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428 AD:
An Ordinary Year at the End of the Roman Empire
Giusto Traina
With a preface by Averil Cameron

One of Books & Culture's Favorite Books for 2009

Paperback | 2011 | $17.95 | £14.95 | ISBN: 9780691150253
232 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | 10 maps.
Hardcover | 2009 | $24.95 | £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691136691
232 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 10 maps.
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400832866 |
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This is a sweeping tour of the Mediterranean world from the Atlantic to Persia during the last half-century of the Roman Empire. By focusing on a single year not overshadowed by an epochal event, 428 AD provides a truly fresh look at a civilization in the midst of enormous change--as Christianity takes hold in rural areas across the empire, as western Roman provinces fall away from those in the Byzantine east, and as power shifts from Rome to Constantinople. Taking readers on a journey through the region, Giusto Traina describes the empires' people, places, and events in all their simultaneous richness and variety. The result is an original snapshot of a fraying Roman world on the edge of the medieval era. The result is an original snapshot of a fraying Roman world on the edge of the medieval era.

Readers meet many important figures, including the Roman general Flavius Dionysius as he encounters a delegation from Persia after the Sassanids annex Armenia; the Christian ascetic Simeon Stylites as he stands and preaches atop his column near Antioch; the eastern Roman emperor Theodosius II as he prepares to commission his legal code; and Genseric as he is elected king of the Vandals and begins to turn his people into a formidable power. We are also introduced to Pulcheria, the powerful sister of Theodosius, and Galla Placidia, the queen mother of the western empire, as well as Augustine, Pope Celestine I, and nine-year-old Roman emperor Valentinian III.

Full of telling details, 428 AD illustrates the uneven march of history. As the west unravels, the east remains intact. As Christianity spreads, pagan ideas and schools persist. And, despite the presence of the forces that will eventually tear the classical world apart, Rome remains at the center, exerting a powerful unifying force over disparate peoples stretched across the Mediterranean.


"Traina's focus on a single year, a half-century before the end of the Western Empire, reveals a world already more like the medieval period than ancient times, with Christian bishops arguing over heresy, ascetic monks perched atop columns, and Germanic tribes occupying much of Gaul and Spain (and preparing to invade Africa)."--Stewart Desmond, Library Journal

"The great strength of Giusto Traina's elegant book is that it offers a new perspective on the Roman empire in the fifth century--precisely by bridging the long-standing historiographical gap between the East and the West. His idea is attractively simple: to offer a panoramic view of the Mediterranean world from Iran to Britain in one ordinary year, AD 428. The subtle tracing of a delicate and complex web of social, religious and political interconnections across the whole Mediterranean world offers an unparalleled opportunity to rethink the dynamics of the Roman empire in the fifth century. That exhilarating breadth of vision is Traina's substantial achievement."--Christopher Kelly, Literary Review

"The writing is crisp and clear, and while Mr. Traina introduces many different people to the reader in a short span, he carefully brings to life each one of them and gives us a glimpse into what life was like in an average year at the end of the Roman Empire."--Kevin Winter, Sacramento Book Review

"Put this on the shelf next to Philip Jenkins' The Lost History of Christianity and Adrian Goldsworthy's How Rome Fell."--John Wilson, Books & Culture

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Table of Contents:

Preface ix
Acknowledgments xiii
Introduction xv
Chapter I: The Travels of Flavius Dionysius and the Chapter End: of Armenia 1
Chapter II: The World of Nestorius: Bishops, Monks, Chapter and: Saracens 7
Chapter III: On the Pilgrim's Road 17
Chapter IV: The New Rome and Its Prince 27
V Th e Anatomy of an Empire 41
Chapter VI: From Ravenna to Nola: Italy in Transition 51
Chapter VII: Trial Runs for the Middle Ages 63
Chapter VIII: Waiting for the Vandals 81
Chapter IX: Pagans and Christians on the Nile 93
Chapter X: Easter in Jerusalem 105
Chapter XI: The Great King and the Seven Princesses 117
Epilogue 129
Notes 133
Index 183

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