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

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  3,593 ratings  ·  228 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 December 1st 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

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.14  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,593 ratings  ·  228 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians
Oct 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ancient-history
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

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
Dec 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
Jun 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Daniel Threlfall
Jun 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
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
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2007
Overly long although relatively easy to read account.

The author’s first central thesis is that: shortly before its fall the Roman Empire was actually in a healthy state (contrary to classical analysis); that although the rise of the Persian empire formed a huge military (and hence monetary) challenge to the Empire that the Empire managed to adapt organically to this new reality although this did lead to both the replacement of self governing towns with an Imperial Bureaucracy and (also due simp
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history_general
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.
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-history
Not a new book anymore (published originally in 2005), this book attempts to give an explanation for the collapse of the western part of the Roman Empire. Heather goes about building his narrative, after first establishing what “Romanness” and “barbarianism” mean, from the late fourth century. Heather suggests the structural flaws in the empire (troublesome succession was ingrained) combined with diminishing tax-revenues are the root causes. The author also defies numerous theories on the way an ...more
May 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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
Aug 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
Ming Wei
A very in-depth detail about the gradual dissolve, fall of the Roma Empire over many years, a very good historical guide upon a era were Rome was constantly bombarded by many tribes hell-bent on destroying them, raiding their lands, taking spoils, This book is quite impressive in the huge amount of historic data and references that it includes within its pages. The book is easy to follow, well written, It is an history book, and a very good one, if you are interested in the Roman Empire well wor ...more
Mal Warwick
Jan 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
So its been a decade since ive read this & though a re-read was in order.....

In a nutshell.... as the title is fairly self-explanatory.....

You get an overview of the main players, the Romans themselves (of course), the barbarians which is basically anyone on their frontiers be it the Germanic tribes or the Persians, the Empires expansion & the impact that had on maintaining it’s borders & effective communications/orders over such vast distances (they estimated that in modern terms it would be so
Justin Evans
Jan 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: history-etc
My rating is unfair: this is a very good book, that will appeal to all kinds of readers. Heather's sentences are very readable, he tells a good story, he takes into account pretty much every factor you possibly could to explain the "fall" of the Empire (including the possibility that it wasn't a fall etc...), and he addresses major scholarly debates. His case is well laid out and convincing: the fall of Rome in the west can only be understood in the context of profound changes in other parts of ...more
May 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Bryan Alexander
Sep 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
Sep 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Stimulating history of the fall of Rome.
I learned that the main ennemy of Rome was in fact Persia (a few Roman emperors were killed campaigning against them, one was apparently skinned alive by the Persians) for much of its history and that Germanic tribes were only an afterthought until the 4th century.
At the time of Caesar, Rome could not be bothered to conquer the regions occupied by these Germanic tribes because it was so poor and underdevelopped, so Rome just built a prosperous frontier re
Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Peter Heather rescues this much-discussed topic from received opinion by taking advantage of new perspectives from such fields as archeology. His prose is also refreshingly modern, if at times a bit too chatty, in a field that too often sinks under the weight of dates, maps of barbarian "invasion", and lists of emperors. The portrait he sketches is of an empire with increasing difficulty defending its borders but always prone to transform a loss or a draw into a victory through propaganda. His t ...more
Miltiadis Michalopoulos
After a long thought I give it 3 stars. Two stars because it is a very thorough essay and one more star because it is very well written. Many reviewers complaint that the writing style is not "scholarly". Actually, I do like the author's style. He manages to keep his narrative vivid and attractive, despite all this bulk of information he has to deal with. On the other hand this is by no means "a New History of Rome and the Barbarians" as it claims to be on the subtitle. It is rather a "tradition ...more
Tariq Mahmood
Apr 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: europe, history
A book by a historian for the historian which made it a bit tough for aficionados like me. But I am glad I persevered as slowly a complete image of the fall of Rome developed over the pages. Rome fell slowly over a prolonged period of time because its martial strength eroded as the barbarians took over control of its tax generating colonies. But I was more intrigued how the battered and bruised elite landed class families were able to sustain their power for such a long time. Their weapons for c ...more
Jun 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: roman-history
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
Oct 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Another of the Leftist academics that sees the Barbarians that brought down the Roman Empire as 'immigrants'.

Meandering and unfocused, but Cultural Marxists will enjoy it.

Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars.
Stanislav Bartoshevich
The fundamental problem with this book is that evidence provided by Peter Heather himself contradicts and debunks most aspects of his own main thesis - that the fall of the Roman Empire was caused not by internal decay, but by external threats.

For simplicity, let's divide various aspects of that internal decay, discussed by historians, into four main categories: economic, social, political, and military.

Only in the sphere in economics does Peter Heather puts forth solid evidence that the usual
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There were undoubtedly huge internal problems in the Roman empire by the time of the fifth century, not the least of which was the logistical problem of actually knowing what was going on several hundred miles away in a world without any of the apparatus of modern communication. Equally, there were ongoing military pressures such as those created by the Sassanian Persians which tied up huge resources of manpower on a permanent basis. Finally, there was the insoluble problem of succession and the ...more
Mar 30, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I should have listened to my dad—who has been reading mostly roman stuff for the past 15 years—when he said there was not much about the fall of Roman Britain in this book—which is the reason I wanted to read it in the first place. I should have also listened to him when he mention it was rather dense. But if I was going to read an English book about the Fall of the Roman Empire in translation, it just couldn’t be Gibbon’s. And this is is the other one he had at home.
The translation is less than
Aug 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Eastern and Western halves of the Roman Empire started with the same structure. Why should one collapse of its own internal weaknesses, and not the other? The author disagrees with Gibbon's charge that the Western Empire collapsed from within. The difference is that the two halves of the Empire had different situations around their borders. When the surrounding, migrating Goths moved into the West, and especially when one exceptionally brilliant leader conquered northern Africa (the main sou ...more
For centuries scholars have argued that it was the decline of Roman civilization, it's moral and political corruption that lead to the fall of the Roman Empire. Heather argues that a closer look at the historical records, land surveys and archeological finds; shows that it was the wave of refugees that fled the Huns, and then the Huns themselves that toppled the delicate balance of rewards for the land-owning elites. Without the steady supplies and patronage loops, local elites turned the very t ...more
Nov 09, 2019 rated it liked it
It did the job.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Caesar: Life of a Colossus
  • In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire
  • Alexander the Great
  • Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic
  • How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower
  • Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West
  • The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization
  • The Rise of Rome: The Making of the World's Greatest Empire
  • Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944-1945
  • Augustus: First Emperor of Rome
  • The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire
  • Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor
  • Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar
  • 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West
  • Empires of the Sea: The Final Battle for the Mediterranean, 1521-1580
  • The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt: The History of a Civilisation from 3000 BC to Cleopatra
  • SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome
  • The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
See similar books…
Peter Heather is currently Professor of Medieval History at King's College London. He has held appointments at University College London and Yale University and was Fellow and Tutor in Medieval History at Worcester College, Oxford until December 2007. ...more

News & Interviews

  In most romances, a romp in the hay comes after many chapters of meeting cute, silent pining, and steamy banter. Not so for books that...
8 likes · 1 comments
“The way to a landowner's heart was to tax gently.” 6 likes
“By virtue of its unbounded aggression, Roman imperialism was ultimately responsible for its own destruction.” 6 likes
More quotes…