The Visigothic Invasion – Thomas Hodgkin

This is Volume I in a set of books reissued by the Folio Society – “The Barbarian Invasions of the Roman Empire” – that trace the invasions of the Roman Empire and Italy from the time of the Emperor Julian until Charlemagne in 800.  Written in the late 19th century by an amateur historian rather than an academic, it still manages to compress much if not all of the understanding of the sources at the time into its eight volumes.  And it is free of most of the fashionable slants that academia is prone to.

This volume covers probably the longest time period, from the aftermath of the death of Julian the Apostate through the entry of the Visigoths and revolt leading to the battle of Adrianople.  After that disaster, it follows the recovery under Theodosius the Great, then the crisis of the 400s as Alaric and Stilicho contended in Italy, then Stilicho’s execution and Alaric’s sieges and capture of Rome in 410.

From there the Visigoths move to Gaul, where they end up being settled in Aquitane. In the 420s the reduced Western Empire faced usurpers and civil strife between the Regent Galla Placidia and her advisers Boniface and Aetius.  Aetius finally comes out on top even though he lost the battle, as Boniface died of wounds suffered in the fight.  The last man standing returned from exile among the Huns with a new army and was able to regain is post as the Empire’s leading general and virtual master.

These books are excellent in covering in great depth a period of history that tends to be glossed over and ignored in most histories of the period that are approaching the last chapter in the book and often show it.

Volume II covers the Vandal and Hun invasions and takes the history to around the time of the traditional fall of Rome in 476.


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