Fall of Rome
If you are, like me, a fan of historical fiction, and are intrigued by the period of Rome’s inevitable slide into the hegemony of barbarian kingdoms, then you ought to have a look at Michael Curtis Ford’s In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. Ford brings to life the career of Odoacer, the first barbarian King of Italy during the wars fought against Rome by allied Germanic armies in the mid fifth century AD.
It’s a great read with fully realized historical characters like Orestes, a Germanic Roman General and father of the last emperor Romulus Augustus and the protagonist, Odoacer, half Hun, half Scyri, who fought his way to the top of Rome’s funeral pyre. The battle scenes are magnificent, rivaling perhaps (but certainly not outdoing) the great shield-wall battles of Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord and Saxon novels.
Ford did quite a bit of research to make this novel come alive. In a Historical Note he tells his readers that perhaps no period of Rome’s history is so sparsely recorded as the 5th century CE. He relied heavily on Gibbon’s classic The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The details he weaves into his plot are so convincingly drawn that the reader feels swept back in time living and breathing with the characters as they struggle to stay alive in a world of bloodshed and destruction. His recounting of a Roman legion’s setting up of a camp within a day’s time in order to lay siege to a city is a marvel. The story races along taking the reader back to the fall of the Western Empire and the rise of “barbarian” kingdoms, that nebulous and fascinating period just before the beginning of the early medieval period. A great read.
The Fall of Rome: A Novel of a World Lost
by Michael Curtis Ford