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on 23 August 2009
I'm not usually a history reading fan, but had recently been reading a novel connected to the period, and decided to look up the background.
After some research I chose this book and wow!
It's written in a way that both represents the hsitory accurately but without drowning the reader in data.
At times it was so exciting to read that I read on and on.
When you finish you feel sad to have done so.
I liked it so much I bought a copy as a present for my father in law.
A marvellous book.
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on 4 September 2008
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 to the rise of the Germanic tribes north of the Danube, both economically and politically into supergroups, which became too strong for the western resources to ovecome. Coupled with this, argues Heather, the movement of the Huns in the 370s, forcing the Greuthungi and Tervingi Goths onto Roman territory, and again between 395-420 onto the Great Hungarian Plain, forcing this time more Goths, Burgundians and Alans etc, provided the catalyst for barbarian encroachment upon Roman territory. Each loss of teritory meant loss of revenue with which to pay the diminishing legions. The most telling of losses were the rich African provinces to the Vandals. Really, it is not so much as the decline of the west, but the rise of the barbarians, caused by the sudden appearance, and disappearance, of the Huns.

Other reviewers have provided more in-depth looks at the pros and cons of this book - with which I would agree (in particular some of the contemporary language and jokes would seem out of place)- therefore I will not repeat them here. Suffice to say this is an excellent, informative account of one of the world's most important events.

Thoroughly recommended.
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on 15 March 2010
This review is really just to re-emphasise the point that this book is well-written so I'm not going to argue Heather's views on the subject (I'm not that qualified, in any case) and I'll just say that it gives a substantial and detailed account. Here's the thing: while on the one hand it's a scholarly job with proper referencing and a substantial bibliography if you want to follow up on stuff, on the other hand it's a good read that really carries you along. In my experience the two things are not that often found together. So if you think you might be interested in the subject but are daunted by such a thick handful (592 pages), don't be - it reads as well as a novel. I've been impressed enough to put a couple more of his books in my wish lists.
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on 19 December 2005
Although I will agree with my fellow reviewer below that this is indeed a very detailed narrative (this however making it also of interest to the "serious" historian) it should also be said that despite this, the author has managed to nevertheless make this book eminently readable. Many of the detail concerns the ways in which the author has pieced together the often very fragmented factual information in order to come to a conclusion or assumption, which in itself often makes for interesting reading. Moreover, in this way he very flatteringly invites you to consider if you would on the basis of this have reached the same conclusions.
On top of this, mr. Heather has a narrative style and choice of words that will regularly have you smiling (the title of this review is a case in point)and he vividly brings the events and players of Rome's final century to life. Finally, he is not afraid to deviate from established opinions on the events leading to the fall of Rome and will exactly tell you why.
This is not a book most of us will read in one go, the wealth of information being one important reason. But you will find the time spent on reading this book not only well spent but entertaining as well.
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VINE VOICEon 1 August 2009
An extremely well researched account of the fall of the western Roman Empire. The author's convincing central thesis is that the fall was essentially down to the incursion of outsiders, not to any systemic weakness within the imperial system, though such weaknesses did mean that these incursions had a greater or quicker impact than they might otherwise have done. Mostly an excellent read, though I felt it did drag in a few places. Some of the maps were not as good as they could have been (e.g. refs in the text to towns X, Y and Z on a map and then those towns are not marked on it).
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on 23 February 2011
As someone who has little knowledge about the Roman Empire, Heather's work was an excellent introduction.

Heather basically states that the western Roman Empire did not collapse under its own weight (as stated by other scholars) but was pulled apart by barbarian immigration. Huns, Goths and Persians all played a role in both draining the empire's wealth as more and more money was spent on defence and frontier security. The Germanic tribes were not a political threat in the first century AD but by the fifth they were a clear and present danger to the Roman entity, coupled with a simmering Sassanid superpower to the east.

Written in simple and understandable language, Heather's work is both informative and entertaining and has left me wanting to know more about the period which he describes as the crossing line between ancient and medieval history. Good solid research has been used where available with Heather freely admitting the areas where there are vague facts.

All in all, excellent.
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on 21 March 2017
A remarkable reading. This book is a modern, natural integration of "Decline and Fall of Roman Empire" of E. Gibbon. The book is well written and highly readable: recommended.
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on 12 September 2014
The best history book on the fall of the Roman Empire so far. It fills many gaps but not all of them, still it's the best we have for now on that subject.
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VINE VOICEon 18 August 2006
I think some of the reviewers here are far too harsh in what they say about Heather. This is an immaculate study of the decline and fall of Rome. Heather's theories sit well within the prevailing historical consensus- he is illuminating on many of the themes that surround the fall- the rise of Barbarion tribes and the reasons for their rising and falling. He writes an analytical narrative- unlike some major popular histories he actually does analyse why things happened. The Fall of Rome can easily be reduced to battle after battle, imperial slaughter after slaughter but Heather gives you the reasons why one tribal confederacy won through, why imperial turnover was a constitutional feature of the empire. Perhaps most impressively, Heather thoroughly describes what he doesn't know as well as what he does- we don't have an internal account of the Hunnic Empire so can't know why Attilla headed west but can guess for example. Overall this is a wonderful study- full of analysis, full of narrative, which provides a coherent account of why the Empire fell and how it fell.
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on 23 May 2007
This is a splendid and comprehensive examination of the last hundred years of the Roman Empire, and provides convincing arguments that the external pressures on the empire were the primary cause of its collapse in Europe.

However, Heather allows himself to get a little carried away for dramatic purposes; for example, repeating the (widely disbelieved) myth that the Romans sowed the ruins of Carthage with salt, and claiming that Caesar was assassinated "on the steps of the senate" when all contemporary accounts agree that the murder took place in the atrium of Pompey's Theatre. Minor inaccuracies maybe; but it is the propagation of such inaccuracies that slowly mutates real history into myth, and also makes one then question the accuracy of other areas of the book.

Overall, an interesting and well written history, but one which is best read in accompaniment to other titles dealing with the same period.
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