Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-wzw2p Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-21T05:47:43.743Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false


Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 June 2019

Scott Kennedy*
Bilkent University


The Ostrogothic king Theoderic I (a.d. 475–526) drew on his experience of ruling post-imperial Italy when he famously remarked that ‘The poor Roman imitates the Goth and the rich Goth imitates the Roman’. Written well after the fall of the western Roman empire, these words have prefaced many discussions of the process of Roman and barbarian assimilation and mutual acculturation. This topic has long captured the imagination of scholars, who have approached the topic from many different angles, such as archaeology, religion, prosopography and literature.

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 2019 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


In the course of writing this paper, I have incurred a debt of gratitude to a number of scholars. First, my thanks are due to Anthony Kaldellis and the other students of his seminar on Constantinople in Fall 2015, from which this paper ultimately derives. I greatly appreciated Kaldellis's patience and editorial forbearance as a paper originally on western Roman views of Constantinople morphed into its present form. I am also grateful to the students of Ohio State's coffee hour, who graciously allowed me to present a condensed version of this paper. Finally, my thanks are due to Bruce Gibson and the anonymous reviewers of CQ, whose comments and corrections greatly improved this paper. However, all errors are my own.


2 Anonymus Valesianus 12.61: Romanus miser imitatur Gothum et utilis Gothus imitatur Romanum. The text is edited by König, I., Aus der Zeit Theoderichs des Großen. Einleitung, Text, Übersetzung und Kommentar einer anonymen Quelle (Darmstadt, 1997)Google Scholar. All translations are my own.

3 The bibliography on this topic is expansive. This is only a selection of some important contributions and collections on the issue: Hen, Y., Roman Barbarians: The Royal Court and Culture in the Early Medieval West (New York, 2007), 27123CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Pohl, W., Kingdoms of the Empire: The Integration of Barbarians in Late Antiquity (Leiden, 1997)Google Scholar; Pohl, W. and Reimitz, H., Strategies of Distinction: The Construction of Ethnic Communities, 300–800 (Leiden, 1998)Google Scholar; Mathisen, R.W. and Shanzer, D., Romans, Barbarians, and the Transformation of the Classical World (Burlington, VT, 2011)Google Scholar; Conant, J., Staying Roman: Conquest and Identity in Africa and the Mediterranean, 439–700 (Cambridge, 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Goffart, W.A., Barbarians and Romans, a.d. 418–584: The Techniques of Accommodation (Princeton, NJ, 1980)Google Scholar; Brown, P., The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, a.d. 200–1000 (Oxford, 2003)Google Scholar; Courcelle, P., Histoire littéraire des grandes invasions germaniques (Paris, 1964)Google Scholar.

4 Watson, L., ‘Representing the past, redefining the future: Sidonius Apollinaris’ panegyrics of Avitus and Anthemius’, in Whitby, M. (ed.), The Propaganda of Power: The Role of Panegyric in Late Antiquity (Leiden, 1998), 177–98, at 191–2Google Scholar; Heather, P., The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History (London, 2005), 381Google Scholar; Harries, J., ‘Sidonius Apollinaris, Rome and the barbarians: a climate of treason?’, in Drinkwater, J. and Elton, H. (edd.), Fifth Century Gaul: A Crisis of Identity (Cambridge, 1992), 298308, at 299–300Google Scholar; Arnold, J., Theoderic and the Roman Imperial Restoration (Cambridge, 2014), 121–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Conant, J., ‘Romanness in the age of Attila’, in Maas, M. (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Attila (Cambridge, 2014), 156–74, at 166–7Google Scholar.

5 Arnold (n. 4).

6 Arnold (n. 4), 235–61; Courcelle (n. 3), 235–52.

7 On late imperial panegyrics, see Rees, R., Latin Panegyric (Oxford, 2012), 348Google Scholar; Rees, R., Layers of Loyalty in Latin Panegyric: a.d. 289–307 (Oxford, 2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Schindler, C., Per carmina laudes: Untersuchungen zur spätantiken Verspanegyrik von Claudian bis Coripp (Berlin, 2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Mause, M., Die Darstellung des Kaisers in der lateinischen Panegyrik (Stuttgart, 1994)Google Scholar; MacCormack, S., ‘Latin prose panegyrics: tradition and discontinuity in the later Roman empire’, REAug 22 (1976), 2977Google Scholar.

8 On the ceremony as propaganda, Mause (n. 7), 30–42; Cameron, A., Claudian: Poetry and Propaganda at the Court of Honorius (Oxford, 1970)Google Scholar.

9 Weisweiler, J., ‘From empire to world-state: ecumenical language and cosmopolitan consciousness in the later Roman aristocracy’, in Lavan, M., Payne, R.E. and Weisweiler, J. (edd.), Cosmopolitanism and Empire: Universal Rulers, Local Elites, and Cultural Integration in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean (Oxford, 2016), 201–4Google Scholar detects a similar kind of hypermasculine northern type emerging in Symmachus’ panegyric of Valentinian I. However, I would point out that Symmachus also emphasizes Valentinian's endurance of the cold (Symm. Orat. 1.1, 2). It is only starting with Merobaudes’ panegyric of Aetius that the northern barbarian type takes over.

10 On environmental theory and its development, see Dauge, Y.A., Le Barbare. Recherches sur la conception romaine de la barbarie et de la civilisation (Brussels, 1981), 468–81Google Scholar and especially Isaac, B., The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity (Princeton, NJ, 2004), 55168Google Scholar. Sassi, M.M., The Science of Man in Ancient Greece (Chicago, 2001), 82139Google Scholar is also helpful.

11 Veg. Mil. 1.2. Vegetius tells us that his information on recruitment had been approved by the most learned men (quae a doctissimis hominibus conprobata sunt).

12 Concerning a monarch: Plin. Pan. 12.3–4; Symm. Orat. 1.1, 2; Amm. Marc. 25.4.10, 27.6.8–9; Claud. 3 Cons. 44–5; Ennodius, Panegyricus 7, 9. Concerning a commander: Livy, Epit. 21.4; Pan. Lat. 11(2).8.3; Claud. Ruf. 1.241–2; 4 Cons. 26–40. Concerning soldiers: Claud. Stil. 1.176–90.

13 Plin. Pan. 15.3–4. On this topos, cf. Mause (n. 7), 79; G. Posset, ‘Studien zur panegyrischen Topik in den Panegyrici Latini bis zum Jahre 313’ (Diss., Vienna, 1991), 35–40.

14 Amm. Marc. 27.6.8.

15 Pan. Lat. 9(4).18.3–4. Similarly, Hdn. 6.3.7.

16 The barbarian and native composition of the Roman army has been the subject of much debate, especially with regard to the years before Valentinian III (425–55). Scholars such as Nicasie, M., Twilight of Empire: The Roman Army from the Reign of Diocletian until the Battle of Adrianople (Leiden, 1998)Google Scholar, Elton, H., Warfare in Roman Europe, a.d. 350–425 (Oxford, 1996)Google Scholar and Burns, T.S., Barbarians within the Gates of Rome: A Study of Roman Military Policy and the Barbarians, ca. 375–425 a.d. (Bloomington, IN, 1994)Google Scholar have generally argued that the barbarians made up only a small component of the late Roman army. However, there seems to be wider acceptance that the army from Valentinian onward relied much more heavily on barbarians acting independently of the imperial service. Liebeschuetz, W., ‘The end of the Roman army in the western empire’, in Rich, J. and Shipley, G. (edd.), War and Society in the Roman World (London, 1993), 265–76Google Scholar and James, E., Europe's Barbarians, a.d. 200–600 (Harlow, 2009), 171–3Google Scholar argue that the army relied almost exclusively on coalitions of barbarians from the 450s onward.

17 Mathisen, R.W., ‘Violent behavior and the construction of barbarian identity’, in Drake, H.A. (ed.), Violence in Late Antiquity: Perceptions and Practices (Burlington, VT, 2006), 27–35, at 34–5Google Scholar; Mathisen, R.W., Roman Aristocrats in Barbarian Gaul: Strategies for Survival in an Age of Transition (Austin, TX, 1993)Google Scholar.

18 On Salvian, see Lambert, D., ‘The uses of decay: history in Salvian's De gubernatione Dei’, AugStud 30 (1999), 115–30Google Scholar; Alciati, R., Monachi, vescovi e scuola nella Gallia tardoantica (Rome, 2009), 83101Google Scholar; Brown, P., Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350–550 a.d. (Princeton, 2012), 441–53Google Scholar; Courcelle (n. 3), 146–55.

19 Merobaudes, Panegyric 2.121–6. Merobaudes is cited according to Clover, F.M., ‘Flavius Merobaudes: a translation and historical commentary’, TAPhS 61 (1971), 178Google Scholar.

20 Claud. 3 Cons. 22–32. Similarly, Pan. Lat. 1(10).2.4; Symm. Orat. 1.1; Claud. 4 Cons. 149–53, 160–4.

21 Schindler (n. 7), 177.

22 Sid. Apoll. Carm. 5.249–50; Verg. Aen. 6.606–7; Caes. BGall. 4.1.10.

23 Tac. Germ. 4; Caes. BGall. 4.1.10; Gal. De san. tuend. 6.51; Sid. Apoll. Carm. 7.171–2, 2.37.

24 On the portrayal of Stilicho as a typical Roman commander in Claudian, see Sánchez-Ostiz, Á., ‘Claudian's Stilicho at the Vrbs: Roman legitimacy for the half-barbarian regent’, in Burgersijk, D.W.P. and Ross, A.J. (edd.), Imagining Emperors in the Later Roman Empire (Leiden, 2018), 310–30Google Scholar.

25 Cf. Liebeschuetz (n. 16), 275.

26 On Ricimer, see O'Flynn, J., Generalissimos of the Western Roman Empire (Edmonton, 1983), 104–28Google Scholar; MacGeorge, P., Late Roman Warlords (Oxford, 2003), 167278Google Scholar.

27 On Sidonius, the bibliography is vast. For a starting point, see Harries, J., Sidonius Apollinaris and the Fall of Rome: a.d. 407–485 (Oxford, 1994)Google Scholar; Loyen, A., Recherches historiques sur les panégyriques de Sidoine Apollinaire (Paris, 1942)Google Scholar. For more detail, see

28 Caes. BGall. 4.1.10.

29 Livy, Epit. 21.31–58; Petron. Sat. 122–3; Sil. Pun. 3.477–556; Luc. 1.183.

30 Plin. Pan. 14.2–3; Pan. Lat. 3(11).9, 9(12).3.3, 12(2).45.2. On this scene in Sidonius, see Brolli, T., ‘Silio in Sidonio: Maggioriano e il passagio delle Alpe’, Incontri triestini di filologia classica 3 (2003–4), 297314Google Scholar.

31 Carm. 5.529–30.

32 Anthemius, On, Henning, D., ‘Der erste „griechische Kaiser”. Überlegungen zum Scheitern des Procopius Anthemius im weströmischen Reich’, in Wiemer, H.U. (ed.), Staatlichkeit und politisches Handeln in der römischen Kaiserzeit (Berlin, 2006), 140Google Scholar; O'Flynn, J., ‘A Greek on the Roman throne: the fate of Anthemius’, HZ 40 (1991), 122–8Google Scholar.

33 Some westerners labeled Anthemius a Greek. Sid. Apoll. Epist. 1.7.5 reports that the Gallic praetorian prefect Arvandus conspired with the Gothic king Euric (466–84) to dethrone the ‘Greek’ emperor. Similarly, in Ennodius, Life of Epiphanius 54, Anthemius is deemed a Graeculus by the Ligurian nobility. (Ennodius is cited according to the edition of Cook, G.M., The Life of Saint Epiphanius by Ennodius: A Translation with an Introduction and Commentary [Washington, D.C., 1942].Google Scholar) For a helpful summary of Roman prejudices against Greeks, Isaac (n. 10), 381–405; Dauge (n. 10), 546–54; Petrochilos, N., Roman Attitudes to the Greeks (Athens, 1974)Google Scholar; Balsdon, J.P.V.D., Romans and Aliens (London, 1979), 3054Google Scholar.

34 Fenster, E., Laudes Constantinopolitanae (Munich, 1968), 2054Google Scholar. On Sidonius’ image of Byzantium, Bonjour, M., ‘Sidoine Apollinaire et l'Empire’, in La patrie gauloise d'Agrippa au VIème siècle: actes du colloque (Lyon 1981) (Lyon, 1983), 203–18Google Scholar; Kelly, G., ‘Sidonius and Claudian’, in van Waarden, J.A. and Kelly, G. (edd.), New Approaches to Sidonius Apollinaris (Leuven, 2013), 171–93Google Scholar; Schindler (n. 7), 200–1.

35 Only John Malalas, Chronicle 13.7 gives the city a Thracian origin. Malalas is cited according to Thurn, J., Ioannis Malalae chronographia (Berlin, 2000)Google Scholar.

36 Pompon. 15, 17; Claud. Stil. 23; Ruf. 1.241–2; Paulinus of Nola, Ad Nicetam 205–17. Paulinus is cited according to Dolveck, F., Paulini Nolani Carmina (Turnhout, 2015)Google Scholar.

37 Expositio Totius Mundi et Gentium 50. The Expositio is cited according to Rougé, J., Expositio Totius Mundi et Gentium: introduction, texte critique, traduction, notes et commentaire (Paris, 1966)Google Scholar.

38 On the Rutulians, Horsfall, N., ‘Numanus Remulus: ethnography and propaganda in “Aen.”, ix, 598 f.’, Latomus 30 (1971), 1108–16Google Scholar; Jenkyns, R., ‘Pathos, tragedy and hope in the Aeneid’, JRS 75 (1985), 6077Google Scholar.

39 Endurance of the cold: Amm. Marc. 31.2.4; Claud. Ruf. 1.326–7. Horseback-riding from the cradle: Amm. Marc. 31.2.30; Sid. Apoll. Carm. 2.262–4.

40 Sid. Apoll. Carm. 7.83–4.

41 Gal. De temp. 1.627 discusses the similarity of the Celts, Germans, Scythians and Thracians with regard to hair colour because of their cold climate. Thus, the Thracians could have been contaminated by stereotypes of northern barbarians.

42 Sid. Apoll. Carm. 2.138–48.

43 Sid. Apoll. Carm. 2.243–5, 2.262–9.

44 Ennodius, Panegyricus 7, 9. Ennodius is cited according to the edition of Rohr, C., Der Theoderich-Panegyricus des Ennodius (Hannover, 1995)Google Scholar.

45 Ennodius, Panegyricus 11–15.

46 Messis, C., ‘Lectures sexuées de l'altérité: Les Latins et identité romaine menacée pendant les derniers siècles de Byzance’, JOB 61 (2011), 151–70Google Scholar.