Alaric the Goth (Hardcover)

An Outsider's History of the Fall of Rome

By Douglas Boin

W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393635690, 272pp.

Publication Date: June 9, 2020

List Price: 26.95*
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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.

In the conventional story of Rome’s collapse, violent “barbarians” destroy “civilization.” Yet from a different point of view, those stale generalities become a history shockingly alive and relevant.

Alaric grew up near the river border that separated Gothic territory from the Romans. He survived the emperor’s decision to separate immigrant children from their parents, sending them hundreds of miles from their families or forcing them into slavery. Later, he was denied citizenship despite his service in the army, as Romans were deeply conflicted over who should enjoy its privileges: they wanted to buttress their global power, yet were insecure about Roman identity; they depended on foreign goods, but scoffed at foreign ways and mocked foreigners with a potent mix of bigotry and intolerance. The three nights of riots the Goths brought to the capital in ad 410—led by Alaric—struck fear into the hearts of the powerful, but were not without cause. Through Alaric’s story, Douglas Boin reveals the Goths’ complex and fascinating legacy in shaping the history we thought we knew, but had never imagined from their perspective.

About the Author

Douglas Boin is a professor of history at Saint Louis University, and author of Coming Out Christian in the Roman World and two scholarly books on antiquity.

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

A fascinating account of one of the most important—and misunderstood—leaders in Roman history. Boin places Alaric in the full context of his times and tells the story of a man fighting for respect and dignity in a world consumed by civil war, religious intolerance, ethnic prejudice, greedy self interest, and treacherous politics. Boin brings Alaric’s world to life, and so brings Alaric to life. A must read for anyone who wants to understand the whole story of the fall of Rome.
— Mike Duncan, NYT bestselling author of "The Storm Before the Storm"

A brilliantly readable account of the fall of the western Roman Empire, which for the first time spotlights not the Romans but the Gothic invader Alaric. This is a story for our own age too. Boin asks us to take seriously the question of what would have happened if the tottering city of Rome had prioritized inclusive citizenship over paranoia and conflict; if it had built bridges rather than walls. This is urgent, gravid history, which will be read by anyone interested in empire, cultural conflict and the making of the modern narrative of the West.
— Tim Whitmarsh, author of "Battling the Gods"

A remarkable feat of historical alchemy: a transmutation of the scanty and inadequate sources into the gold of a gripping narrative. 
— Tom Holland, author of "Rubicon: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar"