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Book by MacGeorge Penny
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a painstaking...sound reworking of the conventional narrative of the period. (Early Medieval Europe)
It is likely to be some time before these shadowy warlords receive suc detailed treatment again in English. (Michael Whitby)
The author has provided a generally intelligent guide through the tangled web of sources and events for the final decades of the western empire, and in so doing has helped to shed further light on the important theme of late Roman warlords. There is still scope for a comprehensive, analytical study of this phenomenon, but any such study will find the volume under review an invaluable source. (Nottingham Medieval Studies)
Late Roman Warlords reconstructs the careers of some of the men who shaped (and were shaped by) the last quarter century of the Western Empire. There is a need for a new investigation of these warlords based on primary sources and including recent historical debates and theories. The difficult sources for this period have been analysed (and translated as necessary) to produce a chronological account, and relevant archaeological and numismatic evidence has been utilised.
An overview of earlier warlords, including Aetius, is followed by three studies of individual warlords and the regions they dominated. The first covers Dalmatia and Marcellinus, its ruler during the 450s and 460s. A major theme is the question of Marcellinus' western or eastern affiliations: using an often-ignored Greek source, Penny MacGeorge suggests a new interpretation.
The second part is concerned with the Gallic general Aegidius and his son Syagrius, who ruled in northern Gaul, probably from Soissons. This extends to AD 486 (well after the fall of the Western Empire). The problem of the existence or non-existence of a 'kingdom of Soissons' is discussed, introducing evidence from the Merovingian period, and a solution put forward. This section also looks at how the political situation in northern Gaul might throw light on contemporary post-Roman Britain.
The third study is of the barbarian patrician Ricimer, defender of Italy, and his successors (the Burgundian prince Gundobad and Orestes, a former employee of Attila) down to the coup of 476 by which Odovacer became the first barbarian king of Italy. This includes discussion of the character and motivation of Ricimer, particularly in relation to the emperors he promoted and destroyed, and of how historians' assessments of him have changed over time.
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