Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians” as Want to Read:
The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  2,048 ratings  ·  141 reviews
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 overtuned the existing strategic balance of power on Rome's European frontiers to force the Goths and ot ...more
Paperback, 572 pages
Published June 1st 2007 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2005)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Fall of the Roman Empire, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Fall of the Roman Empire

I, Claudius by Robert GravesThe First Man in Rome by Colleen McCulloughClaudius the God and His Wife Messalina by Robert GravesThe Twelve Caesars by SuetoniusPompeii by Robert   Harris
Best Books About Ancient Rome
76th out of 531 books — 767 voters
The Fall of the Roman Empire by Peter HeatherThe Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward GibbonThe Later Roman Empire by Ammianus MarcellinusEmpires and Barbarians by Peter HeatherThe History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours
Books on the Later Roman Empire
1st out of 120 books — 30 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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
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
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
Daniel Threlfall
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
Bryan Alexander
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.

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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Christopher Greffin
"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 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
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
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
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.
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
Ray Krebs
The Fall of the Western Empire is a lot more complex than is presented in histories of the Romans. It's also a lot more interesting. Most people don't know that the barbarian invasion started in 376 CE, continued until it really got bad in 407. This forced the Western Empire to remove the Legions from Britain in 410. Unknown to them, this was the start of the loss of Roman culture and the actual fall. Oh, and the sack of Rome occurred in 410. What I hadn't known before I read this was that Alari ...more
Peter Heather reconstructs the chaotic years from 376CE to 476CE and builds a convincing narrative of the collapse in 460 pages. He traces the rise and fall of the Huns north of the Danube and makes interesting conclusions concerning the effects of their empire on the Roman world. Throughout the book he follows the Roman emperors as they stagger from one crisis to another and challenges the traditional explanations for the decline of the empire. The author is up front about the paucity of inform ...more
This is a dense book on a specific academic subject, and as such isn't something I'd recommend to everyone. But if you have a passion or interest in the end of the Western Roman Empire and a new analysis of the run-up and causes for it, I would give it my full endorsement. Heather breaks with established opinion on the matter by placing more emphasis on exogenic shocks as a cause for the eventual collapse than the hypothesis of internal decay and weakening advanced by Gibbon and others.

In a nutshell, the Roman Empire was destroyed by barbarians because of qualities of the barbarians, not because of any incipient weakness or any other quality inherent to the empire. I can't judge how original this is for people familiar with the field, but for me it was a completely novel way of looking at a central event in world history, that I didn't even know was open to question.

Maybe this deserves 5 stars... I didn't appreciate the massive detail of political intrigues and economic devel
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Fall of Rome And the End of Civilization
  • How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower
  • Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome
  • The Roman Revolution
  • The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages, 400-1000
  • Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations
  • Egypt, Greece and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean
  • Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West
  • Marcus Aurelius: A Life
  • The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph & Diversity 200-1000
  • Chronicle of the Roman Emperors: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers of Imperial Rome
  • The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal & the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic
  • Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity
  • God's War: A New History of the Crusades
  • Lords of the Sea: The Epic Story of the Athenian Navy & the Birth of Democracy
  • The Peloponnesian War
  • Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of An Empire
  • The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found
Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe The Restoration of Rome: Barbarian Popes and Imperial Pretenders The Goths The Goths in the Fourth Century The Visigoths from the Migration Period to the Seventh Century: An Ethnographic Perspective

Share This Book

“By virtue of its unbounded aggression, Roman imperialism was ultimately responsible for its own destruction.” 7 likes
“Foreign policy often involved nothing more than the decision whom to make war upon.” 1 likes
More quotes…