Last opportunity for Western Roman Empire to turn itself around?

Mar 2013
95
Portland, OR USA
What year/time period, do think/believe was the last opportunity for the Western Roman Empire to turn itself around and not become extinct like it became. Or what Western Emperor could have had a chance at reversing the Western Empire's fortunes? I think the last capable Western Emperor was Majorian 457-461, who manage to regain lost parts of the Western Empire, before unfortunately being killed by Ricimer. Also the 468 AD military invasion of Carthage by the Eastern Empire (100,000) soldiers supposedly that ended in failure, mostly due to the faults of the Roman leader Basiliscus, was also the Western Empire last chance to recover.

cheers
 
Jan 2014
1,905
Florida
I think the Western Roman Empire didn't survive for longer when Marcus Aurelius dropped co-optation and made his son Commodus emperor. This led to the barracks emperors, which set the stage for incessant civil war, even after them. But especially the Crisis of the 3rd Century destroyed the western economy, which was already much poorer than the eastern economy. I believe that even if the tetrarchy never happened, Western Europe would have been abandoned by the 5th or 6th century, probably due to the need for troops to defend the rich North African and Middle Eastern provinces from the Muslims. The remaining half of the empire would have been very similar to the Byzantine Empire as we know it.
 
Jan 2014
416
Calgary
I'll give the annoying answer that there is no one turn around point. I am one of the believers that it was not one or two decisions from continuing but a deep systemic issue.


The instability of the third century seems to have began the slow process of decentralization, the beginning of fortified villas rather then strong borders. As the borders became more and more porous in the 5th century this exacerbated the problem. This coincided with a general economic decline, which may be a cause or a result of the decentralization. Note that this decline may not have existed to the everyday person in Gaul or elsewhere who may have had the same standard of living, but now relied on bartering rather than the extremly debased currency. As people came to rely on the local strongman in his fortified villa/manor, who offered protection in exchange for service (likely in kind, a share of the crop etc.) for protection it began to become a form of proto-feudilsm and the Western Roman state just wasn't able to transition in a feudal state, as the East would (kind of).

Even if a reunification of the West happened, it would quickly fragment, as it was strong men, not the idea of a "state", that commanded loyalty now. This can be seen with what happened after Charlemagne.

So I suppose we could hypothesize that had the 3rd century been politically stable, the West could have endured like the East, but who knows. The 4th century was one of seeming recovery, but it all fell apart relatively quickly in the 5th.


Edit: The Imperator ninja'd me
 
Last edited:
Jan 2014
1,905
Florida
I'll give the annoying answer that there is no one turn around point. I am one of the believers that it was not one or two decisions from continuing but a deep systemic issue.


The instability of the third century seems to have began the slow process of decentralization, the beginning of fortified villas rather then strong borders. As the borders became more and more porous in the 5th century this exacerbated the problem. This coincided with a general economic decline, which may be a cause or a result of the decentralization. Note that this decline may not have existed to the everyday person in Gaul or elsewhere who may have had the same standard of living, but now relied on bartering rather than the extremly debased currency. As people came to rely on the local strongman in his fortified villa/manor, who offered protection in exchange for service (likely in kind, a share of the crop etc.) for protection it began to become a form of proto-feudilsm and the Western Roman state just wasn't able to transition in a feudal state, as the East would (kind of).

Even if a reunification of the West happened, it would quickly fragment, as it was strong men, not the idea of a "state", that commanded loyalty now. This can be seen with what happened after Charlemagne.

So I suppose we could hypothesize that had the 3rd century been politically stable, the West could have endured like the East, but who knows. The 4th century was one of seeming recovery, but it all fell apart relatively quickly in the 5th.


Edit: The Imperator ninja'd me
This is exactly true. And fear my ninja skills. I don't look for new threads, I sense them, and strike quickly, posting before anyone else can.:cool:
 
Jan 2014
416
Calgary
I should add that I would consider Valens to be the last true Roman Imperator. There were emperors after to be sure, but it was never the same again.
 
Mar 2013
95
Portland, OR USA
I should add that I would consider Valens to be the last true Roman Imperator. There were emperors after to be sure, but it was never the same again.
Curious and would love to hear as to why you believe Valens was the last true Imperator?

cheers :)
 
Jan 2014
1,905
Florida
I should add that I would consider Valens to be the last true Roman Imperator. There were emperors after to be sure, but it was never the same again.
What about Theodosius. There were also a couple of good Western Emperors at the end who could have done a lot to prolong the empire, but they were all killed by Ricimer. I hate Ricimer.
 
Jan 2014
416
Calgary
Its more sentimental than anything, he wasn't even the Western Roman Empire, but his death at Battle of Andrianople, for me is truly the beginning of the end. After Valens death to the Huns, nothing could have saved the empire and it became ever increasingly a hollow crown so to speak. Emperor in name, but no longer ruling the empire as one.
 
Jan 2014
1,905
Florida
Its more sentimental than anything, he wasn't even the Western Roman Empire, but his death at Battle of Andrianople, for me is truly the beginning of the end. After Valens death to the Huns, nothing could have saved the empire and it became ever increasingly a hollow crown so to speak. Emperor in name, but no longer ruling the empire as one.
While I don't necessarily disagree with your position regarding the ruling styles of later emperors, I would vote Theodosius as the "Last true Imperator".
As for the Constitutio Antoniniana, that is normally seen as a symptom of the devaluation of Roman currency, as the empire had to tax far larger numbers of people to get the same amount of money than they had to before.