Aug 19 2014

The Fall of the Roman Empire by Peter Heather

This is a highly revisionist book that challenges the accepted conclusions, chiefly those of Gibbon, on why the Roman Empire fell. It was not, the author argues, the result of unchecked barbarian invasions, or the assimilation of disloyal barbarians within the Empire, or over-taxation, or Christian unworldliness, or political corruption, or moral decadence. The author asserts that in the end Rome’s imperial aggression led to over-extension and therefore, with poetic justice, led to its own downfall. Yet he demonstrates convincingly that even in the late fourth century the Empire was still a formidable world power that no barbarian tribe could hope to challenge, and there was no shortage of outstanding military leaders such as Constantine, Julian, Stilicho, and Aetius to defend the Empire against the encroachments of barbarians. Every generation of historians makes these kind of revisionist arguments, but this book is provocative and provides a fresh look at old data.

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