Olli Dürr

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Fall of the Western Rome – Ancient example within reach?



The fall of the Western Rome in the second half of the 5th century is an inglorious example of how a once brilliant advanced culture can end and what (supposedly) unimagined power structures can emerge from it. Possibly an ancient example within reach.

“Experts” disagree

What was once the most powerful empire in antiquity was also the last of this era. The once dazzling Roman Empire came to a rather inglorious end. It was like a capitulation to a series of largely self-made disasters. Historians pinpoint the end of Western Rome’s existence as the year 476. The last emperor of the Western Rome at the time, Romulus Augustus, “abdicated”. But he survived and then basically retired.

How could it happen that this former Roman great power suffered such a historic decline after the split into Western and Eastern Rome? At this point the “experts” disagree. No researcher pins it on a single reason. It is a whole series of adversities that caused even such a “great” Rome to disappear from the face of the earth. At least in its former form and only according to official historiography.

Possible reasons for the fall of the Western Rome

The “experts” name a whole series of reasons for the fall of the Western Rome, which, one after the other and in different places at the same time, ate away at the power of the former great empire.

  • Slow erosion of military strength and slumps in the economy. Lack of food supply due to territories occupied by conquerors (e.g. vandals in Africa Province).
  • Shrinking tax revenues resulted in a lack of funds to support the military. More and more non-Roman mercenaries in service.
  • Despite military weaknesses, further efforts for expansion
  • Migration of peoples: advance of the Huns and Germanic tribes (“barbarians”), partly controlled by Eastern Rome. Immigration of Germanic tribes deep into Western Roman areas.
  • Transformation: Cultural, economic and social change. Particularly through the influences of Christianity (actually Catholicism), since the Edict of Milan in 313 by Emperor Constantine.
  • Decadence: decay of morals and customs. Lived by the so-called upper class. Decline in values ​​due to their power and wealth. Introduction of foreign cultures by the “barbarians”
  • Internal unrest: Constant uprisings and civil war-like situations in various regions of Western Rome. The power and prestige of the Western Roman government eroded. The Roman citizens increasingly lost trust in the face of the ongoing corruption and incompetence of the Roman Senate.

While politics, culture and military defenses within the Western Roman Empire were increasingly eroding and thus being significantly weakened, the increased pressure from outside due to siege and immigration was the decisive factor in the final collapse of Western Rome.

One man’s downfall was another man’s rise

Rome ruins
Fall of a great power

The “experts” may not agree on the individual questions about the details and weighting of the respective influences, but the bottom line is that it is still a whole package of internal and external adversities that caused the last emperor of Western Rome to abdicate involuntarily. Quite to the delight of a power that has long been emerging in Rome. One could almost imagine how great the rejoicing in the Lateran must have been when news of the deposition of Romulus Augustus by the Germanic leader Odoacer reached the Bishop of Rome in 476. But first the self-proclaimed leader of the Roman Church had to keep his own neck intact in the face of the “barbarians” raging in the city.

Brief historical overview

Papessa tiara
The fluid power of the papacy

After the first major apostasy from the Christian faith according to the Gospel in the 320s, the church of Rome experienced the next strong push, directly against paganism, after the inglorious departure of the last Western Roman emperor. In 321, still benefiting from the “confession” of the Emperor Constantine, who introduced the Sunday law to “honor the sun”, and in 325 the Council of Laodicea defined the “true faith”, the Church of Rome, after the fall of the Western Rome, was now concerned with not not only to win the favor of the “barbarians” but also to convert them into loyal subjects through conversion to Catholicism. The church achieved this to a large extent by simply adopting generosity through the adoption of numerous rites and ceremonies of the “barbarians”..

A “friendly accommodation” so that the “barbarians” found it easier to convert to Catholicism. The church itself was already influenced by Constantine’s Mithraism. Therefore, the expansions of the already introduced traditions from liturgies and philosophies were not that extensive. In addition to their traditional natural religions, some of the Germanic tribes were also influenced by the Roman legionaries. They spread Roman Mithraism throughout much of their conquered territories. In addition, the mythologies of ancient Egypt, Mithraism and those of the northern European peoples show striking parallels.

Absolute obedience required

However, Catholicism demands absolute subservience and undivided obedience from the Church. In other words, to fully recognize the Pope as the “head of all heads,” just as the Roman and “adorable” emperor once did. Not all Germanic peoples wanted to accept this deal and recognize the Bishop of Rome as the undisputed ruler. These were the Vandals, the Heruli and the Ostrogoths.

However, the Bishop of Rome was able to win over the seven other Germanic tribes that emerged from the collapse of the Western Rome. Including the King of the Franks, the Merovingian Clovis. The Bishop of Rome used his military strength to fight the unruly tribes. Not in one go, but ultimately with success. The Vandals, Heruli and Ostrogoths were destroyed.

The Bishop of Rome, who had already been given the title “Pontifex Maximus” by the Emperor Gratian, was still acting under the “grace” of the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire. Emancipation succeeded after Emperor Justinian appointed the Bishop of Rome “corrector of heresy”. This meant that nothing stood in the way of the head of the Roman Catholic Church. With “Pontifex Maximus” and “corrector of heresy”, the military power of Franconia and the recognition by the remaining Germanic tribes in his pocket, state and church monopolies were repeatedly located in Rome. With the local bishop. From 538 onwards, apart from a few “irregularities” with a temporary transfer of the throne to France, for the next 1260 years.

Is it all just antiquity?

Pantheon Rome
Pantheon – One of the Papacy’s favorite buildings

“How could this happen back then? Hard to understand,” some people may ask. Rome was highly cultivated, and the monumental buildings that are cherished and cared for today, especially by the Church of Rome, are still preserved to this day. It is unimaginable that something similar could happen again today, after all, “we today” are more advanced, more enlightened, more developed, civilized, more experienced, more tolerant, more cosmopolitan, and simply more modern than back then.

The summary of the reasons for the fall of Western Rome, but in a contemporary formulation:

Morally completely corrupt elite, abolition of previous values ​​through cancel culture, incompetent and corrupt government and parliaments, dilapidated equipment of the own armed forces, eroding security capacities, economic recession, expansion of public debt, massive export of capital, increasing unrest within the divided society , constant migration and import of other cultures and values, efforts to expand spheres of influence and an impoverished and increasingly frustrated population. This framed within a structure founded in Rome (in the EU territory).

All this led to the downfall of the ancient imperial power, whose forces carried the red banners to other countries, by soldiers in the front ranks who sought protection behind their red shields decorated with a left-facing eagle. Always loyal to whoever is authorized in Rome to hold up the bundle of brushwood with the battle ax in the middle (fascia). But that was only back then. Conditions that are unimaginable today(?)

Papacy on standby again

The triple crown is already polished to a high shine

The fall of the Western Rome in antiquity heralded a rapid change to a power structure that had never existed before. A completely “new order”, with the Bishop of Rome at the head. Back then he was just waiting for his opportunity and he got it, as had long been predicted back then (Info). Should it be possible that the still existing papacy is just waiting for a suitable opportunity so that it can reinstall a “new order” after the (involuntary) abdication of the “last kings”? This is as safe as the bell bag being passed around in the Roman Catholic Church.

And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.
Revelation 17:12-13

Bible verses from King James Version


Fall of the Western Rome – Ancient example within reach?
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