Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

Last time we saw how the Athenians always reverted to type when they established large-scale alliances with other Greek states: what started off as a free union of states pursuing mutual interests slowly turned into an empire run by the Athenians pursuing their own interests. The parallels with the EU were all too clear. How, then, do we finish the whole thing off once and for all? Very simply, if we look at what happened to the Roman empire in the West.

Some three years ago this column listed the 210 reasons for Rome's collapse that the German scholar Alexander Demandt had unearthed in the literature -- everything from earthquakes to female emancipation via hyperthermia, marriages of convenience and public baths. Nowadays we tend to favour economic imperatives, and the argument is a persuasive one. It goes, broadly, like this.

Ultimately, the Roman empire exerted authority over its provinces because it had an army ready to punish any that stepped out of line, paid for out of the taxes that the provincials raised.

From AD 376, however, the emergence of a warrior people from the East, the Huns, on the borders of the western empire drove increasing numbers of terrified Germanic peoples over those borders into the empire. …

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