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A History of the Ostrogoths Paperback – February 22, 1991


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press; Reprint edition (February 22, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253206006
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253206008
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,126,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Johannes Platonicus on February 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
Thomas Burns' work on the Ostrogothic peoples is interesting, comprehensive, and full of abundant research material for individuals particularly inclined to the study of Germanic tribes and the Later Roman Empire. From the Goths early migrations, incursions, and relations with Rome, all the way to transient dominance under Theodoric the Great and his lesser successors, Burns, the accomplished scholar, artfully blends his deep knowledge of the original sources with contemporary archaeological lore. In doing so, he pieces together fragments of a civilization often clouded by obscurity and presents a work that grasps with clarity all aspects of Ostrogothic society: religion, warfare, art, administration, and the Goths social adaptations within the confines of the Imperial borders to name a few. This work is likely to be the best study of its kind; Thomas Burns has much to offer.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By S. Pactor VINE VOICE on June 27, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Ostrogoths are best known for being the briefly in charge of the Italian part of the formerly Roman Empire in the very "Dark Ages" in the 5th and 6th century AD. They were eventually dispatched by the Greek-led Byzantine army in the mid 6th century, and they left little behind except a well known Gothic language Bible that has become a cornerstone of Indo-European comparative linguistics.

The Ostrogoths are often compared to their better known cousins, the Visigoths- the Visigoths were the conquerors of Spain until the Muslims wiped them out after the Ostrogoths lost Italy to the Eastern Roman Empire. If you look at a chart comparing the various branches of the Germanic language family (which includes English, yeah?) the Ostrogoths are in the "Eastern Germanic" branch. By Eastern Germanic linguists are not referring to the 20th century East Germany, rather the Goths had their roots in the Steppes of Russia. The general consensus is that they came west as part of the Hunnic armies, and probably first entered the Roman Empire during the great western raids Attila of the Hun.

After the Hunnic Emprie collapsed, the Ostrogoths perambulated about the Balkans, unable to settle down and farm (which is what they probably wanted to do) until their great leader Theodoric (one of several Gothic Theodorics who were running around at the same time.) Theodoric managed to unite a bunch of related Gothic tribes into the "Ostrogoths" and they stormed into the Italian peninsula, eventually establishing their capital in Ravena.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Caleb Hanson on April 17, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book covers the Ostrogoths from vague Tacitus-and-archaeology prehistory through the destruction of the kingdom in Italy. The writing is unengaging and confused; although the chapters are in chronological order, within each chapter decidedly not; sometimes poor editing is clearly to blame, like when the same sentence is the topic sentence of two consecutive paragraphs. There's many times when Burns will discuss the implications of an historical incident without telling us what the actual event was; he does nothing to make it easier to follow the rivalry between Theodoric Strabo and Theodoric son of Theudimer.

Some coverage of material culture, but it's mostly tangential. Indecisive on the question of 'hospitalitas': Burns seems to think it really meant taking possession of a literal third of each estate followed presumably by some kind of re-arrangement and re-shuffling, since he acknowledges that the Goths in Italy tended to live in distinct districts and that the agricultural system needed a full balance of arable, pasture, and woodland in each estate. The one chapter that did very much interest me was on the period of Hunnic overlordship, from the death of Ermanaric to the death of Attila: so much of this clicked with the stories and sagas from early Germanic history with which I'm more familiar that it was most engaging.

Not enough forest, too many trees and not enough trails. I would recommend Peter Heather's books on the Goths by preference. Good notes and bibliography, though.
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Format: Paperback
Utilizing sparse sources, the author has nevertheless woven an understandable and useful history of these Germanic invaders of the Roman Empire. Due to the sparcity of sources otherwise, much of the book necessarily centers upon the person and activity of Theodoric the Great. Very revealing is that the Ostrogoths were primarily agriculturalists rather than nomads. Particularly useful to any student of the European "Dark Ages" is the detailed discussion of how the Ostrogoths in general and Theodoric in particular were a tolerant people - especially for that era - and consciously preserved much of what remained of the West Roman governmental system and culture and thus preserving it for a half-century longer and transmitting it to later generations. The story is intriguing and masterfully told with great clarity.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Joseph E. Toth on July 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
`A History of the Ostrogoths' by Thomas Burns attempts to survey the Ostrogoths, rather broadly at times, through their short but eventful history. What I mean by rather broadly is that we are forced to use approximations from literary and archaeological sources because Ostrogothic history is not well documented, as the author himself states... "Combining archaeological data and the Greco-Roman literary sources can never produce a truly uniform and consistent historical vision." (Introduction XV) A goal of this book is to look at the Ostrogoths as a group rather than individuals and their long-term interaction with Rome. According to the author "... This study is a history of the Ostrogoths, not of the late Roman Empire. Nor is it an archaeological survey; rather it is a history based on a synthesis of traditional sources and relevant archaeological materials. The emphasis on the Ostrogoths is clear and deliberate. Roman developments set the stage for much of Ostrogothic history, but only in that respect do purely roman events and personalities enter the narrative. The Ostrogoths merit their own history." (Introduction XVI) That being said I found that most of the book had more references to Visigoths, Romans, and non-Germanic groups like the Huns, and Alans, than the Ostrogoths. For an example the first reference to the Ostrogoths does not come until the eleventh page of the first chapter, when they are mentioned in passing... "Another source of influence was the cultural ganglion of central Asian groups in the area of south-central Russia. The artistic influence of the Steppes was most prominent among groups in direct contact with this area, for example, the Ostrogoths in their early period.Read more ›
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