One of the problems of reading history is that we get a very distorted view of it. We are looking at the past down the wrong end of a telescope. A good example is the Vandal kingdom of North Africa. This seems like a very ephemeral kind of thing from our point of view. In fact the Vandal Kingdom lasted for over 50 years and it must have seemed pretty well established to people living in it. It was possible to have been born in it and to have lived to a pretty mature age without knowing any different. Continue reading The Reconquest of Africa – Gibbons Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 41 Part 1
The extraordinary flowering of thought in Athens in the fifth century before Christ has demanded an explanation but has defied submitting to one. People have suggested all sorts of reasons from the development of the Greek economy to the availability of exceptionally nutritious shellfish.
The largest man-made enclosed space in the world is the Pentagon. The United States is a big country, with a big opinion of itself and which asserts that it has an important mission. Their defence headquarters is not just somewhere to keep their photocopy paper. It is a building that is meant to impress. Continue reading Hagia Sofia – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 40 Part 4
Globalisation is not a new thing. The Roman and Chinese economies were linked by the trade between them, and this trade was significant enough to have an effect on their economies. Although they weren’t in a direct dialogue with one another, they were aware of each other’s existence and the policies they followed made a difference. Continue reading Silk – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 40 Part 2
The Byzantine Empire survived the turmoil that had wrecked the western Roman Empire despite having some pretty unimpressive leadership. Leo was the first emperor to use Greek for his legislation, but had little notable impact on the big picture. His successor was Zeno who was newly in post when the western Empire was ended. He consolidated the situation in the East but there was still instability at the top with other candidates for the throne creating problems. Zeno’s reign was briefly interrupted by the reign of Basiliscus. He was finally succeed by Anastasius, who owed his elevation to the favour of Zeno’s widow. This was hardly the most legitimate of grounds for rule, and to add to the problem he contrived to approach death childless and with no obvious heir. Continue reading The Rise of Justinian – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 40 Part 1
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is permeated from beginning to end with the atmosphere of the Enlightenment. But at the end of the third volume, he comes out and says directly what he believes in.
Gibbon wonders whether some unknown threat could arise that would once again destroy the civilisation of the western world of his time. After all the Arabs had appeared out of nowhere in the eighth century. Could the same thing happen again? Luckily the existence of gunpowder had changed the rules of the game. Mounted bow wielding horsemen no longer needed to be feared – Attila’s Huns would be no match for a column of men with muskets. And it is not just gadgets. The whole of Europe has progressed and moved forward to a brighter age. Continue reading A Hymn To The Enlightenment – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 38 Part 4
Although Roman influence in Britain ended before it did in Gaul, Gibbon chooses to place it in the narrative afterwards. You can see why. The situation in Gaul steadily evolved and are developed. It’s very much part of the story of the fall of the Western Empire. What happened in Britain seems to be a very different story indeed, it does feel very much like a footnote to the rest of the book. Continue reading Conquest of Britain – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 38 Part 2
At the end of Volume 3 of Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and Gibbon is in a reflective mood. It feels very much like he is intending on finishing his story here with the end of the Roman Empire in the West as a legal entity. In fact I think that is exactly what his intentions were. This is how he puts it. Continue reading Why did Rome Fall? – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 38 Part 3
Hi, this is the History Books Review and I am Colin Sanders, currently engaged on mopping up operations. We have seen that the last Roman emperor had been removed by Odoacer in Italy, and in this episode we follow the ramifications to Roman Gaul in Chapter 38 Part 1 of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Continue reading Reign and Conversion of Clovis – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 38 Part 1
It isn’t too hard to explain why Christianity became the predominant religion in the Roman Empire. It was well organised. It provided social security at a time of great insecurity. It also had all the coercive power of the state behind it. But how did the conversion of the barbarians make such inroads into the German tribes? Continue reading Conversion of the Barbarians – Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 37 Part 3