Thursday, 2 June 2016

The Fall Of The Roman Empire

The King Of Ys by Poul and Karen Anderson really is set during the Fall of the Roman Empire although we have to read a concluding note on the aftermath (pp. 527-528) to get the bigger picture.

(i) Because the Romans withdrew from Britain, the Britons organized their own defense and were temporarily successful, thus generating the Arthurian legend.

(ii) Independent kingdoms were formed in former Roman territories in Northern Europe. In the Andersons' fiction, an independent Armorican king is the younger brother-in-law of the last King of Ys.

(iii) Alaric the Visigoth not only harassed the Empire but even captured and sacked Rome in 410, just a few years after the events of the Tetralogy.

(iv) The Imperial capital had in any case moved from Rome to Milan, then to Ravenna. The second move was for a quick exit route to Constantinople in the event of further barbarian incursions.

(v) Britons emigrated en masse to Armorica, changing its name to Brittany. Latin became Italian, French, Spanish etc. The world as we know it came into being.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Commenting on your numbered points:

(i) Yes, Constantine the Usurper took with him to Gaul most of the two legions stationed in Britannia, exposing that diocese to barbarian attacks and invasions. But, we do have reason to think Emperor Honorius reoccupied Britannia during the last ten years of his life. Direct Roman rule seems to have ended sometime around AD 430. And I agree there was a Britanno/Roman war leader or chief who managed to hold things together for a while, becoming the germ of the Arthurian legends.

(ii) I have wondered if we should think of Gratillonius' brother in law Salon as the ancestor of the later dukes of Brittany! (Smiles)

(iii) Alaric's Sack of Rome in 410 was a deeply traumatic event for all Romans, a crushing blow to the prestige and morale of the Empire.

(iv) What I read was that Honorius moved the Western Court to Ravenna because it was an excellent location for overseeing the defense of Italy. But, it was a bad mistake because it tended to isolate the Imperium from events in Gaul and the Rhineland. Some men at that argued for moving the gov't to Arles in Gaul due it to being a more central, less isolated location.

(v) Yes, I agree many Romano Britons fled Britannia for Armorica as the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, etc., invaded the island. Portuguese and Romanian are tow other languages descending from Latin.


David Birr said...

Paul and Sean:
A Visigoth explains himself --
"We wanted Literature, Music, Art ... we were starved for these things. We didn't SACK Rome, really, we were just looking for poems. I'm sorry if we broke some stuff...."
(Cartoon appearing in a magazine a couple of decades ago; the artist's signature reads "Wrightson")

I'm being silly, I know.

On a slightly more serious note, in one of Robert E. Howard's short stories, an Irish reiver tells his Danish (proto-Viking) friend, "Alaric led his Goths through the Forum fifty years ago, yet you barbarians still start at the name of Rome. Fear not; there are no legions in Britain." Despite the Irishman's attitude, I LIKE the idea that thoughts of Roman retribution continued to scare the barbs a good fifty years later.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, David!

No problem! A little silliness once in a while is good! (Smiles)

Alaric's sack of Rome was traumatic for many at that time. St. Augustine wrote THE CITY OF GOD in part as a response to those who argued the Sack would not have happened if the Romans had remained pagan.

I can well imagine how, for a while, memories of the power and might of Rome worried some barbarians! We see that idea even in THE KING OF YS, when Niall reflected that Rome might be an aged beast, but one which still had fangs and claws for rending her foes.