THE ROMAN EMPIRE AND ITS GERMANIC PEOPLES by Herwig Wolfram

THE ROMAN EMPIRE AND ITS GERMANIC PEOPLES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 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.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-520-08511-6
Page count: 345pp
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1997




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