Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Fall

The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians by Peter Heather

Summary: A leading authority on the late Roman Empire and on the barbarians, Heather relates the extraordinary story of how Europe's barbarians, transformed by centuries of contact with Rome on every possible level, eventually pulled the empire apart. He shows first how the Huns overtuned the existing strategic balance of power on Rome's European frontiers to force the Goths and others to seek refuge inside the empire. This prompted two generations of struggle, during which new barbarian coalitions, formed in response to Roman hostility, brought the Roman west to its knees. The Goths first destroyed a Roman army at the battle of Hadrianople in 378 and went on to sack Rome in 410. The Vandals spread devastation in Gaul and Spain befor conquering North Africa, the breadbasket of the western empire, in 439. We then meet Attila the Hun, whose reign of terror swept from Constantinople to Paris, but whose death in 453 ironically precipitated a final desperate phase of Roman collapse, culminating in the Vandals' defeat of the massive Byzantine Armada, the west's last change for survival.

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.

Review: An enjoyable thesis that argues that barbarians were responsible for the collapse of the Roman Empire.

I want to study medieval literature and I know how much has been lost over hundreds of years. I can't imagine how much has been lost over thousands of years. The Roman Empire must been hard to study and draw conclusions from. There is so much lost information and so many conflicting accounts. I can see how easy it would be to draw your own conclusions. While I have been wanting to read Gibbon for a while, I did not know that he believed that Christianity was the reason that the Roman Empire fell.

Heather believes it is the barbarians that caused Rome to fall. He goes very in depth and provides as much information as possible to support his thesis. As one reviewer mentioned, Heather focuses on the barbarians almost solely as the reason Rome fell. While I need to learn more about Rome and the possible reasons for its fall, the fall must be due to more than just the barbarians alone. I learned a good deal of information about Rome, the empire, and what plagued it. I will try to read more history and scholarship on the topic.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those interested in Roman history.

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