Fall of the Roman Empire

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I never imagined Alfdred being very literate himself even in adulthood. He must have been eventually though as I did read where, as you say, he went to Rome and its former colonies to reconnect with the old ways. Alfred the Saxon was famous for saving England from vikings. Danish vikings were marauding just about everywhere and were about the only people Charlemagne's rule could not dominate. They invaded Norway and tookover. And from there went Rollo, "the walker" on ships, and probably financed by the Danes. When Rollo met the Frankish King, he bowed the usual bow of respect - and then rose to his full standing height after knocking Charles the Simple arse over tea kettle. Normandy was later established for the Northern people.  William the Conqueror was a Norman who tookover England around the same time Harold the Viking was defeated at Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire by Harold Godwinson, not too far from where my mama was born.


Above, Farmpunk, Baccus and Beltov were disscussing speculative/sci-fi/ historical fiction, and it reminded me of Harry Harrison's "The Hammer and the Cross" trilogy.  It's a "what if...." fictional history, but not "what if Napolean had a B52 bomber at Waterloo" kind of what if.   There's no technologies used to re-weave the threads of history that didn't exist at the time, or in previous times to when the book was set, which was in the time of Alfred the Great.

More than fun read.


"Danish vikings were marauding just about everywhere and were about the only people Charlemagne's rule could not dominate."

Which is why, when the Danish papers published cartoons that linked the Prophet Mohammed as the roots of today's violence-- 1300 years later, I wanted compensation for Danish raids on my ancestral homeland.  After all, the violence of the Danes is more recent than Mohammed.

Fucking viking assholes.Wink


Yorkshire, Tommy? I know they raided all down the East coast of England, Scotland, and probably Ireland as well. Something I read said Edward, Godwinson's baggage, may have "encouraged" the vikings to raid northern England to keep them out of the south, which is said to have been the source of some historical hatred for English royals in the North. Although, that was just before the Norman conquerors arrived. There was lots of divisiveness to go around, we can be sure. There are still quite a few old viking place names where my ancestral family is from. Some of the oldest locals there still insist that they are Yorkies and not English.

Papal Bull

He could also be Sicilian. ;)


Yorkshire, Tommy?

I think, maybe, on my mother's side.  She and her mom and dad were born in Reddish, a village between Stockport and Manchester.  But that village didn't exist before the industrial revolution-- it was a cotton mill town, and yes my mother worked there as a child during the war, and her father was a kind of contractor/manager of some kind.  I'm not sure how the management arrangement was in those days.  That takes us back to, what the 1880's or 90's when he was born, I guess.  But before that, I expect his parents, if they were born in Reddish, had parents that certainly came from somewhere else, and I think I remember my mom saying that somewhere else was the north east.  Although, she also had relatives in Chester, which brings us close to Wales.  I dunno.

My father said that his family always boasted Norman connections, but then the English are given to pretentions that way.  They say he had "Norman features" -- straight black hair, and a bit of a hump on his nose.  If anything, in my mind, more Roman or Italian than Norman.  And my dad did pass as a long lost Italian when he passed through there during the war with the RCR.

I googled the family name a while back.  You find it in clusters all over south east England, and in Wales.   And, curiously enough, in Denmark and Sweden.  

I've been tempted to learn how to figure all this out, but then I think it's kind of pointless.  At the end of the day, all I'll get is a list of names and dates, and what does that really tell me? 

Now, if those who were literate enough left some manuscript that gave me hints about what made them, and what of that echos in me, I'd give my left nut for that.



Papal Bull wrote:
He could also be Sicilian. ;)

You gotta problem with that?  You think I'm here to amuse you?




Tommy Paine wrote:
I googled the family name a while back.  You find it in clusters all over south east England, and in Wales.   And, curiously enough, in Denmark and Sweden

Well there you go. You more than likely do have Norse in you. Black hair? Maybe the Francophone influence or some other Mediterranean, "Roman" or even Spanish somewhere along the line. I guess Normans are a mix of Norse and whatever they were in France before it was Francian, Frankish, Gaulish and whatnot.

I've never been to Reddish, but I've passed landed in Prestwick and from there down to Manchester on the way to a little town outside Sheffield called Maltby. I've been to Redcar though "t' dog races", as my cousin would say in Yorkie slang, and the horses. I think England must be similar to Italy in that there is so much history in just about every town and village. We could spend half a life time touring around either place and still not see it all. I'd love to see Italy.


"Well there you go. You more than likely do have Norse in you."

On the other hand, people took their family names from the trade they were in, usually, and mine seems no different, being liked to the textile trade.  It could be the same term was used by people in Sweden and Denmark also, and they are totally unrelated, like a "Smith" from Carlisle wouldn't have famillial connection to a "Smith" in Cornwall.

One of my great grandparents was Acadian.

 Of course, if we do the math, we really don't have to go that far back in time before we realize we have thousands of ancestors.  No doubt I'm linked to royalty, to gutter prostitutes in London,  stalwart soldiers, and those that danced on air with the hangman.

And given the way many peoples raided and colonized England, I don't doubt there's "Roman" and "Norse" in the mix along with Saxon, Celt and what have you. 

Like I said, a list of names and dates. 

What did they experience, how did it effect them?  What of that echoes in me? 

We are babes, abandoned on the doorstep.



On the street where my mama grew up, the last names of several families all ended in "head"  And the men were all coal miners including my grandfather. The other side of the family were farmers dating back 500 years. Their name begins with a letter w and is also found in Norway of all places. They're still there with one of what were five farms still in the family.


On this date, the 2nd of June 450 AD, the Vandals sacked Rome.


Webgear wrote:

On this date, the 2nd of June 450 AD, the Vandals sacked Rome.


The "fall" of Rome in 476 C.E. (when Romulus Augustus, the last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire, was deposed) is not necessarily the fall of the Roman Empire. The Eastern Roman Empire lasted for nearly a thousand years afterwards, but one could argue that it became something other than Roman. There are other important turning points.


M.Gregus wrote:
Yeah, I'm not sure at what level Gibbon would fall on the topic. It's probably not the best introductory reading, especially with its turn of the 18th century prose. Might be better as a reference at first.


While Gibbon may not be considered a little too literary, and hence not "straight" history by today's standards, it's far more accessible than, say, Carlyle's history of the French Revolution.  I had to have another history book by my side to help me follow along with Carlyle's account.


I was reading Gibbon when Bongus Minimus was still in the womb.  One character in Gibbon was so impressive that I named my boy after him. It's a good thing he was a boy; I don't know if a girl would have appreciated being named Theodora.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

It would be nice if some of these "explanations" for the fall of Rome got around to at least mentioning the end of slavery as the dominant means of extracting wealth from the population. Judging by some of the explanations, the end of slavery and the establishment of the colonate or the renting out of land to former slaves, now incipient peasants, was only a coincidence. Yet when the "barbarians" sacked the Roman cities, who opened the doors to them?

Why,  the slaves, that's who.

Anyway, I found another couple of books. Considering that it is reviewed positively by an author from The National Review, I would say that it's probably a very conservative interpretation of history. But it may be worth a look anyway.

The Excellent  Empire: The Fall of Rome and the Triumph of the Church, by Jaroslav Pelikan - reviewed by Robert Royal

From the left, we have G.E.M. de Ste. Croix, about whom it was written:

Gradually, citizens were stripped of their rights until by the third century AD a poor Roman citizen could legally be flogged and tortured, penalties once reserved for slaves and from which the rich were exempt. Any evidence a poor citizen gave in court had less weight than that of a rich citizen. The effect was to make it easier for the ruling class to exploit the peasants who formed the bulk of the population. Ultimately, without the protection of democracy, they were reduced to a new form of slavery in which they were tied to the land. While chattel slavery-involving slaves bought and sold on the market-declined in importance after the great slave revolts of the first century BC, the enslavement of the free poor increased. By the later Roman Empire it became the main means by which the propertied class extracted surplus.

De Ste Croix's class analysis allows him to offer a coherent and materialist explanation of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. He explains that, as the screws were tightened upon them, the mass of the population had little or no incentive to resist the barbarian invasions that came with increasing force. They were burdened by a rapacious army and, once Christianity was adopted as the state religion in the fourth century, a growing body of unproductive priests, monks and nuns.

Consequently "the Roman political system (especially when Greek democracy had been wiped out ...) facilitated a most intense and ultimately destructive economic exploitation of the great mass of the people, whether slave or free, and it made radical reform impossible. The result was that the propertied class, the men of real wealth, who had deliberately created this system for their own benefit, drained the life-blood from their world and thus destroyed Graeco-Roman civilisation over a large part of the empire.... That I believe," concludes de Ste Croix, "was the principal reason for the decline of Classical civilisation.

See his book The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World, which includes a chapter or section on the "decline and fall" of the Roman Empire.



Interesting read Beltov...I agree that it was a factor, but I'm not sure if I can agree with it as the principal reason. When the Roman empire split, the Western empire was mostly western Europe who's wealth came mainly from farming. The majority of European wealth at the time was concentrated around Mediteranian trade which fell to the Eastern empire. Constatine's re-organization of the military into Limitanei and Comitatensis was directed at relieving some of the massive military expenses, but didn't help much as the Western empire collapsed under it's own weight and external military pressure. It's quite possible that climate influences could be cited as it put large preassure on Steppes people to migrate east as well, which brought the hordes into Roman land.


The Vandals sacking Rome is quite interesting too...They marched through Europe, past italy and into Spain where they crossed the mediteranian and eventually sack what was left of Carthage...and then invaded Rome from the south which is significantly different than other invasions. [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Invasions_of_the_Roman_Empire_1.png]ma... of the conquest of Western Rome. 

Nonetheless, you've peaked my interest, I'll have to find a copy of  The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World.

added:  Is it significant to point out that the last emporer of Rome was so insignificant that he was just deposed and left to live as a citizen?  Might back-up that the classist idea of the Roman emperor so badly alienating it's own public that there was never even a threat of the emperor reganing power when he was deposed.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

OK, I've found one more recent book that I would read and that relates to the topic of this thread.


Framing the Early Middle Ages by Chris Wickham looks very good.


In Framing the Early Middle Ages Chris Wickham aims at integrating documentary and archaeological evidence together, and also, above all, at creating a comparative history of the period 400-800, by means of systematic comparative analyses of each of the regions of the latest Roman and immediately post-Roman world, from Denmark to Egypt (only the Slav areas are left out). The book concentrates on classic socio-economic themes, state finance, the wealth and identity of the aristocracy, estate management, peasant society, rural settlement, cities, and exchange.

He's worth reading at length. Some of the pages can be found in Google books.