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The Transformation of the Roman Empire

Verena Epp (University of Marburg) gave a paper in the 'Symbolic Middle Ages' seminar series

On 11 September 2019, Verena Epp (Marburg) gave a paper at the Centre for Medieval Studies. She presented the most recent debates on the transformation of the Western Roman Empire. Getting away from the reductive dichotomy of 'catastroph' and 'continuity', prof. Epp emphased both breaks and continuities between the late Roman period and the post-Roman order of the so called 'Barbarian' kingdoms. Among the former, she focused on de-urbanization, ruralization, the break-down of trade networks. At the same time, there were many continuities that played an important role not only immediately after the end of the Western Roman Empire, but also throughout the Middle Ages: the political form of 'monarchy', the ideology of 'res publica', the influence of the Roman law, the hegemony of Latin and Roman culture, the predominance of aristocracy (even if its particular configuration changed in the sub-Roman period).

Prof. Epp also discussed the role of 'Barbarian' migrations, noting that they should not be seen as 'invasions', but rather as the movements of populations who wanted to partake in the Roman Empire and its wealth (instead of 'destroying' it). She also zoomed in on the role of Christianity and the growing role of the Church and bishops in particular in the organization of both Roman and post-Roman societies.