Friday, February 19, 2010

Goths and Romans

Michael Kulikowski's Rome's Gothic Wars is another book that changed how I perceived late antiquity, especially in regards to the barbarian confederations that coalesced on the imperial borders from the middle 3rd Century. In this book yet another image emerges to challenge traditional thoughts that hordes of barbarians either advanced on Rome in great folk migrations and somehow developed politically independent of imperial influence. 

As with Halsall's Barbarian Migrations, we see a picture where smaller barbarian polities evolve into larger ones based on their relationships with the greatest power in their world - Rome. The Goths, along with the Allemani and the Franks, fall into this category. When did the assorted folk who did not necessarily share a common background, let alone ancestors, become the Goths? That answer lies closer to results of Roman policy than anything else.

So where does this lead us to in wargaming? Again, it comes down to the right miniatures for the right armies. A short case study involves the famous Gothic revolt which ultimately ended up in the massacre of a large Roman army at Adrianople in 378 AD. If I recall correctly from the passages in this book, a number of Gothic troops in Roman service - ie. regular Roman troops by any account - joined in the revolt after the Roman officials continued to compound an already volatile situation. Whatever the newly arrived Goths might have looked like at Adrianople, at least some of them probably looked and fought no differently from the Roman army they surrounded and destroyed. 

Indeed this kind of question arises throughout the Goths' intrinsic involvement in Roman military and political affairs over the next century. Does it seem likely that the next generation of Goths, raised within the Roman Empire, looked or fought so much differently?

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