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The Goths Paperback – June 8, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0631209324 ISBN-10: 0631209328 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 378 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (June 8, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0631209328
  • ISBN-13: 978-0631209324
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #702,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Although they exerted a profound, far-reaching influence on Continental geopolitics, the historical Goths (as opposed to contemporary fans of the Cure and Bauhaus) are little known. Peter Heather provides a readable precis of the Goths' role in ancient and medieval European history, examining the murky origins of various Gothic-speaking groups in the Vistula River region of northern Poland, from which they spread out eastward and southward. Pressured by the expanding Roman empire on one side and migrating Hunnish peoples from Central Asia on the other, the Goths aggressively defended their territory and eventually attacked westward, contributing to the collapse of Rome and establishing Gothic empires in Italy, Spain, and North Africa. Heather's useful book ends with the fall of these governments in the 7th century. --Gregory McNamee


"...a volume of central importance on the place of the Goths in early European history and a fine contribution to the study of the transformation of Europe after Rome." Times Literary Supplement, January 1998. <!--end-->

"... an excellent introduction to the student" Archaeological Review from Cambridge

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Customer Reviews

Overall, I found this book contained a lot of good information about the Goths.
Heather makes some reasonable suggestions, but avoids getting more specific than the evidence will warrant.
Ian M. Slater
His way of telling the story is to tell it as "Goths and Romans" and "Goths and Huns" and Gothic Kingdoms.
Peter S. Bradley

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Curt Emanuel on May 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
I find this book difficult to categorize. I recognize a fine work, but one which didn't fit what I was looking for.
By and large, what this volume does is trace the development of the Goths as an ethnic group - after the 4th century as two separate groups, the Visigoths and Ostrogoths. Regarding the early cultures, the Wielbark, Cernjachov and Przeworsk, he relies heavily on archeological finds, supplemented with the writings of Tacitus, Pliny, and others.
Later, as the Goths became more heavily involved with Rome, he relies more heavily on written accounts, though archaeological remains are still mentioned.
This work is divided into three parts. Part one relates the origin of the Goths, their migration patterns, and how by the Fourth Century they had evolved into several distinct, yet related groups, that were in a position to have a significant impact on the Roman Empire.
Part Two discusses those interactions, how the Huns pushed the Goths toward the Empire and how this impetus made itself known through events such as Hadrianople. It discusses the final division (according to Heather) of the Goths into Visigothic and Ostrogothic Kingdoms and how these two groups came to power in Spain and Italy, respectively.
Part Three discusses the Goths after 476. For the most part, it concentrates on the Ostrogoths with little mention of the Visgothic Kingdom in Spain. This section is largely narrative, with quite a bit oftime spent on how Theoderic built his kingdom, how it suffered in his later years and following his death and, finally, how it was destroyed during Justinian's reconquest.
I have been deliberately vague with this account. I have little knowledge of the ethnic development and acculturation of the Goths and am unable to comment on the accuracy of Heather's account.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Ian M. Slater TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
This entire book is not all that much longer than the notes, bibliography, and index of the roughly contemporary translation of Herwig Wolfram's "History of the Goths," which should tell you immediately that the approach is rather different. Both are worth the serious student's time, but as part of the Peoples of Europe series "The Goths" is clearly intended to serve as an introduction to the main events, persons, and problems.
Peter Heather's view of the emergence, actions, divisions, and fates of the people (or groups) identified in Greek and Latin texts as Goths, Ostrogoths, and Visigoths is modern and sophisticated, but a lot less ponderous and a lot more conclusive than Wolfram's sifting of the evidence. He frequently disagrees with Wolfram (for reasons which can sometimes be traced in Wolfram's extended discussions and notes), but Heather reaches reasonable conclusions at each stage. He proceeds to build on them, to a limited extent, while trying to keep speculation firmly under control.
This attempt to stay true to available data tends to limit what is covered. At the turn of the century, a limited amount of archeology and a lot of data gathered from later Germanic peoples were thrown together to produce detailed descriptions of the supposed daily lives and customs of the Goths. Instead of these interesting descriptions, we find only the most careful use of archeological and comparative data to flesh out the meager record. This is not as satisfying, but a lot more trustworthy.
What once were accepted conclusions about how the Goths behaved and governed in Gaul, Spain, and Italy also have been called into question. Instead, we are left with questions of how they exploited the territories they occupied, and who was doing the administering.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Magellan HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
I just had a very brief comment to make.
Overall, I found this book contained a lot of good information about the Goths. I would have liked more information on the Visigoths, as he doesn't really discuss where they came from, how they were organized and so on, very much. Except for this one main omission, a good history, overall.
Aside from the history contained here, I found this book valuable for the brief discussion in the introduction about the practical and theoretical difficulties of connecting cultural traits with a people's identity, and vice-versa. I hadn't thought about this before, except in vague terms. Heather shows the problems with this approach to history and civilization.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on February 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In a relatively few years, Heather has become perhaps the leading living expert on the Goths during Late Antiquity and the early medieval period, and especially on their relations with the Roman Empire. This is also one of the best entries in the long-running and high-quality "Peoples of Europe" series, which makes it doubly worth reading. The last survey (in English) of the whole three centuries of the Gothic period was published in 1888, and not much really new literary material has come to light in that time -- but the sheer quantity of archaeological discoveries regarding the Goths in the past century is phenomenal, and the author seems to have attempted to take all of them into account. Our principle source for Gothic history has always been Jordanes, a 6th century Gothic government bureaucrat in Constantinople who became an amateur historian after retirement, and whose treatment of the "barbarians" leaves a good deal to be desired. Heather reconsidered Jordanes's work in his first major book, Goths and Romans, published in 1991 and based on his dissertation, and he continues that rethinking process here. The book's organization is straightforward: An introductory chapter on the "Gothic problem" -- who were they, really, and did they really feel the self-identity we've assigned to them? -- is followed by three parts. The first investigates the origins of the Goths, almost certainly on the shores of the Baltic, and their early kingdoms. The second follows the Goths in the trail of the Huns, their early relations with the Romans, and the ways in which they transformed themselves into a nation to be reckoned with during most of the 5th century.Read more ›
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