Germany

empire, partly, franks, peoples, roman, valley, power and rhine

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6

Thus, with no definite centre, ringed round by all the peoples who have mattered, with many different characteristics in many parts, peopled by men with many different views of life, open to external stimuli from all directions which have reacted differently on each unit, this heart land of peninsular Europe has been one, only when the government has been strong.

It was left outside the Roman Empire partly because the forest was difficult to penetrate in force and difficult to govern, partly because the land was colder in winter than that to which the southern European was accus tomed. Hence the communities, Teutonic in the west, Slavonic in the east, though they lived more or less inde pendently in their forest clearings, were yet influenced for some centuries by that Empire from which filtered ideas, not the least the idea of central government, and such tangible products of civilization as clothing and arms.

With the weakening of the Roman power and the pres sure of the tribes from the plains, the Teutonic peoples were the first to be partly tempted, partly forced into the lands that had acknowledged the sovereignty of Rome and were comparatively rich because the Pax Romana had allowed wealth to accumulate. The Saxons crossed the seas to Britain; the Franks, without moving altogether from their homeland round the modern Frankfort, acquired power in Gaul ; the Burgundians migrated to the Rhone Valley ; while Goths, Vandals and Lombards overran various portions of the Mediter ranian shorelands. The latter tribes were sooner or later lost among the peoples whom they conquered for a time, but the Franks, who had not all left their old home and the conditions with which they were familiar, were able, while gaining much from their proximity to the Empire, to retain many of their old manners and customs. Notice the position of the homeland of the Franks ; it was situated in that part of the Rhine Valley which lies round the towns of Mainz and Frank fort. Here is a piece of land fertile and comparatively warm, with lowlands through which movement is easy stretching in four chief directions — north-westward down the Rhine gorge to the open plains of the Lower Rhine and the Delta, north-eastward through the Wetterau to what is now Hanover and was then Saxony, eastward by the valley of the Main and so to the Danube and Bavaria, and southward up the Rhine Valley to Swabia. It is not accident that those Franks, partly within, partly without the Empire were the first of the Teutonic peoples to set about the organization of that land which had not yet really mattered. By way of

the Lower Rhine the Franks spread first in the direc tion of Roman civilization in Gaul, and then extended their power in other directions over the neighbouring Teutonic peoples not so centrally placed as themselves. Twice did the independent eastern Franke establish a state partly in Gaul, partly in Germany, once under Clovis on the ruins of the Roman power, and later, when the first had become decadent, Pippin, Charles Martel, Pippin II. and Charles the Great, again from the eastern homeland, re-established the state on a stronger basis than ever. Christianized by the Roman Church, defeating under Charles Martel the Saracen assault on Western Europe, the Franks became the champions of Christendom ; and, recognized as such by the Pope, who had inherited what was left of the authority of Rome, they set up another Empire which owed a great part of its power to that recognition. Charlemagne greatly strengthened this Empire and extended it south wards to take in the Pyrenees and Lombardy, as well as eastwards and soiith-eastwards. But these exten sions were sources of weakness. In the first place, the expansion brought the Frankish power into touch with the Scandinavians, and a stimulus was given to the outward movement of the Scandinavian peoples and to the attack by the heathen Norsemen on all the coasts of peninsular Europe, so that for a time Christendom was hemmed in on all sides by enemies. Further, as long as the Frankland in the Rhine Valley was the only area that mattered outside what had been the Roman Empire of the west, the Franks, strong and virile, were almost certain to take the lead, but when what had been other lands with their many different conditions were brought into the civilized world, an additional impetus was given to the formation of minor states. Even before the time of Charlemagne the natural tendency to division between Gaul and the land of the Franks had shown itself ; while Charlemagne lived and for a short time after his death the Frankish Empire remained whole, but in a few years it fell apart, first into three and then into four parts, two of which corresponded to, but did not coincide with, the modern France and Germany; the others being Burgundy and Northern Italy, the essential part of which was Lombardy. Burgundy and Lombardy were again united to the German area in a later form of the Empire, but the essential part of Burgundy—the Saone-Rhone Valley— eventually became incorporated in France, while Northern Italy long remained within the Empire, and suffered with it from the lack of centralization.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6