Talk:Fall of the Western Roman Empire

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Deletion of this redirect[edit]

I think that this article should be deleted, as I would like to move the page Final dissolution of the Western Roman Empire to one with this title. DCI2026 02:47, 20 July 2011 (UTC)

Now as a full article instead of a redirect[edit]

I have made a bold edit; the new version has been incubated in userspace for some time and now seems ready for the light of day. Thanks in particular to User:Bazuz whose wise words are at User talk:Richard Keatinge/Archives/2012/May 2012 and User talk:Richard Keatinge/Archives/2012/June 2012. Richard Keatinge (talk) 17:04, 26 June 2012 (UTC)

Spartacus and Tacfarinas[edit]

Hi!

I have been busy doing many other things and so had little time to spare on the article, unfortunately . For now I have a small thought: I have read in a book that Spartacus and Tacfarinas both had tried to negotiate at some point some sort of settlement that would have resembled the foederati settlements - but with no success. Do you think it's worthwhile to include this in the section about receptio? Bazuz (talk) 12:34, 27 July 2012 (UTC)

Maybe. The article is structured around several themes; the process of power loss is the main one of course but I have also included a few comparisons with Roman power at its peak. If other editors agree with this approach, Spartacus and Tacfarinas could, possibly, fit in to mention of what Theodosius was supposed to have done to the invaders across the Danube. But a closer comparison, both in time and situation, might be with Claudius Gothicus and his decisive response to Goths. Richard Keatinge (talk) 08:57, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

economic data[edit]

I found in the book by Ward-Perkins (p. 16) the following information:

In 413 it was decreed that the provinces of central and southern Italy were to be excused 4/5 of their tax for 5 years, in order to overcome the ravages of the Goths. However, in 418 several provinces were found unable to pay even the reduced rate and were granted extensions.

I think that these indicates some of the effects of Alarich's campaigns on the Empire. But where exactly to put it in? Also, the section title includes "starvation in Italia" but it is not fleshed put in the text. Bazuz (talk) 02:02, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

It's alluded to under the Settlement of 418: "The Italian areas which had been compelled to support the Goths had most of their taxes remitted for years.[143]". But it's an important point and may well benefit from expansion. Richard Keatinge (talk) 08:25, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
I don't have Heather's book here, but it looks like the remittance reference is a bit misplaced. The remittances apparently were intended to compensate for the losses after Alaric's campaigns, and 418 was, presumably, the date of a 5-year review - so the connection to the Settlement of 418 might be not real. If you concur with this reasoning (and can check again what Heather says about it), I'll move it into the Alaric section. Cheers, Bazuz (talk) 10:26, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
I'll have to leave it until next weekend, but I'll check Heather and Ward-Perkins then. The present comment seems accurate but possibly vague and over-compressed; new wording appreciated. Richard Keatinge (talk) 00:10, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

Settlement of 418[edit]

Hi,

(Perhaps under the impression of Ward-Perkins's book which I just re-read) I am thinking of expanding a bit the section on the above, stressing how it might have represented a missed opportunity to recover the fortunes of the Empire. It'd be more of an emphasis addition since the basic data is already there in the article. what do you think? Is such a move justifiable? Btw, I now think the tax remission fact might be well worth mentioning in both contexts - as an example of the devastation and of the opportunity for recovery. Bazuz (talk) 11:19, 30 July 2012 (UTC)

I've thought of making explicit various points from which a recovery could possibly have been made. I'd decided against, mainly because none of my sources actually makes a complete list explicit and it might easily be construed as original research. Under 418 we do mention Rutilius Gallicus and his reasons for optimism. Would you perhaps think it worth making the point more obvious in the last sentence of the lede? At present this reads "The collapse, and the repeated attempts to reverse it, are major subjects of historiography and they inform much modern discourse on state failure." We could put in something like "the repeated attempts to reverse it, which could potentially have succeeded at several points". That at least we can source.
The tax remissions might indeed be worth mentioning twice. When did they finally end, do you know? Richard Keatinge (talk) 12:40, 30 July 2012 (UTC)
I surely don't know, all I have is W-P's reference. But I tried to google this and found an interesting pointer: http://books.google.ie/books?id=I0NJmAfgrjMC&pg=PA83&lpg=PA83&dq=roman+tax+remission+413&source=bl&ots=ZomwPX6GLA&sig=cgoWbQmOx-YfGXIvx2ydPcA8NdM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Qr8WUIOsBs6JhQfPoYHoAQ&ved=0CD4Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=roman%20tax%20remission%20413&f=false. It's footnote 401. Do you have the LRE? I can try to borrow a copy from the library.
Anyway, I think the datum is sufficiently interesting as it is.
W-P makes a case that 418 might have been a recovery year. I'll look up the page reference later.

Cheers! Bazuz (talk) 17:10, 30 July 2012 (UTC)

religious strife[edit]

Hi!

Consider the following passage:

"Religious strife was rare after the suppression of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 136 (after which the devastated Judaea ceased to be a major centre for Jewish unrest). Christianity was the faith of a small minority, generally tolerated though occasionally punished, and neither Christians nor Jews were in a position to transform mutually intolerant theological diversity into serious civil unrest."

I wonder if the second part of the second sentence is necessary. The Christians were still a humble minority and while there was considerable animosity between some of the various sects, I presume it wasn't ever likely to spill over into a serious disturbance of the Empire's peace. As for the Jews, the earlier Roman-Jewish wars did not occur because of intra-Jewish religious conflicts (though some scholars contend that economic and social divisions within Judaea were the cause). So all told I'd suggest to trim that sentence. Do you agree? Bazuz (talk) 17:50, 1 August 2012 (UTC)

Indeed, the major Jewish wars were Jews versus pagans, though the vicious internal Jewish divisions did weaken their resistance to the Romans. The early Christians simply weren't in a position to cause serious trouble. Trim by all means. Richard Keatinge (talk) 20:41, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Done. Bazuz (talk) 20:57, 1 August 2012 (UTC)

Title[edit]

I don't know if having a completely thematically distinct article at Decline of the Roman Empire is really sustainable. In my view, this article could be better titled as "history of the late Western Roman Empire" since we already have, at that other article, a quite extensive discussion on causes of the fall. Slac speak up! 11:27, 1 June 2013 (UTC)

I think we reflect the academic approaches to the subject quite well. In the other article we have an account of the various overarching theories (many distinctly simplistic and separated from any historical reality), and in this one, an account of the events that made up the Fall (a much-used term), with mention of the various theories as relevant. I see this as quite sustainable. Richard Keatinge (talk) 09:33, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
I'm not sure if I'm intepreting what you are saying correctly. There is no "explanation" of the fall that is entirely separate from a "theory" about the fall. It almost seems to me as though we are saying "here is a bunch of things that fusty old historians said over in this article, and here is the *real deal* about what we know actually happened and why it happened in this separate article." I don't believe the two discussions are fundamentally independent of each other; we have to respect NPOV which means writing an article about the fall that says "Gibbons said a lack of martial vigour did it" alongside "modern historians say currency debasement did it" or whatever and presenting them both. That aside, if we are going to say "this article is about over-arching themes" and "this article is about detail" then there are two concerns. That aside, a division between one article that focuses on "theory" and one article that focuses on historical events/chronology isn't reflected by having one article titled "Decline" and another titled "Fall" is it? Most laypeople would understand that both articles encompassed the same historical event/process. Slac speak up! 02:06, 7 June 2013 (UTC)
Doesn't every theory, no matter how crackpot, have some evidence to support it? So theory "A" has "an account of the events that made up the Fall" and interpreted to support that theory; meanwhile theory "B" has "an account of the events that made up the Fall" and interpreted to support that theory. It's even possible that both "A" and "B" use the same account of the events to arrive at their differing conclusions. So it's highly artificial to suppose that the two things - theories and accounts of events - can be neatly corralled into their respective areas. Better by far to list the events and mention how each event is supported or attacked or ignored by the competing theories. In short, merge these articles. Laurel Lodged (talk) 18:23, 7 June 2013 (UTC)
Mmm, indeed the two discussions aren't independent of each other, although not all of these theories are limited to the relevant time and not all are well-supported by primary evidence. Forcing them in to any kind of chronological narrative would be a violent process. So, how would you feel about a section here about over-arching theories that don't fit into a chronological narrative? We could have one I suppose. I originally decided not to because the article is already at the extreme of length. Personally I would prefer to maintain the present divide, but to expand the Decline article to include all of the notable ideas. Richard Keatinge (talk) 20:26, 7 June 2013 (UTC)
I think that a merger, although violent, is the least worst option. Would support an expanded "over-arching theories" section in the merged entity. Laurel Lodged (talk) 20:35, 7 June 2013 (UTC)
So, a first cut might be taking the present Decline article and inserting it en bloc at the end of this page? Worth a try I suppose. We'd need to discuss it on the talk page of the Decline article first, especially if we follow through the obvious implication of turning the Decline article into a redirect. Richard Keatinge (talk) 12:17, 9 June 2013 (UTC)
First cut only. Will require work. Laurel Lodged (talk) 21:10, 9 June 2013 (UTC)

Thanks for your efforts with this! And apologies for my very poorly edited comment above. . . Slac speak up! 01:27, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

Gibbon, and the rich of the Late Empire[edit]

I have reinstated a classic comment from Gibbon, not a speculation but a serious albeit imperfectly-quantifiable point of mainstream historiography, and a counter-argument. I have reinstated also a comment on what seems to have been of paramount importance to the government - it is a matter of opinion, but this is the referenced opinion of a historian and is also well within the mainstream of modern scholarly thought. I have not reinstated the comparison with the Second Triumvirate; it may be relevant but you're right, we probably don't need it here. Richard Keatinge (talk) 09:23, 13 January 2014 (UTC)

But putting in things like Gibbon's "useless masses" comment isn't really encyclopedic in my opinion. A better approach would be to state the argument in a more guns vs. butter economic format. Stating things about the overarching motivations of rulers needs more of an explanation accompanying them then just citing a historian's opinion as a fact. Do you have that source? Roy Brumback (talk) 18:11, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
Nuns versus guns? Possible, difficult for lack of figures; there were certainly a lot of monks, nuns, churches, etc but we don't have exact figures and certainly no exact idea of how many nonproductive mouths they accounted for. Giving a classic and still major argument in the words of its originator, with a modern word of caution, strikes me as just about the most encyclopedic possible thing to do. We have to do the same sort of thing for practically all the major arguments; we just don't have the relevant figures.
Overarching motivations - well, we are supposed to be using appropriate secondary sources, and a book by a current historian seems perfect. But in any case, the previous sentence is less opinionated, more factual, and makes more or less the same point, and at this diff I have again removed the sentence you took out. Thanks. Richard Keatinge (talk) 19:31, 13 January 2014 (UTC)

Barbarians?[edit]

Why use a pejorative to describe the invading forces? Kleuske (talk) 16:16, 24 May 2014 (UTC)

It's used by pretty much all the surviving sources, and in the context of Helleno-Roman historiography, simply refers to anyone who wasn't a part of Greek or Roman culture. Richard Keatinge (talk) 16:27, 24 May 2014 (UTC)
The sources are quite lopsided (they're Roman, exclusively) and no matter *how* you twist it, in the 4th century it's well and truly a pejorative. The fact that 18th century sources refer to "savages" in Africa and elsewhere is no reason to copy that either. Kleuske (talk) 13:36, 4 June 2014 (UTC)
Both the primary sources and the modern secondary sources use the word barbarian, in this time period and context, as a matter of routine. I have just turned my eyes to one of my book-shelves, and I see three examples of the word used in the titles of scholarly books; looking at the index of the Cambridge Ancient History vol XII, 193-337, there are multiple pages references for the term. Yes, there was a pejorative sense to it, stronger in current colloquial use, but it also has clear semantic content. I suppose we could find some circumlocution, a neologism such as "ethnic groups outside Helleno-Roman culture" would do, but I can't see why we would want to. Richard Keatinge (talk) 14:48, 4 June 2014 (UTC)
Try calling them by their names if at all possible? The word "barbarians" does not distinguish between Goths, Vandals, Huns, Saxons, Franks, etc. The current text makes no distinction and jumbles them all together under a, frankly, offensive word which is used with disturbing consistency. Working out who played what role and naming names may remedy said lopsidedness. And i'm willing to do the work and very much open for suggestions and/or collaboration. Kleuske (talk) 16:46, 6 June 2014 (UTC)
I wouldn't bother myself, but feel free. We do of course use individual tribal names where appropriate already. The word remains useful either when several different groups are being described, or when non-Romans are described as a collective. Who exactly is being offended by it? Richard Keatinge (talk) 16:56, 6 June 2014 (UTC)
Me, for one. Kleuske (talk) 08:56, 7 June 2014 (UTC)
You are offended by the description of people who lived 1700 years before our time and lacked systems of writing, which is a hallmark of the western conception of civilization, as barbarians? Why does being offended over a word used to describe people who died millennia ago give you any authority? Are you a historian? Have you studied ancient history? Wannabe rockstar (talk) 20:09, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
I apologize for any offence. Your comments do raise an interesting question about our use of words with both a) semantically-meaningful and b) pejorative content. I don't find any relevant policies or guidelines on this particular point. I've just been involved in a discussion at Talk:Traditional Chinese medicine where I argued that the word "pseudoscience" was being used in a purely pejorative way, in conflict with its useful meaning, and should be removed as not helping the article. Here I feel that the word "barbarian" is or at least can be used, in accordance with the sources, to mean "people not part of Graeco-Roman culture". Additionally I feel that in this specific sense in the period covered by this article, the word is useful and no longer relevant to any current ethnic group; classic Graeco-Roman culture no longer exists as an ethnic identity. Anyway, I agree, there may be instances in this article where "barbarian" could be replaced by specific ethnonyms. In any case I look forward to your suggestions and to collaborating with you. Richard Keatinge (talk) 11:49, 7 June 2014 (UTC)
Belatedly, I have to vote with Kleuske on this one. (Maybe its my German backround:-) Whenever I read how the "barbarian hordes swept through..." wherever they were sweeping, it makes me roll my eyes. As if the Romans weren't "barbaric", and their "hordes" didn't sweep through the lands they gathered into their empire. The word could be changed by: specifying individual groups; or perhaps by the general area? Or better yet, is there no scholar who addresses this already and proposes an alternative? I'm a sociologist, but I'll try to look. Peacedance (talk) 02:28, 29 August 2014 (UTC)
I have managed to change one instance to the name of a specific group. I will welcome any suitable alternative. I've yet to find one. Richard Keatinge (talk) 17:11, 29 August 2014 (UTC)
I'm with Richard Keatinge on this one. Literary cleansing is a close cousin of ethnic cleansing; I disapprove of both. Laurel Lodged (talk) 11:34, 14 February 2015 (UTC)

It's really worth mentioning that the word Barbarian comes from the Greek word Βάρβαρος which came about because it seemed to them many foreigners sounded like they were saying "Bar bar bar, interestingly enough one may find this reminiscent of the Syriac/Aramaic definitive article, nevertheless, if you view it like this it's more of a descriptive adjective. What's more, while it is applause worthy to try and switch names to tribal, it also brings up the interesting concept that, the Romans named these people, and generally weren't too concerned about accuracy or anything like that, kind of like Barbaros revisited, they gave names to groups of people, and these names have stuck, but as previously mentioned since almost no written record survives of the, forgive me for lack of a better term, barbarians, it's quite hard to say with any real confidence what they actually called themselves. As an aside, interesting theory that Rome hastened her downfall by giving names to certain peoples and thus instilling a greater sense of unity. Alcibiades979 (talk) 18:29, 04 October 2015 (UTC)

The destruction of North Africa in 365 AD[edit]

I've been looking around and have really noticed how the tsunami which destroyed North Africa isn't really mentioned at all here. I know that when talking about the latter years of the Western Roman Empire pretty much everyone focuses on Europe, that's where most of the Western empire was, after all, but prior to 365 there was a vibrant and highly populated urban and agricultural culture that was the granary of the empire.After 365, it was gone. Might we figure out a way to give this a mention? The Collapse of North Africa, which is surprisingly well documented, should be mentioned.....Ericl (talk) 15:12, 5 March 2015 (UTC)

I'd be interested to see references for the details, especially the results for the Western empire. Richard Keatinge (talk) 22:40, 5 March 2015 (UTC)
Ericl, you seem to enjoy exaggerating the sources you provide about this subject. Your "untold millions" is a particularly troubling addition. Even if there was a devastating tsunami along the whole African coast in the mid-4th century, there would be an economic recovery. The Vandals didn't leave Baetica to go to (as you would argue) a desolate north Africa. Africa remained prosperous throughout 5th and 6th centuries. The province was even able to forestall an Arab invasion for half a century. Of course there should be a mention of the earthquake. However, if the sources say "many thousands died in and around Alexandria", don't take that as permission to write "untold millions died along the whole coast of north Africa" After doing some research of my own, it appears that there may have been multiple seismic events in the Mediterranean in the 4th century. Unless scholarly work exists supporting exactly what you write, don't write it.--Tataryn (talk) 02:10, 6 March 2015 (UTC)
"Even if there was a devastating tsunami along the whole African coast in the mid-4th century..." and there you go. Denial of a major event. Please tell me why you are skeptical that the tsunami actually happened. Where is the evidence to that effect. Why is the archeology wrong?Ericl (talk) 14:39, 6 March 2015 (UTC)
I didn't deny there was an earthquake/tsunami. The important thing you need to take away from all this is you can only make additions based on scholarly work. National Geographic slideshows don't count. An undergrad thesis doesn't count. Click-bait websites don't count. Find a scholarly work supporting your additions, and THEN add to wikipedia. Not the other way around. You initially wrote a completely uncited paragraph describing the death of "untold millions" in Africa and only scraped up sub-par sources once you encountered opposition. That is not the proper mindset of an editor here on wikipedia.--Tataryn (talk) 18:03, 6 March 2015 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

This review is transcluded from Talk:Fall of the Western Roman Empire/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer: Llywrch (talk · contribs) 00:34, 26 April 2015 (UTC)


Looking forward to reviewing this for GA. -- llywrch (talk) 00:34, 26 April 2015 (UTC)

I apologize for not posting my GA review sooner, but I needed to take the time to write it concisely & less profusely. This is an important, & complex, topic & deserves more than a scatter of notes & comments.

To repeat myself, this is a complex topic. The topic of the Fall of the Roman Empire has attracted a large bibliography, & it would take years to master even a sizable chunk of it. Getting this article to B class -- which I believe it currently is -- took a lot of hard work; getting it to GA class would take a lot more hard work. (IMHO, getting it to FA class would require a graduate-level effort; anyone doing that would be justified in thinking she/he deserves a Master's or Doctorate in Classical studies.)

In terms of the GA criteria, it is stable, well-written & organized, & I believe not biased to any one viewpoint. The footnotes need to be standardized: some are bare URLS, in one case the URL links to the entire footnote, some need to be put into proper bibliographical format, & two citations of MacMullen's Corruption and the fall of Rome need page numbers. (Yes, I know that's not necessary for GA, but having read that book, page numbers are badly needed to verify any assertion based on it.) There are a few spots where assertions need citations, but I'm not marking these until after you decide what should be the next step.

The primary problem with this article is that I don't know what your intent was: was it to tell the story the Fall of Rome alone -- without any explanation -- or to provide an explanation why it fell? If the first, then it makes sense to include events before the 4th century, & show how the Roman Empire weathered & evolved from the Crisis of that century, but then parts of this article should be cut & the reader pointed to the article Historiography of the fall of the Roman Empire. If it is the latter, far too often you mention critical events but fail to explain why they led to the fall of the WRE. For example, in the section "Height of power, crises, and recoveries > The Crisis of the Third Century" you write: "Under Gallienus the Senatorial aristocracy ceased to provide senior military commanders" -- What is the point of this development? From my own reading & research, this has a number of implications: the army lost connection with the wider society, the land-owning aristocracy grew indolent & interested in only its own short-term gains, & so on. But these are opinions of experts who need to be identified & their reasoning explained.

(There are more of these, but I'll wait to see what your response is before pointing them out.)

What I think would help here is if you were to explain near the beginning what this article is intended to cover. In its present form, I'd say it's about the fall of the institution of the WRE -- the government & its politicians -- not the society or economy of the WRE. (At least for me, the title "Fall of the Western Roman Empire" evokes an apocalyptic event, leading to mass dislocation, chronic famine, & social collapse, as well as governmental failure. Covering all of that in one article would be too onerous of a burden for any Wikipedian, & a pain to maintain against the usual kooks, vandals, & clueless amateurs looking to add information badly remembered from school or watching tv.) What you've covered is perfectly fine. But explaining the limits of this article would help both the reader, & anyone working on this article to keeping it focused & organized.

I am going to state that, even limiting this article to an account of the institution, there are a couple of omissions when it comes to the fifth century. That's not surprising: the information is fragmented in a lot of specialized or out-of-print sources, making it difficult for people to get ahold of. If we talk about the fall of the institution, then the matter of the Emperor & the evolution of his office is paramount. Diocletian's major innovation with his Tetrarchy was to introduce the idea of collegiate emperors. Until his reign, the concept of a Roman Emperor was that there was only one. After Diocletian, & to the end of the Byzantine Empire (the logical evolution of the Roman Empire) there are often more than one emperor in power; the one actually in control was considered the senior emperor, who could promote or demote the other emperors. Thus at the start of the fifth century, Honorius & Arcadius were colleagues, & when one died, the other became sole ruler of the entire empire -- which is what happened when Honorius died without an heir: Arcadius's successor, Theodosius II became sole ruler, & thru him a lawful successor for Honorius was appointed. However, when Theodosius II died in 450, the emperor of the WRE -- the rights of Valentinian III were ignored in the East. (This is discussed by Stewart Oost, Galla Placidia Augusta (Chicago: University Press, 1968), pp. 293ff.) That was the point where there is no doubt two empires existed in fact.

As is well known, after Valentinian III the office of emperor in the WRE fluctuated from a figurehead to a position with real power & back. Some of these emperors were recognized in the East; some were not. So it proceeded to the day that Odoacer deposed Augustulus Remulus. Now, some write that at the moment Augustulus was deposed, the WRE came to an end. Actually, it came to an end slightly after that. Odoacer could have appointed his own puppet emperor, even after a lengthy interregnum: there was one of a few years after Libius Severus, & another of several months after Olybrius. Instead, the WRE ended when Odoacer sent the Imperial insignia to Constantinople, accompanied with a message he had the Senate write that "they had no need of a separate empire but that a single common emperor would be sufficient for both territories". (Malachus, fr. 10; trans. by C.D. Gordon, The Age of Attila: Fifth Century Byzantium and the Barbarians (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1966), p. 127) This is an important point, because over the following centuries, even before Justinian's campaign to recover the WRE, the emperors at Constantinople exerted a limited hegemony over the territories that had been the WRE. The local kings eagerly received titles from Constantinople (I can cull examples from Bede & Gregory of Tours); they were also the protectors of the Pope, & thru him could influence events to a degree; & occasionally (yes, very occasionally!) the emperors at Constantinople directly intervened. This was based on the theory that the Roman Emperor was a universal emperor, above all kings in rank, which the Byzantines clung to even in the dismal age of the Palaiologians -- although it was challenged by the coronation of Charlemagne as Roman Emperor on Christmas Day, 800. (George Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, translated by Joan Hussey (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1957), pp. 162-165)

I hope you read what I just wrote not as an attempt to rewrite the article in my own image, but as one example of how complex this topic is -- even if limited to covering only the institution. Even if you ignore those paragraphs -- which you have full right to -- as the article stands you fail to discuss the issue of a lack of manpower. Following the disastrous defeat at the Battle of Adrianople, the WRE was unable to rebuild its military machine. This alone likely led to the failed state of the fifth century, & can be discussed without digressions into culture, religion, economics, or how much pwoer the Roman Emperor had. This rebuilding had been something it had done after many earlier disasters. I know experts have investigated why this was; that needs including.

Let me know where you want to go from here with this article. If you need help with research, I'd be happy to assist you. -- llywrch (talk) 18:20, 7 May 2015 (UTC)

Llywrch, many thanks for your careful consideration. You have expressed the thoughts in the back of my mind when I was writing the article, and I look forward to your help in improving it. I wrote the article on a framework, which I left implicit, and I wonder if it would help to make that explicit. Perhaps a rewrite of the lede would be the first step. I'll have a go in my sandbox. Richard Keatinge (talk) 14:20, 9 May 2015 (UTC)

After an exchange of messages, I've learned the submitter won't have time to promptly work on this article, so I am failing it, without prejudice. I look forward to working with Richard in the future on this & other articles. -- llywrch (talk) 19:05, 18 June 2015 (UTC)

"They celebrated their agreement with a banquet of reconciliation, at which Theodoric's men murdered Odoacer's, and Theodoric personally cut Odoacer in half."[edit]

Peoples, what sentence is this??? :D Even if it is true, it's too dense, completely wrong style. It basically seemms to be a joke. :) — Preceding unsigned comment added by 193.224.72.132 (talk) 13:24, 14 July 2015 (UTC)

Good faith edit reverted[edit]

I made a small edition to the introduction which I believe clarifies, corrects and expands the subject of the article. Unfortunately this has been reverted without any explanation. My proposed edit reads:

"The Fall of the Western Roman Empire, usually known as the Fall of the Roman Empire or Fall of Rome, refers to the process and period of decline of the Western Roman Empire, starting around the 5th century AD, in which it failed to enforce its rule, slowly loosing control over its vast territory around the Western Mediterranean, which was ultimately divided into numerous successor polities."

I believe this is an improvement over the current wording for the following reasons: 1) the subject is commonly known as the "Fall of the Roman Empire", thus "usually known", not merely "also known". 2) This is not just a "period" but a historical "process" (the events, circumstances and forces which led to the decline of the empire), thus the inclusion of the word in the sentence. 3) I have added the adverb "slowly" before "loosing control over the territory" as the process was clearly a gradual one. 4) I have added the time (5th century AD) and the geographical space (around the Western Mediterranean) in which this took place, both of which add basic information to the introduction. If this is not accepted, the least the reverting editor could do is explain why. Fortis est Veritas (talk) 17:47, 15 December 2015 (UTC)

Thanks Fortis est Veritas, and apologies, I don't doubt your good faith. My eye was caught by the change from CE to AD, and I may have reverted per WP:ERA but in haste. At this diff, we had

The Fall of the Western Roman Empire (also called Fall of the Roman Empire or Fall of Rome) was the period of decline in the Western Roman Empire in which it failed to enforce its rule, and its vast territory was divided into numerous successor polities.

replaced by

The Fall of the Western Roman Empire, usually known as the Fall of the Roman Empire or Fall of Rome, refers to the process and period of decline of the Western Roman Empire, starting around the 5th century AD, in which it failed to enforce its rule, slowly loosing control over its vast territory around the Western Mediterranean, which was ultimately divided into numerous successor polities.

"Usually known" is disputable and discussions have disputed it. The "also" wording is acceptable to everyone, including those who feel that the Byzantine period is best described as simply the later or eastern Roman Empire. I'd prefer to keep it.

"Process" - OK, but I can't see that it adds much, and in ledes one strives for brevity.

"starting around the 5th century AD" again is highly disputable and in any case covered more defensibly later in the lede, and of course at length in the body.

"slowly loosing control over its vast territory around the Western Mediterranean" I think you meant "losing", a trivial point. If anyone doesn't know that the Western Roman empire was pretty vast they have only to look at any of the maps, and the Empire also lost control over Noricum, northern Gaul, Britannia, and so on, not really around any part of the Western Mediterranean.

Anyway, I think it's better as it is. Comments? Richard Keatinge (talk) 20:01, 15 December 2015 (UTC)

I don't much care about the rest, but "process" is obviously better than "period." The Fifth Century CE was a period. The fall of the Roman Empire was a process, because it's describing something that happened, not simply the period of time in which it happened. john k (talk) 21:06, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
My suggestion would be
The Fall of the Western Roman Empire (also called Fall of the Roman Empire or Fall of Rome) was the process by which the Western Roman Empire failed to enforce its rule and its vast territory was divided into numerous successor polities. john k (talk) 21:10, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
An interesting thought, though periodization is the way that history is conventionally divided up. Richard Keatinge (talk) 22:30, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
What on earth does that mean? That's just total gobbledygook. The point isn't that a historical period isn't a thing. The Late Roman Empire is a period. The Fall of the Roman Empire is not a historical period. It's a historical process or a historical event, depending on how you want to define it. john k (talk) 16:45, 17 December 2015 (UTC)

Thanks for your comments (including the spelling correction). See below my response to the individial points.

  • First, I agree with john k that the fall of the empire is primarily an event, or process which took place over a period of time, not simply a "period".
  • It is usually known as the "Fall of the Roman Empire" or "Fall of Rome" as can be seen in an ovelwheming number of references starting with Edward Gibbon who first coined it in his 1776 book The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Most books and articles use that term. See this book: [1], this one [2], this one [3], and this one [4]. See also these articles: [5], [6], [7] and this [8]. There is even a movie called "The Fall of the Roman Empire" [9]]. These expressions are much more frequent than "The Fall of the Western Roman Empire".
  • The lede should say the what, the where, the when and if possible, the how. "Starting around the 5th century AD" tells you the when and is fairly accurate as the article itself explains. And "the Western Mediterranean" is in fact the territory which the "fall" is referring to.
  • I can accept not including "slowly losing control" over the territory, though I think the expression helps visualize the process.

Thanks again, Fortis est Veritas (talk) 17:05, 16 December 2015 (UTC)

The "process" is indeed a good word, but "period" is how it's usually described... OK, maybe try it and see what others think?
Our present title is accurate and unambiguous, unlike the others. It avoids the Western bias of Gibbon and so many of his followers. To be fair to Gibbon, whom I admire immensely, he only had physical access to the Western half. I suggest that a wide consensus would be wise before we change the title.
Timing is controversial, and the second paragraph of the lede already presents the matter in an academically- defensible way. "Starting around the 5th century" begs almost all of the relevant academic questions and I can't see it as defensible.
The relevant territory includes a great deal more than the area around the Western Mediterranean. Really, a lot more. A map of the area lost between, say, 376 and 476 wouldn't hurt though. I'm not good with such things, and I'm none too sure of the actual edge of Roman control at either date - quite possibly, nobody was very sure at the time either. Do you fancy doing such a map?
"slowly losing control" - implied by all the dates mentioned, and might possibly imply a steady progression rather than the actual jerky process. I don't like it and I'd leave it out for brevity even if I mildly liked it, but if there's a consensus to include it, fine. Richard Keatinge (talk) 19:36, 16 December 2015 (UTC)
What is the basis for your claim that it is usually described as a period? You can't just make assertions like that without any citation. john k (talk) 16:46, 17 December 2015 (UTC)
History is normally divided into periods, and a quick Google search will confirm that. But indeed, the process of the fall has been and can reasonably be described as such. I've just made the change. We'll find out what others think. Richard Keatinge (talk) 18:11, 17 December 2015 (UTC)
That history is described as falling into periods doesn't mean that any historical subject is also a historical period, or is normally described that way, which is what you said before. I'm glad you've made the change, though. john k (talk) 15:18, 19 December 2015 (UTC)

Recycling of Buildings[edit]

Recycling former buildings was a common practice up until... modern times. In the antiquity this practice was quite common, look at the Arch of Constantine. The phrase concerning Julian's reign stating, "some Christians even being compelled to make restitution for pagan property stolen or destroyed," is highly suspect. 1. I know the source, because I've read this before; it's Gibbon, who is a delightful read, has great theories, has done his homework, and also has a very clear argument to move forward, biasing him in this perspective. 2. Classical paganism was well on its way out it was being replaced by three comparatively new religions (I'm cognizant of others mainly minor), the worship of Isis, Sol Invictus, and Christianity. Christians, and members of the cults of Isis, and Sol Invictus didn't magically spring up out of the ground, they were former pagans. Gibbon wants to portray Julian in an entirely different light, some of which I agree with, but this quote that is used gives the entire sense that Christians were persecuting classical pagans. Now did this happen? Yeah, but what also happened is people who used to pray at the temple of Demeter for instance, now prayed at Churches, and as the temples fell in to disuse they were used for other temples of Sol Invictus, Isis, or Churches, which this completely misses. You may say I deal mostly with the temples, but that's because the source follows Gibbon, and paraphrases his argument poorly. If it's decided that this should be kept I think a different source is needed, but honestly I feel the best thing is to just delete this sentence. Julian may well have been a decent emperor, and there are other more historically accurate ways of conveying this. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Alcibiades979 (talkcontribs) 14:23, 23 March 2016 (UTC) (Alcibiades979 (talk) 14:24, 23 March 2016 (UTC))

Thanks for discussing your point. Under Christian emperors, temples (and synagogues) etc were routinely destroyed or plundered with impunity by Christians - there's more information from the East, but Martin of Tours would be the classic example in the West. It's not normally labelled persecution, but of course falls within any obvious definition, and it was a major mechanism of the conversion. Under Julian, i.e. very briefly, the impunity no longer applied. We do need a reference though, and possibly a clearer description of the main point. I'll have a look this evening. Richard Keatinge (talk) 17:47, 23 March 2016 (UTC)
At this edit I have tried to make the main points more clearly, with a modern reference. Richard Keatinge (talk) 23:17, 23 March 2016 (UTC)
I'm going to clean up the paragraph a bit, it goes from taxation in Gaul, to religious strife, back to taxation in Gaul, which is a considerable amount of territory to cover. I'll start once I've finished my second cup of coffee; I'm pretty useless until that point. (Alcibiades979 (talk) 11:05, 24 March 2016 (UTC))
I look forward to your ideas. I've removed the second mention of taxation, as possible OR and also difficult to find a good place for. A pity, since power loss is the main theme of this article, but perhaps the indisputable fact as presented by Ammianus will be sufficient. Richard Keatinge (talk) 13:31, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
It's quite strange, the fall of the west when you think of it. All roads lead to Rome, I know. But if the year were 392, and I knew one half would fall, I'd say it'd be the east because you have the Steppe Tribes coming from... well the Steppe of course, attacking through the Balkans, and the Sassanian Empire, which waned and waxed of course, but was still exerting a ton of pressure on that massive eastern border in the Near East. The Western Empire had the German Borders, which relatively speaking, are so much smaller, and were occupied by less technologically advanced cultures. Then if you look at that as areas easily susceptible to raiding, the East really pales in comparison, for the west Italy was relatively safe, as was Hispania, the islands, and the very rich African provinces.
It's also interesting to view the fall of the West through the lens of the perseverance of the East, because while they certainly weren't both equal, it gives a perspective lens to view how policies worked in the long run, and short; a big one despised by Gibbons, but clearly probably the Easts biggest asset was their ability to buy off enemies, and thus choose battles more on their own terms. (Alcibiades979 (talk) 14:11, 24 March 2016 (UTC))
I find history interesting in general, the Romans in particular, and the fall quite fascinating. Yes, while the West lost its major source of taxation and food when the Vandals took the diocese of Africa, the East hung on to Egypt and the Levant and could therefore still raise money. Richard Keatinge (talk) 14:27, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
Made some edits, mainly moving stuff around, added a bit about the Sassanid campaign. Also that Jovian was elected by the army, which I figure is important because the roll of the army in politics definitely aided the decline. I hope you don't mind, I switched the names from the Latin to the Anglicized spelling, so Julianus->Julian Jovianus->Jovian, the reason being is that at least with the publications I'm familiar with they tend toward the nixing of the -us (Of course not in all cases by Caesar's wars would be hilarious with Juli, instead of Caesar). Also deleted this sentence: "The gods had protected Rome for centuries, but their role was transferred to the Christian god with surprising ease." It's kind of strange, and also seems highly rhetorical. Alcibiades979 (talk) 20:34, 6 April 2016 (UTC)
Thanks for your help.
Jovianus elected? Mmm, acclaimed in desperation and confusion would be more like it. And the role of the army had been central since the days of Sulla! I'd be inclined to remove the comment about "election".
Taking off -us endings - OK, a matter of taste I suppose. I'd keep them myself, but I shan't argue.
Maybe the sentence you removed - it's close to what the source says - isn't the best to illustrate the issues about religious change. I'll try to think of a better one. The fact is, the protests about abandoning the sacred rituals of more than a millennium are barely recorded, a few polite comments from one senator. I think that's worth remarking on. Richard Keatinge (talk) 22:56, 6 April 2016 (UTC)
Put the -us's back. With the election comment, I realize in hindsight in doesn't come off as intended. I was thinking more along the line as to how in some ways the Roman army became the state. I mean the capital moves from Rome to Milan then Ravenna, effectively alienating the Roman people, many of the emperors are no longer Roman, Rome itself goes from the imperial city, to a taxed city like any other (Constantine), and during all this the army which was one of the few institutions that didn't decay significantly during the Crisis of the Third Century really became the right to rule, which became a primary reason for the constant civil wars. Jovian getting proclaimed by the army emperor is not surprising because of the history, but in a stable monarchy like England, if Prince Charles was proclaimed king by the army and dethroned the Queen this would be simply beyond comprehension.
It is amazing isn't it? I mean the strongest argument against Agathias (530pC-582/594) not being a classical pagan is that just really wasn't around any more. It's also interesting if you look at it compared with the rise of the Caliphate. It's roughly 1300 years since the Caliphate took Egypt, but ~10% of Egypt's population is still Christian, and going strong vs. in Agathias' case 200 years since Constantine's Edict in 313, which merely made Christianity tolerated. (Alcibiades979 (talk) 11:02, 7 April 2016 (UTC))
Thanks.
Several things were different between the two religious cases. One was that pagans (occasional, generally-unenthusiastic persecutions notwithstanding) were usually far more tolerant than any monotheists and often didn't really mind turning up to church. One recalls Philip the Arab's interest in Christianity, Severus Alexander's image of Jesus in his personal pantheon, and Augustine's parishioners, under threat from the Vandals, crying "if only we worshipped the gods still". Fanatical converts these weren't. And, by the time of Theodosius, non-orthodox Christians and pagan cults were subject to far more effective discouragement and violence than had ever been applied to Christians. Another is the way that the Church became what's been described as a "full-service religion" with interesting local saints' cults and rituals, many quietly absorbed from the local pagan equivalents. This made it very easy to go along with a "Christian" crowd, with what we'd regard as conversion happening over a couple of generations rather than instantly. That has happened to a much lesser extent, and much more slowly, in Islam, which has a much simpler holy book and simpler theology in general, and in theory a protected place for Christians and Jews. (Pagans generally had to convert or die of course.) Anyway, that's peripheral to power loss, the theme of this article. But I do think it's interesting. Richard Keatinge (talk) 11:24, 7 April 2016 (UTC)
It's hard to compare the nature of persecutions though, they were particularly bad during the end of Marcus Aurelius' reign, there is of course the famous letter of Pliny the Younger to Trajan, and then the infamous persecutions of the short reigned Emperor Decius. But the problem that continually pops up is the lack of Primary Sources, especially for this time period. I mean, information about Trajan, one of Rome's most beloved emperors is incredibly scant, and so information on the day to day lives of the people is even harder. One of the best sources remaining is the Historia Augusta which is a notoriously treacherous work (and technically speaking, not a primary source), which is also now considered by some to have been a comedy; which in a way is kind of hilarious. The other problem of course is the climate, I have some incredible letters (not the originals of course) from Ptolemaic Egypt concerning day to day life (a particularly brilliant one is written in Greek, complaining to the local magistrate that the author is discriminated upon for not being able to speak Greek; meaning that for the letter he had to find someone who could write Greek) but these survive because of the climate. The sources pick back up again in the early Byzantine empire, Procopius, Agathias, Theophylact, Zosimus, John Malalas etc. which is why I prefer that time period and area. Anyhow at this point I'm rambling and procrastinating because the book I'm reading is incredibly dull; The Bazaar of Heracleides by Nestorius; 380 pages with a couple of historical digressions and repeating essentially the same point over and over again. It's also worth mentioning the roll of the Church in the empire, it fulfilled a lot of the duties that a modern day Government does, such as hospitals, which is why Julian tried to stop this by introducing more state run services. Alcibiades979 (talk) 13:21, 7 April 2016 (UTC)

I am late in this discussion, but I think its scope goes a bit further than the subject of the article.

  • "Classical paganism" in the Roman Empires,as you call it, was never really a unified religion and not static in nature. It included various cults and deities inherited from the many cultures of the Greco-Roman world. Traditional cults may have in time become irrelevant to Roman culture. Cults of Cybele, Isis, Mithras, and Sol Invictus were mostly Eastern in origin and grew in popularity over the centuries. Some of the "pagan" practices of the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries may well have been foreign to what a typical Roman of the 1st century BC and 1st century AD would believe.
  • Persecution by Christian emperors played a large role in the conversion of Romans to various versions of Christianity. But the decline of paganism was a gradual process. The articles on Persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire and anti-paganism policies in the early Byzantine Empire point to various anti-pagan laws, policies, and campaigns dating from the 320s to the 470s. Yet some pagans remained in influential posts. For example Messius Phoebus Severus played a role in an attempt at pagan revival in the 470s and the revolutionary Pamprepius represented the pagan community in the 480s. The Platonic Academy, the center of "pagan" Neoplatonism, did not close until the persecutions of Justinian I in the 530s. Byzantine officials Anatolius and Acindynus were executed as pagans during religious persecutions of the 570s and 580s. Crypto-paganism in the Byzantine Empire, the secret survival of paganism, seems to have played a role until the end of the 6th century.
  • The Roman and Byzantine armies played a role in the rise and fall of emperors and entire dynasties throughout the history of the Empire. The first Emperor to rise to the throne through a military coup was likely Claudius in 41. He was the favored candidate of the Praetorian Guard who managed to elevate him to the throne despite the objections of the Roman Senate. Many emperors both before and after Jovian were elevated to power because of the Army. What would be the difference in mentioning only him?
  • The problem with the primary sources for Antiquity is that many of them did not survive the Middle Ages, some of them survived in incomplete form, and others were probably altered by copyists. For example the history of Ammianus Marcellinus reportedly covered the entire history of the Empire from 96 to 378, but only a small section covering the years 353 to 378 survives. The surviving version of Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus seems to include two references to Jesus, but the suspiciously Christian language used suggests that the original text was expanded and/or altered by Christian copyists and editors. This is not unique to historical works, however. Euripides reportedly wrote 92 or 95 theatrical works in a relatively lengthy career, but only 19 have survived. These 19 include Rhesus, a work whose authorship has long been disputed. Dimadick (talk) 16:18, 26 April 2016 (UTC)

Romans omnes nos[edit]

Anno millesimo sexcentesimo sumus obnoxii Western cultu totius Romani dixere. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 75.73.1.89 (talk) 04:01, 18 April 2016 (UTC)

"Late Roman Empire" redirect (and page?) needed[edit]

"Late Roman Empire" wrongly redirects to Historiography of the fall of the Western Roman Empire. That is a specific article about HISTORIOGRAPHY, and about the FALL, which is arguably only the last phase of the LRE. The LRE has NO DEFINITION on Wikipedia, let alone a page of its own. Anyone willing to fix this? And to affix the automatic redirect to either this article here, or much rather to History of the Roman Empire? This at least until a LRE page is created. Thanks, ArmindenArminden (talk) 12:13, 21 July 2016 (UTC)

Notable omissions[edit]

This article seems almost entirely concerned with symptoms rather than the root causes of the decline. I'm surprised to see no mention here of the following important factors:

  • Hyperinflation via decreasing the silver content of the Denarius repeatedly.
  • Exponential increase in dependency on the grain dole.
  • Exponential increase in taxes (going well past the peak on the laffer curve).
  • Combining 2&3 produces dysgenic fertility.
  • Dysgenic immigration (pulled by the dole)

71.177.96.139 (talk) 04:22, 7 August 2016 (UTC)

We would need reliable sources that identify an academic consensus, backed up with historical statistics, that these phenomena are useful analyses of important reasons for the decline. Richard Keatinge (talk) 11:00, 7 August 2016 (UTC)