In AD 476, the last of Rome's emperors, known as "Augustulus", was deposed by a barbarian general, the son of one of Attila the Hun's henchmen. With the imperial vestments dispatched to Constantinople, the curtain fell on the Roman empire in Western Europe, its territories divided among successor kingdoms constructed around barbarian military manpower. But, if the Roman Empire was dead, Romans across much of the old empire still lived, holding on to their lands, their values, and their institutions. The conquering barbarians, responding to Rome's continuing psychological dominance and the practical value of many of its institutions, were ready to reignite the imperial flame and enjoy the benefits. As Peter Heather shows in dazzling biographical portraits, each of the three greatest immediate contenders for imperial power - Theoderic, Justinian, and Charlemagne - operated with a different power base but was astonishingly successful in his own way. Though each in turn managed to put back together enough of the old Roman West to stake a plausible claim to the Western imperial title, none of their empires long outlived their founders' deaths. Not until the reinvention of the papacy in the 11th century would Europe's barbarians find the means to establish a new kind of Roman Empire, one that has lasted 1,000 years.
A sequel to the best-selling Fall of the Roman Empire, The Restoration of Rome offers a captivating narrative of the death of an era and the birth of the Catholic Church.
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Byzantine Empire Stands Tall!
After purchasing Prof. Heather's earlier two books, I felt I was up for the experience of round three. If you just plug in the earphones, or other device and press play, the narrator's voice will rather quickly fade into the background as your mind drifts into that fugue state of grocery lists or a replay of last night's nonsense. The next thing you know you are jerked back into the present as Mr. Robertson announces, "Chapter 3".
In order to fully be able to absorb the depth of the human drama and scope of empires competing on the battlefields of Eurasia that this book describes, you must maintain a low to mid level of physical exertion. Try this: get a map and find a hilly trail of some kind that will take several hours to walk. Listen to this audiobook as you meander along and you will quickly get into the story. My method was to go fishing, but I made sure that the spot I was going to fish was on the far side of the lake and required some effort to get to. Anyways, stay active and your mind / attention span will follow along.
Probably Prof. Heather's earlier book about the Fall of Rome. As these two book's timelines somewhat overlap to a degree, this book reviewed and added some narrative to the last book's ending chapters.
I really enjoyed Prof. Heather's coverage of the Byzantine Empire. I was amazed at the resiliency of the Byzantines as they responded politically when possible and militarily when necessary to the arrival of westward migrating ethnic groups like the Avars, Bulgars, various Slavs and others I cannot recall at the moment. Meanwhile old adversaries such as the Ostrogoths in Italy, Visigoths all the way out west in Spain, Serraphids (sp.?) in Persia / Mesopotamia in the east constantly trying to wrest Armenia and other Trans-Caucasian territories from Constantinople's rule, were a constant internal and external threat that required troops on the ground and their heads on a swivel. And don't forget the Vandals making mischief in North Africa!
The Byzantine's were flat out busy as hell trying to keep things together and nobody ever really seemed to want to help. Talk about death from a thousand wounds.
But through the waves of screaming Avar horse mounted spearmen, the masses of revenge crazed Vandal heavy infantry, and back stabbing, trash talking Serraphid archers the Byzantines dominated the scene with their detachments of uber warrior Varangian Guard studs and, straight out of a Bulgar commander's nightmare, heavily armored mounted cataphract warriors. If I only had a time machine! I would just about give anything to see a detachment of Varangian Guardsmen withstand an onrushing Avar cavalry charge and then once the melee really hots up, systematically "snick" off the hapless dismounted horsemen's helmeted heads with their heavy axes mounted on 5 foot wooden shafts. Sounds rather gory, but welcome to mid 600's world of post Roman Empire southern Europe. It just never seemed to stop, and the Byzantine's were right in the middle of the action with a big bull's eye on their heavily armored cuirasses.
When the Western Roman Empire went down the Byzantines stood up and stood like a cliff of righteous granite against wave after wave of determined and highly skilled horse peoples. The Byzantine Empire held firm. Their place of honor in the pages of history is forever secured.
As you by now can see, after listening to this book I have really upped my respect for the Byzantine Empire and what those people accomplished in the midst of a truly chaotic situation on a continental scale. Prof. Heather took this fur ball of information and laid out the story in a fashion I can only describe as masterful.
Kudos to Prof. Heather for reaffirming to this Cal Poly '92 history major why I chose my course of study! I loved this stuff back then and I still do today thanks to books like this. My Late Antiquity history "batteries" have been recharged.
I am truly a better person for listening to this audiobook.
Varangian Guards - you want to see what armor and a warrior should look like? Look no further!
I loved this book! I can honestly say that before this review, through the hundreds and hundreds, maybe thousands, of pages of various reports and other essay-type endeavors I have written / typed, I never had the opportunity to type the words Varangian Guard before today. These guys, mostly from Denmark, Norway and England by the way, were flat out warriors who were game changers whenever they stepped onto the field. Go online and type in Varangian Guard (yeah! one more time...) go to images and check out the armor package these guys wore in battle. I have seen many variations on the armor theme over the years, and I can truly say that I am impressed x 6 with the protection these soldiers wore. What a sight they must have been!
One of the best history books on audible!
This is the third book released on audible on the fall of the Roman Empire and the subsequent period by historian Peter Heather and by far my favorite though I enjoyed his other works as well. This book focused on Theodoric, Justinian, Charlemagne, and the Papacy in their various attempts to reassert imperial authority in the west after 476. I thought his comparison of Charlemagne and other feudal monarchs to the Godfather was both apt and entertaining and his analysis of Justinian was critical but fair.
- ryley garrett