The Western Roman Empire is Falling

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The Western Roman Empire is Falling

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Bearbeitet: Jul. 9, 2011, 8:18am

Periodically the stars aline and my interests in military history, ancient history, and wargaming all aline. The Later Western Roman Empire is a particular favorite of mine beginning in childhood reading about Attila the Hun and the Roman general Aetius battling away at Chalons. So now, once again, I have my stack of books, new and old, & I've been dragging out my Late Roman & Patrician Roman miniature armies and their Visigothic, Frankish, Swabian foes for some tabletop battles. (and of course those Early Vandals!)

There exists a rich and varied body of work on this period which has fascinated readers since the day of Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The story is updated ever few years, with new scholarship, as writers share their opinion on why Rome fell (or did it fall?). I'd like to share a few favorites (yes, I know there are hundreds of titles!)

Some examples of general works are: The Later Roman Empire, Adrian Goldsworthy's How Rome Fell, The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians by Peter Heather; and Arthur Ferrill offers a military explanation in Fall of the Roman Empire. Much more detailed is Jones' Later Roman Empire or his condensed version, The Decline of the Ancient World. Of course, hearing it from the horse's mouth is always worthwhile, so I strongly recommend The Later Roman Empire: A.D. 354-378 by Ammianus Marcellinus a notable observer of events, soldier and staff officer.
A History of the Later Roman Empire, published by Blackwell is also worthwhile. A program to tell the players can be found at Chronicle of the Roman Emperors: The Reign-By-Reign Record of the Rulers of Imperial Rome.

The Völkerwanderung or Wandering of the Peoples has struck a chord with scholars over the ages from the first days of the Hunnic "hordes" of Attila. Guy Halsall's Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West is a good starting place. Older works include: Huns, Vandals and the Fall of the Roman Empire or The Germanic invasions: The making of Europe, AD 400-600. See also The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples. I'm currently rereading Barbarians Within the Gates of Rome: A Study of Roman Military Policy.

For some strategic overviews and background try: Diocletian and the Roman Recovery which sets the stage for the Later Roman era, and Theodosius: The Empire at Bay. The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine is helpful--I always like Pat Southern's writing.

Besdies Ferrill, on the military side, is the difficult to find (or afford), Generalissimos of the Western Roman Empire, Rome's Gothic Wars, and STILICHO: THE VANDAL WHO SAVED ROME by Ian Hughes. Hughes has previously authored a work on Belisarius and is working on a biography of Aetius - which I await anxiously. Wargamers might find Goths, Huns and Romans of interest.

Finally, I'd like to point out some pertinent historical fiction: Wallace Breem covers the barbarian crossing of the Rhine and the subsequent Roman collapse in Eagle in the Snow, a barbarian's take on the situation can be found in CeCelia Holland's The death of Attila. The Last Legion recently appeared as a movie. And the old master, Alfred Duggan, captured the feel of the transformation into the Dark Ages with The little Emperors.

I hope this list will prove of utility to those interested in the period. I've omitted a plethora of others favorites I'm sure. Regards, A

Jul. 9, 2011, 11:46am

Thanks, Ammianus! I write fiction set in the early 5th C and have a number of these on my research shelves. I rely heavily on Heather, Jones and the older J. D. Bury 's "Later Roman Empire" and The Invasion of Europe by Barbarians. I also like Peter Brown's The Making of Late Antiquity and The World of Late Antiquity for good overviews. Thanks for the tip on Ian Hughes. I'll be looking for his work.

Jul. 9, 2011, 2:16pm

Wow, Ammianus! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! This list is just what I've been looking for.

Jul. 9, 2011, 2:54pm

Note from 'Pedants' Corner': In the first sentence of message #1, should not 'aline' be spelled 'align'? (Sorry, it's a habit.)

Jul. 9, 2011, 3:13pm

And how could I have forgotten The Late Roman Army! Nice study of the subject.

Jul. 10, 2011, 8:47am

And coming soon, not yet! Aetius: Attila's Nemesis by Ian Hughes
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military (February 16, 2012)
ISBN-10: 1848842791
ISBN-13: 978-1848842793

Mai 10, 2012, 3:54pm

Defending Rome: The Masters of the Soldiers

Mai 11, 2012, 7:19pm

4> FWIW Hart's Rules at least as late as 1912 prefers 'aline' on logical and etymological grounds, calling 'align' "a bad spelling from the French" (the current edition (i.e., The Oxford Style Manual) reverses Hart)

Mai 12, 2012, 3:34am

I think I'd add Bury's History of the Later Roman Empire as a secondary work. And even more so - if you can find it - Ernest Stein's Histoire du Bas Empire (at least volume two, AD 476-565). Although they were written pre-War (Stein finished his second volume in Vichy France and Switzerland during the War), both have plenty of value, even now.

Mai 12, 2012, 3:38am

More of a footnote maybe, but fascinating for its insight in mentalities of the time: The archaeology of religious hatred in the Roman and early medieval world.

Mai 16, 2012, 11:59am

Aetius: Attila's Nemesis is FINALLY available for purchase. Author is Ian Hughes, author of Belisarius, and Stilicho.

Mai 17, 2012, 11:47am

>11 Ammianus: Yay! I've been waiting (impatiently!)

Mai 18, 2012, 7:35am

>12 MarysGirl:, MG: have you gone to Ian's website:

He's indicated that he has several more Late Roman titles in the works.

Mai 23, 2012, 11:04am

13: Hughes said: writing the closing chapters of ‘Valentinian and Valens’ book. I believe he's also planned a "Warlords" volume covering Odoacer, Ricimer and others.

Mai 23, 2012, 12:07pm

>13 Ammianus: I checked out his site and Pen and Sword. Unfortunately, not available in the US till July. B&N has no info, but Amazon shows it available for preorder at a discounted price of $36.25 for the hardcover (down from $50.00.) I'll check out The Strand bookstore locally and see how soon they could get it.

Mai 23, 2012, 6:22pm

Aetius: Attila's Nemesis,,,just started.

Mai 27, 2012, 7:45am

Aug. 18, 2012, 2:24pm

RE Ian Hughes. He's the author of BELISAURIUS, STILICHO, and AETIUS. Looks as if he's close to finishing ‘Valentinian and Valens’. Ian says his next volume will be ‘Patricians and Emperors: The Last Days of Rome in the West‘, the book will – hopefully – take the story of the ‘Fall of the West’ from the assassination of Aetius to the death of Julius Nepos.
Ian also mentioned he's contracted to write two additional volumes (maybe Ricimer & Odoacer?). Cheers, A

Bearbeitet: Aug. 20, 2012, 10:10am

Thanks for the review, Ammianus! I'm waiting for my next B&N coupon to order.

Aug. 19, 2012, 7:39pm

#19, yw. I would also recommend NOT purchasing Pen&Sword's latest volume on Constantine.
Pretty darned awful. P&S are unfortunately hit & miss.

Bearbeitet: Aug. 20, 2012, 3:21pm

I enjoyed their book on Drusus, though there were a lot of "editing issues" that bothered me.

Aug. 23, 2012, 12:02pm

Yay! Got a 50% off coupon today and put in my order for Aetius. So looking forward to it.

Aug. 23, 2012, 12:08pm

I wish I had a 50% off books coupon :'-(

Oh, and money. Money would also help.

Aug. 23, 2012, 12:32pm

"Money would also help."

Only a little, Feicht.

Bearbeitet: Aug. 23, 2012, 8:10pm

#22, you go girl!
While we're talking about warlords; I recently purchased Defending Rome: The Masters of the Soldiers ...a DIY publishing on demand book. Please see my review.

Aug. 24, 2012, 12:11pm

#25 - book should be here on Tuesday! Thanks for the review on Defending Rome. Print on demand is always more expensive than offset press, and interior art adds to the cost, but $52-177 is a bit much! I sell my novel (6X9, 340 pages) for $17.99 and still make a couple bucks profit after the selling channel takes its cut. Of course, non-fiction research books are notoriously expensive because of the limited market.

Aug. 24, 2012, 1:02pm

#26, one resaon I might recommend Defending Rome for some covers the same ground as the now OOP Generalissimos of the Western Roman Empire. O'Flynn's book now goes for $230 to $378 on Amazon.

Dez. 7, 2012, 10:38pm

I'd add The Inheritance of Rome and The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization. The former finds much continuity, while the latter emphasizes abrupt changes in the archaeology and material culture pre- and post-fall, written specifically as a polemic against those who seek to minimize the impact of Rome's fall or even deny it altogether.

Mai 2, 2013, 1:42pm

Just received Galerius and the Will of Diocletian (Roman Imperial Biographies) in the mail yesterday, looks very interesting.

Bearbeitet: Mai 12, 2013, 10:13pm

I became obssesed with piecing together a set of Thomas Hodgkin's Italy and her Invaders--8 volumes if I can recall correctly--but have only dipped my toes in now and again. It's definitely that expatiating prose hallmark of the Victorian era. Still, some parts grab hold...and then the fold out maps are wonderful.

Mai 12, 2013, 9:01pm

I see Ian Hughes has another due out in August, Imperial Brothers: Valentinian, Valens and the Disaster at Adrianople, should be a nice addition to his Stlicho and Aetius bios.

Mai 25, 2013, 9:08am

Along with Imperial Brothers (see above), Ian Hughes is working on another Late Roman history:
according to Ian:
the book should be covering the period from the death of Valentinian III in 455 to the end of the Empire, so, yes, it will be covering Ricimer et al. There may also be a look at the ‘Kingdom of Soissons’, space permitting.

Jun. 8, 2013, 5:01pm

Pen and Sword working on a five volume Late Roman military history, fingers crossed!

Jun. 9, 2013, 3:15pm

Couldn't display the page, but I found Animals in Roman Life and Art, which looks pretty nifty.

Okt. 26, 2013, 10:02am

I was just on Ian Hughes' blog (IanHughesMA), he's busy working on his fifth book: ‘Patricians and Emperors: The Last Days of the Western Roman Empire’. This would follow his STILICHO and AETIUS and precede his BELISARIUS. Can't wait!

Bearbeitet: Okt. 26, 2013, 10:19am

The OP mentions one of Peter Heather's books to which I'd like to add his more recent, and perhaps more sweeping, The Restoration of Rome: Barbarian Popes & Imperial Pretenders. The cover mentions Theoderic, Justinian, and Charlemagne as the main characters and he's quite enthusing about the first of these. The Papacy also takes up a good part of the book. An excellent overview of a complex period.

Okt. 26, 2013, 10:53am

#38, still can't make my mind up about that book. I generally like what he writes.

Okt. 26, 2013, 2:36pm

#39: I often get a bit 'iffy' myself when succesful authors repackage their old books under a new cover. Can only say my ideas about Theoderic and his empire were changed by this book. I hadn't really understood the extent of his influence before. I think the book does put a new light on the period.

Bearbeitet: Okt. 27, 2013, 6:14am

#40 - Of which book is it a repackaged version? I can't find anything likely online.

ETA ... on a brief search, anyway.

Okt. 30, 2013, 7:24pm

#37 IRT ‘Patricians and Emperors: The Last Days of the Western Roman Empire’. I was Ian Hughes' blog again, he said:

And in case you’re interested, I am on the point of killing Anthemius, Ricimer and Olybrius. Over half way there …!
Good news.

Feb. 27, 2015, 9:01am

Thanks for the list Ammianus. Just finished The Restoration of Rome: Barbarian Popes & Imperial Pretenders by Heather. Again, he gets the date of Constantius II wrong, as in other books, which was 361, not 351. Otherwise, like the way he argues for his theories, even when I don't agree.

Meanwhile, I've recently enjoyed the 4th century novels by Q.V. Hunter, heavily based on Ammianus Marcellinus (you?) as well as Libanius.

Feb. 27, 2015, 7:16pm

TY Milo, btw Ian Hughes now says Patricians should see print in SEPT.

Jul. 6, 2018, 9:09am

Fantastic list! Thank you.