CONTINUITY of settlement and economy does not by any means involve continuity of the political and social order. Indeed changes in the social order must at once have given rise to changes in political structure, and must have mused national characteristics and new administrative problems to become of decisive importance. This is the essence of the great problem of Kultur- geschichte which we are considering. If the former and all too naïve theory of a catastrophe has become untenable, and if we have proved that no complete destruction of the older order occurred, then the great question as to how the new order came about acquires a different significance.
The new wielders of political power, the Germans, as we have already seen, were not uncultured "Barbarians" or semi-nomads in a primitive stage of development, but had been in contact with the Romans for centuries and had had many opportunities of learning and valuing their ways. Moreover, they are described as being very intelligent and adaptable. When at last they reaped the consequences of their lengthy economic and military penetration of the declining Roman Empire, and by their military power made themselves lords of the Roman provinces, they found before them new tasks of political organization. We must realize that these were more difficult and more complicated than earlier writers have represented them. For since the old order was not completely destroyed, nor the Roman population enslaved, the German conquerors must have had to find some modus vivendi with them. This was no easy matter and it is, therefore, unlikely that the new order started ab ovo from quite primitive beginnings. It can hardly have been possible to introduce a purely German form of organization, completely ignoring all the former Roman systems. The way to a compromise had already been indicated to the Germans by their position in the Roman Empire during the previous centuries. With the assumption of authority their political aims were bound to change. As peace was gradually introduced it was to their own interest to maintain the existing culture and its material conditions, both in economic and social life. From the beginning it was necessary to adapt themselves to the surroundings into which they now entered as rulers, especially in districts where the Roman population was numerically preponderant. For we must not forget that the new states set up by the Germans on Roman soil had to reckon with such a large Roman population that the new rulers were in some places (for example in Italy, Spain, and Gaul) considerably in the minority. Even in what is now the south of Germany and in the Rhineland, as far as the Imperial frontier, there was a considerable Roman population, which was by no means to be underestimated.
It is not easy to establish in detail the way in which the necessary reconstruction was accomplished, for the sources of information at our disposal are one-sided and of unequal value. We have to rely chiefly on Roman writers