School of Humanities and Social Science
HISTORY SEMINAR SERIES – 2008
‘How to Recognise a Barbarian’
10am to 11am
(with morning tea/coffee afterwards)
Recognising the barbarian enemies of the Roman Empire used to be easy: they had horned helmets, funny names, and thick Germanic accents. But perhaps the main result of the work by historians and archaeologists on Late Antiquity during the last generation has been to show how very wrong and misleading the stereotypes of barbarians actually are: they always owed more to nineteenth-century nationalism than to the source material. Recognising barbarians, and distinguishing them from Romans, is in reality very difficult, whether we look at our Greco-Roman written sources or the physical remains of the barbarian world uncovered by archaeologists. It is not just modern scholars who find it difficult to recognise barbarians: those living in the fourth or fifth century might have had equal problems. One result of recent research on barbarians has been the questioning of long-held assumptions about the fall of the Roman Empire and the origins of the Middle Ages.
Edward James is Professor of Medieval History at University College Dublin where his research interests cover Late Roman and early medieval history, especially France and Britain; the history of the barbarians, particularly of the Franks, and the invasions of the Roman Empire; and the writings of Gregory of Tours.
Staff, students and members of the public are welcome