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Could anyone comment on the pros and cons of David Potter's The Roman Empire at Bay: AD 180-395? I'm after a good general and social history of the period, especially the late third and early fourth centuries, which goes into as much detail and complexity as possible. The size of Potter's work (784 pages) certainly suggests both of these in spades, but I'd like some opinions on quality of analysis, readability and Potter's general argument before I order it.

Or perhaps someone could suggest a better alternative?

Thanks - Nathan
Quote:Or perhaps someone could suggest a better alternative?

AHM Jones' 'The Later Roman Empire' is unsurpassed as far as I know. But it only covers part of the period you're interested in. It sounds like volume two of the set contains more information on what you're seeking.

The Later Roman Empire, 284-602: A Social, Economic, and Administrative Survey. 2 Vol. Set (Volume 1 and 2)

~Theo
Oh yes, I've got the Jones (or got access to it - it's a hefty beast!) I'm currently looking for something more recent, although as you say Jones could hardly be bettered. Should have made that clear... Thanks though!
Quote:Could anyone comment on the pros and cons of David Potter's The Roman Empire at Bay: AD 180-395?
I'm a great believer in book reviews. Sometimes you get a superficial snapshot of the book, but sometimes you get a good in-depth discussion.

Potter's book has been reviewed in: Mouseion, Aestimatio, and Bryn Mawr Classical Review (to mention three on-line sources), and Classical Review. These might give you a general idea.

Edit: Hekster (in Classical Review) writes: "The in-depth mastery over an enormously large amount of material (both ancient and modern), the ability to place that material in a coherent context, and the many examples presented throughout the volume to illustrate relevant points (through images, maps, and passages) makes The Empire at Bay the authoritative synthesis of the third and fourth centuries." High praise.
Thanks Duncan - I'd seen the Bryn Mawr review, but the others are new to me. Seems to be a generaly very positive response!

Actually, I was debating whether to go for Potter, or Southern's Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine, which appears to cover much the same ground. Potter looks to be the weightier (in both senses!) of the two.
Definitely go for Potter.

I have read both books. Southern is a mainstream summary of events and developments on a VERY basic schoolbook type level without much in terms of analysis or discussion. Potter has much more actual discussion and analysis. I believe at some point he even discussed the battle worthiness of the Roman spatha criticizing it as a top-heavy and clumsy weapon. Although I do not subscribe to all of his views, his style is very readable. I simply love the chapter heading "the army in politics, lawyers in government" which basically puts the Severan empire and the reasons for its demise in a nut shell. Also, he is refreshingly "anti-Roman" and puts much more emphasis on developments outside of the Roman world.
Quote:I believe at some point he even discussed the battle worthiness of the Roman spatha criticizing it as a top-heavy and clumsy weapon.
That's why I prefer anthologies over monographies: no-one can know everything about everything. Goldsworthy, too, makes several such mistakes. best read a number of books and compare them.
Bowman, Alan K., Peter Garnsey and Averil Cameron (eds.) (2006): The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume 12, The Crisis of Empire, A.D. 193–337, (Cambridge University Press).
Cameron, Averil and Peter |Garnsey (eds.) (2006): The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume 13, The Late Empire, AD 337–425, (Cambridge University Press).

Still, I always promote this one:
Ward-Perkins, Brian (2005): The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization, (Oxford University Press).

Unsurpassed for the 5th century and the fall of the West:
Drinkwater, J.F. and Hugh Elton (eds.) (1992): Fifth-century Gaul: a Crisis of Identity?, (Cambridge).
Quote:I prefer anthologies over monographies: no-one can know everything about everything.
For that very reason, I also considered Lenski (ed)'s Cambridge Companion the the Age of Constantine. There appears to be a new edition coming out at the end of this month, and it covers, presumably in some depth, the period I'm interested in (284-337). Can anyone recommend it? I'll definitely get the Potter book as well, in any case.
I have Potter on my shelf and it is a very very good book, especially on the Severi.

M.VIB.M.