In his introduction to The Consolation of Philosophy, William Anderson writes:
"Theoderic was king over the Goths, but over the Romans in Italy he exercised what might be called a vice-royalty from the Emperor of the East. He kept the Roman administration as he found it and appointed one of the two consuls."
This is around 500 A.D., a generation after the "fall" of the Western Empire. There are still consuls. There is still a Roman Senate. Theoderic asked permission from the Eastern Emperor before he and his people entered Italy.
The point of revising the idea of a "fall" is not to contend that nothing changed, or that Western Europe was not experiencing hard times. It is more that, if we consider the Western Empire as a castle, it did not so much fall (implying a sudden collapse), as slowly sink into a swamp over a period of centuries, with bits of the building crumbling off every now and then.
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