Human History: Migrations

en in humanity • 5 min read

This post is part of Human History series. Start with introduction.

Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome were, indeed, critical milestones in human history. Mentioned places are the first ones using complex writing system and inventing society as we know it. But as highlighted already before, there were many smaller civilizations around the world, and some were more important than we may think.

In places of today’s Denmark, Norway or Sweden were living Germanic peoples. Romans called them barbarians. Primitive and uncivilized. That may have been true; they had no papyrus, writing system, theatres, temples, cities, bricks, and so on. But they knew how to fight. First migrating Germanic tribes Cimbri and Teutons were dismissed by Romans quickly. But the primary migration wave during the Migration Period starting around year 10375 HE (Human Era, 375 CE) was fatal for the Roman Empire.

Vandals and Goths (later divided to Ostrogoths and Visigoths) migrated in direction of Balkan. They were not the only tribes searching for a new home. Huns, much more dangerous tribe than Germanic peoples, were coming to Europe from Asia. Vandals and Goths wanted to hide from them. Romans didn’t want to let barbarians in on their lands, but a common enemy called for an unusual answer. Romans accepted refugees, how we would call them today.

Huns were repulsed from Europe back to Asia by both Vandals and Goths and also by Franks. In return, all of them asked for land inside the Roman Empire. Germanic tribes liked Roman culture a lot, and they tried to imitate the Romans as much as possible. Of course, Rome didn’t like it, but there was no other option. Germanic tribes were stronger. Over the time, people were mixed, and no one could even say who is who. That made the empire weaker, and the empire collapsed in 10476 HE.

Franks settled down in what we call France, Visigoths in Spain, Vandals in Tunis, and Angles and Saxons in Britain. Romans were not firmly established in Britain, and thus Angles and Saxons did not get in touch so intensely with Roman culture. Other tribes continued with Roman’s culture even after the fall of the empire. Christianity was seen as an essential part of the civilized world, so new Germanic kings and popes continued to spread Christianity by force.

Franks switched to Christianity in 10496 HE. Christian missionary Saint Patrick from Roman Britain shared faith in God in Ireland around the same time. Pope Gregory I sent a group of monks to Britain in 10596 HE. North Italy was forced to worship God, and other countries in today’s Benelux or Germany were attacked by Christians.

Meanwhile, the middle and east Europe was settled by Slavs. It was free land. Germanic peoples only passed through those lands. Great Moravia was the first main location of Slavs in Europe. This location was important because it is on the way between Italy and the Baltic Sea. Franks supported the early Slavic kingdoms, but Slavs were afraid of losing independence, so they asked Byzantine Empire for missionaries to evangelize Slavs.

Byzantine pope sent Cyril and Methodius brothers in 10862 HE. They were successful. Slavs loved them because they used Slavs language instead of Latin and created the Glagolitic alphabet for them. Franks didn’t like it and quickly enough repealed what brothers founded and enforced back Latin.

Slavs on Balkan were, on the other hand, supported by Byzantine, and they were afraid of the same thing as Slavs in Great Moravia, also of dependency, but on Byzantine. First Bulgarian Empire looked to the west for help instead of inviting more Eastern Orthodox Christians. It didn’t work out, but at least Cyril was not welcome in Great Moravia anymore, and Byzantine approved Cyril. They invited him to do an alphabet for them as well. That was enough to fulfill the needs of both empires—the Bulgarian Empire and Byzantine.

Now we can see Europe shaping in a way we know it. We are missing north, which was abandoned by Germanic peoples and filled by Vikings. We know them as pirates, but the true meaning of viking is going for voyage. Their expeditions were vital for the European market. Vikings learned how to navigate on the sea very well. They used sunstone to see the sun for navigation even during a cloudy day.

Of course, first expeditions were just around their homeland (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Britain, Ireland, or Island), and many times their voyage was about a raid on local people. That provoked king Alfred the Great to unite all kingdoms in England as a defense. Nevertheless, Vikings never destroyed everything because they wanted to come back next season. What was, however, vital for the European market was that Vikings managed to travel far away. Basically everywhere around Europe and beyond by the end of Viking Age (11000 HE).

Vikings were in America about 500 years before Columbus, and they were also in Persia. Their ships could load up to 37 tons of goods (from many corners such as Chinese spices, Byzantine silk, French wine, German beer, and also their own products such as amber, wool, and so on), and travel on both river and the open sea. The market was much more luxurious with them.

All tribes from Scandinavia, including Vikings, had a so-called Thing, an assembly where they discussed important topics. At least on the local village level; there was still king around. Island was uninhabited, and Vikings tried to do things differently: they used Thing assembly also at the national level with no king. We saw already before that Greeks tried to organize the nation differently after arriving at new uninhabited land, and the same thing also happened with the discovery of America or Australia by European civilization, which I will talk about in future posts.

This Thing worked well until the first bishop from Ireland visited Island with his God… Businesses with Europeans meant meeting Christians. Vikings had to switch (or at least pretend) they believed in the same God. As we can see, migrations spread God to every culture in Europe. The disaster was just around the corner. To be continued.

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