A Created Enemy: ‘Barbarians’ in spite of Religious Conversion. Visigoths and Byzantines in 6th-Century Iberia
Esther Sànchez-Medina (University of Alcalà)
Crossing Frontiers, Resisting Identities: Pisa University Press (2010)
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.
Aspects of Resistance, Self-Identity and the Frontiers of Otherness in the Late Roman World
In this first section, although not having the space to explore every facet of views of resistance, self-identity and otherness in the Late Roman world, we examine some of the themes surrounding these concepts. The issue of resistance has been at the forefront of ancient historical investigation since the origin of the discipline. It is clearly premised in innumerable discussions concerned with the roots of the Mediterranean cultures. When attempts were made to understand the concept of resistance, it was often through devices evoking concepts of ‘simple’ and ‘complex’ societies which repeat the worst excesses of the discourse of primitivism and general evolution especially since the 19th century. Therefore researchers have emphasized the nature of differences and the conditions that promoted change and continuity. It has been evident that one of the major issues in comprehending the historical complexity has been inequality. This historical characteristic has impelled human action to achieve the elimination of differences, understood as forms of domination and oppression.