Monday, October 3, 2011

How Empires Fall

This is not my work, but from another site.  I found the historical parallels quite interesting.  I'm hoping the ending will be written differently for America in that the masses rise up nonviolently, ending the US power projection abroad, creating a new egalitarian democracy and living up to the dreams of our founding fathers. 

We all know that our empire is falling apart (read Johan Galtung's The Fall of the US Empire).  It is up to us to define what replaces it.  

Reading the research of Chenoweth we now know that to create lasting democracy it must be a nonviolent people's movement.  A violent revolution typically only brings a more oppressive leadership, or just more of the same. We seeing the beginning of this now, with Occupy Wall Street which is spreading to Financial districts in many major cities.  If you participate, please take a pledge of nonviolence.  Let's stand together to make this country better for all of us, the 99%.

The link to the original piece is at the bottom if you're interested.


The Romans (Americans) called the people who lived outside the Roman Empire barbarians (foreigners, terrorists or aliens). In the 4th century AD the Roman Army (US Military) had considerable difficulty in stopping these Barbarians (terrorists) from entering the Roman Empire (including all the occupied territories like Iraq, Afghanistan, all of Latin America - well, shucks, doesn't the whole world really belong to the US).  The Romans were forced to increase the size of their army. By the end of the 4th century AD it had grown to 600,000 men. Of these, 250,000 were stationed on Rome's northern borders (occupied nations).

Taxation had to be increased to pay for this large army. These taxes were higher than most people could afford and created wide-scale poverty (doesn't the war economy work for you?!). Some people were forced to sell their children into slavery (or just ignore them and let the gangs or violent media raise them), while others died of starvation.

Plague also became a problem and during one outbreak people in Rome were dying at the rate of 5,000 a day (you just can't afford a good health care system when you have wars to pay for). The population of the Roman Empire began to fall dramatically (the true blue European bred Americans that is) and this in turn reduced the numbers of people available to join the army.

The growth of Christianity also created problems for the Roman Empire. Large numbers of Roman citizens became monks and refused to get married and have children. This not only contributed to the fall in population but also reduced Roman tax revenues.

Some Christians claimed that Jesus had preached non-violence (radical religious zealots). Christians who interpreted the words of Jesus in this way often refused to join the Roman army. Even citizens who were not Christians were reluctant to join, and emperors were forced to recruit slaves, gladiators and criminals (Want to become a US citizen or join the biggest baddest gang on the planet?). It was also decided to employ barbarian mercenaries (Blackwater Boys or We don't practice torture but you're not staying in a US prison...). This created long-term problems as the barbarians did not always remain loyal to their Roman paymasters (Saddam, you'll be sorry...).

Some Roman citizens, upset by heavy taxation and suffering from poverty, formed themselves into an armed resistance group called the Bagaudae (The Tea Party). This movement started in Gaul in AD 283 but during the 4th and 5th centuries spread to other parts of the empire. These groups of rebels attempted to set up their own independent states within the empire (Waco TX, Ruby Ridge and who knows where else) but the Romans, with the help of barbarian mercenaries, were eventually able to crush them.
However, with the Roman army spending more and more time suppressing its own citizens, it became easier for the Germans to defeat those guarding the frontiers. Between AD 406 and 419 the Romans lost a great deal of their empire to different German tribes. The Franks conquered northern Gaul, the Burgundians took eastern Gaul, while the Vandals replaced the Romans in Hispania.

The Romans were also having difficulty stopping the Saxons, Angles and Jutes overrunning Britain. In AD 410 Emperor Honorius warned the Romans in Britain that they could no longer rely on reinforcements being sent from other parts of the empire.

Sculptured relief of Roman soldiers fighting the barbarians.

Alaric, a Visigoths leader, took part in several campaigns under the Romans. However, when he did not receive the expected promotion in the Roman Army, he led his people against the empire (Is this next?). Alaric now demanded that the Visigoths should have their own independent state. In AD 410 Alaric's army was strong enough to enter Rome. Roman slaves joined with the Visigoths in sacking the city. With the slaves joining his army, Alaric now had 40,000 men at his disposal. After roaming around the Roman Empire, the
Visigoths eventually decided to settle in Aquitania.

In AD 435 Gaiseric and his Vandal army captured Rome's African province. As Rome relied heavily on African food, this was a serious blow to the survival of the empire. From his base in Carthage, Gaiseric was able to launch sea-raids on Rome. In AD 455 Gaiseric was strong enough to invade Rome and plunder the city.

In the years that followed the Romans also lost southern Gaul. It now became clear that it was only a matter of time before the Roman Army would be completely defeated and the Barbarians who had been recruited into the Roman army began to desert in large numbers (Where's the loyalty?).

In AD 476, Odoacer, leader of the barbarian mercenaries in the Roman army, overthrew Emperor Romulus Augustulus, and installed himself as King of Italy. The Roman Empire in the west had come to an end. However, the eastern empire, ruled from Constantinople, continued for another thousand years. It was not until 1453, when Mehmed II captured Constantinople, that the Byzantine Empire, as it became known, ceased to exist.