Monday, July 29, 2013

Contraction of the Roman State (AD 117-486)

Loss of Mesopotamia (117)
The Roman ruler Trajan personally led an army in the conquest of Mesopotamia (114-117). Following his death, Hadrian, the new Roman ruler, immediately abandoned Mesopotomia as too difficult to control because of the resistance of the adjoining state of Parthia. The Parthians intensely challenged Roman control in their area and Hadrian rightly concluded that the cost of meeting their challenge exceeded any likely benefits. So the first contraction of the Roman state, which was abandonment of the last Roman expansion, occurred in 117.

Of Southern Sarmatia (275)
The very capable Aurelian (r. 270-275) withdrew Roman control of southern Sarmatia in 275.

Signs of the Coming Collapse of the Roman State (286-410)
The Roman ruler Diocletian (244-312, r. 284-305) moved the capital of the Roman state from Rome to Milan in Alpinia in 286. The city of Rome, founded in 753 BC, had been the capital of the Roman state for over a thousand years. In 330 the ruler Constantine moved it again. The new center of the Roman state was a city he had built on a peninsula at the easternmost point in Hellenia. It came to be called Constantinople.

Theodosius ruled the Roman state from 379 to 395. He was the last person to rule the entire Roman state stretching from Britannia in northwest Olympia to the Levant in the southeast. When he died, the empire split into an eastern half, composed of the geocultural provinces of Hellenia, Anatolia, central Levantia, and Egypt; and a western half, composed of southern Britannia, Gallia, Iberia, Alpinia, and Latinia. Over the next century, the geocultural provinces of the western half would all be lost to the Roman state.

Theodosius had two sons. One ruled the western half of the Roman state from Milan. The other ruled the eastern half from Constantinople. In 402, one son moved the capital city of the western half from Milan to Ravenna, a port on the northeast Mediterranean coast of Latinia.

In 410, the unimaginable happened: the city of Rome was sacked. That hadn't happened for 800 years. Even though the Visigoths commanded by Alaric did little damage to the city, the psychological impact on all loyal subjects and citizens of the Roman state, and all its admirers ever since, was profound.

Loss of Britannia (410)
In 409 the Roman army commander in Britannia wanted to be ruler of the western half of the Roman Empire. He took the soldiers committed to protecting and policing Britannia with him to Gallia to fulfill his dreams. By doing so he left Britannians defenseless. They appealed to the Roman ruler in Ravenna for help. In 410, he replied not with troops but with the parting message that they were on their own. Not surprisingly, the Roman state lost its most marginal geocultural province first.

Of Carthaginia (439)
The Germanian ethnic group known as the Vandals crossed from Iberia into the geocultural province of Carthaginia in 429. In 430 they laid siege to the coastal city of Hippo where, inside, Augustine its bishop lay dying, and soon took it. In 439 the Vandals captured the city of Carthage and completed their control of Carthaginia. In 440 they took control of Sicily and, in 455, sacked Rome for two weeks. Because Vandals removed gold and bronze from buildings, similar defacement of property came to be known as vandalism.

Of Iberia (472)
After sacking Rome, Alaric led his Visigoths into southern Gallia. From there they expanded into northern Iberia.

Beginning on New Year's Eve, 406, and continuing until 409, tens of thousands of Germanian Vandals and Suebi walked across a frozen Rhine River and entered, without challenge, lands which until then had been controlled by the Roman state. These Germanian groups fought with each other, the Visigoths, and Roman armies as they crossed Gallia and entered Iberia. By 418, various Germanian armies controlled most of Iberia.

In 429 the Vandals crossed into Carthaginia. In 466 the Visigoths in Iberia began exerting their control of the province with renewed vigor. By 472 they had confined the Suebi to northwest Iberia, had made peace with the Basques in northeastern Iberia, and had ended Roman control of their last remaining region (roughly today's Catalonia) in the province.

Of Alpinia and Latinia (476)
On September 4, 476, the Germanian Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustus, the last Roman ruler of the western half of the empire. Ironically, he was named after Romulus, founder of Rome, and Augustus, its first emperor. Thereafter Odoacer referred to himself as King of Italy. At his death in 493 he controlled Latinia and most of Alpinia. An Ostrogoth named Theodoric murdered and replaced him as ruler and made Alpinia and Latinia an Ostrogothic kingdom.

Of Gallia (486)
By 476, the Visigothic state in Iberia had extended its control of southern Gallia. Clovis (b. 466, r. 481-511), king of a Germanian ethnic group known as the Salian Franks, continued to serve the Roman military commander of northern Gallia until 486. Clovis then freed himself from Roman control and proceeded to extend his control over other small Frankish states in northern Gallia and western Germania. In 507 he defeated a Visigothic army in southern Gallia and thereby extended his control to the Pyrenees and confined Visigothic control thereafter to Iberia. In 508 he made the city of Paris the capital of the Frankish state.

Consolidation (525)
By 525, what had been the western half of the Roman state for almost 500 years was no longer under Roman control. Southern Britannia, controlled by the Romans from 61 to 410, was increasingly settled and controlled by Angles, Saxons, and Jutes migrating from Germania. Gallia, under Roman control since its conquest by Julius Caesar in 50 BC, was controlled by a Frankish state made strong by Clovis after 481 and distinctly Frankish after 486. Iberia, under Roman control since 25 BC, was mostly controlled by Germanians by 418 and by a Visigothic state by 472. Carthaginia, controlled by the Roman state since 104 BC, was controlled by a Vandal state by 439. The city of Rome was sacked in 410, the first time in 800 years, and again in 455. Not only Alpinia but even Latinia stopped being controlled by the Romans. Control first passed to the Germanian Odoacer in 476, who declared himself the King of Italy, and then to the Ostrogoth Theodoric in 493. He made Alpinia and Latinia into a strong and vibrant Ostrogothic state.

Copyright © 2013 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.