CHAPTER FOCUS
SECTION 1 Village Life
SECTION 2 The Conquerors
CHAPTER SUMMARY & STUDY GUIDE
CHAPTER ASSESSMENT
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Overview
• Chapter 17 discusses the Germanic impact
on western Europe. 
– Section 1 compares the cultures of the
Romans and the Germans. 
– Section 2 describes the Germanic
invasions and the end of the
Roman Empire.
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Objectives
After studying this chapter, you will be able to:
• describe family life in German villages. 
• analyze how the love of battle and their
laws influenced the Germans. 
• discuss what role the Goths and the
Vandals played in the decline of the
Roman Empire. 
• describe what replaced the Roman Empire
in the West.
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Read to Discover
• What life was like in German villages 
• How the Germans’ laws and love of
battle influenced them 
• What role the Goths and Vandals
played in the decline of the Roman
Empire 
• What replaced the Roman Empire in
the West
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Terms to Learn
• clans 
• Wodan 
• chieftain 
• Thor 
• blood feuds 
• Attila 
• oath-helpers 
• Alaric 
• ordeal 
• Odoacer 
• wergeld 
• Theodoric 
People to Know
Places to Locate
• Danube River valley 
• Valhalla
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Why It’s Important
During the first 400 years after the birth of Christ,
the Germans left the forests and marshes of
northern Europe in search of warmer climates and
better grazing land for their cattle. They slowly
drifted south toward the Roman Empire.
Attracted by Rome’s wealth and culture, the
Germans hoped to live peacefully within the
empire’s borders. However, the Romans
considered them enemies and for many years
fought to keep the Germans out of Rome. By 300
A.D., however, the empire had begun its long
decline and could no longer turn back the
Germans. So the Romans allowed groups of
Germans to move into the Danube River valley,
where a blending of German and Roman
ways took place.
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Village Life
• Although the Germans took part in
Roman life, they also kept much of their
own culture. 
• They lived in villages of thatched roof huts
surrounded by farmlands and pastures. 
• Women, children, and enslaved people did
most farm work. 
• German dress was simple. 
• The Germans so strongly believed in
hospitality that it was against the law to
turn away anyone who came to the door.
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Village Life (cont.)
• Feasting, drinking, and dancing were
favorite German pastimes. 
• The Germans spoke a language that later
became modern German. 
• At first, they could not read or write,
because their language had no alphabet. 
• Gradually, they began to use Roman
letters to write their own language.
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Warriors
• German men were warriors, spending
most of their time fighting, hunting, or
making weapons. 
• The Germans were divided into clans, or
groups based on family ties. 
• At first, the Germans gave their greatest
loyalty to their clan but later shifted their
loyalty to a chieftain, a military leader. 
• The chieftains provided their men with
leadership, weapons, and adventure. 
• German warrior bands were small and did
not have fixed plans of fighting.
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Warriors (cont.)
• A successful attack provided warriors with
enslaved people, cattle, and
other treasures. 
• The Germans' love of battle was closely
linked to their religion, and they expected
warriors to win in battle or die trying. 
• The chief god, Wodan, was the god of war,
poetry, learning, and magic and his son
Thor was the god of war and thunder. 
• The Germans believed that goddesses
carried warriors who died in battle into the
afterlife to Wodan’s hall, called Valhalla, to
feast and fight forever.
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Law
• Unlike the Romans who believed the law
came from the emperor, the Germans
believed that the law came from the people,
requiring public approval for any changes. 
• Reckless, often drunken, fighting caused
problems in German villages. 
• Courts were established to keep such
fights from becoming blood feuds, or
quarrels in which the families of the
original fighters seek revenge.
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Law (cont.)
• Germans who were accused of a crime
would profess their innocence in an oath,
and that oath would be defended by an
oath-helper, who swore that the accused
spoke the truth. 
• Sometimes guilt or innocence would be
decided by ordeal, a severe trial, in which
the accused would walk on red-hot coals or
be bound and thrown in the water. 
• If the burns healed in three days or if the
accused sank, he was considered innocent. 
• Courts also could impose fines called
wergeld on a person judged as guilty.
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Section Assessment
What were some of the duties of
a German chieftain?
Chieftains gave their men leadership,
weapons, and a chance for wealth
and adventure. They also kept peace
among warriors and sometimes
provided them with food and shelter.
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Section Assessment (cont.)
What were some features of
German religion?
It had many gods who fought and
hunted. The chief gods of the
German religion were Woden and
Thor. Germans also believed that
goddesses carried the spirits of fallen
warriors to Valhalla for eternal
feasting and fighting.
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Section Assessment (cont.)
Making Inferences Why do you
think hospitality was so important
to the Germans?
Answers will vary.
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Section Assessment (cont.)
Recreate the diagram on page
269 of your textbook, and use it to
compare strengths and
weaknesses of German law.
Its strengths were that it helped settle
quarrels, and kept the peace. Its
primary weakness was that it did not
treat people fairly since penalties were
determined by a person’s wealth
and importance.
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The Conquerors
• The Goths were a Germanic people who
lived in the Balkan Peninsula of Europe. 
• In the late 300s the Huns, led by Attila, or
“Little Daddy,” attacked both the
Ostrogoths (East Goths) and the Visigoths
(West Goths). 
• After the Huns conquered the East Goths,
the West Goths asked the Roman
emperor for protection. 
• Before long, trouble broke out between
the West Goths and Roman officials.
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The Conquerors (cont.)
• Finally, the West Goths rebelled against the
Romans and defeated them at the Battle of
Adrianople in 378. 
• In 410, led by Alaric, they captured and
looted Rome and continued on to Gaul
and then to Spain, ending the Roman rule
in Spain and driving out the Vandals. 
• In 455, the Vandals attacked and burned
Rome, but spared the lives of the
Romans.
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The Conquerors (cont.)
• The Germanic invasions were one of the
three main reasons the Roman Empire in
the West began to fall. 
• In 476, a German general named Odoacer
took control and ruled the western empire
in his own name for almost 15 years. 
• Later the East Goths, led by Theodoric,
took Italy, killed Odoacer, and set up their
own kingdom.
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The Conquerors (cont.)
• By 550, the Roman Empire in the West had
faded away, replaced by six major and a
great many minor Germanic kingdoms. 
• Many Roman beliefs and practices
remained to shape later civilizations.
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Section Assessment
What happened to the East
Goths in the late 300s? What
effect did this have on the
West Goths?
They were conquered by the Huns. It
led them to ask the Roman emperor
for protection.
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Section Assessment (cont.)
What did the Vandals do after
leaving Spain?
They crossed the Mediterranean to
North Africa, became pirates, and
attacked and burned Rome.
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Section Assessment (cont.)
What replaced the Roman Empire in
the West?
Six major and many minor Germanic
kingdoms replaced the Roman
Empire in the West.
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Section Assessment (cont.)
Predicting Consequences What do
you think might have happened if
Roman officials had treated the
West Goths fairly? Explain.
Answers will vary. It is possible that if
the Romans had treated them fairly
they might not have rebelled.
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Section Assessment (cont.)
Refer to the diagram on page 272,
and use it to describe important
events in the fall of Rome. (Key
dates are given.)
378–Romans defeated at Battle of
Adrianople; 410–West Goths capture
Rome; 455–Vandals attack and burn
Rome; 476–Odoacer takes control of
the western empire; 550–six major and
many minor Germanic kingdoms
replace the western
Roman empire.
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Chapter Summary & Study Guide
• About 300 A.D., groups of Germans began
settling in the Roman Empire. 
• German warriors were organized into bands,
headed by military chieftains. 
• The Germans’ love of battle was closely
linked to their religion. 
• The Germans determined a person’s guilt or
innocence through use of oath-helpers and
by ordeal.
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Chapter Summary & Study Guide (cont.)
• The Germans believed that law came from
the people and that a ruler could not change
a law. 
• The Huns conquered the East Goths and
forced the West Goths to turn to Rome
for protection. 
• Harsh treatment of the West Goths by the
Romans set off a chain of events leading to
the capture of Rome in 410 A.D.
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Chapter Summary & Study Guide (cont.)
• A Germanic chieftain took control of Rome
in 476 A.D., and by 550 A.D., the Roman
Empire had been replaced by a number of
Germanic kingdoms.
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Understanding the Main Idea
Why did the Germans begin to
move south toward the Roman
Empire?
The Germans were looking for a
warmer climate, grazing land, wealth,
and culture.
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Understanding the Main Idea
Why were the Germans allowed to
cross the borders of the
Roman Empire?
They were allowed to cross because
the Romans realized they were not
strong enough to keep them out
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Understanding the Main Idea
How did German warriors show
their loyalty to their chieftain?
They obeyed in battle and some gave
their chieftains credit for their own
brave deeds.
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the answer.
Understanding the Main Idea
What did the Germans believe the
afterlife would be like for warriors?
They believed that deceased warriors
spent their afterlife in Valhalla, where
they would feast and fight forever.
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Understanding the Main Idea
According to German beliefs, from
what source did law come?
The law came from the people.
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Understanding the Main Idea
What was the reason for the
German ordeal by water?
They believed water would accept
anyone who was pure and reject
anyone who was not pure.
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Understanding the Main Idea
Why did the West Goths want to
enter the Roman Empire?
They wanted to enter because they
were afraid the Huns would
conquer them.
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Understanding the Main Idea
What happened to Rome after its
capture by Odoacer in 476 A.D.?
Odoacer did not pick an emperor.
Instead, he ruled the empire in his
own name for 15 years, until the East
Goths invaded and killed him.
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Critical Thinking
What parts of Roman culture did
the Germans adopt? What parts of
their own culture did they keep?
They became farmers, traded with
Romans, and joined the Roman
army. Some became Christians.
They lived in villages and spoke what
later became modern German.
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Critical Thinking
Imagine you will soon become a
Germanic chieftain. Explain what
you would provide for your band of
warriors.
Answers will vary.
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the answer.
Critical Thinking
What would you have liked and
disliked about living in a German
village?
Answers will vary.
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Critical Thinking
Do you believe the penalty for a
crime should depend on a person’s
wealth or importance? If not, on
what should it depend? Explain.
Answers will vary.
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Geography in History
Place Refer to the map on page 271 of
your textbook. Access to the sea
played an important role in the
economy of each Germanic kingdom.
Which kingdom had the longest
seacoast? About how many miles
long was it?
Ostrogoth; about 2,000 miles
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“If I may join your army I swear on
our god of war, Zeus, I will fight
hard. I have a letter from my
chieftain saying I am a good
warrior.” Why would this warrior
speaking to a Roman not be
considered a true German?
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300 A.D.
550 A.D.
Romans allow
groups of
Germans to cross
their borders
Roman Empire is
replaced by
Germanic
kingdoms
410 A.D.
Alaric captures
Rome
378 A.D.
455 A.D.
Battle of
Adrianople
Vandals sack
Rome
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Theodoric the Great
c. 454 A.D.-526 A.D.
Germanic King
Theodoric was king of the East Goths,
a Germanic people from eastern
Europe. When Rome fell in 476 A.D., he
took part in the struggle. About 500
A.D., Theodoric declared himself king of
Italy. As king, he encouraged the
Roman and Germanic peoples to get
along. He respected Roman customs,
and during his reign peace and
prosperity returned.
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