THE CLASH OF CULTURES
THE preceding chapters have dealt with the Roman and Barbarian worlds of A.D. 395. It has been necessary to anticipate events by tracing, so far as possible in isolation, the wanderings of the principal Barbarian peoples. What was the result of the impact of the two cultures, as exhibited in the confused and troubled history of the fifth century? The process should perhaps rather be called the acceleration of a gradual development; for it must be remembered that the population of large portions of the Empire was already barbarian, that the army had long been predominantly German, and that no leader of the invaders, with the possible exception of Gaiseric, desired the downfall of the Roman Empire.
It is impossible to explain psychologically the actions of the chief Roman figures in this period; access has been forbidden to the Courts of Ravenna and Constantinople, where, like jewelled Eastern potentates in sacred chambers guarded jealously from the outside world, sat the two sons of Theodosius the warrior Emperor. It is true that these pauvres jeunes princes, pâles fleurs du gynécée, as Duchesne calls them, were merely the centre of the multifarious intrigues of the palace; but of these intrigues our knowledge is scarcely greater. Nearest to the Emperor stood the Grand Chamberlain, a eunuch, who controlled the Imperial Household, and by enlarging the scope of his department sought to increase the personal government of the sovereign at the expense of the great State offices. In the West the feudal landowners of France and Italy proved too strong for the central power. In the East the heads of the civil service, being mainly of humble origin, showed less resistance to the absolutism of the Byzantine monarchy, and the all-powerful Chamberlain was free, like Eutropius, to choose the Emperor a wife or intrigue with disloyal generals. The courtiers and officials, however, in both palaces were a strong faction, calling loudly on occasion for anti- German measures. The women of the household played a great