The World of Late Antiquity by Peter Brown

81cc3vgzqalAs I understand it, this book from 1971 was influential in paving the way for current scholarship that treats the period form the 3rd to 8th centuries as distinct from the earlier Classical Roman period.  Brown is positive about this era finding growth and creative in place of or alongside the traditional views of decline and destruction.  I’ve read more recent, and more detailed books on this – The Inheritance of Rome by Chris Wickham stands out.  This still added something for me – the short accessible format is, for want of a better word, accessible.  In particular the book brings up cultural figures like Augustine and Plotinus and shows the vibrant world of religious transformation (for better or worse).  There are some great pictures throughout the book that really help to make the topic anything but dry.  It would sit nicely alongside Bryan Ward-Perkins’ The Fall Of Rome, which adds a much more argumentative and pessimistic view of the era – bringing up economic and archaeological evidence that Brown brushed over.  Both books are rather short introductions to what could be a very heavy debate.

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