The Restoration of Rome

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  • Paperback
  • 496 pages
  • The Restoration of Rome
  • Peter Heather
  • 25 February 2017
  • 9781529003857

About the Author: Peter Heather

Peter Heather is currently Professor of Medieval History at King s College London He has held appointments at University College London and Yale University and was Fellow and Tutor in Medieval History at Worcester College, Oxford until December 2007.


The Restoration of RomeIn 476 AD, 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 ToRome 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 Eleventh Century Would Europe S Barbarians Find The Means To Establish A New Kind Of Roman Empire, One That Has Lasted A Thousand Years A Sequel To The Bestselling 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.

10 thoughts on “The Restoration of Rome

  1. says:

    An absolutely delicious book History that reveals both the sweeping big picture and depth and context History that shows how contingent developments were that now seem inevitable while convincingly arguing for economic underlying patterns Properly analytical stuff that makes judgements and argues persuasively I think for well reasoned interpretations Accompanied by great pen portraits and exciting, action packed narrative Topped off with a democratic style and pop cultural references to make me smile Full marks also for calling various elites out on their self justifying bulls t and rulers for their tyranny Finally, and best of all, a history that makes full use of legal sources and explains the use and force of various legal systems I loved this history of Theoderic, Justinian, Charlemagne and the development of the papacy Highly recommended

  2. says:

    Peter Heather s study of Western Europe after the fall of Rome comes in four parts, with the first three being similar, and the fourth different Each one is about a separate attempt to restore imperial rule to the Western Roman Empire.Part one starts with the background of Theoderic, specifically his time as a hostage in Constantinople, and his exposure to Roman civilization It moves onto Gothic politics, and does a good job looking at them, and how through a series of gambles, and deals, he ended up as the leader of a reduced, but cohesive group of Goths, and took on the job of expelling Odoacer from Italy The resulting Ostrogothic Kingdom is shown as an attempted restoration of the Empire to Western territories Despite later disagreements, Theoderic had started with orders from Constantinople, and his later effective control over Visigothic Kingdom in Gaul and Spain allowed him to dominate most of the Western Empire s former territories, and the intent was purely to be seen as the Western Emperor.The problem was the conjoined Gothic states did not stay so after Theoderic s death, which leads to the second part, Justinian s reconquest of substantial part of the Western Empire Heather shows that Justinian attempted to legitimize his reign with a couple gambles, law reform and war with Persia, which did not work out The expedition to Africa and invasion of Sicily were very opportunistic schemes to restore legitimacy The eventual Justinian law code only went forward based on the political capital gained from success in the west, and the section ends with analysis of the idea that Justinian s wars crippled the Eastern Empire in the long run, and generally comes up negative I think he didn t consider the impacts on manpower nearly enough, but economically, he s on reasonably solid ground.The third section is about Charlemagne s crowning as Emperor in 800, and the subsequent collapse of the state over the next few generations There s some very good analysis in here about how the need to reward followers both allow a moderate sized state to grow quickly when there s plenty of rewards to give out , and forces it to come apart once that growth slows or stops Each change in rulers requires a new round of payments to make sure of loyalties, and a few years to feel out which members of the court are the most competent and loyal.The common thread through the book is the idea how the Romans saw divine approval and power as intertwined In Christian terms, if God wanted you to be Emperor, then no force on Earth could stop it, and if you were the Emperor, then obviously God wanted you to be so And since the Emperor was chosen by God, then he had authority over the Church The fourth section shows this being turned on its head.Charlemagne s administration produced a set of standard texts for education inside the Christian Church There is a good discussion of the forgery of the Donation of Constantine, which claims the Western Empire was effectively handed over to the Pope in Rome The idea presented here is that this was not a Roman or Papal forgery, but actually came out of the Carolingian churches Until this point, the archbishops were the main authority, but if the distant Pope was the real head of things, then the bishops didn t need to listen to the nearby archbishops Then, a generation or two later, officials brought up in this tradition end up installed in Rome by German Emperors, and they worked to reform the Papacy into what they thought it should be, an ultimate source of ecclesiastical and temporal authority.Trying to see this last as an imperial project so that it fits in with the rest of Heather s theme hurts this last part of the book But overall, it is, like the other parts, an interesting look at the post Roman early Medieval West Each part of the book interleaves with the rest, and while it is by no means a complete history of the period, it does a lot to examine just how the Western Empire did not manage to get reestablished.

  3. says:

    Peter Heather is, unquestionably, one of the foremost scholars of the late Antiquity Early Middle Ages period His analysis is always sound and well thought, with deep insights His books are always a great pleasure to read, and this book is no exception This book is interesting, detailed, scholarly, balanced, and very intellectually rewarding for any reader who is seriously interested in in depth analysis of this historical period encompassing the attempts at restoration of the Roman Empire by Theodoric, Justinian and Charlemagne, but also with a final section containing a relatively brief analysis of the evolution of the Christian Church through the Early and High Middle Ages In summary, another of Peter Heather s masterpieces The only glitch in this otherwise excellent book is the presence of a couple of over simplications profanities anachronistic moral judgments on some of the characters such as Justinian, who for example is defined a bast rd by the author, for his actions in dealing with the Nika revolt and in pursuing his ruthless campaign of Reconquista of the former Western Empire Baffling, I would have never expected this sort of anachronistic, and ultimately meaningless, judgments from an historian of Peter s calibre But make no mistakes apart from this minor intellectual slip, this is a great read, thoroughly enjoyable, fully deserving 5 stars.

  4. says:

    Highly interesting take on Roman Empire vs barbarians and successor empires and the papacy.This book has four main parts Theoderic the Goth and Byzantium, Justinian s reign, Charlemagne and the papacy, and the rise of the papacy The blurb on the cover didn t really make that clear, at least not to me, which is why I d thought I d spell it out here That s the setting, and Heather gives us a highly educational and entertaining read about the substance of empire and religion for these separate periods You can tell Heather is either aiming for a general readership given the numerous references to The Godfather , or shooting off lingering frustrations about meticulous argumentation and endless debate about details common in academia given characterisations like bullshit Probably a bit of both Overall though, the subjectmatter only lends itself for levity occasionally, and Heather keeps the narrative going commendably.As mentioned, Heather gives us four specific situations, and then goes about reconstructing them, emphasizing the political, administrative and religious context He gives us a detailed larger picture, and often refers to previous chapters to make a point His grasp of material is impressive, but of course not unexpected given his list of publications He manages to give a fair but critical view of players and circumstances, and several continuous themes he keeps returning to Very interesting read in this respect Very interesting in all respects for those who like to read about these periods Recommended.

  5. says:

    A reasonable summary of several occasions when successors sought to recreate in territory and political trappings in some fashion the western Roman empire A little less enjoyable and informative than his other books His informal style is maybe stronger here His style does make the story flow easier in general, though it can be distracting he clearly has deep knowledge of the subject, and he clearly states when there are differing opinions from his own A nice discussion at the end provides an introductory explanation on the coincidental not directly intended rise of Rome as the leader of a unified Church.

  6. says:

    Peter Heather casts a wry eye over centuries of packed history Goths, Vandals, Franks, Byzantines, Persians, Muslims, Popes and evaluates every one how they came to be, why they came to be, what it actually was they did in an accessible yet highly intelligent way A must read.

  7. says:

    As always, a delightful, intriguing and satisfying read from start to finish Picking up from where The Fall of the Roman Empire A New History of Rome and the Barbarians dropped off, Heather guides us through the chaos of 476 AD and the new pecking order in the Mediterranean and demonstrates the attempts by various heads of state to recreate a Roman Empire and why they ultimately failed Perhaps the most underrated ruler of his era, Theodoric takes his place front and centre as we witness his journey from a young and charismatic prince to the head of the Pannonian Goths Having outmanoeuvered his Gothic rivals and scheming emperors Leo and Xeno he even came to the aid of the latter in returning from exile and reclaiming the throne at Constantinople , he eventually turned towards the eternal city and ousted Odoacer from Rome and established a tolerant, thriving and essentially Roman Kingdom of Italy Friction between the Arian Christian Goths and Chalcedonian Christian Romans was minimal, Theodoric paid homage to the Eastern Roman emperors as the supreme rulers of the post Roman world and initiated a number of building programmes in Rome and Ravenna ranging from restoring early imperial aqueducts to repairing dilapidated buildings and establishing new churches and public monuments Sadly, some of the churches were destroyed around the centuries proceeding and following the Renaissance, public monuments being targetted by the French revolutionary terrorists, the Jacobins, or having been subjected to the age old Roman process Damnatio memoriae, he and his court being removed from the artwork of his Christ the Redeemer palace church and his bones being scattered after his mausoleum was converted to a church in the wake of the Justinian conquests At the height of his power, Theodoric ruled the Italian peninsula, the western half of the Balkans, most of the Iberian peninsula, the Burgundians north west of the Alps and the Vandal kingdom of North Africa Heather sufficiently demonstrated the inherently sectarian nature of the Germanic nations, particularly when it came to succession and the division of inheritance Political marriages broke down, sons and daughters were killed and the empire fragmented again just before his death, leaving it up for grabs by the Eastern Romans and Franks From here we are introduced to Justinian and the reign marked by lightning fast conquests, drawn out wars similar to the Iraqi and Afghanistan Wars and ambitious literary projects An inherited rivalry with the Sassanian Persians saw it culminate in a number of minor Persian victories along the frontier before the Shah s death allowed Justinian to conclude a peace treaty with his successor and free up his manpower However, his reign had now been dogged by insecurity, the Persian defeats and the Nika riots which he supressed with fatal force, and he needed to secure support by the aristocrats and broader civilian population By now, the boards he d assembled to sort and compile centuries of Roman jurisprudence and rulings were being published, setting him on the path to eternal fame, but this was not enough in the meantime to cement his rule The opportunity came as the divided Vandal forces allowed his general Belisarius to sail without opposition to the North African coast and steamroll through the capitals before returning Carthage into the imperial fold after a century of separation Justinian was now emboldened enough to set his sights on Rome, initiating a protracted war as the Italian Goths continued to stubbornly hold out, regroup and launch new counter offensives, taking the best part of 20 years to finally end In between the Italian campaign, war re ignited with the Persians under Khosrau I, part of which involved both sides pumping their Ghassanid and Lakhmid vassals and their Arabian territories with gold and weapons to fight proxy wars which offered very little gain in exchange for the long term consequences that would arise Only a plague would tranquilise the tensions and result in another truce Although Justinian cannot be assigned the blame, his rule was part of the 3 generations which fermented the right conditions for the rise of Islam under forces Remember, Rome and Persia had been financing their Arab vassals similar to Sunni and Shiite proxies fighting it out in Iraq and Syria over the last 2 decades to fight on the fronties where they maintained no presence and had no oversight of what was happening on the ground in a social or political context Khosrau I s grandson, Khosrau II, was forced to flee following an usurpation of the throne and found refuge in emperor Maurice s court It was with his support that he was able to reclaim his throne at Seleucia Ctesiphon and further improve the relationship between the two superpowers However, the rebellion and usurpation of the throne at Constantinople by Phocas resulted in the execution of Maurice and the wrath of Khosrau being unleashed upon the Eastern Romans Heraclius took the throne from the unpopular and ineffective Phocas, executed him and turned the tide with the climax of the war taking place around Nineveh The 26 year war exhausted both empires, their gold had been spent, their armed forces dead or depleted and their land that produced their food and revenue had been devastated Similar to the previous truce between Justinian and Khosrau which lasted about half a century, another period would be needed for both sides to recover and return to prosperity, a period of respite which would not be found as the Muslim Arab armies made their way through the Mesopotamian valley and captured the wealthy Eastern Roman provincial capitals, and the entire empire in the case of the Persians.It was on this note that we are introduced to Charlemagne, Karolus Magnus, the man who d, through skill and luck, inherited the Frankish throne and was crowned emperor on Christmas Day in 800 AD by emperor Leo in Rome Charlemagne s role in Christianity is much extensive than is generally attributed to him via the Christianisation of the Germanic pagans and Arians The Muslim conquered Iberian peninsula aside, Charlemagne had brought all of Europe under his realm and united the Gallo Romans and Germanic Goths into a new Latin Christian entity With all of the wealth and manpower at his disposal, Charlemagne proceeded to convene councils and meetings where the outcome would result in the reinvigoration of Latin studies and the patronage of countless monasteries, churches and cathedrals, renewing the literary cult of Europe and preserving so much of the knowledge penned during the Roman era With the Roman papacy and Frankish monarchy working hand in hand, European Christendom had been made uniform and was now operating with one spirit and mission It was in his religious endeavour, and partially, with the Donations of Constantine that the popes were endowed with vast landed estates that would enrich the papacy and support the building programs through the Republic of St Peter In addition to this, churches and monasteries had been granted landed estates with which they could generate revenue, revenue that was going out of the emperor s pocket In return, it was expected that bishoprics and monasteries would maintain a professional knight service from which the emperor could levy forces in the time of war as opposed to simple, quasi professional farmer As mentioned earlier with regards to the Gothic succession, the luck of the Carolingians dried up as than one heir reached adulthood and the empire fragmented under dynastic division This would eventually lead to the creation of East, Middle and West Francia and in turn, their French and German successors who d continue to fight over Middle Francia until the end of World War II At last, we come to the Holy See of St Peter and the prestigious post of the Bishop of Rome The Hellenic model of kingship in which a king s power and right to rule is divinely sanctioned gained popularity among the early Christian emperors of Rome Constantine s Edict of Milan in 313 legalised the faith throughout the empire, but it was his next move that would set the precedent In 325, Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea in which the Nicene Creed was formulated and the basic orthodoxy of the faith was established Subsequent major councils such as those of Constantinople and Ephesus were also convoked by emperors Theodosius I and II Right through to the reign of the Carolingians, it was the emperor or king, who d decided when and where to hold the councils, the Bishop of Rome, being the first among equals or his legate, was simply a senior figure at the council The emperors had good reason to orchestrate the councils, the eastern provinces had been the source of division as they were filled Latin, Greek and Aramaic speaking Christians, undoubtedly a recipe for confusion and convolution when discussing metaphysical subjects, and this hotbed of sectarianism even led to the emperors themselves getting caught up in heresies in an attempt to come to a compromise between all sides With the city of Rome and its adherent districts under the rule of the pope and the protection of the Carolingians, it would take the best part of 1,000 years for the papacy to be transformed into the spiritual institution that we know today, operating as the vicar of Christ and the head of the Catholic Church Again, it would be the Franks and their barbarian popes that would achieve this transformation In 1049, emperor Henry III, a determined reformer, elected his cousin, Bruno of Eguisheim Dagsburg, to the papacy in an effort to recreate an imperial papal alliance and end the practice of simony and enforce celibacy The newly elected Leo IX s generation of popes even built upon Justinian s legal texts with their own codified papal decrees, laws and legal precedents with texts such as the Concordantia disconcordantium Canonum with footnotes declaring that contradictions existed within it or Justinian s although that is thanks to playing with semantics and rhetorical analysis of the wording and justification for the rulings.In summary of the text, we have four entities, whether intentionally or by accident, sought to recreate the Senatus Populusque Romanus but ultimately failed In the case of Theodoric and Charlemagne, there existed an inherently Germanic problem of the division of assets upon a father s death which extended to and included the kingdom No matter what heights were achieved, the kingdom or empire would be broken down following the succession of a king by his sons, unless death had mercifully permitted the king to have only one living heir It was only a matter of time before the emperor was left without a single heir, or inversely, with three or heirs as we have witnessed with these two figures In the case of Justinian and the Eastern Roman empire, all the original Roman institutions existed and functioned but the power to exert Roman influence could not be sustained Justinian s conquests had proven far too costly for his thinly spread empire This weakness allowed all of his gains, plus , to be lost within two generations to the Arab hordes As for the papacy and the Bishop of Rome, the scope of the institution changed from imperial to spiritual as the pope would have power over a religious empire which transcended borders However, the pope s authority was limited to the papal states and his spiritual authority was only effective within an allied power When two Catholic states waged war, the papacy would either become a sought after ally or a suspect of subterfuge In the case of emperor Henry, it was evident that if popes did not comply with the emperor, the emperor would ultimately win in the end.

  8. says:

    Even if Peter Heather were a bland writer this would still be a great book As it were Heather is probably the only scholar on late antiquity who can genuinely make his audience laugh along with teaching something truly important The narrative at hand deals with the varying attempts to resurrect some form of centralized authority in Western and Central Europe following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the late fifth century This makes for interesting narrative of course as successive Kings and Emperors each attempt some kind of Roman reconstitution with each ultimately failing The real gem of this book though is Heather s historical analysis how Rome rose again From its very beginnings what constituted Roman was never clear If you follow the myth Aeneas was Trojan, and Romulus and Remus were sons of Mars from Alba Longa and merely abandoned by the Tiber Their wives were Sabine and their early Kings were Etruscan Even six centuries later among the Late Republican early Imperial figures Cicero, Octavian, Claudius none of them were strictly Roman per se having been born outside Rome proper and yet each is still considered Roman Of course from the Principate onwards things only expanded outwards until Rome proper had become eclipsed by richer cities of the East, and better defensible cities in the West Concurrently the spread of colonists and the granting of broad citizenship rights to cities in the provinces meant that Roman no longer was an ethnicity or heritage and instead became something closer to a national identity That s hardly uncommon by itself But where these sorts of identities come and go as empires and nations collapse throughout it stuck around with Rome in a complex marriage of Religion, location, history, temperament, philosophy, language and just simple self identification that could each exist independently as easily as in conjunction with one another and yet still make the individual Roman Peter Heather focuses on the religious in this book and shows very persuasively how Roman auctoritas eventually became Papal Decree in spite of the fact that Gaul, Britannia, and Hispania considered themselves kingdoms unto themselves The irony is that the obsession with remaking Rome was pointless Rome never actually fell.

  9. says:

    Peter Heather always applies a droll, sarcastic tenor to any ancient history topic he approaches, and The Restoration of Rome is no exception This book takes an interesting slice across early medieval kingdoms, comparing the post Odavacar kingdoms of Theoderic, Justinian, and Charlemagne, showing how each tried to bring back the glory of Rome at its height The book s greatest achievement is in showing the reader that many of the post Rome regional kimgdoms Ostrogoths,Visigoths, Burgundian, Strathclyde were not nearly as illiterate and barbaric as assumed This goal is served best in the chapters discussing the mini empire of Theoderic, which Heather thinks was a much advanced kingdom than that of the Merovingian Franks While there are a few good works on the Visigoths in Gaul and Spain, there are not nearly as many Ostrogoth studies, particularly covering Theoderic s reign The chapters on Justinian and Charlemagne provide an interesting perspective on these two periods, but are not nearly as groundbreaking, because of the number of good historical studies that exist already The final chapters looking at the bureaucratization of the Catholic Church are useful, particularly in explaining the papal wars for legitimacy in the eighth and ninth centuries, though Heather is less successful than in earlier chapters in describing how the Catholic Church became a source of government legitimacy in its own right While Heather s snarky asides comparing medieval trends to the 21st century help to make the book funnier and readable, they occasionally distract from the successful making of a point Nevertheless, I would not remove these asides, since they help to give the book a breezier style.

  10. says:

    This book reads like a fresh take on the past, relying on the contemporary sources but interpreting them with a wise eye on what most of them they actually are products of spin doctors of old making their tyrant employers look good Through his clear eye we see clearly the mindsets of rulers and of the ruled in late Roman times and in the early Middle Ages.The book can be read as a popularized history book, with the writer s very modern voice explaining the past to us, with references to the Mafia, warlords, neocons, Wikipedia, The Godfather, and current politicians, wars, rebellions and massacres He links the past firmly to the present, emphasizing the continuity of human venality But the book is also a scholarly work, with detailed footnotes, maps, lists of primary sources, a full bibliography, and a detailed index.Refreshingly, the author clearly considers the human costs of war and military expansion Past, self justifying historians have tended to brush over these costs as being the necessary evils associated with the creation of an empire that will eventually bring great good.Read the full and illustrated review at Italophile Book Reviews

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