Your high school or college history instructor probably spent some time on the fall of the Roman Empire. If you remember anything from those hazy days, it was probably something to the effect that the barbarians toppled a declining empire like a particularly destructive toddler going after her Leaning Tower of Building Blocks or a drunk college freshman trying hopelessly to remove a block in a game of Jenga.
That’s not a particularly up-to-date version of the story, though. I’m Patrick Wyman, and I spent way, way too long getting a PhD on this period in European history. You can benefit from my bad professional choices through this podcast, in which I bring you the cutting edge of historical research on the Fall.
The barbarians get a bad rap. They weren’t a mindless, annihilating force, and they weren’t even really foreigners to the Roman Empire. In this episode of The Fall of Rome, we explore the barbarian world in all its complexity and diversity as it existed just before the Huns mucked things up and business started to go south for the Romans.
The Goths, the barbarian group on which this episode focuses, drank Roman wine, imported Roman roof tiles, used Roman coinage, and fought in the Roman army in huge numbers. It’s impossible to understand the barbarian world without reference to Rome, and vice versa.
If that interests you, give the second episode of The Fall of Rome a listen:
Patrick Wyman last wrote for Deadspin about UFC champions hanging out with an accused Russian war criminal; he can be reached on Twitter @Patrick_Wyman.