Was it the end of the Empire as we knew it?

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Was it the end of the Empire as we knew it?

Postby Lucius Tyrrhenus Garrulus on Sun Mar 20, 2005 7:00 am

SALVETE OMNES, S.V.B.E.V.

When the last emperor called it quits, did Rome still possess any geo-political/military authority? If so to what extent, and for how long? Were there Romans who didn't know the Empire was no more?

MVLTAS GRATIAS ET VALETE BENE!
NOX EST PERPETVA VNA DORMIENDA
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Re: Was it the end of the Empire as we knew it?

Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Sun Mar 20, 2005 11:08 am

Salvete,

Lucius Tyrrhenus Garrulus wrote:SALVETE OMNES, S.V.B.E.V.

When the last emperor called it quits, did Rome still possess any geo-political/military authority? If so to what extent, and for how long? Were there Romans who didn't know the Empire was no more?

MVLTAS GRATIAS ET VALETE BENE!


Roman military authority was nearly non-existent near the end. Rome had already been sacked by the Visigoths in 410 and again by the Vandals in 455 and it never recovered from that blow. I presume the idea that thé Urbs Roma could be simply invaded and sacked must've proved almost as great a shock to the barbarians at the borders as it did to the Romans themselves.

What Rome did continue to possess was great symbolic political authority*. Thus, when Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustulus in 476, he went to ask the East-Roman Emperor Zeno to recognize him as consul under his authority. Zeno granted this, and thus - theoretically at least - became the first emperor of a united Roman Empire since Theodosius in 395. This situation would not last for long however, as Odoacer soon began to violate the terms of their agreement. Still, I find it rather remarkable that Odoacer chose to submit to the East-Roman authority instead of simply ruling in his own name, which he could easily have chosen to do. Also, he largely retained the Roman administration as it had been in late antiquity. Apparently, people were not yet able to think of any form of government that could replace Rome's system.

Valete,

Atticus

*In fact it continued to do so in a way for millennia, from Carolus Magnus to Mussolini so to say.

N.B. : I'm writing this from memory, so if any mistakes slipped in, feel free to correct me.
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Was it the end of the Empire as we knew it?

Postby Valerius Claudius Iohanes on Wed Mar 23, 2005 2:01 am

I think everyone agrees that it was the end of the empire as we knew it, at least in the West. Centralized authority was gone, the whole West was consumed in warlord turmoil, the economy was finally broken after dragging along half ruined for decades, the legions were gone, even the mobile field army, the comitatus, was gone at that point, and Rome itself reduced to - from what I've read - a relative ghost town.
But the symbol, the authoritarian idea of the Empire, still functioned, both as symbol and in concrete terms as the Eastern Empire.
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Rome's Imprint

Postby Aldus Marius on Mon Apr 04, 2005 6:37 am

Salvete amici!

I believe at one point in the mid-500's AD the population of Rome had dwindled to about a hundred. It may have been as low as fifty. On so delicate a thread hangs Mater's claim to be the oldest continuously-inhabited City on earth. If that struggling handful had despaired and left town...

But as to Rome's symbolic import through all subsequent ages, there is an excellent book about nothing else. It is called The Eternal City: Roman Images in the Modern World, written by Peter Bondanella. In it he chronicles interpretations of the Roman experience from Shakespeare to Star Wars, with the latter's conflict between the Virtuous Republic and the Corrupt, Evil Empire. The American Founding Fathers probably saw things much the same way George Lucas did; they were trying to emulate the Roman Republic, with corrections. Napoleon and Mussolini, needless to say, were more interested in the Glorious Empire aspect of the Roman mystique. Bondanella cites examples of influence by one of these aspects or another on everything from painting and sculpture (there exists a really hideous statue of George Washington in a muscle cuirass) to science fiction (Asimov's Foundation trilogy), cinema, and world affairs.

This book is seminal to my own thinking on this topic; I've said some rather Eternal-sounding things on the Outpost. Besides, it's an enjoyable read. I remember throwing it at my art teacher once (I missed), after she dismissed all Roman art as propaganda. Afters, we both sat down and had a good look at the book, with me pointing out why Roman art is still important today. I ended up giving instruction for that section of the class!

The Eternal City: Roman Images in the Modern World, by Peter Bondanella. Chapel Hill: U. of North Carolina, 1987. ISBN 0-8078-1740-6.

Go. Find. Buy.

(Not getting any kickbacks, honest!)
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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Mon Apr 04, 2005 8:28 am

Thanks for the tip, Mari ! I'll try to find the book.

Vale,
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