Roman or barbarian? Ethnicity in Ostrogothic Italy


  • Jip Barreveld Leiden University


After the fall of the Roman Empire, a ‘barbarian’ group called the Goths take control of Italy (489-554 A.D.). In order to gain insight into the relations between the Roman and the Gothic population groups within this new kingdom, this study uses theoretical frameworks and concepts from anthropology and sociology. The contemporary primary sources are analysed, specifically the Gothic War by the Byzantine historian Procopius, and the chancellery documents of Cassiodorus’ Variae. By acknowledging the fluidity, situationality and multiple-layered character of identity, it is possible to do justice to the ancient sources and find a middle-way in the modern debate.


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Guy Halsall, Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376-568 (Cambridge 2002) 35-55, 89-133.

CIL 3.3576; Kent J. Rigsby, ‘Two Danubian Epigraphs’, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 126 (1999) 175-176.

Cassiodorus, Cassiodori Senatoris Variae, Theodor Mommsen and Ludwig Traube ed. (Berlin 1894) 12.5.4, 8.3; Amory, People and Identity, 18-21, 43-59.

Amory, People and Identity, 10, 135-138; Averil Cameron, Procopius and the Sixth Century (London 1985) ix, 3-9, 135, 136; Anthony Kaldellis, Procopius of Caesarea: Tyranny, History, and Philosophy at the End of Antiquity (Philadelphia 2004) 7-15, 17-45, 220, 221.

Procopius, History of the Wars, Volume III: Books 5-6.15 (Gothic War), H.B. Dewing ed. (Cambridge, M.A., 1916) 5.2-5.5; Amory, People and Identity, 93, 96, 152, 153-158.

Procopius, Wars, 5.8; Amory, People and Identity, 173; Maria Kouroumali, ‘The Justinianic Reconquest of Italy: Imperial Campaigns and Local Responses’, in: Alexander Sarantis and Neil Christie ed., War and Warfare in Late Antiquity (Leiden 2013) 969-1008: 979-980.

Cassiodorus, Variae, 10.31

Jonathan J. Arnold, ‘Theoderic’s Invincible Moustache’, Journal of Late Antiquity 6.1 (2013) 152-183.




How to Cite

Barreveld, J. (2015). Roman or barbarian? Ethnicity in Ostrogothic Italy. Student Undergraduate Research E-Journal!, 1. Retrieved from



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