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But what really happened as the lights of Europe went out and the dark ages began?
In the early twentieth century J. B. Bury delivered a series of lectures at Cambridge University explaining the transfer of Europe from Rome, in the fourth century, to the mediaeval era of the sixth.
Collected here are those lectures, which detail the activities of the Germans, Visigoths, Gauls, Ostrogoths and Franks.
Under the military reforms of Emperors Diocletian and Constantine, who created a mobile Roman army, the Empire met the German powers with equal force. Yet the German influence was a kind of ‘peaceful penetration’, with the Empire becoming Germanised over those two centuries.
The Romans suffered a defeat against the Goths at Hadrianople, thanks to their opponent’s powerful cavalry. The Visigoths and their leader Alaric also showed aggression in their desire to expand their own empire, followed by both the Vandals and Franks, and their own hostile attitude to the Roman Empire.
The Huns, led by the famous Attila, slowed down the pace of German domination, though they expanded into Gaul and Spain after the Hun Empire collapsed. Other great men who ruled Italy at the time, including Odovacar and Theoderic of the Ostrogoths, and the Frank king Clovis, are chronicled in great detail.
‘The survey is enriched by valuable interpretations which represent the fruit of long study.’ The Classical Review
J.B. Bury (1861-1927) was a Cambridge professor whose career was dedicated to the Roman Empire. He worked on sections of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and published many studies on the Middle Ages, including a biography of St. Patrick and the later Roman Empire.
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