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The Restoration of Rome: Barbarian Popes & Imperial Pretenders

The Restoration of Rome: Barbarian Popes & Imperial Pretenders [Kindle Edition]

Peter Heather
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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'Peter Heather has produced a tightly argued and highly stimulating book which will be of obvious interest to readers curious about the aftermath of Rome's fall and the cultural and ideological legacy of Rome. The style is chatty and accessible, and the scholarship up to date and reliable.' Literary Review

'It is told with energy and zest, full of lurid detail and enthralling biographical portraits. Heather navigates difficult terrain with an engaging occasionally conversational style. He concludes The Restoration of Rome with a brilliant discussion of the way in which northern "barbarians" reinvented the papacy and in doing so created the most durable successor to the Roman Empire the Catholic Church.' --Daily Telegraph

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In 476 AD the last of Rome’s emperors was deposed by a barbarian general, the son of one of Attila the Hun’s henchmen, and the imperial vestments were despatched to Constantinople.  The curtain fell on the Roman Empire in Western Europe, its territories divided between successor kingdoms constructed around barbarian military manpower.   But if the Roman Empire was dead, the dream of restoring it refused to die.  In many parts of the old Empire, real Romans still lived, holding on to their lands, the values of their civilisation, its institutions; the barbarians were ready to reignite the imperial flame and to enjoy the benefits of Roman civilization, the three greatest contenders being Theoderic, Justinian and Charlemagne.  But, ultimately, they would fail and it was not until the reinvention of the papacy in the eleventh century that Europe’s barbarians found the means to generate a new Roman Empire, an empire which has lasted a thousand years.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 18867 KB
  • Print Length: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; Unabridged edition (4 July 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230772307
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230772304
  • ASIN: B00CP4I4MU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #79,490 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From the fall of Rome to the rise of the popes 12 Jan 2014
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
A sequel to his The Fall of the Roman Empire, Heather here continues the story of what happened to the Roman west under three `imperial pretenders': Theoderic, Justinian and Charlemagne.

This is a popular book aimed at a non-academic audience, and Heather writes in an informal style throughout. Some of the chattiness of this grated a bit with me ("My own hunch would be...") and I didn't like the sweeping perjorative terms (the constant use of the term `barbarians' - what exactly does that mean? And from whose perspective? The ancient Greeks who first coined the term meant non-Greek speakers whose language sounded like bar-bar to them) and the popular cultural references so that Charlemagne, for example, is described as a Mafioso `Godfather' - very sensational, not terribly accurate.

But that's personal taste. This gives a broad historical narrative of what happened when, and helps to make sense of the period between about the fifth century CE and the eleventh century. It doesn't delve into cultural history so this isn't the book to go to if you're interested, for example, in the Carolingian court and the revival of Latin literature and poetry - practically all our extant Latin texts, for example, can be traced back to catalogues in Charlemagne's library, but Heather isn't interested in this aspect of appropriations from Rome.

So a good book if you want an accessible and fairly lively account of political history from the fall of Rome to the rise of the popes.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Peter Heather is without doubt a great historian who has done much to revisit some of the theories that used to be common currency regarding the end of the Roman Empire. In this book, he seeks to demonstrate how, after three failed attempts by "imperial pretenders" to "restore" the Roman Empire, "barbarian popes" finally managed to succeed in the "Restoration of Rome", although in a quite different form.

Written with a large audience in mind, this book is an entertaining and, at times, a brilliant read backed up by the author's rather exceptional scholarship. The three first parts of the book are vignettes telling the stories of Theodoric, Justinian and Charlemagne, and, according to the author, how each of them attempted, and failed to restore the Empire. The fourth part is about the ascendency of the papacy and how it managed to dominate and become the head of the Church in the western part of what had been the Roman Empire.

This is where I started having some problems. One of the lesser ones is the use of profanity because this allegedly "people's prose" is supposed to make the book's contents more accessible or even more endearing to a large audience. One of the mildest is the author's rather sweeping judgement about Justinian being a "bastard", given the Nikea massacre that saved his throne (and his life) and his long wars which he pursued with little consideration about the sufferings of the populations. He even gets compared to Hitler, Staline and Pol pot. Needless to say, passing judgement on a historical figure in such an anachronistic way is quite amazing for a historian of this calibre who clearly knows better than to compare apples and oranges and call them fruit.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative but not too heavy 4 Oct 2013
By catlady
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I had only a hazy idea of some of it and no knowledge of a lot. I feel it gave me plenty of information without making my brain ache and the writer made it clear when the views expressed were his alone or shared by other academics.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful analysis of the post-Roman West 12 July 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Peter Heather is a superb historical writer, entertaining, witty and deeply insightful. After reading this you will probably never look at the post-Roman West in quite the same way again. Heather considers three failed attempts to restore the geographic Western Roman Empire before turning to the totally unexpected rise of the Papacy and an ideological empire rather than a military one.

Theoderic King of Italy gets relatively little attention in the literature, but Heather considers his rise from the earliest days as a hostage in Constantinople, to King of Italy and effectively an emperor of territory also encompassing the Visigothic territories of southern France and Spain and hegemony over the Burgundians and Vandals of north Africa. Lack of dynastic succession doomed this new empire to collapse after Theoderic's death.

Subsequently the Eastern Empire under Justinian reconquered both Vandalic Africa and Ostrogothic Italy. Heather persuasively argues that retaking these Western territories was never a preconceived plan, but opportunistic. He rightly notes the devastation which the Italian wars caused, from which the region took a long time to recover, weakening it to such an extent that the reacquisition was never going to become permanent. On the other hand, unlike some authors, Heather absolves Justinian of blame for the later reversals of fortune for the Eastern Empire itself a couple of generations later.

Third to enter the stage is Charlemagne. Despite some analyses, his coronation as Emperor by Pope Leo III was the Carolingian king very much calling the shots.
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