So what happened to the Roman Empire Again? (Could it soon happen to America as it did to the Western Empire?)

Susanna Viljanen
Susanna Viljanen, works at Aalto University
  1. Because of the very same barbarians who had settled the Roman territory and toppled the moribund, bankrupt and paralyzed western Roman Empire.

    The true Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire whose capital was Constantinople (Constantinopolis). The Western Roman Empire was nothing but a trash bank – the impoverished little brother. It was basically bankrupt already in the early 4th century. Centuries of inflation and its treatment by deflation had practically ousted the monetary economy, impoverished the empire and replaced monetary economy with barter trade.

    After 451, the Western Empire was in foreclosure. It had basically expended itself on warding off the Hunnic invasion (yes, the same Xiongnu, which were a continuous threat to China) and it had no more money to upkeep its army, not to speak about infrastructure or state apparatus. By 476 the Western Empire was simply liquidated, not conquered.

    The barbarians set there their own kingdoms, converted to Christianity, saved what saveable was – and merged with the original Empire population. They became the forefathers of the modern Italians. The Feudal system replaced the slave-owning society of the Empire and heavy cavalry became the norm in the Italian warfare. The feudal armies of the Barbarians were stronger and better suited on the terrain than the last Patrician Roman armies.

  2. Rome was never the capital of the Western Roman Empire. The capital was first Mediolanum (today’s Milano) and later Ravenna (today’s Ravenna). If you really love the architecture of antiquity, you should visit Ravenna – the Roman architecture there is almost intact and in everyday use. Not Rome, unless you are a Medievalist.
  3. Then there was that thing called Eastern Roman Empire. Now we are speaking of the true Roman Empire. The legacy of the Empire, its laws, organizations, traditions and Romanitas continued without breaks until the Turkish conquest 1453. Konstantinos XI Dragses was just as much a Roman Emperor as Augustus, Nero, Hadrian or Trajan.

    The Eastern Roman Empire was the strongest and richest empire in the world during the period (with possible exception of Tang dynasty China) and it could ward off the Arab conquest. Actually the Easten Romans were well on their way on conquering the Western lands and incorporating them back to Empire. The Southern Italy belonged to Eastern Empire well until the 13th century.

    Most of all, the Eastern Roman Empire was a thalassocracy – a sea power. Its warships – dromons, khelandria, pamphylia, syphonophoroi – were more than a match on anything the Arabs could launch.

    If you have noticed Italy is a peninsula. The only way to Italy is either to cross the Alps, through Veneto – or by sea. The Arabs had no way on either crossing the Alps (there was the Frankish state in-between) and no way through Veneto (there was the Eastern Roman Empire, and the only way would be by sea. Now the Eastern Romans could launch warfleets on their own, intercepting the Arabs and puncturing their hulls or burning them with pyr thalassion (Greek Fire for non-reenactors).

    Now Rome is an inland town. It is located in excellent place to dominate Latium (modern Lazio), but it is not a very good place to either invade by sea or a capital for a thalassocracy. Rome has its own harbour town, Ostia – just as Athens has Pireus.

    Now suppose you land on Ostia. You have to fight your way all the way to Rome. How about your logistics? Your army are mainly light cavalry and fanatic warband. How much they do eat? Fodder, food, victuals, weapons, arrows, other supplies. You have to ship them from overseas. What if the enemy cuts your supply lines?

    But Constantinople! You cannot select a better place for a capital than in intersection of two continents – Europe and Asia Minor – and two seas (Mediterranean and Black Sea). Constantine the Great had excellent strategic vision. The Empire could launch both land-based armies to either direction at will – and harbour vast fleets that would dominate the seas. Even today Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey – the capital Ankara is far smaller.

    The Romans could hold a strong army and navy in the protection of the triple walls of Constantinopolis. They stood unconquered until 1204 and Fourth Crusade – and even then they stood all the attacks until finally conquered by army of Mehmed II Buyuk Osmanli.

About eslkevin

I am a peace educator who has taken time to teach and work in countries such as the USA, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman over the past 4 decades.
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