The birth of Europe as people know it today was hardly an easy and effortless process. The Old World was reshaped by centuries of continuous wars, raids, and the falls and rises of empires. The most turbulent of these events happened at the beginning of the Middle Ages, from the third through seventh centuries CE. This was the time when the old slave society gave way to the feudal system that marked the latter Middle Ages, and it was also a period of battles between the Roman Empire and various barbarian peoples.
The Roman Emperors waged wars, made and broke alliances, and bribed and negotiated with chieftains of various “barbarian” tribes to preserve the territorial integrity of their Empires, but the razor-edge division between the civilized world of the Romans and that of the “savages” that threatened their borders was dulling with every decade. In fact, the constant need for army recruits swelled the Roman legions with barbarian foederati, a phenomenon that forced both the Romans and Byzantines to use a very subtle way of playing the barbarian tribes against each other via diplomatic schemes and bountiful rewards. A new religion was also taking root: Christianity became a reason for both unification and division, as different people adopted different variations of its teachings.
It is true that the Vandals sacked Rome in 455 AD, but even that act was a unique historical accomplishment in itself as they were only the third people to inflict such destruction on one of the world’s greatest cities. Despite living on the lawless marchlands of the Roman Empire, the Vandals were able to establish two different kingdoms, and introduce a fairly complicated code of royal succession, that gave stability to their people for some time.