'Violence' is virtually synonymous in the popular imagination with the period of the Later Roman Empire-a time when waves of barbarian invaders combined with urban mobs and religious zealots to bring an end to centuries of peace and serenity.
All of these images come together in the Visigothic sack of the city of Rome in A.D. 410, a date commonly used for the fall of the entire empire.
But was this period in fact as violent as it has been portrayed?
A new generation of scholars in the field of Late Antiquity has called into question the standard narrative, pointing to evidence of cultural continuity and peaceful interaction between "barbarians" and Romans, Christians and pagans. To assess the state of this question, the fifth biennial 'Shifting Frontiers' conference was devoted to the theme of 'Violence in Late Antiquity'.
Conferees addressed aspects of this question from standpoints as diverse as archaeology and rhetoric, anthropology and economics.
A selection of the papers then delivered have been prepared for the present volume, along with others commissioned for the purpose and a concluding essay by Martin Zimmerman, reflecting on the theme of the book.
The four sections on Defining Violence, 'Legitimate' Violence, Violence and Rhetoric, and Religious Violence are each introduced by a theme essay from a leading scholar in the field.
While offering no definitive answer to the question of violence in Late Antiquity, the papers in this volume aim to stimulate a fresh look at this age-old problem.