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The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization Paperback – 13 Jul 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; New Ed edition (13 July 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192807285
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192807281
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 1.3 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 120,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

Review

Teasingly stimulating, acutely critical, abundantly constructive, and certain to unleash endless debate. (Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, author of Civilizations and Millennium)

This hard-hitting and beautifully written assessment will, I am delighted to say, cause a great deal of trouble. (The Sunday Telegraph)

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. Born and brought up in Rome, he has excavated extensively in Italy, primarily sites of the immediate post-Roman period. His principal interests are in combining historical and archaeological evidence, and in understanding the transition from Roman to post-Roman times. A joint editor of The Cambridge Ancient History, vol. XIV, his previous publications include From Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, also published by Oxford University Press.

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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Lobsterman on 23 Mar. 2007
Format: Paperback
Don't be put off, as I initially was, by the technical illustrations and discussions of pottery types that at first sight may make this look like the drier kind of archaelogical textbook. It is in fact a witty and stimulating exposition, with skilfull deployment of supporting evidence of both "hard" and "soft" varieties, of the view that the end of the Roman Empire was indeed a violent, traumatic and destructive episode. His view can be summed up as being if it looks like a collapse, sounds like a collapse and feels like a collapse then that is exactly what it is. Seems fair enough to me!

This is not, nor does it claim to be, an in-depth examination of why the Empire fell or a narrative of that fall. Instead, it is an attempt, in my view a successful one, to show that this was indeed a "fall" and not just a transformation or transition from one form of society to another. Despite some of the hype around the book, at least going by the description on the back of the paperback version, I am not sure that this view ever really went away although recent years have undoubtedly seen a strengthening of the contrary view that it was essentially a largely peaceful "transformation".

I found particularly interesting Ward-Perkins' use, of evidence like the aforementioned pottery, to show that the end of the Empire was manifested not just through the immediate and obvious impact of large numbers of greedy warriors with big swords taking over the land, but the resultant loss of links between the various parts of the Empire and thus of the flows of goods and services that enabled the Roman civilization to flourish.

This is not to say that Ward-Perkins denies that the "barbarians" were incapable of any positive achievements. Clearly they were so capable, and he admits as much.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Roderick Blyth on 1 Jun. 2010
Format: Hardcover
Every now and then, something happens which reminds us just how precarious is the way of life that we have all learned to take for granted. Most of us remember how, when the transport workers went on strike, petrol disappeared from the pumps and the super-market shelves emptied - all within about 36 hours. Had the TGWU not gone back to work the power stations would have shut down and mass transport would have ceased to function: you wouldn't have been able to light or heat your home; you wouldn't have been able to cook, wash or clean. People would have started pouring out of the cities to see what they could find in the country, but the country would already have been picked clean... and what would have happenned next doesn't bear thinking about... imagine the police trying to keep order without their lovely squad cars.

For a great number of years, a diverting topics of debate among those with an interest in the ancient world, has been how, in the first quarter of the CIV, the Western Empire came to collapse. One of the more entertaining of the theories advanced postulated that the Romans progressively poisoned themselves by using lead piping to convey their drinking water. I always thought this one was rather discredited when the archaeologists discovered the hollowed out tree trunks that were used to pipe water to the cisterns along Hadrian's Wall - the stalls in the Colosseum may have been full of the living dead, but the average legionary presumably still had enough in the way of brains to blow his nose?

In the simple-minded CXIX it was thought that what caused the fall of the Roman Empire was military failure: the Roman army was catastrophically defeated at Adrianople in 378 AD, and thereafter the Goths ranged through the Balkans and Northern Italy.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Prairie Pal on 4 July 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This little book is not going to catalogue all of the barbarian invasions or exhaustively explore the many reasons for the fall of the western Roman Empire but it is going to answer the question: what was the effect of the century-long collapse of civilization? The sensitive New Age Guy historiography of the 1990s that saw the invasions as a kind of semi-consensual rough wooing and which downplayed the older accounts of devastation and ruin have now been authoritatively blown out of the water. Ward-Perkins shows that the barbarian incursions did, in fact, lead to the destruction of comfort, leisure, law and civilization and he has done so by meticulous demonstration of material evidence. The postmodernists who claim that exposing the truth of barbarian barbarity is merely a kind of lingering racism or "othering" the Outsider should be embarrassed by the intellectual clarity and courage of this book.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By D. Harvey-George on 8 Aug. 2006
Format: Paperback
Empires are about exploitation but they can also bring benefits to the conquered peoples. Does it matter to a farmer on the hills of Cumbria whether his master is a Celtic King, Roman Emporer or Saxon? Well it does in as much that the stability of the Roman Empire and its excellent infrastructure meant he could enjoy good quality produce from olive oil to pottery. When the Empire went even kings, albeit surrounded by gold, ended up living in much reduced circumstances. The fall of Rome was such a cataclysmic event for Western Europe that is now etched on our folk memory. If Rome fell over a few short decades could it happen to us?

As other reviewers have commented, Ward-Perkins books explains the economic and cultural changes that took place immediately before and in the two centuries following the fall of Rome. Although he has his own opinions as to what happened he makes it clear where the evidence - written and archeological - is lacking and also puts across other viewpoints at variance with his own.

An excellent if slightly slim volume and a lesson from history that all empires come to and end sometime. Will the pax Europa ultimately be overwhelmed by a tidal wave of immigration from excluded people from beyond the frontiers or will its own internal problems, declining population and inability to renew itself prove its downfall?
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