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The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization [Paperback]

Bryan Ward-Perkins
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 7, 2006 0192807285 978-0192807281 New Ed
Was the fall of Rome a great catastrophe that cast the West into darkness for centuries to come? Or, as scholars argue today, was there no crisis at all, but simply a peaceful blending of barbarians into Roman culture, an essentially positive transformation?

In The Fall of Rome, eminent historian Bryan Ward-Perkins argues that the "peaceful" theory of Rome's "transformation" is badly in error. Indeed, he sees the fall of Rome as a time of horror and dislocation that destroyed a great civilization, throwing the inhabitants of the West back to a standard of living typical of prehistoric times. Attacking contemporary theories with relish and making use of modern archaeological evidence, he looks at both the wider explanations for the disintegration of the Roman world and also the consequences for the lives of everyday Romans, who were caught in a world of marauding barbarians, and economic collapse. The book recaptures the drama and violence of the last days of the Roman world, and reminds us of the very real terrors of barbarian occupation. Equally important, Ward-Perkins contends that a key problem with the new way of looking at the end of the ancient world is that all difficulty and awkwardness is smoothed out into a steady and positive transformation of society. Nothing ever goes badly wrong in this vision of the past. The evidence shows otherwise.

Up-to-date and brilliantly written, combining a lively narrative with the latest research and thirty illustrations, this superb volume reclaims the drama, the violence, and the tragedy of the fall of Rome.

Frequently Bought Together

The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization + The World of Late Antiquity: AD 150-750 (Library of World Civilization) + The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages 400-1000 (The Penguin History of Europe)
Price for all three: $49.06

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Editorial Reviews


"Imaginative and intensely interesting"--Chistopher Kelly, University of Cambridge

"An important addition to the study of this period of Western history."--Library Journal

"The author makes a compelling case for his point of view and thus helps readers restudy and rethink a major period in world history.... Explains the complex realities of the Roman empire and its neighbors in fascinating detail."--BookPage

About the Author

Bryan Ward-Perkins is a lecturer in Modern History at the University of Oxford, and Fellow and Tutor in History at Trinity College. He has published widely on the subject and is a co-editor of The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume XIV

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; New Ed edition (September 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192807285
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192807281
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.5 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews
206 of 217 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Manslaughter; not murder! September 17, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"The invaders were not guilty of murder, but they had committed manslaughter." So says Bryan Ward-Perkins in an entertaining and stimulating historical monograph. He attacks, among other things the post- World War II politically correct thesis that the Germans reached as easy accomodation with the Romans and together they worked hand-in-hand to transform Europe into the 6th century version of a "Brave New World".

He gives substantial proof for the declining quality of life in the 5th century, and bases his work primarily on archaeologial remains and pottery studies that are often ignored by the text-centered classical scholar. It had never really occurred to me think of the significance of the lack of copper coins after the decline of the Empire, or the change in pottery finds. My doctorate is on the fall of Rome, and I plan to use this as a text the next time I teach the course. It is well illustrated, written with great wit and is brief enough to hold the interest of any student. The only odd thing about this book is that it does not mention the 80 year old "Pirenne Thesis" on the collapse of Mediterranean trade; he does however, give Peter Brown and the contemporary American "spiritual enlightenment and rebirth" school a good thrashing!
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245 of 265 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Pots, tiles and coins" - The end of comfort September 9, 2005
Bryan Ward-Perkins is concerned with impact of the collapse of the Western Roman Empire on the standard of living, or what he calls "the loss of comfort."

Seen from this standpoint, the end of Rome was the end of the world's first complex, specialised economy.

He is careful to explain that the end of the Roman Empire was not a uniform process, and that the Eastern half of the empire continued to flourish until the time of the Arab attacks in the seventh century AD.

He uses three instances: pottery, roof tiles, and coinage, to demonstrate the material changes which took place.

The use of pottery was widespread throughout the Empire, it was not solely the preserve of the elite, its manufacture was industrial, and its quality was excellent.

In provinces like Britain the availability of sophisticated, mass produced, quality pottery simply disappeared.

The skills and technology were lost. (Well the German invaders never had them!)

Tiled roofs do not catch fire, they do not attract insects, and they do not need replacing every thirty years. In Britain, " ... the quarrying of building stone, preparation of mortar, manufacture and use of bricks and tiles ... " all ceased.

Coins are the hallmark of economic sophistication: in Roman times they were "a standard feature of everyday

life ... " Their disappearance meant the disappearance of economic complexity, and in the West this was "almost total".

These three instances highlight the loss of specialisation, and as the author points out, specialisation depends on

"a sophisticated network of transport and commerce ... in order to distribute ... goods efficiently and widely.
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58 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply brilliant. Buy this book today! July 4, 2006
This book is, quite simply, one of the finest history books I have ever read (and I am an avid history fan). I wish more academic writers had both the will and the ability to write as clearly and with as much flaire as Bryan Ward Perkins in this book. Sadly, it is a skill that is lacked by many of them; yet this only makes the author's achievement all the greater. Perkins does not go in for the obfuscating style that sometimes plagues academic writing. He does not need to hide behind dense terminology - he explains his ideas confidently and in plain English. I truly believe that this excellent book deserves a five star review rating.

In short, I urge you with all possible enthusiasm to buy this book today!
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69 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Roman Civilization Really Did "Fall." March 18, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I came to Bryan Ward-Perkins' work indirectly, through reading Rodney Stark's "The Victory of Reason." Stark argues the reason for the superiority of Western culture is the Christian religion, especially the Catholic Christian religion with its emphasis on the (alleged) rationality of God and on the goodness of creation.

Stark's Christian triumphalism requires him to attack the classic account of the "Decline and Fall" of Western Roman Civilization by Edward Gibbion. Gibbon argued (in 1776) that the "useless" activities of the monasteries and churches in the 5th Century required so much labor and wealth that little was left over to fend off the barbarians. The fall of Rome, Gibbon concluded, "was a triumph of barbarism and religion." (Amazon sells a nice little summary of Gibbon's views entitled "Christians and the Fall of Rome.")

Stark dissents from Gibbon's view, arguing that there had been no "fall" of civilization in the 5th Century. There had simply been a cultural segue from one type of social organization (Roman) to another (feudal society featuring monasteries and local castles).

I had never heard anyone seriously deny there had been a "fall" of Roman civilization in the 5th Century, and I did not know enough at that time to contest his ideas. Then while in a waiting room, I came across an article by Ward-Perkins in the magazine "History Today" (as I recall its title). Ward-Perkins briefly laid out the issue between the defenders of the "discontinuity thesis" (like Gibbon) and the defenders of the "continuity thesis" (which included historians like the Oxford historian Peter Brown and of course Rodney Stark).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars No nonsense research about the fall of Greco-Roman civilisation
Scholarly publication based on top notch archaeology. It depicts the demise of Greco-Roman civilisation with state of the art scientific tools, showing many European peoples... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Citizen of the world
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, comprehensive and not long. It counters many ...
Clear,comprehensive and not long. It counters many arguments made by Peter Brown while confirming others. Read more
Published 1 month ago by John O'Donnell
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad book if you really enjoy classics history though
I read this book for my class, Topics of Catastrophe and Collapse. While it is true, it was well written, it was also slightly dense and not my cup of tea. Read more
Published 3 months ago by GreeneJellyBean
5.0 out of 5 stars Great treatment of the fall of the Western Roman Empire
The author uses physical evidence to show a real material decline in the region of the Western Roman Empire after its fall, while maintaining clear perspective on how this probably... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Quinton Zondervan
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
This book does not cite sources, and makes no effort to try to explain why things happened.
Published 4 months ago by PAUL HSIEH
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Having read about the era of transition from the Roman Empire to medieval Europe for more than a dozen years, I found this book very helpful in explaining the debate going on over... Read more
Published 6 months ago by R. Ahmanson
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely good for those wanting to learn the no-nonsense realities...
Very informative. Not a story, but more of a summary of the author's research. Definitely good for those wanting to learn the no-nonsense realities of the Roman Empire - and see... Read more
Published 6 months ago by R. Hobart
5.0 out of 5 stars Great perspective
Published 7 months ago by David
5.0 out of 5 stars Direct parallels with our own time...

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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent dose of reality on the barbarian invasions of the Western...
Impressive look at why the Western Roman Empire fell. And a great antidote to modern, multiculturally influenced rewritings of history that take the line that Rome fell because... Read more
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