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Ominous Parallels: The Roman Empire, The European Union, And Mass Migration

This weekend’s Paris attacks, occurring in the middle of one of history’s largest mass-migrations, has the feel of uncharted territory. But it’s actually an eerie echo of something that happened nearly two thousand years ago in more-or-less the same place.

According to some historians, the fall of the Roman Empire wasn’t pre-ordained. By AD 300 it had its problems, including far-flung, hard-to-defend borders and recurring currency crises, but was generally stable and prosperous. Then a new power arose in the East. The Huns were horse archers who could out-ride and out-shoot their neighbors, and they terrorized the Vandals and Goths who lived in what is now Germany and the Balkans, driving them west to Rome’s borders.

Rome chose to let half a million “barbarians” enter, hoping to use them as soldiers and laborers. Instead, it found itself with invading armies and unstable, uncontrollable political coalitions. The complete story is winding, convoluted and full of unfamiliar names, but it ends with the division of the Empire into two parts and the destruction of the original, Italian half. Here’s a History Channel synopsis of the process:

The arrival of the Huns and the migration of the Barbarian tribes

The Barbarian attacks on Rome partially stemmed from a mass migration caused by the Huns’ invasion of Europe in the late fourth century. When these Eurasian warriors rampaged through northern Europe, they drove many Germanic tribes to the borders of the Roman Empire. The Romans grudgingly allowed members of the Visigoth tribe to cross south of the Danube and into the safety of Roman territory, but they treated them with extreme cruelty. According to the historian Ammianus Marcellinus, Roman officials even forced the starving Goths to trade their children into slavery in exchange for dog meat. In brutalizing the Goths, the Romans created a dangerous enemy within their own borders. When the oppression became too much to bear, the Goths rose up in revolt and eventually routed a Roman army and killed the Eastern Emperor Valens during the Battle of Adrianople in A.D. 378. The shocked Romans negotiated a flimsy peace with the barbarians, but the truce unraveled in 410, when the Goth King Alaric moved west and sacked Rome. With the Western Empire weakened, Germanic tribes like the Vandals and the Saxons were able to surge across its borders and occupy Britain, Spain and North Africa.

For more, see the Wikipedia entry on the sack of Rome

Obviously this isn’t an exact fit — especially the part about the existing empire being in fairly good shape, since clearly today’s eurozone has some other potentially fatal flaws. But the part about the rise of a new enemy in the West causing a mass-migration into “civilized” Europe, which opens its borders in order to obtain cheap labor without offering what the newcomers view as full rights of citizenship, is close enough to provide some useful insight.

Meanwhile, the differences between now and then make the current situation even scarier. Automatic weapons and home-made bombs give five or six angry people the ability to wreak havoc on thousands. And the advent of dirty bombs threatens to make the next attack effectively permanent by irradiating whole city blocks.

But the most ominous difference is that even in the absence of a million refugees at the border, the eurozone as now configured is doomed. Debt is soaring, populations are aging, the periphery can’t function in a German-style monetary regime and the main political parties are too wedded to the status quo to offer effective solutions. This, in short, is a mess without an obvious fix.

17 thoughts on "Ominous Parallels: The Roman Empire, The European Union, And Mass Migration"

  1. That is a perfect explanation about what’s going on in Europe. And it’s crazy to think that politicians are not able to understand it, because they forgot history.

  2. Immigrants form poor countries to the developed world hold down wages and increase the demand for transfer payments in much the same way that slave labor undermined free laborers in Rome.

  3. What is in the best interests of the military-industrial complex in the USA is not in the best interests of their counterparts in Europe. For the state side military machine, endless warfare in the Middle East is just what the doctor ordered. That they can fight a ‘cold war’ against Putin simultaneously is even better.

    However, the consequences of this insanity are spilling over into into Europe, in the form of refugees and terrorist acts. Europe is just too close. Due to the absurd monetary union, without a political union, Europe was in deep trouble anyway. This is going to push her over the edge.

  4. Liberalism had nothing to do with how things are run in our government but the power of money does and Citizens United and ALEC contribute to the destruction of democracy.
    Plutach, Roman: “The abuse of buying and selling votes,” he wrote of Rome, “crept in
    and money began to play an important part in determining elections. Later on, this process of corruption spread in the law courts and to the army, and finally, when even the sword became enslaved by the power of gold, the republic was subjected to the rule of emperors.”

  5. History repeats itself. Man repeats the same mistakes, blindly believing he is ever so much more enlightened than those of long ago.

    At least in the EU they call it a terrorist act. Here we call it ‘work related violence’.

  6. There is a big difference between the 2 situations,the Romans didn’t have a Shadow State of the financial elites manipulating the situation from behind the curtains!
    The problems in Europe are not the result of stupid decisions made by the political establishment,they are the result of financial decisions made by the financial sector & then handed to the politicians to implement.The politicians are stooges who do what they are told by their masters the bankers & wealthy plutocrats.
    This open border conspiracy in Europe & America is not for votes or cheap labor.It is a
    massive ‘Social Engineering’ project which if successful will alleviate the need for elections in the future.The NWO statists are making their moves for domination!

    1. I guess you cold call it the failure of free market fundamentalism. The fundamentalists are the ones who walk around telling us we don’t need a government markets just form themselves and everything grows from their. Deregulation of the banking sector and it destructive use of derivatives has increased debt and not created more markets but have shrunk the economy to now as in our media only six companies own the mainstream media and if government was doing its job as progressives wold have it it would have kept it from happening.

      And by the way Robert Mundell the trickle down genius created the Euro because he hated unions and it would do away with labor regulations and remove the government’s control of physical policy. This would lead to lower wages and less regulation and more jobs.

      But the results of lower wages leads to lower demand and so he didn’t think this through and now we are stuck with this in our politics as austerity leads to even less growth.

  7. Why do liberals align with Islam?

    Both liberal and Islam goals are to fundamentally change the world in their image. Liberals
    seek global socialism while Islam a global caliphate. Liberals agreed to play the “short game” of votes for power, to Islam’s 1,400 year old “long game” of societal change. In the end, this game and our future will hold many more tears..

      1. Except their movement was hijacked by another establishment (ie. Soros, Buffet, Gates, Zuckerberg, etc.). Business can only be done by Big business going forward… All of the recent actions (ie. TPP) is being done by design to monopolize power by these elite, who are using
        the blunt force power of government to impose their will against us.

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