Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The fall of the Roman empire

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.


  1. Right, and Odoacer was ostensibly working for the eastern emperor when he deposed Romulus Augustus. Even Clovis was evidently the descendent of Roman client. As you’re saying, it’s not that the Roman empire didn’t end up getting destroyed … but almost none of the destroyers intended it destruction.

  2. Interesting (at least to someone largely ignorant of history like me).

    If there are similar grand changes underway today, they may not be easily perceptible on the small scale of day-to-day events.


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