‘The Fall of the Roman Empire’ by Michael Grant

Grant_Roman-Empire-fcX-700pxMichael Grant’s The Fall of the Roman Empire was a quick non-fiction ‘hit’ that I needed after reading too much fiction. It is a 200-page summary of the reasons behind the fall of the Roman Empire. This can be a bewildering subject as there are no easy answers to the question ‘why did the Roman Empire fall?’ Listed below is an even more condensed version of the reasons why. For anyone that wants an even simpler explanation Michael Grant sums it up in the introduction by saying ‘It was brought down by two kinds of destruction: invasions from outside, and weaknesses that arose within.’ The list below is an elaboration of these ‘destructions’ and will hopefully be of interest to some.

Thirteen Reasons for the Fall of the Roman Empire in the West:

  1. The Generals against the State – There was no effective method of succession. Each emperor was in effect dependent on the army which resulted in endless coups détat and civil wars.
  2. The People against the Army – Rich and poor didn’t want to serve in the army. The state had to depend increasingly on German troops.
  3. The Poor against the State – The taxes to pay for the army fell disproportionaly on the poor driving them into destitution, banditry, slavery or death.
  4. The Rich against the State – The rich Senators evaded taxes and did not get involved in political life. They were snobbish and opposed to change.
  5. The Middle Class against the State – The middle class of merchants and small landowners were squeezed out of late Imperial life. The population consisted mainly of rich and poor.
  6. The People against the Bureaucrats – The late Roman bureaucracy was oppressive and allowed very little social mobility. The civil service was inefficient, bloated, corrupt and resistant to change.
  7. The People against the Emperor – The later Roman Emperors had little contact with the outside world. Their only contact with their subjects was via sycophantic or scheming courtiers.
  8. Ally against Ally – The split between the West and East became more pronounced during this period. Both halves of the Empire failed to co-operate which made it easier for the Germans to take over the West.
  9. Race against Race – Rome was unable to assimilate the German tribes that took refuge within its borders.
  10. Drop-outs against Society – With the rise of Christianity in the Empire many people were attracted to asceticism and became nuns, monks and hermits. As such they became divorced from their community and contributed little towards the Roman state.
  11. The State against Free Belief – Once Catholic Christianity became the dominant religion its proponents began to attack paganism, Jewish faith, Manichaeanism and other Christian faiths thereby causing disunity throughout the Empire.
  12. Complacency against Self-Help – The pagans relied too much on the glories of the past, they neglected practical subjects in their education and concentrated on grammar, rhetoric etc.
  13. The Other World against This World – Many Christians seemed reluctant to support the state even after the Empire became officially Christian. Some even saw the barbarian attacks as divine punishment. Some pagans viewed the world to be in perpetual decline since the Golden Age of the past. Both views led to pessimism.
Advertisements

10 Comments

Filed under Grant, Michael, Non-fiction

10 responses to “‘The Fall of the Roman Empire’ by Michael Grant

  1. Great review! I’ve always like Grant’s Roman history books. You do a fantastic job of summarizing his main points.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jonathan

      Thanks Melissa. I’ve read a few of Grant’s books and I’ve found each one an interesting read. He gets the balance between scholarship and readability just right for the general reader.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. kaggsysbookishramblings

    Excellent summary – I’ve often wondered why Rome fell and now I know! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jonathan

      I suppose historians may argue over the degree that each reason had on the final collapse but I think Grant must have covered everything. I got the feeling whilst reading this book that the ‘collapse’ was barely noticeable as the decline had been so gradual over the previous century – I’m not sure how valid that is though.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting book and wonderful review, Jonathan! I will look for it. I also want to read Edward Gibbon’s ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’ someday. I have it on my shelf – I got it for a fortune many years back. Unfortunately, it is so big that I need to be in a very brave mood to get started. Have you read that?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jonathan

      Well, I have read Gibbon’s D&F, or most of it – a little while ago I discovered that for some reason I stopped halfway through the last volume. It’s a great read, but I found I had to be in the right frame of mind before sitting down to it.

      Like

      • Wow! This is so awesome, Jonathan! I think you are the only person I know who has read both Gibbon’s ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’ and Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’ 🙂 You are an awesome reader! Hopefully, one of these days, I can dip into Gibbon’s book and read a few pages atleast. It is so big, isn’t it 🙂 On the subject of history books, have you read any of Fernand Braudel’s books? His most famous one is called ‘The Mediterranean’.

        Like

      • Jonathan

        Thanks Vishy. I seem to have a thing for these massive books. 🙂 I’m reading Anthony Powell’s 12 volume series ‘A Dance to the Music of Time’ at the moment and one of these days I hope to read Casanova’s memoirs.

        D&F is definitely worth the time but it is certainly not something one can pick up and read casually. Most readers may only be interested in the first 3 vols which covers the fall in the west but I found the next three just as interesting.

        Like

      • Nice to know that you love massive books 🙂 I just checked out Anthony Powell’s ‘A Dance to the Music of Time’. in Wikipedia. it looks like a wonderful book. Powell’s name rings a bell but I haven’t really heard of this book. The title is beautiful and the theme sounds wonderful. Which volume of the book are you currently reading? Happy reading! Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jonathan

        I’m near the end of vol. 4 and I’m enjoying them more than I thought I would. I’m reading along with a GR group – one a month.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s