The Migration Age is still envisioned as an onrush of expansionary "Germans" pouring unwanted into the Roman Empire and subjecting it to pressures so great that its western parts collapsed under the weight. Further developing the themes set forth in his classic Barbarians and Romans, Walter Goffart dismantles this grand narrative, shaking the barbarians of late antiquity out of this "Germanic" setting and reimagining the role of foreigners in the later Roman Empire.
The empire was not swamped by a migratory Germanic flood for the simple reason that there was no single ancient Germanic civilization to be transplanted onto ex-Roman soil. Rather, the multiplicity of Northern peoples once living on the edges of the empire participated with the Romans in the larger stirrings of late antiquity. Most relevant among these was the long militarization that gripped late Roman society concurrently with its Christianization.
Many barbarians were settled in the provinces without dislodging the Roman residents or destabilizing land ownership; some were even incorporated into the ruling families of the empire. The outcome of this process, Goffart argues, was a society headed by elite soldiers and Christian clergy - one we have come to call medieval.
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"Goffart has produced yet another major study on the migration of the Northern barbarians into the late Roman Empire." (Choice)
"An important book which should be read attentively by all scholars of the late Roman West and early medieval Europe." (HER)
The one thing this book is missing is Barbarians. You might spot one or two peaking from behind a stack of books in the university library here, but its purely accidental. This book could have been summed up in a sticker: "There is no scientific evidence of anything that happened in Northern Europe after the Neanderthal, and before the 1600's." This isn't a book about the barbarians, but about all the writers that have said anything that wasn't substantiated by scientific evidence, regarding the northern (don't call them "Germanic") tribes. Its not just modern writers that he attacks either; anything the Romans or Greeks wrote was either secondhand or completely made up and should all be either disregarded completely or taken as parable. If you want to read anything about the Migration Period (he even questions the use of this term, saying that, at the time it was happening, nobody would have called it the Migration Period-well, no s**t, it was probably called, "Lets get the heck outa here") look somewhere else.
At first I suspected that this was some kind of revisionism aimed at deconstructing the idea of a unified Germany, but as it progressed, it didn't seem like he was against a unified Germany, just one that was prehistoric. All and all, pedantic and geared toward refuting academia and not really presenting anything informative. This should have been a paper, not an audiobook selection. I kind of want my money back.
I liked the subject material, but it was written in such a dry and academic way that I lost interest. It simply took too long to get to the good stuff. The author makes you wade through an ocean of citations for what purpose?
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