Book Review: How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower


by Adrian Goldsworthy

New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009. Pp. x, 531. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $32.50. ISBN:0300137192

A revisionist look at the proverbial "Decline and Fall" by one of the most notable modern specialists in Roman History. 

Goldsworthy, author of the very well-received Caesar: Life of a Colossus (2006), brings together modern scholarship about the end of the empire in the West, while addressing oft-misused comparisons between Rome's fate and that of various modern states. He rejects Gibbon's "triumph of religion and barbarism," as well as many more recent trendy explanations, such as the "lead pipe" and "degenerate orgyists" theories, among many others.
Goldsworthy instead focuses on the institutional weakness of the state.  This was most notably inthe lack of a clear mechanism regulating the succession to the imperium.  As a result, from the early third century onwards there were repeated usurpations, coups, assassinations, and civil wars for possession of the imperial dignity.  These not only bled the empire of manpower, and wealth, but also ultimately of legitimacy, despite an amazing vitality that the empire managed to display even into its final decades. 

A very important book for anyone interested in Roman history.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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