Customer Review

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting journey through later Rome, 17 Aug. 2010
This review is from: The Fall Of The West: The Death Of The Roman Superpower (Paperback)
Adrian Goldsworthy - Britain's most popular Roman historian - has produced a very interesting jog through the last three hundred years or so of Empire - from the death of Marcus Aurelius to the bitter end (and slightly more) in 476 AD, but it's not quite as good as Peter Heather's 'Fall of the Roman Empire,' which it is clearly a commentary on/rebuttal of.

Heather points to the essential solidity of the Empire - evidenced by the Tetrarchy of Diocletian - while Goldsworthy challenges this, using a detailed narrative to show quite how insecure Imperial purple had become in the third and fourth centuries and maintains that the Tetrarchy was a anomaly rather than evidence of underlying strength. Goldsworthy makes the good point that vast institutions - like Rome - take some time to falter. He also shows - painstakingly - how insecure the life of a Caesar was with innumerable usurpations from governors, supposed illegitimate Imperial children, equestrian soldiers and how Emperors became pre-occupied with dealing with internal threats rather than those hirsute chaps just over the Danube, hence internal versus external collapse model. This is cogently argued, however the plethora of insurrectionist detail that Goldsworthy uses to make his point makes the narrative confusing. 'Who the Hell is this guy?' is a question you often end up asking yourself.

Nevertheless I thought it was great. I liked the fact he states early doors that this is a book about Rome - not a metaphorical examination of the USA. I liked it when he said a story might not be one hundred per cent accurate but it's a damn good story so worth including. I liked his slightly sniffy, military historian diffidence about the credibility of the Notitia Dignitatum, so well-beloved of other books on the period as evidence of actual military strength. I liked his rubbishing of business management as a model for public administration. Not sure what it had to do with ancient Rome, but I still liked it. As far as I'm concerned, everyone should buy this book and place it on their bookshelf - like I have done - next to every other book Mr Goldsworthy has been diligent enough to produce.

(The Heather's still better though - sorry.)
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