Priscus was a late Roman historian who had the ill luck to be born during a time when Roman political and military fortunes had reached a nadir. An eye-witness to many of the events he records, Priscus's history is a sequence of intrigues, assassinations, betrayals, military disasters, barbarian incursions, enslaved Romans and sacked cities. Perhaps because of its gloomy subject matter, the History of Priscus was not preserved in its entirety. What remains of the work consists of scattered fragments culled from a variety of later sources. Yet, from these fragments emerge the most detailed and insightful first-hand account of the decline of the Roman Empire, and nearly all of the information about Attila’s life and exploits that has come down to us from antiquity.
Translated by classics scholar Professor John Given of East Carolina University, this new translation of the Fragmentary History of Priscus arranges the fragments in chronological order, complete with intervening historical commentary to preserve the narrative flow. It represents the first translation of this important historical source that is easily approachable for both students and general readers.
Beckwith recounts the Indo-Europeans' migration out of Central Eurasia, their mixture with local peoples, and the resulting development of the Graeco-Roman, Persian, Indian, and Chinese civilizations; he details the basis for the thriving economy of premodern Central Eurasia, the economy's disintegration following the region's partition by the Chinese and Russians in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the damaging of Central Eurasian culture by Modernism; and he discusses the significance for world history of the partial reemergence of Central Eurasian nations after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Empires of the Silk Road places Central Eurasia within a world historical framework and demonstrates why the region is central to understanding the history of civilization.