This book investigates the `decline and fall' of Rome as perceived and imagined in aspects of British and American culture and thought from the late nineteenth through the early twenty-first centuries. It explores the ways in which writers, filmmakers and the media have conceptualized this process and the parallels they have drawn, deliberately or unconsciously, to their contemporary world. Jonathan Theodore argues that the decline and fall of Rome is no straightforward historical fact, but a `myth' in terms coined by Claude Levi-Strauss, meaning not a `falsehood' but a complex social and ideological construct. Instead, it represents the fears of European and American thinkers as they confront the perceived instability and pitfalls of the civilization to which they belonged. The material gathered in this book illustrates the value of this idea as a spatiotemporal concept, rather than a historical event - a narrative with its own unique moral purpose.
Jonathan Theodore studied at the University of Oxford and King's College London, UK and has been a tutor in early European history at the latter. His first book, Cyprus and the Financial Crisis, was published by Palgrave in 2015.
Introduction.- Representation and Myth; Hermeneutics and Historical Consciousness; Antiquity, Past and Present; Methodology.- 1: Historiography, Myth and Visual Culture.- The Fall of the Western Roman Empire and its Modern Historiography; The Decline and Fall as an Atypical Model of Myth; Myth as Interdisciplinary Study; Theories of Myth; Historiography, Myth and Literature; Historical "Consciousness" and Narrative; Classics and The Vernacular; Film and a Consciousness of Antiquity; Truth and Accuracy in Historical Cinema.- 2: The Fall of Rome and Ideas of Decline.- The Tradition of Decline; Gibbon's Decline and Fall; Gibbon and Concepts of Decadence.- 3: Roman Decline and the West in the Modern Age.- Rome and Reflections on Twentieth Century Society; Roman Narratives and the Cold War; Mann, Hollywood and Historical "Truth"; The Fall and Contemporary Discourses of Empire.- 4: Decadence, Imperialism and Decline from the Late Twentieth Century.- Mass Culture and its Critics; Gladiator, Rome And America in 2000 Ad; 9/11 and Critics of Empire; Cinema and the Decline and Fall in the New Millennium; Rome, Civilization and The Modern Age.- Conclusion.- Bibliography