"Did "barbarians" really cause the catastrophic collapse of civilization? Boin is the first to give an historically sound account from the "barbarian" perspective, through the life of Alaric the Goth. On August 24, 410 A.D., the Senate and the People of Rome awoke to a seismic shock. Intruders, led by a disaffected forty-year-old immigrant, known only as Alaric, had stormed the city. There were kidnappings, robbery, and acts of arson. The effects were long-lasting. Within two generations, Rome's world fell apart. A city predicted to rule an empire without end, in the words of its famous Latin poet Virgil, was governed by a savage band of foreigners, called Goths. Alaric the Goth offers a deeply researched look at the end of the Roman Empire but from a surprising point-of-view. Offering the first full-length biography of Alaric, a talented and frustrated immigrant living in a time of pervasive bigotry, state-supported Christian violence, and irrational xenophobia, it breaks out of decades of tired, traditional approaches to the period, most of which overidentify with the Roman people. And it reveals the lasting contributions Goths made to legal history, to the values of religious toleration, and to modern ideas of citizenship. By moving this man from the borders to the center of Rome's story, it asks readers to think deeply and differently about the lives of marginalized people too often invisible in our history books."--
As seen in his earlier book, Coming out Christian in the Roman World, Boin has a talent for drawing parallels between the ancient and modern worlds, both in his exploration of the themes of history and in his description of everyday life. It sound cliche to say that Boin's work makes the ancient world come alive, but it kind of does -- instead of just a world of emperors, wars, and monuments, we enter a world of families, writers, tourists, restaurants, politicians, the powerful, and the powerless.
As a historian, Boin had his work cut out for him in finding sources on Alaric and his life, which aren't well represented in existing primary sources. Instead he gives us a picture of Alaric informed by poetry, archaeology, early Christian writings, partisan histories, and (sometimes) conjecture. The reader benefits from Boin's thoughtful reading of these sources, and he walks us through the biases, context, traditional readings, and new interpretations of the texts.
Boin is a very readable storyteller and this book should appeal both to historians and to general readers of ancient history, the Roman Empire, and early Christianity. Highly recommended.