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The Rhetorical Use of 'the Barbarian' in Late Antiquity: From the Battle of Adrianople to the Sack of Rome (378-410 CE)

MICHEL, CEDRIK,CLAUDE (2024) The Rhetorical Use of 'the Barbarian' in Late Antiquity: From the Battle of Adrianople to the Sack of Rome (378-410 CE). Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 04 April 2027.


This thesis aims to contribute to the understanding of the culture of Late Antiquity through the first systematic study of the pedigree of late antique rhetoric about the barbarian and of the intersection between this rhetoric and historical events. These research questions unite two topics often studied independently: rhetoric and historicity, which I argue must be researched together to uncover layers of meanings that this rhetoric about the barbarian conveyed.
This thesis argues that Late Antiquity cannot be fully understood without a profound awareness of the pedigree of rhetoric about the barbarian. This discourse permeated through different strands of sources, media and languages and was part of the late antique habitus. Through its prevalence in various strands of sources, this discourse influenced how all Romans, regardless of their socio-economic status, understood the world around them. Indeed, I argue that late antique sources inherited the rhetorical traditions about barbarians of earlier Greco-Roman sources, but carefully moulded them to respond and give meaning to contemporary events.
This thesis showcases this through the analysis of the following events, which are discussed chronologically: 1) the Gothic War of 376 -82, with a focus on its trajectory after the Battle of Adrianople; 2) the usurpations of Magnus Maximus (383-8) and Eugenius (392-4) during Theodosius’ reign; 3) the Gothic occupation of Constantinople by Gainas in 399-400; 4) Alaric’s first invasion of Italy (401-3); 5) the sack of Rome by Alaric in 410.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:late antiquity, barbarians; rhetoric
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Classics and Ancient History, Department of
Thesis Date:2024
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Apr 2024 14:56

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