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The last phase of the Western Roman Empire the period of transition between Romanity and the rise of a new medieval world is marked by successive incursions of Barbarians from the north In particular there were the Goths Visigoths and Ostrogoths Alans Suebi Vandals Huns and the Franks Dominating present-day northern France Belgium and western Germany one of these groups the Franks established the most powerful Christian kingdom of early medieval western Europe The origins of the Franks are obscure They seemed to have developed as a distinct people during the 1st or 3rd century AD as a result of a fusion of many small Germanic tribes living along the east bank of the lower Rhine River While the tribes were linked by language and institutions they were not united politicallyMalcolm 9 Two large groupings of the Franks the Salians and the Ripuarians existed as early as the 3rd century Each of these was divided into many petty kingdoms rules by warrior chiefs whose personal ability and success in war determined the fortune of each kingdom McNeill 75 The turning point in the Franks history came with their movement west of the Rhine into Roman GaulLatouche 216 In the mid-3rd century the Franks tried unsuccessfully to expand westward across the Rhine into Roman-held Gaul In the mid-4th century the Franks again attempted to invade Gaul and in 358 Rome was compelled to abandon the area between the Meuse and Scheldt riversnow in Belgium to the Salian Franks During the course of these drawn-out struggles the Franks were gradually influenced by Roman civilization Some Frankish leaders became Roman allies in the defense of the Roman frontier and many Franks served as auxiliary soldiers in the Roman armyMcneill 76 The Vandals launched a massive invasion of Gaul in 406 and in the ensuing decades the Franks took advantage of the overstrained Roman defenses They solidified their hold on what is now Belgium took
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