- Hardcover: 238 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (February 22, 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300061730
- ISBN-13: 978-0300061734
- Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #810,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Theodosius: The Empire at Bay First Edition Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
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. Even more damaging, he followed a disastrous dynastic policy, promoting his two inept and untrained sons as his heirs and squandering limited military resources fighting fellow Romans while hordes of barbarians were massing just outside the borders. Further, he allowed unscrupulous ministers in his two capitals to promote the interests of one capital at the expense of the other. Thus, Alaric, instead of being controlled, was repeatedly foisted off on one part of the Empire by the other, causing enormous damage.
The authors make a clear and compelling argument that Theodosius, despite being an able ruler, lacked vision. As his reign wore on, he incresingly put his personal religious concerns and his dynastic interests ahead of the welfare of the Empire as a whole. This was particularly disastrous in the west, where money and manpower were more scarce. After his death, the Empire was left depleted and dis-united, its ablest leaders lacking the power and authority necessary to keep barbarian invaders at bay while his heirs dithered. This is a fascinating and well-reasoned account of the period from 378 to about 430. If you have an interest in the history of the late Roman Empire, or if you're just curious, this short and readable book is well worth the effort.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I bought this book in 1997 and this is the third time that I have read it.Read more