Friday, August 11, 2006

Barbarian Tides: The Migration Age And the Later Roman Empire (Middle Ages Series): Books: Walter Goffart"The Migration Age is still envisioned as an onrush of expansionary 'Germans' pouring unwanted into the Roman Empire and subjecting it to pressures so great that its western parts collapsed under the weight. Further developing the themes set forth in his classic Barbarians and Romans, Walter Goffart dismantles this grand narrative, shaking the barbarians of late antiquity out of this 'Germanic' setting and reimagining the role of foreigners in the Later Roman Empire.

The Empire was not swamped by a migratory Germanic flood for the simple reason that there was no single ancient Germanic civilization to be transplanted onto ex-Roman soil. Since the sixteenth century, the belief that purposeful Germans existed in parallel with the Romans has been a fixed point in European history. Goffart uncovers the origins of this historical untruth and argues that any projection of a modern Germany out of an ancient one is illusory. Rather, the multiplicity of northern peoples once living on the edges of the Empire participated with the Romans in the larger stirrings of late antiquity. Most relevant among these was the long militarization that gripped late Roman society concurrently with its Christianization.

If the fragmented foreign peoples with which the Empire dealt gave Rome an advantage in maintaining its ascendancy, the readiness to admit military talents of any social origin to positions of leadership opened the door of imperial service to immigrants from beyond its frontiers. Many barbarians were settled in the provinces without dislodging the Roman residents or destabilizing landownership; some were even incorporated into the ruling families of the Empire. The outcome of this process, Goffart argues, was a society headed by elites of soldiers and Christian clergy--one we have come to call medieval."

In Search of a Homeland: The Story of the Aeneid: Books: Penelope Lively,Ian Andrew "The fall of Troy, the wanderings of Aeneas, the descent into the underworld ? these phrases from Virgil?s seminal story continue to resonate more than 2,000 years after he wrote it, and Penelope Lively retells this timeless tale with pitch-perfect pacing, poignancy, and drama. The story begins with Aeneas escaping from the sacked city of Troy with his son and father and an important task given by his mother, Venus: He must find a new home for his people. Readers accompany him on his adventure and danger awaits him around every corner. He battles monsters and giants, the elements, and makes a terrifying descent into the underworld where he is allowed a glimpse into the future. Ian Andrew?s illustrations evocatively interpret the mortals, gods and goddesses, and the epic backdrops of this classic tale. This accessible and enthralling introduction to The Aeneid takes its place alongside Rosemary Sutcliff?s classic retellings of Homer?s Iliad and Odyssey. Included are a Latin pronunciation guide and a map of Aeneas?s extraordinary quest. "

The Afghan Campaign: A novel: Books: Steven Pressfield "In words that might have been ripped from today?s combat dispatches, Steven Pressfield, the bestselling novelist of ancient warfare, returns with a riveting historical novel that re-creates Alexander the Great?s invasion of the Afghan kingdoms in 330 B.C., a campaign that eerily foreshadows the tactics, terrors, and frustrations of contemporary conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Narrated by Matthias, a young infantryman in Alexander?s army, The Afghan Campaign explores the challenges, both military and moral, that Alexander and his soldiers face as they embark on a new type of war and are forced to adapt to the methods of a ruthless foe that employs terror and insurgent tactics, conceals itself among the civilian populace, and recruits women and boys as combatants. Matthias joins Alexander?s army after it has conquered the Persian empire and is advancing east into Afghanistan on its way to the riches of India. Part of a unit that includes recruits his own age as well as veterans, Matthias chronicles his rapid coming-of-age as a soldier as he enacts Alexander?s scorch-and-burn strategies, experiences the joys and sorrows of a romance with an Afghan girl, and faces the barbarism of the Afghans, his fellow soldiers, and ultimately himself. As Matthias relates the brutal day-to-day encounters between the two sides, he exposes the human cost borne by a company of men whose code is humanist and secular when they seek to impose their will on a people of deep religiosity, insularity, unbending pride, and a passionate readiness to die for their cause.

An edge-of-your-seat adventure that brings to life the confrontation between an invading Western army and fierce Eastern warriors determined at all costs to defend their homeland, The Afghan Campaign once again demonstrates Steven Pressfield?s profound understanding of the hopes and desperation of men in battle and of the historical realities that continue to influence our world. "