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The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians (2005)
by Peter Heather
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An interesting new look at the perennial question of why the Roman Empire collapsed. The thesis presented suggests that the Empire itself transformed its barbarian neighbors over time resulting in the disruption of the centuries old empire. It is fascinating to read and consider the evidence presented in this well-reasoned history. ( )
Bibliography: p. 537. Includes index.
Heather makes the point that the Western Roman Empire collapsed, not because of some inevitable internal decline, but because of growing pressure from outside by what can be conveniently called 'Barbarians'. This in turn weakened the Empire, which set in motion a vicious circle ending in the dissolution of 476.
This is narrative history at its best. The chatty tone (calling fibulae 'safety pins' for instance) can be a little unsettling at first, but he knows his stuff. He keeps the narrative line uncluttered (East Roman politics, or internal Germanic developments are only mentioned when the are relevant to the main story line. Likewise, people are introduced as and when they are needed to explain the course of events. This makes for a certain back and forth in chronology, but it keeps the main argument easy to follow.
My rating is unfair: this is a very good book, that will appeal to all kinds of readers. Heather's sentences are very readable, he tells a good story, he takes into account pretty much every factor you possibly could to explain the "fall" of the Empire (including the possibility that it wasn't a fall etc...), and he addresses major scholarly debates. His case is well laid out and convincing: the fall of Rome in the west can only be understood in the context of profound changes in other parts of Eurasia, which forced populations to move, alliances to change, and so on.
But honestly, this is far too long. It turns out that taking account of pretty much every factor, and telling a good story about each of them in clear sentences can make a really dull book. Sometimes you don't need a story, you know? Sometimes you don't need to repeat every single fact about the Huns to make the argument that the Huns are important for understanding the fall of Rome.
So I got bored. But if you care about the subject matter, and have a higher tolerance for blow by blow military history than I do (you know what matters about a battle? Who won, and maybe why. Otherwise, please don't tell me about it. It's like describing a football game between two teams the reader doesn't care about), you'll love it. And if you have my very low tolerance, you should still read it, because there are great tales and great arguments. And every dull battle report is followed by something interesting.
Interesting and well written history of the Roman Empire and it's interactions with the barbarians. Includes dramatis personae, timelines and a glossary, which are extremely helpful.
References to this work on external resources.
Wikipedia in English (26)
"The death of the Roman Empire is one of the perennial mysteries of world history. Now, in this groundbreaking book, Peter Heather proposes a stunning new solution: Rome generated its own nemesis. Centuries of imperialism turned the neighbors it called barbarians into an enemy capable of dismantling the Empire that had dominated their lives for so long." "In The Fall of the Roman Empire, he explores the extraordinary success story that was the Roman Empire and uses a new understanding of its continued strength and enduring limitations to show how Europe's barbarians, transformed by centuries of contact with Rome on every possible level, eventually pulled it apart." "Peter Heather convincingly argues that the Roman Empire was not on the brink of social or moral collapse. What brought it to an end were the barbarians."--BOOK JACKET.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)937.09History and Geography Ancient World Italian Peninsula to 476 and adjacent territories to 476 Italian Peninsula to 476 and adjacent territories to 476 Division of empire 395-476 A.D.
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