Feudalism in the Roman Empire
Put in context, the urban design of Silchester reveals alot about the sociopolitical structure of cities/towns in the late Western Roman Empire, the death of which is considered to be one of the most significant events in Western history, since after the fall and disintegration of the Roman Empire in 476 AD, Western Europe was plunged into centuries of war and raiding known as the Dark Ages. Furthermore, the territories of the former Western Roman Empire were divided into numerous barbarian kingdoms, the process of which gave rise to Western Feudalism, the main sociopolitical system of medieval and modern Europe. The portrayal of the demise of the Western Roman Empire has often been dramatised to the extent that one has been led to believe that the last emperor of the Roman Empire (Romulus Augustulus) was sabotaged and eventually defeated militarily by the barbarians led by Odoacer, after which the empire was divided according to territorial power and from there emerged Western Feudalism. Indeed, some classic analyses of Western Feudalism attribute its origins to the post-Roman Carolingian empire and the Germanic tribes which took over much of their territory of the Romans (see e.g. Bloch (1999)). However, the archaeological evidence from Silchester suggests that perhaps territorial divisions and urban/civic autonomy existed long before the fall of Rome in 476 AD, and rather than seeing Feudalism (i.e. territorial divisions) as the consequence of the dissolution of the Western Roman Empire, it may be seen as the cause of it, since territorial and urban/civic autonomy surely must have had a catalytic effect on the dissolution and eventual breakdown of the central Western Roman Empire. The transition between Roman Imperialism and Western Feudalism may have been much more gradual and drawn-out than historians have made out. Much evidence remains to be seen in support of this hypothesis.
Bloch, Marc (1999): Die Feudalgesellschaft, durchgesehene Neuausgabe. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart.