428 AD. An Ordinary Year at the End of the Roman Empire. (Translated by Allan Cameron).
Princeton University Press, Princeton/Oxford, 2009. XIX,203p. Halfcloth wrps.'The fifth century is one of the more important centuries for the history of Western Europe and the Middle East, as well as the transformation of the Roman world, and the evidence for it is notoriously varied and complex. For decades scholars of late antiquity would shy away from tackling fifth-century events, with A.H.M. Jones, for example, avowedly sticking with the extensive material from the fourth and sixth centuries. Some of this is due to the inherent difficulties in disentangling the details of the century's chronology, something complicated by the lack of an extant contemporary historical narrative. Nevertheless, scholars are now starting to fix their gaze on this neglected period, with Fergus Millar, for one, having recently drawn our attention to the rich material found in the Theodosian Code and the Acts of the Council of Chalcedon.1 Attila too, always a popular subject among non-academics, continues to harbour interest as a recent book by Chris Kelly demonstrates.2 The book under review here, 428 AD: An Ordinary Year at the End of the Roman Empire, is one of the most recent books to tackle the fifth century, and where other works have focused on more specific issues, this study offers a wide-ranging, if less-detailed, overview of the fifth-century Mediterranean world, and some of its more important people, in one particular year (428). This focus on one year is novel, though as we soon discover, Traina's choice of 428 is far from arbitrary, and more important events went on in this year than this reviewer, at least, had realized. With endnotes rather than footnotes and the style of this translation conversational, the primary audience is seemingly the general public (a bibliography is conspicuously absent): this reviewer found the book on the shelf of an ordinary, in other words non-academic, bookshop in Winnipeg. Nevertheless, the book is also likely to attract of the attention of scholars of late antiquity. (...) Traina has done the fifth century a tremendous service by describing it in such a lively and engaging style, and it is hoped that his book will help inspire research on this under-studied period.' (CONOR WHATELY in Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2009.10.31).