THE FALL OF ROME AND THE RISE OF A NEW WESTERN CHRISTENDOM
Well before Constantine's decision to relocate the imperial capital to Byzantium, the Western Roman empire had suffered a long and steady decline. In every sphere - social, political, economic, cultural and demographic - the Eastern empire had long enjoyed an enormous advantage over the West. Rome, in fact, had already long ceased to be the emperor's natural home. Diocletian (245-316) had kept court in Nicomedia, and several emperors before him had chosen to reside in Milan or in the southern Danube valley. In the last years of the Western empire, the imperial seat was often Ravenna.
The Forum in Rome. Following the sack of the city by the Visigoth Alaric in 410, it took just 10 years for the moribund Western Roman empire to collapse. The Eastern empire, by contrast, endured until the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453.
The empire as a whole had endured incursions by 'barbarian' tribes (Germanic, Balkan and others) from the mid-third century on; but, with the general decline of the Latinate population of the West, the 'barbarians' slowly began to displace the older peoples of the Roman West, often simply through migration, settlement and partial assimilation. 'Barbarians' began to occupy agricultural regions left fallow by rural demographic attrition, and swelled the ranks of the imperial military, assuming positions even of command and, ultimately, of aristocratic privilege.
This is not to say that the rise of the new Germanic powers of the West did not entail great bloodshed and destruction. The Goths, Vandals, Alemanni, Burgundians, Gepidae, Franks and so forth were all warrior peoples, with strongly defined codes of honour, and no great aversion to the perils of battle. Moreover, from the middle of the fourth century onwards, the economic weakness of many Western cities and the decay of Western agriculture went hand in hand with a general decline of military defences, which left the old Western empire ripe for spoliation.
At the beginning of the fifth century, it was the semi-Vandal imperial regent Flavius Stilicho (365-408) who was responsible for protecting the Western empire and the city of Rome itself from the depredations of Visigoths and Ostrogoths. In 395, leadership of the Visigoths had been assumed by the dynamic Alaric (c.370—410), formerly an officer in the Roman army in the East. On becoming chief of the Visigoths, he set out to redress the failure of the imperial treasury to pay his people certain subventions they had been promised; he marched towards Constantinople before being diverted to Greece, where his men plundered many cities. In 397, the Eastern Emperor Arcadius placated Alaric by making him a Roman 'master of soldiers'. However, still unsatisfied, Alaric led his army into Italy in 401.
In 402 and again the next year, Stilicho defeated the Goths, and Alaric briefly withdrew. There was an inexhaustible supply of barbarians, however. Stilicho repelled the Ostrogoths in 406 and the Gauls in 407; also in 407, he was even obliged to call upon Alaric's aid. Yet in 408, under suspicion of plotting to seize the imperial throne for his sons, Stilicho was executed, and Roman 'purists' in the government and military massacred the families of Gothic soldiers in the Roman army. Naturally, these Goths defected to Alaric, and when the emperor Flavius Honorius refused to grant Alaric's people land and compensation, Alaric led his forces against Rome itself. He besieged the city in 408, but relented when the senate offered him tribute. Honorius, however, remained intransigent and the siege was resumed the next year. Again, Alaric was paid off and withdrew. In 410, however, weary of the emperor's continued failure to honour his promises, Alaric again besieged Rome. Allies in the city opened the gates to him, and - for the first time in 800 years - Rome was occupied by a foreign invader.
A painting of the meeting between Attila and Pope Leo I near Mantua in 452. The pope persuaded Attila not to attack Rome, and pestilence forced him to abandon Italy (and the Hunnish leader died the next year on his way to make war against the Eastern empire). However, the Western Roman empire from which the Huns retreated was already as much 'barbarian' as Roman.
The Visigoths kept control of the city for three days, plundering it of many of its riches, but causing little damage and leaving its citizens unmolested. Above all, they took care not to touch the city's churches. For these barbarians were Christians.
(WEELLL.....CHRISTIAN IN NAME ONLY, SO CALLED "CHRISTIAN" BARBARIANS - Keith Hunt)
The Evangelization of the Germanic Tribes
The first significant Christian mission to the Goths was undertaken in the mid-fourth century by Ulfilas (c.31 l-c.382), a Gothic scholar supposedly of Christian Cappadocian extraction. He was not only the first man to spread the Gospel among the German tribesman; it was he who first devised the Gothic alphabet (based on both Greek and Latin scripts), and first translated the Bible (if not completely) into a Germanic tongue.
In 341, Ulfilas led an embassy to Constantinople, where he was consecrated by the city's bishop - Eusebius of Nicomedia - as bishop to the Gothic peoples. A persuasive evangelist, over the next 30 years he gathered a large community of Christian Goths around himself. In 375, however, he was forced to lead his flock into Roman territory, claiming imperial protection against persecutions by other Goths. But the process of conversion that he had set in motion proved inexorable, and the 'baptism of the barbarians' continued over the next few centuries.
(YA, A ROMAN CATHOLIC RELIGION BAPTIZED THE BARBARIANS - Keith Hunt)
Essential to Ulfilas' Christianity, though, was its Arian theology, inherited from Eusebius of Nicomedia and others. As a result, Arianism became the characteristic theology not only of the Visigoths and Ostrogoths, but of other Germanic tribes, such as the Burgundians and Vandals, and became very much a part of their own sense of cultural identity, and of what distinguished them from the Catholic Romans.
(IT WAS A VARIANT OF ROMAN CATHOLICISM - Keith Hunt)
The Barbarian Epoch
During the fifth century, new barbarian kingdoms arose throughout the former territories of the Western empire - in Spain, Gaul, Italy and elsewhere. In 428, the Vandals even invaded Roman North Africa, thus definitively eclipsing the old imperial order in the Western Mediterranean world. When St Augustine of Hippo died in 430, his city was on the verge of defeat; and, in 435, the city of Carthage fell to the invaders.
The Western empire persisted for a time formally. There were emperors, at any rate, all of whom were more or less creatures of barbarian kings, or at least dependent upon them. When, in 451, Attila led his Huns - the terror of Eastern and Western empires alike - into Gaul and then, in 452, into Italy, Visigoths, Alemanni and Franks fought alongside the Western Romans. In 476, the German warlord Odoacer deposed the last occupant of the Western imperial throne - the exquisitely well-named Romulus Augustulus ('little Augustus') - and ruled as king of Italy.
Though Arians, the Germanic kings rarely interfered with the Catholic hierarchy of the Roman Christians. And, ultimately, the Arian creed would be replaced among the barbarian peoples by Nicene orthodoxy. Perhaps most significant in this regard was the conversion to Catholicism of Clovis (466-511), who became king of the Salic Franks in 481. Clovis' Merovingian Dynasty was powerful and influential in its own right, and the Carolingian Dynasty that succeeded it more than 200 years later became the mightiest and largest European empire of the post-Roman and pre-modern age.
(THE MOTHER CHURCH WOULD INDEED DOMINATE AND EVENTUALLY RULE WITH ITS DOCTRINES AND CUSTOMS, MOST NATIONS OF THE WORLD IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. EXAMPLE: IT WAS ROME THAT INTRODUCED JANUARY THE 1ST AS NEW YEAR DAY, FROM THE PAGANS. MOST NATIONS ON EARTH NOW OBSERVE IT - Keith Hunt)
THE CITY OF GOD
Before Alaric's sack of Rome in 410, the great city had not fallen to a foreign invader since 390 b.c., when Celts under Brennus had passed through the gates and besieged the city's population on the Capitoline. For centuries, Rome had been the 'eternal city', invincible, the centre of the world. Thus its seizure by a hostile army had a symbolic impact that went far beyond the relatively minor physical damage inflicted on it by its temporary occupiers. Some adherents of paganism even believed that the empire had declined to so weak a state because it had forsaken worship of the old gods.
Such speculations prompted St Augustine to compose his most ambitious work, "On the City of God, Against the Pagans." In this enormous book, Augustine reflected upon the entirety of human history, by way of a contrast drawn between two cities: the civitas terrena ('earthly city') and the civitastos Dei ('city of God'). These two cities, he argued, are ultimately irreconcilable with one another; they comprise two distinct polities, each of whose values and virtues could not be more antagonistic to those of the other. Every soul is properly a citizen of one city or the other; but in historical time the two peoples are inextricably involved with one another.
The virtues of the pagans, Augustine argued, were in fact 'splendid vices'. Pagan culture valued chiefly martial virtues, glorified violence, and served principally the human desire for praise and renown.
The city of God, however, is a society that presumes that peace is the proper and normal condition of creation; it practises virtues such as charity, and seeks to praise not 'great men' but God. Thus the fall of Rome is of no ultimate consequence; the earthly city is by its nature transient; only the heavenly Jerusalem - the city of endless peace - is truly eternal.
TO BE CONTINUED
SO IT MATTERED NOT IF THE ROMAN EMPIRE FELL [WHICH IT DID] IN THE THOUGHTS OF AUGUSTINE; ROMAN THEOLOGY WAS THE MAIN THING ANYWAY, AND INDEED IT WAS TO BECOME THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE. FOR 1260 YEARS IT WAS DOMINANT OVER THE OLD PHYSICAL ROMAN EMPIRE AS THE PROPHECIES OF THE BIBLE FORETOLD - Keith Hunt)