Rome and the Peoples of Europe

Julia M. H. Smith

in Europe after Rome

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780192892638
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191670626 | DOI:
Rome and the Peoples of Europe

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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This chapter explores Rome's role in terms of being an urban reality with such a rich political, cultural, and religious past that it exerted a powerful grip on the imagination of all who encountered it directly or indirectly. The first section argues that there is nothing primordial about the ethnically based kingdoms that developed in the course of the early Middle Ages, but rather that these political identities were as much the product of specific cultural configurations and historical moments as kin-based, gendered, or religious ones. It pays particular attention to the contribution of Roman and Christian literature to the origin myths that explained and propagated early medieval ethnic identities. The second section turns from kingdoms to empires, as both concepts and polities. By asking how empires were established and legitimated, it assesses the extent to which Romanness was a political ideology that informed the early medieval political order. In this context, it also considers the transformation in Rome's role as the capital of empire. The chapter ends by juxtaposing the Rome experienced by the city's visitors with the evocations of Rome recreated in many parts of Christian Europe, arguing that the city's Christian identity formed a recurrent leitmotiv of early medieval cultural expression. It emerges that, in multiple ways, the political and cultural legacy of the Roman Empire formed a counterpoise to the particularisms and local identities so characteristic of Europe after Rome.

Keywords: Middle Ages; Rome; Christianity; kingdoms; Roman Empire

Chapter.  15023 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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