Saturday, December 11, 2021

Review of "Problems in European Civilization: Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," edited by Donald Kagan

 Review of

Problems in European Civilization: Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, edited by Donald Kagan

Three out of five stars

Articles by experts that are too short

 From a historical perspective, it appears that empires age to the point where they end, often dramatically due to conquest. Sometimes, like the Soviet Empire of the twentieth century, they simply just end. Down through history, there was no empire that was more powerful and long lived than the Roman Empire. Unlike the Soviet Empire that lasted only fifty years, the Roman political entity lasted over 1,000 years. There were three distinct forms, the time of kings, the time of the Republic and then Imperial Rome.

 There is still a great deal of debate regarding the primary cause(es) of the collapse of the Roman Empire. The articles in this collection do not advance the debate a great deal. There was a problem of taxation, there was a dilution of the Roman nature of the citizenry and the armies became increasingly hired foreign mercenaries rather than people from Italy. Several causes are put forward, yet the best evidence is the growing hostility between the people from the cities and those from rural areas. The rank-and-file of the army was largely drawn from the rural regions and the animosity was so great that the army occasionally sacked the cities they were supposed to defend.

 I read this book and cannot say that I emerged knowing anything more about the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire than I knew before. It was at best a basic refresher on some of the reasons the greatest Empire of all time ended.

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