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Theodosius: The Empire at Bay Hardcover – February 22, 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0300061734 ISBN-10: 0300061730 Edition: First American Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First American Edition edition (February 22, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300061730
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300061734
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,905,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By AntiochAndy on August 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
Theodosius was the last man to rule over the entire Roman Empire. He was appointed by Gratian, the young Emperor in the West, to rule the eastern half of the empire after the death of Valens at the battle of Adrianople. He became sole ruler the whole Empire after he defeated and executed Maximus, who had deposed and executed Gratian. As the last man to rule the full Empire, an understanding of Theodosius and his reign is crucial in understanding how and why the western Empire collapsed while the eastern Empire was able to survive.
As an undergraduate, I read numerous books and articles, each with their own unique view of why the western Empire failed. Gibbon largely blamed the the advent of Christianity for weakening Rome. Others have blamed everything from depopulation resulting from epidemics of the plague to gradual weakening of the Roman aristocracy due to poisoning from their leaden water pipes. Another theory credits the battle of Adrianople with weakening the Roman military and leading to over-dependence on unreliable Gothic tribesmen to fill the ranks.
Williams and Friell analyse events and the historical evidence, concluding that the military situation after Adrianople was retrievable and that Theodosius and Gratian were able to rebuild the eastern field army and re-establish stability by supporting each other in key situations. After Gratian's death, however, co-operation and mutual support between east and west became increasingly problematical. Theodosius began to pursue policies that weakened the Empire. He prompted internal dis-unity, especially in the west, by abandoning the long-standing policy of toleration towards pagans.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Johannes Platonicus on February 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
Stephen Williams and Gerard Friell's work on the emperor Theodosius is not essentially a biography, but rather a survey of the empire from the crushing defeat at Adrianople in AD 378 up to the Vandal's occupation of North Africa in AD 430. Just how Theodosius reacted to these conditions and the subsequent affect they later had on the empire is the basis of this work. His diplomatic feats and failures, his military maneuvers and achievements, and his religious swing from tolerance to universal bigotry are fully covered here with clarity and unified scholarly ingenuity. A very clear account of the complex web of power between the East and the West, the emperors and their ministers, during the reigns of the indolent and feeble emperors Honorius and Arcadius, will be found here as well. To find a more substantial and lucid account elsewhere of the principle policies during Theodosius' reign, of the German migrations and relations with Rome, the ambitions and downfall of Stilicho, and the final disintegration of the Western empire, will be a difficult task to say the least. Detailed illustrations and maps add all the more luster to this well-referenced work, which will be rewarding to scholars and relieving to busy students alike.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By P. Bartl on April 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Given the impact of Theodosius on history, it is surprising that most people probably have no idea who he was: consolidator of the power of the Catholic church, oppressor of "paganism" (which included abolishing the original Olympic Games), chief architect (intentionally or not) of the fall of the Western Empire, by giving power to the Goths and leaving as heir Honorius, one of the most disastrous emperors ever. Theodosius - called "the Great" by a grateful church - is a towering figure in relation to his successors in the Western Empire, bit a mediocre one when compared to his predecessors. The impression is that of a good, but not extraordinary, military chief and administrator, lacking long-term vision, and whose main concerns were to preserve his own power, that of his family, and to save his soul. Still, whatever his personal limitations, Theodosius was a key figure in shaping history, and this book is an excellent way to understand why.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amanda Markham-Malkowski on January 24, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In my edition, in Chapter 2, there is a footnote #55 and the source is not cited in the notes.

I had a question that I had hoped this book would answer. I may not even find an answer. I was trying to understand if many of his decisions were actually based on his religious beliefs or just necessary politically motivated self-preservation tactics due to constant "intrigues" and mob action. I am drawn to the latter from pieces of information taken from other sources as well as this. I'm no expert though. I mention it only because in the 12th Chapter there is a troubling sentence. "His devoted love for his family and dynasty led him to neglect the best interests of a united empire." I didn't read anything in the book that would have led me to that conclusion.

What this book did do was take me through the changes in the military structure painlessly. It also provided information on taxes and ways to get out of paying them and the overall economic climate. I liked the information on propaganda.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Todd A. Ulbrich on December 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
The book is very well written, the most readable and my favorite so far for the years it covers. It doesn't end with Theodosius, but covers his sons Honorius, Arcadius, and the general Stilicho and a bit of Galla Placidia. It's the most well rounded and sensitive introduction to Stilicho written by a recent author that I have found so far in English. (Both Stilicho and Galla Placidia have much more written about them in German. The English reading public is missing out on two great historical figures). In the hardback, the proof reading left something to be desired, with several dropped words, and countless missing right side parenthesis.
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