The Romans in Germany Essay
There were many territories that made up the Roman Empire. These territories that it was a part of helped to make the it one of the greatest civilizations of all time. One such territory was Germania, which later developed into the present day country of Germany. For nearly half a millennium much of what is now Western Germany formed an integral part of the Roman Empire. In 55 B. C. , Caesar’s armies reached the Rhine and by 15 BC Roman armies had advanced as far as the Danube River.
The history that we know of Ancient Germany under Roman power comes from ancient sources that have been discovered through archaeology, written history, and also oral history. Archaeology is a large part of how most of Germany’s history has been compiled. Through archaeological digs it has been established how Roman culture influenced the Germans and also what kind of lifestyle the German people led. The Romans brought with them their highly developed urban civilization which they grafted upon the conquered Germanic peoples along the Rhine and the Danube Rivers.
With their armies, they brought city governors, engineers, architects, surveyors, merchants, artisans, and craftsmen. Towns were built, using Roman city planning principles with homes, featuring mosaic floors and wall paintings. Fresh water was carried by aqueducts from the nearby mountains, supplying fountains, public baths, and even private homes. Entertainment was provided by theaters, amphitheaters, and circuses. A Forum or marketplace usually surrounded by colonnades was the center of civic life.
Public buildings included a market and temples dedicated to Roman, native, and oriental gods or goddesses. Thriving businesses were established, among them the manufacture of pottery and glass, the mining of ore, and the quarrying of building materials. Another source of information that opens up Germany culture is written history. Caesar and Tacitus both wrote about the German culture and the society in which they lived. Although many of their records are not tremendously accurate, they still give us an overview of how German society functioned and how it compared to other cultures throughout the Empire.
Germania’s geography made it attractive to the Romans as a potential province to add to the already powerful Roman Empire because of the combination of natural resources, agriculture, and military strategic value. The main resources that Germany had to offer came in the form of metals such as copper, nickel, uranium and, most importantly, iron. Their iron was of such quality and was acquired in such abundance that in was exported to Rome for use in most everything that was created from iron. The German agricultural system was vital to Rome‘s balence.
Most Germans were farmers but a large portion of the population were also herders. They had been were agriculturists from the beginning of their existence and by now had established advanced villages based on land plots that grouped together around a central water supply. The main crops that they raised were cereal grains such as wheat, barley, oats, and rye. Around the North Sea area there was an emphasis on cattle raising. These were all important to Rome because how land most in other places was ill suited for farming and grazing.
Germany also had a great strategic advantage that was appealing to the Romans. First of all it could be used to protect Gaul north of the Danube which had already come under Roman influence. And, it also provided for a buffer from Gaul. There was no real boundary in the east so the acquisition of Germany gave the Romans the protected border that they needed. The tribes that eventually settled in the Germanic area were tribes that had for the most part been migrating throughout Europe for many years.
There were some that claimed to have Germanic ties, such as the Treveri and the Sugambri and some others but for the most part the tribes that made up Germany migrated from Gaul or other surrounding areas. The physical features of each tribe were very similar to each other. Tacitus described the Germans as blond-haired, blue-eyed people with large frames. Other accounts tell of reddish-blond-haired figures that were well-built and long-skulled. Their facial features are preserved on Roman monuments. Julius Caesar initiated the first contact with the German people.
He was the first person to take an interest in Germany. This contact came during the Gallic Wars in 58 BC when he put an end to the power of the German tribes in Alsace. In 55 BC he crossed the Rhine to persuade the Germans not to interfere with the war in Gaul. He crossed the Rhine a final time in 53 BC to relieve himself of the pressure from the rebelling Gauls. Other than these few contacts with Caesar the Romans left the Germans pretty much in peace. The invasions of Germany came later and under a new leadership. Augustus remained in Gaul until 13 BC when Drusus the Elder took control of the province.
In 12 BC Drusus crossed the Rhine to establish his presence around Germany. The next year he pushed farther into Germany, and by 9 BC had conquered many of the German tribes. Drusus died later that year and was replaced by his brother Tiberius who fought a number of smaller wars and eventually left Germany in the hands of legates who had made friendly relations with many of the native tribes. Augustus, satisfied with the accomplishments of both Drusus and Tiberius, pushed to make Germany a province of the Roman Empire.
The Romans had over estimated their position in Germany and found the tribes unwilling to accept the offer of provincial status. The command then fell upon Varus who was caught in a surprise attack while marching through the Teutoburg Forest and was defeated with great loses. The Rhine now once again served as the frontier of the Roman Empire. After this defeat the Romans practiced frontier defense along the Rhine with ten new legions. In AD 69 a revolt broke out involving many of the tribes. The Romans saw this as their opportunity.
Vespasian Emperors and the Flavians gained control in 70 and punished the tribes for their actions. The Flavians strengthened the already existing forts and defensive lines. Germany was Romanized in varying degrees. The key to Romanization was to get the German nobility on the side of the Romans by giving them grants of citizenship and absorb them into the ranks of the mounted military units. Rome assumed the role of organizing the tribes into the Roman lifestyle, this left only a small mark on German civilization, and their rule was accepted with mixed emotions.
During the early years when they were first invaded by the Romans the German people were very reluctant to accept the Roman’s rule and to become a province of the Roman Empire, however, this attitude changed in lower Germany where many locals lived side by side with new settlers from the Roman Empire who lived in relative peace and accepted the new culture. Roman rule was based on the rule of the army. Germany had to have continuous military force because of the unwillingness of Germans to accept Roman rule and become a province of the Roman Empire.
Both Germany and the Romans gained advantages by being in the Empire. Rome, had much to gain, they had extension of their territory by gaining control of Germany, they gained military advantage, and they now had territory north if the Rhine so they could defend Gaul and many of their other provinces. The Germans also had much to gain from the Romans. First, they helped the Germans to establish colonies and to organize themselves in communities, the Romans also introduced the Germans to fortified cities and towns, and also to the concept of building fortifications.
The main cities that the Romans founded with the Germanic tribes were Cologne, Mainz, and Trier. By the fifth century Germany had turned into utter chaos. The Romans had lost most of their control over the territory, but they still controlled Germany in AD 455, although later that year the Franks attacked and a conflict arose. By AD 457 Germany was occupied by a number of groups with both Roman and Frankish authority trying to prevail amongst all the strife. The last Roman soldiers entered into the Frankish army but still managed to keep their Roman identity.
During this strife the Romans and the Franks seemed to coexist with each other. The Franks went so far as to elect Romans to serve as their kings. Sources have also shown that the Romans and the Germans allied together to fight the Goths and the Saxons. There are no specific incidents that suggest how Germany slipped out of Roman hands, but the evidence suggests that the Romans eventually merged with the many other groups that were occupying Germany at that time. This eventually led to the loss of identity by the Romans and this led to Germany being free of the Empire.