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Publisher's Summary

What really marked the end of the Roman Empire? Was it a long, inevitable decay, or did real people make real choices with surprising and unintended effects?

The Ruin of the Roman Empire takes us back to the sixth century, into the lives, cultures, and events that influenced ancient Rome. James O'Donnell restores the reputations of many "barbarians", while showing that Rome's last emperors doomed their realm with the hapless ways in which they tried to restore and preserve it.

Sweeping and accessible, The Ruin of the Roman Empire captures the richness of late antique life and the colorful characters of the age, while offering insight into today's debates about barbarism, religion, empires, and their threatened borders.

©2008 James J. O'Donnell; (P)2008 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"An exotic and instructive tale, told with life, learning and just the right measure of laughter on every page. O'Donnell combines a historian's mastery of substance with a born storyteller's sense of style to create a magnificent work of art. Perfect for history-lovers and admirers of great writing alike." (Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State)

What members say

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  • Overall
  • Ursula
  • Kensington, MD, United States
  • 11-04-08

Even the narrator seems bored silly

My high hopes for this book were soon dashed. The author jumps around in time. Things don't flow. The narrator pronounces words correctly but drones...he seems to plod through the text, making an otherwise confusing book unbearable.

The author promises to tie things together by the end, but I've lost patience.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Would not Recommend

Very dry and boring. And I thought it skipped around a little too much. I have always loved learning about ancient history, and as a Classics major in college I spent 4 years in boring lectures, but this was just too much for me.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Go for something else

The narration quality is fine. But, I must agree with the previous review that the book is somewhat boring and difficult to really sink your teeth into.

Additionally, I found the author to be a little self-important and pedantic in his writing style.

Although not as extensive in its historical scope, I would suggest Justinian's Flea (also available on audible) over this book.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Anthony
  • Snellville, GA, USA
  • 07-30-09

Excellent Survey!

This is a original survey of the late Roman Empire. The author gives more attention to the lower classes than is common is these types of histories. In general this work describes the actual Roman Empire including more than just the emporers and wars. Overall, it is worthwhile but does require some discipline at times like any survey history.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • carlos
  • fernandina beach, FL, United States
  • 09-27-10

Dull and Annoying

The reasoning and flow of the book is obtuse. The author's constant and annoying liberal comments exacerbate the smart reader . The narration was not interesting or pleasant for me. I would like my money back.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Tawrin
  • WORCESTER, MA, United States
  • 01-24-12

Very educational and thought provoking

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Probably not because I don't know anyone more interested in this subject than I, but if I did, I would. This book, in my opinion, is for someone knowledgeable in the field. I am by no means an expert in the field, but I have read a lot about it and my attained knowledge of the subject area helped to make sense of the material.

What did you like best about this story?

I like that the story brought out what I was hoping the book would, what happened after collapse of the western roman empire.

What aspect of Mel Foster’s performance would you have changed?

I thought Mel Foster did good, but sometimes the narration is monotone and I can find myself drifting off.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

There were many

Any additional comments?

I thought this book was overall good. I wanted some more knowledge of the time period when Rome lost its self. It was very interesting to hear and learn of this time period. I, at times, got lost trying to keep track of all of the historical figures involved, but I thought that this book was overall well done and enjoyed listening to it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Gillette
  • Lawrence, KS, United States
  • 08-27-10

Everything you want a history to be.

This was a very good history. It mixes sketches of individual persons to provide an accessible perspective on a world with the larger movements and events in history. It has a good narrative quality, yet still manages to discuss the scholarly sources in a manner interesting to causal readers and essential for academics. It also challenges conventional views about the late Roman world, and quite successfully argues that this part of history needed the fresh look that this book provides. The narrator takes a bit of getting used to, but settles in nicely after about an hour or so.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Lloyd
  • Garland, TX, United States
  • 01-05-10

Interesting book with boring reader

This book starts out very slow but gets interesting. The author has valid points from his scholarship. Unfortunately, the monotone voice of the Mel Foster makes it tedious to listen to this audio book. It's a struggle just to listen to a good book with a boring reader. I enjoyed the book despite the reader. This is a good audio book if you love Roman history, otherwise, other audio books might be more enjoyable.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

The Ruin of the Roman Empire

This is a book of Mr. O'Donnell's vision of how things should have happened with hindsight. A mixture of loose events in a timeline with poor integration. A difficult listen at best. I hope Mr. O'Donnell is better at running Georgetown U.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Teresa
  • 08-12-09

Can't follow this

I've restarted this book several times and just don't get into the author's flow of reasoning.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful