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Read The Day Of The Barbarians: The Battle That Led To The Fall Of The Roman Empire (2007)

The Day of the Barbarians: The Battle That Led to the Fall of the Roman Empire (2007)

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3.69 of 5 Votes: 5
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0802715710 (ISBN13: 9780802715715)
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The Day Of The Barbarians: The Battle That Led To The Fall Of The Roman Empire (2007) - Plot & Excerpts

t5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and Readable History, January 14, 2010Historians love to identify "notably rare moments" in history - symbolic dates that mark the end of one era and the beginning of another, states author Alessandro Barbero. World War II had its D-Day. Napoleon had his Waterloo. Was the Battle of Adrianople that notably rare moment in Roman history? "The Day of the Barbarians - The Battle that Led to the Fall of the Roman Empire" is a tightly written, 146-page review of a key moment in ancient Roman history, but Barbero argues that it's not that "rare moment" that lends itself to such dramatic interpretations.The Romans were soundly beaten by a barbarian army on August 9, 378. It was a turning point in Roman history, but according to Barbero much less of an earth-shattering, all-or-nothing moment in time as other key battles in history. Barbero's emphasis is that the Battle at Adrianople was a key point in time for the Empire more due to the context surrounding the event, rather than the event itself.What ultimately became an invasion, started slowly and steadily over time as immigration. Barbero writes, "Before the battle of Adrianople, the barbarian invasions had already begun." Barbero reminds us that the "Roman Empire already was a multiethnic crucible of languages, races, and religions, and it was perfectly capable of absorbing massive immigration without becoming destabilized."In autumn of 376, barbarians massed along the northern shores of the Danube. They wanted to cross into the Empire because a new threat was looming in the West - the Huns were moving closer and their violent and deadly reputation preceded them.As citizens of the empire grew increasingly resistant to military enlistment, the Empire looked to fill out its ranks from the outside. Barbero writes that "the barbarians were increasingly seen as...abundant, low-cost manpower...a potential resource that should not be wasted"So Valens ordered his troops to help the barbarians across the Danube. Except there were too many of them, and despite a reputation for superlative logistics, the Roman army wasn't prepared. Ultimately, the starving and horribly uncomfortable barbarians revolted.In the face of these challenges, Fritigern, a Gothic tribal chief, had been able to centralize enough cross-tribal power to lead thousands of barbarians on a two year war within the Empire's own boundaries.Near the walls of Adrianople on the morning of August 9, 378 Valens' armies had finally rallied and moved to face the barbarians whose own armies were positioned on a nearby hilltop. As the battle began, numerous barbarian cavalry, who had been foraging away from their camps, emerged amid the hills near the battle. This became a key moment, in a key battle, at a key point in Roman history. The Roman army was overwhelmed and surrounded by too many riders. Their fate was sealed."Day of the Barbarians" is a very readable, enjoyable and engaging book. I'm not an academic and I felt that it had the right mix of historical background, research and most importantly to me, narrative. The book also has its requisite descriptions and analysis of strategic army movements and lively battle scenes. It may not be academic enough for the hardcore scholar, however this is a terrific book for insights into an instrumental period in Roman history.

The leitmotiv of this book is the Battle of Adrianople but it goes beyond it. It analyzes the integration of the Barbarians into the Roman Empire and ultimately its demise at their hands. The battle itself is just a turning point in the sense that too many Roman soldiers were killed, and therefore that manpower had to be replaced with the Barbarians. The battle also generated a deep mistrust in the Goths which made their integration into the professional army complicated. Instead, whole regiments of Goths and other Barbarians were hired as mercenaries and this weakened its blend, ultimately leading to the sack of Rome and the rest of the known story. We also see how the relationship between the Barbarian tribes and the Empire was much more organically integrated than we usually think. The Empire had already absorbed many generations of Barbarians and most of them (first and second generation) were completely romanized and hellenized. The fall of the Western Roman Empire is not, therefore, just a case of internal collapse and moral decay. Great short study on a captivating period that brings new light to these open questions.

What do You think about The Day Of The Barbarians: The Battle That Led To The Fall Of The Roman Empire (2007)?

I suppose the author was limited by the availability of sources. That said, it would have been nice if the book had furnished us with more background and more on the results of the battle. As it is, Emperor Valens' unpopularity with the populace is only mentioned in passing, his court and courtiers, including those who accompanied him to Adrianople and who had to hold the empire together after the catastrophe are all anonymous and it would have been useful to have included some mention of how the Sassanids reacted both to the cancellation of the planned invasion of their empire and the defeat.Ultimately, I am not persuaded that the battle was so decisive in marking the start of the fall of the Roman empire. Yes, it accelerated barbarian immigration but that was already as the author himself points out, on the rise. Yes, the military became dominated by barbarians but again that was already the trend.

Barbero manages to craft a quite entertaining historical tidbit here. He describes the battle of Adrianople and its historical context in an often humorous, often sardonic, yet always intellectual and illuminative manner. The strength and weakness of this book are its brevity. The book is very digestible, leading to an easy read, yet leaves the reader feeling as if there is still a lot of the picture left to be discovered.Would have been a solid 5 stars if Barbero had managed to keep the level of entertainment and included a little more substance, perhaps stretching the book another 50 pages.
—Ivo Crnkovic-Rubsamen

The battle of Adrianople has been often characterized by historians as a symbolic endpoint for the Roman Empire, and as a start point for the Middle Ages. Italian historian Alessandro Barbero, in his short, but informative history on the battle – and the times, is skeptical on the event being that dramatic. Instead, he argues that the battle, trauma that is was for the Romans, a defeat so complete it is comparable to Canae, accelerated changes that were already occurring in the empire. Primarily these changes were coming as a result of barbarian immigration (or war refugees – since the Goths were themselves being pressed by the advancing Huns). Assimilation of other peoples into the “Roman Way” had always been an enduring strength of the Roman Empire, but in this case, the influx – especially into the ranks of the Army, lead to a deterioration of customs and traditions (one of which was conscription) that would eventually give rise to Alaric, and his roving band of mercenary thugs. The one thing the battle did ensure: East would soon be East, and West would soon be West. The Eastern empire would continue for some time (which is ironic, since the defeat occurred in the East), but the West was now on a different path. This is a good, quick history on the subject of the battle itself, but also many other subjects, such as slavery, politics, and tribal customs. In other words, I learned some stuff, and I came away from the book with the sense that Barbero knows this period inside and out. The book may not have the density of something by Peter Brown (though Brown does show up in Barbaero’s “further reading” list at the end of the book), but it does flow nicely, which is also a credit to the work of translator John Cullen. Highly recommended.

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