Oh, THOSE barbarian hordes

Many Christian right-wingers believe the American Empire is in its death throes because we're decadent, fat, porn-mad atheists who've left the One True Way (here, for instance, is "crunchy conversative" columnist Rod Dreher in one of his pious weekly homilies). Meanwhile, many other Christian and not-so-Christian right-wingers believe we're in our final days because the barbarians are at the gates -- whether that horde is illegal Mexicans or Muslim maniacs, it depends on which fright tactics they wish to employ (and here's Monsignor Dreher in another relevant bit of pulpit-pounding).

Amid all this fear-mongering and finger-waving, it's a pleasure to read one historian's new insight into Rome's final days. From Harry Mount's review of Alessandro Barbero's The Day of the Barbarians: The Battle that Led to the Fall of the Roman Empire.

Turns out it pays to be nice to Goths. Or immigrants.

"The second reason for the [early alliance between Rome and the Goths] was that the Goths had initially come to the Romans for mercy. Oppressed by the Huns on the German side of the Danube in 376, they were desperate to be allowed to cross the river to serve in the booming Roman Empire.

Rome was just as keen on using the Goths as abundant low-cost manpower - just what was needed to keep the Empire's half million-strong army going. The first barbarian invasions, then, were really a sort of economic migration. In the Syrian region of the Empire, the word for "soldier" became Goth."

August 26, 2007 7:13 PM | | Comments (2)



What an interesting perspective on how the Romans ruled. In New York this weekend, I was often helped by blacks at work and not, told to 'take the A train' to get 'downtown' etc.; so we can do this. I stayed in North Bergen, NJ where it was Spanish radio on the jitney bus recommended by the lively black lady at
Port Authority 'Information.' A Marine named 'Medellin' from Fort Worth died crossing the river on the US first assault on Baghdad; let us not forget our modern Roman warriors. And the NYTimes Monday had a thoughtful opinion piece on how administratively we might proceed.

Oddly, the person I talk to who most speaks of America as an empire in decline is an independent atheist---and definitely NOT for the reasons the right-wing Christians cite. As for me, history was my worst subject, so I'm not qualified to comment. I like to point to the teacher who told us that the dinosaurs lived 10 billion years ago as an example of why my school left me with an aversion to history. I itched to ask him whether they were flying around in spaceships for the 5 billion years before the earth was formed.

BTW, love the new photo! :D


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