Category Archives: Roman Empire

The Death of Constantine III – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 31 Part 6

Constantine the Third

The reign of Constantine III was a precarious business.   With the legions no longer holding the frontier of the Rhine and the Roman navy no longer in existence, the world was now one dominated by anyone who could pull together some effective mobile forces.  The rule of the Caesars had been replaced by the rule of petty warlords.  Constantine never had any solid power base he could draw from and was continually juggling alliances, bribes and trying to avoid being overrun by barbarians or killed by the representatives of the official Roman empire. You might have thought that nobody would want a job like that. But you’d be wrong, he had to face at least two major rebellions by people who wanted to replace him. Continue reading

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Gaul And Spain Fall To The Barbarians – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 31 Part 5

spain and gaul fall to the barbarians

My extended review of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire continues, and we have now reached part 5 of Chapter 31 where we see Gaul and Spain fall to the barbarians in the aftermath of the sack of Rome.

The sack of Rome by Alaric was dramatic and important, but what happened in the immediate aftermath is important too. Continue reading

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The Death of Alaric – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 31 Part 4


Alaric died suddenly after a short fever.  He was somewhere around forty years old. For all his urbane sophistication and his desire to become a Roman, he was given a truly barbarian funeral.  The course of the river Busento was diverted and his body buried under its bed.  Then the river was restored to its normal course and the captives who had worked on it were killed.  The location of his body has remained a secret ever since.  The secret of what exactly he was doing in southern Italy has remained just as obscure.  Gibbon assumes that his interest in Sicily was as a stepping stone to Africa.  Africa fed Rome, so if he wanted to control one he had to control the other.   Maybe this marks his ambition to become in effect the ruler of the Roman world.  Or maybe his reasoning was that Africa represented a defendable home for his people with the resources that they needed. Continue reading

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Constantine III – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 30 Part 3


The troubles in Italy and Gaul left Britain isolated.  Its imperial forces had been withdrawn leaving low level garrisons to defend it from the depredations of the Picts and the seaborne Saxons. Being right at the bottom of the imperial todo list created a power vacuum in the province. There was a long tradition in Britain of providing usurpers to the throne, so it was sort of inevitable that a pretender to the purple should emerge. Continue reading

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The Germans Invade Gaul – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 30 Part 2


While the invasion by Alaric threw Italy into a crisis, Germany was in turmoil.  There was increasing pressure from the Huns in the East – Gibbon traces its origin all the way back to China, which is probably fanciful but I suppose isn’t impossible.  From this emerged a new barbarian leader who rapidly became an enemy of Rome.  Alaric was a Christian who understood the empire intimately.  In contrast the new leader was an out and out barbarian. His name was Radagaisus and he was not just a pagan, but a sincere one who regularly sacrificed to his gods. He treated the civilised world with contempt rather than envy.  It was widely believed that he had taken a vow to reduce the city of Rome to rubble and to sacrifice the senators to his heavenly supporters.   Continue reading

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Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians John Bagnell Bury


John Bagnell Bury’s Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians takes the story of the fall of the Roman Empire and tells it from the barbarian point of view.  This is not the normal perspective on the story, but it is a more positive way to look at it.  After all, when the empire fell a lot of new states were created and each of them has its own story.  So from this point of view Alaric, the first man to sack Rome, is seen as an ambitious and capable ruler who was just trying to get his share of the action.  But this doesn’t detract from the drama of the story.   Continue reading

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Zenobia the Musical

I am afraid I know almost nothing about this, but as this is the Internet I am not going to let that stop me.

Sorry this video has been removed.  I hear a production is in progress in Illinois, so hopefully some trailer will make it onto YouTube at some point. 

I have just come across this rather amazing Youtube video of a musical version of the life of Zenobia.  I am a bit behind the times because it seems to have been put on in Dubai in 2008.  And boy must it have been spectacular judging the by the clip with a huge cast up to and including horses and camels.  The music sounds pretty good too.

It is good to see Zenobia getting some decent billing and being portrayed in a positive light.  I have previously covered the full story of Zenobia but I don’t know how well she is known in the Arab world – though I guess this musical must have raised her profile whatever it was.  I hope some people were inspired.


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