The Ruin of the Roman Empire

The Ruin of the Roman Empire

Book - 2008
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Baker & Taylor
An intricate analysis of the fall of the Roman empire evaluates the sixth-century events and circumstances that were key factors, challenging popular beliefs about "barbarian" activities while seeking to place responsibility on the hapless ways in which Rome's last emperors endeavored to restore and preserve their civilization. 35,000 first printing.


The dream Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar shared of uniting Europe, the Medi­terranean, and the Middle East in a single community shuddered and then collapsed in the wars and disasters of the sixth century. It was a looking-glass world, where some Romans ideal­ized the Persian emperor while barbarian kings in Italy and France worked tirelessly to save the pieces of the Roman dream they had inherited. At the center of the old Roman Empire, in his vast and pompous Constantinople palace, the emperor Justinian, with too little education and too much religion, set out to restore his empire to its glories. Step by step, the things he did to bring back the past sealed the doom of his entire civilization.

Historian and classicist James J. O'Donnell—who last brought us his masterful, disturbing, and revelatory biography of Saint Augustine—revisits this old story in a fresh way, bringing home its sometimes painful relevance to issues of our own time.

With unexpected detail and in his hauntingly vivid style, O'Donnell begins at a time of apparent Roman revival and brings us to the moment of imminent collapse that just preceded the rise of Islam. Illegal migrations of peoples, religious wars, global pandemics, and the temptations of empire: Rome's end foreshadows our own crises and offers hints how to navigate them—if we will heed this story.

& Taylor

Recounts the sixth-century events and circumstances that led to the fall of the Roman Empire.

Publisher: New York : Ecco, c2008
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780060787370
Characteristics: x, 436 p. : ill, maps ; 24 cm


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May 16, 2011

What a neat idea! O'Donnell takes the old hoary legend of the Roman Empire being torn apart by invasions, one after another, and nuances it.
What if the breakdown was within the Empire itself? What if some of the very agents staving off that breakdown were so-called barbarians, simply because they had too much invested.
What an interesting take on long picked over ground.
I found the first chapter a bit Faulknerian for my taste. Happily, I finally skipped over it and went on to learn precisely why Madeline Allbright liked this history so much. I enjoyed this book.


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