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A New Book from Adrian Goldsworthy due out this May

How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower (Hardcover)
by Adrian Goldsworthy (Author)
List Price: $32.50
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Hardcover: 560 pages
Publisher: Yale University Press (May 5, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0300137192
ISBN-13: 978-0300137194
Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.8 inches
This title has not yet been released.

Editorial Reviews
Product Description
In AD 200, the Roman Empire seemed unassailable. Its vast territory accounted for most of the known world. By the end of the fifth century, Roman rule had vanished in western Europe and much of northern Africa, and only a shrunken Eastern Empire remained. What accounts for this improbable decline? Here, Adrian Goldsworthy applies the scholarship, perspective, and narrative skill that defined his monumental Caesar to address perhaps the greatest of all historical questions—how Rome fell.


It was a period of remarkable personalities, from the philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius to emperors like Diocletian, who portrayed themselves as tough, even brutal, soldiers. It was a time of revolutionary ideas, especially in religion, as Christianity went from persecuted sect to the religion of state and emperors. Goldsworthy pays particular attention to the willingness of Roman soldiers to fight and kill each other. Ultimately, this is the story of how an empire without a serious rival rotted from within, its rulers and institutions putting short-term ambition and personal survival over the wider good of the state.

How Rome Fell is a brilliant successor to Goldsworthy's "monumental" (The Atlantic) Caesar.



About the Author
Adrian Goldsworthy is the author of many books about the ancient world including Caesar, The Roman Army at War, and In the Name of Rome. He lectures widely and consults on historical documentaries produced by the History Channel, National Geographic, and the BBC. He lives in Wales.

http://www.amazon.com/How-Rome-Fell-Dea ... gy_b_img_a


:wink:

Narukami
Reviewed in todays Sunday Times (UK)


February 15, 2009
The Fall of the West: The Slow Death of the Roman Superpower by Adrian Goldsworthy

The Sunday Times review by Mary Beard: the persistent question of when and why the Roman empire fell lies at the heart of these two books. Their answers are surprisingly different
In AD476 the last emperor of Rome was overthrown in a coup orchestrated by a German general. The deposed emperor was little more than a child, the last and weakest of a series of puppet rulers on the Roman throne. It was a nice irony that his name was Romulus, the same as the legendary founder of the city.

There could be no better symbol of the decline and fall of an ancient superpower. More than a millennium after the foundation of the city, this second Romulus was no charismatic hero like the first - but such a juvenile nonentity that (as Adrian Goldsworthy puts it in The Fall of the West) he was not even “worth the trouble of killing”. He spent the rest of his life in subsidised retirement in south Italy.

It was a neat symmetry. But for most modern historians it has seemed rather too neat. From Gibbon on, they have questioned how significant the coup of AD476 was in marking the end of the ancient Roman empire. For one thing, since the 4th century that empire had been split in two. Although the city of Rome itself may have fallen in the 5th century, the eastern half of the empire, based in Constantinople, survived until 1453. We call this the “Byzantine empire”, but the “Byzantines” would have been horrified by this demeaning title. They called themselves Romans and traced their descent directly back to the first Romulus.

Besides, even in Italy, AD476 did not mark a clear break between classical antiquity and the Middle Ages. All kinds of “Roman” features remained long after the departure of the second Romulus. The Colosseum, that most visible symbol of Roman civilisation, was richly restored by Odoacer himself, the German general who ousted Romulus. And animal hunts (although not gladiatorial shows) were performed there well into the 6th century. On a more intellectual level, Boethius, one of the greatest philosophers of antiquity, in the tradition of Plato and Aristotle, was funded by the German rulers of Rome - although he was later (in time-honoured tradition) executed by them. As late as AD800, more than 300 years after the German coup, Charlemagne was taken seriously when he was crowned “Roman Emperor” in St Peter's at Rome.

The persistent question of when and why the Roman empire ended lies behind both Goldsworthy's book and James J O'Donnell's The Ruin of the Roman Empire. The latter, who offers an engagingly personal narrative of the 5th and 6th centuries, is a tremendous supporter of the German kings of Italy. The hero of his story is Theodoric, the successor of Odoacer, who ruled Italy between AD493 and AD526.

No “barbarian” in the traditional sense, despite his name and his ethnic origin, O'Donnell's Theodoric is a man whose hallmarks were “civility and toleration”. He was, in other words, “every bit the Roman ruler” and the Roman-style patron of literature and the arts. True, he had the great Boethius executed, but that was at the end of his reign - and there was some reason to suspect that Boethius was aiming to make himself a Platonic “philosopher-king” of Rome. The idea that Theodoric was illiterate - and had a specially made stamp saying legi (“I have read it”) which he used to mark documents he had “processed” - is briskly dismissed by O'Donnell as the report of a “hostile source”.

For O'Donnell, the villain in the story of Rome's fall is Justinian, the 6th-century emperor of the eastern Roman empire, based in Constantinople. A renowned codifier of the whole of Roman law, the builder of the church of St Sophia (still one of the main attractions in Istanbul), and often seen as the powerhouse behind a Roman “renaissance” in the East, Justinian is here written off as a short-sighted strategist, whose military errors were ultimately responsible for the final, slow decline of Roman power. He is also cast by the author as a religious hardliner, who tried to induce all the varied Christian communities of his empire to sign up to exactly the same doctrine. Now that paganism was no longer a problem, Justinian proceeded to force his fellow Christians into his own sectarian line.

There is much to be said for this analysis. But it is hard not to spot some double standards at work. O'Donnell, for example, condemns Justinian's church of St Sophia in Istanbul as a “heavy, graceless pile”, so big and out of scale that it “never charmed anyone”; an implausible view, perhaps, of one of the most admired buildings of the Mediterranean. Theodoric's vast tomb in Ravenna, on the other hand, is praised as “a relic that stands second only to Hadrian's mighty tomb in Rome as a statement of imperial grandeur”. The contrast depends on your point of view. For Theodoric's enemies, his vulgar mausoleum no doubt seemed a “graceless pile”, too.

Goldsworthy, who concentrates on Italy rather than the eastern empire, takes a more robust attitude to Theodoric's achievements. Some cultural continuity there may have been, but the German rule in Italy marked a distinctive change from the world of the Roman empire: Italy was now only a subordinate kingdom within an empire more or less controlled from Constantinople. And, for him, Theodoric's legi stamp is not the tendentious allegation of a hostile source but a dark hint of post-Roman ignorance.

Whatever their different views, both authors see a message for our own times in the later Roman empire. Goldsworthy ponders why Rome eventually fell, and points to the increasing and obsessive bureaucratisation of the government, the selfinterest of the political leaders and the “target-oriented” culture of the state. The madness of our own health-and-safety legislation, it appears, is not so far from the mindset of the average later Roman emperor. Indeed, the implication of Goldsworthy's book is that we are now living in a modern version of a late-Roman world - and one about to collapse.

O'Donnell is slightly more oblique in his contemporary analogies. But his critique of Justinian's policies is clearly intended to have a resonance for modern superpowers, whether political or religious. Justinian's big mistakes, he argues, included an unwillingness to negotiate with Persia (that is, modern Iran), an inability to secure peace in the Balkans and a reluctance to tolerate religious diversity in his empire (“mistaking faith for destiny”, as he puts it).

Of course, we are a long way from the poor little puppet emperor Romulus. But there is a moral for the 21st century here, as Madeleine Albright (the former American secretary of state) hints when - in a puff on the dust jacket - she calls O'Donnell's story “an instructive tale”. Whether our new political leaders will actually turn back to reflect on the end of Roman empire, and listen to the message, is another question.

The Fall of the West by Adrian Goldsworthy
weidenfeld £25 pp560
The Ruin of the Roman Empire by James J O'Donnell
Profile £25 pp448
Quote:there is a moral for the 21st century here
How come that the fall of the Roman Empire is always compared to a crisis in the historian's own age? From Gibbon through Pirenne to Goldworthy, there's always a moral for contemporaries. Since theories about the fall of Rome invariably turn out to be incorrect, I no longer believe that there can be a moral here, and I seriously start to think that scholars who say that there is a parallel, ought to go back to the schoolbanks. The whole subject is starting to bore me, although a book about end-of-Rome-books might be interesting.

(BTW, I like Caballo's posting that review.)
Judging purely from the title of Goldsworthy's new book he sounds like just another "fall" guy. (Hey, I made that up :mrgreen: )
The "West" ? Does he equate the Western Empire with "Western Civilization" ? If so, what does that make the Eastern Empire ?

But after reading the reviews the book doesn't sound so simplisitic as the title suggests at first glance. When Goldsworthy criticizes Justinian I hope he doesn't just gloss over the plague which, IMO, was the single biggest factor that derailed his military policy. I own three of Goldsworthy's books and haven't been disappointed yet. So, I'll give his new one a chance even though I doubt there's anything new to be learned.

As for O'Donnell...yuck ! I remember reading the intro to his book months ago and didn't even bother with the rest. He just trashes everything about the Eastern Empire and talks up the destroying invaders, be they Goths, Germans, Arabs, Persians, et al.

Quote:How come that the fall of the Roman Empire is always compared to a crisis in the historian's own age? From Gibbon through Pirenne to Goldworthy, there's always a moral for contemporaries. Since theories about the fall of Rome invariably turn out to be incorrect, I no longer believe that there can be a moral here, and I seriously start to think that scholars who say that there is a parallel, ought to go back to the schoolbanks. The whole subject is starting to bore me, although a book about end-of-Rome-books might be interesting.

(BTW, I like Caballo's posting that review.)

I suspect the drawing of parallels by modern authors is simply a marketing tactic to generate interest among the general public to sell their books.

~Theo
Because so you get the audience more interested in your book :wink:


Quote:
Quote:there is a moral for the 21st century here
How come that the fall of the Roman Empire is always compared to a crisis in the historian's own age? From Gibbon through Pirenne to Goldworthy, there's always a moral for contemporaries. Since theories about the fall of Rome invariably turn out to be incorrect, I no longer believe that there can be a moral here, and I seriously start to think that scholars who say that there is a parallel, ought to go back to the schoolbanks. The whole subject is starting to bore me, although a book about end-of-Rome-books might be interesting.

(BTW, I like Caballo's posting that review.)
Quote: How come that the fall of the Roman Empire is always compared to a crisis in the historian's own age? From Gibbon through Pirenne to Goldworthy, there's always a moral for contemporaries.
Well, I suppose the reason for this is that the Roman Empire is the standard for Western civilisation. It is so deeply entwined in our collective consciousness that it is hardly separable from our concept of a civilisation. It has everything one could want – the selfless philosopher-king, the evil tyrant, successful general, scheming assassin… every story for warning or encouraging someone from a later age.

I think it is easy to find a moral for contemporaries, including in the fall of Rome.

Quote: Since theories about the fall of Rome invariably turn out to be incorrect, I no longer believe that there can be a moral here, and I seriously start to think that scholars who say that there is a parallel, ought to go back to the schoolbanks.

Yes, doubtlessly it looks good on a dust jacket and helps to sell books. But I don’t think that authors should stop making theories simply because people in the past were wrong. We need theories to be tested, dissected, and critiqued. And of course they have to be published before we can do that.
Quote:I don’t think that authors should stop making theories simply because people in the past were wrong. We need theories to be tested, dissected, and critiqued. And of course they have to be published before we can do that.
Of course you are right, and I was exaggerating a bit. Still, I think testing could be done a lot better. It is absurd how many people believe they are historians once they start quoting the right sources and secondary literature. Tom Holland is a case in point, and the same can be said about Adrian Goldsworthy. But ever since Max Weber's ‘Kritische Studien auf dem Gebiet der kulturwissenschaftlichen Logik’ we (should) know better. I have seen too many logical errors, especially by British and American historians.
Quote:I like Caballo's posting that review.
And me too! Thanks Caballo!

Quote:
Quote:there is a moral for the 21st century here
How come that the fall of the Roman Empire is always compared to a crisis in the historian's own age?
That's how writing history works Jona. A historian is doomed to always look at the past through the glasses of his own day and age and/or set of values. That's also the very same reason why historians will always diffir in opinion over the lessons of the past, indeed it's why they look for lessons to be learned from the past in the first place.

Quote:
Epictetus:3f400xzm Wrote:I don’t think that authors should stop making theories simply because people in the past were wrong. We need theories to be tested, dissected, and critiqued. And of course they have to be published before we can do that.
Of course you are right, and I was exaggerating a bit. Still, I think testing could be done a lot better. It is absurd how many people believe they are historians once they start quoting the right sources and secondary literature. Tom Holland is a case in point, and the same can be said about Adrian Goldsworthy. But ever since Max Weber's ‘Kritische Studien auf dem Gebiet der kulturwissenschaftlichen Logik’ we (should) know better. I have seen too many logical errors, especially by British and American historians.
Hear hear! Too right! Writing a book about a historical subject does not make one a historian! The discussion about Barbara Tuchman (the 'self-trained historian') is still valid - have we forgotten it already?
Quote:
Jona Lendering:yyxs3mto Wrote:I like Caballo's posting that review.
And me too! Thanks Caballo!

Quote:
Quote:there is a moral for the 21st century here
How come that the fall of the Roman Empire is always compared to a crisis in the historian's own age?
That's how writing history works Jona. A historian is doomed to always look at the past through the glasses of his own day and age and/or set of values. That's also the very same reason why historians will always diffir in opinion over the lessons of the past, indeed it's why they look for lessons to be learned from the past in the first place.

Quote:
Epictetus:yyxs3mto Wrote:I don’t think that authors should stop making theories simply because people in the past were wrong. We need theories to be tested, dissected, and critiqued. And of course they have to be published before we can do that.
Of course you are right, and I was exaggerating a bit. Still, I think testing could be done a lot better. It is absurd how many people believe they are historians once they start quoting the right sources and secondary literature. Tom Holland is a case in point, and the same can be said about Adrian Goldsworthy. But ever since Max Weber's ‘Kritische Studien auf dem Gebiet der kulturwissenschaftlichen Logik’ we (should) know better. I have seen too many logical errors, especially by British and American historians.
Hear hear! Too right! Writing a book about a historical subject does not make one a historian! The discussion about Barbara Tuchman (the 'self-trained historian') is still valid - have we forgotten it already?


I think maybe you're being a bit mean there. I agree wholeheartedly that anyone can (and should be able to) write a book, if they are lucky enough to have the time, a publisher etc. Tuchman and others like her should be regarded as superb examples of what can be done by 'self-taught' historians.

Yet we should remember that most historians are not self taught. They have been through the academic cycle, where it is expected that they will 'quote the right sources and secondary literature' as a matter of course.

RAT members would be the first to complain if a writer makes a claim and then fails to back it up with the sources. Furthermore, if the RATer doesn't agree with the claim, they will then quote the secondary sources that supports their point of view. In these circumstances, it is hardly surprising that writers constantly refer back to the sources and secondary literature, practically ad nauseam. Therefore, such writers are perceived as being historians by most people out there.

The whole process of writing is a balancing act: the need to give knowledgable (RAT) readers enough information to support your viewpoint, whilst not so much that you alienate the general reader with all of the technical information is hard a hard feat to pull off. In some respects it is easier to write for the academic body, because then you know you have to cover as many aspects as possible of the topic under scrutiny and ensure that all of your ideas are supported by the evidence.

Maybe it is this factor which puts off many budding writers that would otherwise write books that would give us whole new methods of studying history. The need to show where you got information and how you used it is daunting to many, possibly including a large proportion of the members of this forum.

As for the need to link books to current affairs, on the whole it is welcomed by publishers as it gives them a 'hook' for general reders who might otherwise fail to part with their money. Yet it should be remembered that for general readers such a link is a valuable method of 'turning the abstract into the concrete', a phrase and method I was taught when training to be a teacher.

I'm lucky: I have an understanding editor (that's a Fiver, Phil! :lol: ) who recognises that the books I have chosen/been asked to write have no practical link to the present and that there is little- to no-hope of them being linked to present day events. Having said that, the general questionnaire sent by the publishers once the book was finished included the question 'Does this book have any link to the present?' (I'm paraphrasing here, but that was the general drift). Linking a book to the events in present day (Western) society is seen as a way of improving sales. It's just one of those things.

Oh, and he who fails to study the past is doomed to repeat the mistakes made in history.
Quote:Maybe it is this factor which puts off many budding writers that would otherwise write books that would give us whole new methods of studying history.
I think not. Most Anglosaxon historians, professionally trained or not, are unaware that the study of history involves working knowledge of things like: what is an explanation? how do you establish what is comparable and what is not? what is a fact? how do you find out which examples are representative?

Paul Cartledge's opinions about Thermopylae are a case in point. More than a century ago, Ed. Meyer argued that the Persian Wars had been decisive: had the Persians won, we would not have seen Athenian democracy, freedom, philosophy, the arts. Max Weber showed that this was unsound reasoning. He mercilessly pointed at Meyer's logical fallacies. Now we see that Cartledge repeats the nonsense of Meyer. This either means that he is unaware that logic happens to be an element of science and scholarship, or that he is simply a bad historian.
Jona,

Forgive my ignorance :oops:

Is Max Weber's Thermopylae essay available in English somewhere on the internet?

Seems to me it deserves to be read, and although I know of Max Weber from my sociology classes I am ignorant of this particular essay.

Thanks

:wink:

Narukami
Quote:Is Max Weber's Thermopylae essay available in English somewhere on the internet?
I would be surprised; the original title is ‘Kritische Studien auf dem Gebiet der kulturwissenschaftlichen Logik’; the German version is here. It is not about Thermopylae, but about scholarly logic; yet, in the first part, he deals with Meyer's remarks about the decisiveness of the Persian Wars. It is one of the most important essays on scholarly logic; in Holland, it is impossible to study history without at least getting a reference to it.
Quote:I think not. Most Anglosaxon historians, professionally trained or not, are unaware that the study of history involves working knowledge of things like: what is an explanation? how do you establish what is comparable and what is not? what is a fact? how do you find out which examples are representative?

Why only 'Anglosaxon' historians? Many people, whether they consider themselves to be historians or not, continue to work in ignorance of the more scientific approach to history.

Quote:Paul Cartledge's opinions about Thermopylae are a case in point. More than a century ago, Ed. Meyer argued that the Persian Wars had been decisive: had the Persians won, we would not have seen Athenian democracy, freedom, philosophy, the arts. Max Weber showed that this was unsound reasoning. He mercilessly pointed at Meyer's logical fallacies. Now we see that Cartledge repeats the nonsense of Meyer.

It may be that Cartledge did not agree with you about Weber's 'merciless' analysis and decided instead that he agreed with Meyer. Or maybe that he has not read Weber and has failed to recognise that there are concerns regarding the analysis.

Quote:This either means that he is unaware that logic happens to be an element of science and scholarship, or that he is simply a bad historian.

I would not accuse anyone of being a 'bad' historian, simply because that is based upon personal judgements and preferences. However, I will completely agree with you that there are many who appear to be unaware that logic is a key element of historical scholarship. Too often have I read works in which authors contradict themselves logically without appearing to realise it. Maybe it's just part of human nature to want history to follow a set pattern, and that we then mould history to the pattern rather than forming the pattern around history?

No doubt I also fall into the same trap. Sad
Quote:I would not accuse anyone of being a 'bad' historian, simply because that is based upon personal judgements and preferences. However, I will completely agree with you that there are many who appear to be unaware that logic is a key element of historical scholarship. Too often have I read works in which authors contradict themselves logically without appearing to realise it.
That's just bad writing, Ian. A good editor should notice that sort of thing.

I think Jona means something different: one element is trying to write about a topic without sufficient awareness of the wider context. The "good" historian will generally only write about his/her specialist subject. This is a good thing because they have researched the subject in detail, they are aware of any controversies, they are in touch with recent (even unpublished) developments, and (generally) they are moving from a general knowledge to a particular expertise. (If I have understood Jona correctly ...)

Of course, there is nothing wrong with someone who has a peripheral interest in, say, Demetrius Poliorcetes, then writing an article on that subject for a history magazine, say Ancient Warfare. But the resulting article will have less credibility, and should be subjected to less stringent criticism, than the considered work of an historian whose specialist subject is (say) Demetrius Poliorcetes. :wink: There are historians, and there are the rest of us who happen to write about history. Smile
Quote:Why only 'Anglosaxon' historians? Many people, whether they consider themselves to be historians or not, continue to work in ignorance of the more scientific approach to history.
It's pretty much an Anglosaxon phenomenon. German historians read English books, but American and British historians do not read German. Another aspect is that the British have a great tradition of writing biographies, but it was only in the 1970s that historians like Moses Finley showed the importance of the social sciences and their methodology.
Quote:It may be that Cartledge did not agree with you about Weber's 'merciless' analysis and decided instead that he agreed with Meyer. Or maybe that he has not read Weber and has failed to recognise that there are concerns regarding the analysis.
Weber's analysis is irrefutable, and Meyer - who was a really great scholar - admitted as much. I am afraid that your second option is the right one: Cartledge has never read a book on method, which makes one ask how he can have become a professor in Cambridge.
Quote:
sonic:1ljp04o2 Wrote:Too often have I read works in which authors contradict themselves logically without appearing to realise it.
That's just bad writing, Ian. A good editor should notice that sort of thing.
A good editor... an extinct race. I am happy to own a book by a Dutch ancient historian containing more than 250 factual errors, more than half of them easily spotted by an editor up to his task.
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