Author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Edward Gibbon fixed as “the period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous” that of the Pax Romana from 96 to 180 A.D. At its height the Empire extended from the Solway Firth in Scotland to the sands of the Sahara, from the Atlantic to Arabia. Its collapse, though subtle, was sure. While Gibbon attributed that collapse to “the rise of Christianity and triumph of barbarism,” the Empire’s decline and fall gained momentum from 235 to 284 A. D. when no less than forty-seven emperors and usurpers in as many years held power. During that span the ancient world suffered a series of irreversible stresses and strains from which it never recovered. Contributing to government failure, besides a military aware of its political power, were an inefficient tax system, self-multiplying bureaucracy, multiple wars, climate change, pandemics, civil dissension, budget deficits, currency devaluations, inflation and a static economy. Besides glimpses into crisis management, and mismanagement, the 3rd Century Crisis highlights the forces that topple civilizations. Analogies to depressions occurring in our time can be drawn by that focus. Perhaps solutions to modern problems, too, can be found by studying the ancients—or at least be illuminated by their efforts.
Required Reading: How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower, Adrian Goldsworthy (Yale, 2010),
Recommended Reading: Rome and her Enemies: How War Created and Destroyed Rome (Bloomsbury, 2005) ISBN: 978-1841769325
Collapse and Recovery of the Roman Empire, Michael Grant (Routledge, 1999), ISBN: 978-0415173230
The Pax Romana, Adrian Goldsworthy (Yale, 2017), ISBN: 978-0300230628
The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease and the End of Empire, Kyle Harper (Princeton, 2017), ISBN: 978-0691166834
The Age of the Soldier Emperors, A. D. 244-284, George Brauer, Jr. (Noyes, 1975), ISBN: 978-0815550365
The Roman Empire From Severus to Constantine, Pat Southern (London: Routledge, 2001), ISBN: 978-0415239448
Restorer of the World: The Roman Emperor Aurelian (Spellmount, 2004), John F. White, ISBN: 978-1862272507
The Great Crash, John Kenneth Galbraith (Houghton-Mifflin, 2009), ISBN: 978-0547248165
Gerry Max ’67, earned his B.A. in History from Lawrence University, and, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an M.A. in Classics, Ph. D. in Ancient History and M.L. S. in Library Science. Besides teaching Ancient and Medieval History as well as Classics in Translation and Mythology in the University of Wisconsin System, he has taught World History, Art Appreciation, and the Great Depression at Lakeland College and Viterbo University. He has published articles on a number of humanities-related topics, including several on Later Roman History. He collects and appraises rare books. Both he and his wife Carole are lifetime members of the Thomas Wolfe Society. They live in Madison, Wisconsin.