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The Fall of Rome And the End of Civilization

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  930 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
Was the fall of Rome a great catastrophe that cast the West into darkness for centuries to come? Or, as scholars argue today, was there no crisis at all, but simply a peaceful blending of barbarians into Roman culture, an essentially positive transformation?
In The Fall of Rome, eminent historian Bryan Ward-Perkins argues that the "peaceful" theory of Rome's "transformatio
Paperback, 239 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2005)
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Paul Bryant
Around 70% of this short book is about pottery, coins and beards. That may put you off. It must be admitted that when historians peruse these far off centuries there is very little hard evidence to show what happened. So, we are left with pottery, coins and beards.

Actually this is really NOT a book for the general reader. I found myself in a room where a bunch of specialists in the “Late Antiquity” period were yelling


And Bryan Ward-Perkins was yelling back “Invasion!”

The great thing about the fall of Rome is that there is no need to stop discussing it even once the cows have come home. The range of sources are rich enough to hint at huge ranges of possible causes and effects, yet not precise enough to pin down much decisively. As a result every age is free to reinterpret the fall of Rome in the image of its own hopes, fears, and preoccupations.

This is true of Ward-Perkins' book too which can be read as a statement of, what on one island at least would be cal
Sep 10, 2011 Katie rated it it was ok
This was a very frustrating book. Ward-Perkins sets out to counter a perceived historiographical trend to gloss over the Germanic invasions and paint the period from about 200-800 as a rosy period of lovely, happy continuity that coincided with the rise and spread of Christianity. That's a fair enough argument to make. The invasion of Germanic groups was pretty clearly an unpleasant experience for a lot of the people involved. While it's unfair to paint the invasions as hordes of bloodthirsty wa ...more
Nick Wellings
3.5 stars. Engaging academically honest and hence academically politically incorrect look at the decline of Rome, specific focus given to Rome in the West.

Being a total naif in terms of a lot of history, but having enough resolve to give anything approachable and well written, I found a good guide in Perkins. The book is unfussy and colloquial.

I had no idea that the current academic orthodoxy has decided that the period of Late Antiquity (buzzword since Brown I guess) was some kind of gentle tr
José Luís  Fernandes
Bryan Ward-Perkins, through this book, tried to contest the "dominant" views on Late Antiquity by trying to essentially return to a more nuanced form of the catastrophistic (and quite Gibbonian in general aspects) view that ruled before the revolution of late antique studies in the last 40 years.

In the first four chapters he discusses specifically the fall of Rome. He starts by presenting his goals about the book and that's where problems start. His speech is very polemic and ranty, almost taki
Timothy Stead
A short, witty counter blast to the fashionable theories of peaceful continuity which dominate Late Antique and Early Medieval studies. Ward-Perkins argues strongly what seems obvious to most new students to the field - that the fall of the Roman Empire was a violent period, marked by widespread destruction and economic and material decline. This book is worth it for the chapters on "The Disappearance of Comfort" alone - they are superbly written without falling into the excessive detail or arch ...more
Feb 24, 2009 Dan rated it really liked it
Bryan Ward-Perkins published The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization in 2005. Countering the trend to minimize the effects of the barbarian invasions, initiated by Peter Brown, Ward-Perkins uses material evidence (archaeological, atmospheric, etc.) to support his claim that the fall of Rome was, indeed, a cataclysmic event that shattered the old world and initiated completely new forms of civilization for Europe. Those interested in economics will find his treatment of Rome’s specialized, s ...more
May 26, 2013 Daniel rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A quick read which puts forth the rather old and unfortunately unfashionable idea that the Roman era did not just transition without tumult into Late Antiquity. Ward-Perkins convincingly argues that while the Germanic invasions were not the cataclysmic struggle with barbarians that scholarship prior to the middle of the twentieth century suggests they were, the archaeological evidence nevertheless demonstrates a marked decline in living standards across all social classes as the highly specializ ...more
Apr 06, 2012 Moureco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: história
À queda de Roma, seguiu-se a Idade Média (em inglês, Dark Age). O autor augumenta e explicita porque a queda de Roma foi o maior retrocesso civilizacional de que há memória (a rede de estradas do império perdeu-se, o navegação no mediterrâneo decaiu, e com ela o comércio internacional e a aceitação de moeda cunhada, o sistema legal fraccionou-se e desapareceu, etc., etc., etc., etc.)
Jun 07, 2012 Ben rated it really liked it
From the start Ward-Perkins states that he intends to dispell the incorrect (as he sees it) recent phenomena of modern historians liking to think that the Roman Empire never fell, rather there was a mostly peaceful "transition" from Latin Empire to Germanic/Latin culture mix, without any manifestations of a civilisation's fall. Ward-Perkins does this in a readable and easy to follow manner, summing things up quickly and not getting too down-trodden in topics such as how the evidence is aquired, ...more
Vann Turner
Oct 15, 2013 Vann Turner rated it really liked it
The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization seeks to correct misrepresentations of the catastrophe in the Western Empire brought about by the numerous invasions starting in the fourth century. In this post WWII age, this age of the European Union, there are forces which seek to paint the painful disintegration of Empire with rosy colors. They describe the collapse of a complex civilization in terms of assimilation and transformation.

While the author, Ward-Perkins, is clear in stating that it wa
Apr 11, 2015 Jpp rated it it was amazing
Oui, il y a bien eu un déclin de la civilisation à partir du 5e siècle, oui le bien être des populations de la partie occidentale de l`Empire a subi un terrible recul avec les invasions de ce qu il faut bien nommer les barbares germaniques. Sans peur du politiquement correct, Ward-Perkins rappelle à partir de faits connus mais aussi de ses recherches basées sur des composantes concrètes (poteries, matériaux de construction, tombes) que les niveaux de vie ont reculé de façon dramatique. Terreur q ...more
Jun 17, 2010 Kawakoala rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 16, 2016 Jan rated it liked it
Insightful and rich in detail, but probably most relevant for the truly dedicated students of Roman Decline andGall
Nathan Albright
Jan 17, 2016 Nathan Albright rated it it was amazing
Although this book is fairly short, coming in at about 180 pages of reading material and a lot of meticulous footnotes, it packs a pretty serious impact for several related reasons in a subject that appears arcane on the surface but is surprisingly relevant when its implications are considered, as the author explicitly does. The book is a powerful effort in an argument that divides those students of history whose areas of interest include the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages. This book argues th ...more
Sep 08, 2015 Leonardo marked it as to-keep-ref
La obra de Bryan Ward-Perkins The Fall of Rome describe la gradual desintegración del Imperio romano desde el siglo iv al vii, resaltando la regresión –incluso la catástrofe– económica y de la civilización que provocó esta desintegración: en un breve periodo la mayoría de las tierras del imperio cayeron en un estado incluso peor al que tenían antes de la ocupación romana. Los explícitos objetivos polémicos del libro son los recientes intentos «revisionistas» de describir la Antigüedad tardía no ...more
Mar 15, 2017 Rita rated it liked it
Shelves: library
Tive de ler este livro para uma cadeira, mas tenho de dizer que não me arrependi. Apesar da leitura ter demorado muito mais tempo do que o que eu planeava, tendo em conta que tive de tirar apontamentos, até foi bastante agradável.
O autor apresenta ideias controversas que na realidade não são assim tão descabidas, como a contra capa nos faz querer acreditar.
Não recomendo a quem não gostar de ler sobre cacos.
Since the time of Peter Brown and the definition of the field of late antiquity, scholarship has increasingly painted a rosy picture of the late Roman world which gradually transformed into the early medieval world. While Ward-Perkins holds that this is largely true of the Roman east until the beginning of the seventh century, he challenges this notion for the west. On the basis of archaeological evidence, he argues instead that the end of the Roman world came rapidly and was far harsher in the ...more
John Nebauer
Mar 05, 2014 John Nebauer rated it really liked it
The Western Roman Empire collapsed by 476. Beset by Germanic tribes from without and economic stagnation within, it was the culmination of a process that began nearly a century earlier with the annihilation of a Roman army at Adrianople.

Or did it? Peter Brown’s The World of Late Antiquity sparked an influential school of thought suggesting a gentler transition into the post-Roman world. In essence, ‘late antiquity’ is seen as a distinct cultural phenomenon that differed profoundly from classica
Dec 12, 2011 Jessica rated it liked it
This book has an interesting premise: in the spirit of political correctness, historians and scholars have elevated post-Roman European society to that of Rome's great civilization. According to the author, this does Rome a serious disservice and ignores the complexity of her Empire and the severity of her fall.

The author makes some compelling points about the regional economy, literacy rates, goods, and production efficiency of a Roman vs a post-Roman world. Without reducing Rome's heirs to the
Jeni Enjaian
Nov 11, 2012 Jeni Enjaian rated it really liked it
Ward-Perkins posits that the Roman Empire definitively fell at the time of the barbarian invasions. This fall, according to Ward-Perkins, precipitated the destruction of a previously robust civilization. Ward-Perkins divides the book into two distinct sections. Before the first section Ward-Perkins surveys the historiography of Rome ending with dismissal of historians like Peter Brown who re-imagine the time period as one of cultural robustness. In the first section Ward, Perkins discusses Rome’ ...more
Robert Monk
Feb 07, 2016 Robert Monk rated it it was amazing
There's been a tendency in the English-speaking world, since Peter Brown's "The World of Late Antiquity" (a classic book, by the way), to say about the fifth century "Hey, the barbarian invasions weren't so bad, really." Ward-Perkins (along with Peter Heather) came along to say, "Whoa, wrong! If you were a Western European back then, the invasions were *terrible*! They brought death, destruction, and an end to a way of life!" This short, readable book combines text analysis and archeology to des ...more
Jan 22, 2013 Paul rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, history, rome
This book chips away at a perceived veneer of political correctness that shrouds recent late-Roman scholarship, which is alright with me. Ward-Perkins' argument was convincing enough, despite the inclusion of two absurd graphs on p. 122 that purport to show a change in economic complexity over time yet making no attempt to quantify this change other than a vague "minimal economic complexity - considerable economic complexity" along the y axis. In fairness, the author does admit that that was a g ...more
Nov 11, 2011 Jon rated it really liked it
A brisk and clearly written refutation of recent historical views that Rome never really fell, it just gradually transformed into something else involving more barbarians. Ward-Perkins emphatically denies this, saying that every kind of manufacturing and trade, all education, all government action, all living standards fell abruptly and disastrously in the fifth century. One of his sections is titled "The Disappearance of Comfort." Why did it fall? "In my opinion, the key internal element in Rom ...more
Feb 12, 2008 Jeff rated it liked it
I actually started this at least a year ago and finished it this week. A synthetic analysis of the fall of the Roman Empire, not in terms of its causes so much as its effects. Essentially, the author addresses the question of how bad was the fall of Rome? Apparently there is a trend among historians to emphasize continuity, to recognize the contributions of the "barbarians", and basically argue that Rome did not fall so much as transform itself through a relatively peaceful process of mutual acc ...more
David Montgomery
Feb 28, 2015 David Montgomery rated it really liked it
A brief (I read it in one sitting) but thorough book making the focused point that the end of the Western Roman Empire was, in fact, violent and calamitous, a once-orthodox position now increasingly challenged by a view emphasizing the peaceful and negotiated transition from Roman to Germanic rule and settlement. Ward-Perkins makes a compelling argument for the narrow version of his thesis, and he's careful to note instances where the end of Rome was less violent or calamitous than others. In pa ...more
Oct 14, 2015 icaro rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: storia-antica
è davvero un buon libro per molte ragioni, alcune delle quali forse non farebbero contento l'autore.
Intanto è un libro che mostra anche ai non specialisti che l'"oggettività" storica non esiste (diciamo che è un falso problema che interessa solo chi vuole parlare male degli storici) e che il risultato parziale delle nostre conoscenze sul passato è sempre il frutto di una dialettca in continuo movimento.
E' un libro sincero (l'autore dichiara sempre le sue parzialità)che offre un quadro di sintesi
Andrea Fiore
Aug 06, 2016 Andrea Fiore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Oggi è del tutto fuori moda affermare che con la fine dell'impero romano si sia verificato qualcosa come una «crisi» o un «declino»; per non parlare del crollo di una «civiltà», seguito da una «età buia». Secondo la nuova ortodossia, il mondo romano, sia in Occidente sia in Oriente, si trasformò lentamente, e in modo sostanzialmente indolore, in una forma medievale. Ma questa nuova teoria cozza contro un problema insuperabile: non si accorda con l'enorme quantità di testimonianze archeologiche ...more
Aug 07, 2012 Jorge rated it it was amazing
History keeps changing. After reading Bryan Ward-Perkins' Fall of Rome you realize how historians keep reinterpreting past events in light of recent discoveries or even political convenience. In a very interesting and never boring narration, Ward-Perkins carefully critiques current trends among historians. Namely that the fall of the Roman Empire was an assimilation by the barbarian hordes from central Europe, instead of the brutal annihilation of the first mass-production/ mass-consumption civi ...more
Aug 15, 2011 Andreea rated it it was amazing
The historical analysis is really pertinent and makes a lot of sense, but what it made me really like it is the history of history, how we perceive our past, even far back history, based on how we look at the world we are living in. You might think that proofs are proofs and logic remains the same, but it not true... At a distance of few decades the germanic people are either hords of invaders and murderers, or just some migrating people coming to settle in the Roman empire; both sides having th ...more
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