The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization Paperback – 13 Jul 2006
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
One of the most popular and flourishing areas of classical studies in recent decades has been what is termed Late Antiquity, applied to the years between 250 and 800. Historians of Late Antiquity prefer not to speak of 'decline', 'fall' or even 'crisis' with regard to Rome, but rather of 'transition', 'change' and 'transformation' and the rise of Christianity, Islam and Medieval civilisation. It is "a distinctive and quite decisive period of history that stands on its own" rather than "the unravelling of a once glorious and 'higher' state of civilisation". Not only that, but they downplay the idea of invasion and conquest on the part of the barbarian tribes. Instead they talk about the barbarian desire to be included in the Roman Empire and Rome's attempt to accommodate them, or even make use of them for defence of the Empire itself. Thus was Rome not destroyed but transformed into another type of civilisation, not inferior, only different. In the words of two American historians, this transition occurred in a "natural, organic and ierenic manner" and we should not "problematize the barbarian settlements". (Does that last verb sound a warning to you? Is this beginning to sound familiar?)
So we don't talk of the fall of a civilisation, but of the rise of a different culture. We don't talk of agression, victory or defeat, but of accommodation and transformation.Read more ›
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?
I have recently been reading a lot of Roman history about Roman Britain and these books have offered a conflicting range of opinion as to just how far our island was Romanized. In his book, Ward-Perkins takes a broader view and considers the wider Roman Empire and considers that some areas seemed to fair better than others with the result that the impact of incursions by Huns, Goths and Vandals, etc were moe firmly felt in some areas than others. The evidence to support this argument is gleaned from various sources such as pottery, moustaches,trade, building technology and even writing. I found this author's arguments well presented and the overall impression of this neat little book is one that is favourable due to the quality of the writing and some nice illustrations and diagrams. There are also many many fascinating quotes and I loved the fact that this book let you hear the voices from over 1500 years ago speak again.
That said, my only gripe is that this book does cover a wide area of Europe, North Africa and the Near East as well as covering a period of approximately 400 years after 400AD.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent book, well written and researched by someone who knows the subject extremely well. Good points raised and argued.Published 4 months ago by edward s
It covers not just Rome but also the Empire including Britannia. I enjoyed it.Published 6 months ago by BookReader
Has opinions and not necessarily fashionable but well worth considering in these turbulent times. Keep at it...it will reward the effort.Published 6 months ago by JC
Splendidly succinct and combative about the impact of the end of Roman imperial power in the west! Typical in its clarity and pugnacious style: it took some three centuries from... Read morePublished 12 months ago by RobW
I am writing a thesis about the migration period in litteral sources and found the book very useful as a modern survey of the last decades of the Western Roman Empire.Published 16 months ago by Manfred Fuchs
An excellent book whose major flaw is that it feels way too short. Just as it's getting going, it's over. Could have benefitted from some more detail, perhaps.Published 20 months ago by Ian B
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