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THE 'FALL' OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE Sources: Ammianus Marcellinus, book 31

31.8 Meanwhile Valens, on hearing of the sad results of the war and the pillage, sent Saturninus, who was temporarily given command of the cavalry, to render aid to Trajanus and Profuturus. And it chanced at that same time, since everything that could serve as food throughout the lands of Scythia and Moesia had been used up, that the barbarians, driven alike by ferocity and hunger, strove with all their might to break out. And when after many attempts they were overwhelmed by the vigour of our men, who strongly opposed them amid the rugged heights, compelled by dire necessity they gained an alliance with some of the Huns and Halani by holding out the hope of immense booty…

31.9 The barbarians, however, like savage beasts that had broken their cages, poured raging over the wide extent of Thrace and made for a town called Dibaltum, where they found Barzimeres, tribune of the targeteers, a leader experienced in the dust of warfare, with his own men, the Cornuti, and other companies of infantry, and fell upon him just as he was pitching his camp. He at once, as the exigency of imminent destruction compelled him, ordered the trumpet to sound the attack, and having protected his flanks, charged out at the head of his brave soldiers, who were ready and armed for battle; and by his valiant resistance he would have withdrawn on equal terms, had not the charge of a large force of cavalry surrounded him when he was breathless from fatigue. And so he fell, after having slain not a few of the barbarians, whose losses were concealed by their great numbers.

31.12 In those same days Valens was troubled for two reasons: first, by the news that the Lentienses had been defeated; secondly, because Sebastianus wrote from time to time exaggerating his exploits. He therefore marched forth from Melanthias, being eager to do some glorious deed to equal his young nephew, whose valiant exploits consumed him with envy. He had under his command a force made up of varying elements, but one neither contemptible, nor unwarlike; for he had joined with them also a large number of veterans, among whom were other officers of high rank and Trajanus, shortly before a commander-in-chief, whom he had recalled to active service. And since it was learned from careful reconnoitring that the enemy were planning with strong guards to block the roads over which the necessary supplies were being brought, he tried competently to frustrate this attempt by quickly sending an infantry troop of bowmen and a squadron of cavalry, in order to secure the advantages of the narrow passes, which were nearby. During the next three days, when the barbarians, advancing at a slow pace and through unfrequented places, since they feared a sally, were •fifteen miles distant from the city, and were making for the station of Nice, through some mistake or other the emperor was assured by his skirmishers that all that part of the enemy's horde which they had seen consisted of only ten p465thousand men, and carried away by a kind of rash ardour, he determined to attack them at once. Accordingly, advancing in square formation, he came to the vicinity of a suburb of Hadrianopolis, where he made a strong rampart of stakes, surrounded by a moat, and impatiently waited for Gratian; there he received Richomeres, general of the household troops, sent in advance by Gratian with a letter, in which he said that he himself also would soon be there. Since the contents besought him to wait a while for the partner in his dangers, and not rashly to expose himself alone to serious perils, Valens called a council of various of his higher officers and considered what ought to be done. And while some, influenced by Sebastianus, urged him to give battle at once, the man called Victor, a commander of cavalry, a Sarmatian by birth, but foresighted and careful, with the support of many others recommended that his imperial colleague be awaited, so that, strengthened by the addition of the Gallic army, he might the more easily crush the fiery overconfidence of the barbarians. However, the fatal insistence of the emperor prevailed, supported by the flattering opinion of some of his courtiers, who urged him to make all haste in order that Gratian might not have a share in the victory which (as they represented) was already all but won.

3.15 After the murderous battle, when night had already spread darkness over the earth, the survivors departed, some to the right, others to the left, or wherever their fear took them, each seeking his nearest associates, for none could see anything save himself, and everyone imagined that the enemy's sword hung over his own head. Yet there were still heard, though from afar off, the pitiful cries of those who were left behind, the death-rattle of the dying, and the tortured wails of the wounded. But at daybreak the victors, like wild beasts roused to cruel ferocity by the provocative tang of blood, driven by the lure of a vain hope, made for Hadrianopolis in dense throngs, intending to destroy the city even at the cost of the utmost dangers; for they had heard through traitors and deserters that the most distinguished officials, the insignia of imperial fortune, and the treasures of Valens were hidden there, as within an impregnable fortress. And in order that no delays meanwhile might cool their ardour, at the fourth hour of the day they had encircled the walls and were engaged in a most bitter struggle; for the besiegers with their natural ferocity rushed upon swift death, while on the other hand the defenders were encouraged to vigorous resistance with might and main. And because a great number of soldiers and batmen had been prevented from entering the city with their beasts, they took their place close to the shelter of the walls and in the adjoining buildings, and made a brave fight considering their low position; and the mad rage of their assailants had lasted until the ninth hour of the day, when on a sudden three hundred of our infantry, of those who stood near the very breastworks, formed a wedge and went over to the barbarians. They were eagerly seized by the Goths, and (it is not known why) were immediately butchered; and from that time on, it was noticed that not a man thought of any similar action, even when the outlook was most desperate. Now, while this accumulation of misfortunes was raging, suddenly with peals of thunder rain poured from the black clouds and scattered the hordes roaring around the city; but they returned to the circular rampart formed by their wagons, and carried their measureless arrogance so far as to send an envoy with a threatening letter, ordering our men to surrender the city on receiving a pledge p493that their lives would be spared. The messenger did not dare to enter the city, and the letter was delivered by a certain Christian and read: but it was scorned, as was fitting, and the rest of the day and the whole night were spent in preparing defensive works. For the gates were blocked from within with huge rocks, the unsafe parts of the walls were strengthened, artillery was placed in suitable places for hurling missiles or rocks in all directions, and a supply of water that was sufficient was stored nearby; for on the day before some of those who fought were tormented with thirst almost to the point of death.

The Goths on the other hand, bearing in mind the dangerous chances of war, and worried from seeing their bravest men stretched dead or wounded, while their strength was being worn away bit by bit, formed a clever plan, which Justice herself revealed. For they enticed some of our subalterns, who had deserted to them the day before, to simulate flight, as if returning to their own side, and to manage to be admitted within the walls, and when let in, secretly to set fire to some part of the city; in order that as if a kind of secret signal had been raised, while the attention of the throng of the besieged was distracted with extinguishing the flames, the city, left undefended, might be broken into. The subalterns when on their way as had been arranged, and when they had come near the moat, with outstretched hands and prayers they begged to be admitted, as being Romans. And they were let in, as there was no suspicion to prevent it; but on being questioned as to the plans of the enemy they varied in their answers. The result was that after being tortured in a bloody investigation they openly confessed with what purpose they had come, and were beheaded. So, when all the preparations for battle had been made, the barbarians just before the beginning of the third watch, since the fear caused by their former wounds had died out, poured in more numerous masses upon the barred gates of the city, with the great persistency of those who are guarding against disaster. But with the soldiers the provincials and the court attendants rose up with all the greater vigour to overwhelm them, and such were the numbers of the foe that weapons of every kind, even though thrown at random, could not fall without effect. Our men noticed that the barbarians were using the same missiles that had been hurled at them. And so it was ordered that the cords by which the barbs were fastened to the shaft should be partly severed before the arrows were shot from the bows; these during their flight kept their whole strength, and when they were fixed in the bodies of the enemy lost none of their effectiveness, or at any rate, if they found no mark, were at once broken. But an entirely unexpected chance had great influence in the midst of this hot fight. A piece of artillery known as a "scorpion," but called a "wild ass" in the language of the people, placed exactly opposite a great mass of the enemy, hurled a huge stone, and although it dashed to the ground without effect, yet the sight of it caused the enemy such great terror, that in their amazement at the strange spectacle they fled to a distance and tried to leave the place. But at the order of their chief the horns sounded and the battle was renewed, and in the same way the Romans held the upper hand, since almost no bullet from the thong of a slinger, or any other missile when hurled, missed its mark. For the chiefs, inflamed by a desire to carry off the treasures which Valens had acquired by his ill-gotten gains, took their place in the foremost ranks and were followed by the rest, who made a display of equalling the dangers of their superiors. For some were writhing mortally wounded, either crushed by great masses of stone, or with their breasts pierced with javelins; others who carried scaling-ladders and were preparing to mount the walls from every side were buried under their own burdens, as stones, fragments and whole drums of columns were thrown down upon them. But until late in the day, not a man of the raging throng was turned by the awful sight of carnage from his desire to play a brave part, being excited by the numbers of the defenders who also fell, slain by all kinds of weapons, as they saw from afar with joy. So, without any rest or respite, the battle in defence of the walls and against the walls went on with great determination. And since they no longer fought in any order, but rushed forward in detached groups (a sign of extreme discouragement) as the day was drawing towards evening all the enemy retired disconsolate to their tents, accusing one another of reckless folly because they had not, as Fritigern had earlier advised, wholly held aloof from the miseries of a siege.

3.16 After this the Goths gave their attention during the whole night-time, which was not long in the summer season, to caring for their wounds, using their native methods of treatment. When day broke again, their minds were led this way and that as to their plans, since they were in doubt whether they should turn; and after a great deal of talk and disagreement they decided to take possession of Perinthus, and afterwards of any neighbouring cities that were brim-full of riches, of which they were given such full information by deserters that they knew even the interior of the houses, to say nothing of the cities. Following this decision, which they thought advantageous, they marched on slowly without opposition, devastating the whole district with pillage and fires. After their timely departure, those who had been besieged in Hadrianopolis, having learned from scouts who had been found trustworthy that the neighbouring places were free from enemies, set out at midnight and avoiding the public highways and devising every effort for increasing their speed, hastened with the valuables which they were carrying still safe, through wooded and pathless places, some to Philippopolis and from there to Serdica, others to Macedonia, in the hope of finding Valens in those regions (for it was wholly unknown to them that he had fallen in the midst of the storms of battle, or at any rate had taken refuge in a hut, where it was thought that he had been burned to death). But the Goths, joined with the Huns and the Halani, exceedingly warlike and brave peoples, hardened to the difficulties of severe toils, whom the craft of Fritigern had won over to them by the attractions of wonderful prizes, set up their camp near Perinthus; but mindful of their previous disasters they did not indeed venture to approach or attempt the city itself, but reduced to utter ruin the fertile fields which extend far and wide about it, killing or capturing those who dwelt there. 4 From there they hastened in rapid march to Constantinople, greedy for its vast heaps of treasure, marching in square formations for fear of ambuscades, and intending to make many mighty efforts to destroy the famous city. But while they were madly rushing on and almost knocking at the barriers of the gates, the celestial power checked them by the following event. A troop of Saracens (of whose origin and customs I have spoken at length in various places), who are more adapted to stealthy raiding expeditions than to pitched battles, and had recently been summoned to the city, desiring to attack the horde of barbarians of which they had suddenly caught sight, rushed forth boldly from the city to attack them. The contest was long and obstinate, and both sides separated on equal terms. But the oriental troop had the advantage from a strange event, never witnessed before. For one of their number, a man with long hair and naked except for a loincloth, uttering hoarse and dismal cries, with drawn dagger rushed into the thick of the Gothic army, and after killing a man applied his lips to his throat and sucked the blood that poured out. The barbarians, terrified by this strange and monstrous sight, after that did not show their usual self-confidence when they attempted any action, but advanced with hesitating steps. Then, as they went on, their courage was further broken when they beheld the oblong circuit of the walls, the blocks of houses covering a vast space, the beauties of the city beyond their reach, the vast population inhabiting it, and the strait nearby that separates the Pontus from the Aegean; so the Goths destroyed the manufactories of warlike materials which they were preparing, and after suffering greater losses than they had inflicted they then departed and spread everywhere over the northern provinces, which they traversed at will as far as the foot of the Julian, or, as they were formerly called, the Venetic Alps. At that time the salutary and swift efficiency of Julius, commander-in-chief of the troops beyond the Taurus, was conspicuous. For on learning of the ill-fated events in Thrace, by secret letters to their leaders, who were all Romans (a rare case in these times) he gave orders that the Goths who had been admitted before and were scattered through the various cities and camps, should be enticed to

come without suspicion into the suburbs in the hope of receiving the pay that had been promised them, and there, as if on the raising of a banner, should all be slain on one and the same day. This p505prudent plan was carried out without confusion or delay, and thus the eastern provinces were saved from great dangers. These dangers, from the principate of the emperor Nerva to the death of Valens, I, a former soldier and a Greek, have set forth to the measure of my ability, without ever (I believe) consciously venturing to debase through silence or through falsehood a work whose aim was the truth. The rest may be written by abler men, who are in the prime of life and learning. But if they chose to undertake such a task, I advise them to forge their tongues to the loftier style. Sidonius Apollinaris, Letters I.2, III.4, VII.6-7, VIII.3, VIII.9
[I.2]
You have often begged a description of Theodoric the Gothic king, whose gentle breeding fame commends to every nation; you want him in his quantity and quality, in his person, and the manner of his existence. I gladly accede, as far as the limits of my page allow, and highly approve so fine and ingenuous a curiosity. Well, he is a man worth knowing, even by those who cannot enjoy his close acquaintance, so happily have Providence and Nature joined to endow him with the perfect gifts of fortune; his way of life is such that not even the envy which lies in wait for kings can rob him of his proper praise. [2] And first as to his person. He is well set up, in height above the average man, but below the giant. His head is round, with curled hair retreating somewhat from brow to crown. His nervous |3 neck is free from disfiguring knots. The eyebrows are bushy and arched; when the lids droop, the lashes reach almost half-way down the cheeks. The upper ears are buried under overlying locks, after the fashion of his race. The nose is finely aquiline; the lips are thin and not enlarged by undue distension of the mouth. Every day the hair springing from his nostrils is cut back; that on the face springs thick from the hollow of the temples, but the razor has not yet come upon his cheek, and his barber is assiduous in eradicating the rich growth on the lower part of the face. [3] Chin, throat, and neck are full, but not fat, and all of fair complexion; seen close, their colour is fresh as that of youth; they often flush, but from modesty, and not from anger. His shoulders are smooth, the upper- and forearms strong and hard; hands broad, breast prominent; waist receding. The spine dividing the broad expanse of back does not project, and you can see the springing of the ribs; the sides swell with salient muscle, the well-girt flanks are full of vigour. His thighs are like hard horn; the knee-joints firm and masculine; the knees themselves the comeliest and least wrinkled in the world. A full ankle supports the leg, and the foot is small to bear such mighty limbs.
[4] Now for the routine of his public life. Before daybreak he goes with a very small suite to attend the service of his priests. He prays with assiduity, but, if I may speak in confidence, one may suspect more of habit than conviction in this piety. Administrative duties of the kingdom take up the rest of the morning. Armed nobles stand about the royal seat; the mass of guards in their garb of skins are admitted that they may be within call, but kept at the threshold for quiet's sake; only a murmur of them comes in from their post at the doors, between the curtain and the outer barrier. And now the foreign envoys are introduced. The king hears them out, and says little; if a thing needs more discussion he puts it off, but accelerates matters ripe for dispatch. The second hour arrives; he rises from the throne to inspect his treasure-chamber or stable.
[5] If the chase is the order of the day, he joins it, but never carries his bow at his side, considering this derogatory to royal state. When a bird or beast is marked for him, or happens to cross his path, he puts his hand behind his back and takes the bow from a page with the string all hanging loose; for as he deems it a boy's trick to bear it in a quiver, so he holds it effeminate to receive the weapon ready strung. When it is given him, he sometimes holds it in both hands and bends the extremities towards each other; at others he sets it, knot-end downward, against his lifted heel, and runs his finger up the slack and wavering string. After that, he takes his arrows, adjusts, and let's fly. He will ask you beforehand what you would like him to transfix; you choose, and he hits. If there is a miss through either's error, your vision will mostly be at fault, and not the archer's skill.
[6] On ordinary days, his table resembles that of a private person. The board does not groan beneath a mass of dull and unpolished silver set on by panting servitors; the weight lies rather in the conversation than in the plate; there is either sensible talk or none. The hangings and draperies used on these occasions are sometimes of purple silk, sometimes only of linen; art, not costliness, commends the fare, as spotlessness rather than bulk the silver. Toasts are few, and you will oftener see a thirsty guest impatient, than a full one refusing cup or bowl. In short, you will find elegance of Greece, good cheer of Gaul, Italian nimbleness, the state of public banquets with the attentive service of a private table, and everywhere the discipline of a king's house. What need for me to describe the pomp of his feast days? No man is so unknown as not to know of them. But to my theme again. The siesta after dinner is always slight, and sometimes intermitted. When inclined for the board-game, he is quick to gather up the dice, examines them with care, shakes the box with expert hand, throws rapidly, humorously apostrophizes them, and patiently waits the issue. Silent at a good throw, he makes merry over a bad, annoyed by neither fortune, and always the philosopher. He is too proud to ask or to refuse a revenge; he disdains to avail himself of one if offered; and if it is opposed will quietly go on playing. You effect recovery of your men without obstruction on his side; he recovers his without collusion upon yours. You see the strategist when he moves the pieces; his one thought is victory. [8] Yet at play he puts off a little of his kingly rigour, inciting all too good fellowship and the freedom of the game: I think he is afraid of being feared. Vexation in the man whom he beats delights him; he will never believe that his opponents have not let him win unless their annoyance proves him really victor. You would be surprised how often the pleasure born of these little happenings may favour the march of great affairs. Petitions that some wrecked influence had left derelict come unexpectedly to port; I myself am gladly beaten by him when I have a favour to ask, since the loss of my game may mean the gaining of my cause. [9]
About the ninth hour, the burden of government begins again. Back come the importunates, back the ushers to remove them; on all sides buzz the voices of petitioners, a sound which lasts till evening, and does not diminish till interrupted by the royal repast; even then they only disperse to attend their various patrons among the courtiers, and are astir till bedtime. Sometimes, though this is rare, supper is enlivened by sallies of mimes, but no guest is ever exposed to the wound of a biting tongue
[III.4]

M. Maas, Readings in Late Antiquity: A Sourcebook (London, 2000), pp.299-318 Introduction: After the northern expansion of Rome stabilized in the second century more or less along the Rhine-Danube frontier, the many peoples beyond the empire's political and military control continued to be deeply influenced by imperial culture. Romans sneered at these peoples as "barbarian" - the antithesis of civilized behaviour - but the boundaries separating Roman and barbarian were not so absolute. They should be seen as a somewhat arbitrary and highly permeable membrane. Whether as allies bound by treaty to the empire, as fierce enemies in open warfare, as an endless supply of recruits for the army and of slaves, or as a market for Roman trade goods and ideas, Rome's northern neighbours remained a constant presence in imperial life and in turn developed in response to the empire. During the fifth century, following the invasion of different peoples, the empire lost political control of Western Europe, from Britain and the Atlantic coast to Dalmatia. New polities grew to maturity in Rome's stead - the so-called "Germanic successor states" of the Ostrogoths in Italy, the Visigoths in Aquitania and Spain, the Vandals in North Africa, Angles and Saxons in Britain, and a few smaller kingdoms in the old heartland of the Roman Empire. A complex fusion of the many existing communities within Rome's borders and the transplanted and still developing corporate identities of the new rulers produced by these successor states. Always vastly outnumbered by Rome's huge provincial and urban populations, and never immune to the attractions of imperial power - especially tax-collection - the new arrivals maintained close ties with the Roman elites in their own kingdoms and with the imperial court at Constantinople, which remained a commanding source of legitimation. The assimilation of the newcomers to the dominant patterns of Roman life was rapid. The most significant element dividing the new rulers from the ruled was the fact that the new masters were Arian Christians, unlike their Roman subjects who followed Chalcedonian orthodoxy. Separate law codes helped maintain the formal distinction of the populations. When the kings of the successor states converted to orthodox Christianity in the sixth and seventh centuries, full amalgamation with their subjects became a reality. Though many elements of Mediterranean life continued, such as literacy in Latin, ideology and ritual of empire, and the role of the Christian church, the successor states neither recreated Roman society of the high empire nor followed the path of the New Rome in Constantinople. They were a new cultural and political synthesis, part of the evolution of group identities in the late antique world. (i) Early fourth-century bishop Ulfila translated Bible into Gothic and converted most of the Goths to Arian Christianity; The Passion of Saint Saba (later fourth-century text) tells of the Gothic Christian Saba, living in the Gothic Wallachia, executed in 372 by Gothic leaders for refusing to eat sacrificial meat that had been offered to pagan gods: The Passion of Saint Saba, 3.3-5: On another occasion when a time of trial was moved in customary fashion by the Goths, some of the pagans from the same village intended while offering sacrifices to the gods to swear to the persecutor that there was not a single Christian in their village. But Saba, again speaking out, came forward in the midst of their council, and said "let no man swear on my account, for I am a Christian." Then in the presence of the persecutor, the villagers who were hiding away their friends swore that there was no Christian in the village, except one. Hearing this, the leader of the outrage ordered Saba to stand before him. When he stood there, the persecutor asked those who brought him forward whether he had anything among his possessions. When they replied, "Nothing except the clothes he wears", the lawless one set him at nought and said, "such a man can neither help nor harm us", and with these words ordered him to be thrown outside (ii) 376AD - Roman Emperor Valens permitted large numbers of Goths into the Balkans; uprooted from their homes in what is modern-day Ukraine by the Hunnic people, they promised to serve in the Roman army in return for land. Grossly mistreated by Roman officials, they rose in rebellion, and in 378 destroyed a Roman army at Adrianople. Valens himself was killed, along with perhaps as many as 20,000 men, one of the most crushing military defeats in Roman history, similar in magnitude to Cannae (216BC) or Teutoburg Forest (9AD): Ammianus Marcellinus, History 31.4.1-6 Therefore, under the lead of Alavivus, the Goths took possession of the banks of the Danube, and sending envoys to Valens, with humble entreaty, begged to be received, promising that they would not only lead a peaceful life but would also furnish auxiliaries, if circumstances required. While this was happening in foreign part, terrifying rumours spread abroad that the peoples of the north were stirring up new and uncommonly great commotions: that throughout the entire region which extends from the Marcomanni and the Quadi to the Pontus, a savage horde of unknown peoples, driven from their abodes by sudden violence, were roving about the river Hister in scattered bands with their families…with such stormy eagerness on the part of insistent men was the ruin of the Roman world brought in…
(iii) Salvian, a priest at Marseilles, believed that the barbarians, even though they were Arian Christians, had gained the upper hand as a divine response to Roman sins. His On the Governance of God (440) includes a ringing condemnation of the suffering of the poor in Roman society: Salvian, On the Governance of God 5.4-7 Furthermore, insofar as it pertains to the way of life among the Vandals and Goths, in what way are we better than they, or can even be compared with them? First, let me speak of their love and charity which the Lord teaches is the chief of virtues and which He not only commends throughout Sacred Scriptures but even in his own words: "By this shall it be known that you are my disciples, that you love one another." Almost all barbarians, at least those who are of one tribe under one king, love one another; almost all Romans persecute each other… [The poor] seek among the barbarians the dignity of the Roman because they cannot bear barbarous indignity among the Romans…they prefer to live as freemen under an outward form of captivity that as captives under an appearance of liberty. Therefore, the name of Roman citizens, at one time not only greatly valued but dearly bought, is now repudiated and fled from, and it is almost considered not only base but even deserving of abhorrence

(iv) Italian aristocrat Cassiodorus served as Theodoric's first minister; his official business papers and correspondence survive; the following letter (c.510) sent to the city senators in Estuni (possibly modern Ostuni near Brindisi, south-eastern Italy) reveals the Ostrogothic regime's calculated concern for the legacy of Roman antiquity: Cassiodorus, Official Correspondence 3.9: Though our intention certainly is to construct new buildings, we are more deeply concerned to preserve old ones, since we can obtain equal glory from innovation and preservation. Consequently we wish to build modern buildings without causing any injury to their predecessors. It is plainly unacceptable to accept anything obtained at another's cost…with our authority, we decree that you shall hand over these marble slabs and columns to be brought to the city of Ravenna by all possible means - as long as the men supervising the report are reliable and as long as none of this material can be reused in a public monument that still stands. In this way exquisite craftsmanship will restore the grandeur lost by the collapse of the marble, and facades shadowed in their former location will regain the luster them splendid long ago…
(v) Vandals crossed Rhine in 406, swept through France, Spain, and into northern Africa; by 439, they controlled Carthage and went on to build a pirate empire in the western Mediterranean while maintaining the friction of being federates of the emperor in Constantinople. Victor of Vita, who chronicled the Vandal persecution of their Catholic subjects, describes the efforts of Deogratias, the bishop of Carthage, to help captives brought from Rome after the Vandals sacked the city in 455: Victor of Vita, History of the Persecution in the Province of Africa, "The Charity of Deogratias, Bishop of Carthage, to the Captives brought from Rome by the Vandals," 1.24-6: When the multitudes of captives reached the shores of Africa, the Vandals and Moors divided up the vast crowds of people; and, as is the way with barbarians, separated husbands from wives and children from parents. Immediately, that man [Deogratias], so full of God and so dear to him, set about to sell all the gold and silver vessels of service, and set them free from enslavement to the barbarians, in order that marriage might remain unbroken and children be restored to their parents. And since there were no places big enough to accommodate so large a multitude, he assigned two famous churches, the Basilica Fausti and the Basilica Novarum, furnishing them with beds and bedding, and arranging day by day how much each person should receive in proportion to his need…
(vi) End of Roman Britain; local Roman patricians invited the Angles and Saxons from the North Sea coastlands (Denmark, modern Scandinavia) to Britain after 410 to assist against Irish raiders; Britain could neither control nor absorb these Anglo-Saxon settlers peacefully, however, and they put an end to the Roman way of life by the end of the century. The following account, written by Gildas, in the 540s, conveys a period of wanton destruction: Gildas, On the Ruin of Britain (De Excidio Britanniae), 24 For the fire of vengeance, justly kindled by former crimes, spread from sea to sea, fed by the hands of our foes in the east, and did not cease, until, destroying the neighbouring towns and lands, it reached the other side of the island, and dipped its red and savage tongue in the western ocean. In these assaults, therefore, not unlike that of the Assyrian upon Judea, was fulfilled in our case what the prophet describes in words of lamentation…They have burned with fire the sanctuary; they have polluted on earth the tabernacle of thy name…all the major towns were laid low by the repeated battering of enemy rams; laid low, too, all the inhabitants - church leaders, priests and people alike, as the swords glinted all around and the flames crackled. It was a sad sight. In the middle of the squares the foundation-stones of high walls and towers that had been torn from their lofty base, holy altars, fragments of corpses, covered (as it were) with a purple crust of congealed blood…there was no burial to be had except in the ruins of houses or the bellies of beasts and birds (vii) "Barbarian" law codes; Burgundian kingdom established after 443 and destroyed by the Franks in 534. The Burgundian Law Codes (compiled 483-517) was influenced by Roman law as well as by concepts of Germanic origin. Roman and Burgundian judges are mentioned, though the extent to which the legal distinction between Roman and Burgundians is a true measure of ethnic difference remains a matter of controversy. The code demonstrates how Roman legislation continued in the vacuum left by the collapse of Roman authority. The fact that money was offered as compensation shows that the institution of the feud was established among the Burgundians; payments were a way to avoid feuding: The Burgundian Code, Preface 1, 2, 3, 8, 13; 2.1, 2

2. For the love of justice, through which God is pleased and the power of earthly kingdoms acquired, we have obtained the consent of our counts and leaders, and have desired to establish such laws that the integrity and equity of those judging may exclude all rewards and corruptions from themselves

3. therefore all administrators and judges must judge from the present time on between Burgundians and Romans according to our laws which have been set forth and corrected by a common method, to the end that no-one may hope or presume to receive anything by way of reward or emolument from any party as the result of the suits or decisions; but let him whose case is deserving obtain justice and let the integrity of the judge alone suffice to accomplish this {…}

8. Since a similar condition has been forbidden among Romans in cases of the crime of venality, we command that Romans be judged by the Roman laws just as has been established by our predecessors; let them know that they must follow the form and statement of the written law when they render decisions so that no one may be executed on grounds of ignorance…[13] let no Roman or Burgundian count, in the absence of the other judge, presume to decide any case however often they may desire it, so that consulting frequently they may not be in doubt concerning the provisions of the laws (viii) Rise of the Franks; around 500, a warlord named Clovis (c.481-511) unified the various Frankish tribes that lived on the eastern bank of the lower Rhine; crafty and ruthless, he converted to Chalcedonian Orthodoxy (Catholicism) and represented himself as an ally of the emperor in Constantinople, who made him Consul. This began a relationship between the Frankish court and

Constantinople that would last for centuries. Clovis went on to overwhelm all other Germanic kingdoms in Gaul. His Merovingian dynasty led the Franks to pre-eminence in Western Europe; Gregory of Tours describes Clovis' character: Gregory of Tours, The History of the Franks, 2.27 At that time many churches were plundered by the troops of Clovis, for he still held fast to his pagan idolatries. The soldiers had stolen a ewer of great size and wondrous workmanship, together with many other precious objects used in the church service. The bishop of the church in question sent messengers to the King to beg that, even if he would not hand back any of the other sacred vessels, this ewer at least might be restored to the church…Clovis waged many wars and won many victories…
Roger Collins, 'The Early Middle Ages': The fall of the Roman Empire in the west was not the disappearance of a civilization. It was merely the breakdown of a governmental apparatus that could no longer be sustained. Michael Kulikowski, "The Accidental Suicide of the Roman Empire"

Started convinced that the barbarians were not enough to explain the fall; accepted binary distinction between barbarian and Roman; not so; the binary distinction exists solely as a rhetorical device in politics; binary oppositions prevalent in late Roman world: Christian/pagan, barbarian/Roman, orthodox/heretic, civilization/barbarism; this binary rhetorical discourse creates the conditions in which the Empire can fall; at the end of the fourth century, the gap between rhetorical belief and reality in the political and governmental system of the empire was recognised, acted upon, and brittle framework of political stability breaks; a small number of men realised that the rhetoric of barbarism could work to their advantage; Alaric (known as the Visigoth who sacked Rome); born in the Roman Empire, as part of the population settled in the Balkans; unlike British colonial system, Roman military promoted subalterns through the officer corps; Alaric's population separate from this process; rose as a sort of 'native officer'; "barbarian officers" did not exist in reality for contemporaries; rather they were just from different regional backgrounds; not part of a barbarian continuum; Alaric a turning-point because he played at the stereotype of a barbarian, threatening the government as if an outsider; attacked the system to become part of it - power drained away from the organs of a Roman state which could be manipulated so easily

'Once the way had been shown by Alaric, who had been demonized as a barbarian and then decided to act as a barbarian, the sheer utility of the approach made its widespread adoption inevitable. And it also destroyed the Western Roman Empire. For several decades of military strongmen threatening to destroy the Roman system only to gain a position within it, the system itself ceased to be worth fighting for' Bryan Ward-Perkins, The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)

According to the conventional view of things, the military and political disintegration of Roman power in the West precipitated the end of a civilization; ancient sophistication died, leaving the western world in the grip of a 'Dark Age' of material and intellectual poverty, out of which it was only slowly to emerge; Gibbon's contemporary, the Scottish historian William Robertson, expressed this view in a particularly forceful manner in 1770, but his words evoke an image of the 'Dark Ages' that has had very wide currency: In less than a century after the barbarian nations settled in their new conquests, almost all the effects of the knowledge and civility, which the Romans had spread through Europe, disappeared. Not only the arts of elegance, which minister to luxury, and are supported by it, but many of the useful arts, without which life can scarcely be contemplated as comfortable, were neglected or lost

The Germanic invaders of the western empire seized or extorted through the threat of force the vast majority of the territories in which they settled, without any formal argument on how to share resources with their new Roman subjects. The impression given by some recent historians that most Roman territory was formally ceded to them as part of treaty arrangements is quite simply wrong. Wherever the evidence is moderately full, as it is from the Mediterranean provinces, conquest or surrender to the threat of force was definitely the norm, not the peaceful settlement. A treaty between the Roman government and the Visigoths, which settled the latter in Aquitaine in 419, features prominently in all recent discussions of 'accommodation'. But those historians who present this say that the territory granted in 419 was tiny in comparison to what the Visigoths subsequently wrested by actual force, or by the threat of force, from the Roman government and from the Roman provincials. The agreed settlement of 419 was centred on the Garonne valley between Toulouse and Bordeaux. By the end of the century, the Visigoths had expanded their power in all directions, conquering or extorting a vastly larger area: all of south-west Gaul as far as the Pyrenees; Provence, including the two great cities of Arles and Marseilles; Clermont and the Auvergne; and almost the entire Iberian Peninsula. 'This is all a very far cry from a peaceful and straightforward accommodation of the Visigoths into the provincial life of Roman Gaul'

The Life of Severinus makes it clear that the process of invasion was highly unpleasant for the people who had to live through it, although it is difficult to specify quite how unpleasant - partly because intervening periods of peace are not recorded, and partly because it is always impossible to quantify horror, however vividly described. In other regions of the West, this problem is gravely exacerbated by the lack of good narrative sources covering the fifth century. Of course, the description of men such as Gildas are exaggerated for rhetorical effect: not everyone in Britain was buried in the ruins of a burnt house or in the belly of a beast; the whole of Gaul did not smoke in a single funeral pyre, however striking the image; and Victor of Vita's account of heartless baby-killers is surely an attempt to cast the Vandals in the role of 'new Herods'

By the mid-fifth century, authors in the West had no doubt that Roman affairs were in a parlous state. Salvian had this to say, albeit within the highly rhetorical context of a call to repentance: Where now is the ancient wealth and dignity of the Romans?
The Romans of old were most powerful; now we are without strength. They were feared; now it is we who are fearful. The barbarian peoples paid them tribute; now we are the tributaries of the barbarians. Our enemies make us pay for the very light of day, and our right to life has to be bought. Oh what miseries are ours! To what a state we have descended! We even have to thank the barbarians for the right to buy ourselves off them! What could be more humiliating and miserable!

A few years later, the so-called Chronicler of 452 summed up the situation in Gaul in very similar terms, bemoaning the spread of both the barbarians and the heretical brand of Christianity to which they adhered: 'The Roman state has been reduced to a miserable condition by these troubles, since not one province exists without barbarian settlers; and throughout the world the


unspeakable heresy of the Arians, that has become so embedded amongst the barbarian peoples, displaces the name of the Catholic Church'. The Roman Empire had always been in some danger, and had in fact almost fallen once before, during the third-century crisis; Roman military dominance over the Germanic peoples was considerable, but never absolute and unshakeable 'In my opinion, the key internal element in Rome's success or failure was the economic well-being of its taxpayers. This was because the empire relied for its security on a professional army, which in turn relied on adequate funding. The fourth-century Roman army contained perhaps as many as 600,000 soldiers, all of whom had to be salaried, equipped, and supplied…Military capability relied on immediate access to taxable wealth'; '[I think] the chaos of the first decade of the fifth century will have caused a sudden and dramatic fall in imperial tax revenues, and hence in military spending and capability…Some of the lost territories were temporarily recovered in the second decade of the century; but much (the whole of Britain and a large part of Gaul and Spain) was never regained, and even reconquered provinces took many years to get back to full fiscal health - the tax remission granted to the provinces of Italy in 413 had to be renewed in 418, even though Italy had been spared any incursions during these intervening years. Furthermore the imperial recovery was only short-lived; in 429, it was brought definitively to an end by the successful crossing of the Vandals into Africa, and the devastation of the Western Empire's last remaining secure tax base. By 444, when Valentinian III instituted a new sales tax, matters had certainly reached a parlous state. In the preamble to this law, the emperor acknowledged the urgent need to boost the strength of the army through extra spending, but lamented the current position, where 'neither for newly recruited troops, nor for the old army, can sufficient supplies be raised from the exhausted taxpayers, to provide food and clothing' Germanic rule, once peace was established, was not an unmitigated disaster for all the native population. Above all, the foundation of the new kingdoms certainly restored a degree of stability to the West, allowing normal life to resume its course, though under new masters. The Ostrogoths in Italy were very explicitly presented their rule in this light: 'While the army of Goths wages war, let the Roman live in peace'; however, it is worth remembering that this was 'peace' in the context of the dying or dead empire, and relative to the dreadful conditions of much of the fifth century In many regions, despite some expropriation and loss, Roman aristocratic families continued wealthy and influential under Germanic rule. In southern and central Italy, the overwhelming impression is of aristocratic continuity, at least into the sixth century. In Gaul, too many important families are known to have kept at least part of their wealth and status, particularly in the south. Even in areas where brutal expropriation occurred, such as Vandal Africa or Anglo-Saxon Britain, it is either demonstrably untrue, or very unlikely, that all native landowners were dispossessed 'It is currently deeply fashionable to state that anything like a 'crisis' or a 'decline' occurred at the end of the Roman Empire, let alone that a 'civilization' collapsed and that a 'dark age' ensued. The new orthodoxy is that the Roman world, in both East and West, was slowly, and essentially painless, 'transformed' into a medieval form. However, there is an insuperable problem with this new view: it does not fit the mass of archaeological evidence now available, which shows a startling decline in western standards of living during the fifth to seventh centuries. This was a change that affected everybody, from peasants to kings, even the bodies of saints resting in their churches. It was no mere transformation - it was decline on a scale that can reasonably be described as 'the end of a civilization' Three features of Roman pottery are remarkable, and not to be found again for many centuries in the West: its excellent quality and considerable standardization; the massive quantities in which it was produced; and its widespread diffusion, not only geographically, but also socially. Roman pottery was transported not only in large quantities, but often also over substantial distances. Many Roman pots, in particular amphorae and the fine-wares designed for use at table, could travel hundreds of miles
- all over the Mediterranean. The distributive activities of the state and of private commerce have sometimes been seen as in conflict with each other; but in at least some circumstances they almost certainly worked together to mutual advantage. For instance, the state coerced and encouraged shipping between Africa and Italy, and built and maintained the great harbour works at Carthage and Ostia, because it needed to feed the city of Rome with huge quantities of African grain (Rome's immediate surroundings had not produced enough grain to sustain the city since 200BC). But these grain ships and facilities were also available for commercial and more general use. In the case of some products, the link with this state grain trade was almost certainly a close one. At least some of the fine African pottery, which dominated the market for table-wares in the late Roman West, probably travelled out of Carthage as far as Rome, as a secondary cargo in the ships carrying for the imperial capital; and more of it probably travelled because African shippers had state privileges, which enabled them to move goods at a lower cost. In the post-Roman west, almost all this material sophistication disappeared. Specialized production and all but the most local distribution became rare, unless for luxury goods; and the impressive range and quantity of high-quality functional goods - tableware, building materials, amphorae, etc. - which had characterized the Roman period, vanished, or, at the very least, were drastically reduced; the middle and lower markets, which under the Romans had absorbed huge quantities of basic, but goodquality, items, seem to have almost entirely disappeared Pottery provides the fullest picture; in some reasons, like the whole of Britain and parts of coastal Spain, all sophistication in the production and trading of pottery seems to have disappeared altogether; only vessels shaped without the use of the wheel were available, without any functional or aesthetic refinement. In Britain, most pottery was not only very basic, but also lamentably friable and impractical. In other areas, such as the north of Italy, some solid wheel-turned pots continued to be made and some soapstone vessels imported, but decorated table-wares entirely, or almost entirely, disappeared; and, even amongst kitchenwares, the range of vessels being manufactured was gradually reduced to only a very few basic shapes. A limited tradition of building in mortared stone and brick did survive in Italy and elsewhere, primarily for the construction of churches, but it was on a scale that was dwarfed by the standing buildings of the Roman period; furthermore, as far as we can tell, even when stone and brick were used, the vast majority of it was not newly quarried or fired, but was second-hand material, only very superficially reshaped to fit its new purpose. In the early medieval churches of Italy, the brickwork has none of the regularity of Roman and later medieval times, and the columns, bases and capitals were not newly worked, but were ancient marbles reused without any recurving, even if they made up a very disparate set. New carving was restricted to the small marble elements, such as chancel screens, altar canopies, and pulpits, that were the focus of the liturgy

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