Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why did Rome fall? NBIH

This edition of the podcast New Books In History should interest a lot of people. The amount of podcasts out there that busies itself with Roman History is tremendous. I have once made a summary post of Roman History Podcasts and this is one that receives a lot of hits till this day.

Marshal Poe spoke with the British historian Adrian Goldsworthy about his book: 'How Rome fell: Death of a Superpower'. At some point in the podcast Goldsworthy sums it up very concise: Rome came to the fall from within. It rotted down from the top. The leaders became so cossupt, so bad, that the system couldn't correct itself no longer and it collapsed into itself.

Poe thinks he recognizes this from the Soviet Union (Poe is a specialist in Russian history). When a leader is bad, he can be corrected by his surroundings, but when he becomes so cruel that he has removed the entourage of good helpers and anybody who wants to remonstrate can lose his head, the chain of command starts to believe in its own lies and steadily drives the whole system over the cliff. And there was some driving to do. Goldsworthy goes through great lengths to describe the volume of Rome's hegemony. In this the message already lies: nothing could bring down Rome but Rome.

The fashion today is to liken Rome to the US and Goldsworthy rejects this out of hand. The two are too different and the whole thinking style of parallels seems unfit in his opinion. Another thing to add is that it remains implicit where Rome falls. Goldsworthy seems to put this in 476 and I felt the question missing: what does it mean about the strength of the Roman Empire that Byzantium lived on for another 1000 years?

More Roman History:
Carthage (In Our Time and others),
The Punic Wars (Dan Carlin's hardcore History),
Tacitus (In Our Time),
German Cultural History,
Roman History in Podcasts.

More NBIH:
Glancing over the backlog,
Jews in the Russian army,
Who will write our history?,
Sentiments in International Relations,
Ronald Reagan.

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