Jim's Reviews > 428 AD: An Ordinary Year at the End of the Roman Empire

428 AD by Giusto Traina
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Jan 30, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: history, ancient-rome
Read from January 24 to 30, 2011

What was so special about 428 A.D.? According to historian Giusto Traina, that year represented perhaps the last time that both halves of the Roman Empire were able to act as one. In Constantinople, the throne was occupied by Theodosius II. From Ravenna, Valentinian III ruled the Western Empire. The Sassanid Empire (Persia) was ruled by the Zoroastrian Bahram V, who began the year by, in effect, moving Christian Armenia from the Roman sphere of influence into his own. In the other end of the Empire, the Vandals under Gaiseric prepared to migrate from Spain to North Africa, where they threatened Roman agricultural holdings.

The Empire was no predominately Christian, with most of the historical literature coming from bishops, monks, and theologians and from such unlikely sources as lives of saints. Augustine of Hippo was still alive, but not for much longer. The Church was more tolerant in some parts of the Empire than others. It was fighting a battle of souls in Egypt, which was threatened from the south by Pagan hoards.

Around the northern borders of Europe, the Huns were lurking, but not under the leadership of Attila. The Roman general Aetius was probably the Empire's greatest military leader, but he had not yet defeated Attila at Chalons-sur-Marne: That was to come in 451 A.D.

Traina manages to deal with a difficult subject matter in a way that is both scholarly and readable. He organizes the book by region and provides useful maps to guide the reader. (By this time, many place names had changed.) His particular contribution was to deal with the Roman Empire and Sassanid Persia at the same time, showing how the Eastern Empire could not but fear another confrontation with the Persians, who at this time were on the rise.

In all, 428 A.D. is a useful book for those, who, like me, are fascinated with the later Empire.

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