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The Day of the Barbarians: The First Battle in the Fall of the Roman Empire Hardcover – 12 Jul 2007


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; 1st edition edition (12 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843545934
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843545934
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.2 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 916,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

And a cracking tale it is too, well researched and beautifully paced.
-- Literary Review

Barbero has mastered the vast scholarly output on his subject. He possesses the historian's gift of summarising a complex situation in a single sentence. -- The Spectator

About the Author

Alessandro Barbero teaches Medieval Studies at the Universita del Piemonte Orientale. A previous winner of the Strega Prize, Italy's most prestigious literary award, he is the author of The Battle: A New History of Waterloo (Atlantic Books, 2005).

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 5 Oct 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I would have given this book five stars if not for the fact that it does not feature a single map - not of the Balkans in question nor of the deployment of the troops in battle on the day.

However, it covers very well the build up to the battle and its aftermath. The author takes us through the mindset of the Romans at this time, when enemies were also a potential labour force or mercenaries fighting for one's cause.

You get a sense of the rivalry between both halves of the empire and cannot fail to notice the impact of Christianity on its foreign and domestic policy.

The author's style is easy and the narrative not disrupted by arguments about the veracity of any sources. That is not to say the book lacks an objective approach. On the contrary, there is enough scope to draw your own conclusions.

An enjoyable read. I hope other ancient or medieval battles get the same treatment.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Walker on 23 Dec 2009
Format: Paperback
This is popular history at its best - no academic discussion about the translation of phrases from obscure original sources or dry machinations of government, just a tale well-told. Many British readers will know about the invasion of our country and Hadrian's Wall, but few will know about the population movements and battles in eastern Europe (in this case along the Danube and south into modern Turkey) that were such pivotal events in the history of the Roman empire. The tale of this battle, which the author argues marked the beginning of the end, is told at pace and with just enough lively detail to paint the picture for an interested layman. At 146 pages long (plus notes and suggestions for further reading) you could probably read this in one sitting on a medium-distance train journey. Huge credit for the readability goes to Barbero, the author, of course, but also to John Cullen, the translator. You wouldn't think it was possible to make a Professor of Mediaeval Studies sound interesting but he pulls it off!
One of the other reviews here states the book has no maps. I am using the hardback version from 2007 (which is cheaper than the 2008 paperback, incidentally) and it has a map at the start of the book ... but it is of the whole of Europe and beyond from the Orkneys to the Red Sea so trying to spot the manoeuvres of two armies maybe 10 miles apart from each other is impossible. However, Wikipedia has a `Battle of Adrianople' page (largely a summary of Barbero's book!) but it does include a diagram of the battle.
Pictures of the battlefield site are harder to come by (even trusty Flickr has let me down) but please leave a comment below if you can link to any.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of the Roman empire, whether you have heard of this battle before or not.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Arch Stanton on 14 Aug 2009
Format: Hardcover
Put simply this books only problem is that it's too short. It deals with the battle of Adrianople, the immediate aftermath, and then it ends. It's smaller than a paperback novel. When I first saw it I was skeptical that anything so small could be of any use. Actually, I thought I'd been ripped off. But it does such a good job of explaining what happened, why it happened, and what made it such an important battle that I grew to like it. And it's cheap so you have no excuse for not buying it. I mean it. Like right now.

For those of you with money who want a book that covers more than just the battle I'd recommend Failure of Empire: Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century A.D. It goes into more detail and covers all of Valens life before that.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John Hopper TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 4 Aug 2009
Format: Hardcover
A short account of the events leading up to the Goth victory over the Eastern Roman army at Adrianople in 378. This is written (or translated from the Italian, in any case) in a very clear straightforward style.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JPS TOP 500 REVIEWER on 28 May 2012
Format: Paperback
I can only agree with previous reviewers. This is indeed "popular history" at its best, however much I might dislike this term for suggesting that "non-specialists" can make do with a somewhat content-light version of a story whereas "specialists" (regardless of how you define these) are somewhat entitled to the complete, extensive and exhaustive (or even exhausting) version.

The point I would like to make in this review is that this is "popular history" as it should be written and presented: an easy to read and well-structured narrative but nevertheless backed by in-depth research. This is also a book that tells the whole story, not an abbreviated "dummed-down" version. It is finally the story of a dramatic battle - a disaster for the Roman army that is traditionnally presented as having had huge consequences and of marking the "beginning of the end" for the Roman Empire. There is therefore no need whatsoever for the author to introduce any "dramatic effects" and ploys to keep the reader fascinated. Barbero does not, to his credit, even attempt do so, unlike so many other authors writting "popular history who, at times, seem more interested in selling as many copies as possible than in writting accurate history. Having mentioned all this, why is this book a MUST read, even for historians? There are many reasons.

The first reason is that this book is written by a historian who has done his reasearch and who provides sufficient elements of blibliography for all types of readers, and not only the so-called "general reader". Moreover, he has read the secondary sources in Italian (which happens to be his nationality), in English, but also in French and in German. This is sufficiently rare nowadays, especially in a book directed at the general reader, to be emphasized.
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