1. Migration Period: engines of change
Posted by Jean M
So often when discussion turns to the movements of the Slavs and Germani in the
Migration Period, the questions of "why" and "how" come thick and fast. What
were the engines of change? This has been a hot topic of debate ever since
Gibbon's magisterial Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I can't claim any
novel insights. But I have pulled together some of the thoughts of recent
scholars in The Great Wandering: Engines of Change .
Naturally they don't all agree. Peter Heather feels that the main cause of the
collapse of the Western Roman Empire was the barbarian attacks. Ulf B?tgen and
his colleagues point to the climatic switchback in the centuries of Imperial
decline. Lester K. Little felt so strongly that the effects of the Justinian
Plague had been ignored that he organised a conference on the topic and
published the resulting papers in 2008.
But why were the barbarians on the march in the first place? It has been
commonly asserted that incursions into Eastern Europe by waves of steppe nomads
were the driving force. Their role was complex, pushing other peoples before
them, absorbing the conquered into their advance, and depopulating territories
that could later be colonised by a different group.
Other factors deserve a mention. I have given more than a mention to the
flooding of the North Sea coast, since it is crucial to understanding the very
first dash into Roman territory by "barbarians" from the north, and the peopling
of the Low Counties. However in trying to sum up a very big story, I have
inevitably missed out a lot of interesting detail.
Peter Heather, Empires and Barbarians (2009)
Ulf B?tgen, Willy Tegel, Kurt Nicolussi, Michael McCormick, David Frank, Valerie
Trouet, Jed O. Kaplan, Franz Herzig, Karl-Uwe Heussner, Heinz Wanner, J?g
Luterbacher, and Jan Esper, 2500 years of European climate variability and human
susceptibility, Science, vol. 331, no. 6017 (4 February 2011), pp. 578-582.
L.K. Little (ed.), Plague and the End of Antiquity: The Pandemic of 541-750
2. Archaeology; Brit-Am Version of
From: david meadows <email@example.com>
A study suggests Europe was populated by "Kashmiris" 40 000 years b.p. (!):
ASIA AND THE SOUTH PACIFIC
New Zealand Archaeology eNews:
Humans were altering North American landscapes before Europeans arrived:
OTHER ITEMS OF INTEREST
Last week I sent out a bad link to an item on historical tsunamis in the
EXHIBITIONS, AUCTIONS, AND MUSEUM-RELATED
Heracles to Alexander the Great:
on the British. The Library of History by Diodorus Siculus, Book 5 chapter 21 (Oldfather Translation):
Opposite that part of Gaul which lies on the ocean and directly across from the
Hercynian Forest, as it is called, which is the largest of any in Europe of
which tradition tells us, there are many islands out in the ocean of which the
largest is that known as Britain. In ancient times this island remained
unvisited by foreign armies; for neither Dionysus, tradition tells us, nor
Heracles, nor any other hero or leader made a campaign against it; in our day,
however, Gaius Caesar, who has been called a god because of his deeds, was the
first man of whom we have record to have conquered the island, and after
subduing the Britons he compelled them to pay fixed tributes. But we shall give
a detailed account of the events of this conquest in connection with the
appropriate period of time, and at present we shall discuss the island and the
tin which is found in it.
Britain is triangular in shape, very much as is Sicily, but its sides are not
equal. This island stretches obliquely along the coast of Europe, and the point
where it is least distant from the mainland, we are told, is the promontory
which men call Cantium, and this is about one hundred stades from the land, at
the place where the sea has its outlet, whereas the second promontory, known as
Belerium, is said to be a voyage of four days from the mainland, and the last,
writers tell us, extends out into the open sea and is named Orca. Of the sides
of Britain the shortest, which extends along Europe, is seven thousand five
hundred stades, the second, from the Strait to the (northern) tip, is fifteen
thousand stades, and the last is twenty thousand stades, so that the entire
circuit of the island amounts to forty-two thousand five hundred stades. And
Britain, we are told, is inhabited by tribes which are autochthonous and
preserve in their ways of living the ancient manner of life. They use chariots,
for instance, in their wars, even as tradition tells us the old Greek heroes did
in the Trojan War, and their dwellings are humble, being built for the most part
out of reeds or logs. The method they employ of harvesting their grain crops is
to cut off no more than the heads and store them away in roofed granges, and
then each day they pick out the ripened heads and grind them, getting in this
way their food. As for their habits, they are simple and far removed from the
shrewdness and vice which characterize the men of our day. Their way of living
is modest, since they are well clear of the luxury which is begotten of wealth.
The island is also thickly populated, and its climate is extremely cold, as one
would expect, since it actually lies under the Great Bear. It is held by many
kings and potentates, who for the most part live at peace among themselves.
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