The Alamanni and Rome 213-496 (Caracalla to Clovis)

The Alamanni and Rome 213-496 (Caracalla to Clovis)

The Alamanni and Rome 213-496 (Caracalla to Clovis)

The Alamanni and Rome 213-496 (Caracalla to Clovis)


The Alamanni and Rome focuses upon the end of the Roman Empire. From the third century AD, barbarians attacked and then overran the west. Some--Goths, Franks, Saxons--are well known, others less so. The latter include the Alamanni, despite the fact that their name is found in the French ("Allemagne") and Spanish ("Alemania") for "Germany." This pioneering study, the first in English, uses new historical and archaeological findings to reconstruct the origins of the Alamanni, their settlements, their politics, and their society, and to establish the nature of their relationship with Rome. John Drinkwater discovers the cause of their modern elusiveness in their high level of dependence on the Empire. Far from being dangerous invaders, they were often the prey of emperors intent on acquiring military reputations. When much of the western Empire fell to the Franks, so did the Alamanni, without ever having produced their own "successor kingdom."


This is a book that I never planned to write. It sprang unexpectedly from work on Later Roman Gaul. While attempting to analyse the interaction between the Empire and Germanic newcomers, I realized that I knew little about the identity, organization and activities of the Alamanni, and turned aside to see what I could find out about them. An exercise that I envisaged would take only a few days stretched into years as I encountered the mass of recent work on Alamanni in particular and Germani in general.

I was willing to devote time to this because it was a job that needed doing, and because it allowed me to develop thinking on the relationship between Rome and the Rhine-Germani that I had only sketched out elsewhere. This is to be found in papers for Sam Lieu's colloquium in honour of John Matthews and Ian Wood's conference on Gregory of Tours, held in Oxford in 1992 and 1994 respectively. The ideas developed here, on the reliability of Ammianus Marcellinus and on Roman dealings with Franks and Alamanni, formed the basis of further papers, at Ralph Mathisen and Hagith Sivan's 'Shifting Frontiers' conference in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1995, and at Jan Willem Drijver and David Hunt's 'Ammianus' conference at Durham in 1997. I am greatly obliged to the organizers of these events for inviting me to speak, and to Martin Heinzelmann for publishing what amounted to an extension of my Lawrence paper in Francia in 1997.

I was able to collect my first thoughts on the Alamanni and Rome in a paper for the Nottingham Classics Research Workshop, published in the Festschrift to Carl Deroux in 2003. Again, I must thank organizer and editor, Caroline Vout and Pol Defosse respectively, for giving me this opportunity.

In looking back over the writing of this book, I am struck by how much it may have been affected by current events. It is a truism that history is a product of its age: no historian can ever produce the 'right' answer about events in the distant past. All that he can do is interpret these as conscientiously as possible, while acknowledging . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.