The Accidental Suicide of the Roman Empire
Lecture by Michael Kulikowski
Given at Washington and Lee University, on March 2, 2012
Excerpt: Be that is it may, all of these explanations, and hundreds more like them, have in common one fundamental belief: that is whatever happened to the Roman Empire, barbarians from northern Europe had a lot to do with it. And that is not surprising, because the idea of barbarians bringing down the empire is rooted in the sixteenth-century, when the Northern Renaissance and Reformation posited a virtuous northern past to contrast to a debauched and papist south. While the recently discovered manuscript of Tacitus’ Germania provided a ready-made handbook to the authentic superior vigour and virtue of the barbarous Germans. Ever since then the end of antiquity has always been seen as about the opposition between a Roman Mediterranean and a Germanic Barbarian north.