The Roman Empire at Bay, AD 180-395 (The Routledge History of the Ancient World) New Ed Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0415100588
ISBN-10: 0415100585
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Editorial Reviews

Review

The Roman Emipre at Bay is an excellently written, well-documented, clearly structured, very complete and extensive book. Extremely well furnished with numismatic and prosopographical evidence and including the latest scholarship, it cannot be ignored by future scholars of the third and fourth centuries and will certainly take the place of many previous works on the subject.
–David Engels , University of Aachen , Bryn Mawr Classical Review
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Product Details

  • Series: The Routledge History of the Ancient World
  • Paperback: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; New Ed edition (June 19, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415100585
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415100588
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
Within its set limits, this is an excellent book. Potter's major focus is the Imperial system of government and how it changed over the period covered in this book. Potter starts with the Imperial system at the end of the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the termination of a period of remarkable stability with a series of successful transitions between Emperors. Under Marcus Aurelius and his predecessors, the Emperor functioned as the fulcrum of a system in which governence was exercised partly by the Imperial court, partly by the Senatorial class through institutions inherited from the Roman Republic, partly by a bureaucracy staffed by the Roman equestrian order, and partly through the Army. The Emperor mediated through these different systems and balanced local/regional needs against Imperial needs. The ranks of the Senatorial and equestrian orders were socially permeable with provincial families making their up the social ladder into important positions. Potter shows the Empire at this point to be somewhat backward looking with intellectual life driven by work of important thinkers from prior generations and important institutions, like the Army, maintaining the structures established decades, if not centuries earlier. After Marcus Aurelius, a number of stresses emerged that drove major changes in governence. The Persian empire was reinvigorated by the Sasanids, 'barbarian' invaders from Europe became more of a problem, and chronic succession problems produced political instability. The imperial succession is marked by a series of incompetent (Commodus), underage, or arguably insane (Caracalla, Elagabalus) Emperors. Succession crises produced frequent civil wars.Read more ›
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Kalle on November 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
Potter's book approaches late antiquity not as a tale of inevitable decline, but as a vibrant, living society. Its thinkers, its scandals and its changes are documented here in fascinating detail. For one such as I, whose learning about the ancient world ground to a halt with the death of Augustus, it is a most interesting read, that truly made the Romans come alive.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Retired Reader on November 30, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When Edward Gibbons wrote his monumental work, "The Decline and Fall of the Rome Empire", the "fall" Gibbons was referring to was that of Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453 CE. In his view the Roman Empire until that fall was undergoing an evolution (some would say devolution) into something vary different from the Empire of Caesar Augustus. David S. Potter, the author of this current excellent history does not take such a long term view, but argues quite effectively that the Roman Empire evolved dramatically following the reigns of Commodus (180-192 CE) and L. Septimius Severus (193-211 CE). Potter uses considerable analytic skill supported by excellent documentation to trace how the catastrophic 3rd Century forced the Empire to redesign its governmental and military systems to deal with radically altered domestic and international situations. Potter maintains that as a result Roman hegemony declined or disappeared in many regions, but that the Empire continued to be a viable force through the 4th Century and into the 5th Century.

It seems to this reviewer, at least, that although this is an outstanding history, Potter may not be entirely accurate in his depiction of Roman power through the 5th Century. An alternative view would be that the Western Half of the Empire gradually ceased to function effectively over the course of the period covered by this book and the structural reforms initiated by Diocletian and continued by Constantine were really institutional band-aids that in the end fell off, at least in the West. Such alternative views are possible because Potter not only documents his arguments, but where practical provides the reader with actual contemporary quotes. This allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusions using this superbly organized book as a base.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kirialax on January 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
Potter has written a very good book on the Late Roman world. The research and detail are meticulous, and the evolution of the state is portrayed very well. Potter does an excellent job in combining historical narrative with some of the thematic issues of the times. The chapters on the rise of Christianity and its intellectual impact are particularly well done.

However, this book has some serious flaws. It is not a well-rounded history of Late Antiquity, as the title may suggest. Potter is primarily interested in Late Antique thought and government. The Roman army only gets a scant couple of pages, and the areas beyond Rome's borders are hardly elucidated. The chapter on Persia is almost exclusively on intellectual history, while ignoring the effects that the powerful Sassanid state had on Rome. His constant numismatic focus gets tiresome after 500 odd pages, as well. The book also doesn't have the greatest selection of maps.

I give this book 4 stars because it is an excellent history of Late Antique thought and government, but is lacking in a well-rounded history of the period.
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