CHINA – By 220AD, the Later Eastern Han Dynasty had extended the Great Wall of China along its Mongolian border, which resulted in the Northern Huns attacking west instead of east. This caused a domino effect of tribes migrating west across Central Asia, and overrunning the Western Roman Empire.
OPEN BORDERS – Illegal immigrants poured across the Roman borders: Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Franks, Anglos, Saxons, Alemanni, Thuringians, Rugians, Jutes, Picts, Burgundians, Lombards, Alans, Vandals, as well as African Berbers and Arab raiders.
Will and Ariel Durant wrote in The Story of Civilization (Vol. 3-Caesar and Christ, Simon & Schuster, 1944, p.366):
“If Rome had not engulfed so many men of alien blood in so brief a time, if she had passed all these newcomers through her schools instead of her slums, if she had treated them as men with a hundred potential excellences, if she had occasionally closed her gates to let assimilation catch up with infiltration, she might have gained new racial and literary vitality from the infusion, and might have remained a Roman Rome, the voice and citadel of the West.”
LANGUAGE – At first they assimilated, learned the Latin language, and worked as servants, but then they came so fast they did not learn the Latin language, and the unity of the Roman Empire dissolved.
WELFARE – Bread and the Circus! Starting in 123 BC, Emperor Caius Gracchus began appeasing citizens with welfare, a monthly hand-out of a free dole of grain.
The Durants wrote in The Lessons of History (p. 92):
“The concentration of population and poverty in great cities may compel a government to choose between enfeebling the economy with a dole or running the risk of riot and revolution.”
Welfare and government jobs exploded, as one Roman commented:
“Those who live at the expense of the public funds are more numerous than those who provide them.” (Great Ages, p. 39).
Roman poet Juvenal (circa 100 AD) described how Roman emperors controlled the masses by keeping them ignorant and happy, more obsessed with self-indulgence and distraction than understanding what was really happening in the Empire:
“Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who ONCE UPON A TIME handed out military command, high civil office, legions – everything, NOW restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.”
VIOLENT ENTERTAINMENT – Crowds in the city of Rome were distracted in the Coliseum and the Circus Maximus, with violent entertainment, games, chariot races, and until 404 AD, gladiators fighting to the death.
Gerald Simons wrote in Great Ages of Man-Barbarian Europe (NY: Time-Life Books, 1968, p. 20):
“In the causal brutality of its public spectacles, in a rampant immorality that even Christianity could not check.”
City centers were abandoned by the upper class who turn rural farms into in palatial suburban estates. Inner cities were also plagued with lead poisoning, as water was brought in through lead pipes. (“plumb” or “plumbing” is the Latin word for “lead.”)
The value of human life was low. Slavery abounded, especially of captured peoples from Eastern Europe. “Slavs,” which meant “glorious” came to have the inglorious meaning of a permanent servant or “slave.” (Great Ages, p. 18).
Class warfare resulted in a loss of patriotism and destabilization. The Durants wrote in The Story of Civilization (Vol. 3-Caesar and Christ, Simon & Schuster, 1944, p.90):
“The Roman landowner disappeared now that ownership was concentrated in a few families, and a proletariat without stake in the country filled the slums of Rome.”
TAXES – Taxes became unbearable, as “collectors became greedy functionaries in a bureaucracy so huge and corrupt.” Tax collectors were described by the historian Salvian as “more terrible than the enemy.” (Great Ages, p. 20).
This resulted in those with wealth fleeing, as President William Henry Harrison described in his Inaugural Address, 1841:
“The spirit of liberty had fled, and, avoiding the abodes of civilized man, had sought protection in the wilds of Scythia or Scandinavia; and so under the operation of the same causes and influences it will fly from our Capitol and our forums. A calamity so awful, not only to our country, but to the world, must be deprecated by every patriot and every tendency to a state of things likely to produce it immediately checked. Such a tendency has existed—does exist.”
John F. Kennedy observed a similar trend, January 6, 1961:
“Present tax laws may be stimulating in undue amounts the flow of American capital to industrial countries abroad.”
OUTSOURCING – Rome’s economy stagnated from a large trade deficit, as grain production was outsourced to North Africa.
Gerald Simons wrote in Great Ages of Man-Barbarian Europe (NY: Time-Life Books, 1968, p. 39):
“As conquerors of North Africa, the Vandals cut off the Empire’s grain supply at will. This created critical food shortages, which in turn curtailed Roman counterattacks.”
DEBT – Rome was crippled by huge government bureaucracies and enormous public debt.
The Durants wrote in The Lessons of History (p. 92):
“Huge bureaucratic machinery was unable to govern the empire effectively with the enormous, out-of-control debt.”
In Great Ages of Man-Barbarian Europe (NY: Time-Life Books, 1968, p. 20), Gerald Simons wrote:
“The Western Roman economy, already undermined by falling production of the great Roman estates and an unfavorable balance of trade that siphoned off gold to the East, had now run out of money.” (Great Ages, p. 20)
INEPT POLITICIANS – The Durants wrote in The Lessons of History (p. 92):
“The educated and skilled pursued business and financial success to the neglect of their involvement in politics.”
Richard A. Todd wrote in “The Fall of the Roman Empire” (Eerdmans’ Handbook to the History of Christianity, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Co., 1977, p. 184):
“The church, while preaching against abuses, contributed to the decline by discouraging good Christians from holding public office.”
DEMOGRAPHICS – Roman families had fewer children. Some would sell unwanted children into slavery or, up until 374 AD, leave them outside exposed to the weather to die.
The Durants wrote in The Story of Civilization, Vol. 3-Caesar and Christ (Simon & Schuster, 1944, p.134):
“Children were now luxuries which only the poor could afford.”
CORRUPTION – There was a history of court favoritism, injustice in the legal system, infidelity, exposure of unwanted infants, perverted bathhouses, sexual immorality and gymnasiums (“gym” being the Greek word for naked).
5th-Century historian Salvian wrote:
“For all the lurid Roman tales of their atrocities…[the barbarians] displayed…a good deal more fidelity to their wives.” (Great Ages, p. 13.)
“O Roman people be ashamed; be ashamed of your lives. Almost no cities are free of evil dens, are altogether free of impurities, except the cities in which the barbarians have begun to live…Let nobody think otherwise, the vices of our bad lives have alone conquered us…The Goths lie, but are chaste, the Franks lie, but are generous, the Saxons are savage in cruelty…but are admirable in chastity…What hope can there be for the Romans when the barbarians are more pure than they?
Samuel Adams wrote to John Scollay of Boston, April 30, 1776:
“The diminution of public virtue is usually attended with that of public happiness, and the public liberty will not long survive the total extinction of morals. ‘The Roman Empire,’ says the historian, ‘must have sunk, though the Goths had not invaded it. Why? Because the Roman virtue was sunk.’
MILITARY – Though militarily superior and marching on advanced road systems, the highly trained Roman Legions were strained fighting conflicts worldwide. Roman borders were over-extended and the military defending them was cut back to dangerously low ranks.
The Durants wrote in The Story of Civilization (Vol. 3-Caesar and Christ, Simon & Schuster, 1944, p.90):
“The new generation, having inherited world mastery, had no time or inclination to defend it; that readiness for war which had characterized the Roman landowner disappeared.”
Visigothic King Alaric first sacked Rome in 410AD, followed by Vandal King Genseric in 455.
Attila the Hun, “The Scourge of God,” committed terrorist attacks, wiping out entire cities, such as the city of Aquileia in Italy, which had been listed as the 9th greatest city in the world. Residents fled to lagoons by the sea and hammered trees into the watery mud to create ground, founding the city of Venice. Pope Leo rode out and met Attila in 452AD and barely persuaded him not to sack Rome.
Finally the barbarian Chieftain Odoacer attacked, and Rome fell SEPTEMBER 4, 476AD, which is considered the official date of the fall of Rome.
As a result of Rome being attacked, legions were withdrawn from frontier settlements. Britain, a Roman colony, was left unprotected and attacked by raiders, who carried thousands away as slaves.
One of those carried away from Britain and sold as a slave in Druid Ireland was Patrick.
In an inspiring story of courage, Saint Patrick eventually converted 120,000 Irish to Christianity before his death, March 17, 461.
In the following century, Irish missionaries went back to Europe and evangelized the heathen hordes which had overrun the Roman Empire.
The Moral Liberal contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.
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