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History of the Goths 2nd ed. Edition

4 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520069831
ISBN-10: 0520069838
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Wolfram's study is indispensable."--B. S. Bachrach, "Choice

About the Author

Herwig Wolfram is Professor of History at the University of Vienna and Director of the Austrian Institute for Historical Research.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 580 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 2nd ed. edition (February 13, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520069838
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520069831
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #726,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Wolfram takes on a difficult subject, the history of a people whose origins are crusted over with legends and generations of archaeological interpretations. Some of his conclusions have been challenged but Wolfram makes a solid case for many of his interpretations. His survey of Gothic history and culture is a landmark in Gothic research.
The book is intended for academics and therefore includes numerous citations and end-notes and footnotes. If the reader can ignore all the note references, the narrative flows well enough. Wolfram's detailed analysis does dispell a few nationalistic myths, but he replaces them with a thorough retelling of Gothic history. Most reference works about ancient Germanic peoples tend to speak of the Goths in an offhand manner. But they left a lasting imprint on several parts of Europe and Asia, even if we can no longer feel their presence today. Wolfram does a good job of removing the Goths from legend and putting them back into history.
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Format: Paperback
Understanding the Goths and their role in history used to be simple. On the one hand, you could go along with Alexander Pope in his "Essay on Criticism," and declare of the fall of Rome, "A second deluge learning thus o'errun, / And the monks finished what the Goths begun" (which is particularly pointed, given that Pope himself was a Catholic).

On the other hand, you could praise them. The reasons for favoring the Goths were somewhat diverse. For example, the Victorian socialist and poet (and designer and fantasy novelist, etc.) William Morris portrayed them as wonderful examples of folk-solidarity against the corruption and imperialism of Rome.

In Germany, at the same time, historians announced that they were convinced that the Goths demonstrated how the Germanic Race brought Freedom back into the world -- just like the Kaiser! (Leading Nietzsche to ask the difference between such a Conviction and an ordinary Lie. He also expressed relief that the ancient Germans, whose inferior blood had helped destroy the Roman Empire through intermarriage, were NOT ancestors of the modern Germans.)

In America, broad-minded scholars, brought up on the doctrine of Anglo-Saxon Liberty (and the Norman Yoke), rushed to recognize the continental Goths as honorary Anglo-Saxons, extending a privileged status to at least some Europeans.

All of these views (including Nietzsche's) depended on the assumption that the name Goth (and its variants) in ancient and early medieval texts always meant the same thing, and that the Ostrogoths and Visigoths were simply branches of the same original tribe -- "tribe" too being a term taken for granted (along with translating *gens* as *race*).
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Format: Paperback
Wolfram's "The History of the Goths" is a work deserving of high praise. If you want a book to give you an insightful, well-researched, & thoughtful glance at the Goths, then this is the one you'd want. It explores popular "myths" about the Goths from the Romantic era until the early- to mid-twentieth century. From there, we dive into a deep Ocean of ancient & medieval history, the written sources, language, archaeology, & many intriguing theories about the Goths - such as the question of their origins & their homelands, traces of their oral literature found among written sources from Antiquity until the Middle Ages... & thoughtful interpretations of "conventional" history, before & after the "fall" of the Roman Empire.
The Goths are one of those peoples from whom legends were made; sadly through a process of historical fate, & grave misrepresentation, the Goths are all but forgotten to contemporary popular knowledge. This book tries successfully to understand the world & culture of an ancient people so important to European history. If one has an inquiring mind, this book is no difficult read at all, - & for this motivation, it's a worthwhile investment.
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Format: Paperback
What makes this book such tough sledding for the amateur historian? Is it because the book was translated from German to English? Whatever the cause, reading the book is as captivating as reading a similar account from an encyclopedia. It is more like reading a technical report than a book. Now the good news; the book is logically constructed, flows well, and has a dauntingly thorough bibliography. If you muster the self discipline to stay with the author, you will be rewarded with a deep knowledge of the Goths. It is a book by a historian for other academics. Frankly, there are more readable books on the subject available from other authors.
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Format: Paperback
Herwig Wolfram's HISTORY OF THE GOTHS is probably the best one-volume survey volume, perhaps the only, available on the Gothic tribes. These tribes, the quintessential "barbarians" who sacked and then succeeded the Western Roman Empire, were an amalgam of Germanic and Slavic bloodlines, who ultimately ruled large sections of the former Empire, and most notably Iberia.
As Wolfram admits, "A Goth was anyone who said he was," and the book suffers from the same lack of focus. Although attempts are made to discuss the social structure, culture, and history, military and otherwise, of the Goths, the discussions are superficial, rambling, and without point, and leave the reader feeling inconclusive. Wolfram seems fearful of drawing conclusions in this book, as if hypothesis or informed opinion might make him seem an irresponsible historian.
Who, after all, were these people, and why did they ravage Europe, and why were they so, finally, inestimably incapable of sustaining their identity? The book begs answers.
In part, the fault may be the writing style, which is textbook dry and lacks any sense (or attempt) at vividness. Wolfram's Goths are museum pieces, not a living, breathing community of people.
The scholarship of this work is exhaustive and astounding. Over half the book is comprised of Author's Notes and Bibliography. Certainly, if the reader has an abiding interest in Gothic history, this is a wonderful sourcebook for other, primary, materials.
Reading much more like a dissertation than a popular work of history, HISTORY OF THE GOTHS is a tedious and boring read, unless, like the author, you find these vanished people compellingly fascinating.
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