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Old October 18th, 2009, 01:11 AM   #61

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Re: Why Europe fell into the Dark Ages after Rome's collapse?


We cannot give one direct year for the start of the Dark Ages.
There are several events which can be described as the start of the Dark ages, one of them is the collapse of the Western Roman empire.
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Old October 18th, 2009, 05:02 AM   #62

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Re: Why Europe fell into the Dark Ages after Rome's collapse?


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PS- my principal thesis being that all the traditionally cited causes of social decline and collapse are nothing but symptomatic... the inevitable results of a civilization that has ceased to progress economically.
Excellent posts. Very interesting.
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Old October 18th, 2009, 06:16 AM   #63
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Re: Why Europe fell into the Dark Ages after Rome's collapse?


Although I have stated that the sense of Imperium did not evaporate, the practical effect of moving the center of the empire to the east, by the fourth century, caused a loosening of it's influence and control further west. Communications lost their effect the further afield from the center one went. After Diocletian and the Constantines, the effect was more pronounced as the empire was becoming an almost totalitarian state that needed more control. Consequently, the empire remained stronger in the east; deteriorated further west.

In the west, local issues, including economy, had to be addressed locally, and that was the beginning of the symbiosis of barbarian soldiery and Roman landed interests. The landed aristocracy (or Senatorial class) in Gaul, Italy and some parts of Spain and Africa understood that claiming the entitlement to the offices of the Church as bishops and deacons enabled them to protect their economic interests, which were mostly local, and influence the governance of the territories that encompassed those economic interests. The former local curiae of Senatorial class notables were transformed into religio-administrative bodies still controlled by the same class, but with imperial-religious claim to legitimacy.

The empire itself had ensured the process, by legislating that occupations became virtually hereditary. As an important example, a soldier's son had to be a soldier if he was physically able. As the army became barbarized, and it's leadership became romanized, by the fifth century, the differences were not so great, but the barbarian generals and duces, and their soldiers, and the landed Romans, and the buccellarii they employed to protect their interests, had little in common with the eastern empire.

Local interests and problems invited local solutions. The tenuous relations between areas as remote from one another as Gaul with Greece eroded and were replaced by just the concept of Imperium. The land owning aristocracy and the duces of the west were content for Constantinople to not have control over their interests, and to accept imperial offices and recognition as hollow tribute.

The empire in the west was dismantled internally with the collusion of it's citizens. It became in their interests to do so. They may not have had a clear understanding of what was slowly happening.

Last edited by pikeshot1600; October 18th, 2009 at 04:17 PM.
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Old October 18th, 2009, 06:38 AM   #64
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Re: Why Europe fell into the Dark Ages after Rome's collapse?


As an additional comment, although the barbarian leadership had absorbed much Romanitas in the transition, they were still products of their cultural background. Providing for their followers and retainers, and for their sons, was far more compelling than obedience to Constantinople - especially when there was little Constantinople could do.

Justinian's 6th century Gothic wars to reintroduce Imperial authority in the old empire accomplished nothing of permanence, and ruined Italy for centuries.
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Old October 18th, 2009, 07:34 AM   #65

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Re: Why Europe fell into the Dark Ages after Rome's collapse?


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I have to disagree... the Roman water mills at Barbegal show that Romans fully used all technology, regardless of Slaves.
I would agree that the Roman water mills at Barbegal show that the slaves in extreme southern France were definitely out of the grain-grinding business. I've been given to understand that there have been about two dozen Roman water mills excavated so far. That's out of the entire empire. I have been given to understand that two water-powered sawmills have been found. Again, out of the entire empire.

You make a good point about the drag the absence of the zero imparted.

But surely, that can't account for the fact that they didn't have wheelbarrows, or wagons with brakes and a pivoting front axle, or proper horse collars.

There were largish slave rebellions(that I know of - perhaps there were others of the medium sort) in 135 BC, 104 BC, and 73 BC. These things are bad for business in a slave economy. Would not being possessed of a slave economy act as a drag in and of itself regarding "labor-saving" invention?

And really, what would be the point of any sort of advance if the Emperor was just going to confiscate the profit to build another monument to himself back in Rome?
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Old October 18th, 2009, 05:28 PM   #66
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Re: Why Europe fell into the Dark Ages after Rome's collapse?


The idea that every mill they built should leave a ruin to be found is not supportable.
MOST Roman ruins were built OVER. Most medieval mill sites were selected because there had ALWAYS been a mill at that site.
Romans actually use water mills to pump water out of mines... the most massive engineering machinery Rome left behind, that was not dismantled or cannibalized by subsequent cultures, was found buried in a mine. 7 or 8 levels of interconnected wheels to lift water out of a mine, all powered by a river on the surface.

I absolutely agree with you that slavery had a profound impact on Rome... but it was not the cause of the fall, because Rome had slavery for 700 years.
The biggest problem created by slavery was unemployment in among Roman citizenry. Which is why the rich and powerful who controlled Rome had to spend their own money to ensure the citizenry had bread, and circuses.

Lots of other Empires practiced Slavery, and it was not generally significantly different than serfdom, economically. The owner of the slave paid for all the slaves costs of living, and the slaves did work that earned the owner the money with which to cover his costs...

Excavations show that Roman slaves owned more consumer goods than would generally have been thought, which showed either largess on the part of owners, or some form of "allowance".
All in all, the primary economic difference between slavery and a feudal tenant system is that slaves at least, are not allowed to starve.

There is no evidence that slavery inhibits innovation.
In fact, quite the opposite. Slavery in the US South was on a long decline BECAUSE it was not economically viable. It was the invention of the Cotton Gin which suddenly made slave labor PAY... and caused the surge in Slavery and pro-slavery political action...
I could argue that early man powered mills and cranes, that deep mining, and running the mill complex at Bargegal were the kind of soul crushing work that you could ONLY have gotten slaves to do... and that, therefore, slavery was an inducement to modernize and make human labor in service to the machinery.

What is left is not an accurate assessment of what Rome had. Virtually none of the marble that once adorned Rome was on the ruins by 900 ad.
Why? Because you can BURN marble for heat, and to make lime.
Virtually none of the Metal machinery made by Rome survived, because metal rusts, and what doesn't rust is salvaged, forged and re-cast into other useful things.

Slavery's most pressing effect on an economy is that it inhibits a Consumer culture from forming. But the USA in 1900 had the equivalent in underpaid 7 day jobs at factories where you lived in a factory owned house and bought your goods at a factory owned store... living your entire life in perpetual hock to your employer.

As to wheel barrows and wagons with pivoting front axels and brakes... again, there is a whole host of innovations they never came up with... but many of those innovations were not really necessary, or would nor pay for their cost of development, simply because there wasn't that much demand...
Slaves did not buy wagons, and patricians did not care how hard it was for a slave to steer a wagon....
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Old October 24th, 2009, 08:31 AM   #67

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Re: Why Europe fell into the Dark Ages after Rome's collapse?


There are many replies in this thread and I haven't read them all but, I'll throw my two cents in regardless. I'll probably just be echoing what's already been said but it is what it is.

My opinion is that once Rome fell much of Europe was lost without them. They took for granted all the things Rome did for them economically, militarily, and socially. Once Rome was out of the picture, Europe had to fend for itself. They didn't have Roman prefects and military to fall back on. Eddie Izzard, a comedian, made a funny joke about this when talking about the Dark Ages in one of his bits:"But then the Roman Empire fell like this- "Oh ***". And we went into what the historians called the Stupid ****** period.Where everyone was going -"er, I dunno. Is that a Roman road? Can we eat it?" Then there was the dark Ages. " I can't even see you! Where are you?"

It's akin to getting kicked out of your house when you're 18. You relied so much on your parents for so long. Now that you're on your own you don't even know where to begin. You're essentially lost. Many of the barbarian tribes were assimilated into Roman life but once Rome fell all bets were off. It was a completely different world. Land was up for grabs. Barbarian leaders fought for power. Rome left a giant, gaping blackhole and all the known European world wanted a piece.
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Old October 24th, 2009, 08:56 PM   #68

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Re: Why Europe fell into the Dark Ages after Rome's collapse?


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MOST Roman ruins were built OVER. Most medieval mill sites were selected because there had ALWAYS been a mill at that site.
sculptingman,

Thank-you for your informed reply.

But there's trouble about the word "medieval." So, it is with no little trepidation that I venture to continue.

The Domesday Book(1086) records 5,624 water-powered mills operating in England. In the early 1100s, the Societe du Bazacle in Toulouse offered shares of stock in a series of water-powered mills on the Garonne. By the early 1200s, there were in Paris 68 mills along a stretch of the Seine less than a mile long - one every 70 feet.

Were most of these built OVER(sic) the ruins of Roman mills?

But what's interesting is that these were mostly all mills powered by wheels of the undershot type. Obviously, the Romans knew about how the power transmitted by an overshot wheel is much greater than that of the undershot - just look at Barbegal. Obviously, they knew all about dams - they had been building them for flood control, irrigation, canals, etc since the get-go. But did they ever build one to power an overshot wheel? By the 1100s, many such dams had been constructed, including one at Toulouse which was 1300 feet across.

Don't get me wrong. I have little doubt(in fact, I'd bet two dollars) that the Romans understood very well how falling water could power not just a grist mill or a saw mill, but also be used to turn a lathe, full wool, make paper pulp, hammer metal, draw wire, and whatever all else.

But I don't think it would have made economic sense for someone in that position to do so. He couldn't just get rid of 90% of his slaves, and he couldn't have twenty of them all fanning him with fans all at the same time either.

Consider too that one thing leads to another. When windmills made their appearance in Europe during the time of the First Crusade, the axis of rotation of the shaft was switched from vertical to horizontal. Why? Well, no one knows for sure; one way works as well as the other. But horizontal was the axis of the water-powered mills, so perhaps that was why. If water-power had been more widespread in the west, then wind-power might have been invented independently there around the same time it was first used in Persia, around 500 AD.

Isn't this how science and technology advances? An invention becomes ubiquitous enough, and then someone else thinks, "Hey, that gives me an idea!"


Quote:
I could argue that early man powered mills and cranes, that deep mining, and running the mill complex at Bargegal were the kind of soul crushing work that you could ONLY have gotten slaves to do...
Maybe not everybody achieved spiritual fulfillment dunging the fields?
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Old October 24th, 2009, 10:15 PM   #69

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Re: Why Europe fell into the Dark Ages after Rome's collapse?


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My opinion is that once Rome fell much of Europe was lost without them. They took for granted all the things Rome did for them economically, militarily, and socially. Once Rome was out of the picture, Europe had to fend for itself. They didn't have Roman prefects and military to fall back on.
Much of Europe never knew Roman rule, and experienced unprecedented advancement during the Dark Ages. Look at Germany or Scandinavia or Scotland in 1000 AD, and compare to 200 AD. Way, way ahead of where they had been.
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Old October 24th, 2009, 10:18 PM   #70

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Re: Why Europe fell into the Dark Ages after Rome's collapse?


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The impediment to science, and the ultimate cause of the economic and military stagnation that led to Rome's fall was that Rome did not have the MATH to advance science beyond simple geometry and practical engineering. No Zero, no method of notation that facilitated arithmetic computation... so science in Rome stopped when they hit that wall where further progress required computational math.
Funny, it didn't stop progress in medieval Europe. They were only just starting to adopt Arabic numerals and maths when the Americas were discovered.

Rome did have the numeral zero, by the way. Ptolemy introduced the Hellenistic zero to Greco-Roman civilization. In Latin it was known as the "zephirium graecum" and could be used in numeric notation. It looks like this:

Click the image to open in full size.
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