunder, or of glory. The hasty army of volunteers gradually coalesced into a great and permanent nation, and as it was composed from so many different tribes, assumed the name of Alemanni or Allmen, to denote at once their various lineage and their common bravery. The latter was soon felt by the Romans in many a hostile inroad. The Alemanni fought chiefly on horseback; but their cavalry was rendered still more formidable by a mixture of light infantry, selected from the bravest and most active of the youth, whom frequent exercise had inured to accompany the horsemen in the longest march, the most rapid charge, or the most precipitate retreat.GEP 599.2

    3. “This warlike people of Germans had been astonished by the immense preparations of Alexander Severus [A. D. 234]; they were dismayed by the arms of his successor [Maximin, A. D. 235], a barbarian equal in valor and fierceness to themselves. But still hovering on the frontiers of the empire, they increased the general disorder that ensued after the death of Decius [A. D. 250]. They inflicted severe wounds on the rich provinces of Gaul; they were the first who removed the veil that covered the feeble majesty of Italy. A numerous body of the Alemanni penetrated across the Danube and through the Rhaetian Alps into the plains of Lombardy, advanced as far as Ravenna, and displayed the victorious banners of barbarians almost in sight of Rome [cir. A. D. 260]. And then, “laden with spoil, they retired into Germany; and their retreat was esteemed as a victory by the unwarlike Romans.”—Gibbon. 1[Page 600] “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” chap 10, pars. 26, 27. All the quotations on this subject of Rome Divided and the Ten Kingdoms are from Gibbon, unless otherwise credited.GEP 599.3

    4. In the reign of Aurelian, A. D. 270, again, a hundred and twenty thousand of “the Alemanni traced a line of devastation from the Danube to the Po,” and even as far as Fano in Umbria, “with a design of sacking the defenseless mistress of the world.” Aurelian met them in three hard-fought battles. In the first “the Romans received so severe a blow that, according to the expression of a writer extremely partial to Aurelian, the immediate dissolution of the empire was apprehended.” In the third, however, the Romans inflicted upon them “a total and irretrievable defeat. The flying remnant of their host was exterminated, and Italy was delivered from the inroads of the Alemanni.” 2[Page 600] Chap. 11, pars. 18-22.GEP 600.1

    5. In January, A. D. 275, Aurelian was assassinated. Two emperors followed in quick succession,—Tacitus for two hundred days, and Florianus for about three months,—and Aug. 3, A. D. 276, Probus succeeded to the purple, and held the imperial authority till he was murdered in August, A. D. 282. “Instead of reducing the warlike natives of Germany to the condition of subjects, Probus contented himself with the humble expedient of raising a bulwark against their inroads.”GEP 600.2

    6. About the time of Hadrian, A. D. 117-134, a strong barrier of trees and palisades had been built from the Danube to the Rhine, as the boundary of the empire and a check to the marauding Germans. In the place of so rude a bulwark, the emperor Probus constructed a stone wall of a considerable height, and strengthened it by towers at convenient distances. From the neighborhood of Newstadt and Ratisbon on the Danube, it stretched across hills, valleys, rivers, and morasses, as far as Wimpfen on the Necker, and at length terminated on the banks of the Rhine, after a winding course of nearly two hundred miles.GEP 600.3

    7. “This important barrier, uniting the two mighty streams that protected the provinces of Europe, seemed to fill up the vacant space through which the barbarians, and particularly the Alemanni, could penetrate with the greatest facility into the heart of the empire. But the experience of the world, from China to Britain, has exposed the vain attempt of fortifying any extensive tract of country. The fate of the wall which Probus erected may confirm the general observation. Within a few years after his death, it was overthrown by the Alemanni. Its scattered ruins, universally ascribed to the power of the Demon, now serve only to excite the wonder of the Swabian peasant.” 3[Page 601] Chap. 12, par. 20.GEP 600.4

    8. The overthrow of the wall of Probus opened to the Alemanni the country of Vindelicia, which they soon overran, and established themselves on the right of the Rhine, from the Main to the Lake of Constance, in possession of the country known first by the name of Alemannia and afterward by the name of Swabia, which they and their lineal descendants have held till this day. They afterward extended their power over other provinces, of some of which they were in later times deprived, but this they never lost. From their permanent seat in this territory, they constantly made inroads over the Rhine into Gaul until they had secured to themselves a goodly portion of that province also.GEP 601.1

    9. From this time onward the Franks are so intimately connected with the advances of the Alemanni, that, to avoid repetition, they will be considered together.GEP 601.2

    10. “About the year 240 A. D., a new confederacy was formed under the name of Franks, by the old inhabitants of the Lower Rhine and the Weser. The love of liberty was the ruling passion of these Germans; the enjoyment of it, their best treasure; the word that expressed that enjoyment, the most pleasing to their ear. They deserved, they assumed, they maintained, the honorable epithet of FRANKS, or Freemen, which concealed, though it did not extinguish, the peculiar names of the several States of the confederacy.GEP 601.3

    11. “The Rhine, though dignified with the title of safeguard of the provinces, was an imperfect barrier against the daring spirit of enterprise with which the Franks were actuated. Their rapid devastations stretched from the river to the foot of the Pyrenees; nor were they stopped by those mountains. Spain, which had never dreaded, was unable to resist, the inroads of the Germans. During twelve years [A. D. 256-268], the greatest part of the reign of Gallienus, that opulent country was the theater of unequal and destructive hostilities. Tarragona, the flourishing capital of a peaceful province, was sacked and almost destroyed; and so late as the days of Orosius, who wrote in the fifth century [cir. A. D. 415], wretched cottages, scattered amidst the ruins of magnificent cities, still recorded the rage of the barbarians. When the exhausted country no longer supplied a variety of plunder, the Franks seized on some vessels in the ports of Spain, and transported themselves into Mauritania. The distant province was astonished with the fury of these barbarians, who seemed to fall from a new world, as their name, manners, and complexion were equally unknown on the coast of Africa.” 4[Page 602] Chap. 10. pars. 22, 25.GEP 601.4

    12. “The most important service which Probus rendered to the republic was [A. D. 277] the deliverance of Gaul, and the recovery of seventy flourishing cities oppressed by the barbarians of Germany, who, since the death of Aurelian [January, A. D. 275] had ravaged that great province with impunity. Among the various multitude of those fierce invaders, we may distinguish, with some degree of clearness, three great armies, or rather nations, successively vanquished by the valor of Probus. He drove back the Franks into their morasses; a descriptive circumstance from whence we may infer that the confederacy known by the manly appellation of Free, already occupied the flat maritime country, intersected and almost overflowed by the stagnating waters of the Rhine, and that several tribes of the Frisians and the Batavians had acceded to their alliance.” 5[Page 602] Chap. 12, par. 18.GEP 602.1

    13. Probus was succeeded by Carus, who reigned till Dec. 25, A. D. 283, and was then, at his death, succeeded by his two sons Carinus and Numerian. Numerian died, or was murdered, Sept. 12, A. D. 284, and was succeeded by Diocletian September 17, and Carinus was murdered in the following May. And through Diocletian’s divided power arose Constantine. While Constantine reigned as Caesar in Gaul (A. D. 306-312), a body of Franks and Alemanni invaded that province. Constantine defeated them, and “several of their princes” and “a great number of their youth” “were exposed by his order to the wild beasts in the amphitheater of Treves.” 6[Page 603] Chap. 14, par. 18. After this, both Franks and Alemanni seem to have remained on their own side of the Rhine till the time of Constantius, the son of Constantine, about A. D. 350-351.GEP 602.2

    14. Constans, the surviving brother of Constantius, was murdered February, A. D. 350, by the command of Magnentius, an ambitious soldier, who had usurped the purple. This left Magnentius and Constantius to dispute the sole reign of the empire. The dispute was soon brought to a close, however, at the battle of Mursa (Essek) on the river Drave. Magnentius was defeated, and “throwing away the imperial ornaments, escaped with some difficulty from the pursuit of the light horse, who incessantly followed his rapid flight from the banks of the Drave to the foot of the Julian Alps.” He managed to escape into Gaul, where he gathered some forces, but was defeated the second time, and to escape being given up to Constantius, he killed himself by falling on his sword, Aug. 10, A. D. 353, leaving Constantius in undisputed possession of the empire.GEP 603.1

    15. “In the blind fury of civil discord, Constantius had abandoned to the barbarians of Germany the countries of Gaul which still acknowledged the authority of his rival. A numerous swarm of Franks and Alemanni were invited [A. D. 351] to cross the Rhine, by presents and promises, by the hopes the spoil, and by a perpetual grant of all the territories which they should be able to subdue. But the emperor, who for a temporary service had thus imprudently provoked the rapacious spirit of the barbarians, soon discovered and lamented the difficulty of dismissing these formidable allies, after they had tasted the richness of the Roman soil. Regardless of the nice distinction of loyalty and rebellion, these undisciplined robbers treated as their natural enemies all the subjects of the empire who possessed any property which they were desirous of acquiring. Forty-five flourishing cities,—Tongres, Cologne, Treves, Worms, Spires, Strasburgh, etc.,—besides a far greater number of towns and villages, were pillaged, and for the most part reduced of ashes.GEP 603.2

    16. “The barbarians of Germany, still faithful to the maxims of their ancestors, abhorred the confinement of walls, to which they applied the odious names of prisons and sepulchers; and, fixing their independent habitations on the banks of rivers, the Rhine, the Moselle, and the Meuse, they secured themselves against the danger of a surprise, by a rude and hasty fortification of large trees, which were felled and thrown across the roads. The Alemanni were established in the modern countries of Alsace and Lorraine; the Franks occupied the island of the Batavians, together with an extensive district of Brabant, which was then known by the appellation of Toxandria, and may deserve to be considered as the original seat of their Gallic monarchy.”GEP 604.1

    17. In a note Gibbon fixes the date of this permanent entrance of the Franks into Gaul: “The paradox of P. Daniel, that the Franks never obtained any permanent settlement on this side of the Rhine before the time of Clovis, is refuted with much learning and good sense by M. Biet, who has proved, by a chain of evidence, their uninterrupted possession of Toxandria one hundred and thirty years before the accession of Clovis.” The accession of Clovis was in A. D. 481; and one hundred and thirty years carry us back to A. D. 351, as dated above.GEP 604.2

    18. “From the sources to the mouth of the Rhine, the conquests of the Germans extended above forty miles to the west of that river, over a country peopled by colonies of their own name and nation; and the scene of their devastations was three times more extensive than that of their conquests. At a still greater distance the open towns of Gaul were deserted, and the inhabitants of the fortified cities, who trusted to their strength and vigilance, were obliged to content themselves with such supplies of corn as they could raise on the vacant land within the enclosure of their walls. The diminished legions, destitute of pay and provisions, of arms and discipline, trembled at the approach, and even at the name, of the barbarians.” 7[Page 604] Chap. 19, pars. 20, 21.GEP 604.3

    19. Nov. 6, A. D. 355, Constantius associated Julian with himself in the rule of the empire, and appointed to his administration the provinces of the West, with the immediate task of driving out these barbarians whom Constantius had invited in with the promise of a grant in perpetuity of all the lands which they should subdue, and “which they claimed as their own by the right of conquest and treaties.” In five campaigns, A. D. 356-359, by terrible fighting, and with much loss, Julian did succeed in delivering Gaul from both peoples, for a while; though the Salian Franks “were permitted to possess their new establishment of Toxandria, as the subjects and auxiliaries of the Roman Empire.” 8[Page 605] Chap. 19, par. 25.GEP 604.4

    20. The deliverance of Gaul by the defeat of the Alemanni and the Franks established the military fame of Julian; but “unless he had been able to revive the martial spirit of the Romans, or to introduce the arts of industry and refinement among their savage enemies, he could not entertain any rational hopes of securing the public tranquillity, either by the peace or conquest of Germany. Yet the victories of Julian suspended, for a short time, the inroads of the barbarians, and delayed the ruin of the Western Empire.” 9[Page 605] Id., par. 28.GEP 605.1

    21. Valentinian (A. D. 366) and Gratian (A. D. 378), each in turn, were obliged to defend Gaul against the Alemanni; for “the subjects of the empire often experienced that the Alemanni could neither be subdued by arms nor restrained by treaties.” 10[Page 605] Chap. 26, par. 10. “The barbarians by whom the safety of Gaul had been chiefly threatened during the century preceding the accession of Valentinian, were the two great confederacies of the Franks and the Alemanni, the former of whom were settled along the right bank of the Rhine from Rotterdam to Mentz; while the latter, having broken down the feeble barrier whose ruins are now called the Pfahlgraben [ditch fortified with stakes], settled themselves in the fertile Agri Decumates, where for something like two centuries the Roman civilization had been dominant.GEP 605.2

    22. “Thus the Alemanni filled up that southwestern corner of Germany and Switzerland which is naturally bounded by the Rhine, as it flows westward to Basel, and then makes a sudden turn, at right angles, northward to Strasburg, Worms, and Mentz.”—Hodgkin. 11[Page 605] “Italy and Her Invaders.” Vol. i, chap 3, par. 6.GEP 605.3

    23. After the time of Gratian the power of both the Alemanni and the Franks steadily grew until at the death of Valentinian III, A. D. 455, “the Alemanni and the Franks advanced from the Rhine to the Seine.” 12[Page 606] Chap. 34, par. 5.GEP 606.1

    24. This gave to the Franks all of northeastern Gaul north of the river Moselle; for “the humble colony which they so long maintained in the district of Toxandria, in Brabant, insensibly multiplied along the banks of the Meuse and Scheldt till their independent power filled the whole extent of the Second, or Lower, Germany.” 13[Page 606] Chap. 31, par. 39. “As the Roman power declined along that district, their authority increased; early in the fifth century they had spread from the Rhine to the Somme.” 14[Page 606] Encyclopedia Britannica, art. France, History, par. 13.GEP 606.2

    25. It gave to the Alemanni all the country of Gaul south of the Moselle from the Seine to the bend of the Rhine at Basel, in addition to their original possession between the wall of Probus and Winterthur in what is now Switzerland. And they had such prestige as a nation that a victory which Majorion, master-general of the cavalry and infantry of the empire, gained over nine hundred of them, who had crossed the Alps, about A. D. 457, was considered sufficiently meritorious to be rewarded with the imperial power and office.GEP 606.3

    26. Defeats by the Romans “did not break the power of the Alemanni, who, being pressed on by other barbarians in the North, were forced to advance southward and westward to conquer new countries for themselves. Hence, after the middle of the fifth century, we find them established, not only in the country now called Swabia, but also in a part of Switzerland and in Alsace. In these countries the Alemanni have maintained themselves ever since, and the greater part of the modern Swabians and the northern Swiss are descendants of that ancient race.” 15[Page 606] Encyclopedia Britannica, art. Alemanni.GEP 606.4

    27. “The territory of these two great confederacies [the Franks and the Alemanni] is constantly spoken of by contemporary writers as Francia and Alemannia. We feel that we are standing on the verge of modern history when we recognize in these two names the France and the Allemagne of the French newspaper of to-day. Though other elements have been abundantly blended with each confederacy, it is not altogether forbidden us to recognize in these two barbarous neighbors of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, the ancestors of the two mighty nations which in our own day met in thunder on the plains of Gravelotte.”—Hodgkin. 16[Page 607] “Italy and Her Invaders,” Vol. i, part i, chap 3, par. 6.GEP 606.5

    28. The later history of the Franks is easily suggested in the name of France. So also to the French is the later history of the Alemanni easily suggested in their name for Germany—Allemagne. But in the word Germany this is not so easily understood. However, the Alemanni were not only one of the principal roots of the mighty German nation of to-day, but they played no small part in the history of Europe in the Middle Ages, and even to our own time. Under the rule of the Alemannian House of Hohenstaufen was the most glorious and prosperous period of medieval German history. With but a short interval, after the end of the Hohenstaufen dynasty the Alemannian House of Hapsburg held the imperial office in the “Holy Roman Empire,” as long as that empire existed; and when it ceased to exist, still ruled in Austria; and does yet rule the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Alemannian House of Guelf furnished to England the House of Hanover and by it her present and most illustrious Queen Victoria. Spain in her glory was ruled by princes from the Alemanni. The Alemannian House of Hohenzollern made of Prussia one of the strongest States of Europe, and accomplished what had been the wish of ages,—the vital union of all the little States into which the German people had been separated,—and now rules the German Empire. The present emperor of Germany is directly descended from a prince of the Alemanni.GEP 607.1

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