The Eternal Decline and Fall of Rome: The History of a Dangerous Idea

ISBN : 9780190076719

Edward J. Watts
296 ページ
160 x 242 mm

As this book intriguingly explores, for those who would make Rome great again and their victims, ideas of Roman decline and renewal have had a long and violent history. The decline of Rome has been a constant source of discussion for more than 2200 years. Everyone from American journalists in the twenty-first century AD to Roman politicians at the turn of the third century BC have used it as a tool to illustrate the negative consequences of changes in their world. Because Roman history is so long, it provides a buffet of ready-made stories of decline that can help develop the context around any snapshot. And Rome did, in fact, decline and, eventually, fall. An empire that once controlled all or part of more than 40 modern European, Asian, and African countries no longer exists. Roman prophets of decline were, ultimately, proven correct-a fact that makes their modern invocations all the more powerful. If it happened then, it could happen now. The Eternal Decline and Fall of Rome tells the stories of the people who built their political and literary careers around promises of Roman renewal as well as those of the victims they blamed for causing Rome's decline. Each chapter offers the historical context necessary to understand a moment or a series of moments in which Romans, aspiring Romans, and non-Romans used ideas of Roman decline and restoration to seize power and remake the world around them. The story begins during the Roman Republic just after 200 BC. It proceeds through the empire of Augustus and his successors, traces the Roman loss of much of western Europe in the fifth century AD, and then follows Roman history as it runs through the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) until its fall in 1453. The final two chapters look at ideas of Roman decline and renewal from the fifteenth century until today. If Rome illustrates the profound danger of the rhetoric of decline, it also demonstrates the rehabilitative potential of a rhetoric that focuses on collaborative restoration, a lesson of great relevance to our world today.


Chapter 1 A Snapshot and a Story
Chapter 2 The Decline and Fall of the Roman Republic, c. 200 BC-14 AD
Chapter 3 Manufacturing the Golden Age of Trajan, 14 -117 AD
Chapter 4 Renewal without Decline: The Antonines and Severans, 117-235 AD
Chapter 5 Decline and False Renewal: The Third Century Crisis, 235-284 AD
Chapter 6 Decline, Renewal, and the Invention of Christian Progress, 284-337 AD
Chapter 7 Roman Renewal versus Christian Progress, 337-363 AD
Chapter 8 When Renewal Fails to Arrive, 363-384 AD
Chapter 9 The Loss of the Roman West and the Christian Future, 384-c. 470 AD
Chapter 10 Justinian, Roman Progress, and the Death of the Western Roman Empire, c. 470-565 AD
Chapter 11 Rome, the Arabs, and Iconoclasm, 565-c. 750 AD
Chapter 12 Old Rome, New Rome, and Future Rome, c. 750-814 AD
Chapter 13 The Retrenchment of One Roman Empire, the Resurgence of Another, 814-1085 AD
Chapter 14 The Captures of Constantinople, 1085-1282 AD
Chapter 15 The Fall of Roman Constantinople and the End of Roman Renewal, 1282-1461 AD
Chapter 16 Roman Renewal After the Fall, c.1450-c. 1560 AD
Chapter 17 The Dangerous Idea


Edward J. Watts is Alkiviadis Vassiliadis Endowed Chair and Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego. His previous books include Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny, The Final Pagan Generation, and Hypatia: The Life and Legend of an Ancient Philosopher.