|Born||22 September 1972|
|Doctoral advisor||Herwig Wolfram|
|Other academic advisors||Walter Pohl|
Roland Steinacher was born in Innsbruck, Austria, on 22 September 1972. He received his PhD in history at the University of Vienna in 2002 under the supervision of Herwig Wolfram. Steinacher subsequently worked as a researcher at the University of Vienna and the Austrian Academy of Sciences. During this time, Steinacher was a research assistant for Walter Pohl at projects financed by the European Research Council. Steinacher received his habilitation at the University of Vienna in 2012. As fellow of the Gerda-Henkel-Stiftung, the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung, the Alfried Krupp Wissenschaftskolleg Greifswald and the Berliner Antike-Kolleg he worked in Berlin, Erlangen, Greifswald and finally spent another year as an assistant professor at the University of Tübingen. In October 2018 he was appointed Professor of Ancient History at the University of Innsbruck.
Steinacher is primarily interested in ethnicity in Europe during Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Steinacher adheres to Walter Goffart's theories on the Germanic peoples, whom Steinacher considers "nothing more but a vision of ancient literature". He believes that the Germani are a literary category without any basis in reality, which the Romans invented for political purposes. Steinacher utilizes scare quotes around the term "Germanic", and advocates replacing it with the term "barbarian". Steinacher contends that it is "impossible" to find any economic, social, religious, ethnic or political similarities the among "so-called "Germanic" peoples". According to Steinacher, there has "never" been a Germanic identity or Germanic culture. He stresses the fact that ancient sources after Caesar and Tacitus barely had a concept of "Germanic peoples" but continued to use the categories Celts and Scythians. Steinacher doubts that there was much migration of actual ethnic groups during the Migration Period. Instead he suggests that there were only military actions, a series of wars, partly Roman civil wars, as well as a long lasting movement of ethnic names.
In his "History of the Vandals/Die Vandalen", published in 2016, Steinacher fathomed African and Vandalic history as a basis for studying the transformation of the Roman world, its consequences and implications. The transforming Roman Empire in the West had Vandal Africa, Frankish Gaul, or Visigothic Spain as successive political entities. Barbarian groups using ethnic labels act as specialized military service providers who seized the opportunity of the dissolution of Roman political structures. They made themselves independent, operated without Roman titles and orders, and under favorable circumstances succeeded in establishing their own kingdoms, which they could now shape according to their needs. This was because the new military elites aimed at controlling the Roman system of taxation and agricultural production. The takeover of Roman provinces and cities made it possible to provide long-term sustenance for the barbarian soldiers. Steinacher distinguished the Vandals as "Roman barbarians" stressing the need to understand 5th and 6th c. Africa as part of the late Roman world.