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The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  411 ratings  ·  44 reviews
In print for more than thirty years, this book has long served as a standard text on the Germanic penetration of the Roman Empire. Bury's history is indispensable to anyone who seeks to understand the connection between the barbarian migrations of the third to the ninth century and the framework of modern Europe. ...more
Paperback, 291 pages
Published August 17th 2000 by W.W. Norton & Company (first published 1928)
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I guess you could call this a golden oldie from the turn of the 20th Century. A series of lectures by a British professor, it was pompous at the start, somewhat interesting and informative in the middle and littered with names and dates with little help to make sense of them at the last third. The only really notable takeaway for me was his description of the attitude of the Goths toward the Romans:
(view spoiler)
Tim Martin
Aug 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
_The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians_ by J. B. Bury is a very readable and well written book that outlines the sequence and consequences of the migratory movements of the northern barbarians into Roman territory, migrations of the third through sixth centuries AD that eventually lead to Germanic peoples occupying the western half of the Roman Empire, from Britain to North Africa and ultimately largely dismembering the Empire.

It would be difficult for one to guess how old this work is from r
Even at the height of their power the Romans had trouble holding back the Germans on the Rhine frontier. As time passed the Empire weakened both internally and externally, the waves of barbarians kept coming, and the empire inevitably began shrinking under the pressure. Unable to stem the tide, the Romans settled many of the tribes along their borders and made them foederati, allies that received some of the benefits of being affiliated with the empire in exchange for military service. In additi ...more
Vikas Datta
Shows well how civilisation advances from the dialectic of order and chaos..
Frank DeRose
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In case anyone should ever wonder about the relevance of ancient history to current events, I quote the following passage from the book:

"The [Visigoths] were seized by panic and firmly believed that there was no safety for them [from the invading Huns] north of the Danube. They determined to withdraw southward beyond that river and seek the shelter of the Roman Empire. This was a very critical decision: it led to events which determined the course of the history of the Roman Empire. Accordingly
Leila Mota
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's amazing how much we (I) don't know about the history of Europe during Roman times and following "barbarians" invasions. We learn some things in school but it's all very superficial. There are so many peoples that lived in Europe and Asia and that influenced the evolution of the continent and the countries and populations formation.
The book is written in a way that can be easily understood, even though it's necessary to keep track of the many tribes and dates to follow the relevant events a
Feb 27, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally published in 1928, this short history of the so-called Barbarian invasions of the Roman Empire (notably excluding Britain) provides a very high-level approach to the matter, eschewing details of dates, battles, and rulers, to look at the dynamic sweeps of events, and the slow-moving cultural and economic changes over centuries, to demonstrate that the fall of the Empire was not one event but a progression over centuries, lasting almost as long as the Empire itself.

Where specific names
E. Kahn
Oct 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Audiobook (Audible) edition, produced by Audio Connoisseur and narrated by Charlton Griffin.

Audiobook stuff: This production is absolutely stellar. The narrator must've had a fantastic time with this book, doing what I can only imagine was his best Winston Churchill impression while throwing in enough eccentric pronunciations ("peninchula" for "peninsula" stood out) to bring an ancient dust-covered antiquarian of the British Museum to mind. I don't know what exactly they did to the audio but it
May 14, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a coincise account of the barbarian invasions of the 4th to 6th century of the germanic tribes in the western Roman empire.

It focuses mainly on the relationship between the empire and the different germanic people and their leaders. It shows that the last centuries of the western Roman empire were characterized by a mass migration of different germanic tribes which were initially hosted on the empire's borders as federates and served in the military but ended up in laying much waste on t
Jun 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A solid collection of lectures and essays, but has a few annoyances. The two that stand out the most are the frequent references in Latin to sayings or people we're assumed to know (like anyone really learns Latin anymore :( ) which would've been nice to have footnotes for, and secondly there really isn't a through-line to the book, which leaves it sort of trailing off in the end with a 10 page discourse on the parallel legal systems of the Lombards and Romans.. great, but how does THIS period o ...more
Nate Jordon
Dec 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's my assessment that the entire history of Western Civilization, if not all of Civilization entirely, can be summed up in four words: endless wars for resources. And we are still fighting these wars today. And until we tailless monkeys figure out how to live in harmony with the earth and all that inhabit it, we will continue these endless wars for resources until we exhaust them. We can write a better story, y'all. ...more
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: finished
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good solid read delivered with a unique perspective. It certainly educated me to look at the barbarians as peoples with their own history and perspectives. Lessons for today when we look at our own empire surrounded (yes, not politically correct I know)
Vince  Quackenbush
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Likes this period of history. I am fascinated by the devolution of the Roman state to the nation-states of Western Europe, and the evolution of the Eastern Empire to Byzantium. The appearance of the Frankish Kingdom (France) was a key development in this process.
Mar 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great book.
Professor Miriam
Very interesting, though a bit dry. I felt like I was sitting in a classroom absorbing this key period of European history.
Henry Kline
Sep 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
Some good parts and other parts that sounded like "how many angles can stand on the head of a pin" ...more
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Only for those intersted inhistory:
It lifts the veil of the "dark ages" and looks at the Germanic origins of so many European counties in the dying days of the Roman Empire.
It is well written. I only got lost in the constitutionality of the Ostrogoth kingdom in Italy. Otherwise, it was page turning.
Greg Northrup
Oct 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
This period of history has always been a little fuzzy to me and Bury lays out the major whos, whats and whens in a comprehensible and organized fashion. I suppose what I take away from this book most is that the Western Roman Empire didn't so much collapse as it gradually evolved, albeit painfully, into medeival society. He draws several conclusions that I wouldn't necessarily draw, and fails to make some connections that I thought might be important, but he clearly delineates the historical rec ...more
Sep 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is based on lectures from 1927, so I'm sure it's out dated. And though it presents things much more from the barbarian perspective than most things I've seen, it can be anti-barbarian and in particular anti-German at times. One of the best examples of this was during its discussion of the Huns, where Bury claimed that the Huns acknowledged their cultural inferiority to Germanic peoples, who were in turn culturally inferior to the Romans. Another example is its treatment of Stilicho, who was ...more
Nov 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
As I read this book, I can't help but wonder what further knowledge has been discovered since 1902! Supposedly, this is still considered the definitive work on the subject. It's interesting, but a bit dry. Also, the author references regions that have not existed in centuries. Maps would have been most helpful. In order to get my geographical bearings, I printed out some maps from the internet.

This book is interesting on more than one level. It not only tells us about the age of the barbarians,
Aug 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoys Tolkien, European history, and has always had a little thing for Visigoths.
This book is actually a collection of a series of lectures given by J. Bury at Cambridge in 1927. In them Bury describes the gradual sundering and collapse of the Roman Empire over six centuries (third-ninth C.E.) by the Germanic Tribes (I [heart] Visigoths). I found it truly fascinating to read this and learn about the connection between these invasions and migrations and the shape of the Europe we know today. I recommend having an atlas handy, however; maps are not furnished in this book and t ...more
Jun 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a spectacular history of the late Roman period of western Europe. Despite being almost a hundred years old, it remains one of the best general histories of the period.

The only real drawback is that it is essentially a transcribed series of lectures and not originally intended for a book. As a result, it doesn't contain anything but in-the-lecture references to Bury's sources.

This book is best read with a basic understanding of, or at least access to an atlas of, ancient Europe.

great book
Aug 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
A consist and readable overview of migration of Germanic people and its effects on Roman Empire. It is hardly surprising that the author concludes that it was a grave mistake of Roman emperors to entrust defense of the empire to the very people that turned out to be the main threat to its stability. At the same time, Bury makes a compelling argument for the theory that Germanic people weren't trying to topple the Roman might, but were merely trying to become the part of it. ...more
Mar 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Originally a series of lectures given in the early 20th century by a leading Medieval Historian. If you want to know about the "fall of the Roman Empire" and want to know the difference between a Visigoth and an Ostrogoth this is a good start. At times critical of the accepted view of certain battles/events as expressed by Gibbon.

Note: the geography can be difficult to follow unless you are an expert on Roman provinces and know the location of various Eastern European rivers.
Oct 18, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although it is dated, Bury's series of lectures show admirably the gradual "Germanisation" of the East and West Germans, as well as the Huns and Avars; these, he argues, often made advantage of existing Roman institutions (political and military) rather than seeking utter destruction of Roman provinces. Read also if you'd like to know how Attila the Hun's invasions of Gaul and Italy were a Romantic misunderstanding of epic, perhaps comedic, proportions. ...more
Jul 04, 2016 rated it liked it
This is a collection of lectures by noted historian JB Bury. As such it doesn't go into great detail on the subject matter but is a capable supplement to other reading. It lacks a great degree of transparency and critique when it comes to sources but there are numerous instances when Bury's historiographical detective work shines through. ...more
Sep 15, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: done-read
Good book, well written. Limited appeal/audience. Fairly detailed level re the successive waves of invastions by the Germanic tribes & Asiatic peoples into Europe during the "Dark Ages". I enjoyed it, most folks won't. ...more
Will Skinner
Aug 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A masterfully written history. Bury is detail-oriented without being dry; analytical, without being academic; the closest thing I've found to an heir to Edward Gibbon. I enjoyed this book very much as a buff to the late Antique, early medieval period. ...more
Aug 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
The title says it all. Lectures by Bury nearly 100 years ago about the various barbarians--Goths and Germans--invading the Roman empire.
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John Bagnell Bury (often published as J.B. Bury ) was a classical scholar, historian, and philologist. He held the chair in Modern History at Trinity College, Dublin, for nine years, and also was appointed Regius Professor of Greek at Trinity, and Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University. ...more

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