- Hardcover: 361 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press; Revised ed. edition (December 31, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520085116
- ISBN-13: 978-0520085114
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #769,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Roman Empire and its Germanic Peoples Revised ed. Edition
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From Kirkus Reviews
In a comprehensive reinterpretation of the role of barbaric tribes in Roman history, Wolfram (History/Univ. of Vienna) seeks to ``trace the beginnings of a history of the Germans'' by examining in depth the role of the Germanic tribes in the development, transformation, and collapse of the Roman Empire. Wolfram takes issue with the conventional view that the Germanic peoples precipitated the decline of Rome, arguing instead that they unremarkably ``made a home for themselves within'' the Roman Empire. Nonetheless, his detailed survey makes clear the breathtaking transformation wrought by the Germanic tribes: At first simply alien ``new peoples'' who at the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180 a.d. seemed subjugated like the Gauls before them, Germanic tribes, particularly the Franks, Alamanni, and Goths, began attacking the Roman frontier with vigor and increasing success in the early third century. After gaining territory along the Rhine, they won further territorial concessions in return for military allegiance to Rome. After the sackings of Rome in the fifth century, Christianized Germanic tribes blended Roman with barbaric influences, creating a distinctive culture that dominated the continent. Wolfram details the pervasive influence of Germanic tribes on the growth of early medieval Europe, including the development of Visigothic, Vandalic, Burgundian, Frankish, and Longobard kingdoms on Roman soil; the 100-year kingdom of Toulouse, which codified and helped perpetuate Roman law in the West; the dominance of North Africa for over 100 years by the Arian Christian Vandals; and the defeat and probable absorption of the Huns by the Germanic peoples. Despite himself, Wolfram establishes that the Germanic nations arose from the darkness of prehistory to transform the great culture of Rome and in so doing set the stage for the emergence not only of Christendom, but also ultimately of Germany and the other nation-states of Europe. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
"[Wolfram's] detailed survey makes clear the breathtaking transformation wrought by the Germanic tribes." - Kirkus Reviews "[A] classic work.... This clever and subtle text... comes over clearly, unravelling the kaleidoscopic hybridity of the world of Goths, Vandals, Huns, Burgundians, Franks and Lombards." - Times Literary Supplement "[Wolfram] explores the high points in the history of a number of closely related Germanic societies as they faced the power of the Roman Empire and Roman imperial society.... This is a learned, sophisticated, and valuable book - one which can address the interests of people on all levels of erudition." - Robert L. Benson, co-editor of Renaissance and Renewal in the Twelfth Century"
Top customer reviews
However, while the book is quite dry and unengaging, and while this does detract from the book to a significant extent (hence only four stars) the book presents a compelling picture of the decline of the Roman Empire and the rise of Germanic successor states which combines economic, military, and social elements, and which provides insights that no other book in my library does.
For example, Wolfram makes a great deal of the differences in tax income, military expenditures, and economic disparity between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Western Roman Empire. He points out that the Eastern Empire spent more on their military than the Western Empire did on their entire budget, and he attributes this to problems with taxes caused by tremendous economic disparity in the West. Wolfram offers many other valuable insights in this work, so this is still a very valuable addition to the library of any history buff.
This is an enormously complicated subject. I'm sure no two people agree on everything involved, but I must take issue to some of the criticisms that has been written here. First, this is no easy book to read. It's a history book written by and for specialists. So, it's not simply a narrative of events that happened; there's a great deal of analysis and moving back and forth in time in order to make comparisons. He does provide a time-line, though. Nevertheless, it's going to be rough-going for someone looking for a quick scan of the topic.
As for Wolfram's sources, most of them are Roman texts or in German (the book itself is a translation from the German). There's nothing quoted here that's any more spurious than any other history book I've read. In fact, Wolfram spends a lot of time weeding out what's reliable in the Roman sources and what isn't.
Lastly, it should be pointed out that another of Wolfram's big points is to distinguish the Germanic tribes as political units as opposed to ethnic units (and thus somehow "related" to modern Germans). He's very effective at convincing me at least that most of these tribes were ethnically polyglots that subsumed various "races" according to political and economic need.