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The World of Late Antiquity: AD 150-750 (Library of European Civilization) Paperback – 20 Mar 1989

4.5 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Thames and Hudson Ltd; 01 edition (20 Mar. 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500330220
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500330227
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 3.2 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 72,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

About the Author

Peter Brown (Ph.D. Oxford University) is the Rollins Professor of History at Princeton University. He previously taught at London University and the University of California, Berkeley. He has written on the rise of Christianity and the end of the Roman empire. His works include: Augustine of Hippo (1967); The World of Late Antiquity (1972); The Cult of the Saints (1981); Body and Society (1988), The Rise of Western Christendom (1995 and 2002); Poverty and Leadership in the Later Roman Empire (2002). He is presently working on issues of wealth and poverty in the late Roman and early medieval Christian world. --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.


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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been labouring under a misapprehension about this book. I thought that its author - Peter Brown (b. 1935), Prize Fellow of All Souls in the 1960s and subsequently Professor at Berkeley and Princeton, was the originator of the idea that there was a period in history which could usefully be designated ‘Late Antiquity’; and equally of the idea that the Roman Empire did not fall to the barbarians in the 5th century, but was instead gradually transformed by them. I reached this conclusion when I read Bryan Ward-Perkins’s account of the school of Late Antiquity in his brilliant The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilisation (2005). Ward-Perkins certainly conflates the two ideas, and is concerned to refute them both, by showing – by reference to the archaeological evidence – that the Roman Empire did indeed fall around 500 A.D. and that civilisation and living standards did not recover until around 1500 A.D.

Now that I have read The World of Late Antiquity, which was published as long ago as 1971, I can see that these two ideas are quite distinct. In fact, then, Brown proposed that instead of looking at history in terms of ancient, medieval and modern periods, we should look at the period 200-700 A.D. as an extension of the ancient world, albeit with many characteristics of its own; and his narrative is an attractive one, attractively presented. But he distinguished sharply between the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern; and most of what he wrote about related to the latter. He never said that the West did not fall prey to barbarism. On the contrary, he explained very clearly the vast difference between the history of the two halves of the Empire.
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I was very surprised as to how impressive this book is. Brown shows the continuation from the ancient world to late antiquity. The only negative is that most of the photographs are in black and white.

They say it is getting politically incorrect to talk about the 'dark ages'. But after reading Peter Brown, you realise it is ignorant urging you to accept Monty Python as your light.

As an aside, the Greeks and Romans owned slaves. Even at the height of the Dark Ages, serfs were a hundred times better off that the chattel slaves of the classical period.
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Peter Brown's The World of Late Antiquity was a revolutionary book for its time. Published in 1971 as an eloquently written essay, Brown challenged many of the assumptions about Classical Civilisation that had dominated historiography since the days of Edward Gibbon.
In those days the idea of the fall of the Roman Empire was one of violent invasion and decline, folllowed by centuries of artistic and intellectual poverty called the Dark Ages.

Brown opposed these ideas and showed that there were still strong links with the Classical World, well into the Dark Ages, and even following the Islamic Conquest.
Although Brown's main point of interest is social and cultural change, he also discuss the art of the period, and many wonderful examples of this art, from portaits to jewellery, are displayed throughout.

This book is certainly an excellent read, as Brown is an erudite writer. Yet some of his claims are incorrect and I cannot agree with his thesis in its entirety. In recent years, his ideas about late antiquity have come under attack by scholars such as Peter Heather and Bryan Ward-Perkins. Heather and Ward-Perkins stress the idea of the Empire's violent fall, and they pour scorn on Brown's ideas about the peaceful integration of Germanic tribes. I would have to agree with them on some of these ideas, but I still find Brown's work persuasive.

The World of Late Antiquity is a landmark in Classical and Medieval studies. Anyone who has an interest in those periods must read this book. But readers should be willing to seek out Brown's recent work, as well as the books by Heather and Ward-Perkins and others that oppose his ideas. A great read, and highly recommended!
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Format: Paperback
The world of Late Antiquity is an historical period often overlooked. The more prominent periods such as the Greek Empire, Roman Empire, Early Christendom, Rise of Islam, East/West Split, etc. take the majority of space in historical texts; often the world of Late Antiquity is an epilogue or a prologue to anothe period.
Peter Brown, renowned for his authoritative biography on Augustine of Hippo, has produced a good introductory text to the period between the beginnings of the downfall of the Roman Empire and the beginnings of medieval times in western Europe. This period does not have strict boundaries -- there were no crucial or pivotal events defining the beginning or the end of the period, which is perhaps why it is often overlooked.
The text is divided into two primary sections -- the Late Roman Revolution, and Divergent Legacies. In the Late Roman Revolution, Brown explores the aspects of culture and religion that change slowly but ultimately dramatically from classical Roman to Christian-medieval. As Christianity rises and the power from the centre fades, including the power of the intelligensia, the post-Roman world takes on a new character.
In Divergent Legacies, Brown first looks at the development of the West after the fall of Rome. The barbarian invasions are recast, the assimilation of the Senate into the aristocratic and higher clerical ranks of the ruling Church shown to be a way in which the Roman hierarchy in fact survived the collapse of Rome, and the fragmentation of the empire ensured the dominance of Latin for the next many centuries.
This was a very different character from the survival of the Late Antique world in the East. Here the walls of Byzantium were never breached, despite the fact that most of the empire was lost not once but multiple times.
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