The names of early Germanic warrior-tribes and leaders resound in songs and legends, and the real story of the part they played in transforming the ancient world is no less gripping. Herwig Wolfram's panoramic history spans the great migrations of the Germanic peoples and the rise and fall of their kingdoms between the third and eighth centuries, as they invaded, settled in, and ultimately transformed the Roman Empire. Wolfram's narrative is far from the "decline and fall" interpretation that held sway until recent decades. He describes the transition from antiquity to the Middle Ages as a generally unsettled, frequently violent time of decentralization, depopulation, and shifts of power. Byzantium became the only center of the old Roman Empire while the western empire ceased to exist as such. Only the increasing authority of the papacy in the Christian-Catholic world helped Rome survive as an imperial capital for the medieval Frankish kingdom and the Holy Roman Empire. This story, based on Wolfram's sweeping grasp of documentary and archaeological evidence, brings new clarity to a poorly understood period of Western history.
Herwig Wolfram is Professor of History at the University of Vienna. His earlier History of the Goths (California, 1988) has been widely acclaimed. Thomas Dunlap, translator of History of the Goths and a number of other books including Joachim Bumke's Courtly Culture (California, 1991), lives and works in Belmont, Massachusetts.
"[Wolfram's] detailed survey makes clear the breathtaking transformation wrought by the Germanic tribes."--"Kirkus Reviews"[A] classic work. . . . This clever and subtle text . . . comes over clearly, unravelling the kaleidoscopic hybridity of the world of Goths, Vandals, Huns, Burgundians, Franks and Lombards."--"Times Literary Supplement