Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Fall of Rome And the End of Civilization” as Want to Read:
The Fall of Rome And the End of Civilization
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Fall of Rome And the End of Civilization

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  723 ratings  ·  69 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)
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 Rome And the End of Civilization, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Fall of Rome And the End of Civilization

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,500)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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
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
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
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
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.)
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
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
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
Sep 08, 2015 Leonardo marked it as to-keep-reference
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
David Montgomery
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
John Nebauer
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
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
Nelson Wattie
Although this is less exciting to read than Peter Brown’s The World of Late Antiquity, which I read and reviewed recently, it is something of a corrective to it. While Brown emphasised the positive – the remarkable creative forces in ‘late antiquity’ – Ward-Perkins is out to show that the ‘decline of Rome’ really was a decline – violence and poverty increased and the well-ordered civic society of the Roman world grew more chaotic. My instincts as a non-expert are that Ward-Perkins argues his cas ...more
Solid debunking of the recent fad in ancient studies that the fall of Rome was not a calamitous civilizational collapse after all, but rather a relatively smooth time of transition and transformation. Some very interesting stuff in here about how the standard of living in much of the empire not only collapsed after the fall, but actually reverted to pre-imperial levels. Ordinary people living in homes with sophisticated roofs, eating off of tableware from the other side of the Mediterranean, wen ...more
Jeni Enjaian
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
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
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
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
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
Eileen Hurley
Although the author made several interesting points that I had never heard of or even considered, he spent too much time "proving" his hypothesis. He was constantly anticipating what the counter arguments for his ideas might be and arguing against them. Although this may be a necessary evil when publishing an academic paper, it's entirely unnecessary for the casual reader. It made the author sound endlessly defensive, and made the material very difficult to plow through.
J. Dutilloy
This is a rapid overview of the end of the Roman empire, essentially reviewing the economical and political aspects of the decline. However, this short book is more interesting because of the analysis of the current historiography of this period renamed late antiquities and the way historians tend to analyze in regards to contemporary concerns rather than on a purely objective approach. Bryan Ward-Perkins use a lot of wit and knowledge to illustrate his point. Even if the contemporary comparison ...more
A well written and scholarly examination of the end of the Roman Empire and the civilization it represented. Ward-Perkins argues persuasively against the notion that the fall of Rome and the beginning of the Dark Ages was not a peaceful transition and that the subsequent history of Europe was not an improvement on its past. He effectively refutes the politically correct notion that all cultures are equal.

The book is not an easy read but it is readable, clear, and largely without the excessive ac
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 49 50 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians
  • The World of Late Antiquity 150-750 (Library of World Civilization)
  • The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages, 400-1000
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire
  • The Roman Revolution
  • The Roman Triumph
  • The Ruin of the Roman Empire: A New History
  • The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe
  • The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples
  • An Imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire, 54 BC - AD 409
  • The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians
  • Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity
  • The Day of the Barbarians: The Battle That Led to the Fall of the Roman Empire
  • The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity
  • Barbarians to Angels: The Dark Ages Reconsidered
  • Britain After Rome: The Fall and Rise, 400 to 1070
  • The Later Roman Empire: A.D. 354-378

Share This Book