Late in August 410, Rome was starving, its residents were turning on one another, and, to make matters worse, the Gothic army camped at Rome's gates was restless. The Gothic commander was Alaric, a Roman general and barbarian chieftain. Leading an army that was short of food and potentially mutinous, sacking Rome was his only way forward. The old heart of Rome's empire fell to a conqueror's sword for the first time in eight hundred years. For three days, Alaric's Goths sacked the eternal city. In the words of a contemporary, the mother of the world had been murdered. Alaric's story is the culmination of a long historical journey by which the Goths came to be a part of the Roman world. Whether as friends or foes of the Roman empire, the Goths and their history are entwined with the larger history of Rome in the third and fourth centuries. Rome's Gothic Wars explains how the Goths came into existence on the margins of the Roman world, how different Gothic groups dealt with the enormous power of Rome just beyond their lands, and how, in two traumatic years, thousands of Goths entered the imperial provinces and destroyed the army that was sent to suppress them, leaving the emperor of the eternal city dead on the field of battle. Unlike other histories of the barbarians, Rome's Gothic Wars shows exactly how and why modern historians understand the Goths the way they do - and why our understanding is so controversial. Michael Kulikowski is associate professor of history at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. A recipient of the Solmsen Fellowship at the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, he is the author of Late Roman Spain and Its Cities, which was awarded an Honorable Mention in Classics and Archaeology from the Association of American University Presses. His scholarly articles have appeared in Early Medieval Europe, Britannia, Phoenix, and Byzantium, and he has appeared on the History Channel's Barbarians series.
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From the Prologue:
Before the Gates of Rome
Late in august 410, a large troop of soldiers bore down on the city of Rome. At their head rode the general Alaric, in the full insignia of a magister militum. It was the highest command in the Roman army, won after years of politicking and military success. But Alaric was more than a Roman general. He was also a Gothic chieftain, some might have said a king. As far as contemporaries were concerned, the soldiers who followed him were Goths. Sometimes, to be sure, Alaric had put his followers at the service of the Roman emperor. When he did so, they became a unit in the Roman army. But their loyalty was to Alaric, not to the emperor or the empire, and everyone knew it. Alaric might be a Roman general, but no one ever mistook his followers for Roman soldiers. They were the Goths, and Alaric had led them against regular imperial armies more than once. In the early fifth century, the line between Roman regiment and barbarian horde was a fine one, and Alaric straddled it as best he could. But no one was quite taken in by appearances, and Alaric never succeeded in turning himself into the legitimate Roman commander he so desperately wanted to be.
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Rome's Gothic Wars from the Third Century to Alaric is a concise introduction to the latest research on the Roman Empire's relations with one of the most important barbarian groups of the ancient world.
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