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The Alamanni, Allemanni or Alemanni, were a Germanic tribe, first mentioned by Dio Cassius when they fought Caracalla in 213. They apparently dwelt in the basin of the Main River, to the south of the Chatti.
According to Asinius Quadratus their name -- "all men" -- indicates that they were a conglomeration of various tribes formed into warbands. There can be little doubt, however, that the ancient Hermunduri formed the bulk of the nation. Other groups included the Brisgavi, Juthungi, Bucinobantes, Lentienses, and perhaps the Armalausi . From the 4th century onwards we hear also of the Suebi, Suevi or Suabi. The Hermunduri had apparently belonged to the Suebi, but it is likely enough that reinforcements from new Suebic tribes had now moved westward. In later times the names Alamanni and Suebi seem to be synonymous, although some of the Suebi later migrated to Hispania and established an independent kingdom there that endured well into the sixth century.
Conflicts with the Roman Empire
The tribe was continually engaged in conflicts with the Roman Empire. They launched a major invasion of Gaul and northern Italy in 268, when the Romans were forced to denude much of their German frontier of troops in response to a massive invasion of the Goths. Their depredations in the three parts of Gaul remained traumatic: Gregory of Tours (d. 695) mentions their destructive force at the time of Valerian and Gallienus, when the Alemanni assembled under their "king" whom he calls Chrocus "by the advice, it is said, of his wicked mother, and overran the whole of the Gauls, and destroyed from their foundations all the temples which had been built in ancient times. And coming to Clermont he set on fire, overthrew and destroyed that shrine which they call Vasso Galatae in the Gallic tongue," martyring many Christians (Historia Francorum Book I.32-34. Thus 6th-century Gallo-Romans of Gregory's class, surrounded by the ruins of Roman temples and public buildings, attributed the destruction they saw to the plundering raids of the Alemanni.
In the early summer, the Emperor Gallienus halted their advance in Italy, but then had to deal with the Goths. When the Gothic campaign ended in Roman victory at the Battle of Naissus in September, Gallienus' successor Claudius II Gothicus turned north to deal with the Alamanni, who were swarming over all Italy north of the Po River.
After efforts to secure a peaceful withdrawal failed, Claudius forced the Alamanni to battle at the Battle of Lake Benacus in November. The Alamanni were routed, forced back into Germany, and did not threaten Roman territory for many years afterwards.
Their most famous battle against Rome took place in Argentoratum (Strasbourg), in 357, where they were defeated by Julian, later Emperor of Rome, and their king Chnodomar ("Chonodomarius ") was taken prisoner.
In the great mixed invasion of 406, the Alamanni appear to have crossed the Rhine river, conquered and then settled what is today Alsace and a large part of Switzerland. Fredegar's Chronicle gives an account. At Alba Augusta (Aps ) the devastation was so complete, the Christian bishopric was removed to Viviers , but Gregory's account that at Mende in Lozere, also deep in the heart of Gaul, bishop Privatus was forced to sacrifice to idols in the cave where he was later venerated may be a generic figure epitomizing the horrors of barbarian violence. Their kingdom (or duchy of Alamannia) between Strasbourg and Augsburg lasted until 496, when they were conquered by Clovis I at the Battle of Tolbiac. The war of Clovis with the Alamanni forms the setting for the conversion of Clovis, briefly treated by Gregory of Tours (Book II.31) Subsequently the Alamanni formed part of the Frankish dominions and were governed by a Frankish count. The word "Frankish" eventually gave its name to the Romance language French, while the Alamanni gave their name to the French word for "German" (Allemand).
Allemania lost its distinct jurisdictional identity when Charles Martel absorbed it into the Frankish empire, early in the 8th century. Today, Alemannic is a linguistic term, encompassing the dialects of the southern two thirds of Baden-Württemberg (German State), in western Bavaria (German State), in Vorarlberg (Austrian State), in Switzerland and Alsace (France) (see Alemannic language).
- Franks and Alamanni in the Merovingian Period: An Ethnographic Perspective (Studies in Historical Archaeoethnology); Ian Wood (Foreword) ISBN 1843830353
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