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


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Oxford University Press, USA
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About the Author

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.


History professor Watts accomplishes an impressive feat by effectively compressing the vast history of Rome and its empire into a relatively short book... In such an abbreviated history of much of the Western World, Watts succeeds admirably in his purpose. But his truly novel contribution is his
ability to weave in the ways that the 'deeply entrenched narrative' of Roman decline and recovery accompanied Rome's growth in the second century B.C.E. and on to its commanding position in the western empire as the seat of Catholicism, before the break with Constantinople.... A fresh, complex story
of how historical perceptions come into being and are used to persuade and rule. -- Kirkus Reviews

The Eternal Decline and Fall of Rome traces the dreams and nightmares of the longest lasting polity in the history of Europe. For almost two millennia, Romans remained haunted by the prospect of their own decline and fall. They were also constantly hypnotized by programs that claimed to 'Make Rome
Great Again.' Each such program left a trail of victims and scapegoats. Edward Watts tells this story of alternating hopes, fears, and grand illusions from beginning to end with zest and truly panoramic erudition. Those who wish to understand how the chill ghost of Rome's fall can still be conjured
up by modern pundits and politicians - and frequently with toxic results--should read this book. -- Peter Brown, author of The Ransom of the Soul: Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity

The 'fall of Rome' is an idea that has been weaponized throughout the ages. Where one speaks of a 'decline, ' talk of blame is usually soon to follow. Any 'renewal' or 'revival' quickly results in its own victims. The Eternal Decline and Fall of Rome is the first book to tell the story of the use
and misuse of these ideas over the long course of Roman history. As Watts lays out, there was no one decline of Rome, nor one fall, but a series of them, each of them heavily politicized. -- Anthony Kaldellis, author of Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood: The Rise and Fall of Byzantium, 955 A.D. to
the First Crusade

In this timely and well-executed work, Edward Watts has brought off three exceptional achievements: literary, historical, and political. His well-tempered description of Roman decline and fall strikes chords in contemporary America, inviting a use of Rome's example to think more responsibly about
the challenges of our own world. -- Janet Nelson, author of King and Emperor: A New Life of Charlemagne

Memory of Rome's imperial greatness has inspired over the centuries the ambitions of rulers, popes, and warlords. But alongside this was the warning of Rome's fall. In this masterful compression, Edward Watts brings together ideas of empire and decline, showing their interaction over almost two
millennia and their continued relevance and misuse in politics today. -- Martyn Rady, author of The Habsburgs: The Rise and Fall of a World Power