On August 24th, 410, Rome was overrun by the Visigoths in an event that symbolized the fall of the Western Roman Empire. This is a moment in history that we would do well to remember. An empire that ruled the known world was corrupted from the inside to the point that they could not defend themselves from a much weaker enemy. This could conceivably be the beginning of the dark middle ages.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
Today we present another entry for Round 84 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The more than $12,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3,000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A gift certificate from Quantum Harvest LLC (up to a $2,200 value) good for 12% off the purchase of any of their sun-tracking models, and 10% off the purchase price of any of their other models.
- A Front Sight Lifetime Diamond Membership, providing lifetime free training at any Front Sight Nevada course, with no limit on repeating classes. This prize is courtesy of a SurvivalBlog reader who prefers to be anonymous.
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A Three-Day Deluxe Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $190 value),
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
- An assortment of products along with a one hour consultation on health and wellness from Pruitt’s Tree Resin (a $265 value).
- Good2GoCo.com is providing a $400 purchase credit at regular prices for the prize winner’s choice of either Wise Foods or Augason long term storage foods, in stackable buckets.
- Three sets each of made-in-USA regular and wide-mouth reusable canning lids. (This is a total of 300 lids and 600 gaskets.) This prize is courtesy of Harvest Guard (a $270 value)
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances.
Round 84 ends on September 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.
1) Edward Gibbon, who wrote Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire about 250 years ago, said Christianity –or more precisely, Catholicism — was one of the causes of the fall:
“As the happiness of a future life is the great object of religion, we may hear without surprise or scandal, that the introduction or at least the abuse, of Christianity had some influence on the decline and fall of the Roman empire. The clergy successfully preached the doctrines of patience and pusillanimity: the active virtues of society were discouraged; and the last remains of military spirit were buried in the cloister: a large portion of public and private wealth was consecrated to the specious demands of charity and devotion; and the soldiers’ pay was lavished on the useless multitudes of both sexes, who could only plead the merits of abstinence and chastity. *
Faith, zeal, curiosity, and the more earthly passions of malice and ambition, kindled the flame of theological discord; the church, and even the state, were distracted by religious factions, whose conflicts were sometimes bloody, and always implacable; the attention of the emperors was diverted from camps to synods; the Roman world was oppressed by a new species of tyranny; and the persecuted sects became the secret enemies of their country. ”
(Scroll down to “General Observations On The Fall Of The Roman Empire In The West” )
2) However, Gibbon notes other causes — luxury, corruption etc. A current day German scholar has surveyed historians since and noted about 210 causes have been proposed by scholars. Depopulation caused by climate change and several major pandemics as well as technology transfers to the German tribes are some recent theories.
Gives Gibbons any proof and sources for these writings, credit to the greater threat, better Military etc of the tribal federations?
What did he wrote about the resistence of the gallo-romans, ignoring even the wishes of the east Roman emperors to bow down to the franks and visigoths?
Where should the Roman emperors´ve deployed their armies? The Alps, Rome itself
The visigoths ´d a much more fearsome weapon, the romans needed their Forces to fight the huns but were stupid enough to break the deal with the visigoths
1) Gibbon gives extensive footnotes/citations to ancient sources to support his story , as can be seen in the link I gave above. His Decline and Fall is available online from several sites.
2) Obviously, some additional sources have been found in the 250 years since. Plus advances in physics , development of archaeology,etc have allowed us to unearth facts not available to him.
3) However, many of the ancient documents were available to him and Gibbon did a better job of interpretation, in my opinion, than some of today’s scholars — who have an educated incapacity and overspecialized narrowness of vision.
4) Willem Jongman, for example, notes how “Gibbon Was Right” — and that recent archaeological discoveries show how some modern views of “transformation” are claptrap.
5) As I noted, there have been over 200 causes suggested for Rome’s fall.
My personal view is that there was something in Roman society that was hostile to the study of Science.
Many historians don’t seem very aware of a separate discipline — the History of Science. That field shows how Greeks –with a far smaller population, resources, and wealth — made massive discoveries in science in a short period of time whereas the huge Roman Empire made little to none in over 400 years of existence. And the little progress that was made in the Empire was made by Roman Greeks –Galen, Ptolemy,etc.
For example, The highly Huns and Avars were able to kick the stuffings out of the Roman army because they had the STIRRUP — developed in China around 400 AD and possibly earlier. The Romans didn’t have it until they copied it (around 600 AD?) A very basic innovation that escaped them.
Way back in 400 BC Thucydides had told how Athens was destroyed by a plague during the war with Sparta. Yet the Romans entered into globalization — extensive trade with Central Asia, China , India and Africa — without ever erecting quarantines and border controls to halt the spread of disease.
Much of their population, especially the leading elites, were in cities and suburbs — which left them far more vulnerable to pandemics than the rural German tribes.
Roman population war around 60 million circa 400 AD. So why did they not develop gunpowder, cannons, crossbows, napalm etc.?
1) Not to your Quote above about the cost of monasteries etc, remeber the Temples, Sacrifices of the romans must also´ve cost something(at least not where i read about it)
2) Gibbons seems to ignore the Military Evolution, as well as some other Facts about the Roman Military.
a) i wouldn´t want as a a Roman cavallerist of the classical legions face cataphracts or clibernarrii, i even dobt they would be able to stand against the cavalry of the goths or any predecessor to the early knights man to man.
b) he ignores or didn´t know that the germanic tribes grew stronger, tribes grew into tribal federations, lightly armed warriors on foot into a heavy cavalry, who learned siegecraft
3 I think from what i read he didn´t Interpret with the motives of the author in mind, could bemisleading especially if the sources are Senators.
Gibbons was landed gentry, and so i expect an House of Lords was more positive in his view than the Roman Senate deserved at his best times.
5) Yes i preach this regularly in discussions.
The Stirrup is not a great Advantage to cavalry, it helps notmuch with the shock of the Charge and even then only to press yourself better against the “backrest of the war saddle), in the saga of Erek and Enite, Erek and hisadversary purposefullyforsake the use of their stirrups, so they didn´t got caught in it – if they got dishorsed.
The huns and alans had a mass of horse archers, nothing pre gun powder infantry was much good at fighting against
Octavian in Rome was at this time to old for a good education in arms.
The Romans had Napalm it was called greek fire, the bzantines used it extensively at sea, which the Roman empire didn´t Need as Long as it controoled the mediterran and the channel.
The crossbow wasn´t needed, a good archer is much superior to crossbow or an early handhonne on campaign, because the crossbow is AFAIK a much greater logistical burden.
It takes only a Long time to Train good archers or slingers, but the romans emphasized good training
The big advantage of the Huns and Avars was mobility — the ability to be dispersed,travel a great distance and suddenly coalesce into a major attacking force.
The Stirrup was certainly an important aid to mobility — try riding at a trot or canter with stirrups and then without — you can’t post with the legs without stirrups –even with the Roman saddle. Which means the Huns could catch the Romans but the Romans couldn’t catch the Huns.
The Romans favored infantry early on for good reason. Initially they were near the Med and transport was by water with use of wagons and pack horses inland. A horse eats about 30 lbs a day and can’t carry much more than a man. So you need a second horse to carry supplies –but it needs 30 lbs a day as well. Which means horse number two can only carry enough supplies to 2 1/2 days.
Which means infantry leading pack horses can catch up and pass the cavalry in about 2 1/2 days. The US Army discovered this in the Civil War, relearned the lesson trying to catch the Comanches in Texas and the US Marines learned it in the Central American banana wars early in the 20th century.
But this is mainly a consideration moving an expeditionary force against fixed fortifications or an equally slow foe. Against nomadic tribes with herds of horses and multiple remounts, you are fighting a different war.
Plus an economy can only support a maximum of 2% of its men as full time soldiers. The Huns and Avars, however, were hunters and a self-sufficient militia divorced from much need of a military subsidary —other than the license to keep whatever they could steal.
Note also that Edward Gibbon was a survivalist who served in the militia. From the same Chapter 38 re the fall of Rome in the west:
“Yet the experience of four thousand years should enlarge our hopes, and diminish our apprehensions: we cannot determine to what height the human species may aspire in their advances towards perfection; but it may safely be presumed, that no people, unless the face of nature is changed, will relapse into their original barbarism.
The improvements of society may be viewed under a threefold aspect. 1. The poet or philosopher illustrates his age and country by the efforts of a single mind; but those superior powers of reason or fancy are rare and spontaneous productions; and the genius of Homer, or Cicero, or Newton, would excite less admiration, if they could be created by the will of a prince, or the lessons of a preceptor.
2. The benefits of law and policy, of trade and manufactures, of arts and sciences, are more solid and permanent: and many individuals may be qualified, by education and discipline, to promote, in their respective stations, the interest of the community. But this general order is the effect of skill and labor; and the complex machinery may be decayed by time, or injured by violence.
3. Fortunately for mankind, the more useful, or, at least, more necessary arts, can be performed without superior talents, or national subordination: without the powers of one, or the union of many. Each village, each family, each individual, must always possess both ability and inclination to perpetuate the use of fire 12 and of metals; the propagation and service of domestic animals; the methods of hunting and fishing; the rudiments of navigation; the imperfect cultivation of corn, or other nutritive grain; and the simple practice of the mechanic trades. Private genius and public industry may be extirpated; but these hardy plants survive the tempest, and strike an everlasting root into the most unfavorable soil. “
In my opinion, one of the best modern day historians on the fall of the Roman Empire is Oxford professor Bryan Ward-Perkins. His book “The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization” destroys the popular view in American academia that Rome did not really fall and that the Germanic invasions were merely a multi-cultural “transformation”. His account also supports survivalism:
On p 48, he notes that one of the reasons for the Fall was that the Emperors had banned Roman civilians from having arms, that the armies were deployed on the frontier of the Rhine and Danube rivers, and that the vast interior and population of the Empire were unable to reacquire the military arts and defend themselves once the Goths broke through on that long front in 405 AD.
He goes on to note:
“Interestingly, the most successful resistance to Germanic invasion was in fact offered by the least romanized areas of the empire: the Basque country; Brittany and western Britain….
It seems that it was in these ‘backward’ parts of the empire that people found it easiest to re-establish tribal structures and effective military resistance. This is a point of some interest, because it parallels a phenomenon we shall meet in Chapter 6, when looking at the economy.
Sophistication and specialization , characteristic of most of the Roman world, were fine, as long as they worked: Romans bought their pots from professional potters, and bought their defence from professional soldiers. From both they got a quality product –much better than if they had had to do their soldiering and potting themselves.
However, when disaster struck and there were no more trained soldiers and no more expert potters around, the general population lacked the skills and structures to create alternative military and economic systems. In these circumstances, it was in fact better to be a little ‘backward’. “
The Visigoths had a secret weapon. They knew if they showed up at the border with children the stupid Roman government would release them into the country and they could take it over…
IMHO he best modern day historians on the fall of the Roman Empire is Ariel and Will Durant.
The time when rome was stronger than the visigoths, Francs, alemans etc. was Long gone, the enemies of rome grew stronger in the west – better organised and their Military evolving, developments which had made the the Roman legions obsolete.
Then came the huns
The secret weapon of the visigoths was that the romans needed them as allies against the huns
1) Circa 400 AD, much of the wealth of the Empire was in the East — trade with Asia and Africa. When the Sasanid Empire (Iran/Iraq) arose as a major power and defeated/killed 2 Emperors, the Empire shifted its armies and resources to fighting the Sasanids. Gaul was lower priority.
Ian Morris has noted that most of the rivers in France flow WEST, into the Atlantic Ocean. Since water transport was the only way of hauling heavy cargos for long distances in that time — and since the Romans did not have good ocean-going ships — much of Gaul remained undeveloped other than military installations. (The Rhone river flowing into the Med was an exception.)
So the Germanic invaders –including the Vandals — were able to cross the frozen Rhine River in 406 into Gaul. Central Spain was sparsely populated –as it is today — and provided a corridor to the crossing into Africa at Gibraltar. The Vandals then conquered North Africa — the primary food supply for Italy (wheat, olive oil ). Also a major source of the wealth of Roman Senators and a major tax source sustaining the Roman Army.
Always guard your flanks — even the unimportant ones.