A major work on Roman policy toward the barbarians during one of the most exciting and challenging periods in the history of the Roman Empire, when barbarian soldiers became part of the forces defending the Roman frontier and gradually its rulers. By the close of these five decades, the Western Empire - hence Western Civilization - had changed forever.
A Selection of the History Book Club.
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A brilliant narrative
I think I know my fourth and fifth century history pretty well and have followed the literature and debates on the period in recent books as closely as I can. I have to confess that I had never heard of Thomas S Burns or this book, but after listening to this account I feel I know and understand the events which led up to the Sack of Rome (410) and the foundation of a Visigothic kingdom in south western Gaul in 418 very well. A crucial and confusing period has become familiar and comprehensible.
The narrative is clear, scholarly, and compelling. The account of Alaric's campaigns reminded me, with its cogency and tautness, of Norman Stone's classic account of a very different war, 'The Eastern Front' in World War One. Am I the only one who thinks it is truly masterly?
It's clear but I was upset by his pronunciation of many Latin and Gothic names. 'Ammianus Marcellinus' ought not to come out as 'A-meen-us' for example. Why do readers never check these things?
I was frankly horrified. This is truly one of the great turning points in world history and Burns seems to pass an enormous magnifying glass over it, showing how human folly and selfishness (the Emperor Honorius) caused a misfortune to evolve steadily into a cataclysmic disaster which -- my view perhaps not Burns's-- might possibly have been avoided
I'd strongly recommend all readers of Late Roman History to ignore the reviews that some rival academics with much narrower vision have given Burns and read -- and enjoy --- this book. For me this book is a landmark in my understanding of the end of the Roman Empire in the West, to be read as a supplement to Peter Heather's great work. (But please can we go back to the old, normal, format for writing reviews. This new format seems a bit like Noddy in Toyland.