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: Centuries of imperialism turned the neighbors Rome called barbarians into an enemy capable of dismantling an Empire that had dominated their lives for so long. 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 overturned 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, before 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 chance 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.
©2006 Peter Heather (P)2014 Audible Inc.
This book will be a godsend to anyone who has finished The History of Rome podcast by Mike Duncan. It goes into more depth about the fall of the empire and the thesis is incredibly interesting. By giving the "barbarians" agency it really gives a more 3 dimensional image of the time period.
"A good book not ideally suited to audiobook format"
A very detailed account of the fall of the Roman Empire. If I had the printed book in my hands I would likely give it 5 stars. The mass of detail made me wish that I could flip back and forth in the book to recheck dates and see which of masses of unfamiliar and unpronounceable names had come up before. In addition I wished for maps or illustrations to give a better idea of where all the locations of the narrative were situated. In sum, I found it a very good account that was not ideally suited for the audiobook mode of presentation. I found the author's thesis and particular viewpoint of this period of history compelling and convincing. I learned much that I did not know before, which was my goal, albeit accompanied by some frustration.
This is a well written, informative and engaging book that is well worth the time of anyone interested in the Roman Empire and its demise. Like all history, the devil is in the details, and not as simplistic as individuals may want to think of it. Was the Empire brought down by its own decadence? or had it simply overreached so much to a be unable to deal with increasingly sophisticated "barbarians"who began to use its own tactics and weapons against the mighty legions. It's amazing how quickly the empire went from a strong and organized entity to desolate ruins. The narrator, Allen Robertson, projects this story with a excellent voice.
"A very interesting listen"
Probably one of the most comprehensive histories of the fall of Rome, I've read. I am captivated by how a superpower, whose culture, however violent, was centuries beyond those who sought to destroy it, yet was in the end, brought down by them.
This book demonstrates how Roman corruption, imperialism, and foriegn aid all contributed to their ultimate demise. The fall of Rome didn't happen suddenly or easily, but was the result of a wearing down of the government by internal and external forces working together. So prescient for us today.
The performance was great. A bit slow for me, but with Audible I was easily able to fix that. What I appreciate most in Allan Robertson's read is his and pronounciation. An enjoyable experience.
First, let me gripe. I would have enjoyed this massive analysis better with maps of ancient and modern Europe/Africa in front of me. And given the necessary scope of characters, it would have been better to be able to page back from time to time to refresh my memory regarding one or another of the many important actors in this drama.
Okay... but even with those large reservations, I am far better informed than ever before in my life of the causes for Rome's deterioration and collapse. And Heather's prose work hard against the academic historian's training to write in colorless code. This is not a text book, yet it is not a novel. I feel that a friend took the time to tell me what he's learned in useful detail about a grand puzzle. Like, "The Swerve" I recommend Heather's book and Allan Robertson's reading to anyone more than just modestly curious about how the greatest ancient civilization died.
And its meaning to us.
Really interesting popular history with a commonsensical approach to the subject in hand and enough detail to keep it compelling without being overwhelming.
"A New HIstory but not a better history"
I have enjoyed several book books on the Roman Empire and on Roman emperors. I am particularly fascinated by the last 150 years of the empire and the decline of the imperial state. This book focuses so narrowly on the barbarian invasions (which certainly played a key role) that it does not give me any consistent idea of the succession of emperors and the lost of governmental control over the provinces that occurred. It is well intended but could have been much better edited to create a more informative text.
I was greatly disappointed.
He focused too much on the barbarian invasions without clearly identifying the Roman emperors. I had no sense of life in Roman during this time. I have heard other texts that give me a clear sense of the nature of the imperial government and the personalities involved. He focused so narrowly on the barbarian tribes without describing the individual leaders of the Roman empire.
It is an ok book drags at times and repeats itself. God for a rainy day by the fire
"Detailed, compelling, long..."
OK, so ya gotta be a Roman history nut to love this... but I did. Hugely detailed, thoroughly researched, then crafted into a compelling narrative. Yes, it is long, but the whole thing took a couple centuries, so what did you expect?
Mr. Heather does a good job of explaining the sources, and makes it clear when he is speculating, or when the sources disagree. There is a lot of information here, and he does an awfully good job of sorting things out so they make sense.
"An amazing history book, an OK narration"
Not only does it explain in great detail how Rome fell and why, but it also serves as a good introduction for late antiquity, both from the Roman and the Barbarian point of view. The author also explains what sources we have, whether he considers them reliable or not, and how we can use them to learn more about this period.
Two similar books I've read are "How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower" by Adrian Goldsworthy and "The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization" by Bryan Ward-Perkins. The latter is short, well written, and complementary to Peter Heather's book. Goldsworthy's book expounds the thesis that the fall was caused by internal causes (namely civil wars), whereas Heather's book sees the invasions as the main cause for Rome's fall. He makes the very good point that the Eastern half of the empire was affected by the very same issues as the Western one, civil wars and all, and yet it did not fall in the fifth century. Indeed, it went on to be even more rich and prosperous during the sixth century. Therefore, internal causes alone couldn't have brought down the Western empire.In fact, no historian thinks it was caused purely by internal or external causes. The fall was set off by a mix of internal and external causes, and what historians disagree on is the weight and importance of each particular cause.Heather's view is that the primary causes were external. The westward shift of the Huns caused the westward shift, in several waves, of the barbarian populations formerly settled at the edges of the empire. These invasions were too numerous and covered too many fronts to be repelled. The more land the invaders gained, the less land was available to the Romans for extracting tax and therefore for maintaining its army. Rather than a decline lasting over 200 years, Heather gives us the picture of an empire which was still thriving shortly before it started collapsing. The collapse came quickly and unexpectedly.
He did a good job at differentiating quotations from the regular text. He did a terrible job, however, at reading anything that wasn't in English, including the names of most of the people mentioned in the book. He should have done some research on how to pronounce them. Mind you, it's not that he pronounced them "in English" rather than using the classical Latin pronunciation. That would have been fine by me. He often pronounced names of people and places in a random and haphazard way that didn't correspond either to how you'd pronounce those words in English, nor to how you'd say it in Latin. It feels as if he just made up his own pronunciation for those names as he went along. That's why I'm giving the narration three stars rather than five.
"Very interesting story"
A good telling of some complicated stuff. I found myself shouting when some things were not pronounced the way I thought, but that is minor.
Narrator at least knew a joke when he found one, and there are quite a few wry asides, eye.
"A fascinating listen"
I was gripped by this account. It is very clear and persuasive. It illuminates a period which as a traditional classicist I have always wondered about. Peter Heather occasionally throws in fascinating analogies from more recent periods. He also depicts his subjects, Roman and barbarian, vividly and often amusingly, colouring what sometimes comes across as a huge sweep of history told with almost tragic intensity
Excellent detailed and thoroughly researched - a brilliant book and very well narrated - I listen to it again and again. Anyone interested in Roman history will love this book
"A pure History Lesson"
It was pitched at a level I could understand,it brought history to life for me
The sack of Rome, it was unbelievable.
Too many to mention
unpatriotic land owning classes
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