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This website is an archive. It ran from 2006-2010. Virtually everything on here is outdated or inaccurate.

On the "decline and fall of the Roman Empire"

Looking at the history of the post-classical period from the standpoint of "the fall of the Roman Empire" is all wrong-- an artifact of state-centric history that was prominent around Edward Gibbon's time but just doesn't make sense today. Rome was not a civilization, but a group of politicians and soldiers who supported them. What happened from 300-600AD was not a decline of civilization, but the rise of newly independent civilizations to replace rule by an old and corrupt group of elites. In fact, what we decry as a "decline" from "classical" imperialism to "dark age" feudalism was actually the replacement of a corrupt system of second-class citizenship for local residents and hereditary slavery with an actual rule of law, that is, government based on written contracts where both local and national authorities had duties to fulfill.

It doesn't make sense to study who was involved in the decline of Rome, because you're studying mostly powerless individuals. The important people to study are those new leaders of that corrupt age, the people who rose up against Rome and the systems they set in place.

What I would love to read is an account of what caused this sudden and unprecedented swell of civilized behavior throughout Europe. I'm betting Christianity had something to do with it.

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