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Cedrik Michel

Part-Time Teacher

Part-Time Teacher in the Department of Classics and Ancient History


I completed a BA in Classical Studies, History and Medieval Studies at McGill University (2019) and a MPhil in Medieval History at the University of Cambridge (2020). After a brief stint exploring the Carolingian Empire during my MPhil, my research mainly examines the Mediterranean in Late Antiquity. Some of my research interests include late antique historiography, the relationship between Romans and barbarians, Roman rhetoric about barbarians, imperial propaganda, the late Roman army, the Eurasian steppes, trauma and tattooing.

Doctoral Research Project: Mapping Roman Attitudes to the ‘Barbarians’: from the battle of Adrianople to the Sack of Rome

My thesis has two principal aims. The first is to examine how Roman portrayals of 'barbarians' (non-Romans) were created to promote ideological goals and second, to consider the intersection between rhetoric about barbarians and historical context. Although the binary between Roman and barbarian presented in literature was mainly used as a form of propaganda, words influence the way people see the world they live in and how they act. The ultimate objective of my research is to produce a systematic analysis of about how Roman rhetoric about barbarians was used, essentially as propaganda, to achieve social, political and religious goals.

On account of barbarians being a leading candidate to explain the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it is crucial to examine how late antique Romans portrayed the world around them according to their own needs, as well as how Roman rhetoric about barbarians evolved at a crucial time in which Christianity added a new layer of complexity to Romano-barbarian interactions.

My project is structured around six case studies examining Roman rhetoric about barbarians at six pivotal moments in interactions between Romans and barbarians during the period from 376 to 410 CE:

1) The Battle of Adrianople and the peace treaty with Goths in 382.

2) Civil war under Theodosius (383-394).

3) The Hunnic invasion of the Near East in 395.

4) Gainas and the Gothic occupation of Constantinople (400).

5) The Gothic invasion of Italy by Alaric (401-3).

6) The sack of Rome of 410 in Christian sources.

These events are mentioned in different types of (largely contemporary) sources with different audiences and biases and consequently portray barbarian and Roman responses to these events in distinct ways, allowing me to consider sources in relation to each other and examine how the portrayal of barbarians is influenced by the type of source and their respective ideological and narrative goals.

To answer my research questions, I move away from factual reconstructions of events, already the subject of much scholarship, and focus instead on the rhetoric of surviving sources. I examine fourth and fifth-century material from both Eastern and Western Roman Empires, bridging artificial barriers between Greek, Latin and Syriac materials, and using a wide range of primary sources including Roman legislation, historical narratives, panegyric literature, patristic literature, epistolary literature and material evidence.