The Return: Loyality in Justinian’s Reconquest

I created this blog primarily as a way to share with myself and others some of the process behind my historical research. Getting good ideas is always hit and miss, since what interests me may not advance the field or interest the particular journal I may hope to publish a piece in. Many journals make this easier for scholars by creating a standard theme for each issue. Since these topics are pretty broad usually one can adapt their work to fit the depiction.

Since (as regular readers of this blog probably already know) I have a fondness for Open access journals run by like-minded individuals hoping to share our rather obscure work with wider-world of educated readers, I will only place my work in these type of journals….regardless of academic kudos points…..I certainly will not pay to publish any of my articles. is a particularly good example on the New world journal that I would like to support. Edited and run by the PhD students at the University of Leeds it is producing two high quality issues a year plus they support numerous panels on the “hottest early-Medieval (an oxymoron?)” topics around the world. Which in a very roundabout way brings me to my main topic: the notion of “Returns”.

This is the subject of their Aug 2015 journal next year:

Complementing the theme of the first issue of the 2015 volume, ‘migration’, the July 2015 issue of N&N will be focused on ‘Return’. As usual for N&N, the theme of the edition represents a multi-layered chain of significations and potential avenues for research. ‘Return’ can refer to the desire to reintroduce a previous situation, revive or reform past or currently existing ways of life, ideas, institutions, languages, narratives, historiographies, etc. In Early Medieval Studies and across the Humanities, in recent years, we have seen a plethora of ‘returns’, from theology and eschatology, to theories of the object and objectivity, to history itself. We welcome papers on any of these as well any other related issues, angles and interpretations. Abstracts for proposed articles should be sent by 1st February 2015, with full papers submitted by 15th March 2015.

Of course since I am currently rewriting much of my work in past fifteen-years on the mid sixth-century Byzantine historian Procopius, I could not help but think the “reconquest” (read Peter Heather to see why I put this in quotes) of Justinian of the “lost” Western provinces. Three colleagues I respect  have spilled much ink on differing views of this Return. John Moorhead largely sees the Italians (or is that still Western Romans) as pro-Eastern Roman during the Gothic Wars (he bases this largely on the views of elite Italo-Romans). Maria Kouroumali, rightly in my mind, sees the Italians as largely caught between the two protagonists the Romans (in modern eyes Byzantines) and the Goths. They switch loyalty in order to best survive. While they could see both Goths and Greeks as fellow Romans, they could just as easily see them as dangerous “others”. Perhaps how Kurds might see Isis or soldiers from the central government in Baghdad.  Jon Arnold, though his study on Theoderic did not cover the Gothic wars at any length, though I do not want to put words in his mouth would probably take Procopius’ account more sceptically than either K and M.

Where do I stand? At this point since it is only the germination of a potential article,  I am not so sure. Certainly their were no homogeneous Goths, Romans, or Italians. Procopius shows one thing for sure, soldiers and civilians on all three “sides” could easily switch loyalties if it benefited them. Justinian’s armies towards the end were filled with non-Romans. Though my research on Gothic Wars makes it plain that Procopius and perhaps the Byzantines themselves had an interesting view on the Italians and the legacy of the city of Rome. As I have suggested elsewhere, because of what Procopius considers their abandonment of their martial Romanitas the Italians come off in his writings as less “Roman” than the Byzantines, and one might say even the Goths.


If you are reading this Conor, this could be our co-authored piece. Not sure if I can make the deadline above, but I am willing to give it a go!


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