Perhaps no era of human history seems more remote to us than the period of the rise of the barbarians in Europe and the consequent decline of the Roman Empire. In these pages, Justine Randers-Pehrson brings to life the people and events of that remote and complex era.
The author`s contention is that the barbarians and the Romans were not bent on destroying each other - the destructiveness of the Germanic Tribes stemmed from "inexperience," not from any desire to annihilate an empire. The Romans, for their part, feared the barbarians but also saw their usefulness as military forces and farm workers - and thereby opened the path to the fall. In the final outcome - after years of accommodation and alienation, burgeoning Catholicism and political gamming, bloodshed and asceticism, crass self-seeking and high idealism - a new world would emerge that the foundations not only in Rome but also in Celtic and Germanic culture.
To present her account, the author centres pm the settings of the great events - Rome, Milan, Trier, Gaul, Barcelona, Carthage, the Egyptian desert, Constantinople, the Steppes of Asia, the British Isles, and elsewhere - and above all the ambitious men and women who dwelled in those places. She tells how they lived - and often horribly died. We meet Attila the Hun, who was the personification of Barbarism but who, the author says, sought gold not so much out of greed as for the atavistic concept of treasure as embodiment of the tribe`s energy. We meet other colourful saints and sinners, among the Constantine, Martin of Tours, Theodosius, Ambrose of Milan, the Ascetic Antony of the Desert, Melania, Alaric, the compelling Galla Placidia (Roman empress of the West), Boethius, Belisarius, Augustine, Patrick, and a battle leader of the Britons called Arthur.
No dry recitation of events, this lively, thorough researched account is enriched with the author`s unique collection of Photographs, taken at sites ranging from Skellig Michael, off the coast of Northern Ireland in the Atlantic, to Tbilisi, in Soviet Georgia. They document for the reader where and how the people lived, what they wore, what they built, and what they crafted during the years of the end - and the beginning. No other work to date so thoroughly combines the study of monuments and artefacts with the literary evidence of the period.
Barbarians and Romans, ten years in the writing, is a book for everyone interested in the past and in the roots of modern civilisation.
Excellent pages, slight edge-wear.