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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enthralling account of the fall of Rome
This is a book which is as every bit of epic as its subject matter. Peter Heather writes in an accessible, easy-to-follow manner making this book ideal for the layperson, scholar and student. Rather than seeing the end of the western Roman Empire as a result of internal decline and internecine warfare (the Edward Gibbon approach), Heather argues that the Empire fell due...
Published on 4 Sept. 2008 by Matthew Turner

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63 of 80 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fall of Rome - or the Rise of the Barbarians?
At the outset let me say this book is the product of a great deal of research and learning. It is very professional and well written. There are very useful appendices and text notes. The problem is - it isn't exactly about the fall of the Roman Empire.
There are very detailed accounts of the culture and movements of the various 'barbarian' (ie...
Published on 2 Feb. 2006


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New ideas about barbarians, 16 Sept. 2010
By 
B. Rosewell (London) - See all my reviews
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I found this fascinating in its attempt to make sense of the debates about the fall of the Roman Empire. He reinstates some aspects of migration as a key expnatory factor in this fall and why such migrations might have come about.
The book is very clearly and well written, and I am now completely clear about the differences between the Goths, the Alans and the Vandals!

Incidentally, his other book is also excellent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive And Enjoyable, 18 Dec. 2010
In this comprehensive review of the fall of Rome, I particularly liked the analyses Heather provides on events and the extensive discussion on Rome's rival neighbours (the Persians, the Goths, the Huns). This provided a superb perspective and enhanced my understanding of 2nd to 5th century AD Roman Empire. There are several maps here, which I found hard to follow, and photographs and images (some I thought pointless like the one of Charlemagne) but all in all this book is far more than a straight cut and dry narrative of events. The downside to analysis is that we all having our personal prisms through which we view the outside world, one gets here a full dose of Heather's points of view which after a while grates. That said, the writing is easy and the narration immensely enjoyable. My main criticism (hence 4 stars) is that, for me at least, it went on far too long.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Its the Hun Wot Done it", 8 Oct. 2011
Excellent, witty and knowledgeable- I thoroughly enjoyed this. Peter Heather wears his learning lightly- and while there will inevitably be areas for disagreement (for example, I would have preferred more on the economic reasons for the fall of the Western Roman empire) , it is highly recommended.

And for undergraduates short on time, here is a precis of the main reason for the fall of the Western Roman Empire. To misquote the famous phrase on the Murdoch owned newspaper, "Its the Hun Wot done it".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written and very interesting, 22 Feb. 2014
By 
Mr. Paul Newton "paulnewton2" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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I'm not a scholar on ancient history but I'm interested in the field and have read a number of books on ancient Rome. I loved this book. Heather puts forward an interesting thesis on the 'fall' of Rome (actually the collapse of the Western half - the Eastern empire continued for centuries), backed up by frequent references to sources, so he is not just telling the reader to take his word for it. I'm going to hunt out more of Heather's work on the basis of this book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and educational, a bit heavy for the novice, 13 Aug. 2010
Being fairly new to the subject, I am not the one to compare Heather's book with other books covering the same period. The book seems to be comprehensive and the arguments are convincing. A lot of interesting information and theories that are well argued; I certainly learned a lot! But for the layman, the book can be a bit too detailed at times. For example, for me the presentation of rival theories are not that interesting, I think that is more for the scholar. I (maybe a bit naively) trust that Heather is a leading historian and just want to read what he has to say about the subject. Also, there is too little "juice" for my taste. I would like a few more down-on-the-ground descriptions of crucial moments in history. That is when all the facts come alive and you remember why you are interested in history in the first place. I guess Heather is trying, as with for example the description of Priscus' embassy to Attila. That must surely have been a nerve-racking experience for the people involved, and could have been told like a thriller. Maybe Heather is not a prose-writer capable of that, and fair enough, I guess that is not his intention either. (I recently read Simon Baker's "Ancient Rome - The Rise and Fall of an Empire", and what that lacks in comprehensiveness, it certainly makes up for in vivid descriptions of battlescenes and senatorial intrigues. Recommended (at least for the layman)!).

To sum up, the book is comprehensive, educational and gives a thorough and up-to-date introduction to the subject, but it is not the exciting page-turner that makes this extraordinary period really come alive.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a truly great book, 27 July 2014
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This i a really well written book that is detailed a complex but also easy to read and follow. The writer often uses his expert knowledge of the period and people involved to speculate about decisions and actions when the source material is suspect or missing. Maps help illustrate what is going on.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, 3 Dec. 2012
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A very well constructed piece, well researched and vital to the understanding of anyone attempting to learn about the topic. The content is interesting and understandable regardless of stage of education. Very well written and a must read for me.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The barbarians really did destroy the Roman Empire, 8 Aug. 2009
By 
Gerard Noonan "noonangerard" (Limerick, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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The fall of the Western Empire in the fifth century AD has long fascinated the intellectual classes, Hollywood film makers, and politicians determined to show off their learning. Why is this? After all, as Heather points out, the Roman Empire was essentially a one-party state, in the sense that it tolerated no public dissent. In other words, it had a political structure similar to that of the Soviet Union. Indeed, Heather makes a comparison between the orchestrated `spontaneous' and prolonged applause which inevitably greeted the bombastic speeches of Khrushchev and Brezhnev in modern times and the synchronized acclamation with which Roman senators prefaced the speechifying of the ancient emperors (`We give thanks for this regulation of Yours!', repeated twenty-three times, was just one of the cries with which the great and the good of Rome greeted the introduction of a new law compendium by emperors Theodosius II and Valentinian III in AD 437.) Furthermore, as Heather also points out, the Empire, unlike the Soviet Union (or at least the Soviet Union according to its own rhetoric), primarily benefited the rich, in the sense that its political order involved a compact between the state and powerful landowners. With less than five per cent of the population owning over eighty per cent of the land, the Roman political economy worked whereby the landowners financed the state through taxation in return for their social privilege being protected through the law, and, if all came to all, the army.
Perhaps the hold of the Empire stems from the fact that, despite its lack of political freedom, its massive economic inequality, and off-putting self-regard, it was the best form of civilization around at the time. `Civilization', of course, is a loaded term, especially in a climate of cultural relativism where the use of such judgemental terms as `civilized' and its corollary `barbaric' is frowned upon. Each culture, we are told, is civilized in its own terms. I disagree with this. It is undeniable that life under Roman rule was preferable to life under the rule of such Germanic peoples as the Goths, the Vandals, or the Alans, even if one were a slave. The division of labour ensured that the Romans enjoyed such everyday products as pottery and warm clothing, along with clean water and central heating (if you were rich enough). Meanwhile, life amongst the barbarians was nasty, brutish and short. Although Saint Augustine was right to argue that Rome's success was motivated not by divine providence but by the 'lust for domination', life under the Romans was probably preferable to life anywhere else at the time.
Indeed, this fact played a major role in the fall of the Western Empire itself, at least as Heather relates the tale. In 376, two large Germanic groups, the Tervingi and the Greuthungi, sought refuge in the Empire, fleeing as they were from the marauding Huns. Admitted to the modern day Balkans, but suspicious of Roman intentions, the barbarians gave battle. As the Roman army was depleted due to concerns of a Persian invasion, an uneasy peace eventually came about, but only when the Romans acceded to the barbarian request of allowing them a certain amount of autonomy within the Empire, an unprecedented development. With this toe-hold in the Empire, barbarians proceeded to intervene in imperial affairs over the following century, sometimes of their own volition, but often at the behest of ambitious Roman generals. A further invasion of assorted barbarian groupings eventually led to the rich North African provinces of the Empire falling to the Vandals in the 440s. Feeling the effects of the resulting reduced taxation and strategic vulnerability, a massive fleet was arranged to ferry a large army of re-conquest across the Mediterranean, only for Attila the Hun to appear on the scene. Although the Romans managed to defeat his invading forces, the resultant disintegration of Attila's empire made the barbarian groupings on Rome's Balkan doorstep even more difficult to manage. The African invasion fleet was finally reassembled in 461, only for it to be scattered to the four winds by Vandal fire ships. The failure to re-conquer Africa, along with increasing political instability, reduced tax revenues, and barbarians in control of large parts of Western Europe, sealed the fate of the Western Empire, Heather argues. After four hundred years, the Empire ended with a whimper rather than a bang. A barbarian king of Italy, descended from one of Attila the Hun's henchmen, deposed the emperor Romulus, having satisfied himself that the Eastern court would not intervene against him: `He then sent the western imperial vestments, including, of course, the diadem and cloak which only an emperor could wear, back to Constantinople.' And that was that. The Eastern Empire continued on for almost another thousand years - with Constantinople only falling to the Turks in 1453 - although it wielded less and less influence as time went by. Western Europe, meanwhile, entered the dark ages, a four hundred period of reduced living standards, political fragmentation and loss of learning.
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63 of 80 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fall of Rome - or the Rise of the Barbarians?, 2 Feb. 2006
By A Customer
This review is from: The Fall of the Roman Empire (Hardcover)
At the outset let me say this book is the product of a great deal of research and learning. It is very professional and well written. There are very useful appendices and text notes. The problem is - it isn't exactly about the fall of the Roman Empire.
There are very detailed accounts of the culture and movements of the various 'barbarian' (ie non-Roman) peoples who would supplant the empire in Europe and Africa. We learn what prompted the migrations that led to them invading Roman lands. The question I constantly found myself asking was: "But why were the Romans failing?"
By comparison read Michael Grant's "Fall of the Roman Empire" which explores the tensions (social, economic, cultural, religious) and internal political jostling which paralysed the empire and reduced its ability to fight effectively. Grant manages to cover this in about a third of the length of Peter Heather's book.
I also have to say that some of the chapter headings (no doubt intended to lighten the tone) set my teeth on edge. "Thrace: the final frontier"? Spare us.
This is a great book in its way, it just doesn't quite deliver on its promises.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written and very interesting, 17 Feb. 2014
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Good sound research combined with a very readable style - excellent book! A book that I would definitely recommend to others interested in this period of history.
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The Fall of the Roman Empire
The Fall of the Roman Empire by Peter Heather (Hardcover - 3 Jun. 2005)
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