Although the earliest mention of the Germans is by a Greek navigator who saw them in Norway and Jutland in the 4th cent. B.C., their real appearance in history began with their contact (1st cent. B.C.) with the Romans. The chief historical sources for the culture and distribution of the Germans are Tacitus' Germania and Agricola and the remnants in later ages of early Germanic institutions. Apart from describing their barbarity and warlikeness, Caesar's Commentaries tell little. As the centuries passed the Germans became increasingly troublesome to the Roman Empire. The Vandals in the west and the Ostrogoths in the east were the first to attack the empire seriously. The Ostrogoths were a part of the Gothic people, often called the East Germanic, whose language (Gothic) was the first written Germanic language. The Goths apparently moved SE from the Vistula River to the Balkans, thence W across Europe.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.