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Alaric the Goth Reviews

Alaric the Goth by Douglas Boin (Saint Louis University)

Alaric the Goth: An Outsider's History of the Fall of Rome

Douglas Boin (Saint Louis University)

Score pending

2 reviews

Imprint: WW Norton & Co
Publisher: WW Norton & Co
Publication date: 9 Jun 2020
ISBN: 9780393635690

The first biography of Alaric to appear in English tells the history of the fourth-and fifth-century Roman Empire through the life of the Goth who attacked it.

4 stars out of 5
20 Oct 2020

"he sets out to put Alaric at the centre of his “outsider’s history”"

Boin’s contention is that Alaric was enraged by his failure to be awarded full citizen rights, and that this – and not, for example, what Augustine would have called libido dominandi, “the lust for power” – was what motivated his attacks on Rome. The result is a curiously domesticated and diminished Alaric. It also poses the question: what did Roman citizenship mean to its recipients in the early fifth century? Was it something to be passionately strived for and desired? Were its privileges clearly perceptible? Or was it a dubious and corroded inheritance?


3 stars out of 5
Patrick Kidd
16 Aug 2020

"It feels that Boin is eager to preach the story of Alaric as a parable for our intolerant age"

Boin, an American academic, is a good writer, but his narrative has little balance. Alaric’s side is entirely noble and reasonable, the Romans are “rabid xenophobes” and hedonists who have it coming. Alaric’s campaign, he writes, is a “fight for human decency”. Right from the first line — “a talented immigrant is denied citizenship by an unjust empire” — his allegiances are clear.