Book Review: The Rome that Did Not Fall: The Survival of the East in the Fifth Century


by Gerard Friell and Stephen Williams

New York & London: Routledge, 2014. Pp. xii, 282. Illus., maps, appends., notes, biblio., index. $54.95 paper. ISBN: 113800703X

Why didn’t the Eastern Roman Empire Fall?

Originally published in 1999, this work, by the authors of Theodosius: The Empire at Bay, takes up the persistent question of why the eastern half of the Roman Empire survived the trials of the fifth century while the western half perished. The authors survey events from about the death of Valentinian I in AD 375 through the early sixth century, in the early days of Justinian, shifting back and forth between the two halves of the empire as military and political crises arose and were dealt with. 

The text is divided into five parts: “The Separation,” on the division of the empire, which essentially became permanent with the death of Theodosius I in AD 395; “On the Defensive,” covering the age of Attila; “The Resources,” a comparative treatment of the military, economic, and organizational evolution in each half of the empire; “The Struggle for Stability,” discussing how the East managed to survive the trials of the fifth century while the West failed; and finally “Stability Attained,” on the emergence of a revitalized Eastern Empire, which would become commonly known as the Byzantine Empire. A useful appendix lists the emperors and sorts out their relationships

While more recent scholarship may have overturned or refined some of the authors’ conclusions, this remains a useful read for anyone interested in Late Antiquity.


Note: The Rome that Did Not Fall is also available in hardback, $135.99, ISBN 978-0-4151-5403-1, and several e-book formats


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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