Known as Arminius to the Romans, he secretly
plotted against them with his tribesmen and led the Roman armies into a deadly
trap in the Teutoberg Forest in the year 9 C.E. His armies could not withstand
the Roman legion formation, but in the Black and Teutoberg Forests, the Romans
were forced to abandon their military formations and march single file, in which
guise they were easy prey for the furious Cheruscans and Alamanni. So many of
the Roman soldiers were killed or captured that Varus, in shame, committed
suicide by falling on his sword. Rome withdrew its forces back across the Rhine,
and did not attempt any further invasions of the Teutonic territories.
The Herulian Odoacer is credited with being the barbarian who brought about
the end of the Roman Empire. In 476 C.E., he forced the last of the Western
emperors to abdicate. Odoacer was a rash and arrogant fellow, though, with
little concern for others. It was no one's grief when he was slain by Theoderic
in 489 C.E., although the manner of his death was fairly grisly; Theoderic clove
him from the shoulder down to the groin with his sword.
The Vandal Stilicho was the arch-enemy of Alaric the Goth. The barbarian
governor of the northern Roman province, he and Alaric would cross forces 4
times between 392 and 402 C.E. No one understands why, in three different
instances, that Stilicho did not crush Alaric when he so easily could
have. Historians have speculated counter-treaties and "back-stabbing"
against Rome, but no concrete evidence was ever found to support any of these
theories. It seems that Stilicho only wanted to keep Alaric at bay, not to
Perhaps he hoped to team up with him at a later time when he felt that Rome
was weak. Stilicho's most heinous attack against Alaric came on Good Friday,
April 4, 402, when the Christian Goths were celebrating their mass.
The "Good Friday" massacre very nearly wiped out the Goths, but through
negotiations, Alaric was able to maintain his forces. Again, Stilicho could have
wiped him out, but didn't. Stilicho was executed by the Romans on August 22,
408, for suspected treason against Rome, along with thousands of barbarians who
were living peacefully in Rome. It was this last crime against the barbarian
people, it is believed, that gave Alaric his needed "in" for being able to sack
the city of Rome in 410.
Theoderic the Great, ruler of the Ostrogoths, was one of the last barbarians
at the fall of the Roman Empire. After Rome was utterly defeated, he established
treaties with all of the other Germanic tribes, and ruled over sort of a "pax
gothica" until his death during the 6th century C.E. After his death the Goths
fell into squabbles and inter-tribal battles, and were eventually defeated by
the Byzantine empire under Narses around 555 C.E. No more is heard about the
Goths after that time; supposedly they intermingled with the resident cultures.
This site maintains a text of Theodoric's (Theoderic's) Letters. They show
him to be a man of wisdom and fair dealing with others.
During Julius Caesar's occupation of Gaul (now much of which is France) in
the first century B.C.E., things were going fairly smoothly for the Romans until
this upstart Swabian Barbarian named Ariovistus came moseying across the Rhine
to see what was going on. In fury, Julius Caesar chased him and his troops back
across into Germany (58 B.C.E) and proceeded to pursue the occupation of Gaul
much more aggressively than before.
In anger, many of the Gallic barbarian tribes, such as the Averni, rose up in
revolt against the harsh Roman treatment. A feisty young barbarian named
Vercingetorix (pronounced Ver-sin-JEH-toh-ricks) was adamant that Caesar and the
Romans would be driven out of Gaul. His people raised him to kingship in 52
B.C.E. Under his leadership, the Gallic tribes were very largely successful in
quashing the Roman occupation, until the fateful batttle of Alesia, where
Vercingetorix and his troops were forced to yield to Julius Caesar.
Vercingetorix was captured as a prisoner of war, taken back to Rome by the
victorius Julius Caesar, imprisoned there, and later executed by crucifixion in
45 B.C.E. Of course, Caesar himself was assassinated the next year by his
own people, so "what goes around, comes around."
Vortigern was a warlord in Britain during the 5th century C.E. By all
accounts, Vortigern appeared to be a usurper and a pretender to the rule of
Britain, and was shown to be a man of low character and inclinations. He
achieved his position through assassination and treachery, killing even the
young king, Constans, to whom he was an advisor.
Constans' younger brother, Uther, was unknown to Vortigern and so escaped his
treachery. Vortigern ruled Britain with the aid of Saxon mercenaries who
kept him in power until he, too, dealt with them harshly. The Saxons eventually
turned on him and Vortigern met his death in a blazing castle tower in Wales at
the hands of Geoffrey of Monmouth, although some sources claim that the tower
was mysteriously struck by lightning, catching it on fire. After Geoffrey's rule
of Britain, Constans' brother, Uther Pendragon, became ruler of Britain, and
Uther Pendragon was the father of the legendary King Arthur.