The death of the Roman Empire is one of the perennial mysteries of world history. Now, in this groundbreaking book, Peter Heather proposes a stunning new solution: Centuries of imperialism turned the neighbors Rome called barbarians into an enemy capable of dismantling an Empire that had dominated their lives for so long.
A leading authority on the late Roman Empire and on the barbarians, Heather relates the extraordinary story of how Europe's barbarians, transformed by centuries of contact with Rome on every possible level, eventually pulled the empire apart. He shows first how the Huns overturned the existing strategic balance of power on Rome's European frontiers, to force the Goths and others to seek refuge inside the Empire. This prompted two generations of struggle, during which new barbarian coalitions, formed in response to Roman hostility, brought the Roman west to its knees. The Goths first destroyed a Roman army at the battle of Hadrianople in 378, and went on to sack Rome in 410. The Vandals spread devastation in Gaul and Spain, before conquering North Africa, the breadbasket of the Western Empire, in 439. We then meet Attila the Hun, whose reign of terror swept from Constantinople to Paris, but whose death in 453 ironically precipitated a final desperate phase of Roman collapse, culminating in the Vandals' defeat of the massive Byzantine Armada: the west's last chance for survival.
Peter Heather convincingly argues that the Roman Empire was not on the brink of social or moral collapse. What brought it to an end were the barbarians.
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In this ground-breaking book, Peter Heather proposes a new solution to one of the greatest mysteries of history: the demise of the Roman Empire. Mixing authoritative analysis with thrilling narrative, he brings fresh insight into the panorama of the empire’s end, from the bejewelled splendour of the Imperial court to the dripping forests of “Barbaricum”. He examines the successes of the Roman Empire and uses a new understanding of its continued strength and enduring limitations to show how Europe’s barbarians, transformed by centuries of contact with Rome, eventually pulled it apart.
‘Provides the reader with drama and lurid colour as well as analysis. Like a late Roman emperor, he is determined to impose order on a fabric that is always threatening to fragment and collapse into confusion; unlike most late Roman emperors, he succeeds triumphantly.’ Sunday Times
‘Heather presents the stories and the characters of this tumultuous epoch, in a colourful and enthralling narrative...an account full of enjoyably anachronistic flourishes, keen wit, and an infectious relish for the period.’ Independent On Sunday
‘The story is an exciting one, bursting with action, brutality... a gripping, and balanced account... one can recommend to anyone, whether specialist or interested amateur.’ History Today
‘A fascinating story, full of ups and downs and memorable characters.’ SpectatorAbout the Author:
Peter Heather teaches at King's College, London. A leading authority on the barbarians, he is the author of The Goths, Goths and Romans, and The Huns.
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