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1. The Great Courses Ancient &
2. The Middle Ages, Volume I, Sources
3. Barbarians, Marauders, And Infidels:
4. Barbarians to Angels: The Dark
5. Empires and Barbarians: The Fall
6. The Narrators of Barbarian History
7. The Fall of the Roman Empire:
8. Barbarian Migrations and the Roman
9. Medieval Worlds: Barbarians, Heretics
10. How the Barbarian Invasions Shaped
11. Barbarians!
12. Roman Barbarians: The Royal Court
13. Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe:
14. Barbarian Warriors: Saxons, Vikings,
15. Blood-brothers: a ritual of friendship
16. Barbarians, Maps, and Historiography
17. On Barbarian Identity: Critical
18. Kingdoms of the Empire: The Integration
19. Barbarians: Secrets of the Dark
20. Barbarian West 400 - 1000

1. The Great Courses Ancient & Medieval History Rome and the Barbarians
by Kenneth W. Harl
 Audio CD: Pages (2004)

Isbn: 1565859014
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36 lectures on 18 Audio CDs, 3 course Guidebooks ... Read more

2. The Middle Ages, Volume I, Sources ofMedieval History
by Brian Tierney
Paperback: 384 Pages (1998-08-17)
-- used & new: US$48.99
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Asin: 0073032891
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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This volume of translated source materials from the late Roman Empire to the mid-15th century introduces students to the diversity of medieval culture, covering all aspects of medieval life--social, religious, economic, intellectual, institutional. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

4-0 out of 5 stars Better than some.
This is a fairly standard collection, and better than some I've seen.Nonetheless, one should be aware of the following:
* The entire Norse and Icelandic literature is omitted.
* Anglo-Saxon poetry also omitted.
* Welsh and Gaelic literature is MIA.
* As with narrative textbooks on the Middle Ages in Europe, it basically omits Iberia and anything east of Venice (with a few exceptions from Constantinople).In other words, it omits most of the territory and most of the population of Europe in that period.
* It follows the current Very Annoying custom of these readings collections: citing where the translations come from, but not the actual source document itself.At times one cannot know, from this text, who wrote what one is reading.I tell you truly, it is moronic to tell me who translated something, while not telling me what they translated it from.Moronic, despicable, and it teaches the students exactly the wrong thing about scholarship and citation.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great
The book was in great condition, it was a older version then we used in class, but it stil works. It also arrived a little later then I was hoping for.

5-0 out of 5 stars Professor Tierney's research pays off for you!
Brian Tierney has collected so many excellent primary sources.If you are interested in what people of that time thought about or wrote, by all means get anything by Tierney.If you are a history student or teacher, these gems will enliven the discussion in the classroom and will even challenge your ideas of modernity.Enjoy! ... Read more

3. Barbarians, Marauders, And Infidels: The Ways Of Medieval Warfare
by Antonio Santosuosso
Hardcover: 360 Pages (2004-05-26)
list price: US$32.00 -- used & new: US$9.92
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0813391539
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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This vibrant and action-driven narrative examines the motivations for warfare in the Middle Ages, asserting that waging war was a condition defining the ruling groups of all societies.

Barbarians, Marauders, and Infidels examines the motives and terrors of war during the Middle Ages, the rise and fall of ethnic and religious groups, and the actions of good and evil military leaders during this violent and colorful period. In this sweeping chronicle, historical figures and major campaigns such as Charlemagne, the Magyars, and the Crusades are presented not as icons but as a living part of their times, with all their achievements and human failures. Santosuosso asserts that war, for most of the Middle Ages, was carried out for God, personal gain, and honor. Both Christians and Muslims often explained their acts of violence in war as the will of God. Besides the religious motivation, soldiers, if upper class, believed that acts of bravery were a necessary aspect of gaining honor in society. Finally, war constituted a way to make material gains in a period of chronic underemployment and low prosperity. Particular emphasis is given to massive transitions from one period to the next in the medieval era. The author explains how these changes reflected an environment where charismatic leaders, the Church, and the aristocracy played leading roles as "managers" of the art and practice of war and normally as main actors on the battlefield. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

3-0 out of 5 stars Grand Warfare of Impotence
This book is ambitious which is great. My main problem is that it is rambling. The author seems to want to paint a great canvas of Medieval Warfare but every time be begins to reach a crescendo he retreats into a dialogue of minutiae that has nothing to do with the over riding theme.

This book has a catalog list of battles, tribes and tactics. Too bad they are not connected. I found his writing style very difficult to stay interested.

I also found the lack of Mongol History in the book interesting. The Mongols had excellent strategies for dealing with Islamic jihadists. What no description here.


4-0 out of 5 stars An entertaining read
The best thing about this book is the way the author is able to tell a story in an entertaining and easy to read manner.While the book is lacking in depth and completeness of the topic, it makes up for it with vignettes that keep the text from getting stale.For a history book, it was a fun read.Better as an intro book or light historical reading than as a scholarly text.I'll probably pick up his other books when I get the chance.

4-0 out of 5 stars Barbarians, Marauders, and Infidels.The Ways of Medieval Warfare
Barbarians, Marauders, and Infidels:The Wasy of Medieval Warfare is an excellent novel about the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and the chaos that it created.From the Germanic trips surging across the Rhine to the Muslim Armies that stormed out of Arabia to conquer the entire Middle East, this novel is a must for anybody who has a thirst for knowldge about what happened when Rome fell.

3-0 out of 5 stars Good But Flawed Review of Medieval Warfare
This is the kind of book that really turns my crank... obscure barbarian tribes, weapon use and tactics, tales of lost dynasties, imperial decline and the advent of new tribes, races and their own eventual conquest and submission.

The book has all of that.. unfortunately it suffers from an incomplete development of almost all of its major theses. Its review of tactics is most notable and I was impressed with the detial of the political organisation, and military mobilisation that Santosousso uses, but was left wondering how he defined his major thematic chapters.

The book starts at the end of the latter Roman Empire and the clashes between Rome and the Goths, then those between the Goths and Longobards, Byzantines and other barbarian tribes. These in turn switch to those of the Franks, the ascendency of the Muslim tribes and then the advent of the Medieval Christian warriors and their eventual demise with the nascent advent of citizen armies.All of this is great, but the narrative is marred by

1) lack of continuity: whole chuncks of history are leaped and interesting tactics and peoples totally ignored. ie. mongols are totally left out which is odd considering that there is a whole chapter dedicated to those perrenial losers of history, the Magyars.

2) The author throws in the occassional bloody story, but really once he gets our blood up with anecdotal elegance he switches to military organisation descriptions. These are fine but one gets the feeling that we would rather be reading some tales of blood and glory.

3) The description of miliary tactics and organisation, though good, omits a fundemental question: how were some of the tribes able to conquer others, and why did others decline?

I did like the grand historical sweep of the book and it did hold my interest most of the time. I guess the real problem I had with this book is that I was just expecting much more than Santosousso offerred me... I felt slightly famished after reading it... like eating an appetiser and then being told it was really the main course...

4-0 out of 5 stars detailed account of medieval military tactics
Santosuo has given us a wonderfully researched history of medieval warfare.The book covers from the Barbarian tribes of the 6th century to the Mongol and Turk empires of the 15th century.Most of the major military engagements are covered along with the notable leaders of the respective periods.I found the general discussions of the political and military situations very interesting.But I got bogged down in the details concerning the make up of various armies.This work is a highly detailed account of tactics, formations and arms and equipment.Anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of medieval warfare will enjoy this book. ... Read more

4. Barbarians to Angels: The Dark Ages Reconsidered
by Peter S. Wells
Paperback: 256 Pages (2009-08-24)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$7.39
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Asin: 0393335399
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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A rich and surprising look at the robustEuropean culture that thrived after the collapse of Rome.The barbarians who destroyed the glory that wasRome demolished civilization along with it, andfor the next four centuries the peasants andartisans of Europe barely held on. Randomviolence, mass migration, disease, andstarvation were the only ways of life. This isthe picture of the Dark Ages that mosthistorians promote. But archaeology tells adifferent story. Peter Wells, one of the world’s leading archaeologists, surveys thearchaeological record to demonstrate that theDark Ages were not dark at all. The kingdoms ofChristendom that emerged starting in the ninthcentury sprang from a robust, previouslylittle-known European culture, albeit one thatleft behind few written texts.

24 illustrations ... Read more

Customer Reviews (16)

4-0 out of 5 stars Good primer on Europe after Rome's fall
As several readers have noted, Wells doesn't break any new ground in Barbarians to Angels; but I don't think that's what he intended to do. This book is written more for the novice than the professional historian/archeaologist. For academics, I can see why they express irritation that the book does little more than recap current science and theory on post-Roman Europe. But for novices - especially those who don't want to linger over every jot and tittle in an obscure footnote - this book provides a good starting point.

In many ways I found Barbarians to Angels similar to Bryan Ward-Perkins' The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization, although the latter seems more detailed and touches on subjects Wells does (such as the use of clay tiles on roofs after Rome slips into decline).

Still, Wells has done a commendable job and produced a work that will add to the growing list of books that propose that, rather than a catastrophic collapse that forced western civilization back to the stone age, the end of the Roman empire saw Europe transform itself from Roman colonies into independent states.

4-0 out of 5 stars Barbarians to Angels
Amazing book i needed it for a class that i had for college and it was delivered both quick and safe.

5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
I've always pined for the Dark Ages of Northern Europe, and never been able to justify it - let's face it, the "barbarian" tribes have been brought into thorough disrepute by the dour Roman commentators of the late Empire. What a pleasure, then, to discover a book that dismantles those jaded opinions with wit and clarity.

Peter Wells is a prominent archaeologist, and in this book he presents - in a fascinating and very readable way - an argument that the Dark Age German and Celtic groups were actually cosmopolitan, creative, innovative, and worldly. The basis of his argument: rather than relying on Roman opinion he relies on the actual archaeological evidence left behind by the supposed barbarians.

The archaeological evidence - settlement ruins, burial finds, sacrificial finds, and so forth, reveals peoples who were anything but backward. They created exquisite new art forms, opened up expansive trade networks (forever shattering the notion that the old Heathens were somehow hermetically sealed from other cultures), and lived largely peaceful lives despite living in a time of great (but, argues Wells, much more gradual than previously understood) change.

Wells' writing is crisp and bracing and his obvious enthusiasm for the minutiae of archaeological finds is infectious. This book is a powerful antithesis to the dry excesses of so many history texts.

Wells also destroys the myth that premodern Europeans had terrible nutrition and dental health. Actual examination of the bodies from this period show that they were mostly well fed and had good teeth - which just shows the triumphalism of modern medical and dental science really is so much self-justificatory grandstanding.

Indeed, the only real flaw in this book is that Wells seems to gently argue that the Dark Ages peoples should be celebrated as a stepping stone to Charlemagne and modernity - as opposed to simple appreciating their achievements on their own terms.

He also fails to reflect on the extent of the violence and cruelty that Charlemagne utilised to consolidate his Christian powerbase - Wells is right to point out that the conversion was less sudden and simple than some folk would like to think, but I think he leans too far the other way in the process. On the other hand, he does make the important point that many pagan traditions lived on quite happily after the conversion.

On the whole, and despite my ultimately very minimal criticisms, it is deeply refreshing to read such a thorough, detailed, and thoughtful book about European history. Wells grasps both the importance of details and the importance of the big picture, and on the whole this book is a must-read for anyone who has an interest in Northern European history.

There are many brilliant quotes throughout the book but I think I might end on this very thought provoking question that Wells poses on page 201:

"[W]hich people drive change? Is change brought about largely through the actions of leaders, or by the majority of people? To read traditional text-based history of the first millennium, we could think that the persons named in the texts were the decisive factors - emperors such as Constantine and Julian, Germanic leaders such as Alaric and Clovis, other barbarian rulers such as Attila. These individuals and their actions were the subjects of the writers' attention; hence they form the focus of the textual accounts. But battles were won by armies, not by generals. Surplus production by farms in villages all over Europe enables the thriving trade in amber and glass beads, grindstones, fine pottery and glassware, and other desirable goods. Growth in manufacturing at centres such has Helgö and Southampton, and at inland settlements such as Mayen, fuelled the desire for manufactured goods and trade items throughout Europe. Expansion of specialised industries, such as that in pottery in the middle Rhineland, had no obvious elite component as a driving force. So which group played the greater role in causing the changes during these centuries - the elites or the majority of the people?"

You'll have to buy the book if you hope to be able to venture an informed answer to this question...

Henry Lauer

5-0 out of 5 stars Understanding Europe's early people on their own terms
"Barbarians to Angels" is on the ROROTOKO list of cutting-edge intellectual nonfiction. Professor Wells's book interview ran here as cover feature on October 28, 2009.

5-0 out of 5 stars Bringing light to the so-called dark.
Peter Wells once again gives us a highly readable account of "Dark Age" peoples, showing that the age wasn't as dark as supposed. His writing style is engaging and enjoyable. His treatment of the subject is excellent for the average reader of history.

Mr. Wells shows that civilized life really didn't end when Rome "fell". It continued to flourish and took off in new directions, influenced by people other than the Greeks and Romans. Cities didn't die, learning wasn't extinguished and art found new inspiration.

Perhaps the reviewer who disparaged it as a subject already covered for decades should let the morons at the so-called "History Channel" know. They continue to perpetuate the stereotype of dark age, northern europeans as knuckle-dragging, dirty, unthinking, brutish creatures. The truth is very different and Peter Wells puts that nonsense in the ash heap where it belongs.

Well done, Peter Wells! ... Read more

5. Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe
by Peter Heather
Hardcover: 752 Pages (2010-03-04)
list price: US$34.95 -- used & new: US$13.64
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Asin: 0199735603
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (14)

4-0 out of 5 stars academic study of the post-roman migrations that made Europe
This is one of those scholarly books that can forever change your perception of a crucial period in history, re-framing it so to speak.It is fascinating and essential, but so rigorously argued that it is very difficult to read and chock full of deadly dull scholarly proofs and arguments.Most importantly, rather than a narrative, it is strictly analytic, far closer to multi-disciplinary social science than history.I would estimate that half of the book is a great joy to read and the other half a dry slog for the determined. The prose is, to put it mildly, dense.

Heather begins with an extremely terse discussion of the sociology of migration.In the past, he argues, scholars (often backed by iffy primary sources) promoted a "billiard ball approach", in which migrating groups knocked others out of the way, perhaps eliminating them by ethnic cleansing or forced absorption as slaves or serfs.Archaeological findings, however, belay this view, indicating instead that groups were far more amorphous, like coalitions with a charismatic leader at their center that grew like a snowball as it gained politico-military momentum.Language and ethnicity were more fluid than assumed, adopting that of the military/economic elite or later perhaps that of the occupied territory.This paragraph cannot do justice to the subtlety and cogency of Heather's arguments, which are assessed against primary sources, archaelogical evidence, and socio-historic examples such as the experience of the Boars as they migrated North to avoid British colonial rule.(From a motley crew, the boars united into highly organized military force and quickly beat the Zulus into submission.)

At the fall of the western Roman empire to germanic tribes (i.e. Goths) in the 5th C CE, migration patterns were changing.From disorganized bands that were seeking to exploit Roman wealth - via border raids, trade, mercenary wages, and diplomatic subsidies as part of Roman foreign policy - they had become very large political entities that included women and children (increasing their numbers vis-a-via warriors by 4x).The earlier groups had been living at subsistence levels as itinerant farmers perpetually in search of fertile ground, beginning their movements with trickle of early explorers (in 2C CE) that became a torrent by 5C.But they were also fleeing the Huns, and later the Turkic Avars, who established powerful military empires in central Europe that were based in pillage and charismatic leaders such as Attila.The new entities were far more organized in their command structures, were learning superior agricultural techniques (to replenish soil nitrogen via turning over rotten plants and crop rotation), and adopting cutting-edge military technologies and tactics.

Similar tribes (i.e. Angles and Saxons) invaded Britain in large enough groups that they displaced the local elites and destroyed their economic systems; eventually, they instilled their language into the local populace, as women could teach the children their original languages, they replaced local languages, including Latin and Celtic.This was a pattern that was often repeated until 1000 CE, when the principal language patterns that survive with few exceptions (Turkish in Anatolia being a rather big one) to this day.

As western Roman economic structures declined, new power centers arose in northern Europe for the first time, in 7 C CE.Though the level of socio-economic and political sophistication were far below those of the Romans, the new entities were proto-modern states nonetheless.They learned to create military organizational structures, monopolizing the means of force in order to maintain the elites that eventually became entrenched in land ownership and hence became the grand royal and aristocratic families that ruled for the next 1500 years.Heather also covers the Vikings and Slavs, whose origins remain murky and unknowable from the archaeological record.The Slavs, interestingly, conquered much of central Europe because elite Germans seem to have migrated West, leaving poorly armed and disorganized Germanic peasants, who were then absorbed into the newly dominant Slavic elites.Due to their lack of ability to tax and build viable cities, these semi-nomadic groups faced inherent limits:once they expanded to large size based on pillage and forced tribute, they could no longer pay their forces enough to keep them together and so these mini-empires disintegrated; so the Carolingians, Merovingians, Ottonians, and scores of others succeeded each other.

It was only later, around 1000 CE, when the empires became more sedentary with larger surpluses of wealth (due to their adoption of more productive agricultural techniques), which paid for the construction of massive fortified castles that still dot the European landscape; standing armies that could better protect subjects; and more diversified economies, that empires were able to grow more stable.It was also at that time that the various linguistic groups had come to occupy the places that they occupy today - thus, the basis of Europe was more or less set.Invaders later only rarely dislodged these language groups, but rather were absorbed in their turn.There were also extremely sophisticated trading networks that sprung up, bringing northern goods such as furs to the most sophisticated civilizations of the time, the Islamic states, whose silver financed a great deal of the economic expansions in the North.

If this sounds rather abstract, so is the book.It is often not fun to read.However, there is absolutely no question that this is a masterpiece of scholarship that will define the field for a generation.Heather is brilliant, writes beautifully, and often with wonderfully playful humor.(He refers with frustration, for example, to the fact that his students no longer know what he means when referring to black and white television.It got me to laugh.)

I recommend this book for those with the personal interest to persevere through very difficult scholarly arguments.It is the natural follow-on to Heather's equally brilliant (and far more fun)Fall of the Roman Empire.If you wish to understand what made up the extraordinarily diverse language in all of their modalities from 400 to 1000 bce, this is a book for you.I am glad I read it, but it was, well, very challenging and often failed to keep my attention.

3-0 out of 5 stars A bit too meta for my tastes.
The analysis of the author in this history wanders between meta-analysis of other commentators, a diffident but pointed criticism of various writers and schools of thought on the transformation of Europe, and on the other hand, actual historical writing and analysis.

As such, I found this book frustrating.The author wants to examine, at length, and comment on, at length, the various arguments within academic historical journals about the relative role of migration, invasions, cultural transmission, and the changing face of Europe.Interesting, if a bit academic. The author also wants to tell the tale of the changes in Europe, which is what I believe most lay readers of history are probably expecting to read. The conflation of these two lines of narrative is a bit disorganized, wandering, and becomes lackluster.

I too missed the maps and diagrams that would have shown the story more clearly.

As a lay reader, I was less than interested in the competing theories, and wanted to hear a more direct exposition of the author's views.As an outsider to the world of professional historical debate, I have to note that it is amusing to see a middle ground depicted as cutting edge.The author notes that state formation and migration are two responses to the same set of stimuli, not two alternative hypotheses for the development of Europe. Sensible.Middle ground.Probably correct.Only the academic world could have vacillated for so long between extreme alternative explanations, fondling them amongst themselves, leading to an argument for the common sense middle to be depicted by the author as new, perhaps cutting edge...

4-0 out of 5 stars Enthusiasm unbound
Peter Heather's enthusiasm for the subject is infectious, and his ability to make sense of a complex pattern of migrations is impressive.While the narrative flows well (even if the jaunty asides do not all work), there is too much repetition.Perhaps the author thought this necessary because the book was so long that the reader could not be expected to pick out and retain all the key concepts.It seems that the publishers decided to keep the price down by eliminating photographs and plates, but they omitted to eliminate all references to photographs and plates, much to the frustration of this reader.The price could have been kept down more effectively by reducing the size of the text and by making it tighter and easier to follow.Let's hope the next edition will be a five.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Medievalist thanks you,Mr. Heather
I now have Heather's book "Empires and Barbarians" on my reading list, but haven't bought it yet.For 30 years I've corrected people who refer to 500-1000 AD as "The Dark Ages" by telling them that those 5 centuries were "The Early Middle Ages.""Post Roman Europe" is a term that's fine with me - anything but the Dark Ages.

Look forward to reading this book soon.

5-0 out of 5 stars Common Sense at His Best
What Heather has done is a monument to that very difficult to find virtue, common sense, in fact an absolutely uncommon virtue, that very thing that in spite of having such a "vulgar" denomination Schopenhauer -without using that name- considered the feature proper of genius, the gift to see what it is -the idea behind the fact- instead of looking at merely external relations and making empty abstractions. Heather does precisely that; he dismiss much of what has been said and considered dogma about the so called barbarian invasions looked as happening this or that day in the form of full peoples with clear and unchangeable identities. With Heather we see a more realistic description of the process and by the same reason we can understand lot better the formation of Europe -his target- and as an extra, a lot more the actual formation of identities and peoples. A must reading for every history geek and anthropology student. ... Read more

6. The Narrators of Barbarian History (A.D. 550-800): Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Bede, and Pa (ND Publications Medieval Studies)
by Walter Goffart
Paperback: 491 Pages (2005-11-11)
list price: US$30.00 -- used & new: US$27.31
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0268029679
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Winner of the Medieval Academy of America's Haskins Medal for 1991, The Narrators of Barbarian History treats the four writers who are the main early sources for our knowledge of the Ostrogoths, Franks, Anglo-Saxons, and Lombards. In his preface to this paperback edition, Goffart examines the questions his work has evoked since its original publication in 1988 and enlarges the bibliography to account for recent scholarship. ... Read more

7. The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians
by Peter Heather
Paperback: 576 Pages (2007-06-11)
list price: US$19.95 -- used & new: US$12.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0195325419
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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The death of the Roman Empire is one of the perennial mysteries of world history. Now, in this groundbreaking book, Peter Heather proposes a stunning new solution: Centuries of imperialism turned the neighbors Rome called barbarians into an enemy capable of dismantling an Empire that had dominated their lives for so long.
A leading authority on the late Roman Empire and on the barbarians, Heather relates the extraordinary story of how Europe's barbarians, transformed by centuries of contact with Rome on every possible level, eventually pulled the empire apart. He shows first how the Huns overturned the existing strategic balance of power on Rome's European frontiers, to force the Goths and others to seek refuge inside the Empire.This prompted two generations of struggle, during which new barbarian coalitions, formed in response to Roman hostility, brought the Roman west to its knees.The Goths first destroyed a Roman army at the battle of Hadrianople in 378, and went on to sack Rome in 410. The Vandals spread devastation in Gaul and Spain, before conquering North Africa, the breadbasket of the Western Empire, in 439. We then meet Attila the Hun, whose reign of terror swept from Constantinople to Paris, but whose death in 453 ironically precipitated a final desperate phase of Roman collapse, culminating in the Vandals' defeat of the massive Byzantine Armada: the west's last chance for survival.

Peter Heather convincingly argues that the Roman Empire was not on the brink of social or moral collapse. What brought it to an end were the barbarians. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (63)

5-0 out of 5 stars WoW! Great history text.
This book is astounding. He built on the work of others and lays out a convincing argument for his reasons for why the Empire fell. I am not a historian, nor a student of Rome, I just wanted to read about why Rome fell. This was a great book to read for enjoyment. It was all fun to read.
The only drawback were the maps, which don't show all the cities he refers to. He covers 400+ years of history and even city names changed so the lack of great maps was a deficiency. Other than that minor irritant, the book was worth the read.
There are many great reviews here, but after reading the book I believe that the negative ones are nits, so go with the positive ones.
My big complaint was where I bought it. I was on vacation & so couldn't wait for a mailing. This cost me twice as much at a book store as Amazon.com. I've got to plan better in the future!

5-0 out of 5 stars Best Book Yet on the Fall of the Roman Empire
I am a retiree with an interest in the disintegration of the Roman Empire and not a historian.I have an ever-increasing number of books on the subject and this is the best of the bunch.In particular, I liked Heather's clear and entertaining style of writing, the book's scope and depth, and the fact that Heather sometimes explains, in detail, his reasoning as he extracts information form ancient sources.

A number of reviewers have complained about Heather's use of modern vernacular.To the contrary, I very much enjoyed Heather's use of current expressions such as "supergroup", "cover-up", "warm up for the main event" and even "imperial bureaucrats" and was surprised to find that the use of these expressions added both clarity and interest.

5-0 out of 5 stars Clear, compelling, detailed, and insightful
Peter Heather's The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians is quite simply brilliant. Heather combines a rich, detailed history with clear writing to argue that Rome fell from without, not from within.

It's clear that Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Penguin Classics) was wrong when he claimed a decline in morals - particularly Christianity - led to the collapse of the Western empire. However, a surprising amount of people still believe this. Some more serious historians, such as Adrian Goldsworthy in How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower, argue that internal political chaos weakened the empire enough to allow the barbarians to invade.

However, Heather makes the case that it was barbarian strength, rather than Roman weakness, that led to the collapse. First, Germanic tribes along the frontier had become more prosperous, populous, and politically organized. Second, the invasion of the Huns pushed several tribes into the empire, where they decided to resettle - permanently. Third, some of those tribes seized key Roman provinces, particularly North Africa, depriving the empire of a key tax base. Finally, the Persian Sassanian threat diverted just enough resources to drain the Roman military machine. In short, it was a perfect storm spurred by the Hunnic revolution. Heather does admit that internal politics may have exacerbated the situation (particularly Constantine III's uprising), but keeps his focus outside.

One of the best features to Heather's writing style is how he seamlessly incorporates archaeological evidence, economic data, written accounts by Romans themselves as evidence for his argument. He is not afraid to guess - or even guesstimate - when the evidence just can't reach a firm conclusion, but he always prefaces such estimates with his reasoning and qualifiers. As such, Heather takes readers not just into the imperial halls of Rome (or Ravenna), but tries to consider the points of view and interests of provincial Roman landowners, Gothic kings, and even soldiers. Again, this nuance shows how domestic political turmoil just doesn't explain all of the events leading to Rome's collapse.

Perhaps the best thing I can say about The Fall of the Roman Empire is that it changed my mind. Going into it, I thought Heather would simply be yet another revisionist. I honestly thought I'd end up writing a review saying that he ignored the ferocity of Rome's civil wars or that the split between Byzantium and Rome sapped the empire's strength. However, I've come away convinced that, by and large, he's right. I'm looking forward to reading his new book, Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe.

I would warn readers that it would be useful to have some conception of Roman history before 375 A.D. Heather doesn't provide much background (which in my opinion is good, because he leaves more room to discuss the period of the collapse). I'd recommend Neil Faulkner's Rome: Empire of the Eagles, 753 BC - AD 476 for a brief but insightful overview.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Fall of the Roman Empire Decadence Mythology
Peter Heather is upfront in his Introduction: he's about to summarize the main theses of the last couple of decades of academic research. The novelty of this research is that it is informed by archeological discoveries not available to early historians. Using this information, Heather destroys the usual believe that the Roman Empire collapsed mainly because of internal causes.

His prose is clear and to the point. His research expertise is on the Barbarians, and as such that world is really well explained, sometimes using "informed guesses" by the lack of historical documents. Heather always distinguish his sources, but makes it really easy to the reader to follow his argument and main thesis in the book: The Hunnic Empire provoked indirectly the fall of the Roman Empire. It was their collateral damage that cause the massive immigrations and invasions of Barbarians into Rome.

Heather also clearly explained that the Empire was not at all giving his last breath, on the contrary, for example, archeological evidence show how agriculture (a common example of decadence) was in fact thriving in the Fourth and Fifth century. The fall of the Hunnic Empire also serves as a counterpoint of a system that really collapsed for internal reasons.

I'm looking forward to read his new book "Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe".

4-0 out of 5 stars Heather:A Layman's Review
This book is the best recent one-stop shopping-place for anyone interested in the topic.Specialists will cavil about details and emphasis, and any interested specialist and generalist will agree or disgree about interpretation.The author's overarching themes are easily summarized (see blurb and other reviews), and naturally they elicit agreement or argument depending on where the reader (or reviewer) resides on the spectrum of opinion about whether and why antiquity ended and the medieval world began.

That is:does the reader, a la Gibbon and the traditional interpretation, believe the Roman world clearly ended, or does the reader instead believe, with Peter Brown and the more modern school, not in an end to the ancient world but in its transition?(The best recent one-stop shopping-place for a historiographic summary of these antithetical--or complementary--approaches is Ward-Perkins's recent book.Otherwise, Ward-Perkins tells the same story as Heather with much the same emphasis, albeit in a mere 200 pages, and still with plenty of primary-source material and good illustrations, index, and bibliography.)Further, if the reader is a believer in an end to the ancient world, is the primary reason for the end (or are the primary reasons for it, among the dozens or hundreds historians offer) internal to the Empire or external to it?

Abundant detail of the "how" of the end or of transition, whatever the reader may prefer to call it, is among the strengths of this book:Heather quotes liberally from primary sources and tells stories from wide swaths of geography and time.Other strengths:it is long, well organized, easy to follow, accessible and engaging to a nonspecialist (myself), and well indexed.The bibliography is generous, the several maps good.He is enthusiastic, and he encourages the reader to want to continue to read the book and to want to read more elsewhere.

As to weaknesses:first is the author's unfortunate recourse to witticism.Perhaps this reader has a poor sense of humor, and the author himself (in his introduction, I believe) apologizes for what he refers to as addiction (I paraphrase) to puns, but, for me at least, the jokes distract.Funny or not, they don't bring either the subject matter or the writing to life, and sometimes the attendant tone may be jarring.His witticisms often take the form of unusual diction.For instance, he's generous with present-day, hip, idiomatic, or slang terms.This is a minor flaw, but a tighter editorial rein would have made a better book.

The other weakness is one often inescapable in such works:the reader may feel s/he's in the hands of an attorney arguing a brief.

On balance, this book worthy of recommendation to anyone interested in the era.

... Read more

8. Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376 - 568 (Cambridge Medieval Textbooks)
by Guy Halsall
Paperback: 616 Pages (2008-02-18)
list price: US$39.99 -- used & new: US$32.65
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Asin: 0521435439
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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This is a major new survey of the barbarian migrations and their role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the creation of early medieval Europe, one of the key events in European history. Unlike previous studies it integrates historical and archaeological evidence and discusses Britain, Ireland, mainland Europe and North Africa, demonstrating that the Roman Empire and its neighbours were inextricably linked.A narrative account of the turbulent fifth and early sixth centuries is followed by a description of society and politics during the migration period and an analysis of the mechanisms of settlement and the changes of identity.Guy Halsall reveals that the creation and maintenance of kingdoms and empires was impossible without the active involvement of people in the communities of Europe and North Africa. He concludes that, contrary to most opinions, the fall of the Roman Empire produced the barbarian migrations, not vice versa. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars The best textbook overview of the subject available
Guy Halsall's Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West is about the best book if you are looking for an overview of modern interpretations of the so called Migration Period. Despite the apparent regional limitation to the 'Roman West' the book also covers a lot of history relating to the 'Roman East' as well. It is a shame and unfair that the rating of this book was marred by a review how took issue with the price.

5-0 out of 5 stars Barbarian Migrations
Read this book and incorporate it's views of the so-called migrations (formerly invasions) with other contemporary views of the early Middle Ages. ... Read more

9. Medieval Worlds: Barbarians, Heretics and Artists in the Middle Ages
by Arno Borst
Hardcover: 288 Pages (1992-04-15)
list price: US$65.00 -- used & new: US$18.00
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Asin: 0226066568
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In Medieval Worlds: Barbarians, Heretics, and Artists, medieval historian Arno Borst offers at once an imaginatively narrated tour of medieval society. Issues of language, power, and cultural change come to life as he examines how knights, witches and heretics, monks and kings, women poets, and disputatious university professors existed in the medieval world.

Clearly interested in the forms of medieval behavior which gave rise to the seeds of modern society, Borst focuses on three in particular that gave momentum to medieval religious, social, and intellectual movements: the barbaric, heretical, and artistic. Borst concludes by reflecting on his own life as a scholar and draws out lessons for us from the turbulence of the Middle Ages.
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10. How the Barbarian Invasions Shaped the Modern World: The Vikings, Vandals, Huns, Mongols, Goths, and Tartars who Razed the Old World and Formed the New
by Thomas J. Craughwell
Paperback: 320 Pages (2008-07-01)
list price: US$19.95 -- used & new: US$8.94
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Asin: 1592333036
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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This richly detailed chronicle brings to life the personalities of Attila the Hun, Alaric the Goth, Genghis Khan, and many other barbarian kings and chieftains whose rampages across Europe, Asia, and North Africa changed the course of history.


In this highly readable and authoritative book, author Thomas J. Craughwell draws upon the latest historical and archaeological research to reveal the impact of the barbarian invasions on the modern world: from the establishment of the English language, to the foundation of world capitals such as Dublin, to the introduction of gunpowder to Europe. Illustrated with more than 100 archival images gathered from around the world.


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Customer Reviews (8)

1-0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, uninformative, untrustworthy.
My first gripe is with the author's failure to address his chosen subject, the issues the title deals with. There is usually one short paragraph at the end of each chapter that makes some conclusive remarks, but never addresses the issue, the lasting impact of barbarian invasions. Even a simple 'the Vikings united the kingdoms of Britain THUS FORGING THE BRITISH STATE' would suffice. The concept of the book was fascinating, so this makes the disappointment worse.

With this dealt with, perhaps I could have settled with the book being simply an introduction to some key military events. Not so, because the author never really informs as to the significance of each battle. He just describes it. These issues are inferred, which leads to questions like 'so what?'

So, what is left? Anecdotes. Cute, coffee-table anecdotes. The author, however, only very rarely informs us of his sources, often these are the dubious histories of ancient chroniclers (the kind who liked to dress up their stories and figures.) Occasionally, the author acknowledges this, but not often, and there are plenty of uncited anecdotes, some of which are bizarre enough that you wonder where he lifted them from and how truthful they are.

This book doesn't even work as an introduction. It says nothing of much interest and not much I felt believable.

2-0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I thoroughly enjoyed the author's "Stealing Lincoln's Body." This book is a disappointment.

I agree with many of the other reviewers about the target audience probably being early teens.What I find most disappointing are the glaring inaccuracies (Romans didn't "invent" the arch or the dome - page 14; both are found in much earlier use in the Middle East; the Romans did "refine" their utility) and editorial missteps.

The latter are too numerous to list, but a few of the more disturbing ones include:

* while most chapters attempt to relate events within fewer than two hundred years time, Chapter 7, "The Long-Haired Kings: The Franks" rushes through over 240 years in a jumbled fashion.The chronological reporting most frequently used is muddled with the first few pages devoted to 350, a retreat to 276 in one of the historical asides of interest, a huge jump ahead out of the period to laud Charlemagne in another aside, then a return to 276 followed by the actions of Clovis with episodes pre-dating his story introduced six pages earlier.The chapter finishes with further juxtaposition (in a chronological sense) of events returning to the marriage of Clovis to Clothilde and its influence on the climax. On the whole, I think the entire chapter resulted from someone dropping the text on the floor and printing it out of order. [pages 114-127]

* an elementary editorial error is made in the text on page 193.The paragraph begins, "..., Ragnar Lodbrok, the King of Sweden and Denmark, had placed his son twelve-year old son Bjorn..." with the editor obviously ignoring one or the other placement of "son" in the sentence.

* perhaps the use of spell-check isn't always such a good idea.On page 206, the third paragraph begins, "In terms of weapons, the Irish and the Vikings were equally matched: Both carried words, battle-axes, spears,..."I'm sure the author intended "Swords." The capitalization of "Both" is incorrect after the colon. While the pen may be mightier than the sword, I think in this instance both sides preferred the "epee" to the "epithet."

Without further listing of errors, suffice it to say the editor employed was an unfortunate choice.

1-0 out of 5 stars How Shallow Popular History Books Shaped Civilization
Profusion of 19th Century engravings with fanciful depictions of an outdated vision of the past, accompanied by a bibliography about one third the size of my own library: somebody's making money from this?

3-0 out of 5 stars Very Poorly Edited
This book is ok for a basic history lesson covering roughly the period between the fall of Rome and the end of "Vikingism," to coin a ridiculous term.A nice quick, easy read to cover the basics for someone who knows little or nothing about the subject.My biggest gripe, however, is the very poor (or nonexistent) editing.This book could certainly have used a good once over before hitting the printing press.Poorly constructed sentences and non-sentences abound.Also, the time order of some of the chapters is hard to follow.A particular chapter might start telling the a story, digress into the history leading up to that story, and then return to finish the story with very poor transition.

-An OK book that could have been better
-Docking 1 star for superficiality
-Docking another for bad editing

4-0 out of 5 stars Understanding the Huns
If you are a historical scholar, working on your doctorate degree, I doubt this book was written for you. But if you are like me, someone who is interested in history, and wants to gain an overview knowledge of a specific period of time and events, this book is great.

As a descendant of Hungarian grandparents, I wanted to gain a better understanding of the role the Huns played in Hungary, which led me to this book. But I found that this book is so much more. While it has some great info on Attila and his foraging armies, it also covers in depth the Vikings, the Mongols (they are a lovable sort), the Tartars, etc. There were a lot of Barbarians in the first thousand years after Christ, and they were out to take all that they can, with as much force as they could muster, not caring who they hurt or destroyed. They looked to conquer through theft, pillaging, and gluttony (not unlike the CEOs looking for handouts in Washington today while they refuse to lower their own gluttonous salaries). Understanding these invading Barbarians helps us understand the modern world in which we live today.

If you are looking for a great overview, this is the book. Great illustrations, maps, and timelines are included. If you are looking for a stocking stuffer for that barbarian that you love...this book is highly recommended. ... Read more

11. Barbarians!
by Steven Kroll
Hardcover: 48 Pages (2009-07-09)
list price: US$18.99 -- used & new: US$10.98
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Asin: 0525479589
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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The ancient Romans used the word barbarian to describe people who were coarse, rude, or even just foreign. Over time the word has also come to connote bloodthirsty cruelty. But were the Goths, the Huns, the Vikings, and the Mongols as barbaric as we’ve been led to believe? In dynamic, detailed spreads that young readers will pore over, bestselling author Steven Kroll and illustrator Robert Byrd explore how these nomadic warriors lived, worshipped, and celebrated. Their wandering armies brought together Europe and Asia through trade and conquest and, in doing so, changed the world forever. ... Read more

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5-0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly well done book
In this surprisingly interesting kids' book. It takes a look at four different groups of "barbarians," and actually tells the reader what is known about them, presenting them less as stereotypical dirty barbarians, and more as the interesting people that they were. The pages are filled with many colorful illustration (my favorite being the illustration of the Norse universe!), and informative sidebars.

Yeah, this is a surprisingly well done book - richly illustrated and quite a fascinating read. I highly recommend it! ... Read more

12. Roman Barbarians: The Royal Court and Culture in the Early Medieval West (Medieval Culture and Society)
by Yitzhak Hen
Hardcover: 240 Pages (2007-12-15)
list price: US$85.00 -- used & new: US$68.07
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Asin: 0333786653
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Roman Barbarians investigates the nature of early medieval culture, and what place the royal court had in it. It explores the place of the royal court and the operation of patronage through it in several European kingdoms of the early Middle Ages, such as the Ostrogothic court of Theoderic the Great, the Vandal court of Thrasamund, the Frankish courts of Dagobert I and the Visigothic court of Sisebut. It seeks to identify the roots of later medieval developments, and especially of the so-called Carolingian Renaissance, in the centuries immediately succeeding the period of Roman rule. After all, it was in that formative period that Roman and Christian ideas and practices came together to be mingled with indigenous Germanic practices, to produce the seeds of what we now call 'the medieval civilization'.
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13. Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe: Society in Transformation
by Michael Frassetto
Hardcover: 419 Pages (2003-05-23)
list price: US$95.00 -- used & new: US$49.93
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Asin: 1576072630
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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In the Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe, medieval expert Michael Frassetto amasses the evidence for the defense—and prosecution—of this little-understood transition era in the history of Western civilization. Covering nearly 1,000 years of history—from the late ancient period through the first centuries of the Middle Ages—this concise but thorough reference work examines the key figures, places, events, and ideas of barbarian Europe.

This title chronicles the ancient Visigoths, the rule of Benedict, and the sacking of Rome. The easy-to-access alphabetical entries and essays offer more than a mere chronicling of kings and battles and explore the social and cultural history of the era, with special attention played to the role of women.

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5-0 out of 5 stars A wealth of up-to-date information
Compiled, written, and edited by Michael Frasetto (Religion Editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica), Encyclopedia Of Barbarian Europe: Society In Transformation presents a wealth of up-to-date information concerning the figures, places, events, laws, ideas, and social orders of the late ancient period down through the Middle Ages in Europe. Nearly 200 entries are organized alphabetically in order to offer an extensively researched, "user friendly" portrait of how men and women of the era once lived, and how European society itself evolved over the centuries. Encyclopedia Of Barbarian Europe is a core addition to any dedicated academic or community library European History reference collection. ... Read more

14. Barbarian Warriors: Saxons, Vikings, Normans (Brassey's History of Uniforms)
by Dan Shadrake, Susanna Shadrake
Hardcover: 144 Pages (1997-09)
list price: US$32.95 -- used & new: US$156.90
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Asin: 1857532139
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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The weapons and battlegear of legendary warriors of the Dark Ages. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

4-0 out of 5 stars Great illustrated book
A book about Romano Brittish (or "arthurian warriors"), Saxons, Vikings ans Normans, during the Dark Ages.
This book is full illustrated, with reenactors pictures and outstanding drawings.
Dan shadrake is the first one who begun the romano-brittish and late roman reenactment in Europ.

5-0 out of 5 stars Warriors
Very comprehensive, very colourful, clear informative text which tells the reader the difference between what is speculation and what has been found. Good period range.

5-0 out of 5 stars An excellent discussion of the equipage of the groups
I found this book to be excellent.It included the late Roman Empire equipage that I had missed from the series' other book on the Romans, as well as the Scotti and Pict raiders, the Saxon invaders, the Vikings, and the Normans.The focus of the book is on how a re-enactor might recreate the arms, armors, and clothing of these groups and I, as one who likes to draw ancient soldiers, found it to be most useful. ... Read more

15. Blood-brothers: a ritual of friendship and the construction of the imagined barbarian in the middle ages [An article from: Journal of Medieval History]
by K. Oschema
Digital: Pages (2006-09-01)
list price: US$7.95 -- used & new: US$7.95
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Asin: B000P6OZA0
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This digital document is a journal article from Journal of Medieval History, published by Elsevier in 2006. The article is delivered in HTML format and is available in your Amazon.com Media Library immediately after purchase. You can view it with any web browser.

This article analyses the history of blood-covenants in the middle ages. Appearing in various historiographical and literary texts from antiquity onwards, these covenants have hitherto mostly been interpreted by modern authors as a typical feature of pre-modern or even 'primitive' societies. A closer inquiry into the context of the existing source-material reveals, however, that this motif can be characterised as a part of discriminatory narrative strategies which aim at the exclusion of foreign and non-Christian cultures. The analysis of the medieval texts, which were mainly produced from the twelfth century onwards, clearly shows a tendency to attribute this ritual of blood-brotherhood either to representatives of the so-called 'Saracens' or allegedly heterodox cultures, like the Byzantines or the Irish, which populated the margins of the Latin west. Not only does this topical use of the motif invalidate part of the texts' factual source value, but it also proved misleading for the interpretation of pre-modern societies by modern historians. While an older tradition of classical political history mainly tended to note the ritual as a cultural curiosity, more recent studies of ritual structures are in danger of misrepresenting the cultures they focus on. ... Read more

16. Barbarians, Maps, and Historiography (Variorum Collected Studies Series)
by Walter Goffart
Hardcover: 344 Pages (2009-03-28)
list price: US$114.95 -- used & new: US$110.95
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Asin: 0754659844
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To complement his first collection of articles (""Rome's Fall and After"", 1989), Walter Goffart presents here a further set of essays, all but two published between 1988 and 2007. They mainly focus on two types of historiography: early medieval narratives, with special attention to Bede's ""Historia Ecclesiastica""; and printed maps designed to portray and teach history, with special attention to the ubiquitous 'map of the barbarian invasions'.The wide-ranging concerns represented extend from the underside of the Life of St Severinus of Noricum, and further evidence for dating Beowulf, to the questions whether the barbarian invasions period was a 'heroic age' and how Charlemagne shaped his own succession. Attention is also paid to the earliest map illustrating the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy and to the historical vignettes of the Vatican Galleria delle carte geografiche. The collection opens with the appraisal of certain writings dealing with what is now called 'ethnogenesis theory'. To conclude, Professor Goffart adds brief second thoughts about each of these essays and supplies an annotated list of his articles that have not been reprinted. ... Read more

17. On Barbarian Identity: Critical Approaches to Ethnicity (SEM 4) (Studies in the Early Middle Ages)
 Hardcover: 265 Pages (2002-08-01)
list price: US$87.00 -- used & new: US$58.72
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Asin: 2503511686
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Ethnicity has been central to medieval studies since the Goths, Franks, Alamanni and other barbarian settlers of the Roman empire were first seen as part of Germanic antiquity. Today, two paradigms dominate interpretation of barbarian Europe. In history, theories of how tribes formed (?ethnogenesis?) assert the continuity of Germanic identities from prehistory through the Middle Ages, and see cultural rather than biological factors as the means of preserving these identities. In archaeology, the ?culture history? approach has long claimed to be able to trace movements of peoples not attested in the historical record, by identifying ethnically-specific material goods. The papers in this volume challenge the concepts and methodologies of these two models. The authors explore new ways to understand barbarians in the early Middle Ages, and to analyse the images of the period constructed by modern scholarship. Two responses, one by a leading exponent of the ?ethnogenesis? approach, the other by a leading critic, continue this important debate. ... Read more

18. Kingdoms of the Empire: The Integration of Barbarians in Late Antiquity (Transformation of the Roman World)
Hardcover: 230 Pages (1997-05)
list price: US$169.00
Isbn: 9004108459
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Did ancient Rome fall, or was it simply transformed? Was the Empire destroyed by barbarians, or was its decay inevitable for internal reasons? These are some of the questions examined in this study, which should prove a valuable tool to both classical and medieval scholars. ... Read more

19. Barbarians: Secrets of the Dark Ages
by Richard Rudgley
Hardcover: 256 Pages (2002-06-21)
-- used & new: US$35.80
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Asin: 0752261983
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A thought-provoking account of some of our most fascinating ancestors by an author renowed for bringing less familiar history to life. The Dark Ages is an era in European history that are both little-known and little-understood. In this book Richard Rudgely challenges the conventional portrait of a dangerous and barbaric time. Through archaeological investigation and critical analysis. the art, society and cultural legacy of the barbarians are shown to have shaped and moulded the destiny of Europe even more than the Roman Empire. The author is also interested in what the Dark Ages can tell us about Europe today and arguments about a joint currency and US air bases in Britain take their place alongside accounts of the coins found at Sutton Hoo and the military technology of the Vikings making this The book will be divided into three sections, the first starting with the fall of Rome, the second with the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain and the third with the rise of the Norse culture of the Vikings leading to the end of the Dark Ages. ... Read more

20. Barbarian West 400 - 1000
by J. M. Wallace-Hadrill
Paperback: 184 Pages (1996-12-16)
list price: US$37.95 -- used & new: US$12.95
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Asin: 0631202927
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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In the fourth century the Roman Empire was under threat. The Barbarians were becoming a powerful force in Europe, and the Huns, the most savage of these tribesmen, were sweeping south towards the imperial frontiers. At the same time the Empire faced growing internal social and economic problems: plague and war had diminished the agricultural population and productivity was falling; the army was under increasing strain in defending the extensive boundaries. Christianity, too, continued to prove an unsettling influence - accepted and established in Constantinople, but not in Rome.

In this perceptive and stimulating book, Professor Wallace-Hadrill traces the development of Western Europe from the dissolution of the late Roman Empire to the emergence, in the tenth century, of the individual states of medieval Europe. Now in its fourth edition, The Barbarian West contains a fully revised and up-to-date bibliography. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

2-0 out of 5 stars does the author care if you know
This book covers one of the most confused periods in western history, and I must say it left me more confused than enlightened.

The novice may gain superficial knowledge about the Lombards, Visigoths, Franks, and Ostrogoths, from Hadrill's compact book, but not much else. (I challenge any beginner who trodded through this to say anything illuminating about Visigothic Spain!)

Too many times the author frolics about interpreting documents and developments without giving any background information. If I did not know any better, I would think he was having a debate in his own mind. Hadrill certainly lacks expositional skills, nor is his ability to write clear english any better.

I would not recommend this to a novice (layperson or student). It is one of those books you read, set down, reflect upon, and realize you do not remember anything it said.
For an advanced student who has the requisite background knowledge, it might serve as a contentious (brilliant? tendentious?) interpretive history, but for the beginner it is gibberish.

History professors should stop using this text in introductory courses. Why not pick a text by an author who actually cares about EXPLAINING the Barbarian West to students so that they will UNDERSTAND the time period. Methinks Hadrill wishes to impress with his erudition too much.

2-0 out of 5 stars A Barbarian Time Reading It.
In J.M. Wallace-Hadrill's `The Barbarian West' the author attempts to discuss the major histories of all major Germanic tribes during a 600 year period in 163 pages, not including the 12 page bibliography & 8 page index. Because of this every sentence is heavily laden with information, much of which the author already assumes the reader knows or which he had very briefly mentioned in a prior page. The book is far too dense to serve as an introduction to the period, as the author notes in his preface. "The reader who requires a balanced introduction to the early Middle Ages will do best to turn without delay to the general books cited at the end of this volume, which, so far from seeking in any particular to replace, I gratefully build upon." (Preface) As a novice to this time period, I found the book a little challenging and it took some effort to read. The Book became to me, simply, a list of information put into paragraph form that the author divided into seven chapters. Chapter One: Introduction-
In the year 376 A.D. northern tribes from beyond the Danube were in motion. This wasn't the first time so the Roman Empire was slow to react to the reports, but they were anything but normal, "The Huns, the most terrible of the barbarian peoples, had been stirred to life and were sweeping south towards the Imperial frontiers, refugees streaming before them." (p.9) The Imperial frontiers had long been stretched to a point where defense against threats was a burden big enough to cause economic & social problem. Problems such as labor and spending modified the structure of the Empire. 1st labor; Defense of an immense frontier combined with the need to exploit food producing land & to make every able-bodied man the object of state supervision proved to be a self-destructive process. An age long reliance on slave labor wasn't conducive to inventiveness or labor saving methods, the slave population would bear no more work than it could avoid. 2nd Spending; No Emperor would have considered fiscal discipline for a minute because lavish households and grand towns were the Roman way of life. Emperors continued to live beyond their means because to do otherwise was not to live at all. A lack of adaptiveness showed in Roman social activity. Take the increased demand on the soil & decreased productivity and add to it endemic plague & war casualties, and the Empire saw no alternative to settling the land and army with barbarian refugees. Chapter Two: Mare Nostrum- During the 3rd century in south-eastern Europe there formed two barbarian confederations. To the east were the Ostrogoths and to the west the Visigoths. The Ostrogoths were comprised of the East Germans: Goths, Vandals, Burgundians, Gepids, Lombards and they controlled the Steppe-lands between Crimea and the Don & Dniester rivers. The Visigoths were comprised of the West Germans: the Franks, Alamans, Saxons, Frisians, Thuringians and they controlled the lands between the Danube and Dnieber rivers. Both Groups were hard living pastoral peoples and likely would have died if they didn't trade with the Empire. It was the unexpected arousal of the non-Germanic Huns that broke up the confederation & created a mass exodus to the eastern empire, which was unable to stop them or provide for them. This led to armed conflict and in August 378 A.D. near Adrianople, the Imperial forces were defeated and the Emperor Killed. The eastern provinces were open to raids, and both the Huns & the Goths took advantage. The western empire knowing it was in danger took what means it could to save itself by surrendering power of the Emperors to the barbarian chieftains and by the complete barbarization of the army. The Goths learned their Christianity from bishop ulfilas. He preached among them 341-348 & translated the scriptures into their language. Ulfilas was an Arian who believed in the divinity of God but not Jesus, so it follows that the Goths share this belief. Western Catholics did not like this. In 410 A.D. Alaric, chieftain of an Arian people finally took Rome. He didn't have much interest in it afterwards because he needed food more than plunder, and there was little or none in Rome. Rome was supplied with corn & oil from Africa. The Visigoths tried to reach Africa, always the barbarian goal, but failed and retreated along the Mediterranean coast. Tribes searching for food move fast and in a generation or two settled among the Romans on the western lands that were to become, in general, their permanent homes. Chapter Three: Italy and the Lombards- In the 6th century the Emperor Justinian undertook the re-conquest of Italy after a successful campaign against the Vandals in Africa. The war took 20 years & in the process Italy was ravaged from end to end, part of this was due to famine & plague. Had the re-conquest gone as well as the one in Africa & had the barbarian rule in Italy been harsher, Justinian would have been welcomed as a liberator. His renewed rule over Italy was soon tested as the Lombards invaded and settled. The north Italian plains on which the Lombards descended in 568 A.D. were not at all prosperous. The Lombards were distrustful of the Romans & went out of their way to avoid them when possible. They were able to keep their culture and language longer than most groups by bringing with them their wives and children. They were constantly ready for war, raiding neighboring territories for goods. "They were the wicked people, the people a man could not trust to keep an agreement, the destroyers of churches and monasteries." (p.52)Chapters Four & Five: The Franks- Tournai was taken by the Franks in 446 A.D. and is where they established themselves. In 482 A.D. Clovis succeeded his father childerick as leader of the Merovingian house of Franks in Gaul. About 503A.D..8 years before his death, he converted to Catholicism. In 639 A.D. the last great Merovingian king, Dagobert, died. He had been a Frankish hero who united Franks & Germans against the Avars, a nomadic group of warriors related to the Huns. His descendants were aristocrats not warriors. The Arnulfings who later become the Carolingians eventually take advantage of this. In 751 A.D. with support of the church Pepin, a Carolingian and father to Charlemagne, seizes the throne and remains king until his death in 768 A.D. From 779 A.D.-791A.D. of Charlemagne's rule is referred to as the great central period. It was a time of military conquest and the rapid development of his Christian mission. 792 A.D. & 793 A.D. were bad years because of bad harvests, famine, trouble in Saxony, Italy, Spain, as well as a plot against him by his bastard son Pepin `the hunchback'. The Eight years between 793 A.D. and his Imperial coronation, he painfully re-imposed his authority over Saxony, Spain, & the middle Danube lands of the Avar. By the Imperial coronation of Christmas day 800 A.D. he had extended his power of the Franks beyond anything his ancestors had achieved. Chapter Six: Spain and the Visigoths- The Sueves who settled in the north west of Spain were the 1st barbarian kingdom in western Europe. This was enough to cause the Empire to invite the Visigoths intervention, by the 6th century they had control over central & southern Spain. At war with themselves, a group led by Athanagild called upon Imperial help from Africa. The Empire began a military occupation of south and south-eastern Spain that would last from 554 A.D. to 629 A.D.. The Arab invasion of Spain was a repetition of the past, but instead of turning to Imperial forces, the dispossed family of Witiza looked to the Arabs for help against Roderick. After preliminary raid Tarik, the Arab governor of Tangier, crossed into Spain in 711 A.D. with a force of 700, most of which were Berbers, to a world in decay. Since the departure of the Empire and the Devastated Visigoth armies were made worse by plague & locust swarms the Arabs easily conquered and ruled from 711 A.D. to 850 A.D.. Chapter Seven: Imperium Christianum- Louis `the Pious' received from his father an empty treasury, rebellious followers, & a plague and famine stricken countryside. His friends were fierce reformers who believed Charlemagne did little to help them. His idea of a Christian Empire is best expressed through his plan for the future. In 817 A.D. he conceived the Ordinatio Iperii, He did not plan to leave equal shares to his three sons and nephew. Lothaire the eldest was to get the biggest share and the Imperial title, though he did not wait to claim it & took a co-Emperor title. The next oldest Pepin would receive the kingdom of Aquitaine, Toulouse, & parts of Burgundy. Louis `the German' his third son would receive Bavaria & the Eastern Marches. Bernard, his nephew would continue to rule Italy. All three were to acknowledge Lothaire as their leader and pay him annual tribute & make no wars he would disapprove of. In the event one of them died without an heir the Kingdom would revert to Lothaire. However none of this came to fruition because 1) Bernard rebelled and lost his eyes & kingdom, and his family was exiled to France & 2) the Empress died and Louis remarried and produced another heir Charles `the Bald'. The new Empress tried to secure a good inheritance and his step-brothers tried to prevent one, resulting in strife and once again the west was at war with itself.In his last years, and during the reign of his sons the Empire, subjected to many divisions, showed that linguistic differences became more clearly marked. The Language of East & West Franks had developed towards modern German & French. As early as 843 A.D. the Imperium Christianum no longer existed and the Franks would never know peace again.
In conclusion though the author provides excruciating amounts of detail on these groups mentioned, his focus is almost solely on the Empire and the Roman Church. Instead of an in depth look at these cultures, he wants the reader to see only their ties to Rome. "Hence, as at the beginning so at the end, the vivid contrast stands; early Medieval men could live like barbarians; but they could think that they were Romans." (P.163)

2-0 out of 5 stars Poor Introduction
I purchased this book as an introduction to post-Roman European history, and while I found it informative, I was thoroughly disappointed by the author's presentation skills.Every sentence in this 170-or-so page book is laden with information, many times based on facts which the author already assumes the reader knows or which he had briefly discussed thirty pages prior in one line.Many times the new facts seem unrelated to each other, connected only by flimsy transitions written in the airy manner.The book is also far too dense to serve as any useful introduction to the relevant time period.The abscence of maps and family trees, two things which would greatly ease the burden of the reader from the rapid-fire assault of new facts, further decrease the legibility of this book.

Walle-Hadrill attempts to introduce and discuss the histories of all major Germanic tribes that existed during a 600-year time period in less than 170 pages.It really doesn't work and is too challenging for someone in need of a good introduction.Also, and this may come as a surprise to some, much new research has been done over the last five decades in the matter of medieval history and thus this book may be missing some fundamental facts that have only recently been discovered.For those in need of a good introduction to the time period, I would recommend a relatively new book that is either less ambitious in its goals or substantially longer and inclusive of maps, trees, and other useful presentation devices.

5-0 out of 5 stars Dense starting point, but good.
This is a short little book that is tackling a very large subject.It also, self-consciously is limiting the extent it covers its subject, thus the limiting of 400 A.D. to 1000 A.D.It is also limited in that originally the book was written in 1952, only with some updating done in both '67 and '85.At its core is still a good framework for what was known on the subject in 1950.

All that said it does provide a good little introduction to the topic of post-Roman Barbarian folk movements. The major tribes involved in those movements in Western Europe were the Franks, Goths, Lombards, and a few others.Because of the historical record being a lot of Swiss-cheese, with writers from the past often confusing one tribe for another, or using words for Goth or Frank as a generic term meaning "Any German dude" complicates the modern understanding of the situation.

The major reason people find the study of these folk movements and invasions confusing is because even the people writing about it at the time, the Roman-Celtic peoples living in Italy, Spain and France were confused by it.This has lead to history scholars being confused about it to a certain extent.Naturally enough, this leads to a lot of confusion among laypersons on the subject.

This is only a good introduction though.If you are seriously interested in any of the tribes in particular, then you may wish to look elsewhere.But for an understanding of some of the major interrelationship disputes the various tribes had with the Romans and each other, then this provides a good starting point.

Of particular value is the books endnotes and bibliography.These provide direction for the person looking to continue and learn more about the topics and issues raised herein. ... Read more

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