Tag Archives: rome

The Fall of the Western Roman Empire

Some quotes from The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians, by Peter Heather.

“…this book will argue that the view that Rome’s own internal transformations had so weakened it by the fourth century that it was ready to collapse under its own weight in the fifth, has become unsustainable. The roots of fifth-century collapse must be sought elsewhere.” [pp. 14-15]
“‘What we call the fall of the Roman Empire was an imaginative experiment that got a little out of hand.’ You can only argue this, it seems to me, if you don’t let narrative history dirty your hands. Any attempt to reconstruct fifth-century events brings home just how violent the process was. In my view, it is impossible to escape the fact that the western Empire broke up because too many outside groups established themselves on its territories and expanded their holdings by warfare.” [p. 436]
“All the evils identified in the western system applied equally, if not more, to the eastern. If anything, the Roman east was more Christian, and more given to doctrinal argument. Also, it operated the same kind of governmental system over the same kind of economy. Yet the east survived, when the west fell. This alone makes it difficult to argue that there was something so inherently wrong with the late imperial system that it was bound to collapse under its own weight.” [pp. 443-444]

This reminded that I had seen a similar argument in Arther Ferrill’s The Fall of the Roman Empire: The Military Explanation. As I noted in my Amazon review of that book:

“There is a lot of nonsense in circulation about the Fall of the Western Empire. Ferrill gets past all of it by starting from one obvious but often neglected criterion: Any explanation of the Fall of the Western Roman Empire must also account for the survival of the Byzantine East.”

Dating a passage in Acts

Acts 18:12-17 reads (NRSV):

12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal. 13 They said, “This man is persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to the law.” 14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of crime or serious villainy, I would be justified in accepting the complaint of you Jews; 15 but since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves; I do not wish to be a judge of these matters.” 16 And he dismissed them from the tribunal. 17 Then all of them seized Sosthenes, the official of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of these things.
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A hero of our age

Beheaded Syrian scholar refused to lead Isis to hidden Palmyra antiquities

He was a world-renowned scholar of antiquities, enchanted into his old age by Syria’s fabled city of Palmyra, which he called among the most beautiful in the world.

Not far from the spectacular Roman ruins he had spent decades safeguarding, 82-year-old Khaled Asaad met a brutal end at the hands of the militants of Islamic State, relatives and colleagues said Wednesday.

Asaad, the retired director of Palmyra’s antiquities and museum, was publicly beheaded Tuesday in a main square of the modern-day Syrian city of Tadmur, adjoining the ruins, according to a monitoring group and Syria’s antiquities chief. His executioners publicly displayed the bloodied corpse, they said.

Faking History

Romans Invade Ireland

The following is a parable about how history is written on the internet. Let’s imagine you have a web page and you want people to visit it. How could you get the history scoop of 2014? Well you could go and bribe some doctorate students, ask for an interview with a wanw professor, research an area to death and pontificate… What you don’t have time? Then why not just make it all up?!

Burning Libraries

A Saucy Roman History Book

We have Commodus killing animals (classical serial killer behaviour), and then getting himself strangled by a wrestler in a bath. We have Caracalla who allegedly enjoyed incest with his mother and certainly had his brother killed at a meeting arranged by this quondam lover: worst of all he wore a hood and a blonde wig and he gave Maximus several jobs. Macrinus got Caracalla’s mother to starve herself to death and then got himself killed in a temple. Then, best of all, what fun Suetonius would have had, there was Elagabalus ,,,, more Eurovision performer than Roman emperor. He divorced five women in his short life, married two men, worshipped a meteorite and used to hold competitions to see who could pimp themselves for the most money in the Imperial palace. He naturally took part.