Conquerors of the Roman Empire: The Goths, Simon Macdowall

Conquerors of the Roman Empire: The Goths, Simon Macdowall

The Goths are famous as one of the destroyers of the Western Roman Empire, so much so that their name was later used as an insult for the architecture of Medieval Europe, attacking it for having fallen away from the Classical ideal. As this book shows, the real picture was far more complex than that. The Goths were a large grouping of relating tribes, many of whom had an entirely peaceful relationship with the Roman Empire, while others were allies almost as often as they were enemies.

This is a complex subject, mainly due to the often inaccurate names that later Roman historians allocated to the various Gothic tribes that were first encountered, often using later names far too soon. The Romans and the Goths had a long history of interaction before the appearance of the famous Ostrogoths and Visigoths, but it is often difficult to disentangle exactly who was involved and when. The author does a good job of attempting to do just that, trying to make sense of the various Gothic bands that the Romans came into contact with over several centuries.

The author continues the story past the fall of the Western Empire to look at the later histories of the two main Gothic kingdoms. This is made easier by the fairly short periods they both survived, with the Ostrogothic kingdom in Italy falling by the mid sixth century (only thirty years after the death of Theodoric the Great), and the Visigoths in Spain falling in 710-711 after a fairly uneventful period.

He also does a good job of reminding the reader that the fall of the west didn’t mean the end of the Empire, and that the Eastern Empire remained the most powerful military force in Europe for many years. This also helps to explain why the various Roman enclaves in Spain and Gaul held on for so long after the fall of the western Empire - to us that was the end of the story, but to them it was probably just a ‘blip’ before the Emperors restored order. Syagrius held on in northern Gaul until 486, fifty years before the start of Justinian’s semi-successful re-conquest of Italy. The later Goths and their contemporaries operated in a world where the Roman Empire and the Roman Army was still a powerful force.

1 - First Contact
2 - Over Land and Sea
3 - The Calm Before the Storm
4 - The Great Migration
5 - Alaric and the Sack of Rome
6 - The Visigoths
7 - The Ostrogoths
8 - The Gothic Kingdoms
9 - The Road to War
10 - The War for Italy
11 - The Gothic Epilogue

Author: Simon Macdowall
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 161
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2017

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