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The Fall of the Roman Empire

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  2,491 Ratings  ·  162 Reviews
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 o
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Kindle Edition, 578 pages
Published 2006 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Matt
Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-history
Admittedly, I have very little knowledge about the Roman Empire. This has not stopped me from creating a construct in my mind about how Rome fell. The image I’ve created is actually very simple, subtle, and elegant.

First, picture a room the Coliseum. Now imagine the Coliseum filled with men, women, and goats. Everyone is naked, including the goats. Men are having sex with women. Men are having sex with men. Women are having sex with women. The goats are having sex with everyone. There is an ele
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Bookwraiths
Jun 25, 2013 Bookwraiths rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is hands down one of the best written, most entertaining and easily digested books I have ever read regarding the fall of the Roman Empire. Mr. Heather gives a reader enough back story regarding Rome and its neighbors to understand the strategic situation before he then outlines his theory of just what happened to destroy the Western Roman Empire and how it was more a gradual process than we have been led to believe. His reasoning for each point is well-thought-out and explained with just e ...more
Szplug
Jun 30, 2011 Szplug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm trashing the majority of what I have previously written here, along with opting to round up my three-and-a-half rating to a fulsome and fully merited four; scrubbing the slate clean and making an effort to do this book some justice. Prior allusions to the Mighty Gibbon and his masterpiece are inherently unfair to Heather—he's certainly no Gibbon, but then again, who is? The fact of the matter is that the British author is a pleasant and engaging writer who suffers from spells of dryness—but ...more
Daniel Threlfall
Jun 29, 2015 Daniel Threlfall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Unless you're some sort of history nerd, the title sounds absolutely boring. I'm not a history nerd, so that's what I thought — boring! — when a friend let me borrow this book.

The book was not boring. Not in the least.

The book is, obviously, about how the Roman Empire "fell." The thing that makes it interesting, however, is the fact that the author, Peter Heather, takes issue with the near unanimity of historians on the causes and contributing factors of the Empire's decline.

Sorry, Gibbon, bu
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Andy
Jul 23, 2016 Andy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
So its been a decade since ive read this & though a re-read was in order.....

In a nutshell.... as the title is fairly self-explanatory.....

You get an overview of the main players, the Romans themselves (of course), the barbarians which is basically anyone on their frontiers be it the Germanic tribes or the Persians, the Empires expansion & the impact that had on maintaining it’s borders & effective communications/orders over such vast distances (they estimated that in modern terms it
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Justin Evans
My rating is unfair: this is a very good book, that will appeal to all kinds of readers. Heather's sentences are very readable, he tells a good story, he takes into account pretty much every factor you possibly could to explain the "fall" of the Empire (including the possibility that it wasn't a fall etc...), and he addresses major scholarly debates. His case is well laid out and convincing: the fall of Rome in the west can only be understood in the context of profound changes in other parts of ...more
Steve
Aug 22, 2009 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Heather covers Gibbon's old stomping grounds, but backed up w/ recent archeological finds. Heather is an expert when it comes to the various “barbarian” groups that hammered the Roman Empire. He’s probably one of best when it comes to the mysterious Huns (historians still don’t know where they came from – just educated guesses). However, Heather parts with Gibbon on the cause of Rome’s fall, seeing not so much decadence (he feels that Rome, as an Empire, was running probably as well as ever, mak ...more
Fortunr
Jan 18, 2013 Fortunr rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history_general
Outstanding and detailed book created by an expert and a real authority in this field. I have been following this author for the last few years - not just his books, but also his articles in various specialist publications clearly demonstrate a mastery of this historical period. His well balanced and detailed analysis make this book a pleasure to read.
Bryan Alexander
Feb 16, 2014 Bryan Alexander rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A fine history of the Roman empire during the 300s and 400s. Heather offers a clear, engaging narrative account of the western empire's defeat and the east's success.

Arguing about the fall of (western!) Rome is an old historical chestnut, and Heather makes a passionate case for one school of thought. You see, there are two broad interpretations. Either Rome died a natural death, due to internal problems and decay, or it was murdered by outside forces, notably barbarians from central Europe and t
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Mal Warwick
Roman generals, barbarians, and a compulsive historian to tell the tale

Remember having to memorize all those dates when you were back in school? 1066, 1776, and all that? Right? So, what epochal events do you associate with the years 376, 405, 410, and 476? Give up? No, I’m not going to give you the answers. If you really want them, you can immerse yourself in the pages of Peter Heather’s The Fall of the Roman Empire. By the time you’re finished — assuming you have the stomach to get through the
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Paul
May 19, 2008 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians, by Peter Heather

This new book by a professor at Worcester College, University of Oxford is a true gem among books covering historical subject matter. The past when covered by most books attempting to educate the reader on historical subject matter covering several hundred years often results in text book like reading without the inspirational individual efforts of the everyday citizen being included or explained.
In this cas
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Jan
Sep 03, 2008 Jan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A true paragon among history books. Lively and engaging, Peter Heather takes into account the whole picture of life in the Later Roman Empire to support all of his reasoning (much in contrast to Gibbons, say). He balances an extraordinary feel for the sweeping trends of history and the importance of the actions of particular leaders.

Another one of the attractions that only sweetens the deal is the author's ability to engage in (restrained) counterfactuals. He has a great enough grasp of the mate
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Louise
Jun 07, 2014 Louise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: roman-history
Heather tells the complex story of the Fall of the Roman Empire in a writing style so accessible that you feel like he is talking to you.

He clearly presents his thesis (oversimplification: there was no "decline". There was a loss in revenue when North Africa was lost. Barbarians eroded the western empire and a disastrous armada to get Africa back nailed the coffin) so that lay people can understand it. When he presents evidence he also notes what is missing from the evidence, or how reliable/unr
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Jason
Aug 11, 2015 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Professor Heather has given us a detailed, well-researched, and well-argued history of the late Western Roman Empire and the various influences that led to its decline and fall. Like many readers, I entered this history with relatively little knowledge of this era in European history (apart from the broad strokes I was taught in school). "Barbarian invasion" always meant "rampaging army" and I had no idea of the economic impact these various "invasions" had on the Western empire.

Heather lays al
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Simon
Jun 11, 2012 Simon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was excellent. The author's view is that the Western empire fell because the Germanic tribes had had gained greater and greater cohesion and sophistication through three hundred years of interaction with the Romans. So when they were pushed west, and into the empire itself, by the movement of the Huns towards the end of the 4th century, they were able to profit at the expense of the central Roman tax base to such a degree that the empire could no longer contain them effectively.
Ranjeev Dubey
Since I hadn’t visited Toynbee’s work since college, I went into this book with a very narrow agenda. I wanted to brush up on why empires fail? What I got out of the book was orders of magnitude more.

For sure the book answered my narrow question. Very briefly (with the inevitably distortion of oversimplification), the Roman Empire failed because:

1. The rise of the Huns put too much pressure on Roman military and financial resources.

2. The rise of the Huns pushed armed groups of refugees into R
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Bettie☯


Narrated by: Allan Robertson
Length: 21 hrs and 42 mins

Description: 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 o
...more
Travis
Jul 06, 2011 Travis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book, Heather does a good job reaffirming and further proving that the Roman empire collapsed due to large scale barbarian invasions, led primarily by Germanic tribes (pushed across the Rhine by the Huns) who united and reformed into cohesive, advanced groups over the centuries. Their cohesion, of course, being driven by Rome's aggressive imperial expansion and policies towards them; thus they created their own destroyers.

It's a nice contradiction to the peaceful assimilation theori
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Christopher
May 09, 2015 Christopher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, europe
This is a thoroughly exciting narrative and analysis of the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Throughout, Heather displays a firm grasp of the complex relationship between the Romans and the barbarian hordes that would ultimately destroy the empire. He also analyzes the arguments of other historians on this era and systematically shoots down their arguments with firm evidence and convincing conjecture. An added plus to this narrative is that he attempts to leave nothing out. On an era that is so ...more
John
Dec 05, 2012 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Initially, I used this book as a sleep aide. Gradually, however the author's down to earth turn of phrase won me over. Although an academic tome by almost any standard, he brings life to this civilization that managed to survive as a nation state for half a millenium. Any question about Heather's depth of preparation is quickly put to rest when the citations compose more than 10% of the 570 pages.

From high school, my impression was that decadence of the society led to its eventual downfall. This
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Ross
Jul 12, 2014 Ross rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very big book which told me a lot of interesting things I had not known about concerning the Roman Empire during the 1st to 5th centuries leading to the end of the Western portion of the Empire, including Italy, around 500 CE. It also told me much more than I ever wanted to know about the scores of barbarian tribes and war lords, so I can only give it 3 stars. The author puts forth his ideas for the fall which are somewhat different from previous historians, and they seem very sensible ...more
Denerick
Oct 11, 2012 Denerick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heather does a good job at putting order to the significant chaos that is the last 150 years of western Roman history. Illuminating in places, providing some excellent analysis and is a worthy exemplar of historical scholarship that can be both engaging and informative.

I'm not informed enough to debate the historiography present, but for someone who knew nothing about the collapse of the (western) Roman Empire, this book is a godsend.

Bloody immigrants. Nick Griffin would love the idea that weste
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Kevin
Jun 25, 2016 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The thing that struck me early on in reading this book was the difficulty that must arise in writing about a fairly broad topic that has been touched on by many other authors. The first quarter of the "The Fall..." is very polemical and becomes a bit repetitive in it's dynamic of presenting past theses and knocking them down. The book is very successful in straddling both popular and academic appeal, except that these early sections sound very much like a academician trying to cut out his own ni ...more
Mary
Feb 11, 2016 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: done
One of the few studies that focused on the role of barbarian peoples in the end of the Western Roman Empire. Very good work which presents the complexity of the interaction between the various Germanic tribes, the Huns and the Romans (Eastern and Western.) The work looks at the consequences of those interactions at all levels of government, the society and the economy and comes to some interesting conclusions. The collapse of the Western half of the empire wasn't simply a result of moral decay i ...more
Christopher Greffin
Jul 31, 2015 Christopher Greffin rated it it was amazing
"The Fall of The Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians" is an excellent work of non-fiction about the collapse of arguably the greatest empire of the ancient world. Peter Heather details events from the first century BC until the final dissolution of the Western Empire in 476 with great detail and reverence, focusing primarily on the last 250 years or so. He explains how, in his view, internal factors contributed to the vulnerability of Rome, but that it was the various barbaria ...more
Andrew Tollemache
The Romans always make for fascinating reading even if there names all start to sound alike. Heather has done a great job of providing a narrative and explanation of Rome's fall that is at odds with the typical or famous explanations.....at least the ones I always heard.
Most explanations of Rome's fall center on internal flaws or short comings of the Roman Empire. Gibbon blames Christianity for sapping Rome of the personal qualities that made it great, others have blamed excess taxation during
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Anjan
Apr 17, 2015 Anjan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a pleasure to read. I read it one sitting and left the experience as if I'd watched a movie on the death of Rome.

The only thing stopping me from giving it 5 stars is the book's shaky foundation. The book reads so well because the author doesn't spend any time countering other interpretations or citing his sources. He tells you an engaging story, there are some further reading options at the end. Consequently, read the book with a grain of salt, otherwise there is the chance of mis-learn
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Griffin Vanderschaeghe
A splendidly structured, highly informative book that draws conclusion from narrative reconstruction. The historian describes the century between 376 and 476 in quite some detail with the main focus on the power centers of the western and eastern parts of the Roman Empire - imagine competing generals vying for power that more than once spills into civil war, puppet emperors being ruled by strong figures (Flavius Aetius for one, Flavius Stilicho as another) etc - and the migration of several Germ ...more
Jason Ross
Dec 10, 2009 Jason Ross rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A solid premise and narrative, which still manages to stand out among an enormous cache of research on that long-recited story. Successful in that Heather manages to construct a few feelers of comparison into our own time, if the reader is willing to constructively interpret the material. Some dry humor to boot.
Toon
Jul 30, 2015 Toon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This type of historical book can be quite hard to read and confusing, with lots of names, places and dates. But 'The Fall of the Roman Empire' is fairly easy to follow and Peter Heather is careful not to pile on too much information without giving proper context. The narrative is clearly written out, and Heather provides lots of colour and detail to bring history to life in the reader's mind.
There are also plenty of maps and clear geographical descriptions, so readers who are fairly familiar wit
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“By virtue of its unbounded aggression, Roman imperialism was ultimately responsible for its own destruction.” 6 likes
“The way to a landowner's heart was to tax gently.” 4 likes
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