But the Rhine would not be the problem. It was the Danube that would prove to be the sieve through which the Germans would attack Rome and its Mediterranean provinces over a three hundred year period and bring down the empire in the west.
Who were these Germans?
They were not one people but a group of tribes inhabiting Germany and points east to the north shore of the Black Sea. Our knowledge of them is sketchy and the facts missing or unreliable, so we have to piece together the history. We do have their names and maps showing where they lived.
Caesar spoke of the Chatten, Usipeter, and Friesen. But there were also larger tribes made up of absorbed smaller groups. The Goths, for example, consisted of Ostragoths (eastern branch) and Visigoths (western branch) with varying numbers of smaller tribes included in them. Many times the smaller tribes would go to war with their larger brethren, but remain separate.
The map above shows the major tribes of Germany. Each of them would have a significant impact on the future of Europe. The Franks and Burgunder would occupy France, the Lombards northern Italy, and the Goths and Vandals would come to control most of Europe and beyond. I have indicated the location of the Rhine and Danube rivers in red to give the reader a sense of the Roman borders with the Germans.
In the next few posts we will describe the major tribes in more detail and show how they were able to destroy the western empire.