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Alaric - 'Roman Officer'?
#16
Oh dear, there are reasons why I keep Twitter at sarisa's length ...

I have now listened to Ward-Perkins' talk, and it sounds pretty good; the biggest thing I would have expected him to cover is the bioarchaeological evidence that people were healthier in the 5th-8th century than the 3rd-4th.

He also does not have enough to say about the evidence for just how horrible the Imperium was; admitting "there were also slaves" (but post-imperial kingdoms had slaves too, so there!) at 48:30 is not really sufficient. The Babylonian Talmud is loaded with material, and so are the church fathers. He talks about the lack of independence movements, but aren't there signs of massive movement away from the towns and villas into remote areas in Gaul and so on? Those ˁapiru miao Baguadae folks? If you can't get out because the limes are guarded by soldiers, you drop out.

To me, its obvious that complex society collapsed in the 5th century (especially the kind of civilization with high-tech pottery and monolithic pillars paid for by collecting 2 drachmas a year from desperately poor people whose ancestors 400 years ago rebelled), but his talk does not have much to say about whether that is a bad thing and whether the systems failure was the result of nasty ignorant invaders or of Roman aristocrats who were more interested in bullying their neighbours than keeping civilization running. He tells us that it was the barbarians wot did it, but in the talk he makes exactly 0 arguments for this.
Nullis in verba

I have not checked this forum frequently since 2013, but I hope that these old posts have some value. I now have a blog on books, swords, and the curious things humans do with them.
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#17
(06-24-2019, 06:33 AM)Sean Manning Wrote: the bioarchaeological evidence that people were healthier in the 5th-8th century than the 3rd-4th. 

I'd never heard about that! - although bioarchaeology tends to make my mind glaze over... Is this people everywhere, or just some people?


(06-24-2019, 06:33 AM)Sean Manning Wrote: aren't there signs of massive movement away from the towns and villas into remote areas in Gaul and so on?... If you can't get out because the limes are guarded by soldiers, you drop out.

Desertion of towns and cities and abandonment of villas in the 3rd-4th-5th centuries is well known and studied, with reasons related to economics, infrastructure, the collapse of a cash economy (in Britain in particular), the shift from a provincial aristocracy to an imperial 'aristocracy of service', the drain of wealth into the church, and so on - big subject! But not evidence of a rejection of 'Romanisation' or imperial control, I think.

Interestingly, I don't know of any evidence for anyone trying to get out of the empire - just for plenty of people trying to get in! Where there were settlements of Romans outside of the empire's borders, it appears to have been because the border moved rather than the people... The extent to which the limes were guarded at all in the 5th century (and if so by whom) is a debatable question, but I doubt any border fortifications or zones were intended to keep people in (the vallum of Hadrian's Wall being maybe an exception?)

Returning to Alaric, though - he obviously wasn't trying to destroy the empire, and wasn't the leader of a huge 'invasion' force either. He seems to have wanted more of the Roman action, so to speak, not less of it. His ultimate goal appears to have been a secure territory, and an official title to control it and anyone living in it; maybe an attempt to 'privatise' part of the Roman empire, then?

Presumably he was already a Roman citizen (I would guess the 'Roman dignity' that he was supposedly awarded after the Frigidus included citizenship, along with some military title or other). But I would guess that the vast majority of those under his command were not, and did not want to be: it certainly never seems to have formed part of his demands.
Nathan Ross
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#18
(06-24-2019, 11:39 AM)Nathan Ross Wrote: I'd never heard about that! - although bioarchaeology tends to make my mind glaze over... Is this people everywhere, or just some people?
I have heard "people buried towards the end of Roman rule tend to be smaller and sicker than people buried afterwards" from three or four people interested in different parts of Late Antiquity and nobody I have talked to has contradicted it. Bioarchaeologists of the Principate tend to be torn between wonder ("they farmed fish that we can't farm and made farmed game a once-a-month dish for shopkeepers!") and disgust (cemeteries where every adult had terrible eye and oral health outside the legion camp at Lauriacum, urban archaeologists who suspect that Roman clay toilet pipes leaked into the surrounding walls of those wonderful six-story buildings). Again, its not my speciality, but Late Antiquity is his, so I would expect him to have more to say to people like Steve Muhlberger and Benjamin Isaacs who are pretty cynical of the benefits of Late Roman civilization,

Anyways, I am just talking about general issues because I don't know anything about Alaric Sad Halsall gives me the impression that there are people who try to hide the extent to which urban, complex society collapsed in the western provinces in the fifth century, so Ward-Perkins is speaking to them, just not to people like Steve Muhlberger or Walter Goffart.
Nullis in verba

I have not checked this forum frequently since 2013, but I hope that these old posts have some value. I now have a blog on books, swords, and the curious things humans do with them.
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#19
(06-24-2019, 09:18 PM)Sean Manning Wrote: cemeteries where every adult had terrible eye and oral health outside the legion camp at Lauriacum

That would suggest things were not so great, yes - although we'd have to ask who these people were, and whether they were the same population as produced the later evidence of improved health and physique.


(06-24-2019, 09:18 PM)Sean Manning Wrote: people like Steve Muhlberger and Benjamin Isaacs who are pretty cynical of the benefits of Late Roman civilization

Interesting post - thanks! Muhlberger answers his own question in the two extracts you've quoted, and I think Ward-Perkins would agree entirely - 'civilisation' is not measured by whatever the rich elites are up to, but by the general standard and complexity of daily life available across a wide spectrum of society - clean drinking water, like solid roofs and access to diverse produce and good pottery and literacy and not-too-insane levels of infant mortality, is all a part of that.


(06-24-2019, 09:18 PM)Sean Manning Wrote: there are people who try to hide the extent to which urban, complex society collapsed in the western provinces in the fifth century, so Ward-Perkins is speaking to them

I'm not sure who they are either! Perhaps Chris Wickham, with his euphemistic 'radical material simplification'? - life didn't get worse in the early middle ages, it just got, y'know... simpler... [Image: wink.png]
Nathan Ross
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#20
(06-25-2019, 10:20 AM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Interesting post - thanks! Muhlberger answers his own question in the two extracts you've quoted, and I think Ward-Perkins would agree entirely - 'civilisation' is not measured by whatever the rich elites are up to, but by the general standard and complexity of daily life available across a wide spectrum of society - clean drinking water, like solid roofs and access to diverse produce and good pottery and literacy and not-too-insane levels of infant mortality, is all a part of that.
Yes, but folks who look at cemeteries or papyri see some costs of Late Roman civilization which Ward-Perkins did not share with the good people of Jaipur. Their view is that when you look at those beautiful bathhouses, you have to imagine the slaves in Egypt worked to death to mine porphyry for the foyer, the soldiers who took out their frustration with the work by robbing and beating anyone they felt like, and the sponsor rocking home towards his villa in a sedan chair and thinking idly about whether he should have that uppity farmer murdered or just bankrupted, and which of the talking tools from his weaving factory he will summon to his bedchamber tonight. They agree that people in Gaul in 500 CE had draftier houses than people in Gaul in 300 CE, but they are not so sure that they were hungrier or less free.

Steve Muhlberger, 'Walther Goffart's Barbarian Tides', 26 October 2006 Wrote:I referred to the latest round of debate in this post back in January, when I discussed recent books with easily confused titles by Bryan Ward-Perkins and Peter Heather. Both argued that at the beginning of the fifth century, catastrophic military defeat led to cataclysmic civilizational collapse. ... Without being notably pro-barbarian myself, I find this attitude to the fall of Rome, even the notion of a unique fall of Rome, not very productive of true historical understanding. I am much more sympathetic to two other books, Walter Goffart's Barbarian Tides and Chris Wickham's Framing the Early Middle Ages. Two quite different books have one thing in common. They take the attitude that just because a particular style of late Roman imperialism came to an end, the world did not. They are not nostalgic books.

I have a hard time seeing that domestic pottery factory in Gaul as a sinister agent of empire, but I also have a hard time hearing an account of the later Roman empire which is just about public works and brave soldiers standing against the barbarians.

The argument that a ruler may be hard, but at least he makes the trains run on time is an old one and it can lead some very dark places. When a reviewer accused an economic history of classical Greece of neglecting slavery, one day later one "Morris Silver" demanded that the reviewer prove that people did not voluntarily sell themselves into slavery in Athens "to improve their living standard." In the 19th century American south, that was one of the standard excuses for slavery: "we brought them out of the jungle and let them take part in our fine Christian civilization with iron shackles and cash crops, they should be grateful." So if you are not careful with these arguments, you can accidentally give people a tool for justifying horrible acts.
Nullis in verba

I have not checked this forum frequently since 2013, but I hope that these old posts have some value. I now have a blog on books, swords, and the curious things humans do with them.
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#21
(06-25-2019, 02:10 PM)Sean Manning Wrote: some costs of Late Roman civilization... slaves in Egypt worked to death... soldiers who took out their frustration... uppity farmer murdered... talking tools from his weaving factory

Yes. But was this unique to 'late' Roman civilisation? Surely these things happened throughout Roman history? So the problem lies with Roman power and culture itself, rather than the late empire per se.

We would have to ask, I suppose, what alternative there was at the time. Was there a society of the 1st-5th centuries that offered something different? Or even  a contemporary culture that could have offered a reasoned critique of Roman mores?

If not, are we not just looking back from our present situation (full of injustice and abuses too) and decrying the immorality of the past?



(06-25-2019, 02:10 PM)Sean Manning Wrote: people in Gaul in 500 CE had draftier houses than people in Gaul in 300 CE, but they are not so sure that they were hungrier or less free.

Perhaps not. I'm not sure how we would measure freedom though. The citizens of northern Gaul who sent envoys to Ravenna to complain of the depredations of their new Alanic overlords presumably didn't feel any freer. And Bagaudae revolts continued in Spain long after the end of Roman rule there - so the oppressed people of Spain didn't seem to rate their new masters any more than the old ones.

Unless we evoke some sort of image of the free barbarian, living at one with nature, paying no tax and obeying no master, which seems as much a product of 19th-century thinking as the idea of the ravaging horde destroying the empire, it seems very difficult to claim that things were necessarily better after Roman control faded and vanished.



(06-25-2019, 02:10 PM)Sean Manning Wrote: [quote="Steve Muhlberger, 'Walther Goffart's Barbarian Tides', 26 October 2006"]Bryan Ward-Perkins and Peter Heather... argued that at the beginning of the fifth century, catastrophic military defeat led to cataclysmic civilizational collapse. ...

I'm only just reading Heather's book at the moment - it's nicely written, although at times very sloppy with small details ('Boniface' was not murdered in the Temple of Memory in Carthage, that was Heraclian! etc). I'm not sure if I can determine his overall thesis as yet - it seems more a straight narrative history (maybe that's the thesis? hmm).

Ward-Perkins, I would say, is not all that concerned with why the empire fell - just that it measurably did. And if identifiable groups or cultures turn up in one place when they apparently used to be in another place, presumably they have moved or 'migrated', and presumably this has both cause and effects. As far as I recall he doesn't build much more of an edifice than that.

I don't think any of this, however, is part of the romantic imagery of "barbarian migration" that Muhlberger mentions in the post you linked. Painting your opponents as 'romantic' is, of course, a way of suggesting they are out of date and terribly deluded!



(06-25-2019, 02:10 PM)Sean Manning Wrote: I also have a hard time hearing an account of the later Roman empire which is just about public works and brave soldiers standing against the barbarians.

Certainly - as there wasn't much in the way of public works after the mid 4th century*, and most of the 'brave soldiers' were barbarians themselves!

[edit * - except walls. Plenty of walls going up in the 4th-5th century. Not all of which can be explained by the stresses of civil conflict...]


(06-25-2019, 02:10 PM)Sean Manning Wrote: The argument that a ruler may be hard, but at least he makes the trains run on time is an old one and it can lead some very dark places.

No doubt. But similarly the romantic image of the 'degenerate' and immoral late empire being vanquished by freedom-loving barbarians is a tool of power as well.

It's interesting that Kulikowski (for one) draws heavily on post-colonial theory - alterity/subalterneity, and so on; interesting, but I had a surfeit of it while trying to read Spivak some years ago! There's recently been (on twitter again) some pushback against post-colonialism from Indian historians working in India itself. I noticed Guy Halsall giving them an approving nod too. It would be interesting to see how a post-post-colonial (!!) interpretation of late antiquity might play out...
Nathan Ross
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#22
(06-25-2019, 04:27 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote:
(06-25-2019, 02:10 PM)Sean Manning Wrote: some costs of Late Roman civilization... slaves in Egypt worked to death... soldiers who took out their frustration... uppity farmer murdered... talking tools from his weaving factory

Yes. But was this unique to 'late' Roman civilisation? Surely these things happened throughout Roman history? So the problem lies with Roman power and culture itself, rather than the late empire per se.

We would have to ask, I suppose, what alternative there was at the time. Was there a society of the 1st-5th centuries that offered something different? Or even  a contemporary culture that could have offered a reasoned critique of Roman mores?

If not, are we not just looking back from our present situation (full of injustice and abuses too) and decrying the immorality of the past?
We find that critique from the second century BCE onwards: even Roman literature (ie. what leisured slaveowning men wrote for other leisured slaveowning men, obviously there were other things which didn't get selected for preservation) is an extended meditation on "some of the things we do are pretty horrible, aren't they?" Many aspects of Roman imperialism shocked the ruling classes of neighbouring states, let alone people like Marcus Aurelius Serapion who were just trying to go about their lives and want us to know how they were wronged.

It looks to me like many aspects of life in the empire were getting more oppressive from Diocletian to Justinian, the same period as urban life was falling apart in the west, and lots of people who know more than I do suspect that the two changes might be related.
Nullis in verba

I have not checked this forum frequently since 2013, but I hope that these old posts have some value. I now have a blog on books, swords, and the curious things humans do with them.
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#23
(06-27-2019, 04:44 PM)Sean Manning Wrote: what leisured slaveowning men wrote for other leisured slaveowning men...

Although we should mention that slave-owning was not the preserve of the upper class! Kyle Harper, in Slavery in the Late Roman World, cites papyrus evidence from Egypt showing several poor households clubbing together to buy a slave between them, for example; slave-ownership was common right across society, it appears, and not even Christian bishops had anything to say in opposition to it; nor would they, I think, for centuries to come.

However, the astonishing number of slaves owned by the truly super-rich families of the later empire (the Valerii Melania and Pinianus, for example) is certainly pretty eye-opening. Despite the Satyricon suggesting that 1st century freedmen could own so many they had to organise them into cohorts...


(06-27-2019, 04:44 PM)Sean Manning Wrote: ...let alone people like Marcus Aurelius Serapion who were just trying to go about their lives and want us to know how they were wronged.

That's a good post about Serapion. However, the very fact that we have such a "sheer number of petitions" (and the Abinneus Archive tells the same story from the other end of the process, so to speak) suggests that the petitions were answered in some way and justice was done, at least sometimes. If it were not, and especially if the idea of gaining justice was just naive or ridiculous, why would people have kept petitioning in such numbers?

So there was justice in Roman Egypt, even if was rudimentary and probably corrupt, and the very poorest of people were able to avail themselves of it (or try to), just as in theory they were able to appeal to even higher authorities.

Would the people of Egypt have felt an improvement in their lives if Roman power was gone? No more regular Roman soldiers, of course, or regular taxes - but surely just as many armed men going about extorting contributions, and no higher authority to which the aggrieved could direct their complaints...


(06-27-2019, 04:44 PM)Sean Manning Wrote: many aspects of life in the empire were getting more oppressive from Diocletian to Justinian... I do suspect that the two changes might be related.

That does seem to be true. Both military and civil punishments seem to have got more severe and more grotesque, and the terms of military service generally must have become considerably less attractive if the ongoing recruiting problems are anything to go by. Diocletian's attempts to tie all sorts of people to their professions and locations (creating an entire class of hereditary serfs in the process) must have contributed to the sense of overall oppression and social inflexibility.

This might (dragging us slightly back to the original topic!) have had implications for the attitudes of the regular army to the foederati, not to mention Alaric and his mercenaries: the troops may have believed (or been induced to believe) that the state was awarding excessive perks and freedoms to the 'barbarians' at the expense of the regulars - and perhaps was intending to hand over command of the army to the likes of Sarus and Alaric himself. That might explain the widespread attacks on 'barbarian' soldiers' families in the Roman garrison cities of Italy in AD408.
Nathan Ross
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#24
(06-20-2019, 09:52 AM)Nathan Ross Wrote: I do wonder, though - if barbarians did not really have long hair and dress in furs, why do we have laws in the Theodosian code prohibiting people in Rome from wearing their hair long and dressing in 'garments made of skins'? Seems odd to make laws against a literary device... [Image: tongue.png]


I'd agree with the waxing and waning, and the 'et al' - but why was he not their true leader, do you think?

Sorry, missed your questions earlier.

Yes, I've wondered about their clothing laws as well. It seems there must be more behind this that just laws against fashion. Maybe people would make political statements by dressing up?

As to Alaric, that's it - the waxing and waning shows that he could only tie people to his cause when he had something to offer. Unlike Theodoric who already had a whole dynasic structure attached to him, Alaric was 'just' a warlord, nothing more.
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FECTIO Late Romans
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#25
(06-23-2019, 10:36 AM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Interestingly, one of the best refutals of the 'barbarian invasions brought down the empire' thesis comes from Adrian Goldsworthy, who suggests that the empire collapsed from within, in a process going back to the third century, and small bodies of outside invaders took advantage of the chaos... But as Goldsworthy seems to be considered a 'popular historian' his work is seldom considered in these debates.




Yes, I agree. Certainly in terms of the Goths and their various movements 378-418: the usual big swooping arrows make them look like one united people, with a plan, perhaps directed by Goth-Command... Ultimately all these big movement maps resemble divisional battle plans from the Franco-Prussian war or something, which was probably around the time they first appeared in historical studies!


But this is a long way, I think, from presenting Alaric as a 'normal' Roman general, like Stilicho or Arbogast, leading a normal-for-the-5th-century Roman army, and that the sack of Rome was 'the most genteel of sacks, with all sorts of niceties being observed... and has more the appearance of a troop of soldiers getting a bit out of hand' (as Ralph Mathison puts it, in 'Roma a Gothis Alarico duce capta est', 2013).


@Goldsworthy - I was not impressed by his book about the Late Roman period, but this view I can get behind. It was far more complicated of course, push and pull from within and without, but I'm certainly looking more at Roman weakness than at barbarian invasion.

@Goth-command, love that. It's the lure of simplification of course that leads historians (et al) towards views like those. But we know that the Goths were not ethnically unified and that many diverse groups were circulating inside and outside the Empire, willing to be employed or leaving after defeat. 

@normal general - Stilicho & Arbogast had risen trough the ranks and were fully-fledged Roman dignitaries, something Alaric, the rebel from the marshes, would never reach. Perhaps that was his tragedy - he wanted to bcome a Roman as much as they were, and the sack of Rome put an end to that dream. 
If the ack of Rome only spared those inside chuches, it would have been a bloodbath.. I think Isidore is writing fibs.
Robert Vermaat
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FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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#26
(07-16-2019, 07:32 AM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: Yes, I've wondered about their clothing laws as well... Maybe people would make political statements by dressing up?

Perhaps like those circus factions that Procopius (I think) mentions, getting 'Hunnic' hair-dos? [Image: smile.png]

Then again, what do we know about what 5th-century 'barbarians' actually wore? Some kind of leather garment - maybe like the leather jacket-thing recently found at Vindonissa - might not have been too fantastical. And longer-than-usual hair, maybe. We have pictures of 'barbarian' guardsmen in Roman service, but they may not have been wearing the same stuff as a guy who'd just crossed the Danube from Gothia... Or what somebody in Rome thought he might be wearing...

But yes, we're probably missing some important context with the Theodosian Code laws!


(07-16-2019, 02:01 PM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: But we know that the Goths were not ethnically unified and that many diverse groups were circulating inside and outside the Empire, willing to be employed or leaving after defeat... Stilicho & Arbogast had risen through the ranks and were fully-fledged Roman dignitaries, something Alaric, the rebel from the marshes, would never reach.

Have you read this paper by Guy Halsall? It was his contribution to the Sack of Rome conference in 2010 - I'd wondered why his paper didn't appear in the final published volume, alongside Kulikowsi, Ralph Mathison, Heather, Ward-Perkins etc.

"At no point can we deny that Alaric’s troops were Goths", Halsall writes, and also "there were good reasons why Alaric, Gaïnas and the rest – Stilicho even – could not be just ordinary Roman officers." But also "Alaric and his army were firmly ensconced within the established frameworks of Roman politics."

This seems right to me - Alaric was not a 'Roman soldier', but neither was he a 'barbarian invader' - his troops and his power base were both inside the empire from the start, pretty much. It's a sign of the weakness of the Roman state, and of the Roman army in the west at this point, that Alaric was able to use his (perhaps not too huge) independent army/warrior group to such devastating effect. Clearly he knew what he was doing.


(07-16-2019, 02:01 PM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: If the sack of Rome only spared those inside chuches, it would have been a bloodbath.

It quite possibly was a bit of a bloodbath, at the beginning at least. The 'sanctuary churches' appear to have been the three major basilicas outside the walls, plus the Lateran - which might suggest that it was just a clever way of clearing the city quickly - but several Christian writers describe Gothic troops beating and raping women, for example, before 'miraculously' realising the error of their ways...

I suspect that the rather cosy gentleman's-club narrative of the 'civilised' Sack of Rome is about due for some major revision; I've seen a couple of papers by younger female historians that take quite a different view! [Image: shocked.png]
Nathan Ross
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#27
(06-24-2019, 06:33 AM)Sean Manning Wrote: but aren't there signs of massive movement away from the towns and villas into remote areas in Gaul and so on?  Those ˁapiru miao Baguadae folks?  If you can't get out because the limes are guarded by soldiers, you drop out.

To me, its obvious that complex society collapsed in the 5th century (especially the kind of civilization with high-tech pottery and monolithic pillars paid for by collecting 2 drachmas a year from desperately poor people whose ancestors 400 years ago rebelled), but his talk does not have much to say about whether that is a bad thing and whether the systems failure was the result of nasty ignorant invaders or of Roman aristocrats who were more interested in bullying their neighbours than keeping civilization running.  He tells us that it was the barbarians wot did it, but in the talk he makes exactly 0 arguments for this.

In some areas you see desertion, and lenty o room for the Franks tomove into. But it is by no means a universal picture. Take my country for instance. The Rhine limes is mostly given up and a lot of people seem to be moving to Gaul, while Frankish communities cross the Rhine into Northern Belgium, all as part of Roman programs. So far, that confirms the picture of Roman retreat, especially as you see the main line of defense taken back to the Bavay-Colgne road.

But then, there is plenty of ativity along the Meuse, with Maastricht active until deep within the 5th c., as is Nijmegen (almost on the Rhine) which shows plenty of activity, civilian as well as military, into the 5th c. as well. 

So I would call it a checkered picture, which has need of study and not generalised claims.

(07-16-2019, 04:25 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Perhaps like those circus factions that Procopius (I think) mentions, getting 'Hunnic' hair-dos? [Image: smile.png]


"At no point can we deny that Alaric’s troops were Goths", Halsall writes, and also "there were good reasons why Alaric, Gaïnas and the rest – Stilicho even – could not be just ordinary Roman officers." But also "Alaric and his army were firmly ensconced within the established frameworks of Roman politics."
This seems right to me - Alaric was not a 'Roman soldier', but neither was he a 'barbarian invader' - his troops and his power base were both inside the empire from the start, pretty much. It's a sign of the weakness of the Roman state, and of the Roman army in the west at this point, that Alaric was able to use his (perhaps not too huge) independent army/warrior group to such devastating effect. Clearly he knew what he was doing.



I suspect that the rather cosy gentleman's-club narrative of the 'civilised' Sack of Rome is about due for some major revision; I've seen a couple of papers by younger female historians that take quite a different view! [Image: shocked.png]


@ styles - Yes indeed LOL. Plus there is Sionius who describes (with clear disdain) the practise of Romans to dress as barbarians, including fur - but I suspect he may have overdone it a bit Wink

@ Goths - do we even know they were exclusively Goths? I fear mr Halsall may be a bit too hasty at this point, lacking evidence. From what we know of Germanic warnbands in the 5th c. is that they could be from all kinds of tribal backgrounds (Alans, Huns, Scyrians etc. joining Gothic bands et al), so I would not take credit for such a generalistic view. Alaric was a Goth and so were most of his followers, but even Romans could join such military groups.

I agree immediately with you that such groups were no (longer) 'barbarian invaders' either, but they were indeed a new phenomenon inside the Empire - a non-Roman powerbase, sometines under Roman control, sometimes acting under Roman legitimate orders but at the same time with their own (non-Roman) agenda. I blame Theodosius for that, even though he may not have acted willingly- ineed Roman weakness. This new reality hastened the demise of the West alng, and it took the East great pains to reverse the impact. 

If only at some point the West had been able to nullify their impact, but Romans had already seen the use they could make of such groups, and with a strong Roman (army) they could be held in check. Stilicho would have used Alaric for his own ill-guided attempts to invade the East, and so did other like him, up until Aetius. But after Aetius it was no longer possible, and finally the Alarics took over. 

@ Sack of Rome. I don't know. Gentleman-like it was not, but compared to the Vandals in 455 it may have been limited to plunder and some rape - probably not women of the powerful families, as Alaric still needed their support.

(06-25-2019, 04:27 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: We would have to ask, I suppose, what alternative there was at the time. Was there a society of the 1st-5th centuries that offered something different? Or even  a contemporary culture that could have offered a reasoned critique of Roman mores?
If not, are we not just looking back from our present situation (full of injustice and abuses too) and decrying the immorality of the past?


Unless we evoke some sort of image of the free barbarian, living at one with nature, paying no tax and obeying no master, which seems as much a product of 19th-century thinking as the idea of the ravaging horde destroying the empire, it seems very difficult to claim that things were necessarily better after Roman control faded and vanished.


 

Certainly - as there wasn't much in the way of public works after the mid 4th century*, and most of the 'brave soldiers' were barbarians themselves!
[edit * - except walls. Plenty of walls going up in the 4th-5th century. Not all of which can be explained by the stresses of civil conflict...]




No doubt. But similarly the romantic image of the 'degenerate' and immoral late empire being vanquished by freedom-loving barbarians is a tool of power as well.


I have no doubt that Roman society was harsh, especially to those without power and/or means, from our point of view. A labourer tied to the mne in Pakistan might have a different view on this though but we are an elite living in a paradise (although we tend to forget that). 

Roman society grew more insecure as well as moreunequal when we get to the 5th entury, and that no doubt also resulted in a more militarised society with harsher laws. At no point however do I see any barbarian ruler 'liberate' the poor oppressed citizens from this rule - they tried to buy into the system, not overthrow it. I'm not surprised to see bagaudae in post-Roman Spain. 

Roman walls went up by the 3rd c., which is also the time when we see baths being discontinued, used for different activities (industrial) until the roofs and walls are taken down. Villas become larger (less owners of more land?) but populations shrink - more people migrate inards or they simply vanish due to lower birthrates and higher mortality? A difficult picture, as mentioned above.
However, at no point do I see citizens move cross the border into a 'free Germany' where they'll live happily ever after, free of military service and taxes! That is indeed a omantic view best thrown into the bin of history.
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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