Teaching Students About the Germanic Barbarians

The Germanic barbarians are often an intriguing topic for students in history classes. Understanding their culture, customs, and impact on European history can help students grasp the complexities of the continent’s past. If you’re a history teacher trying to bring these concepts to life for your students, we have some tips to get you started.

Introduce the Barbarian Tribes of Germany

Before you can dive into the culture and customs of the Germanic barbarians, it’s essential to understand who they were. These tribes came from different regions and had distinct traditions. Some of the well-known tribes include the Goths, Vandals, Saxons, Franks, and Burgundians.

Every tribal group had its social order, which determined how individuals interacted with each other and outsiders. Introducing your students to the various tribes can help them appreciate the diversity that existed among the Germanic people and understands the unique challenges they faced.

Focus on Their Influence on Roman Empire

The Germanic tribes arrived in Rome during the 3rd century AD, and they had a significant impact on the Roman Empire. By the end of the fifth century, they had carved out kingdoms for themselves in regions that included Italy, Spain, and North Africa.

Their invasion of Rome led to political and social upheaval that eventually led to the fall of the Roman Empire. This part of their history is essential to teach because it helps students understand the consequences of war and conquest. It also illustrates how interactions between different societies can lead to rapid cultural changes and political instability.

Explore Their Culture and Customs

When teaching about Germanic barbarians, it’s also important to explore their culture and customs. Students should learn about their religion, traditions, and daily life. The Germanic peoples practiced polytheistic religions that placed great importance on the natural elements of fire, water, air, and earth.

Teach students about their artistic styles, which included intricate metalworking, and their unique burial customs, which varied depending on the tribe. Some of the barbarian tribes celebrated their victories by burying their leaders in elaborate tombs filled with offerings and possessions. These practices provide insight into the lives of these ancient people and help students understand how their culture differed from that of the more well-known civilizations.

Bring in Archaeological Discoveries

Finally, a great way to make the topic of Germanic barbarians more engaging is by bringing in archaeological discoveries. The remnants of their distinct architecture, artwork, and clothing can be fascinating to students. You can also use primary source materials like journals and diaries of ancient travelers or accounts of Roman writers that mention the Germanic tribes.


Teaching students about the Germanic barbarians can be enlightening and inspiring. It can help them appreciate the complexity of ancient civilizations while also learning about the world as we know it today. By introducing them to the social structure of these tribes, their influence on the fall of the Roman Empire, and their unique customs and traditions, you’re instilling a sense of curiosity and a lifelong love for history.

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