Roman expansion 400 bc - 500 ad

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1 Description of the migration movement
2 Causes of migration
3 Consequences of migration
4 Reactions on migration


During this period, the Roman Empire spread its power and influence over a large part of Europe. Roman politics, lifestyle and culture were introduced to many areas including France, Spain, the Netherlands and England in the West, Northern Africa in the South, and Greece and the Near East. The Romans brought centralized rulership, a system of currency, roads and cities to Europe.

In order to defend areas under Roman control and to expand by conquering neighbouring nations, large armies were posted and fortifications built along the borders of the empire. This required a large military and administrative organisation, which was run centrally from Rome.

In some parts of the empire the Romans met resistance from local tribes. Although the upper classes of the conquered areas usually adjusted to the Roman way of life, conquered people were generally allowed to continue living as they had before the Romans came to power. As a result, a mixture of Roman and native culture existed in many regions. Since the Roman religious system was polytheistic, it could easily accommodate any Gods whom the natives revered. Christianity however, being monotheistic, was not acceptable.

The Roman expansion to the North halted at the Rhine and the Danube. The areas above these rivers remained free from Roman rule and developed along the lines of the pre-Roman period.


The expansion of the Roman Empire across Europe caused migration as soldiers and officials moved to the conquered areas to provide defence and administrative services.

Christians left the Roman Empire as a result of being persecuted, while outside the Empire tribes kept moving as they had before the Roman expansion took place. Some moved towards the borders to attack the Romans.

Outside the Empire tribes kept on moving as they had before the Roman expansion. Some moved towards the borders to attack the Romans.


1.1 Who were they and where did they come from: ethnic origin, geographical background, religion, adults, men or women, special qualities?

* 400 B.C. - ...: People migrated along with the expansion of the Roman Empire.
Despite Gaelic and Celtic invasions, Rome began an expansion to the North and founded colonies in the Po-valley. About 272 B.C. Italy was under Roman control. After this Rome won battles with Cartage over Sardinia, Sicily and Corsica. The effort made by Hannibal from 218-202 B.C. to stop the Romans moving into the Iberian Peninsula failed. After this the Romans moved into Gaul. About 52 B.C. Gaul became Roman. Emperor Augustus finished the work in Spain and Gaul. The Roman migration was stopped at the Rhine and the Danube.
* 3th century: Germans moved closer and closer to the Roman Empire. Chamavi, Bructures and Chatti formed together the Frankian Union in Western Germania. Alamanni and Juthungi lived together in Southern Germania (Bohemia and Moravia).

1.2 How did they travel: transport, circumstances of travelling?

1.3 When?

* 400 B.C. - ...: People migrated along with the expansion of the Roman Empire.
* 4th century: The movements of the various tribes at the borders of the Roman Empire continued.

1.4 How many?

1.5 Permanent or temporary?

* 400 B.C. - ... : The Roman troops and civil servants were stationed in the several regions temporarily.

1.6 Where did they go to and where did they stay?

* 3th century A.C.: The most important movements took place in Eastern Germania. Goths went to the East and settled in Southern Russia where the Sarmatians and Alans had just settled. Vandals settled near the Danube.
* 400 B.C.-500 A.C.: Romans expanded in Italy, Spain, Sardinia, Sicily, Catrhage, Gaul. The Romans moved into the British Islands in 43 B.C. In the East the Romans went to Pannonia and Illyria (Hungary) and into the areas around the Danube and in Thrace.
* 4th century A.C.: Western-Germania: Angles and Saxons came to the Rhine-area from Jutland. Burgundians came to Southern Germania and Longobards settled near the Oder. Vandals and Visigoths settled in the Danube valley.
* 450-500 A.C.: Alamanni and Franks entered the Empire and settled between Rhine and Moselle.


2.1 Circumstances that favoured migration

* 450 - 500 A.C.: After the Empire was split in two in 395 the decline of the Roman Empire really started. In the East there was trouble because of the Huns who came from Asia and chased the Alans and Visigoths towards the Empire.
* 400 B.C. - ... : The area under Roman rule was soon provided with roads, so that transportation and communication were a lot easier.

2.2 Circumstances that hindered migration

* 50 B.C.: The Romans did not cross the Rhine and the Danube because of the harsh resistance of the Germans and that is why Rhine and Danube became the borders of the empire.
* 312 A.C.: Emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity, which ended the prosecution of Christians and the migration of religious refugees.

2.3 Direct causes of migration

* 50 B.C.: The Romans interfered in France on request of the Haeduers who came in trouble because of the movements of the Helvetians.
* 50 A.C.: Christians fled from Rome because they were prosecuted and chased away.
* 3th century A.C.: Large prosecutions of Christians took place, especially in Italy and Spain. In other areas like Gaul and Britain the prosecutions were not so severe. This might have caused a migration of refugees from the intolerant to the tolerant countries.
* 3th century A.C.: Germans moved closer to the Roman Empire because of movements of other tribes and population growth. For instance new Gothic tribes the Gepide people were the cause of migration by the Goths and after them the Vandals.


3.1 Short term consequences

Positive consequences

- for the migrants (first generation)
- for their new environment/ native born

* 400 B.C. - 500 A.C.: The building of the Roman Empire did not directly cause massive migration, but did cause a stir in the population present in the different areas. All kinds of techniques, ideas and doctrines spread along the lines of communication that the Romans provided for.
- for the country they left

Negative consequences

- for the migrants (first generation)
- for their new environment/ native born

* 450-500 A.C: The Visigoths beat the Romans and were allowed to live below the Danube.
* 400 B.C.- .....: Natives in the conquered areas stayed, but all kinds of Roman civil servants, soldiers etc. went to the new conquered areas.
* 0 - 400 A.C.: The original inhabitants of the conquered areas were also recruited to be soldiers for the defence of the Roman Empire
- for the country they left

3.2 Long term consequences

Positive consequences

- for the migrants (second and third generation) - for their new environment

* 400 B.C. - 500 A.C.: The spread of the Roman Empire which came to span large parts of Europe brought with it many changes to the pre-existing communities and cultures in the conquered areas. People started to use products that were introduced by the Romans, such as wine, and the religions of the people in the provinces mixed with the Roman religious system. Many people from the upper-class of the conquered territories even started dressing like Romans, though conventional clothing remained the norm among the general population. Roman culture made itself known in the conquered areas by the fact that every city had its own set of buildings just like the ones in Rome including a temple, a bathhouse, a theatre etc. Local culture however was not suppressed and in fact in many places played a stronger role than ever as people sought to contrast their own cultural identity with that of the Roman invaders. Although people became involved with the Roman religious system, they continued to worship local Gods essentially as a continuation of pre-Roman practises. Overall, the Roman domination strengthened the awakening of communities both to their own cultural identity and their role within their respective provinces.
* after 50 A.C.: Christianity spread slowly as Christian refugees migrated. In the 3rd century A.C. there were dioceses in Gaul and the Iberian Peninsula, though Britain and the Danube-Rhine areas had not yet been reached.
- for the country they left

Negative consequences

- for the migrants (second and third generation)
- for their new environment

* 50 A.C. - 312 A.C.: Christian refugees went away from Rome. In the 3rd century there were probably Christian refugees from Italy and Spain.
- for the country they left


4.1 Reactions of the receiving society on the migrants
- official reaction

- reaction of the common people

* 200 B.C.: The Celts and Lusitanians living in the Iberian Peninsula around 200 B.C. did not welcome the Romans, who proceeded by exploiting the populace. The joint suicide of all citizens of the city of Numantia exemplifies the extent of the Roman oppression.

4.2 Reactions of the immigrants on their new environment

- integration / assimilation
- maintaining their own identity
- differences between first, second and third generation


During this period the Roman Empire spread to span large parts of Europe. Local inhabitants of the conquered areas were not chased away, though sometimes people were taken to serve as slaves back in Rome. A need for administrative services throughout the Empire drove the migration of Roman citizens out of Italy to serve as civil servants. Another cause for migration was the intermittent invasion attemps made by tribes, necessitating the placement of soldiers -drawn from Rome- for military defence along the borders of the Empire.



Dr. Marlou Schrover