barbarzynskie tsunami glowny

Silence before the storm

Twilight of a tradition

The great migrations taking place around AD 400 had an influence on settlement changes in the lands between the Odra and the Vistula. By AD 430 archaeological cultures previously recorded in the region are gone as most of the population had migrated west (Vandals, Burgundians), or south-eastward (Goths). They left behind cemeteries located in central-eastern Poland (Gródek nad Bugiem [21] [22], Masłomęcz [19] [20], Ulów [24] [27], Zdżarów [14]). Some elements of grave furnishings found in these sites suggest contact with the group of the Goths who had already found their way to the Black Sea region. Only the Western Balt tribes remained unaffected by this great population shift.

Main directions of migration of tribes living in the Odra and the Vistula river basin region; after M. Mączyńska

Główne kierunki wędrówki ludów zamieszkujących tereny w dorzeczu Odry i Wisły; według M. Mączyńskiej

The stream of Roman imports dries up, except for Eastern Roman glass vessels (Witkowo [15], Borkowice [16])and gold coins. Through Pomerania some coins passed to Scandinavia, possibly carried there by groups of barbarians returning from service of Attila, or of Rome, in its auxiliary units. The Danubian style dress fittings found in our region may have been brought in by just such arrivals (Pyszków [18], Lublin [17]).

At this time, particularly in Pomerania, we find objects, burials even, with a Scandinavian or Elbe drainage provenance, suggesting small-scale migrations in a direction opposite to the one observed earlier. This process would continue, intensifying during the fifth century.

Goods from a grave found at Witkowo, Słupsk District; the National Museum in Szczecin Archives

Wyposażenie grobu odkrytego w Witkowie, pow. słupski; Archiwum Muzeum Narodowego w Szczecinie

Pottery vessels from a grave found in Lublin; collection of the Lublin Museum

Naczynia gliniane z grobu odkrytego w Lublinie; zbiory Muzeum Lubelskiego w Lublinie

Glass beaker, a belt buckle and a buckle plate found at the settlement at Kalisz-Piwonice; phot. by S. Miłek

Puchar szklany, sprzączka do pasa i skuwka z osady w Kaliszu-Piwonicach; fot. S. Miłek

The bararians invade the empire

When in the final quarter of the fourth century the border on the Danube had been breached, there was unending strife suffered by the inhabitants of the Roman Empire from the barbarians. Around 396 St. Jerome wrote:

For twenty years and more the blood of Romans has every day been shed between Constantinople and the Julian Alps. Scythia, Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly, Dardania, Dacia, Epirus, Dalmatia, and all the provinces of Pannonia, have been sacked, pillaged and plundered by Goths and Sarmatians, Quadians and Alans, Huns and Vandals and Marcomanni. How many matrons, how many of God´s virgins, ladies of gentle birth and high position, have been made the sport of these beasts! Bishops have been taken prisoners, presbyters and other clergymen of different orders murdered. Churches have been overthrown, horses stabled at Christ´s altar, the relics of martyrs dug up. ´Sorrow and grief on every side we see and death in many a shape´. The Roman world is falling [...]

Jerome, Select Letters, F. A. Wright (ed.), Loeb Classical Library 262, Harvard–Cambridge–London 1991, Letter No. 60:16, p. 301–303

Exhibition organised by:

mns uw

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