The best books about Germanic Goths

1 authors have picked their favorite books about Germanic Goths and why they recommend each book.

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The Gothic

By Nick Groom,

Book cover of The Gothic: A Very Short Introduction

The Gothic is a vast subject, ranging from medieval architecture and debates over the origins of English democracy to literature and cinema, music, and fashion. Groom does superbly to introduce all these highly diverse elements in an accessible and engaging manner, opening up a variety of avenues for those who wish to explore further. The relationship between what is now called ‘Gothic’ and the original Goths ranges from tenuous to almost non-existent, which explains the limited attention paid here to the Goths of history—indeed, I wrote my own book on the Goths in part to provide that historical framework, while drawing gratefully on Groom’s work for many of the themes which have shaped how Goths and the Gothic are understood today. 


Who am I?

Born and raised in New Zealand, about as far from the Roman world as one can get, I got hooked on history as a child and began university life as an ancient and medieval double major, studying everything from the classical Greeks and Romans to Charlemagne and the Crusades. By the time I came to Oxford to write my PhD, I decided that my greatest interest lay in the dramatic transformation which saw classical antiquity evolve into medieval Christendom. I've been fortunate enough to write and teach about many different aspects of that transformation and I'm currently Associate Professor in Ancient and Late Antique History at Royal Holloway, in the University of London. 


I wrote...

The Goths: Lost Civilizations

By David M. Gwynn,

Book cover of The Goths: Lost Civilizations

What is my book about?

The Goths are truly a “lost civilization”. After migrating from their ancient homeland of Scandza to settle north of the Black Sea, the original Goths were driven westward by the Huns and in the years that followed Gothic tribes sacked the imperial city of Rome and set in motion the decline and fall of the western Roman Empire. Ostrogothic and Visigothic kings ruled over Italy and Spain, dominating early medieval Europe. Yet the last Gothic kingdom fell more than a thousand years ago, and down the centuries the Goths have been remembered as both barbaric destroyers and heroic champions of liberty. This book brings together the interwoven stories of the original Goths and the diverse Gothic heritage, a contradictory legacy that still influences our modern world.

Theoderic In Italy

By John Moorhead,

Book cover of Theoderic In Italy

Theoderic the Ostrogoth, arguably the greatest Gothic king, ruled over Italy for more than thirty years (493-526). Moorhead offers an insightful and detailed examination of how Theoderic succeeded in maintaining peace between Goths and Romans and extended his power and prestige, only for the Ostrogothic kingdom to collapse shortly after his death due to political and religious divisions and the Reconquest by the eastern emperor Justinian. Scholars still debate the extent of Theoderic’s own responsibility for the Ostrogothic decline, and as Moorhead observes the very policies which underlay Theoderic’s success also contributed to his kingdom’s vulnerability. I just wish that Moorhead had expanded his very brief comments on Theoderic’s remarkable legacy, which included appearing in the Nibelungenlied and as a symbol of German unification.


Who am I?

Born and raised in New Zealand, about as far from the Roman world as one can get, I got hooked on history as a child and began university life as an ancient and medieval double major, studying everything from the classical Greeks and Romans to Charlemagne and the Crusades. By the time I came to Oxford to write my PhD, I decided that my greatest interest lay in the dramatic transformation which saw classical antiquity evolve into medieval Christendom. I've been fortunate enough to write and teach about many different aspects of that transformation and I'm currently Associate Professor in Ancient and Late Antique History at Royal Holloway, in the University of London. 


I wrote...

The Goths: Lost Civilizations

By David M. Gwynn,

Book cover of The Goths: Lost Civilizations

What is my book about?

The Goths are truly a “lost civilization”. After migrating from their ancient homeland of Scandza to settle north of the Black Sea, the original Goths were driven westward by the Huns and in the years that followed Gothic tribes sacked the imperial city of Rome and set in motion the decline and fall of the western Roman Empire. Ostrogothic and Visigothic kings ruled over Italy and Spain, dominating early medieval Europe. Yet the last Gothic kingdom fell more than a thousand years ago, and down the centuries the Goths have been remembered as both barbaric destroyers and heroic champions of liberty. This book brings together the interwoven stories of the original Goths and the diverse Gothic heritage, a contradictory legacy that still influences our modern world.

Goths and Romans, 332-489

By Peter Heather,

Book cover of Goths and Romans, 332-489

The early history of the Goths is a complicated and controversial subject, with difficult sources and large gaps in our literary and archaeological evidence. Heather provides an excellent guide to those problems and how they might be resolved. His book is particularly valuable for those interested in the only major source actually written by a Goth, the Getica of Jordanes, and in how the Visigoths and Ostrogoths emerged as independent peoples. The dramatic events which Heather narrates include the first entrance of Gothic tribes into the Roman Empire, the Sack of Rome by Alaric in 410, and the creation of the original Visigothic kingdom in southern France, ending with the newly formed Ostrogoths poised to launch their conquest of Italy.


Who am I?

Born and raised in New Zealand, about as far from the Roman world as one can get, I got hooked on history as a child and began university life as an ancient and medieval double major, studying everything from the classical Greeks and Romans to Charlemagne and the Crusades. By the time I came to Oxford to write my PhD, I decided that my greatest interest lay in the dramatic transformation which saw classical antiquity evolve into medieval Christendom. I've been fortunate enough to write and teach about many different aspects of that transformation and I'm currently Associate Professor in Ancient and Late Antique History at Royal Holloway, in the University of London. 


I wrote...

The Goths: Lost Civilizations

By David M. Gwynn,

Book cover of The Goths: Lost Civilizations

What is my book about?

The Goths are truly a “lost civilization”. After migrating from their ancient homeland of Scandza to settle north of the Black Sea, the original Goths were driven westward by the Huns and in the years that followed Gothic tribes sacked the imperial city of Rome and set in motion the decline and fall of the western Roman Empire. Ostrogothic and Visigothic kings ruled over Italy and Spain, dominating early medieval Europe. Yet the last Gothic kingdom fell more than a thousand years ago, and down the centuries the Goths have been remembered as both barbaric destroyers and heroic champions of liberty. This book brings together the interwoven stories of the original Goths and the diverse Gothic heritage, a contradictory legacy that still influences our modern world.

Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376-568

By Guy Halsall,

Book cover of Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376-568

To understand the Goths and their importance in western history, we must set them within their broader context. That is the great value of Halsall’s book, which explores in depth the relationship between the Germanic peoples and the Roman Empire and how the barbarian migrations transformed early medieval Europe. This is history on a large scale, as the title suggests, and Halsall ranges widely from Britain to North Africa as he examines how different Germanic groups settled and forged new identities across the Roman west. It is a story in which the Goths played a crucial role, particularly the Ostrogoths in Italy and the Visigoths in Spain, although in the long-term the Goths would disappear, unlike the Franks who succeeded in founding a lasting kingdom.


Who am I?

Born and raised in New Zealand, about as far from the Roman world as one can get, I got hooked on history as a child and began university life as an ancient and medieval double major, studying everything from the classical Greeks and Romans to Charlemagne and the Crusades. By the time I came to Oxford to write my PhD, I decided that my greatest interest lay in the dramatic transformation which saw classical antiquity evolve into medieval Christendom. I've been fortunate enough to write and teach about many different aspects of that transformation and I'm currently Associate Professor in Ancient and Late Antique History at Royal Holloway, in the University of London. 


I wrote...

The Goths: Lost Civilizations

By David M. Gwynn,

Book cover of The Goths: Lost Civilizations

What is my book about?

The Goths are truly a “lost civilization”. After migrating from their ancient homeland of Scandza to settle north of the Black Sea, the original Goths were driven westward by the Huns and in the years that followed Gothic tribes sacked the imperial city of Rome and set in motion the decline and fall of the western Roman Empire. Ostrogothic and Visigothic kings ruled over Italy and Spain, dominating early medieval Europe. Yet the last Gothic kingdom fell more than a thousand years ago, and down the centuries the Goths have been remembered as both barbaric destroyers and heroic champions of liberty. This book brings together the interwoven stories of the original Goths and the diverse Gothic heritage, a contradictory legacy that still influences our modern world.

The Tragedy of Titus Andronicus

By William Shakespeare,

Book cover of The Tragedy of Titus Andronicus

A very early effort at a blood-soaked Roman tragedy written (at least partly) by England’s poet laureate. It throws its characters into a boiling cauldron of destructive evil, devising ghastly ways of killing most of them, and features one of the Elizabethan theatre’s most uncompromising villainous monsters, the racially profiled Aaron. It is customary among Shakespeare scholars to try to disown Titus for its lurid gratuitousness, but it does contain some fine poetic writing, brief flashes of the riches to come, and an anticipation of the subtler malevolence that would come to dominate the English stage in the succeeding Jacobean era. Those inclined to celebrate chaos as a purely constructive force might profit from lingering amid Shakespeare’s horrors.


Who am I?

My work has always been interested in the ways in which systems can be disrupted and subverted by taking radical fresh approaches to them, even where the prevailing view is that overturning them can only lead to the dreaded chaos.


I wrote...

An Excursion Through Chaos: Disorder Under the Heavens

By Stuart Walton,

Book cover of An Excursion Through Chaos: Disorder Under the Heavens

What is my book about?

A study of chaos, disorder, mayhem and confusion in history, philosophy, religion, and the arts, asking whether order is always preferable to everything being in a mess.

The Visigoths in History and Legend

By J.N. Hillgarth,

Book cover of The Visigoths in History and Legend

The Visigothic kingdom of Spain was long dismissed in older books as a barbaric backwater, the darkest point of the so-called Dark Ages. Yet it was, in truth, a vibrant cultural centre for more than two centuries, until falling to the forces of Islam in 711. Hillgarth’s fascinating book gives an excellent short survey of Visigothic history, and then explores how the legends surrounding the Goths were developed and exploited by later Spanish generations, from the Christian Reconquista and the sixteenth-century Golden Age to modern times. This creation of an idealized Gothic past provided inspiration and a sense of identity in Spain, in sharp contrast to Italy where the Goths were depicted during the Renaissance as the savage destroyers of classical civilization.


Who am I?

Born and raised in New Zealand, about as far from the Roman world as one can get, I got hooked on history as a child and began university life as an ancient and medieval double major, studying everything from the classical Greeks and Romans to Charlemagne and the Crusades. By the time I came to Oxford to write my PhD, I decided that my greatest interest lay in the dramatic transformation which saw classical antiquity evolve into medieval Christendom. I've been fortunate enough to write and teach about many different aspects of that transformation and I'm currently Associate Professor in Ancient and Late Antique History at Royal Holloway, in the University of London. 


I wrote...

The Goths: Lost Civilizations

By David M. Gwynn,

Book cover of The Goths: Lost Civilizations

What is my book about?

The Goths are truly a “lost civilization”. After migrating from their ancient homeland of Scandza to settle north of the Black Sea, the original Goths were driven westward by the Huns and in the years that followed Gothic tribes sacked the imperial city of Rome and set in motion the decline and fall of the western Roman Empire. Ostrogothic and Visigothic kings ruled over Italy and Spain, dominating early medieval Europe. Yet the last Gothic kingdom fell more than a thousand years ago, and down the centuries the Goths have been remembered as both barbaric destroyers and heroic champions of liberty. This book brings together the interwoven stories of the original Goths and the diverse Gothic heritage, a contradictory legacy that still influences our modern world.

Failure of Empire

By Noel Lenski,

Book cover of Failure of Empire: Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century A.D.

Dr. Lenski, an accomplished Late Antiquity scholar, provides a comprehensive biography of the emperor Valens and his troubled reign (A.D. 365-378). He surveys his political, military, economic, and religious policies in the eastern Roman world racked by religious divisions and barbarian invasions. Thorough and carefully argued.


Who am I?

Charles M. Odahl earned a doctorate in Ancient and Medieval History and Classical Languages at the University of California, San Diego, with an emphasis on Roman imperial and early Christian studies. He has spent his life and career traveling, living, and researching at sites relevant to his interests, especially in Britain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey Israel, Egypt, and Tunisia. He has taught at universities in Britain, France, Idaho, and Oregon, and published 5 books and 50 articles and reviews on Roman and early Christian topics.


I wrote...

Constantine and the Christian Empire

By Charles Matson Odahl,

Book cover of Constantine and the Christian Empire

What is my book about?

A detailed biographical narrative of the life and career of the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire (A.D. 273-337). Covers the crises of the late Roman world, Constantine's conversion to and public patronage of Christianity, his victorious military campaigns, and his building programs in Rome, Jerusalem, and Constantinople which transformed the pagan state of Roman antiquity into the Christian empire of medieval Byzantium.

The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples

By Herwig Wolfram, Thomas Dunlap (translator),

Book cover of The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples

Herwig Wolfram is the Grand Master of Germanic history. His mighty History of the Goths is a work cited perhaps more than any other by any author writing about this period, and its influence of study of Early Middle Ages is unparalleled. But History of the Goths is a heavy, dense, scholarly work, and not easy to find these days. The Roman Empire is a more popular synthesis, focusing not just on Goths, but on all Late Antiquity Germanic tribes – Franks, Burgundians, Saxons, and others – providing a rich view of the barbarians from the perspective of their Roman neighbours. 


Who am I?

In my novels, I aim to present a different vision of early Post-Roman Britain than the one usually imagined in fiction – especially in the future Kingdom of Kent, where my books are set. To show these connections, and to present the greater background for the events in the novels, I first needed to gain knowledge of what Europe itself looked like in this period: a Gaul divided between Gothic, Frankish, and Roman administration, a complex interplay of Romans and Barbarians, a world in transition from Antiquity to the Middle Ages. The story gleaned from the pages of these books proved as fascinating and intriguing as any I’ve ever read.


I wrote...

The Saxon Spears: An Epic of the Dark Age

By James Calbraith,

Book cover of The Saxon Spears: An Epic of the Dark Age

What is my book about?

The old world is burning and a hero will rise from its ash. Ash is a Seaborn, a Saxon child found on the beach with nothing but a precious stone at his neck and a memory of a distant war from which his people have fled. Raised on the estate of a Briton nobleman, trained in warfare and ancient knowledge, he soon becomes embroiled in the machinations and intrigues at the court of Wortigern, the Dux of Londinium, a struggle that is about to determine the future of all Britannia.


A child of Saxon blood, an heir to Roman family, his is a destiny like no other: to join the two races and forge a new world from the ruins of the old.

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