CLAH266 – week 12Dr Jamie WoodTHE FALL OF THE ROMANEMPIRE: CAUSES ANDINTERPRETATIONS
Introduction The fall of the western Roman Empire Scholarly interpretations of the fall of the empire The fall of the empire in the popular imagination Exam
Early 450s: success then trouble 451: in alliance with the Theoderic, King of the Visigoths, the Roman general Aetius defeated Attila’s Hunnic army at Chalons in Gaul 453: Aetius betrothes his daughter to Valentinian III 454: Valentinian, under influence of other advisors, kills Aetius 455: one of advisors, Petronius Maximus arranges for Aetius’ former officers to assassinate Valentinian III PM marries Val III’s widow Eastern court refuses to accept PM as emperor PM tries to get aid from the Visigoths but it does not arrive PM cancels wedding of Val III’s daughter to the son of the Vandal king, who sails to Rome and sacks the city PM is abandoned by his troops and killed by a mob in Rome
Anonymous, Life of SaintGenovefa, 10, 12 When it was noised abroad that Attila the King of the Huns, overcome with savage rage, was laying waste the province of Gaul, the terror- stricken citizens of Paris sought to save their goods and money from his power by moving them to other, safer cities. But Genovefa summoned the matrons of the city and persuaded them to undertake a series of fasts, prayers, and vigils in order to ward off the threatening disaster, as Esther and Judith had done in the past. Agreeing with Genovefa, the women gave themselves up to God and labored for days in the baptistery--fasting, praying and keeping watch as she directed. Meanwhile she persuaded the men that they should not remove their goods from Paris because the cities they deemed safer would be devastated by the raging Huns while Paris, guarded by Christ, would remain untouched by her enemies. [...] On that day the Apostles word was fulfilled: "All men have not faith. But the Lord is faithful who shall establish you and keep you from evil.” The Bishops Martin and Anianus have been greatly praised for their amazing virtues. One day, near the city of Worms, the former went into battle without weapons. Having thus allayed the fury of the opposing armies, he obtained a treaty. And when the Huns besieged the city of Orleans, the latter by his prayers assisted the Patrician Aetius and his Goths in keeping it from destruction. Arent the same honors due to Genovefa, who drove away the same army by her prayers so that it would not surround Paris?
Late 450s: attempts to recover 455-456: Eparchius Avitus, PM’s envoy to the Visigoths, is made emperor with their support and that of Gallo- Roman nobility; but Lack of support from East Visigoths act independently in Spain Italians don’t like being ruled by a foreigner Disloyalty of his generals He is defeated and forced to become a bishop 457-461: Majorian General: victory over Visigoths, Burgundians and Sueves in Gaul and Spain But his fleet to attack the Vandals in Africa is destroyed: “While Majorian was campaigning in the province of Carthaginiensis the Vandals destroyed, through traitors, several ships that he was preparing for himself for a crossing against the Vandals from the shore of Carthaginiensis. Majorian, frustrated in this manner from his intention, returned to Italy” (Hydatius, Chronicle, 200, s.a. 460)
Flavius Ricimer (d. 472) German general (magister militum) Effectively in control of the Western Empire from mid-450-472 Rebels against Avitus and Majorian Replaces Majorian with series of (increasingly short-lived) emperors he can control; but Not recognised by eastern emperors Or barbarians in western provinces, who increasingly act independently of Rome and take more territory away Natural death
Julius Nepos (r. 474-475) General in (autonomous) control of Dalmatia Appointed Western Emperor by the Eastern Emperor Leo I in 474 He soon replaced Glycerius in Italy Soon deposed by Orestes, western magister militum in 475 Remains in control in Dalmatia until his death in 480
Romulus Augustulus (r. 475-476) Child, son of Orestes Figurehead for his father Rome controls little more than Italy and part of southern Gaul Revolt of barbarian troops in Italy under the general Odoacer demanding territory: Orestes killed and Romulus Augustulus deposed Odoacer Sends imperial regalia to Constantinople Styles himself King of Italy Rules in name of Eastern Emperor Zeno
Summary Contextual problems/ solutions Loss of territory Military defeats (but still some successes) Diplomacy: marriage alliances and external aid Rapid turnover of emperors Too many cooks? Eastern Empire Roman aristocrats in Italy and S. Gaul Barbarian kings Barbarian generals and troops in Roman army
The political-cultural context of Gibbon’s work Political Empire Absolutism vs. democracy and reform Revolution Formation of nations Intellectual Enlightenment Rationalism over religion Science History as science – historicism in 19th C
Edward Gibbon (1737-1794):An introduction Wealthy family Educated in London and Oxford Passion for theological controversy Conversion to Catholicism and back to Protestantism 5 years studying in Lausanne Literary celebrity Service in South Hampshire militia 1762: commences Grand Tour, including travel to Rome, where he says idea for the Decline and Fall took root 1773: appointed honorary professor in ancient history at the Royal Academy 1774: MP for Liskeard, Cornwall 1776-1788: publication of the Decline and Fall in 6 volumes
Looking back on Rome:Gibbon’s Autobiography “...at the distance of twenty-five years I can neither forget nor express the strong emotions which agitated my mind as I first approached and entered the eternal City. After a sleepless night, I trod, with a lofty step the ruins of the Forum; each memorable spot where Romulus stood, or Tully spoke, or Caesar fell, was at once present to my eye; and several days of intoxication were lost or enjoyed before I could descend to a cool and minute investigation.”
The impact of Gibbon’s work The volumes were a commercial and literary success Negative appraisals: Strongly criticised for its view of Christianity (chapters 15-16 banned in several countries) Accused on anti-Semitism Negative view of middle ages: “I have described the triumph of barbarism and religion.” (3.71) Rejection of contemporary democratic movements Positive appraisals: Praised for its style (e.g. by Winston Churchill) and ideas (Isaac Asimov) Emphasised importance of primary sources rather than secondary accounts (first modern historian?)
Edward Gibbon’s reasons for the fall Internal factors are pre- eminent Factors built in to the imperial system the role of the army the role of the emperor Christianity weakens the Roman spirit monks rather than legionaries The (manly) barbarians defeat an already-decrepit system
210 Reasons for the decline of the Roman Citizenship, granting of Epidemics Empire (source: A. Demandt, Der Fall Civil war Equal rights, granting of Roms (1984) 695; see also: Karl Climatic deterioration Eradication of the best Galinsky in Classical and Modern Communism Escapism Interactions (1992) 53-73) Complacency Ethnic dissolution Abolition of gods Concatenation of misfortunes Excessive aging of population Abolition of rights Conservatism Excessive civilization Absence of character Corruption Excessive culture Absolutism Cosmopolitanism Excessive foreign infiltration Agrarian question Crisis of legitimacy Excessive freedom Agrarian slavery Culinary excess Excessive urbanization Anarchy Cultural neurosis Expansion Anti-Germanism Decentralization Exploitation Apathy Decline of Nordic character Fear of life Aristocracy Decline of the cities Female emancipation Asceticism Decline of the Italian population Feudalization Attack of the Germans Deforestation Fiscalism Attack of the Huns Degeneration Gladiatorial system Attack of riding nomads Degeneration of the intellect Gluttony Backwardness in science Demoralization Gout Bankruptcy Depletion of mineral resources Hedonism Barbarization Despotism Hellenization Bastardization Destruction of environment Heresy Blockage of land by large landholders Destruction of peasantry Homosexuality Blood poisoning Destruction of political process Hothouse culture Bolshevization Destruction of Roman influence Hubris Bread and circuses Devastation Hypothermia Bureaucracy Differences in wealth Immoderate greatness Byzantinism Disarmament Imperialism Capillarite sociale Disillusion with stated Impotence Capitalism Division of empire Impoverishment Capitals, change of Division of labor Imprudent policy toward buffer states Caste system Earthquakes Inadequate educational system Celibacy Egoism Indifference Centralization Egoism of the state Individualism Childlessness Emancipation of slaves Indoctrination Christianity Enervation Inertia
Inflation Nationalism of Romes subjects Ruin of middle class Intellectualism Negative selection Rule of the world Integration, weakness of Orientalization Semieducation Irrationality Outflow of gold Sensuality Jewish influence Over refinement Servility Lack of leadership Pacifism Sexuality Lack of male dignity Paralysis of will Shamelessness Lack of military recruits Paralyzation Shifting of trade routes Lack of orderly imperial succession Parasitism Slavery Lack of qualified workers Particularism Slavic attacks Lack of rainfall Pauperism Socialism (of the state) Lack of religiousness Plagues Soil erosion Lack of seriousness Pleasure seeking Soil exhaustion Large landed properties Plutocracy Spiritual barbarism Lead poisoning Polytheism Stagnation Lethargy Population pressure Stoicism Leveling, cultural Precociousness Stress Leveling, social Professional army Structural weakness Loss of army discipline Proletarization Superstition Loss of authority Prosperity Taxation, pressure of Loss of energy Prostitution Terrorism Loss of instincts Psychoses Tiredness of life Loss of population Public baths Totalitarianism Luxury Racial degeneration Treason Malaria Racial discrimination Tristesse Marriages if convenience Racial suicide Two-front war Mercenary system Rationalism Underdevelopment Mercury damage Refusal of military service Useless eaters Militarism Religious struggles and schisms Usurpation of all powers by the state Monetary economy Rentier mentality Vain gloriousness Monetary greed Resignation Villa economy Money, shortage of Restriction to profession Vulgarization Moral decline Restriction to the land Moral idealism Rhetoric Moral materialism Rise of uneducated masses Mystery religions Romantic attitudes to peace
Understanding the barbarianmigrations after Gibbon: sometheories Germanist (‘catastrophe’) model nineteenth century –everything that was new in the 5th, 6th, 7th and later centuries was the result of ‘Germanic’ influence Romanist (‘continuity’) model Germanic invaders are seen as creating little that was new – migrations are the movements of small warrior elites. Nowadays: French and Italians refer to ‘the barbarian invasions’ (les invasions barbares) English and Germans talk of ‘migrations’ (also: Völkerwanderungen – wanderings of peoples)
Ethnoarchaeology in the early 20th century Location of a people linguistically enables archaeologists could find physical evidence of the material culture of that people Gustaf Kossinna traced migration routes of late antiquity on this basis Enabled modern states to claim regions of neighbouring states on the basis that they were the original homeland of their people But this is wrong – Chris Wickham: “a man or woman with a Lombard-style brooch is no more necessarily a Lombard than a family in Bradford with a Toyota is Japanese; artefacts are no secure guide to ethnicity”
Gothic and other Germanic settlements, 1800–100 BC, according toMadison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race, following Kossinnasmodel (1916)
The Hunnensturm The Huns as catalyst 1. Hunnic empire leads to coalescence of ‘supergroups’ – e.g. Ostrogoths 2. Huns push other peoples into empire 3. Huns encouraged to go west by Eastern Empire Peter Heather = key recent scholar on this phenomenon (not universally accepted)
Ethnogenesis theory and its opponents Birth of ethnically defined communities not mass migration, but movement of small warrior elites Wolfram’s History of the Goths, building on work of Reinhard Wenskus Traditionskern: Oral tradition preserves memories of the people’s past age for small barbarian warrior elites that (a) entered Roman territory and (b) managed to succeed in competition with other small elites The Vienna School These communities (and their histories) are the product of contact with educated Roman elites (and their ethnographic traditions) The barbarian past as a product of Christian and Roman writers writing on Roman soil for short-term purposes The Toronto School
Medieval visions of Rome Successor kingdoms Victory over Rome (e.g. Visigoths) Common descent and peaceful succession to Rome (e.g. Franks) Institutional memories Medieval Papacy: the Roman church as successor of empire Imperial successors Holy Roman Empire (800): a re- founded empire Continuity in Byzantium
Renaissance and Reformation Renaissance: self-conception/ representation as period of rebirth of classical learning Reformation: Papacy and Holy Roman Emperor take on key role in counter-reform movement Personal identity: Writers such as Erasmus & Luther cultivate connections to church fathers writing under later empire (e.g. Fall of Constantinople (painted 1499) Jerome & Augustine)
Emil Brack, Planning theGrand Tour, late 19th century18th & 19th Century The Grand Tour Emerging nation states in western Europe trace their origins to the post- Roman kingdoms; so end of Roman rule is important International empires look to Roman Empire as example (and try to learn from it) E.g. Training elites to govern the empire Roman Republic and foundations of American Republic
The fall of Rome... The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) Agora (2009) • What factors do these trailers suggest are responsible for the fall of Rome?
The birth of Britain... 20042007 • Who is made responsible for the fall of Rome in these trailers • What do the trailers suggest happened next?
A cultural phenomenon NOVELS. Gore Vidal, Julian (1964): historical novel based in primary sources; impact of Christianity on empire; Christianity and politics; blames Christians for murder of Julian VIDEO GAMES. Rome: Total War – Barbarian Invasions (2005): eastern and western empire; senate no longer powerful; barbarians; hordes; religious tension between Christians, pagans, Zoroastrians
Discussion What periods/ geographical-political areas are particularly interested in this topic? What can these depictions tell us about the fall of Rome? What else can they tell us?
Summary Reception Evokes strong responses Highly stereotyped visions of what actually happened 2 strands: A model to learn from and emulate A negative example: an evil empire Particularly important for thinking about the fate of nations and empires Utility Not very useful for telling us what happened in antiquity But possibly useful for thinking about the topic in different ways or bringing us back to traditional interpretations And definitely useful for what it tells us about periods in which such re-imaginings took (and still take) place
Exam 2 sections 2 questions 2 hours Equally weighted A: 1 question from 8 B: explain the relevance of at least TWO gobbets (from 8) to our understanding of the political, religious and social functioning of the later Roman Empire i.e. Write ONE answer that draws on at least TWO gobbets
Gobbet practiceThink about the following: What you know of the context/ contents of the text and its author The main point(s) the author is making The genre(s) of the texts The main similarities (and differences) between the extracts How these extracts relate to bigger themes on the course (and/or other courses)
Sozomen Ecclesiastical History 2.3We have been informed that Constantine was led to honour the Christian religion bythe concurrence of several different events, particularly by the appearance of a signfrom heaven. When he first formed the resolution of entering into a war againstMaxentius, he was beset with doubts as to the means of carrying on his militaryoperations, and as to the quarter whence he could look for assistance. In the midst ofhis perplexity, he saw, in a vision, the sight of the cross shining in heaven. He wasamazed at the spectacle, but some holy angels who were standing by, exclaimed, Oh,Constantine! By this symbol, conquer! And it is said that Christ himself appeared tohim, and showed him the symbol of the cross, and commanded him to construct onelike it, and to retain it as his help in battle, as it would insure the victory. Eusebius,surnamed Pamphilus, affirms that he heard the emperor declare with an oath, as thesun was on the point of inclining about the middle of the day, he and the soldiers whowere with him saw in heaven the trophy of the cross composed of light, and encircledby the following words: By this sign, conquer. This vision met him by the way, when hewas perplexed as to whither he should lead his army. While he was reflecting on whatthis could mean, night came; and when he fell asleep, Christ appeared with the signwhich he had seen in heaven, and commanded him to construct a representation ofthe symbol, and to use it as his help in hostile encounters. There was nothing further tobe elucidated; for the emperor clearly apprehended the necessity of serving God. Atdaybreak, he called together the priests of Christ, and questioned them concerningtheir doctrines. They opened the sacred Scriptures, and expounded the truths relativeto Christ, and showed him from the prophets, how the signs which had beenpredicted, had been fulfilled. The sign which had appeared to him was the symbol,they said, of the victory over hell [...]
Damascius, Life of Isidore, quoted in Suda, under HypatiaSuch was Hypatia, as articulate and eloquent in speaking as she was prudentand civil in her deeds. The whole city rightly loved her and worshipped her in aremarkable way, but the rulers of the city from the first envied her, somethingthat often happened at Athens too. For even if philosophy itself had perished,nevertheless, its name still seems magnificent and venerable to the men whoexercise leadership in the state. Thus it happened one day that Cyril, bishop ofthe opposition sect, was passing by Hypatias house, and he saw a greatcrowd of people and horses in front of her door. Some were arriving, somedeparting, and others standing around. When he asked why there was acrowd there and what all the fuss was about, he was told by her followers thatit was the house of Hypatia the philosopher and she was about to greet them.When Cyril learned this he was so struck with envy that he immediately beganplotting her murder and the most heinous form of murder at that. For whenHypatia emerged from her house, in her accustomed manner, a throng ofmerciless and ferocious men who feared neither divine punishment norhuman revenge attacked and cut her down, thus committing an outrageousand disgraceful deed against their fatherland. The Emperor was angry, and hewould have avenged her had not Aedesius been bribed. Thus the Emperorremitted the punishment onto his own head and family for his descendantpaid the price. The memory of these events is still vivid among theAlexandrians.
Practice question Did the reforms of Diocletian save the Roman Empire from collapse or condemn it to failure?
Some advice1. Collect and review everything; get an overview of the module, including themes, then pick topics2. Work together3. Timings - be sensible4. Read the question and write a plan: don’t just download everything you know5. Prioritise: have 3 or 4 main points6. Answer the question: a. Make sure every paragraph relates back to it b. If in doubt, leave the first 3 lines blank7. Use the gobbets