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Debating the Fall of Rome: from the Ancien Régime to the Creation of Late Antiquity

Författare Denis Sukhino-Khomenko
Ian Wood
Olga Kabitova
Publicerad i Vox medii aevi
Volym 1 (4)
Sidor 175–202
Förlag Издательство «Чёрное искусство»
Förlagsort Moscow
Publiceringsår 2019
Publicerad vid Institutionen för historiska studier
Sidor 175–202
Språk ru
Länkar voxmediiaevi.com/2019-1-wood/
Ämnesord Fall of the Roman Empire; the Germanic Barbarians; Historiography; Late Antiquity; Nationalism
Ämneskategorier Historia


Views on the Fall of Rome have consistently reflected the major political concerns of the period in which they were and are expressed. In early eighteenth-century France, the Fall of Rome was integral to debates on absolutism and on the rights of the aristocracy, who were supposedly descended from the incoming barbarians. In the French Revolution, the incomers were seen both as champions of liberty and as the ancestors of the nobility. These conflicting ideas were rejected by Augustin Thierry, who stressed the oppression of the indigenous population. This was a model taken up in Italy by Manzoni, and thus became an element in Risorgimento debates about the role of outsiders in the Italian peninsula. Against these readings, and their class and ethnic implications, a religious reading of the period developed. After the destruction of an essentially corrupt Roman World by the barbarians, civilization was restored by the Church. Although this religious interpretation continued to be expressed, in the late nineteenth century the main debate focused increasingly on the role of the Germanic peoples. For scholars caught up in the move for German reunification, the barbarians were interpreted in an increasingly nationalistic light. In opposition to this reading, others downplayed the invasions, and instead stressed the internal weaknesses of the Roman Empire, while at the same time pointing to continuities with the post-Roman period. Of these two interpretations, the nationalist one was largely dominant in Europe through the period of the two World Wars. Following the defeat of Germany, however, the barbarians could no longer be seen positively: they were either regarded as agents of destruction or were almost entirely ignored. In the 1970s a new emphasis on the cultural achievements of the late and post-Roman period led to a more positive reading of what came to be described as Late Antiquity, although older interpretations have been revived, in part at least in the light of discussion of the place of the United States within the world order. In other words, current political and social concerns have constantly been explored through discussion of the Fall of Rome. The historiography cannot be dissociated from its context.

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