The Fall Of The Roman Empire

2316 words - 9 pages

In the year 476, the last Roman emperor was deposed. Over the previous two centuries, Barbarian invasions had brought the once-mighty Rome to its knees, and this is taken as the final fall of the Roman Empire in Western Europe. What are the political, economical and social implications of this event, and to what extent does it constitute a true turning-point in history?In the period immediately after 476 it is possible to see the structure of medieval Europe emerging. Most obviously, the empire was quite quickly replaced by nation-states, vaguely resembling those Europe consists of now: a Frankish Kingdom that would become Spain, and an Ostrogothic Kingdom that would split into Italy, Greece, and Balkans. There would be much movement of borders and struggles for superiority before the countries we now recognise would appear (after all, Germany as we know it only arrived in 1870's). But the pattern of a diverse continent with numerous small states was quickly established.A clear consequence of the birth of these nation states was the beginning of modern monarchies. Late Roman leadership had fluctuated between elected, appointed and hereditary emperors; in the new Barbarian kingdoms, the hereditary principle became the standard. Educated statesmen were replaced by hardened warriors who earned their positions of power by warfare. Furthermore, elected institutions such as Senates were abandoned, kings ruling by decree, with appointed advisors but no elected officials. Democracy in any form was not to return for several centuries.Furthermore, the Church began to separate from the state. Unlike in the East, where the emperor lay claim to control of the Church as well as government, God's representative in Medieval Europe was deemed to be the Bishop of Rome, who soon became the only bishop to be known as 'Pope'. Kings, on the other hand, ruled by ownership of land, and by being the chief employer of his populace. The Barbarians were warriors above all, and the new countries ran along military lines. The powers of a king were those of landlord, employer and commanding officer. There was no pretension to divine authority; many kings were new to Christianity themselves.In the early years of the Barbarian era we can also see the roots of Feudalism. A Barbarian king's land were his estate: he owned them, rather than just holding charge over them. Under Frankish custom, the possessions of a man were divided evenly between his sons at his death, not all passed to the elder son as later became the norm. Subsequently, Frankish lands gradually got split up, generation after generation, into ever-smaller domains. Although various dynasties held the throne, peasants were more beholden to their landlord. This arrangement enabled the bonded service that Feudalism depended on to emerge.The fall of the Western Roman Empire also began the decline of Latin as the first language of Europe. Germanic tongues that would evolve into modern European languages became more...

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