David S. Potter's comprehensive survey of two critical and eventful centuries traces the course of imperial decline, skillfully weaving together cultural, intellectual and political history. Particular attention is paid throughout to the structures of government, the rise of Persia as a rival, and the diverse intellectual movements in the empire. There is also a strong focus on Christianity, transformed in this period from a fringe sect to the leading religion. Against this detailed background, Potter argues that the loss of power can mainly be attributed to the failure in the imperial elite to respond to changes inside and outside the empire, and to internal struggles for control between different elements in the government, resulting in an inefficient centralization of power at court. A striking achievement of historical synthesis combined with a compelling interpretative line, The Roman Empire at Bay enables students of all periods to understand the dynamics of great imperial powers.