Before this book, I really didn’t know much about life in, or collapse of the Roman Empire. To be honest, while I knew the Empire existed around the time of Christ, I had no idea that the empire lasted another 400 years after that. It’s incredible that the empire existed for over 600 years! Compared to modern (British, American) empires, it’s crazy to think how long this one existed.
While life in the Roman Empire was certainly difficult, it existed largely by assimilating people. A conquered city could expect to pay ‘tribute’ or taxes or what ever the settlement agreed upon, but would also receive full Roman citizenship. This often provided allowances of grain, wine, and protection. Within a generation, while maintaining some regional historical background, they were Roman. A nation within a nation.
This book focuses on the external reasons for the final collapse. The other talks about other internal factors that are usually cited in other books, but makes his case that the dominant reason for the collapse was external. First, over expansion. By 300 AD the Romans have conquered all the profitable territory in the region. Taking new cities yielded great glory for a commander seeking to move to the senate or even the ‘purple robe’, but it often left the Empire responsible for cities that were unable to contribute to the wealth of the Roman Empire. These new territories lay further and further away (present day Germany and the UK are examples) from the profitable Roman Mediterranean territory.
The beginning of the end for the Roman Empire was the incursion of Roman territories by refugees. The Goths had been chased west by the Huns. The Goths (a Germanic tribe) were fleeing the murderous Huns whose origins are still strangely unknown. The Huns could be from Mongol, Chinese, origins, although it is also possible they from per-existing eastern tribes.
The Romans and Goths had met before in various battles, but when the Romans encountered the Goth refugees on the banks of the Danube, they at first them to encamp across the river. Eventually they were unable to provide food for the refugees, which led the Goths to migrate from their ‘refugee camps’ to the cities of Western Rome.When the cities refused to provide food and eventually attempted to associnate the Gothic leader, the Goths, battled west into the Roman Empire. The Vandals (another Germanic tribe) also followed and in the ensuring 100 years, they each took many of the Roman strongholds. The Huns followed and the Roman Empire was carved up into tribal nations. Sadly most of the Germanic tribes and certainly the Huns lacked writing skills. This meant that although they could conquer a nation, they couldn’t run it. The term Vandalize comes from this fact.