wombat_socho (wombat_socho) wrote,

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The Fall of Rome

There's an interesting review of a very interesting book over at the Albion's Seedlings blog, and it's gotten my mind going on a couple of related topics that have to do with one of my favorite book series and one of my favorite games. Bryan Ward-Perkins' The Fall of Rome uses recent archaeological work to provide a useful correction to both the traditional understanding of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, as given to us by Gibbon, and the recent revisionist version of history which transmogrifies the fall of the Western Empire into a happy shiny "cultural transformation" and the Dark Ages into a more positive and affirming "Late Antiquity".

Perkins' description of the catastrophic effects on rome of the Germanic invasions reminds me very much of the society Drake and Stirling describe in Warlord, and I'm sure the depiction of the Military Governments as Germanic barbarians is no accident, any more than the Gubierno Civil having its roots in Hispanic emigrants from the Americas is. Anyone familiar with Raj Whitehall's world of Bellevue will find plenty of disturbingly familiar history in Ward-Perkins book.

As if that weren't enough to provoke me into buying the book, its study of the economics of the Roman Empires reminds me of the deficiencies of Sid Meier's Civilization games. While the games are wonderfully complex, their simulation of even relatively primitive economies like Rome's leaves a lot to be desired. There is no way to simulate the transport of grain from the North African breadbasket to the rest of the West; every city is an autarkic entity for the purposes of providing bread to the masses, and the specialized manufactories that supported the Imperial legions are regarded as being not terribly superior to the primitive forges of the Huns and Vandals. Clearly, this is a decision that was made to make it more of an enjoyable game and less of a simulation, but it's an annoying one that makes it less enjoyable for me and less useful as a teaching tool.

Anyhow, I see on bn.com that the book is available in paperback now, so as soon as I get the new bookshelf set up and some free cash, I think I'm going to pick it up. It'll go well with the Drake and Stirling. *nodsnods*
Tags: culture w/o politics, history, wargames
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