by Charles Hugh Smith
Of Two Minds
Much was lost when the Western Roman Empire collapsed, but islands of literacy, learning and security arose despite the constant conflicts and threats of invasion.
Once dissed as The Dark Ages, the Medieval Era is more properly viewed as a successful adaptation to the challenges of the post-Western Roman Empire era. The decline of the Western Roman Empire was the result of a constellation of challenges, including (but not limited to) massive new incursions of powerful Germanic tribes, a widening chasm between the Western and the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium), plague, an onerous tax burden on the non-elite classes, weak leadership, the dominance of a self-serving elite (sound familiar?) and last but not least, the expansion of an unproductive rabble in Rome that had to be bribed with increasingly costly Bread and Circuses.
In effect, The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire ran out of time and money. The Grand Strategy, successful for hundreds of years, relied heavily on persuading “barbarian” tribes to join the Roman system for the commercial and security benefits. This process of integration worked because it was backed by the threat of destruction by military force.
The Empire maintained relatively modest military forces given its vast territory, but its road system and fleet enabled relatively rapid concentration of force to counter an invasion. It also maintained extensive fortifications along active borders.