Feudalism in the Roman Empire (2)
Today (4th September) is a fateful in the history of Rome, since it was on 4th September 476 AD that Rome fell into the hands of barbarians, which spelt the end of the western Roman Empire. On such a special day, let’s delve into the history of the Roman Empire a bit more and talk more about its downfall, which has fascinated scholars throughout the centuries. In a previous blog, I mentioned the possibility of feudal economy and regionalism existing well before the breakdown of the western Roman Empire, which suggests that the late western Roman Empire may have been much less centralised than we assumed and that the breakdown of the Roman Empire may have been gradual rather than cataclysmic. I cited Silchester, England, a Roman town whose archaeological ruins look very self-sufficient and strongly suggest (feudal) regionalism. There is another Roman region which deserves mention, and that is Soisson, France. The collapse of the western Roman Empire is widely agreed to fall on 476 AD, the year in which Rome was captured by Odoacer and the last Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was defeated. However, a region in Roman Gaul remained Roman for another ten years. I am referring to the province of Soissons in north-west France, which was ruled by the Roman general Syagrius before the fall of Rome and continued its existence after 476 AD. Soissons was eventually conquered and subsumed by the Franks in 486 AD, but the fact that it hang on for another ten years after the fall of Rome suggests that the late western Roman Empire was by no means a centralized state but a massive territory consisting of numerous independent regions which were well capable of self-autonomy, even in the absence of a central government that was Rome. Before and after the breakdown of the western Roman Empire, therefore, there were pockets of independent and self-sufficient regions which constituted numerous regional bubbles in the fragile Empire. As mentioned by Alison Morton, it is a romantic notion, the fact that a region remained Roman even after the fall of the central Roman government, as if they were stranded in time, without a care in the world. Indeed.