While we are not in the habit of doing book reviews here a little bit of a coincidence inspired me to do so. A few days back I purchased Adrian Goldsworthy’s new book, “How Rome Fell, Death of a Superpower.”
How Rome Fell, is a historical narrative in which Goldsworthy analyzes the 2nd to 6th century Roman decline. Attributing it more to “Rome’s “almost continual internal conflict” rather than the archetypal reasoning of constant Hun intrusion.
Regardless, the event which coincided with my purchase and inspired this post was the book review which appeared on the American Spectator.
AmSpec- Many recent analyses of the collapse of Roman power have made a point to draw parallels with modern day America, and to disparage American foreign policy in general, and that of George W. Bush in particular. Goldsworthy makes clear in his preface that such comparisons are of little value simply because the United States and Rome, and the context of their times, are so vastly different. He is far too diplomatic to level heavy criticism on his colleagues who have chosen, nonetheless, to do so. He even extends such professional courtesy to Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) whose book and miniseries Barbarians takes pains to make such comparisons and to criticize the Iraq war. Goldsworthy merely comments that it is “highly entertaining stuff, even if the message is somewhat strained.” Aside from being cool towards trying to make serious comparisons of ancient states with modern ones, Goldsworthy is a European scholar who believes that the decline and fall of American power would be a bad thing — and that is refreshing.
Like Gibbon, Goldsworthy begins his narrative in the late second century, with the reign of Marcus Aurelius. He then takes the reader on the journey through Rome’s ups and downs, innovations, and adaptations through to the final collapse of the Western Empire, making use of the latest research and archeological discoveries. He also includes a brief discussion of the continuation of the empire in the east, the short-lived reconquest of Italy and North Africa during the reign of Justinian, and the emergence of Muslim power that would topple the Persian Empire, and ultimately put an end to the remains of a shriveled Eastern “Roman” Empire in 1453.
Though the text is usefully footnoted, it is written with the general reader in mind. Goldsworthy does not overwhelm the reader with the names of many minor figures (doing so to a fault when he mentions one of Aurelian’s generals in Egypt, but neglects to point out that the general was the future emperor Probus). He does write the occasional tantalizingly unclear sentence, but for the most part, Goldsworthy’s prose is lucid and engaging.
If you have a fascination with ancient Rome, history in general, or just like thought provoking accounts, I highly recommend Goldsworthy’s book. You won’t be disappointed!
Another good read which I am concurrently exploring, along with HRF, is a book by noted Conservative historian, George Nash, titled “Reappraising the Right, the Past and Future of American Conservatism.”
Nash covers a myriad of influences on movement Conservatism from its leading intellectuals, philosophers, luminaries, think tanks, politicians, and journals. He then provides a candid exploration of conservatism’s contemporaneous disaffection and its potential renewal. Reappraising the Right is extensively researched, VERY well written, and extremely relevant to today’s discussion on the future path of Conservatism.
Please note: It’s official release date is set for November 2nd. However, if you are interested, you can purchase the book through Intercollegiate Studies Institute for its list price. Or wait till after its proposed release date, when it cheapens up a tad, and buy it from Amazon.
Either way, it is an engaging read and if you pick it up I hope you enjoy!
Jeff at the Capital Tribune also delved into the book’s discussion with his own review.