The limites (LEE-ME-TESS; “frontiers”) of the Roman and Byzantine Empires traditionally have denoted the literal edge of civilization. On one side, cultured men wrote history, studied philosophy, organized themselves into states, and forged their armies into disciplined machines of war. On the other side, barbarians were plunged into the darkness of pre-history, unlettered, unwashed, and undisciplined, engaging in frenzied and naked single combat. The arrival of nomad peoples at the border signaled their sudden appearance into history, as if out of thin air, and after crashing across the frontier defenses the heathens quickly extinguished the light of civilization.
The piece is in five episodes, each labeled as follows:
The Goths and the Vandals
The Franks and the Slavs
Instrumentation – picc, fl, 2 ob, cl, b. cl, 2 bsn, 4 hn, 2 tpt in C, 2 tbn, tb, 3 pc (timpani, bongos, glockenspiel), hp, strings
Duration – 11 minutes