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Title: From Romans to Goths and Franks : ethnic identities in sixth- and seventh-century Spain and Gaul
Author: Buchberger, Erica
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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Within a few centuries after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West, the descendants of Romans who had envisioned the world in terms of moral, civilized Romans and the savage barbarian ‘other’ had come to identify with those very barbarians. This thesis explores this shift from ‘Roman’ to ‘Gothic’ and ‘Frankish’ identities in sixth- and seventh-century Spain and Gaul through an examination of the ways ethnonyms were used in contemporary sources. Within the first section on Visigothic Spain, chapter one discusses the ‘Romans’ of the East—that is, the Byzantines—as portrayed by Isidore of Seville and John of Biclar. Chapter two covers ‘Romans’ of the West—the Hispano-Romans—who appear in John of Biclar’s Chronicle, a hagiographical Life, and civil and canon law. Chapter three discusses the use of ‘Goth’ as an ethnic descriptor, a religious identifier, and a political term. Chapter four begins the Gaul section with an examination of Gregory of Tours’ writings, showing that he wrote with a Roman mindset. Chapter five illustrates that Gregory’s contemporary, Venantius Fortunatus, selected ethnic labels like ‘Roman’ and ‘barbarian’ in his poems as rhetorical tools to allude and flatter. Chapter six shows how Fredegar, in the seventh century, employed ‘Frank’ as a political term more than his predecessors had, suggesting a change in mindset. Chapter seven confirms this change in hagiographical texts across the two centuries. Chapter eight examines the contemporary expectation that separate law codes should be written for each ethnic group and concludes that, while this encouraged ethnic diversity, it did not prevent individuals from identifying with the Franks politically. By distinguishing among different modes of identification these ethnonyms represented, we see that changes in political language facilitated changes in more traditionally ethnic language, and the shift from ‘Roman’ to other ethnic identities.
Supervisor: Wickham, Chris; Ward-Perkins, Bryan Sponsor: University College, Oxford ; Royal Historical Society ; Scatcherd European Scholarship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History ; Late antiquity and the Middle Ages ; Medieval History ; Ethnicity ; Identity