Episode 2 AD 350-530

The – one-third – fall of the Roman Empire

The episode points up the reality of what occurred during the ‘long’ 5th century, in contrast to our collective historical memory tells us happened, the Fall of the Roman Empire and the supposed ‘End of Civilisation’.
The great and forgotten fact is that only a part of the Roman Empire collapsed in the 400s, its western, its lesser half. Its deep social, economic and cultural centre of gravity – the eastern Mediterranean – continued as before, untouched and not overly concerned by the falling away of the West.


  • Some of the political consequences of the late 3rd century military crisis
  • The part-militarisation of the political elite, instability caused by usurpation by generals
  • The geo-strategic threats from the north – Germania, and from the east – Parthia
  • Military defence against, and recruitment of, the Germanic tribes by the Romans
  • Germanic society and the unsettling social and political impact of proximity to the Empire
  • Tendency towards the fragmentation of military control – local magnates’ private forces (bucellarii), the hiring of whole Germanic armies (feoderati) for use in internal political struggles
  • The Huns arrive from the steppe lands, the eastern Gothic people seek refuge in the Empire
  • Constantinople quickly recovers from temporary military catastrophe in the east
  • Emperor Theodosius employs the Goths to win the decisive battle which establishes Christianity
  • Goths devastate Italy and move, as Roman allies, into Gaul
  • In 407 political usurpation and civil war leave the West defenceless; frontier tribes cross the Rhine to raid in depth. This entailed the fall of the roman empire in the west
  • The Goths, as Roman clients, eventually restore some order, uniting with the Roman senatorial class of Gaul
  • All parties rally together to confront the Huns at Chalons
  • The Saxones brought into Britannia by the senatorial class as federate units, but these allies turn into highly destructive invaders
  • The half-Roman Frankish chieftain Chlodevech defeats his Roman senatorial colleague Syagrius, forming a powerful sub-Roman kingdom in northern Gaul, recognised by Constantinople
  • Chlodevech adopts the Roman form of Christianity; defeats the Goths to the south, driving them into Spain. The Rhine ceases to be a social and political barrier
  • The eastern Goth, educated at Constantinople, Theodoricus, undertakes the conquest of Italy at the behest of the eastern emperor. Establishes a stable Roman-style regime, allowing life to continue as it always had.

Now with the audio-only version included

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