Interesting topic, but I will have to disagree with you.
Originally posted by whatukno
On Tuesday, August 24th 410 AD, Alaric and his Visigoth Army sacked Rome and in doing so destroyed the western Roman Empire.
Well, not really. It was part of a long string of complex events that started in 376 with the Huns turning up north of the Black Sea causing huge
migrations of armed refugees across Roman borders. The chain of events finished in 476 with the end of the Western Empire. Though as Byrd pointed
out, the Eastern empire actually flourished for centuries afterwards.
Plunging western Europe into the dark ages for centuries after.
Alaric's sacking of Rome was highly symbolic, but of probably neither here nor there in terms of the collapse of the Western Empire. Rome wasn't
even the Imperial capital at the time, Ravenna was.
The Empire was a mess in 410 - in 405/6 the Huns had moved onto the Great Hungarian Plain, causing another wave of mass migrations into Roman
territory. In 409 a bunch of Vandals, Alans and Suevi had ransacked across Roman Gaul, pretty much leaving it on fire. They then went on to Spain,
causing more damage - dividing the place between them when they had finished.
In 407 Britain had rebelled, and declared it's own emperor. He was eventually defeated in Gaul, but by 410 most of the Romans had departed
It goes on.
Why did he do it? Because he was not promoted, see Alaric was a mercenary for the Romans in that time, the decline of the western empire forced Rome
to hire men like Alaric and the Visigoths to secure their frontier boarders.
By 410 Alaric was king of the Goths, commanding a huge army. His specific demand was:
the concession of a block of territory 200 miles long by 150 wide between the Danube and the Gulf of Venice (to be held probably on some terms of
nominal dependence on the empire) and the title of commander-in-chief of the imperial army
He wanted somewhere for his people to live, safely within Roman borders, and titles and power for himself.
Rome's cruelty and mistreatment of the Visigoths forced Alaric to do what no other barbarian could, destroy Rome.
It's much more complicated than that. Alaric's sacking of Rome would have been considered a policy failure - a last resort to save face, as
Honorius would not agree the deal with him (many senior Romans wanted to however). He may have destroyed (the city of) Rome economically (though it
was already a shadow of its former self), but he left most of the buildings intact. Alaric was a pious Christian, and respected Rome as a the capital
of the Christian world. Some called it "the most civilised sacking ever to take place".
Some say that at that time the Roman Empire was on the cusp of the industrial revolution.
Really?? Who says that? The only thing it was on the cusp of was complete disintegration, its amazing how long it went on for. At it's height,
Rome became a very efficient machine for killing, looting, taxing and enslaving, but it was never anywhere near anything resembling a technological or
scientific or industrial revolution. It was deeply conservative in nature, and generally incurious about anything that didn't aid in killing and
Much of its technology it took from other cultures (for example concrete), what the Romans did was take the engineering to a new level, sometimes far
surpassing any other civilisation. Their understanding of how the word worked was largely supernatural, and at no point did they come close to
inventing anything like the steam engine. Perhaps, given time, the Greeks might have gone down that path. However we will never know, as the Romans
conquered them and hollowed out their culture - killing much scientific and technological exploration. Perhaps this would be a more interesting
"What If?" than whether Rome was sacked in 410 or not...
But instead, humanity took a step back, and a major step back at that.
Not in my opinion. To talk of a "humanity" shows a Eurocentrism, totally ignoring all the other great civilisations on the planet that carried on,
especially the Chinese dynasties. Western Europe became a backwater, but it probably made little difference to many others.
Also the end of Rome marked the end of mass slavery in Western Europe. By the 4th century, the majority of people living inside Roman borders were
slaves, many of the rest being peasants, taxed by a Roman elite to the point of living hand to mouth. Personally, I can't really mourn the end of
that, and there is little evidence many did at the time.
Anyway, if you are interested in this period I would highly recommend this book: The Fall of the Roman Empire - a New History by Peter Heather
It's excellent, and goes into great detail (rather than my very simplified accounts) without ever being dry.
[edit on 26/8/10 by FatherLukeDuke]