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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful account of much maligned barbarians, 22 July 2011
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This review is from: Rome's Gothic Wars: From The Third Century To Alaric (Key Conflicts of Classical Antiquity) (Paperback)
It's amazing how an idea can really come to take a hold of an academic subject, in ancient history, this is especially true of why the Western Roman Empire fell. Chief among the reasons recycled throughout history are the barbarian invasions of the fourth century, with the Goths enjoying alongside the Huns the role of barbarian offenders in chief. This work largely told from a Gothic perspective, provides a clear narrative (pleasantly so, many Roman focused histories of the period can be difficult to engage with) which is an easy read.
Kulikowski's work is a refreshing sea change in this area, writing as part of a series of works called "key conflicts of classical antiquity", the work looks to provide an entry point and serious discussion of Rome's Gothic Wars. This isn't a military history as such, but in fact a sound, well thought out and conceptualised history, combining an analytical narrative history of Roman/Gothic relations alongside a serious attempt to engage with ancient and modern historiography on the Goths and utilising the archaeological evidence.
The book really seeks to get under the skin of the topic and the work on Gothic Origins and the impact of a move to create a non-roman northern European history from the fifteenth century onwards are excellent. Throughout the work Kulikowski's knowledge and ability with a diverse range of source material including archaeology, prosopography, epigraphy and written accounts is superb, he is a historian clearly in control of his material.
Equally refreshing in a work, that is meant to be an entry point to the subject, is the way that Kulikowski challenges the status quo in many areas of academic research. He is broadly negative towards Theodosius ("The Great" - he actually provides an intriguing slant on Theodosius ascension - particularly targeting Stephen Williams recent work), he disagrees with the migration and diffusionist schools of thought on the barbarians, instead seeing the Gothic identity as a product of the Roman Frontier and has excellent comments on the primary source material in particular on Jordanes. A quality of Kulikowski's work is that where he does conflict with an established doctrine, he makes the reader aware of what he is arguing against and which historians, giving the reader the option of researching the material themselves.
Overall this is an accessible, thoroughly scholarly and engrossing account.
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