Problems between East and West
When the Roman Empire fell in the west, what remained in the east carries on. To us it is commonly known as the Byzantine Empire, they called themselves Romans. It took on a more Greek identity, focused on Constantinople, and had its own Patriarch to oversee orthodox Christianity. It was they who successfully converted the Russ, ancestors of modern Russia. Here was preserved much of the ancient learning from Greek and Roman academics, scholars, doctors, philosophers, scientists, mathematicians, etc. The Empire had split in to east and west, each with its own Emperor.
Today we see the same tensions between east and west. Poland, Hungary, the Visegard group are at loggerheads with the E.U. over migration, amongst other things. The Hungarian leader Viktor Orban sensibly says he doesn’t want to let in millions of migrants. Poland says the same. Poland has lived through Nazi and Soviet occupation, survived both and come out on top. I doubt they will crumble in the face of the EU. Verhofstadt, a high-ranking EU official, called the governments of Poland and Hungary “Alt-Right.” Hardly restrained language for EU members, and partners in trade and defence. It remains to be seen if they will break away. They already have a ready-made replacement structure. Could it be they who safeguard European traditions such as Christianity, rule of law, human rights, and intellectual freedom? They may preserve the legacy and carry it down the ages while western mainland Europe falls.
Doomed from the start?
Arnold J. Toynbee and James Burke argue that the Roman Empire was doomed from the start, that it was rotten from its inception. In their view, the Empire could never have lasted. The Romans had no budgetary system. The Empire relied on booty from conquered territories (this source of revenue ending, of course, with the end of Roman territorial expansion) or on a pattern of tax collection that drove small-scale farmers into destitution (and onto a dole that required even more exactions upon those who could not escape taxation.)
In the same way, the E.U. demands ever more from taxpayers in its net contributor countries. The Common Agricultural Policy dooms small farmers in other countries so it can prop up French agriculture (Although they won’t need to make wine for much longer). E.U. accounts have not been signed off in over 10 years. The E.U. is also being pushed to expand, to plug an ever-growing budget black hole, especially with Britain leaving. The system was rotten from the beginning, a covert attempt to set up a socialist pan-European Super state. Like all socialism, it is doomed to fail. There is no European identity, there never has been. Europe has always been a Europe of the nations, and rightly so.
A ‘Hard’ or a ‘Soft’ Fall?
Historians of Late Antiquity, a field pioneered by Peter Brown, have turned away from the idea that the Roman Empire “fell.” They see a “transformation” occurring over centuries, with the roots of Medieval culture contained in Roman culture and focus on the continuities between the classical and Medieval worlds. Thus, it was a gradual process with no clear break. Ward-Perkins’ theory, much like Bury’s, and Heather’s, identifies a series of cyclic events that came together to cause a definite decline and fall. The primary difference in his work and Bury’s, was that like Heather, they had access to archaeological records which strongly supported the stance that the fall was a genuine disaster for millions.
Rather than worry about a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Brexit, the E.U. should worry about whether it is in for a hard or soft fall. Will the E.U. slowly dwindle over time, with countries naturally breaking away bit by bit, and perhaps carrying on some parts of the E.U. e.g. its legislation? Or is it in for a hard fall? One where millions suffer, and the E.U. is destroyed quickly, and those most closely associated with it suffer most. Will there be a modern sack of Rome, carried out by its own Alaric? Given the migration and economic situation, I know which my money is on.
Historians have long argued about the reasons for the fall of Rome. This isn’t the issue here. The point is that the EU fits every one of the theories. The E.U. is also making all the same mistakes. When Rome fell in the West, it ushered in what became known as the Dark Ages. Various people flooded in to Europe. The Vandals (clue is in the name) ran riot. Europe came under assault from Islam, and countries like Greece and Spain were overrun. It took centuries to reclaim them. However, as we now know the Dark Ages were not that Dark, and Spain was able to win back it’s freedom. The barbarian invaders became Christian, or were Christian to start with. They took up the mantle of Rome, its legacies, its values and regarded themselves as Romans or the heirs to Rome. The Visigoths of Spain are a prime example.
As the EU falls, it remains to be seen if we will be so lucky. Today’s invaders are not being fought. There is no modern-day Alfonso VI. Instead they are appeased. The values of the West are not being taken on, there is a danger of losing any legacy of the West. Borders are almost non-existent. Greece again is being flooded with peoples from the East. How long it remains Greece in anything but name is up for debate. The same goes for Italy, Sweden and Germany. The country formerly known as France is lost. Others will follow. The E.U. awaits its modern Alaric. Germanic tribes were the downfall of Rome. It looks like Germanic policies will be the downfall of this modern empire. Merkel has opened the floodgates and unleashed a latter-day Cetus.
Britain may not be immune to all the effects of the inevitable E.U. collapse. But suffice to say, I think the further removed we are from the E.U. in every way, the more insulated we will be. There was evidence for this in the 2008 crash.
As with the Roman Empire enduring in the East with the so called “Byzantines”, so the Visegrad nations can take up the mantle and preserve Western culture and values. They may be a beacon in the coming darkness. In 1984, Orwell said hope lies with the Proles. In 2017, it lies with the Poles.
Using information from: Fall of Rome. (2017, March 25). New World Encyclopedia, Retrieved 13:10, August 29, 2017 from here
© Jonathon Davies 2017
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