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The Ruin of the Roman Empire: A New History Paperback – August 25, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
Justinian I's attempt to recreate a united empire under his rule by dispossessing the "barbarian usurpers" in the West and in Africa, says O'Donnell, was not only misguided but catastrophic for both West and East. It resulted in the complete ruin of the City of Rome, the fragmentation and devastation of all Italy and the fatal crippling of all of Roman culture in the rest of Western Europe and North Africa. In the East Justinian's policy uselessly sacrificed large amounts of limited (indeed, irreplaceable) resources in pursuit of a hopeless dream while diverting imperial attention both from areas essential to the empire (the Balkans) and from critical problems (the rising power of Persia).
Justinian enjoys few modern admirers and Justinian-bashing is nothing new in historical writing.Read more ›
In actuality, historians are deeply divided in their evaluations of the principal personages who dot O'Donnell's pages, and the historical conclusions which abound in them. Some think Justianian was a great man, some think he was a mixture of great successes and great failures, and some think he was ultimately a failure -- though none that I am familiar with rate him as low as O'Donnell.Read more ›
The book's biggest downfall, however, is the lack of focus. He shows his knowledge by bringing in Wagner-playing Ipods and various Shakespeare characters. However, he fails to provide a compelling narrative. Whole sections often appear to do nothing more than show off his literary knowledge, rather than advance the narrative. With a little more focus, this book could have potential.
This is a book that tends to veers off on tangents and, in my opinion, these tangents tend to obscure what is being said. As near as I can figure, the main ideas of the book are that:
1. The Gothic invasion and conquest of the Western Roman Empire did not destroy the empire. It remained Roman, but under new management - a management that produced peace and stability, and was generally better than that which it replaced.
2. Justinian ruined not only the Western empire, but also the Eastern Empire, and he was at least indirectly responsible for all of the ills that followed in the next 1500 years.
These are interesting theses, but I do not think that the text completely supports them. The author clearly shows that Justinian's conquest of North Africa was largely bloodless, but except for its effect on religion (which was accepted by most of the common people) did not alter things very much, so how did this "ruin the empire"? His invasion of the rest of the Western Empire was confined to Italy (and not all of it), so the rest of what had been the Western Empire was not even directly impacted.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Some have faulted this book for going on tangents rather than sticking to one main narrative. I found this strategy of the author's helpful rather than an issue. Read morePublished 1 month ago by David Frauenfelder
This book provides insight into the dynamics between Roman politics and Christian beliefs and how the interaction of the two influenced the world down to our own day and time. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Raymond T. Cullar
First book that I could not make my way through. My fault that I do not know enough about the history of Rome and the surrounding regions.Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
If you are a true fan of the Roman Empire, this is a must read. It is detailed to a fault, I soon lost track of the many names. Read morePublished 4 months ago by J. W. Wolter
Great book if you are already familiar with the time line of papal succession and both Latin and Orthodox Emperors... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Constant Reader