The Western world has dominated the rest of the world for centuries now. The countries of the western world have colonized all of the Americans and set up trade companies from the Kongo to Japan, but it seems everyone traces the beginning of western civilization back to the Roman ancestry. The truth is we share more ancestry with the German and Turkish tribes that conquered the Roman Empire than the Empire itself.
A short background to the fall of the Roman Empire is that Rome was fighting against the some of the German tribes to the north, at this point it is important to know that Rome had become extremely corrupt from within and was much weaker than its size would suggest. To help with the fighting the Roman commanders hired German mercenaries to fight in the army and before long most of the Roman army was made of Germans and some were even commanded by Germans. The Germans stayed loyal but in the Roman cause but when the emperor died trouble started. The Roman Empire had loose rules of succession and because of this and the cultural differences many German commanders thought they should be the emperor this lead to civil war and at one point there were twenty-eight different emperors.
During the fall of Rome many of the Germanic tribes left Germania to more civilized roman land. One of these tribes were the Lombards. The Lombards have a very dynamic and interesting history, but in a short summary as Rome retreated from Italy to Greece the Lombards crossed the Alps and settled the peninsula of Italy. Another migration during the fall of Rome was the Saxons. This was another Germanic tribe but instead of going south these Germans decided to sail Great Britain. This type of migration was not just restricted to the newly catholic Germanic tribes, the Turks also took advantage of the fall of Rome to leave the Steppe of Asia a move into Persia and Asia Minor.
The Lombards have a very interesting and dynamic history, but the most curios part of it is their migration into Italy. There is a good chance that as the reader you have heard words based on the name of the tribe “Lombards”, like Lombardy, but you have never actually heard on the tribe itself. This migration started in 568 AD and ended four years later in 572 when the cities north of the Po River fell. After this point the tribe of the Lombards now adopted a feudal system. So they would now be known as the Kingdom of Lombardy. The feudal system itself lead to many complicated transfers of power and once Charlemagne conquered Lombardy in the late 8th century the Lombard rule of Italy ended. (“Lombard (people).”)
Why is this migration important if the Lombards ruled Italy for such a, respectively, short period of time? The major effect of this is that Italy was known no longer Roman. Today we think of anyone in Italy as Italian and we think of all the Roman influences on Italy, but in truth the Italian people are more Lombardy than Roman. The best example of this is to think of Milan. Milan is one of the largest cities in Italy and is home to many companies, but Rome did not create Milan in fact, during feudal time Milan was inside the duchy of Lombardy.
The Saxons, properly known as the Anglo-Saxon, were three different German tribes. They were the Saxons, Angles and Jutes. This cultural migration is my personal favorite because it is unique in that it happened over sea. Since Great Britain was not nearly as civilized as Italy during this time period there are less specifics about the migration itself. What is known is that the British Isles were originally 100% Celtic and then the Saxon sailed over and settled modern day England. The Saxon also decided to adopt feudalism but the kingdom of England was not formed for a few hundred more years instead there were four kingdom that occupy current day England. (“Anglo-Saxon (people).”)
There were actual two migrations into England. The next one would not come till 1066 with William the Bastard, or better known as William the Conqueror. The specifics of why William invaded England are very complex but a simplification is that the king of England died without an heir and Pope said William could have England. William was the duke of Normandy, the north coast of France. The culture of Normandy is a subgroup of the Frankish culture, it first developed when the Vikings started forcefully occupying Frankish territory. The Frankish culture was originally another German tribe that settled France, then known a Gaul. This meant that England has experienced two German migrations.
There were many more than just these two German migrations. The largest was the previously mentioned Frankish invasion of Gaul. These different migration means that if you are English, Italy, French and German when you trace your family history back to the pre feudal times you will find German ancestry. Today these culture are distinctive from each other and this had to do with one of the general reasons for the German migrations. One reason the Germans left was looking for a better more conferrable life and this is why many Germans adopted aspects of the region they settled, like the language. (“Seljuq (Turkish Dynasty).”)
This type of cultural migration was not only for the western world, one of the largest and most distinctive eastern migration was the Turks. At the time a large Turkish tribe that lived in Central Asia was led by a man named Seljuq. This migration happened slowly and over different rulers, but in the end the Seljuk Empire expanded from India to Asia Minor. At the beginning of the 13th century the Seljuk Empire fell apart but a large portion of the Turkish population had settled Anatolia, modern day Turkey. This region was already occupied by many Greek colonies but a majority the inland region was unoccupied and the Turkish people had an easy migration.
This Turkish migration was very different from the German migration in that the Turkish people did not adopt the customs of the Greek people in the area. They kept their own language, religion and more subtle cultural distinctions. The Turks have had great influences on the rest of the world since their migrations. They were the primary reasons for the crusades, they conquered the remainder of the Eastern Roman Empire and they formed the Ottoman Empire which was a superpower during World War I.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Anglo-Saxon (people).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2014.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Lombard (people).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2014.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Seljuq (Turkish Dynasty).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2014.