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Barbarian Kingdoms: Medieval Europe

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

041852 HTA256/356 Barbarian Kingdoms: Medieval Europe AD 300-700 Major Assignment Q.6 " 'The only thing we can truly know about early medieval barbarians is their sense of ethnicity.' Critically asses with reference to both primary sources and the arguments of modern secondary scholars." There has always been, and will most likely continue to be, great debate as to what we can or cant truly known about the "Barbarians". To the peoples of ancient Greece, and later, Rome, a barbarian was 'anyone who was not of their extraction or culture. Because most of these "strangers" regularly practiced raids upon these civilizations, the term "barbarian" gradually evolved into a perjorative term: a person who was sub-human, uncivilized, and regularly practiced the most vile and inhuman acts imaginable'. 1 In a good overall summary of the barbarians, it has been stated that these 'Barbarians' were 'a tall, fierce, fair- haired and fair-skinned people, in contrast to their swarthy counterparts from whence they had traveled. Quickly displacing or assimilating the indigenous people of the regions they entered, they (the barbarians) never truly settled anywhere, ever-moving as their needs and resources changed. Eventually they did settle and create homes and lifestyles for themselves, yet their culture was never elaborate. Those who they came in contact with considered them uncivilized, and yet were fascinated by their strength, stamina, force of will, charisma, and versatility. They were respected by those they befriended, and feared by those who opposed them. Even within their own society, they fought amongst themselves, seeking supremacy of power and controllership of the lands they acquired. Their fierce, warlike nature and coarse behaviors earned them the name "barbarians", meaning both "illiterates" and "wanderers".'2 There is a small selection of primary written evidence about the barbarians, sources that were written in the middle ages. ...read more.

Middle

Rather, there appear in the sources a whole series of Hunnic raiding parties, all pursuing independent aims'.13 However although this unusual social system helps to reinforce the barbarian's sense of difference, and was an important part of barbarian culture, it was believed that this lack of general stability within the tribes and the fact that the barbarians were under constant change, could ultimately jeopardise the general notion that the barbarians were a group who held a unique an distinct sense of ethnicity. Due to the fact that the barbarians were constantly on the move 'from location to location ever in search of a better home. Eventually, some of these (barbarians) settled in Byzentium and became known as Ostrogoths. Having little or no recorded history or culture, they would adapt the culture of the people in whose lands they settled'.14 Patrick Geary states that because the barbarian tribes were 'inherently unstable, these units constantly underwent transformation as kindreds feuded and split apart, warrior bands struck out to establish themselves as new tribes, and as tribes weakened by internal divisions were conquered and absorbed into other tribes. Still so long as this process took place among Germanic, Celtic and Slavic peoples all at rightly the same level of material and social organization, this instability remained in a state of equilibrium. But this equilibrium would be destroyed by contact with Rome'.15 Roman influence upon the barbarians is commonly seen as a contributing factor to the decline of a genuine barbarian ethnicity. It is conceivable that the barbarians, who were constantly in contact with and invading Rome, they were likely to adopt different cultures and practices that derived directly from the influential Roman Culture. ...read more.

Conclusion

Heather, Peter, 'The Goths', (oxford and Cambrdige, 1996). Heather, Peter, 'The Huns and the End of the Roman Empire in Western Europe', English Historical Review 110 (1995), 1-41. Joil, Genry. 'Barbarians.Celts', < http://www.lost-civilizations.net/celts-barbarians.html>, 21st April 2005. Otto Manchen- Helfen, 'The World of the huns: studies in their history and culture', (Berkely and Los Angeles, 1973). Oxford English Dictionary online, <www.oed.com>, 20th April 2005. Thompson, E.A, 'The Huns', (oxford, 1996). Wolfram, Herwig, 'History of the Goths', (Berkeley, 1988). Top of Form 1 Bottom of Form 1 1 Joil, Genry. 'Barbarians.Celts' < http://www.lost-civilizations.net/celts-barbarians.html>, 2 Crystal, Ellie. 'Barbarians', <http://www.crystalinks.com/barbarians.html> 3 Oxford English Dictionary, <http://www.oed.com> 4 Isidore of Sevilles, 'History of the Goths, Vandals, and Suevi', (Leiden, 1970), p.33. 5 Victor of Vita, 'History of the Vandal persecution', (Liverpool, 1992),p.3. 6 Marcellinus, Ammianus, 'The later Roman Empire, A.D. 353-378', (Harmondsworth, 1986),p.85. 7 Gibbon, Edward, 'The decline and fall of the Roman Empire', (London, 1960),p.4 8 Otto Manchen- Helfen, 'The World of the huns: studies in their history and culture', (Berkely and Los Angeles, 1973),p.12. 9 Thompson, E.A, 'The Huns', (oxford, 1996),p.1 10 Geary, Patrick, 'Before France and Germany : the creation and transformation of the Merovingian world', (New York, 1988),p.54. 11 Marcellinus, Ammianus, op. Cit., p.414. 12 Heather, Peter, 'The Huns and the End of the Roman Empire in Western Europe',p.11 13 Ibid., p.10. 14 Crystal, Ellie, , op. Cit. 15 Geary, Patrick, op. Cit., p.57. 16 Wolfram, Herwig, 'History of the Goths', (Berkeley, 1988), p.11. 17 Burns, Thomas, 'A history of the Ostro-Goths', (Bloomington, 1984), p.xiii. 18 Wolfram, Herwig, op. Cit., p.7. 19 Heather, Peter, 'The Goths', (oxford and Cambrdige, 1996),p. 311. 20 Ibid.,p.312. 21 Ibid. 22 Ibid., p.317. 23 Ibid., p.314. 24 Ibid. 25 Geary, Patrick, op. Cit., p.51. 26 Geary, Patrick, op. Cit., p.50. 27 Heather, Peter, op. Cit., p.317. 1 ...read more.

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