July 02, 2005

The Huns & the Fall of the Roman Empire 'In 1984 a German scholar worked out that 210 reasons had been advocated for the fall of the Roman empire. Peter Jones enjoys a "fine narrative history" that concentrates on just one.' The Huns. Reviews of The Fall of the Roman Empire by Peter Heather and The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization by Bryan Ward-Perkins, from the Telegraph.
  • Good read, thanks. I was surprised to see Jones perpetuate an antiquated usage here: In 476 the last Roman emperor, called (ironically) Romulus Augustulus ("little Augustus"), was quietly pensioned off by the barbarian Odoacer, and that was that. I thought everyone agreed by now that it makes no sense to talk about "the last Roman emperor" in this context; the so-called "Byzantine" emperors called themselves Roman and so did everyone else. The distinction is a modern invention that should be retired along with the silly 19th-century view of the "Byzantines" as some sort of decadent Oriental mess. The Roman Empire lasted for almost fifteen hundred years (and ended finally in 1461 with the fall of Trebizond, not a few years earlier when Constantinople fell, another too-little-remembered fact).
  • Enjoyed that At Swim. A great novel for an imagined picture of 'the end of civilisation' is Alfred Duggan's Conscience of the King. The cheerfully amoral protagonist - a fictionalised Cerdic, first king of Wessex - spends some time in in the army of a Romano-British count attempting to hold on to the shreds of the Roman way of life in the face of the incoming heathen hordes as one of the many episodes in his back-stabbing rise to power. I'm sure the histoical research has been superseded but I doubt the wit, writing and ability to evoke have been surpassed.
  • Neat article that whets the appetite for more. Abiezer, that sounds like an interesting book...