This book was actually published (according to the book notes) in 1990 and 1996, but there was a new edition in 2005 from Barnes & Nobles, so I thought it was worth a review.
The late Michael Grant can sometimes be a bit dry, but I found this to be a very readable accounting of the major reasons for the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.
The focus of the book is on the final century or so of the Western Empire, from the reign of Valentinian I until 476 AD.
The book's structure is simple – a brief synopsis of the history of the later empire, then 13 chapters each presenting a major reason why the Roman Empire fell. Surprisingly, there is no attempt to rank the 13 causes or explain how the author decided there were only 13 causes.
The 13 chapters are:
THE FAILURE OF THE ARMY
1. The Generals Against the State
2. The People Against the Army
THE GULFS BETWEEN THE CLASSES
3. The Poor Against the State
4. The Rich Against the State
5. The Middle Class Against the State
THE CREDIBILITY GAP
6. The People Against the Bureaucrats
7. The People Against the Emperor
THE PARTNERSHIPS THAT FAILED
8. Ally Against Ally
9. Race Against Race
THE GROUPS THAT OPTED OUT
10. Drop-outs Against Society
11. The State Against Free Belief
THE UNDERMINING OF EFFORT
12. Complacency Against Self-Help
13. The Other World Against This World
While I have read other accounts of the fall of the Romans, this book really brought all of the elements together for me. While the book is not specifically about campaigns or battles, it certainly provides new perspective for late-imperial wargaming.
I did wonder sometimes if the author isn't making too much of the incomplete evidence we have for the period. After all, the Communists wrote some damning "fall of capitalism" articles by selectively choosing their facts – could the author here be finding so many faults simply because he is looking for them, knowing what the outcome will be? By the end of the book, I was left wondering how Rome ever survived for as long as it did!
At only 196 pages, this book is recommended for anyone who would like a little more background on their late imperial Romans. Recommended.
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .