This brings us to the barbarians. The term was an all-encompassing one that meant “foreigners,” more than anything else…specifically to non-Romans. Those who were not Roman citizens, is the most accurate rendition. By the middle of the 4th century, the Legions depended heavily on conscripts from Gaul (now France), the Germanic tribes, and many nations such as Greece and Spain. With service, Roman citizenship was obtained, along with grants of land. This became a two-edged sword, however: the discharged auxiliaries of the foreign nations returned to their homelands.
The Barbarians and Their Effective Fighting Skills
They brought back to their tribes and clans the knowledge of the fighting ways of the Legions, incorporating many of their tactics into their own ways of fighting. To a point. These barbarian tribes had many effective ways of fighting peculiar to themselves that proved of great merit…lessons we can incorporate into what we do today.
Let’s list some of these ancient tribesmen and some of the tactics that enabled them to succeed, and we’ll draw a correlation as to how we may emulate some of these tactics.
- The Saxons: They are the ancestors of the Germans today. Indeed, Saxony is a famous geographical area in Germany between the Elbe and Rhine rivers. The most common weapons of these people were spears: a lighter one for throwing a long distance, and a heavier one for close-in combat. In Saxon poetry the spear was referred to as the aesc (which is derived from the make of the shaft, fashioned from ash wood. The aesc-berend was the “spear-bearer,” the term given to a Saxon fighting man. Saxon warriors (contrary to Hollywood portrayal) did not all have chain mail: they had thick embossed leather armor, as well as hides. They did have helmets of iron and plates of horn with nose-guards. Their infantry traveled lightly, and swords were not as widespread as commonly portrayed. The Saxons gathered about warrior chiefs and kings, giving him their loyalty and in return they received a share of what was taken in conquest in the form of arms, monies, and livestock.
- The Vikings: the term coming from the word vikingr, an ancient Norse word that means “sea rover” and the Scandinavian nations such as Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark were the points of origin of these warriors. They relied on their raids on narrow, sturdily built, and swift long ships. These Northmen interacted with the Romans by trading and occasionally by mutual visitation. It was not until after the Empire had fallen that the Northmen assumed the “Viking” mantle and began their raids throughout Europe that lasted for several centuries. A warrior culture, they had the Jomsvikings…the elite of their warrior tribes who trained incessantly for the raiding seasons and lived for battle. These Jomsvikings were supported by the communities they lived near within compounds. They were without wives for the period they served in this manner and concentrated their focus upon hand-to-hand combat in preparation for raids.
- The Britons: The peoples of the British Isles were conquered and occupied for several centuries by the Romans, but eventually Roman rule disintegrated as the Legions departed in 406 C.E., leaving all their forts, edifices, and infrastructure intact. The Britons were masters of the chariot and proficient with spear and lasso. Often their chariots would act as a “shock unit” and ride into closely packed formations of infantry to disorganize the ranks and then create gaps through which their own infantry could penetrate.
- The Huns: the ancestors of the modern-day inhabitants of Hungary and the steppes and plains of western and central Asia, the Huns were the consummate horsemen of their day. They rode, ate, slept, and lived (among other things) on the back of a horse. They were excellent archers and spearmen, and their ferocity was so great as to cause entire nations of Germanic tribes in the area of what is now known as the Black Sea to come stampeding onto Roman territory to escape the Huns. These Huns had a habit of killing just about everyone who did not submit to them, and many of those who did. They could ride great distances and appear seemingly out of nowhere to battle with vigor and endurance. It took the combined efforts of the Romans and the Visigoths to stop them from conquering all of Europe.
7 Brute Ways To Protect Yourself From Barbarian Hoards in a Collapse
So, what can we learn from all of this? Let’s go over it, then.
- It is better to be lightly armed and completely proficient in the use of weapons than be encumbered by a bunch of gear that may just slow you down [Saxons].
- A lightning raid executed perfectly will shock, demoralize, and defeat an opponent who is unprepared for it [Vikings].
- Train without ceasing, and train to the peak of your proficiency [Vikings].
- Vehicles have a distinct advantage over infantry if employed properly [Britons].
- Find a good leader whose aims exemplify those of the group…a leader with ability, humility, and humanity…who is not afraid to lead by example [Saxons, Vikings].
- Speed and timing in an engagement are very difficult to counter by your enemy if you have mastered them and mastered their employment in an unpredictable manner [Huns].
- Violence of action in an engagement often carries the day: 100% commitment with vigor. [Vikings, Huns]
Although appearing outwardly disorganized, these people had structure to their societies, and their cultures have contributed much to the mindset and makeup of the world today. They supplanted the Roman Empire with their vigor and tenacity. We can learn much by studying them: their seriousness, their stern demeanor and taciturn ways. Chances are these are some qualities that have been passed on to you, their descendants that you might never have been aware of unless you studied them. They have much to teach us, if we pay attention to what they did and some of the positive aspects of their lives. So, raise those drinking horns high, and take a step back in time to study their history…your own family’s history, in many cases…and translate it into a tool for today…as it is also the history of all of us. JJ out!