Official point of no return for the Roman Empire

Nov 2019
8
USA
Fall of the Nerva-Antontines? Post Diocletian? Death of Marcus Aurelius? Division of the Empire? Let me know your thoughts below.
 
Feb 2011
1,120
Scotland
Assume you mean the West here.
Battle of Cap Bon 468CE.
Had the Romans won- and they should have- they could have eliminated the Vandals, retaken Africa with its income and probably reasserted Roman supremacy in Spain, pinning the Sueves into the Northerm mountains. It wouldn't have solved the crisis altogether, the Goths still there- but survival now much more likely.
 
  • Like
Reactions: macon

At Each Kilometer

Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
4,011
Bulgaria
I read opinions blaming the Constitutio Antoniniana for the mess during the Crisis of the 3rd century. The Edict removed the motivation to join auxilia / the reward on completing the service was Roman citizenship, so it had negative effect on the strength of the military. I wonder what % of inhabitants of the empire were citizens in the eve of the Edict and after that. The population of the early empire under Augustus has been placed at about 45 million and number of the citizens has been 4,5 millions so 1 of 10. The estimation of the total population in the mid 2nd century AD, so half a century before Caracalla is 65 million, then Antonine plague happened, five good emperors era ended so the number plunged to 40 million / of these how many male adults & citizens? 4 million in the eve of the Edict?
 
  • Like
Reactions: kazeuma

Guaporense

Ad Honorem
Mar 2011
5,050
Brazil
It has been the emerging consensus of historians that the Roman Empire began to fall as soon as it had been formed. Let me explain: the basic institutional unit of the ancient Classical world was the Polis or city-state. Rome also started out as a city-state that conquered all the others. When Rome finished conquering the ancient world and the Roman Empire was consolidated under the Julio-Claudians the basic institutional framework that was underlying the ancient civilization was the concept of polis citizenship, which means that each city was self-governing (often democratic as the case of Athens) and its population was composed of free citizens (in addition to slaves, of course). As Rome's power grew the degree of autonomy of individual poleis declined, eventually local citizenship lost any real meaning and the basis of the prosperity and military power of classical civilization was lost.

For several centuries Rome existed as a zombie-civilization that progressively decayed and its basic institutions rotten. The fall of Rome was in 476 a.d. was just a formality in a process of decay that had lasted several centuries, classical civilization and its culture was already dead and buried by that time, the society of europe around 470 a.d. was closer to feudalism than the poleis.
 

Guaporense

Ad Honorem
Mar 2011
5,050
Brazil
I read opinions blaming the Constitutio Antoniniana for the mess during the Crisis of the 3rd century. The Edict removed the motivation to join auxilia / the reward on completing the service was Roman citizenship, so it had negative effect on the strength of the military. I wonder what % of inhabitants of the empire were citizens in the eve of the Edict and after that. The population of the early empire under Augustus has been placed at about 45 million and number of the citizens has been 4,5 millions so 1 of 10. The estimation of the total population in the mid 2nd century AD, so half a century before Caracalla is 65 million, then Antonine plague happened, five good emperors era ended so the number plunged to 40 million / of these how many male adults & citizens? 4 million in the eve of the Edict?
Roman citizenship was fluid. It was 1 million around 80 BC, 4 million around 25 BC, and by 50 AD it was 7 million. By 220 AD everybody who was not a slave in the empire was officially a "citizen". As citizenship expanded its meaning was lost.

In demographic terms, Rome in 400 AD should have been much, much stronger than before. For instance, in the Punic War I, Rome lost 400,000 soldiers over the two decades of the war but they still prevailed at a time when Rome only controlled central and southern Italy, which had 160 city-states and a population around 3-4 million with around 700,000 citizens. In both Punic Wars, Rome was able to mobilize around 20-25% of its free adult male population into the armed forces. While by the Late Empire Rome was unable to mobilize a few tens of thousands of soldiers out of a population of 50 million. Clearly, there was a massive shift in their mobilization capacity that had everything to do with the collapse of their basic civic institutions.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Condottiero
Jan 2016
1,140
Victoria, Canada
In the east a point of no even somewhat likely return would be around 1354-5 I'd say, with the fall of Gallipoli and deposition of John Kantakouzenos. It was after that point that the problems facing the Roman polity became truly, fundamentally institutional, a process exacerbated by civil war and incompetent Emperors but which would have, in all likelihood, continued in a similar form without them. There was no more money, there were no more armies, and there were no more geographic barriers between the Turks and Thrace. At any previous juncture I can imagine the Empire plausibly stabilizing under a strong, diplomatic Emperor, but by the mid-1350's even a new Heraclius or Alexios Komnenos wouldn't have been able to do much under their own power; past that point only some incredibly good fortune brought on by outside forces -- some sort of Ottoman collapse, a truly successful Crusade, or the like -- would have given the Empire a chance to reassert itself as a territorial power on a long-term basis.
 
Sep 2013
632
Ontario, Canada
395 CE with the division of the Roman Empire upon the death of Theodosius, the last Emperor to rule over the whole. After that, the Empire could no longer be put back together again, though Justinian certainly tried. Basil II was also considering recovery of parts of the West but died before he could bring it about.

This was actually attempted earlier in Roman history, in the joint reign of Caracalla and Geta, when the feuding brothers had just divided up the imperial palace, and now they were talking about dividing the Empire, too. It was nixed by their mother, Julia Domna, who believed that a divided Empire would leave it weaker. She successfully intervened but it was then that Caracalla decided to murder his brother and take the whole thing for himself.