Customer Reviews


28 Reviews
5 star:
 (14)
4 star:
 (8)
3 star:
 (3)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:
 (2)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


106 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A deeply intelligent volume
I thought Peter Heather's "The Fall of the Roman Empire", published a few years ago, was excellent, but his "Empires and Barbarians: The Fal of Rome and the Birth of Europe" is even better. In this new volume, Heather shifts his focus to concentrate on the barbarians (he simply uses the term to designate peoples outside the Empire) and also extends his time frame through...
Published on March 12, 2010 by Bruce Trinque

versus
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for the casual reader
I have to agree with a number of the reviewers that this is not a book for individuals not already very familiar with Roman history. The details can at times be mind numbing and I found myself unable to keep my attention span on the book. If you are a professional scholar or dedicated layman of Roman history, this is your book. For the remainder of the reading public...
Published on May 29, 2010 by Gary R. Wilkins


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

106 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A deeply intelligent volume, March 12, 2010
By 
Bruce Trinque (Amston, CT United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe (Hardcover)
I thought Peter Heather's "The Fall of the Roman Empire", published a few years ago, was excellent, but his "Empires and Barbarians: The Fal of Rome and the Birth of Europe" is even better. In this new volume, Heather shifts his focus to concentrate on the barbarians (he simply uses the term to designate peoples outside the Empire) and also extends his time frame through the Year 1000 by which time powerful states were emerging across northern and western Europe. Heather rejects the old simplistic picture of hordes of barbarians crossing into the Roman Empire to pillage and plunder, but he nonetheless defends the reality of "mass migrations" playing a major role in what happened (although the label of "mass migration" might sometimes be more because of the impact of the event rather than because of sheer numbers of barbarians involved). Heather provides a supremely intelligent look at a very complex subject, and he carefully lays out his arguements with detail, requiring the reader pay careful attention. At the same time, however, Heather does employ a witty style to engage the reader's interest and to make his points.

If I might be so bold as to summarize what I see to be the author's central theme: Heather believes that the wealth of the Roman Empire quite naturally flowed into the lands beyond the Empire's border (through trade, if nothing else), that increase in wealth inevitably resulting in social inequalities and complexities in those neighboring cultures. This new wealth permitted some individuals to assemble small bands of elite warriors that permitted those individuals to amass even more wealth and gain additional stature (and possibly raid within the Empire to seize even more wealth). Over time, these warrior bands grew and combined in pursuit of greater ambitions towards more wealth, until the Empire itself was overwhelmed. These coalitions in turn provided a basis for the rise of powerful post-Roman states. A similar, but later process led to Slavic dominance in Central and Eastern Europe. Of course, Heather's anaysis is far more complex and subtle that this brief summary and deserves to be closely studied.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great New Insights to The "Transformation" of Late Antiquity, March 8, 2010
By 
Kevin White (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe (Hardcover)
I purchased this book last year before the publishers made it available in the United States. I will admit that it was some pretty heavy reading but it shed new light on an old topic: how migration affects nation building and specifically the creation of "modern" Europe. Professor Heather aptly applies modern migration theories to the late fourth, fifth and sixth century migrations that brought the Roman empire to its knees as well as laid the foundation states that would evolve during the Middle Ages into the modern nation-states we see today. Heathers discusses the "Germanic" migration and destroys the old historigraphical theory that the Germans moved as a "people" in massive population movements. He also dicusses the role of the Slavic tribes of Eastern Europe and the Viking diaspora in relation to the economic affects these population movements had on the making of modern Europe.
I have my Master's Degree in ancient history and studying the Fall of the Roman Empire is one of my favorite topics to study within Classical Europe. I must say this is a powerful book and would recommend it to anyone who ponders the "fall" of the Roman Empire. It is antithetical to the rather popular theory that the Roman Empire "transformed" (i.e., Professor Peter Brown) rather than fell eventhough that theory has some very powerful insights as well. I would also recommend this book in conjunction with Brian Ward-Perkins, "The Fall of the Roman Empire and the Death of a Civilization" as well as any other of Peter Heather's books!!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just one question for the other reviewers, May 22, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe (Hardcover)
I recently purchased, and am enjoying reading, Peter Heather's excellent book Empires and Barbarians.

There is one problem with the book, however.
There are several references in the book to Plates for illustrations accompanying the text.
There is even a page with picture acknowledgements.
BUT, except for the the addended maps, there is not a single illustration in the entire book!

I searched for the title on the OUP website and found the following:

Empires and Barbarians
The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe
Peter Heather
ISBN13: 9780199735600
ISBN10: 0199735603
Hardback, 752 pages
Feb 2010,

The volume in my posession has only 734 pages!
Does everyone else who has read the book have the same problem? Or do I somehow have the British edition dressed in American clothing? Still, why reference illustrations if there aren't any?
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for the casual reader, May 29, 2010
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe (Hardcover)
I have to agree with a number of the reviewers that this is not a book for individuals not already very familiar with Roman history. The details can at times be mind numbing and I found myself unable to keep my attention span on the book. If you are a professional scholar or dedicated layman of Roman history, this is your book. For the remainder of the reading public it will provide new insights but be prepared to struggle through the text.

Of particular note is the analysis of the veracity of Roman source materials and the melding of archaeological evidence with these sources. This is a marriage of source materials not often seen conducted with such effect. They significantly enhance the credibility of Mr. Heather's analysis.

I also noticed the same issue concerning references to plates that another reviewer found. Although plates are mentioned, they do not exist in the book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy it in the KINDLE edition, November 16, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe (Hardcover)
I enjoyed the book, but read it with frustration because 25% of it is composed of an index of maps and lengthly footnotes and sources, which are not accessible using a Kindle until you finish reading it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong Analysis, April 20, 2010
By 
R. Albin (Ann Arbor, Michigan United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe (Hardcover)
This fine book is something of a sequel to Heather's excellent book on the fall of the western Roman Empire. It continues a major theme of that book, the growth and development of "barbarian" societies to a level capable of challenging Rome. In this book, Heather covers major developments from the end of the western Roman Empire to about 1000 AD. As he points out, some of the major features of modern Europe, specifically the eclipse of the Mediterrenean basin as the most important center of European civilization, the development of important Germanic speaking groups in western and central Europe, and the the domination of eastern Europe by Slavic speaking groups, emerge clearly by about 1000 AD. Heather is concerned not only with description of these changes but also with reconstructing the mechanisms of change.

Heather draws on a wide variety of data for his reconstructions. These include not only traditional historical materials but also a large body of archaeological data, and some modern social science literature, particularly that dealing with migrations. Heather plots a relatively sophisticated middle course between traditonal views of "barbarian" tribes overwhelming the inhabitants of the western Roman Empire with wholesale replacement of the previous inhabitants. He also argues strongly against more recent models of elite replacement and cultural transformation by a small conquering elite. Rather, he argues well that some of the barbarian invasions involved substantial but not enormous population movements.

Heather develops a sophisticated model of imperial-barbarian interactions. The Roman Empire acted as a transforming agent on surrounding, mainly Germanic speaking, cultures. Particularly adjacent to the Empire, these societies became increasingly developed economically, socially stratified, and developed polities capable of organizing challenges to the Roman state. These relationships were often violent and the potential rewards of being adjacent to the Empire incented more peripheral cultures to push into the zone adjacent to the Empire. Rome could and did deal successfully with a series of such challenges until the end of 4th century when a train of such challenges overwhelmed the capacities of the western Emprie. Heather argues well that this series of challenges was precipitated by the movement of the Huns across the steppes, initially pushing some Germanic and other groups off the Pontic steppe, and then directly pushing into contact with Rome by moving across the Carpathians. The knockon effects of Hun movements, the challenge of the Huns themselves, and the chaos that followed the collapse of the Hunnish state, produced a series of population movements that overwhelmed the western Roman state.

Heather presents a model in which these substantial but not enormous population movements resulted in a large scale replacement of landowning classes, fragmentation of the prior economy, and loss of continuity of classical culture. Because of development over the course of the Roman period and subsequent centuries, when larger states began to emerge during the Carolingian period, western Europe is developed enough to become the most advanced region in Europe. Similarly, Germanic speakers are now established as relatively sophisticated cultures in parts of Europe.

Heather provides some similarly sophisticated analyses of the Anglo-Saxon conquest of Britain and the Viking expansions into the North Atlantic and Russia. Again, this is a story of poorer cultures aggressively attempting to enrich themselves by raiding and later attempting to dominant richer areas with the resulting economic development increasing the complexity of the barbarian regions. Heather's analysis of the emergence of Slavic dominated states is similar, in this case with the Slavic speakers moving into regions partially evacuated by migrations of Germanic speakers.

This is a generally well organized and well written book. Heather has a very accessible, at times joky (one of his chapter headings is "Huns on the Run") style, and presents his interpretation of the often scanty data quite well. In some ways, however, this book tends to fall a bit between two stools. It is relatively light on strict narrative and some prior knowledge of this period is necessary to get the most of this book. Heather spends a good deal of time on scholarly controversies within the field but while his analysis is convincing, there is often not a lot of detail presented. Given the important he attacnes to population movements, I would like to have seen more discussion of demography and more discussion of economic history and land holding patterns.

Finally, Heather has some interesting discussion of state formation. Some of Heather's model may be generally applicable. He also makes some shrewd observations about the nature of the successor states to Rome, the role of Christianity in state formation, and the importance of social stratification.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars academic study of the post-roman migrations that made Europe, September 11, 2010
By 
Robert J. Crawford (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe (Hardcover)
This is one of those scholarly books that can forever change your perception of a crucial period in history, re-framing it so to speak. It is fascinating and essential, but so rigorously argued that it is very difficult to read and chock full of deadly dull scholarly proofs and arguments. Most importantly, rather than a narrative, it is strictly analytic, far closer to multi-disciplinary social science than history. I would estimate that half of the book is a great joy to read and the other half a dry slog for the determined. The prose is, to put it mildly, dense.

Heather begins with an extremely terse discussion of the sociology of migration. In the past, he argues, scholars (often backed by iffy primary sources) promoted a "billiard ball approach", in which migrating groups knocked others out of the way, perhaps eliminating them by ethnic cleansing or forced absorption as slaves or serfs. Archaeological findings, however, belay this view, indicating instead that groups were far more amorphous, like coalitions with a charismatic leader at their center that grew like a snowball as it gained politico-military momentum. Language and ethnicity were more fluid than assumed, Heather argues, adopting that of the military/economic elite or later perhaps that of the occupied territory. This paragraph cannot do justice to the subtlety and cogency of Heather's arguments, which are assessed against primary sources, archaelogical evidence, and socio-historic examples such as the experience of the Boars as they migrated North to avoid British colonial rule. (From a motley crew, the boars united into highly organized military force and quickly beat the Zulus into submission.)

At the fall of the western Roman empire to germanic tribes (i.e. Goths) in the 5th C CE, migration patterns were changing. From disorganized bands that were seeking to exploit Roman wealth - via border raids, trade, mercenary wages, and diplomatic subsidies as part of Roman foreign policy - they had become very large political entities that included women and children (increasing their numbers vis-a-via warriors by 4x). The earlier groups had been living at subsistence levels as itinerant farmers perpetually in search of fertile ground, beginning their movements with trickle of early explorers (in 2C CE) that became a torrent by 5C. But they were also fleeing the Huns, and later the Turkic Avars, who established powerful military empires in central Europe that were based in pillage and charismatic leaders such as Attila. The new entities were far more organized in their command structures, were learning superior agricultural techniques (to replenish soil nitrogen via turning over rotten plants and crop rotation), and adopting cutting-edge military technologies and tactics.

Similar tribes (i.e. Angles and Saxons) invaded Britain in large enough groups that they displaced the local elites and destroyed their economic systems; eventually, they instilled their language into the local populace, as women could teach the children their original languages, they replaced local languages, including Latin and Celtic. This was a pattern that was often repeated in Europe until 1000 CE, when the principal language patterns that survive with few exceptions (Turkish in Anatolia being a rather big one) to this day.

As western Roman economic structures declined, new power centers arose in northern Europe for the first time, in 7 C CE. Though the level of socio-economic and political sophistication were far below those of the Romans, the new entities were proto-modern states nonetheless. They learned to create military organizational structures, monopolizing the means of force in order to maintain the elites that eventually became entrenched in land ownership and hence became the grand royal and aristocratic families that ruled for the next 1500 years. Heather also covers the Vikings and Slavs; the origins of the latter remain murky and unknowable from the archaeological record. The Slavs, interestingly, conquered much of central Europe because elite Germans seem to have migrated West, leaving poorly armed and disorganized Germanic peasants, who were then absorbed into the newly dominant Slavic elites and tended to adopt their languages. Due to their lack of ability to tax and build viable cities, these semi-nomadic groups faced inherent limits: once they expanded to large size based on pillage and forced tribute, they could no longer pay their forces enough to keep them together and so these mini-empires disintegrated; so the Carolingians, Merovingians, Ottonians, and scores of others succeeded each other a few generations after the charismatic founder disappeared.

It was only later, around 1000 CE, when the empires became more sedentary with larger surpluses of wealth (due to their adoption of more productive agricultural techniques), which paid for the construction of the massive fortified castles that still dot the European landscape; standing armies that could better protect subjects; and more diversified economies, that empires were able to grow more stable. It was also at that time that the various linguistic groups had come to occupy the places that they occupy today - thus, the basis of what became European nation states was more or less set. Invaders later only rarely dislodged these language groups, but rather were absorbed in their turn. There were also extremely sophisticated trading networks that sprung up, bringing northern goods such as furs to the most sophisticated civilizations of the time, the Islamic states, whose silver financed a great deal of the economic expansions in the North.

If this sounds rather abstract, so is the book. It is often not fun to read. However, there is absolutely no question that this is a masterpiece of scholarship that will define the field for a generation. Heather is brilliant, writes beautifully, and often with wonderfully playful humor. (He refers with frustration, for example, to the fact that his students no longer know what he means when referring to black and white television. It got me to laugh.)

I recommend this book for those with the personal interest to persevere through very difficult scholarly arguments. It is the natural follow-on to Heather's equally brilliant (and far more fun) Fall of the Roman Empire. If you wish to understand what made up the extraordinarily diverse language in all of their modalities from 400 to 1000 bce, this is a book for you. I am glad I read it, but it was, well, very challenging and often failed to keep my attention.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars UK Edition (2009) has beautiful color bookplates!, February 8, 2013
This review is from: Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe (Hardcover)
I received the UK edition the other day (ISBN 10: 0333989759 or ISBN 13: 978-0333989753) and the bookplates are all there in full color glory. To get the bookplates search on Amazon.com, Abebooks.com or Alibris.com for this ISBN number. I bought a new copy from a UK bookseller on Abebooks for $42 USD (free ship) and it arrived a week later. Page 734 is the last page. Gorgeous book, binding and color plates. Easy to read print, good acid-free paper weight, beautiful cloth blinding and glossy slipcover. This first edition is copyright 2009.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peter Heather builds on his Fall of Rome theory, October 31, 2012
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
With "Empires & Barbarians", London historian Peter Heather has written a complex but very worthwhile book on European political and demographic changes in the period between 300AD and 1000AD, extending the thinking presented in his outstanding "The Fall of the Roman Empire". While I have some criticisms, as explained below, this is a very important synthesis of research and a must read for anyone interested in the topic.

In "The Fall of the Roman Empire," Heather presented what was to me a new and original explanation for the dissolution of the empire, one of history's great questions. Heather believes that technological developments and wealth leached out from the Roman borders to allow the Germanic tribes living in northern and eastern Europe to develop a greater level of material and political sophistication and more efficient agricultural methods. This increase in sophistication led to a population rise among the Germanic tribes, and in turn an increase in political and military heft, which allowed the tribes to encroach on an overextended Roman empire, teetering from civil war and war on its Persian front. In a fascinating passage in "Empires & Barbarians," Heather speculates that the Hunnic invasion form the steppes led by Attila was a crucial precipitating cause in the collapse of the empire, as the increasingly powerful Germanic tribes would probably have done no more than annex certain Roman provinces, letting the Empire continue on. Heather supports his theory principally through a review of recent archaeological research from Germany and eastern Europe with less emphasis placed on Roman historical writings.

"Empires & Barbarians" advances Heather's case by describing current thinking of human migrations, examines issues and controversies currently preoccupying ancient & medieval scholars, making in-depth analysis of events such as the Anglo-Saxon takeover of Britain and the expansion of the Frankish empire in the 5th & 6th centuries, and careful reviews of the archaeological digs undertaken by Warsaw Pact scientists to unravel the mysteries of the Slavic ascendance. The analysis is penetrating, subtle and not pedantic.

A measure of the excellence of this book can be seen in the account of middle medieval Byzantium. I have read quite a few books about Byzantine history yet nothing has clarified for me the shape and crucial developments in Byzantium's empire after the fall of the west like the few pages Heather devotes to it. Heather summarizes the brutal wars Byzantium successfully engaged in during the earlier part of the 7th century, with a dramatic and draining success on both the European and Persian fronts "turning to ashes" as the Islamic wave swept across the world, expropriating several of the eastern empire's most important provinces, which rendered Byzantium into an appendage of the Islamic empire after about 650. Such clarifying overviews are frequently found in "Empires & Barbarians".
I mentioned some flaws: The chief among them is a stilted, academic style. There is a reliance on jargon and euphemism that detracts from Heather's message and analysis. Phrases like "political identity" and "variegated patterns of participation" abound. Heather would have been better served by writing crisply and clearly. Writing of the Frankish takeover of Roman territories in northern Gaul, he writes: "the process was stressful for the indigenous population, who found themselves invaded by an intrusive new elite and incorporated into a new kingdom that was imposing on them new duties based on the alternative conception of a triple-tier social order." I'm translating that to mean that the Franks slaughtered the remaining Roman landowners, stole everything they could and reduced their new subjects to quaking fear.

Another criticism is more conceptual. Many theories of Rome's fall have emphasized internal weaknesses leading to its dissolution. Heather takes the original tack of stressing the growing strength of Rome's enemies as the key determinant. I would have appreciated more description and analysis of Rome's internal issues, which of course also played a role in the Empire's fall.

I also think Heather ignores salient issues that highlight the catastrophic nature of the fall of the Roman empire. One of the many things I learned from "Empires & Barbarians" is that the estimated population of England in the late empire (late 4th century) was 3-7 million and that this population probably dropped to 1 million by the early 6th century. Obviously that is a disaster, but Heather doesn't spend any time pondering such a tragic devolution. Heather also ignores the plunge in literacy at all levels. He perhaps would answer that he couldn't cover all topics, and had to emphasize other subjects such as migration and material culture finds at archeological digs, but I think the book would have benefited from admitting that the overall cultural and economic impact of the middle ages was very, very negative. (See "The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization" by Ward Perkins, which Heather singles out for praise.) These criticisms don't eliminate the book's strengths or its value, though.

Heather in his foreword writes that he spent sixteen years working on this book. The richness of research, careful and deep thought and intellectual sophistication of "Empires and Barbarians" makes it obvious he spent this time well.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enthusiasm unbound, July 23, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe (Hardcover)
Peter Heather's enthusiasm for the subject is infectious, and his ability to make sense of a complex pattern of migrations is impressive. While the narrative flows well (even if the jaunty asides do not all work), there is too much repetition. Perhaps the author thought this necessary because the book was so long that the reader could not be expected to pick out and retain all the key concepts. It seems that the publishers decided to keep the price down by eliminating photographs and plates, but they omitted to eliminate all references to photographs and plates, much to the frustration of this reader. The price could have been kept down more effectively by reducing the size of the text and by making it tighter and easier to follow. Let's hope the next edition will be a five.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe
Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe by Peter Heather (Hardcover - March 4, 2010)
$34.95 $22.48
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.