The Ruin of the Roman Empire: A New History

James J. O'Donnell, Author . Ecco $35 (436p) ISBN 978-0-06-078737-0

The Roman empire was not invaded by barbarians in the fifth century, says classical historian O’Donnell. Rather, these tribes—Visigoths, Vandals and others—were refugees who crossed into the empire in search of a place to settle. These migrants were turned into enemies by Rome. O’Donnell (Augustine ), former provost of Georgetown, supports this controversial thesis by drawing on primary sources to analyze the geopolitical errors that led to Rome’s fall. Emperor Theodoric, he says, had preserved social order and prosperity among the various peoples of the vast empire. But seven years later, Justinian squandered that good order. He failed to make peace with Persia in the east by not emphasizing a common interest of trade; he failed to establish good relations with the kings of the western Mediterranean and to develop his own homeland, the Balkans; finally, by banning certain Christian sects, he alienated some border regions and sowed the seeds of rebellion. These failures not only divided the empire, they made it vulnerable to attack from peoples that had once been friends. O’Donnell’s richly layered book provides significant glimpses into the many factors that leveled a mighty empire. 20 illus. and maps. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/21/2008
Release date: 09/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
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