"Soft Fall" of the Roman Empire

Sep 2017
771
United States
Would it be possible for the Roman Empire to have had a "soft fall", like how the British Empire degenerated over time but Britain itself was relatively fine?

This Roman... state?... would likely be comprised really of just Italia, Magna Graecia, and Corsica et Sardinia. It would still be independent from Eastern Rome, and be relatively stable and able to defend itself well but not be strong enough for at least a long time to make any reconquests.

What steps would have to be taken for this to come to fruition, and when is the absolute latest point of no return for Rome??
 
Mar 2018
861
UK
I'm not sure that in 300 AD the Romans really thought that Gaul or Carthage was less "core" territory than Corsica or Sicily. Certainly too few soldiers were being raised from italy itself for such a state to defend itself.
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,790
Cornwall
It took nearly 100 years so that's fairly gentle and soft. Some have argued that the fall began with the death of Marcus Aurelius.
 

Theodoric

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
2,959
Yötebory Sveriya
The issue with the fall of the Roman Empire wasn't as much about the outer provinces, but the destruction of the core.

The sacking of Rome in 410 and 455, and the two decade long Gothic War in 535 to 554 is what really caused the whole thing to come apart.

If you look at the European world after 554, much of the outer Roman Empire is still intact. Britain, Italy, and to a lesser extent, France, were what really came apart. Most of the regions still considered themselves a part of the Roman Empire; it's more or less historical revisionism that we put the fall of the Roman Empire so much earlier than reality put it. The 476 date is completely arbitrary, all that happened was that a kid with no real power had his title removed; the senate was still there, the magistrates were still there, and there was even an Emperor in Constantinople.

It's not unprecedented that the Empire was ruled by one Emperor from Constantinople: Constantine from 330, Constantius II, and Theodosius were all Emperors who ruled the whole Empire from Constantinople.

The line history books say is "in 395 the Empire permanently split into East and West" - which isn't true, that split ended in 476, and that is the significance of that date. The magistrates and Senate were still Imperial offices were still fully active in the west for another 60-80 years when Justinian began dismantling the West, ending offices in Rome that had been established both before and after Julius Caesar's era: Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Justinianus Augustus IV was the final Roman Consul in 534-535; this date also marks the beginning of Gothic War which, as described above, really ended the significance of the core of the Roman Empire, because this war was catastrophic for the Roman homelands; and in the aftermath, Justinian's armies plundered it, and took the riches back to Constantinople and their Byzantine Empire.

But anyway, The Byzantine Empire, Francia, and the Visigoths were still upholding what they considered the Roman Empire; even if we decided a long time after they weren't really the Romans any longer.
 

pikeshot1600

Ad Honorem
Jul 2009
9,967
It took nearly 100 years so that's fairly gentle and soft. Some have argued that the fall began with the death of Marcus Aurelius.
In that case the "soft fall" lasted almost 300 years. :)

The continuing degradation of the Principate after M.A. does lend itself to his demise being the beginning of decline. The Empire, however, was pretty resilient. The 'inheritance of Rome' lasted centuries after 476 AD. That seems to be enough of a soft fall.
 
Apr 2018
726
France
Probably the latest point of non return was the inability for Majoranus to keep the power without Ricimer's support. At that point ws clear that the barbarians were too much inside the Roman institutions.
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,790
Cornwall
In that case the "soft fall" lasted almost 300 years. :)
I meant, some might say 100, some might take it back to MA :)

Probably the latest point of non return was the inability for Majoranus to keep the power without Ricimer's support. At that point ws clear that the barbarians were too much inside the Roman institutions.
Majorian lost his credibility when he managed to get his fleet destroyed in 461 by the Vandals or someone working for them. Mar Menor or Cartagena harbour.

I'm sort of thinking the last chance point was the death of Valentinian III and subsequently Aetius?

But it's certainly not an exact science
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
:deadhorse:
Would it be possible for the Roman Empire to have had a "soft fall", like how the British Empire degenerated over time but Britain itself was relatively fine?

This Roman... state?... would likely be comprised really of just Italia, Magna Graecia, and Corsica et Sardinia. It would still be independent from Eastern Rome, and be relatively stable and able to defend itself well but not be strong enough for at least a long time to make any reconquests.

What steps would have to be taken for this to come to fruition, and when is the absolute latest point of no return for Rome??
So you envision a political disintingration, but not the social and economic collapse that went with the fall of the Roman Empire?

Well, the Italian Gothic kingdom was kind of like that, until Italy was trashed in the Gothic Wars when the Byzantines tried to retake Italy. Perhaps if Justinian had not tried to recover Italy and left it alone, the Gothic kingdoms might have evovled into what you are proposing.

From what I understand, the Gothic Wars were ver destructive, Rome went from a city of several hundred thousands before the war to maybe 50,000 after.
 

Yôḥānān

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
3,888
Portugal
Would it be possible for the Roman Empire to have had a "soft fall", like how the British Empire degenerated over time but Britain itself was relatively fine?

It had at least a long fall of near 1400 years. It gives the impression they never managed to find a stable of transition of power or curb excessive military power.
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,790
Cornwall
:deadhorse:

So you envision a political disintingration, but not the social and economic collapse that went with the fall of the Roman Empire?

Well, the Italian Gothic kingdom was kind of like that, until Italy was trashed in the Gothic Wars when the Byzantines tried to retake Italy. Perhaps if Justinian had not tried to recover Italy and left it alone, the Gothic kingdoms might have evovled into what you are proposing.

From what I understand, the Gothic Wars were ver destructive, Rome went from a city of several hundred thousands before the war to maybe 50,000 after.
I sort of suspect the Ostrogoths would have developed the same self-destructive streak as the Visigothic Kingdom, seeing they are 2 branches of the same tree. Maybe not.