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Barbarization Of The Roman Army

Uploaded by mfields on Oct 29, 2004

The fourth and fifth centuries saw a profound change in the great Roman army. What was once a predominantly Roman institution became increasingly “barbarized”, a term used by historians for the Germanization of Roman culture, with more and more northern peoples being used in the army, which, some modern historians claim had a negative impact on the Empire itself. Many modern historians claim that this was a key factor in the decline and fall of Rome itself. But to understand the impact this had on the Empire, one must first look at how and why the army underwent such a change. The army went from using German mercenary units as extra troops to the barbarians becoming the backbone of later armies . Was it just a sign of the times, or was it a forced situation, as some historians have thought? Or was it just a continuation of Roman tradition of synthesis and absorption of outside cultures? Rome has always used troops from other cultures and adopted their tactics if superior to theirs. In my paper I shall try to prove that the “barbarization” of the army was no different than what Rome had done throughout its history, and that the Germanization had little impact upon the empire. First I shall look at modern interpretations of the “barbarization” of the Roman army, then move on to the contemporary sources. From there I shall form the core of my thesis: there was no significant change in the army, and this led to no real impact on the empire.

In order to discuss the barbarians and their impact upon the army, we must look first at modern historiography, as it is a more concrete foundation in which I can build my thesis (since modern historians have the ability of hindsight and seeing the whole picture, rather than be limited in vision and scope like the contemporary writers). Randers-Pehrson, a modern historian, states that barbarians in the army were “…a demoralizingly disruptive force” . She goes on to say how the Goths were “unruly and wild, coming and going as they liked and abandoning the traditional drills, making the army less and less respectable each day” . But another modern source, Roy MacMullen, states that by the mid-fourth century no Roman general wanted Roman troops, they wanted barbarians, and that by this time the typical fighting force of Rome was half imported...

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Uploaded by:   mfields

Date:   10/29/2004

Category:   Roman

Length:   11 pages (2,552 words)

Views:   11588

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