The Construction of Communities in the Early Middle Ages: Texts, Resources and Artefacts

By Richard Corradini; Max Diesenberger et al. | Go to book overview

THE REFUGEES AND EVACUEES IN THE
AGE OF MIGRATIONS

Wolf Liebeschuetz

The movement of conquered peoples has a long history in the ancient world. From the Antonine period at the latest, it had been common practice of the imperial government to settle large numbers of barbarian prisoners of war in regions within the borders of the Empire, and to use them as peasants and or soldiers.1 The peoples concerned were normally 'northern barbarians' from across the Rhine or the Balkan frontier, who had invaded the Empire or had been captured by an imperial army operating beyond the frontier. In the 4th and fifth centuries, a significant part of the period investigated by the ESF project, the settling of barbarians within the provinces of the Empire, sometimes against the wish of the imperial authorities, sometimes by invitation, more often by an agreement reached after military conflict, is the central theme of imperial history, and a principal cause of the 'transformation of the Roman world'. One reason why the imperial government agreed to settle large numbers of barbarians within the Empire was the fact that its mobile armies now included a high proportion of barbarians.2 There was another great wave of imperially administered transfers of populations in the middle Byzantine period. The settlement of prisoners of war and other prisoners taken by Byzantine armies while campaigning in Armenia or the Balkans was the regular practice of the Byzantine government in the seventh and eighth centuries. This policy made it possible to replenish the population of Anatolia and Thrace when it had been reduced by regular Arabs or Slav raids, year after year, for many decades.3

1 G.E.M. de Ste Croix, The Class War in the Ancient World (Oxford 1981) pp. 511–518.

2 I still believe this to be true, in spite of the evidence assembled by H. Elton,
Warfare in Roman Europe A.D. 340–425 (Oxford 1996) pp. 129–154. 1. Barbarians
are under-represented on military inscriptions—which Elton has been the first to
bring into this argument—because the inscribed tombstone was a very Roman insti-
tution. 2. In campaigns involving movement and leading to battles a predominant
part seems to have been played by barbarian federates.

3 See below 75–77.

-65-

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