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View Diary: United States could fall just like the Roman Empire (94 comments)

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  •  surprised (7+ / 0-)

    outsourcing of the military isnt on that list.
    A big factor in Romes sacking.

    •  It did not make the list... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      So I did not add it.  Interesting that you brought that up though.  Thanks.

      •  That makes it hard to take the list seriously. (10+ / 0-)

        Particularly when things like "lack of seriousness" do show up. Giving it the benefit of the doubt, I suppose they could be rolling it into "structural weakness," but that's basically yadda-yadda-yadda-ing one of the most significant factors.

        But there are plenty of other problems with the list: "capitalism" is a laugh, since Rome never practiced anything even vaguely resembling modern capitalism. And "terrorism" was hardly a major issue, either. If anything, the late empire moved more decisively into a command economy model than it had been previously. "Corruption" is also a bit difficult to swallow: yes, much of the late empire was corrupt, but so was much of the early empire, and the entirety of the republic. Ditto with "greed," and emperors going back to Augustus bemoaned the old "moral decline" bugbear. Not to mention that some of the entries seem mutually exclusive: an increasingly bureaucratic empire and decentralization?

        Fundamentally, I would attribute the decline of the Roman Empire (at least in the western half) to population pressures. Population had been in decline since the second century CE, which led to all kinds of problems, many of which are stated on this list: decline in city life, rampant inflation, and so on. It also explains the "outsourcing of the military" problem: Rome simply did not have enough citizens of its own to maintain its own armies. And it needed those armies to secure its extensive borders from external threats. And those external threats were increasing, as Germanic and Turkish nomads were being pushed west, smack dab into Rome's borders, starting in around the second century due to the migration of the Huns.

        And what caused the Huns to start moving west? A number of factors, probably, but at least once major issue was a chillier climate starting around that time. Those climate changes can probably also be implicated in the Antonine Plague, which was the first major epidemic in the Roman imperial period (from 165-180 CE), killed up to a third of the empire's population, and was really the first major incident in Rome's aforementioned long-term population decline.

        •  Demandt is simply reviewing historiography, (2+ / 0-)
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          seancdaug, cynndara

          listing all the various interpretations for West Roman decline offered over the last few centuries. Of course most of these reasons are absurd or unfounded. Demandt is not trying to combine them all in a comprehensive explanation.

          Most Americans seem to adhere to what I call the "Cecil B DeMille theory"-- the Empire collapsed because the Emperors were fruity psychopaths and their Empresses scheming sensualists who took milk baths and hosted orgies. Adherents of this view don't try to reconcile it with the fact that the Empire was aggressively and monolithically Christian for its final 150 years.

          •  a list of random reasons is not historiography (2+ / 0-)
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            seancdaug, historys mysteries

            historiography is a long analytical discussion of the field of historical arguments explaining a given period or historical topic.

            •  The Damandt list is just an appendix to a (1+ / 0-)
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              wu ming

              700-page study on the historiography of the decline of the West Roman Empire. It's useful as an index to illustrate how wide (and often absurd) the range of proffered explanations has been. I never said it the list itself is "historiography"-- it does not by itself weigh these reasons or classify them or relate them to each other.  

              Don't lecture me about what historiography is. I know what it is; I'm a professional historian.

              Your mother is a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.

              •  i think we're talking past one another (0+ / 0-)

                i was speaking more to the list itself being held up as historiography (or history in any meaningful sense). what damandt's is doing may well be historiography (i haven't read it, can't comment on it), but this diary's quoted list certainly isn't.

              •  I'm afraid to rec (0+ / 0-)

                a blatant personal insult, but your final sentence had me ROTFL.

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