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How Rome Fell

Death of a Superpower
Narrated by: Derek Perkins
Length: 18 hrs and 27 mins
Categories: History, European
4.5 out of 5 stars (353 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In AD 200, the Roman Empire seemed unassailable, its vast territory accounting for most of the known world. By the end of the fifth century, Roman rule had vanished in Western Europe and much of northern Africa, and only a shrunken Eastern Empire remained. This was a period of remarkable personalities, from the philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius to emperors like Diocletian, who portrayed themselves as tough, even brutal, soldiers. It was a time of revolutionary ideas, especially in religion, as Christianity went from persecuted sect to the religion of state and emperors. Ultimately, this is the story of how an empire without a serious rival rotted from within, its rulers and institutions putting short-term ambition and personal survival over the greater good of the state.

©2009 Adrian Goldsworthy (P)2014 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"This richly rewarding work will serve as an introduction to Roman history, but will also provide plenty of depth to satisfy the educated reader." ( Publishers Weekly)

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The tragic story of the fall of a great empire

What made the experience of listening to How Rome Fell the most enjoyable?

How comprehensive the story was. It began before Commodus and went past 476. This emphasized how the fall was not in a vacuum nor was it necessarily a true, catastrophic collapse.

What did you like best about this story?

It continually emphasized the facts instead of wide held societal beliefs. Each supposed cause of the fall of the Roman empire was examined and preconceived notions where attacked and discarded. It is very balanced and reasonable.

What does Derek Perkins bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

As with all my reviews of his work, he is an excellent narrator who can really bring the story to life.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

They said it was un-filmable, and they where right

Any additional comments?

If you want a general overview of the narrative and potential causes of Rome's dissolution, this is an excellent source

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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he's got me convinced!

Would you listen to How Rome Fell again? Why?

Yes, and I might do that. I've read or listened to several recent books on this question, and Goldsworthy's argument is compelling. If every time you have a change of government, you have a devastating, depopulating civil war, and you have changes of government all the time, then it seems that you don't have to go very far to find out why Rome fell.Goldsworthy is really good at marshaling the evidence and not going beyond.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I did not have a favorite character.

Which character – as performed by Derek Perkins – was your favorite?

Derek Perkins is a fine narrator. I should add that I am not extraordinarily fastidious in that regard.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

no, it is too long.

Any additional comments?

Goldsworthy is an excellent writer with fine analytical skills. He also wrote a terrific book on Julius Caesar, Life of a Colossus.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • AlexIndia
  • Fort Worth, TX, United States
  • 11-02-15

Full history run through

This was a great book. Covers all the emperors very well but does not get into tabloid history. Only criticism is that you really need a timeline to look at now and again to keep it all straight in your head.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful Story Teller

A very informative history of the Roman Empire from Augustus past the fall of the Western Empire in 476 thru Justinian! (A nice surprise!) It is truly amazing that the Western Empire lasted as long as it did thru numerous & almost constant civil wars!

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Deep and Contextual

Narrator was superb. Very thorough references to Imperial Rome and a contextual guide to how the Empire fell.

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Good Material, Lots of Caveats

I suppose the story of how Rome fell, like many aspects of ancient history, is liable to be shrouded in mystery. One can imagine how, for example, Donald Trump would be viewed if only one religious cleric writing 100 years from now was all you had to go on. There is a ton of equivocation in this book. Often the author will talk for several minutes stating a theory of a particular event, and then say something along the lines of "this has been recently called into question" or even "this seems unlikely in the light of such-and-such evidence." On one hand, this gives you a more honest picture, and I appreciate it, but it hardly makes for a good or thrilling story. The story of how Rome eroded (largely, as it turned out, from within) is an interesting story, and given the continuation of the Eastern Roman empire in a progressively diminished form, the story more fades from sight then ends entirely. For example, Justinian, an Eastern Roman emperor who wasn't even born until after the last Western Roman emperor was overthrown, gets an extensive treatment. The book presents a lot of good information, and you just have to take the broad themes and decide for yourself what "lessons" can be learned from it.

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Another home run by Goldsworthy

If you wonder why the political world works the way the political world works then there is no better place to start than with Adrian Goldsworthy's How Rome Fell. The epilogue of this book alone is worth the price of admission.

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Another amazing analysis of the ancient world by Adrian Goldsworthy!

This is the third book of Goldworthy’s that I’ve listened to. He has not yet failed to exceed my expectations about how interesting an audiobook about ancient history can be! The narration is also excellent!

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Well written, if idiosyncratic

A fine book by a fine historian, whose works are always welcome. Oddly bookended by long speculations as to the fate of the United States, perhaps unduly influenced by the proximity of the Iraq War and its aftermath to the time of publication. The core of the book—which gives more weight to internal decline and civil war than does, say, Peter Heather’s thesis—is well argued and beautifully narrated.

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  • vmhutch
  • Colchester, VT USA
  • 12-14-17

another great work from Adrian goldsworthy

this is my third work of nonfiction by Adrian goldsworthy that I've read this year. All of his books have been very rewarding. I even enjoyed his new novel. is biographies of Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar are must-reads, too.