Europe from its Origins
An email from Joe Hogarty, the creator of the great podcast Europe from its Origins to me. Reproduced with permission:
“Thank you for your appreciation of the podcast series Europe from its Origins.
“Regarding some books on why Rome didn’t fall in 476, etc., there are two aspects that I highlight in the episodes you have listened to.
“The first and most important is that the core and the capital, the population concentrations and economic centres of the Christian Roman Empire (for that’s what it was after 390 AD) were not in western Europe, but in the Greek-speaking eastern Mediterranean, ruled from Constantinople.
“Although his writing oozes the 18th century prejudice against “Byzantium” and post-pagan Roman society and culture generally, Gibbon nevertheless does devote by far the greater part of his immense history of The Decline and Fall to the story of the continuing eastern Roman Empire, right up to its actual fall, a thousand years after 476 AD, in 1453. To deny, as we have done for three centuries, that this society and its state were not the ‘real’ Roman Empire is to do violence to the historical sources. In my view, neither the change in state religion, to Christianity, nor the change of the official language, from Latin to Greek, can justify the label “Byzantine”, which is largely spurious historically.
“Second, in the West the disintegration of the Roman state did indeed occur. But it was a gradual process, punctuated by confused alterations of local power, between Roman and Romanized barbarian commanders, acting as regional overlords in their own right, and the tribal leaders of the Germanic allies and auxiliaries of the Roman army, who by the 400s constituted its main contingents. Both military types – Romanized Germans and Germanized Romans – termed themselves ‘rex’ or king when in power. In the west, the successor regional kings to the once unitary empire were often granted the symbolic status of vicars or proxies of the legitimate Emperor in Constantinople, and they were very pleased to be so. Society in the West did suffer significant material setbacks, such as the shrinkage and displacement of Roman educational traditions, but the new rulers and their followers sought to become ‘Roman’ and to carry on the old ways. The most influential element in this Romanness was their complete assimilation to Christianity.”
He then provided me with the following books that might be of interest:
Edward Gibbon – The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Patrick Geary – The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe, Princeton, 2003
Jacques Le Goff – The Middle Ages and the Birth of Europe, Blackwell, 2005.
Penny MacGeorge – Late Roman Warlords, Oxford, 2002. For details on the transfer of power in Gaul from officials of the Roman state (e.g. Aetius) to the leaders of their Germanic foederati, or auxiliary allies (e.g. Childeric).
Bruno Dumézil – Les racines chrétiennes de l’Europe, Fayard, Paris, 2005 [The Christian Roots of Europe]
Mathisen & Shanzer (eds.) – Society and Culture in Late Antique Gaul, Ashgate Varorium, 2001, chapter by Guy Halsall.
The Warlord book sounded really interesting, but alas, it retails for over $100 on Amazon. The Geary book, however, is now on my Amazon wish list.Bookmark it: del.icio.us | Reddit | Slashdot | Digg | Facebook | Technorati | Google | StumbleUpon | Window Live | Tailrank | Furl | Netscape | Yahoo | BlinkList
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