The Barbarians Speak: How the Conquered Peoples Shaped Roman Europe

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Overview

The Barbarians Speak re-creates the story of Europe's indigenous people who were nearly stricken from historical memory even as they adopted and transformed aspects of Roman culture. The Celts and Germans inhabiting temperate Europe before the arrival of the Romans left no written record of their lives and were often dismissed as "barbarians" by the Romans who conquered them. Accounts by Julius Caesar and a handful of other Roman and Greek writers would lead us to think that prior to contact with the Romans, European natives had much simpler political systems, smaller settlements, no evolving social identities, and that they practiced human sacrifice. A more accurate, sophisticated picture of the indigenous people emerges, however, from the archaeological remains of the Iron Age. Here Peter Wells brings together information that has belonged to the realm of specialists and enables the general reader to share in the excitement of rediscovering a "lost people." In so doing, he is the first to marshal material evidence in a broad-scale examination of the response by the Celts and Germans to the Roman presence in their lands.

The recent discovery of large pre-Roman settlements throughout central and western Europe has only begun to show just how complex native European societies were before the conquest. Remnants of walls, bone fragments, pottery, jewelry, and coins tell much about such activities as farming, trade, and religious ritual in their communities; objects found at gravesites shed light on the richly varied lives of individuals. Wells explains that the presence--or absence--of Roman influence among these artifacts reveals a range of attitudes toward Rome at particular times, from enthusiastic acceptance among urban elites to creative resistance among rural inhabitants. In fascinating detail, Wells shows that these societies did grow more cosmopolitan under Roman occupation, but that the people were much more than passive beneficiaries; in many cases they helped determine the outcomes of Roman military and political initiatives. This book is at once a provocative, alternative reading of Roman history and a catalyst for overturning long-standing assumptions about nonliterate and indigenous societies.

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Editorial Reviews

International History Review
The Barbarians Speak is a book of deep scholarship and high quality. It will bring profitable reading to those interested in the ancient world, and it will prove illuminating to those interested in the complex processes of empires in general.
— Arthur M. Eckstein
American Historical Review
[Wells's] clear prose, excellent illustrations, and numerous maps will give his readers a nuanced picture of the Roman frontiers and the peoples who lived there. And all of this is done without falling back on either Tacitus's or Rousseau's 'no savage,' no mean feat. Wells's barbarians are refreshingly matter of fact.
— Steven Muhlberger
International History Review - Arthur M. Eckstein
The Barbarians Speak is a book of deep scholarship and high quality. It will bring profitable reading to those interested in the ancient world, and it will prove illuminating to those interested in the complex processes of empires in general.
American Historical Review - Steven Muhlberger
[Wells's] clear prose, excellent illustrations, and numerous maps will give his readers a nuanced picture of the Roman frontiers and the peoples who lived there. And all of this is done without falling back on either Tacitus's or Rousseau's 'no savage,' no mean feat. Wells's barbarians are refreshingly matter of fact.
From the Publisher

Winner of the 1999 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Sociology and Anthropology, Association of American Publishers

"The Barbarians Speak is a book of deep scholarship and high quality. It will bring profitable reading to those interested in the ancient world, and it will prove illuminating to those interested in the complex processes of empires in general."--Arthur M. Eckstein, International History Review

"[Wells's] clear prose, excellent illustrations, and numerous maps will give his readers a nuanced picture of the Roman frontiers and the peoples who lived there. And all of this is done without falling back on either Tacitus's or Rousseau's 'no savage,' no mean feat. Wells's barbarians are refreshingly matter of fact."--Steven Muhlberger, American Historical Review

Library Journal
Traditionally, the indigenous peoples of temperate Europe with whom the Romans came in contact--that is, the Celts and the Germans--have been considered barbarians. Classical accounts of these peoples by Julius Caesar, Tacitus, and other Greek and Roman writers presented these nonliterate peoples as inhabitants of a primitive environment lacking the complexities of the Mediterranean world. Wells (anthropology, Univ. of Minnesota; Rural Economy in the Early Iron Age) draws upon current research to challenge this view. For the general reader, he presents research that has been until now largely the preserve of specialists,, revealing that the Celts and the Germans had a more complex material and social culture than previously believed. They were developing cities, for instance, and minting coins, suggesting the presence of a money economy before Roman expansion into the area. This will appeal to students and lay readers with an interest in European history; recommended for academic and larger public libraries.--Robert James Andrews, Duluth P.L., MN Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691089782
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/16/2001
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 844,836
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Table of Contents


List of Figures and Tables vii
Preface ix
Acknowledgments xi
CHAPTER 1 Natives and Romans 3
CHAPTER 2 Europe before the Roman Conquests 28
CHAPTER 3 Iron Age Urbanization 48
CHAPTER 4 The Roman Conquests 64
CHAPTER 5 Identities and Perceptions 99
CHAPTER 6 Development of the Frontier Zone 122
CHAPTER 7 Persistence of Tradition 148
CHAPTER 8 Town, Country, and Change 171
CHAPTER 9 Transformation into New Societies 187
CHAPTER 10 Impact across die Frontier 224
CHAPTER 11 Conclusion 259
Glossary 267
Greek and Roman Authors 269
Bibliographic Essay 271
Bibliography of Works Cited 287
Index 331
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