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Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  355 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Here is a fresh, provocative look at how a recognizable Europe came into being in the first millennium AD. With sharp analytic insight, Peter Heather explores the dynamics of migration and social and economic interaction that changed two vastly different worlds--the undeveloped barbarian world and the sophisticated Roman Empire--into remarkably similar societies and states ...more
Hardcover, 734 pages
Published March 2nd 2010 by Oxford University Press (first published 2009)
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Aug 29, 2010 Terence rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: late Antiquity/early Medieval history buffs
Once again Peter Heath has written an extraordinarily complex and nuanced account of Europe in the first millennium AD, a period when the modern foundations of European society were established. He focuses on migration and its role in transforming the Mediterranean-centered world of Late Antiquity into the Atlantic-centered one of the Medieval and Modern eras. Toward that end, the author looks at the drift of Germanic tribes ever westward into the Roman Empire (to c. AD 600); their replacement b ...more
The author believes that even without invading Huns, the Roman Empire’s borders would have become more diffuse and eventually collapsed merely by the process of civilizing the peoples on its borders and bridging the gap in technological development. By the end of the 1st Century AD the Romans were mostly maintaining an area they had already won and which was profitable. The barbarians on the periphery of empire will naturally be aware of the empire’s prosperity and migrate towards it, although i ...more
NOTA BENE: The introduction of my edition of this book gets its own title wrong, calling itself, "Emperors and Barbarians." That made me roar with laughter because here's this absolutely fabulous book and some lazybones in the Macmillan offices couldn't be bothered to copyedit it with care.

Just finished it and although I'd like to say I enjoyed it as much as Heather's "The Fall of the Roman Empire," I can't say that without a caveat: this was denser and more academic in tone. One had the feeling
Combining a fluency in archeology, sociology, linguistics, history, and economics with a command of data that can only be described as breathtaking, Peter Heather had produced a work of astonishing depth and erudition with Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe. He tackles an audacious question: what dynamics led to the formation and distribution of peoples that gave rise to post-Roman Europe. ||Heather brings together an extraordinary array of data: distributions of Ro ...more
A pretty good examination of the "migrations" that made modern Europe during and after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Not as well-written or as interesting, in my humble opinion, as Heather's previous volume, "The Fall of the Roman Empire." Also, for such a scholarly book, Heather adopts a somewhat playful and irreverent tone at times, right up to the concluding section, "Newton's Third Law of Empires?" . . .
This book has a different focus than Heather's previous book The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians; its focus is after and outside of Rome. It's also a more technical book, I feel, so general readers might find it a bit hard to digest.
This book explores barbarian migrations into the Roman Empire and the development of stable polities beyond it's traditional boarders.

Draws nicely on the archeology, DNA evidence and modern migration studies as well as written sources. Good read.
While it perhaps should prove the case that Heather's continuous bombardment of the reader with statistics and data regarding the maelstromic mélange of ethnic compositions, movements, and cultures from the final era of the (Western) Roman Empire and the Dark Age that ensued subsequent to its fall—items discovered through good old-fashioned spadework across the layered barrows of the North European Plain and its mountainous southern girdle—would become soporific in its pervasiveness, his nice tu ...more
John Pinegar
Confession, any problems that I have with this book stem from me not knowing what I was getting into when I purchased it and began to read it. I was expecting a history of the 1st millennium, with some migration and development thrown in for good measure. What I got was a book of human migration, economic development, and state creation with precious little history included. I'm not sure that I personally would even say that this is a history book (though strictly speaking it of course is) but w ...more
Luka Novak
Heather is one of those scientists (or historians) who discovered "The Truth" (or think they did) and then apply conclusions over broad area. Heather's "The Truth" is this: after Rome halted it's European expansion in early 1st century A.D. (post-Teutoborg forrest battle though battle itself is not cruicial factor, Rome simply ran out of profitable areas to conquer-except Dacia later) they engaged in trade and diplomacy with "barbarians" on the other side of the border. This allowed roman goods ...more
First, I really like Heather. He has ridiculous command of the material and is able to explain things clearly without dumbing them down. He is also able to construct a narrative even when relying on mostly or purely archaeological evidence without going into detail of which pot was found it which grave (see previous reviews for rants about archaeologists who have trouble with this).
This is a history of the various migrations that took place in the 1st millennium, focused primarily on the German
"When this story opens at the birth of Christ, the European landscape was marked by extraordinary contrasts. The circle of the Mediterranean, newly united under Roman imperial domination, hosted a politically sophisticated, economically advanced and culturally developed civilization. This world had philosophy, banking, professional armies, literature, stunning architecture and rubbish collection. Otherwise, apart from some bits west of the Rhine and south of the Danube which were already beginni ...more
Alex Telander
As time passes, more research is done, more artifacts and items are discovered, and more is known about the beginning of the Middle Ages, often know as the so-called “Dark Ages.” The simple explanation that is spouted in most simple history books is the idea that when the Roman Empire fell, all of Western Europe regressed to barbarian savages and everything was lost, and it was not until around a thousand years later that this continent achieved a civilized status once more. But as more study, a ...more
Bas Kreuger
Not an easy book to read, even for an historian ;-)
A hefty volume, cluttered with facts and figures. Interesting? Yes, certainly to see why the Roman empire was pulled under by barbarian tribes flowing in from all directions, both because the barbarians got themselves better organised, because of the way the Romans used money and subsidies to keep the tribes calm (but only luring other tribes in who also want part of this wealth) and the declining strength of the Roman army.
The second part of th
I read this book over a long period, mainly because it is a long one. To be honest I'm not sure how to review this book. I had bought it thinking it was about something and it ended up being about something else entirely (or rather a different time period). Plus, if I'm going to compare it to his other book (The Fall of the Roman Empire) this book doesn't do so well. It was a bit on the boring side, not meant for the casual history buff, HOWEVER; the information in the book is invaluable if you ...more
Mr. Heather wrote an excellent historical version of Empires and Barbarians. His clear style of writing allowed me to understand subject matter extremely well. He explains everything in detail and you can tell that the book was well researched. The book covers the Roman Empire, along with the Goths, Hans, etc, and it also goes into the fall of Roman Empire. There are also interesting stories based on actual accounts of the folks that lived during the period.

So, if you want to get educated on the
Jamie Mosley
Me and this book have a it all the way through my undergrad study!
Steven Larter
MIRED IN MINUTIAE! Not for the average reader, of which...I am one.
Pam Shelton-anderson
This book is a fascinating look at the ancient people that eventually formed the nations of Europe. It is written in a very scholarly fashion and is not an easy nor a fast read. The author has a very deep mastery of this subject and uses a vast array of information, including pollen charts to make his case for how these early millennial "barbarians" changed the face of Europe. I need to read a book with an overview of this era of history and then re-read this book.
An interesting and detailed look at the barbarian migrations and empire building in Europe. More about barbarians than Romans.
Karl Georg
Heather taught me that (a) what I learned in school about Völkerwanderung was considered not true by the last generation of professional historians, but (b) was actually quite close to the most plausible interpretation of the available evidence. So the Völkerwanderung did happen, and more generally, large scale migration was an important influence in shaping the beginnings of what is now "Europe".
Tim W. Brown
Interesting and informative, though the prose is less than scintillating.
Heather is outstanding, and his knowledge of the period is impressive. He is probably the best scholar when it comes to the knowledge of this specific historical period.
Peter Heather has produced again a work of amazing depth and erudition. Highly recommended to anybody who is seriously interested in this subject.
Impressive history of the major European migrations in the first millennium, from the last days of the Roman Empire to 1066. Enjoyed it a lot (in spite of minor things such as the author's insistence on "the Birth of Christ", or the occasional laborious repetitions).
This is a long book, and it's rather a hard slog to get through it. Not that it's boring, it's just that it's full of a lot of sometimes rather dry facts. It's something academics would likely enjoy, but might be too much for the casual reader.
A bit too scholarly form my liking so it took a bit of effort to finish but well worth it. Certainly puts the influence of the Roman Empire on the map ot modern europe
Sep 26, 2014 Jur marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient, own
Mostly from the perspective of the migrant peoples: Germans, Slavs, Huns, Vikings etc
A bit long and tedious for the casual history buff.
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