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Imperial Rome AD 284 to 363: The New Empire (The Edinburgh History of Ancient Rome) Paperback – 7 Mar 2012

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Edinburgh University Press (7 Mar. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0748620532
  • ISBN-13: 978-0748620531
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 2 x 15.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 890,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

This elegant and exciting book offers a fresh approach to understanding early late Antiquity. The breadth of vision is impressive. Jill Harries' triumph is to place Constantine and his promotion of Christianity in the context of a fully-rounded history of the Roman Empire from Diocletian to Julian. --Dr Christopher Kelly, University of Cambridge

About the Author

Jill Harries is Professor of Ancient History and head of school at the University of St Andrews. Her books include Sidonius Apollinaris and the Fall of Rome (Oxford University Press, 1994) and Law and Empire in Late Antiquity (Cambridge University Press 1999, paperback 2001).


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By JPS TOP 500 REVIEWER on 25 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This volume is part of a series of eight titles that make up the Edinburgh history of Ancient Rome, starting with its origins and ending with the death of Justinian some thirteen hundred years later. It covers "the New Empire", a period that includes the reigns of Diocletian and his colleagues (or, more accurately perhaps, his subordinates), and also that of Constantine and his successors up to the end of his House. It therefore ends with the death of Julian in AD 363.

I was expecting this book to be a comprehensive survey of these times of change, or of "renovation" (a combination of official "re-founding" and effective revitalization) as the Romans would have perhaps said. It is a survey, to some extent, but a survey that reflects the author's preferences and which is therefore somewhat uneven with a number of gaps.

The book is at its best when dealing with Imperial ideology, its interactions with religion (both the old gods and the new one) and its translation into "Roman law" which was more a collection of legal rulings on specific cases than law as we would understand it nowadays. This seems to be the author's preferred subject and area of expertise. It is certainly fascinating at times, if only because it shows what were the priorities and "hot topics" of the time, which of these topics made it up to the Emperors through appeals and how the various Emperors attempted to deal with them. Also included are enumerations of the cases.

However, while this will certainly be of interest to students focusing on Roman law, its legal system and how it evolved over the centuries, there is a price to pay: other topics get a bit "short-changed" as a result. This is particularly the case for two of them.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book provides solid coverage of Rome from Diocletian to Jovian, applying both narrative and thematic approaches. The opening chapter sets the scene by considering developments earlier in the century and the state of the empire which Diocletian inherited, followed by three chapters on the Tetrarchy, reorganisation of the empire, and Christian persecutions respectively.

There is something of a gap in narrative as the author rather neglects the years immediately after the abdication of Diocletian and Maximian and the complicated situation involving various competing successors, leaping more or less straight to the conflict between Constantine and Maxentius and the later victory over Licinius to become sole emperor. Two subsequent chapters analyse Constantine's imperial policies in the main and his relationship to Christianity.

A rather good chapter on the usually neglected three sons of Constantine follows, and then thematic chapters on warfare during the period of his sons' rule, the relationship between the empire and the church, the place of women, and the contrasting status of Rome and Antioch.

The penultimate chapter turns to Julian before a brief concluding chapter on Jovian and a summing up. Each chapter is given a good selection of further reading plus a more general list, and there is a full bibliography.

This is a well-written book, insightful and well-balanced and even-handed in its treatment of the protagonists. It will serve well as an introduction to the period for the student and also provide something new for those who already have some familiarity.
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Amazon.com: HASH(0x95fdf63c) out of 5 stars 2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95fe91d4) out of 5 stars Not what I was expecting... 25 Sept. 2013
By JPS - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This volume is part of a series of eight titles that make up the Edinburgh history of Ancient Rome, starting with its origins and ending with the death of Justinian some thirteen hundred years later. It covers "the New Empire", a period that includes the reigns of Diocletian and his colleagues (or, more accurately perhaps, his subordinates), and also that of Constantine and his successors up to the end of his House. It therefore ends with the death of Julian in AD 363.

I was expecting this book to be a comprehensive survey of these times of change, or of "renovation" (a combination of official "re-founding" and effective revitalization) as the Romans would have perhaps said. It is a survey, to some extent, but a survey that reflects the author's preferences and which is therefore somewhat uneven with a number of gaps.

The book is at its best when dealing with Imperial ideology, its interactions with religion (both the old gods and the new one) and its translation into "Roman law" which was more a collection of legal rulings on specific cases than law as we would understand it nowadays. This seems to be the author's preferred subject and area of expertise. It is certainly fascinating at times, if only because it shows what were the priorities and "hot topics" of the time, which of these topics made it up to the Emperors through appeals and how the various Emperors attempted to deal with them. Also included are enumerations of the cases.

However, while this will certainly be of interest to students focusing on Roman law, its legal system and how it evolved over the centuries, there is a price to pay: other topics get a bit "short-changed" as a result. This is particularly the case for two of them.

One is the Roman army and the military issues and challenges that the Empire had to deal with, more generally. Arguably, these have already been covered in numerous other volumes, and perhaps even "ad nauseam". However, they a treated in a rather off-hand and perfunctory way. The emphasis is rather put on the relationship between the armies and the emperors and the growing threat that coalescent confederations of Barbarians on the Rhine and Danube and a more aggressive Sassanid monarchy created for the Empire. Despite the focus on legal issues, there is comparatively very little on "internal" problems that may have affected the Empire's ability to survive, for instance the crisis in manpower.

More generally, the great absent of this book are the economics of the Late Roman Empire. Although the subject is touched upon in various places, for instance when dealing with the Senate, manpower issues and the army, or coinage reforms under Diocletian and Constantine, it is never really addressed comprehensively. Accordingly, there is nothing on the Empire's demographics, precious little on the causes of the Third century inflation and not much on how the Emperors dealt with this part of the "crisis" by largely reverting to a barter and a militarised "command and control" economy to continue to extract the resources necessary for survival. This is probably the greatest gap in the book.

It also appears that the author is more comfortable, or perhaps simply more interested, in some segments of the period. While not "bad", the treatment of the reigns of Diocletian and his successors and of Constantine seems at times almost perfunctory, especially when discussing their various reforms and which piece of them can be attributed to one or to the other Emperor. The author, however, seems much more interested in the reigns of the sons of Constantine. This is the case of Constantius II in particular, who is shown to have been better than what is commonly believed and to have implemented a careful and rather efficient strategy against Persia, even if an inglorious one, which allowed him to preserve the Empire's limited resources. Also of interest to the author, and presented in clear contrast to Constantius, is the very short reign as sole Augustus (some eighteen months) of his nephew Julian. The presentation of Julian's shortcomings - he is essentially shown as being delusional in most of his policies (and not only with regards to religion), as opposed to his much more realistic uncle - is particularly interesting and well done, without any apparent bias (or, at least, none that I was aware of). In both cases, however, the economic and social components are largely missing.

I would, for instance, have been interested to find something about the impact on the Western half of the Empire and its frontiers of the rebellion of Magnentius and the hard fought three-year civil year that was necessary to put a stop to it. I was also expecting some kind of general assessment about the state of the Empire's economy, society, finances, government and defences at the accession of Diocletian, at the end of Constantine's reign and perhaps also after the death of Julian and how these had evolved and improved or deteriorated. There was none of that, so I was a bit disappointed as a result. Three stars.
HASH(0x95fe9420) out of 5 stars REVIEW OF IMPERIAL ROME 284-363 1 Mar. 2014
By Gregory V. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the better surveys I have read concerning this period in Roman imperial history. Of particular note are the chapters on Constantine, on the reigns of the sons of Constantine I (particularly Constans), the chapter on the 'Imperial Women' of the period and on the relationship between the emerging Christian church and the imperial government. The discussion about Constans is particularly interesting since his reign and its character are often either dismissed or discussed in a brief paragraph in other histories of this kind. Professor Harries offers a good discussion of the politics of Constans' reign and his character and points out that the scope of the revolt against him on the part of Magnentius was actually rather small and opposed by important sections of the military. This latter aspect of the revolt is usually not discussed on other histories of this period. As a survey of this period, this book compares favorably with another good survey, The Roman Empire at Bay (180-395), by David S. Potter which also offers interesting detailed discussions on the politics of this period. As a student of the Roman imperial period, I am glad I purchased this book.
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