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Fall of Rome

Poster: David KUIJT <kuijt@umiacs.umd.edu>

On Wed, 9 Dec 1998, Terry L. Neill wrote:

> Isn't that the time of the fall of the Roman Empire and the Migration 
> Age in Europe?  Someone was asking me about what caused the fall of the 
> Roman Empire and I thought it was a combination of internal corruption, 
> wasted spending and pressure from the Vandals, Visigoths, etc.  The fact 
> of widespread disease did not occur to me.
> WAS this one of the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire?  And did the 
> decimation (no, that's too mild a word) the ... quadmation ?? of the 
> population leave a large population vaccume for the Migrators of the 
> Migration Age to Migrate into?

Disease was in there, yes.  But there were so many factors.  The good
harvests in Scandanavia (which caused a population growth leading to the
spread of Teutonic tribes into Germany and Eastern Europe).  The expansion
of the Ostrogoths into the Crimea, leading to contact with the Huns,
leading to the fifty years where the Huns came West into Europe, pushing
the Ostrogoths, Vandals, Visigoths all across the Roman border for safety.
The gradually decreasing grain yields of North Africa.  The constant civil
wars that pulled armies off the border, making it easier for Germanic
tribes to come calling and settle on what was previously Roman turf.

Also, there is the common perception that Rome participated in a "Fall"; a
gradual decline into barbarism over several centuries.  While it did go
from greatness to oblivion, its history was full of ups and downs.  One of
the huge ups was Justinian's reconquest of Western Rome in the first half
of the 6th century.

Who was to know then that Mohammed would be born just a generation later,
and by the middle 7th century the "barbarian" desert nomads fighting in
his name would have re-taken all Justinian's gains, and crushed the great
Sassinid Persian empire (ancient enemy of Rome)? 


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