Rome and the Barbarians

Course No. 3460
Professor Kenneth W. Harl, Ph.D.
Tulane University
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Course No. 3460
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Course Overview

The history of the Romans and the "barbarians" they encountered as their mighty legions advanced the frontiers of Classical civilization has in large part been written as a story of warfare and conquest. But to tell the story on only that level leaves many questions unanswered, not only about the Romans but about the barbarians, as well.

  • Who were the Celts, Goths, Huns, Persians, and so many others met by the Romans as they marched to the north and east? And what made them barbarians in the eyes of Rome?
  • What were the political, military, and social institutions that made Rome so stable, allowing its power to be wielded against these different cultures for almost three centuries?
  • What role did those institutions themselves play in assimilating barbarian peoples, first as provincials and often as players in a vast process of Romanization?

What Is a Barbarian? Explore the Basis of Western European Civilization

Rome and the Barbarians tells the story of the complex relationships between each of these native peoples and their Roman conquerors as they intermarried, exchanged ideas and mores, and, in the ensuing provincial Roman cultures, formed the basis of Western European civilization.

As you examine the interaction between Rome and the barbarians from 300 B.C. to A.D. 600, you learn that the definition of barbarian was, effectively, the "next group not under Roman control." And you see how that definition was always changing, as former barbarians became assimilated into the Roman world, becoming provincials and, often, eventually Romanized themselves.

In leading you through this 900-year period, Tulane University's Professor Kenneth W. Harl organizes the course around two major themes:

  • The makeup of Roman society, politics, and military organization, particularly from the standpoint of how those institutions enabled the Romans not only to conquer those peoples, but integrate them
  • The role played by the most recent of Rome's barbarian foes—especially the Germans and the Persians—in bringing down the Roman Empire, including the question of what gave them the military or political edge to accomplish this.

Throughout these lectures, and the introduction of each new barbarian culture, Professor Harl emphasizes three crucial aspects of Rome's relationships to them:

  1. The ability of the Romans to adapt and build pragmatically on existing structures of the barbarian world, using what worked, and not simply imposing a "Roman way"
  2. The ways the Romans looked on these barbarians not only as outsiders, but also as potential allies and provincials
  3. What barbarian societies were like at the time of Roman contact and conquest, and how, through assimilation, they contributed to the successful establishment of Roman provinces.

Enjoy an Intimate Sense of History

Professor Harl is a nine-time winner of Tulane University's Student Award for Excellence in Teaching. His other popular courses for The Teaching Company have explored The Era of the Crusades, The World of Byzantium, and Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor.

As in each of those courses, Professor Harl, in Rome and the Barbarians, puts on display a prodigious knowledge, combined with a wry wit and street-level familiarity with his subject that allows him to navigate the most distant pathways of history with a rare sense of intimacy.

In this course, Professor Harl has the opportunity to share the nuances of his principal area of interest and research—indeed, his passion—in exploring a subject whose influence on today's world, more than 1,400 years later, is as apparent to us now as it must have been then.

"What Rome perhaps gave, foremost, to the barbarian successor states were certainly some of the institutions, the literary culture, the organization that survived in the church, as well as the model to which to aspire," says Professor Harl.

"Even after Rome, as a political force, had disappeared, Rome remained a mentor to these peoples, who fused to become the ancestors of the modern Europeans.

"Rome is, therefore, ever present with us, and is ever a mentor, even to us today, as it was for those barbarians of the 5th, 6th, and 7th centuries."

Nine Centuries of Fascinating Characters

Beyond the institutions that made Rome so extraordinary, of course, are the equally extraordinary figures—both Roman and barbarian—whose names have been familiar to us for so long, along with some that are not.

Among the many figures you'll come to know are:

  • Augustus, the emperor whose organizational genius allowed him to establish the constitutional basis of the Principate—the imperial government in which the emperor rules in accordance with the symbols and powers of the Republic
  • Constantine I, who reunited the Roman world and, in dedicating Constantinople—"New Rome"—as a Christian capital, assured the future of the Christian Byzantine empire
  • Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, one of the greatest of Roman commanders, whose defeat of Hannibal ended the Second Punic War
  • Diocletian, the emperor who put the empire on a sound fiscal footing and attempted to create a permanent Tetrarchy, wherein imperial power was shared by two senior and two junior emperors
  • Jugurtha, the Numidian king whose wars against his cousins for mastery of Numidia caused him to blunder into a scandalous war with Rome
  • Gaius Julius Caesar, the most famous Roman of them all and the creator of the Roman imperial monarchy. As a dictator, he reformed Rome, but his monarchical aspirations led to his assassination
  • Nero, whose amoral and outrageous conduct alienated the ruling classes and frontier legions and precipitated his downfall and suicide
  • Attila, the Hun ruler whose devastating raids into the Balkans earned him the sobriquet "Scourge of God," and whose life of warfare and violence ended, ironically, with a death from overindulgence at his own wedding
  • Shapur I, the second Sassanid Shah of Persia who waged three successful campaigns against Rome, captured the Emperor Valerian, and sacked Antioch, the third city of the Roman Empire
  • Ermanaric, the King of the Gothic confederation, remembered in Norse legend as a cunning and cruel tyrant, who committed suicide after being defeated by Huns and Alans in 375.

A list like this only begins to scratch the surface of the personalities brought to life by Professor Harl, whose dedication to this historical place and period is so complete he can be accurately described as speaking of individual Romans—as well as barbarian kings—as if they were acquaintances.

But these lectures deliver far more than personal snapshots, as compelling as those may be.

The Institutions that Shaped Rome and Its New Provinces

Professor Harl also brings to life the institutions that shaped both Rome and her relationship with, and assimilation of, the barbarians at her constantly expanding frontiers.

You learn about the nuances of Roman politics, and how one advanced—or didn't—in the Roman hierarchy.

You study the rules of servitude in the Roman world, and the upward mobility possible even for many slaves.

You find out about the daily lives of Rome's fighting men—including the techniques that made them so feared—and how changes in military organization brought about by the pressures of maintaining an empire took an inevitable toll on the might of Rome's forces.

Engage in an Unusual Depth of Detail

Professor Harl spices his analysis with a depth of detail that makes this long-ago world live once again. You'll learn about:

  • The extraordinary design principle behind Roman encampments, which still survives in the street plans of cities in Western Europe and elsewhere
  • The ignominious end of notorious Ptolemy the "Thunderbolt," ruler of Macedon, his head made into a drinking cup after his failure to defeat the Gauls, who, like other Celts, often took heads as a way of counting the dead
  • The Roman focus on enforcing taxation, and how this strengthened Carthage and gave Hannibal the funds to reopen the struggle against Rome
  • How Caesar's Commentaries, long maligned as little more than a primer for those studying Latin, survives as a guide to generalship relied on by no less a tactician than William Tecumseh Sherman
  • Professor Harl's light-hearted tale of how the Goths, no matter how much fear they stirred, were utterly stumped by the problem of mounting a successful siege against a walled city
  • The importance to the Romans of logistics, and how the elaborate all-weather roads they constructed to support their strategic mobility still form the road systems of Western Europe
  • The catastrophic Varian disaster and how it forever changed Rome's perceptions of whether the barbarians at the northwestern borders could ever be truly controlled
  • The humiliating fate of the captured Emperor Valerian—whom records suggest spent the remainder of his days as a mounting stool for Shah Shapur.

Rome and the Barbarians gives you a new appreciation of how our Western world came to be and detailed knowledge about the individuals from royalty to "barbarian" who played key roles in that process.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Greek and Roman Views of Barbarians
    Professor Kenneth W. Harl introduces the course and its main themes, beginning with an explanation of exactly what the ancient Romans meant by the term "barbarian." x
  • 2
    The Roman Republic
    This lecture introduces the constitutional and political institutions of Rome during the "Middle Republic" years, when Rome emerges with her political, military, and constitutional institutions in place. x
  • 3
    Roman Society
    This lecture looks at the societal bonds in the early Roman Republic that cemented the various social classes, or ordinates, as well as the Italian allied communities, into a wider Roman Republic, or Res Publica. x
  • 4
    The Roman Way of War
    This central lecture introduces the third of the key institutions of the middle and late Roman Republic—the army—and discusses the extraordinarily successful and brutal Roman way of war. x
  • 5
    Celtic Europe and the Mediterranean World
    You meet the Celtic-speaking peoples of western and central Europe, in many ways the epitome of "barbarians" to both the Greeks and Romans. x
  • 6
    The Conquest of Cisalpine Gaul
    Professor Harl explains the role played by the Celts—known to the Romans as Gauls—in northern Italy and the profound influence they had on early Rome. x
  • 7
    Romans and Carthaginians in Spain
    This lecture deals with the initial Roman intervention in, and eventual conquest of, the Iberian Peninsula—or what the Romans called Hispania. x
  • 8
    The Roman Conquest of Spain
    Professor Harl takes a closer look at the period from 197 B.C. to 133 B.C., when the Romans were forced to come to terms with the commitments they took on by defeating the Carthaginians in Spain. x
  • 9
    The Genesis of Roman Spain
    This lecture discusses the development of Roman Spain, moving us into the area of social and economic changes brought on by the Roman conquest. x
  • 10
    Jugurtha and the Nomadic Threat
    This lecture discusses the relationship between Rome and the barbarians of Roman North Africa, especially the Numidians and their king, Jugurtha—with whom Rome blundered into an ugly frontier war. x
  • 11
    Marius and the Northern Barbarians
    Gaius Marius, the victor over Jugurtha, fights a series of battles against the dreaded Germanic-speaking northern barbarians that shape not only the direction of Roman foreign policy but, ultimately, Roman attitudes toward those barbarians. x
  • 12
    Rome's Rivals in the East
    Professor Harl shifts the focus away from the western Mediterranean to the peoples who lay to the east, at the frontier Rome inherited by taking over the hegemony of the Hellenistic world. x
  • 13
    The Price of Empire—The Roman Revolution
    This lecture examines the impact on Rome's institutions of her wars, conquests, and territorial acquisitions. x
  • 14
    Julius Caesar and the Conquest of Gaul
    The entire axis and dimension of the Roman world is transformed during this key period in the career of perhaps the most memorable of all Romans. x
  • 15
    Early Germanic Europe
    In this first of a series of lectures introducing new barbarians, Professor Harl discusses the Germanic tribes who came to epitomize the most ferocious barbarians the Romans had encountered. x
  • 16
    The Nomads of Eastern Europe
    This lecture introduces still more barbarians to the mix: the various Iranian-speaking nomads of eastern Europe. x
  • 17
    Arsacid Parthia
    This lecture examines how the Parthians came to become the dominant barbarian power in the Near East and the great rival of Imperial Rome for almost 300 years. x
  • 18
    The Augustan Principate and Imperialism
    The focus returns to Rome proper: what the Roman Empire was all about, how it evolved from the institutions of the Republic, and how changing political arrangements altered those institutions and, ultimately, Rome's relationship with the barbarians. x
  • 19
    The Roman Imperial Army
    As Rome moves from Republic to Empire, the Roman Imperial Army becomes a very different institution. x
  • 20
    The Varian Disaster
    In beginning a set of five lectures that discuss the different relationships between Rome and its various foes on the imperial frontiers, Professor Harl examines one of the most dramatic events in Roman imperial history. x
  • 21
    The Roman Conquest of Britain
    This lecture reveals some of the differences in how the Romans reacted to a Celtic-based civilization, as opposed to the German tribes in the imperial age. x
  • 22
    Civil War and Rebellion
    The record left by Tacitus reveals how the Roman Empire was ripped apart by civil wars and rebellions between A.D. 68 and 70, illuminating both the institutional weaknesses in the constitutional and military arrangements made by Augustus and Rome's relationships with its various provincial frontier peoples. x
  • 23
    Flavian Frontiers and the Dacians
    With this lecture and the next, Professor Harl concludes Rome's creation of its frontier, setting the stage for an examination of why Rome fell and the role played by the barbarians. x
  • 24
    Trajan, the Dacians, and the Parthians
    This lecture concludes imperial Rome's wars of conquest against her barbarian foes by concentrating on the career of the emperor Trajan, the first man of provincial origins to become emperor. x
  • 25
    Romanization of the Provinces
    In the first of three lectures dealing with the social and economic transformations of the frontier provinces, Professor Harl looks at the ability of the Romans to adapt existing institutions, bring in their own concepts of citizenship and political organization, and incorporate her foes into the Roman system. x
  • 26
    Commerce Beyond the Imperial Frontiers
    The economic and social changes brought on by imperial Rome had a profound impact not only on the traditional societies of the provinces, but on the barbarian peoples living beyond the Roman frontier. x
  • 27
    Frontier Settlement and Assimilation
    This lecture examines how the movement of barbarians along Rome's frontiers took place and the kind of exchanges—both social and material—that ensued. x
  • 28
    From Germanic Tribes to Confederations
    The "3rd-century crisis" is seen as the era when Rome would be profoundly altered by the unique changes going on in the frontier provinces and the distinct provincial societies emerging as a result of immigration, trade, and military service by the barbarians. x
  • 29
    Goths and the Crisis of the Third Century
    As Goths begin to attack the mid and lower Danube, they are seen by Roman authors as a particularly vicious and new threat at a time when Rome is already feeling mounting pressures from her own civil wars and the Sassanid Shahs of Persia. x
  • 30
    Eastern Rivals—Sassanid Persia
    This lecture examines why the Persians represented such a formidable threat and why the Romans massed so much of their forces in the East, thus exposing their Danube and Rhine frontiers to the Goths and West Germanic tribes. x
  • 31
    Rome and the Barbarians in the Fourth Century
    This lecture explains the changes that occurred in the Roman world as a result of the wars and invasions of the 3rd century A.D. and the ways in which the emperors Diocletian and Constantine were fundamental to those changes. x
  • 32
    From Foes to Federates
    In this lecture, Professor Harl deals with the relationships between the barbarian foes of Rome and the new imperial order created by the emperor Constantine in the early 4th century A.D. x
  • 33
    Imperial Crisis and Decline
    The Battle of Adrianople in A.D. 378, in which Goths defeated the Eastern Roman field army—slaying the emperor Valens—proves decisive in its aftermath as it alters the character of the late Roman Army. x
  • 34
    Attila and the Huns
    This lecture takes a close look at the Huns—along with their most famous king—and their role in the breakup of the Empire and the shaping of the political and cultural landscape that followed. x
  • 35
    Justinian and the Barbarians
    Two related subjects are covered: the aftermath of the Hun attacks, with the breakup of the Western Empire and collapse of the imperial government, and the reign of the emperor Justinian, the dominant figure of the 6th century A.D. x
  • 36
    Birth of the Barbarian Medieval West
    This lecture concludes the course by reminding us of how Rome, though its empire was broken up in the West and greatly contracted in the East, has indeed survived in many ways. x

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Your professor

Kenneth W. Harl

About Your Professor

Kenneth W. Harl, Ph.D.
Tulane University
Dr. Kenneth W. Harl is Professor of Classical and Byzantine History at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he teaches courses in Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader history. He earned his B.A. from Trinity College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University. Recognized as an outstanding lecturer, Professor Harl has received numerous teaching awards at Tulane, including the coveted Sheldon H. Hackney Award. He has...
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Rome and the Barbarians is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 88.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Second Step to Understanding the Roman World We often limit ourselves to geopolitical feuds and great personalities when it comes to understanding the distant world of antiquity. Everyone knows of Hannibal and Scipio Africanus, Julius and Pompeii, Octavian and Antony, Justinian, Constantine, the Conquests of Gaul, Dacia, and Britain. This course takes a step beyond that. You still get all the same great names and even greater conflicts, but they are put into perspective. You hear about these great people of history only in so far as they relate to the worlds they entered in their conquests. Rather than seeing the spread of the Roman World on barbarian peoples, you see the Roman World entering into a wider, far greater, community of nations. You see a synthesis of peoples into a larger culture, and through this you see a glimpse of the Late Antiquity Crisis and Transformation. Professor Harl and his course about Rome and the Barbarians has led me to purchase additional courses by the professor, he knows his material well and I have no complaints about lectures. A few minor details may make those who studied under different professors wonder briefly, but none of that subtracts from the work. I suppose you could call this course a bridge. When you learn about different eras and subject materials, you start to see patterns and how things connect into one another. The most obvious ways to see this would be to take a course in Western Civilization and then take a focused course within Western Civilization. I am recommending the History of Ancient Rome and the Late Antiquity Crisis and Transformation, which can serve for this example. Both are magnificent, building context for the future and providing a solid foundation of basic literacy in the fields the courses open up to you. This course, Rome and the Barbarians, has a timeline that runs side by side with both of them. Both courses are brought to a greater context and connected in some truly fantastic ways. Some elements are reinforced and perhaps reintroduced, but it never becomes a retread of old territory. Everything is presented in a new way and you are forced to ultimately come to the realization that one event and chronology can have many different meanings and impacts. And if you have no desire to purchase other courses, this course still challenges you to rethink old conceptions about the relationship Rome had with its neighbors. A few kind hearted jabs are given to history books in high school, if only because much of what they purport to be true about this time in history are simply not true or have very little to substantiate it. It is with all this in mind that I would like to introduce Rome and the Barbarians to you. Should you be interested in better understanding and piecing together the history of our world, the west, the ancient world, or even just this fascinating history of Roman Europe, then I know you will not be disappointed.
Date published: 2014-10-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Rome and the Barbarians Professor Harl is engaging and knows how to present his subject, the often complex relationship between Rome and the 'barbarians,' many of whom belonged to sophisticated societies. He covers all of the major cultures that interacted with Rome and provides a good social and historical perspective. Of particular interest was the time spent on areas that are often overlooked such as ancient Spain and Portugal, the Balkins (Trace and northern Greece) as well as the steppe cultures (modern Russia and areas near modern Turkey and Armenia/Georgia). He also explained the role of Roman colonies/military bases. Although he did not spend a great deal of time with Parthia (essentially Iran), there was enough to explain why the two empires had a complex, sometimes violent relationship. Excellent introduction that shifts perspective away from just Rome. The accompanying handbook provides additional reading material and includes many readily available books. Well worth the cost.
Date published: 2014-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Roman History Course Prior to viewing this course, I thought I knew a lot about Roman history. I was wrong. Kenneth Harl provides a unique perspective showing how the Roman Empire evolved over time to cope with the various Barbarians on its frontiers. It also countered my previous view (taught at school) that wild barbarians invaded and destroyed the Roman Empire. I found Professor Harls presentation style excellent and it was easy to finish the 36 lectures. For anyone interested in Roman history this course is a must.
Date published: 2014-10-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Roman Will To Power, Glory, & Decline Approaching Roman history is a daunting undertaking. Its breadth approximates the 1000 years between its foundation as a REPUBLIC (509 B.C.) and the decline and sack of its EMPIRE (410 A.D.). Witness the profound consequences of Rome’s political, military, and social relations on its class structure, barbarian frontiers, & provincial societies on the one hand, and the depth of its organization, logistics, law, oratory, noble and unhinged social characters on the other. At first, the title of these lectures drew up many images in my mind concerning the NOBLE-character (i.e. emperor, commander, senator, orator, etc.) and the SAVAGE-character (i.e. warrior, pagan, destroyer, cannibal, etc.). Professor Harl immediately corrects for these all too human distortions in his opening lecture concerning the conceptualization of the barbarian from the Greeks, Romans, Christians, Enlightenment, down to the Age of Discovery writers. He widens the conceptual view with anthropological and archaeological data concerning inter-marriages, trade, material cultures, etc., on both participants. Lectures 2 - 4 concern the uniqueness of Roman institutions: its politics (Republic), its society (patron-client relations), and its citizen-legions (wars of conquest & engineering). These “4” lectures combine to form a SCIENTIFIC HISTORICAL METHODOLOGY that offers a dynamic and critical analysis to navigate the birth, growth, maturity, and decay of the Roman Empire and the ensuing European states of the middle-ages. The Roman genius lay not only in its ability to conduct war and conquer, but to assimilate and integrate the conquered barbarians into provincial societies (a 2-way process that adds wealth, slaves, military, & material aspects to the expanding empire), gather allies especially early in its Republican phase, and offer the potential for citizenship to provincials in an unplanned open-ended process of ROMANIZATION (eventually becoming WESTERN CIVILIZATION from these territorial barbarian kingdoms). But maintaining and expanding an empire comes with internal & external costs (Classical Greece). Below is a “sampling of historical periods and social characters” that document the greatness and limitation of the Roman Empire -- its will to power, glory, and decline. 5th – 1st century B.C. (Republic) >CULTURES: the Celtics in northern Italy, Gaul, and central Europe; the Celtiberians in Spain; the Carthaginians and desert nomads in North Africa; the Germanic-speaking peoples in Transalpine Gaul; Populares & Optimates in Rome. >SOCIAL CHARACTERS: Hannibal, Scipio Africanus, Tiberius Gracchus, Jugurtha, Gaius Marius, Sulla, Julius Caesar, Mithridates, Vercingetorix, Pompey the Great. >HISTORICAL CONSEQUENCES: eroded the republican constitution (SPQR), Italian society (social & civil wars), and the citizen legions (decline). Now, popular commanders / emperors gained effective power over the Senate and dictated Roman politics but under the ideology and guise of the republic; birth of the Roman Empire. 1st – 2nd century A.D. (Principate) > CULTURES: Germanic peoples of the forests and central Europe; the Iranian speaking steppe nomads of Eastern Europe, Sarmatians, Roxalani, Alans, Scythian nomadic horsemen; the Parthians & Arsacid kings of central Asian steppes; Dacians of central Europe; Catuvellauni of Britain and Druids of Wales. >SOCIAL CHARACTERS: Mark Anthony, Augustus, Macroboduus, Arminius, Claudius, Nero, Hadrian, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, Decebalus, Trajan, Oroses, Marcus Aurelius. >HISTORICAL CONSEQUENCES: growth in standing professional frontier armies (Rhine, Danube, & Euphrates); rationalization of the provinces with Roman engineering on the existing barbarian infrastructures; growth of auxiliary units increasingly manned by barbarians assimilated as Roman soldiers which would come back to haunt the Empire as they grew in strength, cultural identity, & confederations; increasing use of Roman concessions; rise in civil wars & rebellions; war against the Jews & capture of Jerusalem. 3rd – 6th century A.D. (Dominate) > CULTURES: Germanic tribal coalitions, Saxons, Goths, Vandals, Lombards, Franks; Iranian nomads & Sassanid shahs of Persia; Huns. >SOCIAL CHARACTERS: Shapur, Ardashir, Diocletian, Valerian, Constantine, Theodosius, Alaric, Stilicho, Honorius, Attila, Justinian. >HISTORICAL CONSEQUENCES: increasing expense of wars of re-conquests; rise in barbarian organization & discipline from Roman assimilation; assassinations & succession of emperors; cultural exchanges between imperial Rome, frontier societies, and beyond; increasing loss of strategic provincial zones; political fragmentation of Empire, decline of senatorial powers; rise of Christianity; growth in civil & frontier wars; pandemics & demographic collapse; migrations transforming the Classical into the Medieval world. To end, let me quote Professor Harl, “To some extent, it can be argued that the 900-year history of Roman ascendancy was an interlude in local barbarian societies.” Now that’s food for thought – just look around -- no? Much thanks to the professor and the Teaching Company for delivering an excellent presentation on Rome. *** Highly Recommended *** the best survey and approach on Rome I have come across!
Date published: 2014-08-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another great course by Professor Harl This is the sixth course I have heard in the TGC given by Professor Harl. As I have come to expect, here too he gives a very interesting and profound presentation of this important topic. The course covers the relationship between the Roman Empire and the Barbarian tribes at its borders. It turns out that “Barbarians” in this respect means all of the non-Roman tribes that happened to be right outside the borders of the Roman Empire. The normal state of affairs in the early Empire (at least up to the time of Trajan) was that these territories would be conquered by the Roman Empire, and the “Barbarians” taken as slaves or as lower ranking inhabitants of the Roman Empire. After a few generations, however, a lot of the offspring of these “Barbarians” became assimilated in Roman society, achieved full citizenship and often took important positions – especially in the army. Those outside the borders would become the new Barbarians… Professor Harl first tells the story of the “Barbarians” of Western Europe such as the Celts and the Carthaginians. The interaction with the Carthaginians is perhaps the most ancient and well known – the Punic wars most famous for Hannibal’s brilliant tactics. At the end, Rome destroyed Carthage altogether and made the Carthaginians slaves. North Africa was later to become one of its greatest source of wheat and grain that fed large parts of the Empire. Julius Caesar greatly expanded the Roman Empire westward and established many new provinces in modern France and England. Rome’s attitude towards the “Barbarians“ in that period was to make their territories provinces and gain tribute, but soon a lot of them began to be assimilated into Roman society, while others fought for their liberty. A central point that Professor Harl makes, is that the tribes were not really united as tribes in any political sense, and the group loyalties were much more on a clan basis. Rome used this in the following fashion: the tribes communicated with Rome, but not with each other directly. So Rome was in fact a sort of “pivot” around which everything revolved. The interaction of Rome with the Eastern “Barbarians” is also discussed at length, and these include primarily the Persians. The Persians posed a different sort of challenge to the Romans than the Western Barbarians, because these Barbarians had a very stable and sophisticated political structure and identity. Whereas with the western Barbarians the state of affairs during wars was more like Guerrilla warfare, wars with the Parthians, and later with the Sassanids, were much more like conventional warfare. There was much less assimilation and “Romanization” in the East compared to Western Europe. As the western empire grew weaker, barbarian tribes – Germanic, Gothic and Hunic became a much more dominant force on Rome’s borders. In fact many of the later Emperors devoted much of their time and effort to fighting the barbarians on their borders, and a few found their death doing just that. Professor Harl points out that although the political narrative of the wars between the barbarians and Rome are dramatic and catch our imagination, it was probably the more prosaic and banal interactions that were to make a big impact. Many western European barbarian tribes assimilated into Roman society through trade relations. It was in many cases the barbarian tribes that provided the food for the Roman Garrison troops stationed at the borders of the empire. These interactions caused the societies to become more and more similar. Many of the barbarians eventually came to participate in the roman army and some took up central positions. In fact, it turns out that many barbarians kept changing sides between fighting for the Romans and against them. Many of the Western barbarians took up Christianity as their religion, and adopted many aspects of the Roman political structure in the kingdoms that they created during the late Roman Empire, and after its fall in 475 CE. In fact the Barbarian kingdoms that were founded when the Western Empire was diminishing took on so many aspects of Roman culture, that nobody really "felt " the moment when the Western Empire ceased to be. This is a fascinating course dealing with a very central aspect of the Roman Empire. Very good course and highly recommended.
Date published: 2014-07-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Drinking from a hose This course covers a lot of ground! I used it as background noise while exercising. I was looking to "speed read" the course for a superficial overview/sample. I think I learned a lot.
Date published: 2014-03-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Detailed, ARR, compelling, ARR-ARR, comprehensive DVD REVIEW (I advise the DVD version owing to the importance of the maps showing Rome's changing borders and military actions): I will recommend this in-depth course, especially on-sale, BUT I have to say that the professor's relentless use of "ARR", "ARR-ARR", "ER", "ERM" and similar was intensely disturbing and off-putting to me. I assume he does this because he delivers his talks at an unusually fast pace and detests pauses, therefore fills them with these noises to avoid any silence at all. That is a major mistake for a lecturer to make imho: an extremely irritating trait. On the plus side, Dr Harl displays enormous knowledge of his subject, clearly he has it all at his fingertips as he appears most of the time to be talking without notes; he builds his lectures logically and progressively to maximise understanding. If your player can slow down speed, might be an idea to listen to him at 90%. This is a truly serious academic course and I think it needs playing twice to derive maximum benefit, or at least a heavy study of the guidebook is called for to accompany and reinforce the lectures which include excellent studies of Rome's armies ~~ and the course reveals, interestingly, that the "Barbarians" were not the wild-eyed crazy people traditionally portrayed! There is a Great Courses series on the history of Rome which some may find a very useful "intro" to this course by Dr Harl.
Date published: 2013-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent!! I have the DVD version of this course and recommend it. Maps are utilized to make for easy visualization of the locations of various peoples, towns, troop movements etc. I feel this would be more difficult with an audio format. This course covers the Roman Empire and its relationship, usually not friendly, with the barbarians with which they came in contact. In doing so, it provides an in-depth history of the Roman Empire to include its formation, military, conquests, political turmoil, social life and rulers. The history and social structure of the many barbarians is also examined. Although the emphasis is on the barbarians in what is now modern Europe, the North Africans, Attila and the Huns, and the Persians are covered as well. Because most of the barbarians were illiterate, much of the source material on them is Roman, but Professor Harl also utilizes additional information such as archaeology to provide more balance. Timewise, the course mainly covers the Roman expansionist period from 264 B.C., when Rome embarked on its first overseas war, to 561 A.D. with the death of the Emperor Justinian. However, some attention is also given to earlier periods in covering the formation of the various barbarian tribes and the Roman Empire… and to the 7th century with the formation of barbaric medieval Europe. This material is provided through lectures largely devoted to particular barbarian groups or Roman rulers. The lectures tend to follow that history in a chronological order…basically following the order of Rome’s invasions. However, in discussing the history of individual barbarian groups some departure from that order is taken. The information provided is very extensive and comprehensive…nearly 1000 years of history. You’ll gain an excellent history of those barbarian peoples and of the Roman Empire itself. This is my third course by Professor Harl and, once again, I’m impressed with his command of his material. He delivers much of it away from the lectern and his recall of facts, names, and dates is astounding. He has an energetic presentation style and expresses genuine enthusiasm for his material. He speaks relatively rapidly, but clearly, to provide an informationally dense lecture. Indeed he seems to have an aversion for pauses and uses a good many “aaahs” to fill them. Based on a few reviews, some may find that to be annoying. I simply accept it as part of his presentation style and don’t find it to be an issue. The course guidebook is so detailed that it is a virtual transcript…it contains 286 pages. This is an excellent history of those early peoples who were to become modern Europeans. Most receive only limited coverage, at best, in history courses. Although there’s no shortage of courses on the Roman Empire itself, this course nevertheless covers it very well. I highly recommend it for both of those histories…It’s a solid 5 star course.
Date published: 2013-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just Plain Great! In this series of lectures, Professor Kenneth Harl describes in illuminating fashion the relations between Ancient Rome and its neighbours and points out the numerous misconceptions that are frequent on that topic. Contrary many to traditional scholars, he relies not only on documents but also on inscriptions and archeology and above all on common sense. Thus, he truly sheds light on how that period of Antiquity actually worked. As usual, Professor Harl proves enthusiastic, knowledgeable and passionate. Who could ask for anything more?
Date published: 2013-05-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent and superbly detailed (Audio version) It does not take long, perhaps 10 minutes into the first lecture, to realize that this is a special history course. Yes, there are discussions of Caesar conquering Gaul, the limits of Trajan's expansionary campaigns into Dacia, and the sack of Rome preceding imperial collapse. However, whenever Prof. Harl lectures, there is a whole lot more. In these lectures, Prof. Harl deconstructs the idea that Rome's invasions by barbarian tribes were isolated incidents. Rather, they were only the high and low points within 1000 years of complex interactions between Rome and the nations on its frontiers. Along the way, Dr. Harl discusses the effects of the many Roman civil wars on the frontiers, how goods and culture were exchanged, and how provincial rulers rose to power. He explores that the very term "barbarian" is a catch-all misnomer, and implies everything from the cliched unkempt warriors to advanced foreign societies from Africa and the Near East. As always, Dr. Harl seems to know everything about everything, and his ability to teach history with rich detail is unmatched. If there was a downside to this course, it's that he tends to pause and use "uh/um"s far more than I've heard from him in other courses. It doesn't detract from the content of the course, but can cause the listener to drift once in a while. That aside, a very big thumbs up!
Date published: 2012-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent history of Rome from an unusual direction. The focus is on Rome's borders, but it argues nicely that Roman history can really only be understood if you understand its interactions with the various barbarians on those borders. It's best to do a more general history of Rome first, to get the basics, but this provides extra depth to understand the context.
Date published: 2012-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Barbarians everywhere are cheering! I listened to this course on CD. I took 2 semesters of Roman courses in college and I loved this course. Not only is it a great refresher course of Roman history but Professor Harl does an excellent job explaining who the barbarians were and how they were affected by Rome and its institutions and vice versa. There were many things I had not considered which he brought to light. Some might find Professor Harls voice 'unique' but I find him to be entertaining and informative with a sprinkle of dry humor. I would recommend this course to any person interested in learning more about Rome and/or those that affected it internal and externally.
Date published: 2012-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A cornucopia of barbarians This is another terrific course by Prof. Harl, one of my TC favorites. It covers almost 1,000 years of Roman history, but focused mainly on the period from about 200 BC to 650 AD. It's deep and detailed given the sheer number of "barbarians" that Rome faced from the late Republic through the Empire, but always interesting. Aside from the thoughtful and captivating discussion of various barbarian tribes and kingdoms, the course is full of other insights that I found quite valuable. These include: - great discussions of the Roman army and its organization and tactics, and how this changed over the centuries; - the role of the patron - client model from the Republic through the absorption of Gothic kingdoms on former Roman territory; - the surprisingly long time that it took Rome to occupy all of what is now Italy, and for all of what is now Italy to become Roman. I have only one more of Harl's courses (his in-depth treatment of Alexander the Great) to listen to. If you read these review, Professor, please get started on another.
Date published: 2011-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Home Alone near the Danube DVD review. We all know that Rome was a great empire that left impressive architectural remains. We also know that the empire (the Western half actually) was eventually overwhelmed by a flood of invaders referred to as “barbarians”. Our image of this calamity was shaped by Hollywood epics that gave the whole process a silver lining: Rome was a cruel, oppressive slave state out of which Christianity and ultimately a new Europe was born. This vision is primarily moral and religious. At the same time, Romans are often perceived as the “Americans” of the ancient world: practical builders who created a world order out of tiny subjugated peoples blinded by ethnic distrust. And so we feel a certain fascination for Rome’s fall because we are less sure of our collective future than our parents were. Dr. Hart’s “Rome and the Barbarians” is a detailed yet entertaining overview of Rome’s relationship with its neighbours from the days when it was a tiny city state among others (300 BC) to the disintegration of its Western half over 700 years later. DVDs ARE REQUIRED for this course, I believe, as maps are often presented to make sense of Rome’s shifting borders and her many military campaigns. With such a long timeline and a general focus on institutional trends — military, social, political and bureaucratic — this course could easily have been pretty dry. But Dr. Hart enlivens things with many anecdotes and asides. Still, TTC customers primarily interested in old-style history — dramatic retellings of great men and women making fateful choices — are likely to be disappointed. Hart’s focus is multi-generational trends. Specific battles are primarily used to illustrate strengths or progressive decay. I cannot yet compare it to Dr Noble’s “Late Antiquity” lectures since I have yet to see it. Hart’s course does fit in well, however, with Dr. Daileader’s lectures on the early Middle Ages. All in all, I strongly recommend it for anyone interested in a BIG PICTURE overview of Roman history that is nevertheless highly detailed on each border region.
Date published: 2011-06-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from BASELINE COURSE This review refers to the CD's. If one wishes to dip into TGC excellent series involving the history of Europe beginning with Dr Noble's Late Antiquity: Crisis and Transformation and continuing through other lecture series ending with the late middle ages, there is no better way to start than to listen to or view Dr Harl's wondorous series of lectures. He begins by pointing out that to the Romans barbarians were not the wild looking, club swinging, ignorant monsters focused solely on destruction we like to envision, although there were those among them. Rather, the Romans viewed all foreign people-that is non Roman citizens-as barbarians. In the course of these lectures, he treats with each barbarian group and how the Romans dealt with it. There were agreements, treaties, understandings, and military action depending on the circumstances both of the Romans and the barbarians. It's interesting to learn how Rome coped with them during its recurrent periods of weakness over this long period of history. The section on Rome's long struggles with the insurgency in Spain is an example to me of the old axiom that the biggest lesson of history is we constantly repeat it. Many of Rome's challenges and solutions appear hauntingly familiar to our contemporary efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dr Harl is one of my favorites in TGC stable. He makes this series lively and his asides, as always, brings some humor to the story he tells. I found this series informative and helpful to approaching the whole group of TGC series leading us through the middle ages. Although naturally there is some repetition among the lecturers covering the details, it's a minor point. I recommend this series as a stand alone or as preparation to undertaking the entire group mentioned above.
Date published: 2011-05-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Synoptic Overview An excellent synoptic overview of Rome and the Barbarians. The course covered salient points and served as a good primer if you ever want to delve deeper into the subject matter. As for Kenneth Harl, he was entertaining and engaging, possessing a great amount of knowledge in the subject matter. He has a passion for teaching as reflected through his enthusiastic approach to a topic that would be normally tedious into one that is quite lively . I would recommend this course and more so the professor.
Date published: 2011-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Course This course got me hooked on Professor Harl. This subject could have been boring, but he made it one of the most fascinating courses that I have taken from the Teaching Company.
Date published: 2011-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Rome and the Barbarians I have now bought 8 different courses from the teaching company, and have decided for the time being to exclusively buy those presented by Dr. Harl. He makes history alive. He makes every minute of his lecture count. He gives interesting anecdotes so it is not so dry. After this most recent lecture series, I am dying to go to the Danube frontiers! My spouse and I use dvd's as an exercise tool-we hope the lectures make it interesting for us to exercise. Harl does this. Some of the other lectures we've found to be kind of boring; some seem to have difficulty using up their alloted 30 minutes and drag things out. Not Harl. He makes every minute count, and every minute is interesting. Maybe we'll get tired of his style and opt for others, but I don't think so.
Date published: 2011-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Winner from Kenneth Harl Professor Harl is recognized as among the most dynamic and popular lecturers tapped by the Teaching Company and deservedly so. He possesses an impressively broad and detailed knowledge of the ancient world, as is amply demonstrated in the several TC courses he has presented. Speaking extemporaneously from occasional notes, from time to time he adlibs odd and amusing anecdotes gleaned from the writings of ancient Roman historians. This helps make the course entertaining as well as informative. “Rome and the Barbarians” places in historical context the multitude of ethnic tribes and civilizations colonized by Rome over its span of empire, from the last two centuries of the Republic to the demise of the empire in the west in the 5th century A.D. Despite numerous colonial rebellions for various reasons, the fact that so many tribes and ethnic groups willingly assimilated and became thoroughly “Romanized” is a testament to the great attraction of Roman civilization and the many advantages offered by the status and protection of Roman citizenship. I hadn’t realized the extent to which these client groups in turn provided large numbers of soldiers for the Roman regions, which eventually proved to be a two-edged sword since many Roman-trained Barbarian forces later turned against the empire, especially in the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. and beyond. In the late 3rd century, the extreme cost of conducting two wars simultaneously against German tribes in the west and Sassanid Persians in the east led to a serious debasement of the Roman currency, perhaps a lesson for us today. Because of its outward focus, this course is less a straight history of Rome itself than a survey and explanation of its colonial conquests and its trade and cultural relations with the foreign populations known collectively (and in the modern context, somewhat misleadingly) as “Barbarians”. Thus not all aspects of Roman history are covered, but for Roman history buffs, this course is an excellent complement to Professor Garrett Fagan’s TC series on the “History of Ancient Rome” and “Emperors of Rome”. As a proponent of liberal use of graphics, screen texts, drawings and photographs to enhance TC lectures in the DVD version, I believe this medium could have been employed to an even greater extent in this course. Nevertheless, its very effective use of maps and imperial images on coins contributes greatly to viewers’ understanding of events described by the lecturer. These visuals are well-selected and suitably placed, making me wish for more.
Date published: 2011-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exellent course Another exellent presentation by Dr. Harl. He gives a great review of Rome's relations with its "barbarian" counterparts, covering a widespan of ancient history.
Date published: 2010-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Conan, the Roman Dr. Harl fleshs out the military history of The Roman Empire: Rome defeats the barbarians for a while, then the barbarians defeat Rome for good. Along the way Professor H gives life to the conquerers and the conquered along with their startling victories and cataclysmic losses. Dr H's lectures provide a panoramic view of the barbarians becoming the Roman Empire and that empire becoming the future Europe. This course follows nicely from TC's courses on the Roman Empire, complements the course on Late Antiquity, and segues into the courses on the Medieval Period, especially, The Early Middle Ages. These lectures as well as all Dr. Harl's courses instruct interestlingly and teach thoroughly. He is a great storyteller and Rome and the Barbarians is a great story. In this course you will learn how Conan took the first steps that ultimately landed him in the European Union.
Date published: 2010-03-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Tour de Force! For those of you who, like me, are fascinated with the history of the Roman Empire, this course is not to be missed. Professor Harl helps you view the Roman Empire from two perspectives: standing on the outside looking at the Romans, and standing on the inside looking out at the 'barbarians'. This course spans the entire history of Rome, from the founding of the Republic through the slow dissolution of the western empire and to the reign of one of the great eastern emperors, Justinian. It concentrates on the political, military, economic and social forces that affected Rome over a period of a 1000 years. Professor Harl's presentations are fun and demanding at the same time: he conveys a huge amount of information almost non-stop for each 30 minute session. His complete mastery of and enthusiam for the subject matter is evident at every turn. In addition, the DVD version is accompanied by numerous maps that make understanding of the change in military movements and political boundaries easily understandable. I purchased this course to follow up on Professor Fagan's excellent series on the "History of Rome," and when combined with Professor Tuck's "Experiencing Rome," constitute a complete overview of Roman history and culture. This is likely a course that I will turn to again and again.
Date published: 2009-10-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nicely done! To echo the reviews of others, well done! Engaging and informative.
Date published: 2009-10-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent, incisive, enthusiastic If Hart is capable of a teaching a bad course, he's shown no evidence of it yet. This is brilliant stuff, engaged, scholarly, and well-reasoned. Although its scope is ostensibly limited to Rome and the barbarians, it tells you more about Rome itself than any survey outline is ever going to do.
Date published: 2009-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Harl delivers (again) Professor Harl, as he does with all his courses for TTC, has a way of intellectually excavating historical material not found elsewhere and using that material to establish continuums that permeate his lectures. I bought this course on a whim and was pleasantly suprised at the depth and breadth of the historical landscape portrayed. There is no doubt that Professor Harl was born to teach at a high level as he never disappoints.
Date published: 2009-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well Done Professor Harl is delightful and this course is one of the most informative that I've experienced. I highly recommend it. It seems that this period might have a little to teach us about our world today.
Date published: 2009-05-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Combine this w/Byzantine and Roman history courses As a Kenneth Harl fan, I took this course notwithstanding concern that it would overlap with Fagan's Roman history or Fear's famous Romans course. In fact it was an excellent course that did not duplicate with either. I think that those who enjoy Harl's Barbarian course shd then take his Byzantine course next... I loved this course
Date published: 2009-04-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous as always Kenneth Harl was the first professor used by the Teaching Company that I became a fan of. His history and reasoning is wonderful, while his humor makes me laugh out loud. In short, his explanations for why history and cultures developed the way they did make sense so that you can remember and enjoy it further. The Teaching Company will always have a place in my wallet for a new course taught by this professor.
Date published: 2009-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Profound and Entertaining I first listened to the audio version of this excellent course and loved it. The various geographic references in the course led me to buy the video version of it. What a great experience! You should buy this course on video. That way the scope of the interaction between the Romans and their neighbors becomes much clearer. Professor Harl's presentation - as usual - is thorough, witty, and full of insights.
Date published: 2008-12-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fascinating subject, quirky professor The course Rome and the Barbarians turns out to be as interesting as one would imagine the subject to be. A great angle on Roman/Western history, contrasting the cultures and aspirations of the so-called barbarian peoples with the dominant, and often arrogant, culture of Rome. This course will dispel many commonly-held misconceptions about the nature of the barbarians and the fall of Rome. I suggest professor Fagan's History of Rome as a prerequisite, to give you a full understanding of Roman political history before tackling this course. Professor Harl knows his subject, but does not always give enough explanation about the situation in Rome, and might leave some students feeling "in over their heads". He also tends to meander through the subject, losing focus. He devotes an entire lecture on the minute details of the Julio-Claudian family tree, which seems out of place. I strongly recommend the course content, but am somewhat ambivalent toward the professor.
Date published: 2008-12-26
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