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A Created Enemy: ‘Barbarians’ in spite of Religious Conversion. Visigoths and Byzantines in 6th-Century Iberia
By Esther Sànchez-Medina
Crossing Frontiers, Resisting Identities, edited by edited by Lud’a Klusáková and Martin Moll (Pisa University Press, 2010)
Abstract: This study approaches the concept of resistance as a tool for historical analysis during Roman Late Antiquity, especially with respect to the identity construction and the creation of physical or mental borders between Byzantines and Barbarians. From the Greek world’s application of the term Barbarian only to those who did not speak the dominant culture’s language to, centuries later, in the Roman period, its usage to define all those who destabilized imperial power, Roman ideology, that had a lasting effect through history, saw the birth of a new political understanding underpinned by a different interpretation of the Roman world: one based on civilized opposition to Barbarians. This is what we find most often espoused in sources from Late Antiquity.
This case study is focused on defining the identity of Byzantines and Visigoths in the 6th-century Iberian Peninsula. This identity construction promoted fierce loyalties based on difference, serving to maintain imperial frontiers: ethnic, religious and territorial ones. The reader will observe how late Roman power recovered ancient ideological models in order to improve, through propaganda, its unsteady position in the Western Mediterranean world against the stronger Visigothic Kingdom.
Top Image: Visigothic Hispania and the Byzantine province of Spania, circa 560 AD