History of the Later Roman Empire from the Death of Theodosius I. to the Death of Justinian - Vol. 1

History of the Later Roman Empire from the Death of Theodosius I. to the Death of Justinian - Vol. 1

History of the Later Roman Empire from the Death of Theodosius I. to the Death of Justinian - Vol. 1

History of the Later Roman Empire from the Death of Theodosius I. to the Death of Justinian - Vol. 1

Excerpt

The first of these two volumes might be entitled the "German Conquest of Western Europe," and the second the "Age of Justinian." The first covers more than one hundred and twenty years, the second somewhat less than fifty. This disparity is a striking illustration of the fact that perspective and proportion are unavoidably lost in an attempt to tell the story of any considerable period of ancient or early medieval history as fully as our sources allow. Perspective can be preserved only in an outline. The fifth century was one of the most critical periods in the history of Europe. It was crammed with events of great moment, and the changes which it witnessed transformed Europe more radically than any set of political events that have happened since. At that time hundreds of people were writing abundantly on all kinds of subjects, and many of their writings have survived; but among these there is no history of contemporary events, and the story has had to be pieced together from fragments, jejune chronicles, incidental references in poets, rhetoricians, and theologians. Inscribed stones which supply so much information for the first four centuries of the Roman Empire are rare. Nowhere, since the time of Alexander the Great, do we feel so strongly that the meagreness of the sources flouts the magnitude of the events.

Battles, for instance, were being fought continually, but no full account of a single battle is extant. We know much more of the Syrian campaigns of Thothmes III. in the fifteenth century B.C. than we know of the campaigns of Stilicho or Aetius or . . .

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