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

Oxford University Press
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Empires and Barbarians presents 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. The book's vivid narrative begins at the time of Christ, when the Mediterranean circle, newly united under the Romans, hosted a politically sophisticated, economically advanced, and culturally developed civilization--one with philosophy, banking, professional armies, literature, stunning architecture, even garbage collection. The rest of Europe, meanwhile, was home to subsistence farmers living in small groups, dominated largely by Germanic speakers. Although having some iron tools and weapons, these mostly illiterate peoples worked mainly in wood and never built in stone. The farther east one went, the simpler it became: fewer iron tools and ever less productive economies. And yet ten centuries later, from the Atlantic to the Urals, the European world had turned. Slavic speakers had largely superseded Germanic speakers in central and Eastern Europe, literacy was growing, Christianity had spread, and most fundamentally, Mediterranean supremacy was broken. Bringing the whole of first millennium European history together, and challenging current arguments that migration played but a tiny role in this unfolding narrative, Empires and Barbarians views the destruction of the ancient world order in light of modern migration and globalization patterns.
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About the author

Peter Heather is Professor of Medieval History at King's College London. He is the author of The Fall of the Roman Empire, Goths and Romans, 332-489, The Goths, and The Visigoths in the Migration Period.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Mar 4, 2010
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Pages
752
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ISBN
9780199752720
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Ancient / Rome
History / Europe / General
History / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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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 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 overturned the existing strategic balance of power on Rome's European frontiers, to force the Goths and others to seek refuge inside the Empire. This prompted two generations of struggle, during which new barbarian coalitions, formed in response to Roman hostility, brought the Roman west to its knees. The Goths first destroyed a Roman army at the battle of Hadrianople in 378, and went on to sack Rome in 410. The Vandals spread devastation in Gaul and Spain, before conquering North Africa, the breadbasket of the Western Empire, in 439. We then meet Attila the Hun, whose reign of terror swept from Constantinople to Paris, but whose death in 453 ironically precipitated a final desperate phase of Roman collapse, culminating in the Vandals' defeat of the massive Byzantine Armada: the west's last chance for survival. Peter Heather convincingly argues that the Roman Empire was not on the brink of social or moral collapse. What brought it to an end were the barbarians.
In 476 AD, the last of Rome's emperors, known as "Augustulus," was deposed by a barbarian general, the son of one of Attila the Hun's henchmen. With the imperial vestments dispatched to Constantinople, the curtain fell on the Roman empire in Western Europe, its territories divided among successor kingdoms constructed around barbarian military manpower. But, if the Roman Empire was dead, Romans across much of the old empire still lived, holding on to their lands, their values, and their institutions. The conquering barbarians, responding to Rome's continuing psychological dominance and the practical value of many of its institutions, were ready to reignite the imperial flame and enjoy the benefits. As Peter Heather shows in dazzling biographical portraits, each of the three greatest immediate contenders for imperial power--Theoderic, Justinian, and Charlemagne--operated with a different power base but was astonishingly successful in his own way. Though each in turn managed to put back together enough of the old Roman West to stake a plausible claim to the Western imperial title, none of their empires long outlived their founders' deaths. Not until the reinvention of the papacy in the eleventh century would Europe's barbarians find the means to establish a new kind of Roman Empire, one that has lasted a thousand years. A sequel to the bestselling Fall of the Roman Empire, The Restoration of Rome offers a captivating narrative of the death of an era and the birth of the Catholic Church.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
The creator of the award-winning podcast series The History of Rome and Revolutions brings to life the bloody battles, political machinations, and human drama that set the stage for the fall of the Roman Republic.
The Roman Republic was one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of civilization. Beginning as a small city-state in central Italy, Rome gradually expanded into a wider world filled with petty tyrants, barbarian chieftains, and despotic kings. Through the centuries, Rome's model of cooperative and participatory government remained remarkably durable and unmatched in the history of the ancient world.
In 146 BC, Rome finally emerged as the strongest power in the Mediterranean. But the very success of the Republic proved to be its undoing. The republican system was unable to cope with the vast empire Rome now ruled: rising economic inequality disrupted traditional ways of life, endemic social and ethnic prejudice led to clashes over citizenship and voting rights, and rampant corruption and ruthless ambition sparked violent political clashes that cracked the once indestructible foundations of the Republic.
Chronicling the years 146-78 BC, The Storm Before the Storm dives headlong into the first generation to face this treacherous new political environment. Abandoning the ancient principles of their forbearers, men like Marius, Sulla, and the Gracchi brothers set dangerous new precedents that would start the Republic on the road to destruction and provide a stark warning about what can happen to a civilization that has lost its way.
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 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 overturned the existing strategic balance of power on Rome's European frontiers, to force the Goths and others to seek refuge inside the Empire. This prompted two generations of struggle, during which new barbarian coalitions, formed in response to Roman hostility, brought the Roman west to its knees. The Goths first destroyed a Roman army at the battle of Hadrianople in 378, and went on to sack Rome in 410. The Vandals spread devastation in Gaul and Spain, before conquering North Africa, the breadbasket of the Western Empire, in 439. We then meet Attila the Hun, whose reign of terror swept from Constantinople to Paris, but whose death in 453 ironically precipitated a final desperate phase of Roman collapse, culminating in the Vandals' defeat of the massive Byzantine Armada: the west's last chance for survival. Peter Heather convincingly argues that the Roman Empire was not on the brink of social or moral collapse. What brought it to an end were the barbarians.
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 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 overturned the existing strategic balance of power on Rome's European frontiers, to force the Goths and others to seek refuge inside the Empire. This prompted two generations of struggle, during which new barbarian coalitions, formed in response to Roman hostility, brought the Roman west to its knees. The Goths first destroyed a Roman army at the battle of Hadrianople in 378, and went on to sack Rome in 410. The Vandals spread devastation in Gaul and Spain, before conquering North Africa, the breadbasket of the Western Empire, in 439. We then meet Attila the Hun, whose reign of terror swept from Constantinople to Paris, but whose death in 453 ironically precipitated a final desperate phase of Roman collapse, culminating in the Vandals' defeat of the massive Byzantine Armada: the west's last chance for survival. Peter Heather convincingly argues that the Roman Empire was not on the brink of social or moral collapse. What brought it to an end were the barbarians.
In 476 AD, the last of Rome's emperors, known as "Augustulus," was deposed by a barbarian general, the son of one of Attila the Hun's henchmen. With the imperial vestments dispatched to Constantinople, the curtain fell on the Roman empire in Western Europe, its territories divided among successor kingdoms constructed around barbarian military manpower. But, if the Roman Empire was dead, Romans across much of the old empire still lived, holding on to their lands, their values, and their institutions. The conquering barbarians, responding to Rome's continuing psychological dominance and the practical value of many of its institutions, were ready to reignite the imperial flame and enjoy the benefits. As Peter Heather shows in dazzling biographical portraits, each of the three greatest immediate contenders for imperial power--Theoderic, Justinian, and Charlemagne--operated with a different power base but was astonishingly successful in his own way. Though each in turn managed to put back together enough of the old Roman West to stake a plausible claim to the Western imperial title, none of their empires long outlived their founders' deaths. Not until the reinvention of the papacy in the eleventh century would Europe's barbarians find the means to establish a new kind of Roman Empire, one that has lasted a thousand years. A sequel to the bestselling Fall of the Roman Empire, The Restoration of Rome offers a captivating narrative of the death of an era and the birth of the Catholic Church.
Empires and Barbarians presents 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. The book's vivid narrative begins at the time of Christ, when the Mediterranean circle, newly united under the Romans, hosted a politically sophisticated, economically advanced, and culturally developed civilization--one with philosophy, banking, professional armies, literature, stunning architecture, even garbage collection. The rest of Europe, meanwhile, was home to subsistence farmers living in small groups, dominated largely by Germanic speakers. Although having some iron tools and weapons, these mostly illiterate peoples worked mainly in wood and never built in stone. The farther east one went, the simpler it became: fewer iron tools and ever less productive economies. And yet ten centuries later, from the Atlantic to the Urals, the European world had turned. Slavic speakers had largely superseded Germanic speakers in central and Eastern Europe, literacy was growing, Christianity had spread, and most fundamentally, Mediterranean supremacy was broken. Bringing the whole of first millennium European history together, and challenging current arguments that migration played but a tiny role in this unfolding narrative, Empires and Barbarians views the destruction of the ancient world order in light of modern migration and globalization patterns.
Between the fall of the western Roman Empire in the fifth century and the collapse of the east in the face of the Arab invasions in the seventh, the remarkable era of the Emperor Justinian (527-568) dominated the Mediterranean region. Famous for his conquests in Italy and North Africa, and for the creation of spectacular monuments such as the Hagia Sophia, his reign was also marked by global religious conflict within the Christian world and an outbreak of plague that some have compared to the Black Death. For many historians, Justinian is far more than an anomaly of Byzantine ambition between the eras of Attila and Muhammad; he is the causal link that binds together the two moments of Roman imperial collapse. Determined to reverse the losses Rome suffered in the fifth century, Justinian unleashed an aggressive campaign in the face of tremendous adversity, not least the plague. This book offers a fundamentally new interpretation of his conquest policy and its overall strategic effect, which has often been seen as imperial overreach, making the regime vulnerable to the Islamic takeover of its richest territories in the seventh century and thus transforming the great Roman Empire of Late Antiquity into its pale shadow of the Middle Ages. In Rome Resurgent, historian Peter Heather draws heavily upon contemporary sources, including the writings of Procopius, the principal historian of the time, while also recasting that author's narrative by bringing together new perspectives based on a wide array of additional source material. A huge body of archaeological evidence has become available for the sixth century, providing entirely new means of understanding the overall effects of Justinian's war policies. Building on his own distinguished work on the Vandals, Goths, and Persians, Heather also gives much fuller coverage to Rome's enemies than Procopius ever did. A briskly paced narrative by a master historian, Rome Resurgent promises to introduce readers to this captivating and unjustly overlooked chapter in ancient warfare.
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