An Economic History of Italy: From the Fall of the Roman Empire to the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century

By Gino Luzzatto; Philip Jones | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
From the Fall of the Western Empire to the Partition of Italy between Greeks and Lombards

1. ITALY UNDER THE OSTROGOTHS

NOWADAYS most historians agree that the barbarian invasions caused no deep or sudden break between the ancient and the medieval world, though they certainly hurried on the economic ruin of the western Empire. There is good reason to believe that in Italy, as in Gaul and in certain areas along the Rhine and the upper Danube, the effect of the invasions on the economic structure and institutions of the country was quite insignificant during the first 150 years after the deposition of Romulus Augustulus. During the brief rule of Odoacer ( 476-89), who was not an invader but the rebel leader of barbarian troops (Heruli, Rugians, Turcilingi) in the service of the Empire, not the slightest attempt was made to substitute a new order for the old. Odoacer did not take the title of king nor did he issue any laws of his own, like the codes of Romano-Germanic custom published in other barbarian states of western Europe. As for the Italians, they had long grown accustomed to seeing a barbarian rule in the name of an impotent Emperor, and they must have noticed little change in things, especially when Odoacer continued to choose his counsellors and ministers from the Roman aristocracy. The only possible cause of upheaval was the allocation of a third of all landed property to Odoacer's soldiers, who had first rebelled against Orestes to obtain this very thing. In practice the disturbance was probably slight. Land distributions were not unheard of before; on this occasion

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