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The Day of the Barbarians : The Battle That Led to the Fall of the Roman Empire
"A very readable narrative of one of the most significant battles in European history...An excellent resource."--Booklist
On August 9, 378 AD, at Adrianople in the Roman province of Thrace (now western Turkey), the Roman Empire began to fall. Two years earlier, an unforeseen flood of refugees from the East Germanic tribe known as the Goths had arrived at the Empire's eastern border, seeking admittance. Though usually successful in dealing with barbarian groups, in this instance the Roman authorities failed. Gradually coalesced into an army led by Fritigern, the barbarian horde inflicted a disastrous defeat on Emperor Valens. The Empire did not actually fall for another century, but some believe this battle signaled nothing less than the end of the ancient world and the start of the Middle Ages. With impeccable scholarship and narrative flair, renowned historian Alessandro Barbero places the battle in its historical context and vividly recreates the events leading to the clash, bringing alive leaders and common soldiers alike. Narrating one of the turning points in world history, The Day of the Barbarians is military history at its very best.
Medievalist Barbero (The Battle: A New History of Waterloo) offers a revisionist history of the relatively obscure battle of Adrianople, arguing that the course of world history changed after the clash in 378, in the eastern Roman province of Thrace, between an army of Goths and a Roman imperial army. The battle resulted in an overwhelming barbarian victory--the eastern emperor Valens died along with two-thirds of his army--setting in motion a train of events that led directly to "the fall of the western Roman Empire," according to Barbero. Rejecting the traditional view that Rome's decline was well underway by the fourth century, Barbero claims that by the eve of the battle of Adrianople, the empire's earlier problems "seemed to be... under control." To reconstitute the imperial army after the devastating losses at Adrianople, the Romans had to turn to the Goths, whose loyalty depended on how well they were paid. Eventually, the barbarians--despite their questionable loyalty--became "indispensable" for the defense and administration of the empire. When their interest and Rome's diverged, the western empire's fate was sealed. While Barbero's thesis is sure to spark debate among scholars and students, his sprightly prose makes this slim volume accessible to a general audience. (Apr.)
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March 30, 2008
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