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The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians [Kindle Edition]

Peter Heather
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (136 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.


Editorial Reviews

Review

"'a colourful and enthralling narrative...an account full of keen wit and an infectious relish for the period.' Independent On Sunday 'provides the reader with drama and lurid colour as well as analysis... succeeds triumphantly.' Sunday Times 'a fascinating story, full of ups and downs and memorable characters' Spectator 'bursting with action...one can recommend to anyone, whether specialist or interested amateur.' History Today 'a rare combination of scholarship and flair for narrative' Tom Holland" --na

Review

"'a colourful and enthralling narrative...an account full of keen wit and an infectious relish for the period.' Independent On Sunday 'provides the reader with drama and lurid colour as well as analysis... succeeds triumphantly.' Sunday Times 'a fascinating story, full of ups and downs and memorable characters' Spectator 'bursting with action...one can recommend to anyone, whether specialist or interested amateur.' History Today 'a rare combination of scholarship and flair for narrative' Tom Holland"

Product Details

  • File Size: 13271 KB
  • Print Length: 580 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (December 1, 2005)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000SEI0JQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,599 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
352 of 361 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
In this volume Peter Heather attempts to explain that ultimately, the cause of the Fall of the Western Roman Empire was not due to tax inequities, a failure of the economy, internal discord, etc., but rather because of the simply overwhelming level of barbarian invasions which began in the late 4th century. This he proceeds to do very well.

This work is divided into three main parts; "Pax Romana" for chapters 1-3, "Crisis" for chapters 4-7 and "Fall of Empires" for chapters 8-10. I will discuss each of these briefly.

In "Pax Romana" Heather discusses the Barbarians, the Romans, and the Roman Empire briefly. For each of these groups he gives an overview of their development to the latter part of the 4th century, in order to provide us with a starting point for the period of the barbarian invasions. He discusses what it meant to be "Roman" and how even cities far removed from Rome, such as Trier, were fully involved in Roman life and, rather than being rustic frontier outposts, were as fully a part of the Empire as cities of the Italian peninsula. He discusses the increased autonomy of the Emperor and how the Empire changed and adapted to the rise of Sassanid Persia as a threat to the East, including changes in the taxation system to support an increased military presence in that area. He also discusses the evolution of Germanic tribes and their coalescence from small, isolated people into larger, more unified kingdoms, capable of truly threatening Rome rather than just gaining an occasional, ultimately meaningless victory, as had previously been the case.
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128 of 135 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Mysterious Death of the Roman Empire September 22, 2006
Format:Hardcover
Notice the title of Peter Heather's fascinating study of the final centuries of the Roman Empire. It is a clear tribute to Gibbons, yet the "Decline" is intentionally missing. Because according to Dr. Heather the Roman Empire never declined; its fall was due to external, rather then internal, forces, and the perpetrators were two: the Huns and the Goths.

Heather rejects the theories that see the cause of the fall of the Roman Empire in internal maladies. Contra popular opinion, he argues that the division of the Empire to Western and Eastern parts was rational given the increased size of the Roman population. As the Roman way of life spread, and more and more conquered people became Roman citizens, the patronage that had to be distributed became too enormous for any single Imperial Court - hence, the need for two Courts.

Nor is the fault in the Christianization of the Empire; although he acknowledges that the rise of Christianity brought a Cultural Revolution (separation of the Living from the Dead; Equality of all before the Lord; diminished importance for the educated Romans in comparison with the simple true-believers, pp. 121-122), Heather doubts it effected the functioning of the empire much. The Roman Empire was still perceived as divinely blessed "only the nomenclature was different" (p. 123), Christian theology fitted neatly into Roman Chauvinism, and it was only as consequences of defeat that St. Augustine started to develop his anti-Nationalist theology (pp. 230-232).

The best evidence against the "internal decline" thesis is that the Roman Empire did not actually collapse - only it's western half did. In the East, the Roman Empire soldiered on, until another powerful foreign threat - Islam.
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164 of 176 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Unthinkable: a New way to Understand Very Old Facts November 29, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Heather has accomplished kind of an academic miracle: he has given new light to a very old issue that has been explored, analyzed and written about almost to death: the causes of the demise of western roman empire.

I know all the big names that have ever written about this: Gibbons, Bury, the many italians and french XIX century scholars, T. Mommsem, Spengler, Toynbee and many many more. Heather is different to all of them. Clear, simple explanations grounded in common sense AND new archeological discoveries make the trick and Heather make it very well. With his approach we see less the monumental and unavoidable development of a macro-dramatic internal "decline and fall" as the simple, direct and at last unbearable action of very obvious facts...once they have been explained by Heather. We simply see an still prosperous empire being gradually overwheelmed by too many enemies that became less barbarian and enough civilized to gather and muster the military forces and pressures that at last, coming from every side, were too much to be resisted anymore by the imperial resources. How this came along centuries of accumulative evolution is the task that brillianty accomplish Mr Heather. At the very least, his book offers a new, refreshing, intriguing view of such a colossal development. So it is a must for any history geek.
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250 of 275 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Peter Heather, an Oxford history professor, offers a "new history" of one of the most controversial subjects in world history - discussing what caused the fall of the (west) Roman Empire. Although this book makes for interesting reading at points, the author's main hypothesis is neither particularly fresh nor well constructed. Heather's main focus is on external factors - Barbarian actions - rather than internal Roman factors such as political corruption or economic disintegration. The author's main thesis revolves around the contention that Germanic society changed rapidly between the 1st and 4th Centuries and allowed the heretofore-weak tribes to form confederations that could challenge Roman power. Once Hunnic aggression pushed these Germanic tribes into Roman territory he argues, the Romans could no longer assimilate or destroy these Germanic "super-groups" such as the Goths, and the resultant loss of territory gradually deprived the empire of revenues. A vicious cycle began with the arrival of the Goths on Roman territory in 378, and eventually resulted in a growing inability of the Empire to defeat the swarm of new foes, such as the Vandals, Franks and Huns. Heather tends to dismiss all other theories about the reasons for imperial collapse out of hand, claiming that internal factors were not essentially irrelevant. Hmmm...not exactly sound historical methodology. Essentially, the author subscribes to the "mono-causal" explanation for this very complex process of imperial collapse - his explanation. It is a telling indictment about the intellectual foundations of this book that the author never questions whether a "mono-causal" theory can even be applied to such a lengthy, complex process. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars explaining Heather's theory on exactly why Rome came to collapse...
Very detailed and contextual history of the late empire, explaining Heather's theory on exactly why Rome came to collapse despite the extraordinary advantages it enjoyed. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Usvaldo de Leon, Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars is good at sticking to his theme
Yes, this yet another tale of the murdering emperors in the late Roman Empire, and the details bog you down a little. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Laurie Austen
5.0 out of 5 stars Sic transit gloria mundi
The fall of the (Western) Roman Empire is one of the most well studied events in history and legitimately, understanding the reasons behind the fall of arguably the first great... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Malleus Maleficarum
4.0 out of 5 stars The last years of the Empire
Centered in the last hundred years of the Empire, since the defeat of Adrianople in 378 until the fall of Romulus Augustus in 476 The book is written with great erudition and... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Eric Mascarin Perigault
2.0 out of 5 stars the emperor Numerian was NOT also skinned and stuffed like Valerian....
How can one trust his conclusions when he gets so very many facts wrong? No, the emperor Numerian was NOT also skinned and stuffed like Valerian. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Joseph M. Arnold
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic work! Can anyone recommend something on early Rome?
Heather's book has been eye-opening and a joy to read. Highly recommended! Can anyone recommend anything comparably "ground-breaking" and well-written on the rise of Rome,... Read more
Published 5 months ago by John Peterson
5.0 out of 5 stars A much-needed new look
In my admittedly amateurish experience this is the first time someone writes a book for a general readership that focuses on the larger external causes of the Fall and not on a... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Fernando Spada
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for Western History buffs.
I didn't read the entire book but read all of the Roman Empire part which was a very good read. Heather's style is very objective yet not so stilted as to come across as a... Read more
Published 6 months ago by thrasher
4.0 out of 5 stars Roman Imperialism and the Law of Unintended Consequences!!!!
Peter Heather persuasively argues that Roman conquest and impact across its borders set into motion the growth of Germanic confederations designed both to benefit from wealth and... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Jose Gomez-Rivera
5.0 out of 5 stars Great History
Enjoyed reading the history. Peter Heather not only gave us the facts but also revealed the personality of some of the individuals that played a part in Roman history..
Published 7 months ago by Phill LaCroix
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