An Aspect of the Decline of Citizenship in the Later Roman Empire Author(s): B. Wilkinson Source: Phoenix, Vol.

1, Supplement to Volume One, (Spring, 1947), pp. 19-29 Published by: Classical Association of Canada Stable URL: Accessed: 18/06/2008 04:11
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economic. a failure of the GraecoRoman mind. to whose important book Christianity and Classical Culture I have been deeply indebted. WILKINSON T HIS paper' contains little or nothing that is new. Intellectual life might seem to be fundamental." he says. "The main phenomenon which underlies the process of decline. Political life. that of the decline of citizenship in the Roman world. To reach down to this. and a long line of historians seem to have acted on the assumption that it did. 19 . Professor Cochrane. or those which we can most conveniently designate as intellectual. 486. It involves both philosophy and metaphysics. he believed. Perhaps this indicates how arbitrary it is to define the problem as it has been defined above.AN ASPECT OF THE DECLINE OF CITIZENSHIP IN THE LATER ROMAN EMPIRE B. It is clear that the choice of either of these alternatives involves the whole problem of causation in history. 1946." He accepted the two main alternatives suggested above." he wrote of the decline of the Empire. "What here confronts us. the cause of the failure of any civilization can only be explained in terms of the whole. Yet if any one cause is to be selected as fundamental. only to reject the former. were primary and fundamental. In the last analysis. and intellectual life. The one put forward by Rostovtzeff may be quoted as an example. a discussion of which would here be out of place. it is perhaps one of the two which have been suggested."2 The cause suggested by Professor Rostovtzeff is sociological rather than political or intellectual. The attractiveness of Professor Cochrane's choice lies in the fact that it ex'A paper delivered to the Ontario Classical Association on October 5. "is in the last analysis a moral and intellectual failure. The main question discussed here is whether the causes for this decline which we can sum up under the category of political. would seem to touch the very foundations of the historical process. Of course there were many other causes. as it is reflected in the forms of government and collective living. 2Socialand EconomicHistory of the RomanEmpire. No one but political liberals. "is the gradual absorption of the educated classes by the masses and the consequent simplification of all the functions of political. it is probable. It is merely an attempt to examine once more a very old problem. would explain the decay of Roman citizenship as being due fundamentally to the failure of the forms of political life. in that the ultimate source of all action in a society lies in what takes place in the individual mind. was of this company. social. which we call the barbarization of the ancient world. sums up and expresses the most vital elements in any organized society.

within the limited period of the Roman Empire. for all practical purposes. or even to any weakness in scientific or philosophical beliefs. It has often been pointed out that the great and decisive failure of the Roman people was the consequence of their successes in the art of political life. the result of the failure of the Roman political order. to the needs and exigencies of the new situation. The alternative involves great dangers of its own. It was the Graeco-Roman tradition modified. as far as the Roman Empire is concerned. that is the scientific and philosophical traditions of the Graeco-Roman world as these were inherited from the great classical writers. In brief. they themselves originate. somewhat paradoxically. the idea of this paper is not to solve the problem of historical evolution. and does not really solve it. Nevertheless. the political cause of failure . uninfluenced by the kind of world in which they live. As far as the period of decline which followed is concerned. Nothing so ambitious as an absolute solution is attempted. does not mean that the citizens of Rome were the helpless victims of forces and circumstances over which they never had any control. is a question that I will not even try to solve. being decided by human thinking. distorted by the influence of the political framework of the Empire. but to suggest that. not their general methods of thinking so much as their particular form of political institutions. It stresses the importance of the political causes of the decline of Roman citizenship. All that is suggested is that. But of course the paper is not intended to do more than suggest that the question of these two alternatives may possibly still be regarded as open. With what mixture of free will and determinism their destiny was compounded. the Roman citizens already had a form of government which was not their conscious creation and which they were. at bottom. in the period of the Empire. there are a good many arguments in its favour. it must be insisted that the idea of the decline of the Roman Empire as being. It may be argued that this only pushes the ultimate problem of failure into an earlier period. Its danger lies in the assumption which sometimes lies behind it. As far as we are concerned. including that of determinism. all the phenomena of decadence can more easily be attributed to this defective government than to any economic or social weakness. some of which are set forth.20 THE PHOENIX presses a view of human destiny as. that men think and believe in a vacuum. in the last analysis. however important political institutions are in determining decline or progress. the ultimate failure was not the Graeco-Roman tradition. These gave the Roman people the strength to expand their city state to the dominion over all of Italy and of the Mediterranean world. somewhat dogmatically. The problem of why they failed to make the necessary intellectual effort lies back in the history of the Republic. but. in what men think or believe. The failure of the Roman people was the failure to adapt. It can be supported by the contention that. in the first instance. That is true. powerless to change. in the paper below. and it may be.

Slowly. They were the Aristos of the Ancien Regime.1ECLINE OF CITIZENSHIP IN THE LATER ROMAN EMPIRE 21 seems to be deeper and more important even than the change that took place in the evolution of the "mind. was not merely to his body. no other aspect of its life can avoid falling into stagnation. was due more to lack of spirit than to the rise of the masses or infiltration from without. what was wrong with the GraecoRoman mind was not the particular tenets of its philosophy but the attitude of dependency and surrender which it developed. the failure of the political framework of their society. Cicero. with his homo sum et nihil humani a me alienum puto. What the Empire did. affected not only its social and economic welfare. and it substituted a world order which was magnificent and awe-inspiring but remote and far beyond control. When the intellectual tradition of a community declines in this way. has moved a step for- . and Greece. Above all. to his mind by destroying his self-confidence and undermining his belief in the power of his own reason. Seneca. It was the response to changing conditions. talking of all men having reason and all a capacity for virtue. but also the intellectual life of all the citizens of the Roman polity. it destroyed the small and vital political units which had sustained the individual and had given him confidence in his ability to influence his environment. it can be argued. It was this which led. it may well be argued. The Middle Ages. but the direct and almost unmistakable cause of that failure lay outside the mind and outside the Graeco-Roman intellectual tradition. had been Greece at its best. in the long run. not only to the passivity of a subject-minded people which was such a deep weakness in the later Empire. The extension and enrichment of the Roman concept of citizenship into a vision of the universal brotherhood of man. but to deny them self-government and the duty and opportunity of working out their own salvation in the state. in which they had no part. The harm which this did. it is usually agreed was not a simple development of ideas." The imperfect political organization of the Empire. Terence. for that matter. but even more important. Italy. even the High Middle Ages were poorer than Imperial Rome. reflected the unity of the whole Mediterranean world on the eve of the great transition to Empire. declaring that though the body might belong to a master the mind is one's own and cannot be given to slavery. in the conditions of political life. Poverty need never have troubled the later Empire had its spirit been robust or its inventive science more developed. and its ability to infuse the great mass of its new citizens with the old Roman virtues. the distant end of which was ignorance and superstition. The "Barbarization" of Rome. represented a meeting of Africa. it may be argued. by the failure of the Empire to solve the problem of healthy government. but also to a decline of philosophy and science. and over a long period. at bottom. was to give its citizens law and order and security. and by no very circuitous pathway. The failure of the Roman aristocracy was. So. This was indeed a failure.

the turning from the market place. not merely by extending it to become all-embracing. as it has often been regarded. In this broadest sense the intellectual outlook of the later Empire is surely to be regarded still. political order of Rome. the replacing of the ancient citizenship of Rome. 172. we have here all the characteristic intellectual consequences suggested above of political order in decline. a rejection of earthly conventions which was the same kind of withdrawal from the market-place as that of Terence himself. Meanwhile it may be suggested. is something deeper and more significant than universalism. The consequences will be discussed in a moment. there can be neither bond nor free. it is also intellectual. and shows that the logical consequence of the new political order. Thinking in the later Empire took on a new complexion because men lived in a new world which was in some ways exhilarating. N. as we shall see."3 In one sense the new outlook was true and ennobling. of the extending. the new universal Empire. or never. as a consequence. stand solitary and unprotected by his political order. but at the same time declining.22 THE PHOENIX ward in the gloom and terror of the debased Empire of Caligula and Claudius and Nero. given its supreme practical expression in the vast movement of Eastern monasticism. Paul said "there can be neither Jew nor Greek. In commenting on Plotinus's assertion that the wise man will attach no importance to the loss of his position or even of his fatherland. on the outlook of men. that of a monotheistic religion with a sublime concept of the true brotherhood of man. for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. the individual devotee is revealed in solitary communion with his God. All free men had been put on the same plane by the Roman Empire. All men had been made equal in mind and spirit. and in their need to withdraw within themselves for the happiness they sought. This still seems to be the most probable inference to be drawn from the parallel that existed between the decline of the political order and the 3C. He falls into a more complete subjection than he ever knew before. he was also expressing the other-worldliness in Christianity. Asceticism was. Cochrane. But all men were alike in their powerlessness to control or even greatly to affect their environment. for the individual can rarely. one of the dominant features of early and medieval Christianity. . It is the withdrawing inward." he was not only reflecting the universalism of his age expressed in its noblest form. The teachings of Christ and of the Apostles are full of injunctions addressed to the extremists who would refuse all obedience to Caesar in the name of God. When St. Caracalla even made all free men citizens of the Empire in 212. not a cause. but by changing it to become something different in kind. His dependence is not only political. it has been said: "as the scaffold of the polis falls away. but in other ways oppressive and hostile. It was also extremely dangerous. The substitution of the universal Empire for the old city state was at once liberating and enslaving. Christianity and Classical Culture.

the Empire freed the spirit of man from the cramping limitations of classical pessimism and materialism. That is. But it does not alter the fundamental proposition with which we are here concerned. That is true. the Imperial dictatorship both saved and. has never been anything but a delusion. "are divine and ought to govern and correct all other forms of law. as it freed men's bodies from the rigorous demands of political life in the ancient city state. for they represent the permanent principles of justice and humanity. traversed: from Principate to the triumph of the army. it is true. to the days of Marius or Scipio Africanus. The development of the Graeco-Roman intellectual outlook. In spite of a forbidding Stoic pantheism. if not of the particular tenets of philosophy and science. the polity of Rome. by centralized bureaucracy. and it enriched the legacy of mankind by wide horizons and philosophic concepts of human brotherhood and universal peace. From the time when Cicero's head and ears were nailed on the rostra in Rome. "Natural laws. The only way history knows by which a society can be saved is by saving itself. It probaLly preserved the framework of Roman civilization for four centuries. there was a dreadful inevitability in the nature of the road which the rulers of Rome. The service which the Empire contributed to the intellectual outlook was very similar to that which it contributed to political life. but ultimately it stifled and destroyed. bad and indifferent. because these provided the only means by which society could be sustained and protected when the ideals and practices of the city state proved a failure. shared by other religions of the Empire. but. was parallel and complementary. The decline of political conditions in the later Empire does not need much attention. that the Roman Empire at its best and highest was never anything better than an expression of political decline." say the Institutes of Justinian. It created vast expansion in the science of law which sprang directly out of the vast expansion of politics." Above all. This was the great contribution of Christianity. good. It emphasized the life of the spirit and it gave to religion a warmth and passion which have ever since been of incalculable value (in spite of their complement of bigotry and intolerance) in the service of mankind. from active citizenship to bureaucratic centralization. but Oriental Monarchy has never in all history been more than temporarily an instrument of progress. from the triumph of the army to the protection of the concept of the Oriental Monarch. Saving a society from above. from a tradition of freedom to Egyptian state-socialism and the rigid caste. it made the failure of the Roman political order more complete and disastrous in the end. or beyond. It had to end in the triumph of force and Oriental Monarchy. "which pre- . It has been admitted that this only pushes the problem of the decline of classical citizenship back a few centuries. It saved and it expanded.DECLINE OF CITIZENSHIP IN THE LATER ROMAN EMPIRE 23 decline of the intellectual outlook under the Principate and Empire. The mission of Christianity was. As is fairly well established. in the end destroyed.

resignation. "we derive the beginning of existence. the Empire released and expanded. betrayed an attitude to the spirit which anticipated and paralleled that of Christianity itself. in Christianity and in the theology of St. "From God. God is the Arche or principium of St. by the majesty of the truth of its spiritual witness and by the passion of its experience. which swept into its fold. So with Neoplatonism. God is no longer a mere intellectual postulate. and finally receiving his children to Himself. . Augustine may very well be illustrated by Sir Samuel Dill's description of the changing Stoic conception of God: The conception of the unity and purity of the Divine One was the priceless conquest of Greek philosophy. But what is true of Stoicism and Neoplatonism is infinitely more true of Christianity itself." there were great affinities between Cynicism. as ultimately issuing from the one substratum of the ethereal fire of Heraclitus. It had been brought home to the Roman world by the teaching of Stoicism. His existence is demanded by the heart as well as by the intellect." but an infinite father guiding in wisdom. with their deep conviction of the supremacy of man's reason. In this realm also. not a blind force. But there is a new note in the monotheism of the first and second centuries of the Empire. Stoicism and Christianity." Alongside the concept of the all-embracing God of 'Sir Samuel Dill. but by pursuit of the divine and universal laws of the mind. Perhaps the final curse which afflicted the mind of the Roman citizen was lack of self-confidence. and the attainment of happiness through sapientia. or of Marcus Aurelius. complete. Augustine's being. Even the Stoics.5 This dependence on the Infinite Father becomes. the principles of knowledge. "The vision of perfection recedes to an infinite distance. Augustine. thought and purpose. Roman Societyfrom Neroto Marcus Aurelius. and in the great cataclysm returning again to their source. the law of affection. 309. The changing outlook of the generations from Seneca to St. but it also destroyed. The watchwords of the happy man are self-knowledge. the necessary crown and lord of a great cosmic system. It created spiritual nobility but it weakened the springs of intellectual life. renunciation. The kingdom of heaven is within. cherishing in mercy."4 The reason which is so triumphant in Seneca is not human reason. force and formless matter. Yet this is only half the story. but the divine reason indwelling in each one of us. reach great heights of sincerity and deep religious feeling. the noblest minds of this and some of the noblest of every succeeding age." he says. 'Ibid. and the glorious deliverance is reserved for an immortal life of which the older Stoics did not often dream. but to resolve the enigma of their own lives. moving on majesticallyand mercilesslyto "some far-off event. and pre-eminentlyof Plato. Men craved no longer for a God to explain the universe. gravitating towards the divine world from which it sprang.24 THE PHOENIX sented God and the universe. Happiness is not to be wrested from the capricious goddess Fortuna by exertions in the market-place. He has become a moral necessity. The writings of Seneca.

. of course. Augustine never propounded predestination in its popular connotation. but also because of the circumstances of the time. Augustine and Augustinianism the Roman dependence on the supernatural for happiness and guidance is well-nigh complete. It could not have triumphed unless its general outlook had been congenial to the citizens of the declining Roman world."7 no one would dispute this assertion. its fundamental attitude had. And alongside the doctrine of grace is the doctrine of predestination. Gibbon's pronouncement that Augustine "boldly sounded the dark abyss of grace. A word more should be said on this Christian attitude of dependence. save the Empire. but it is evident that many different conclusions can be drawn from it. the fact remains that it did not begin a new age of progress in Roman civilization as a whole." may still be regarded. glorious expression of the other-worldliness which had long been taking possession of the Roman world.6 But it may be argued that Professor Cochrane's dismissal of those who see paradox in St. that in 'pite of St. One conclusion is that with St. and original sin. in its most acute form. from the strictly historical point of view. as containing a modicum of truth. on the other as providing the essential matter out of which the new civilization of the Middle Ages was to be built. and did not even wish to. should be able to point to a new resurgence of Rome after St. However new some of its doctrines. the prescience of the Almighty is its sole and sufficient guarantee. as we have seen. It triumphed not only because of its own virtues. only as part of the general intellectual movement of the age. It is difficult to question either assumption without seeming to be hostile to the whole Christian tradition which is the very last intention of this paper. The triumph of Christian philosophy has been regarded on the one hand as ending the decadence of the GraecoRoman tradition. however great its content of absolute truth. the breach between Classicism and Christianity.. free will. Augustine. and the rigid system of Christianity which he framed and restored. has been entertained with public applause and secret reluctance by the Latin church. Ambrose. 451. a good deal in common with the other popular philosophies which it displaced. But it seems necessary. It was the final. When it is asserted that "the doctrine of sin and grace marks. Augustine's assertions on this subject is a little arbitrary. The truth is. 7Ibid. Those who argue that the failure of Rome was at bottom a failure of the Graeco-Roman mind. 407. Christianity and Classical Culture. but the opposite is the case. to regard the triumph of Christianity in the Ancient World. Of course St. 'The words are those of Professor Cochrane. However vitalizing its influence in the realm of the mind and the spirit. perhaps. Christianity did not set out to.DECLINE OF CITIZENSHIP IN THE LATER ROMAN EMPIRE 25 Christianity is the concept of salvation through grace. indeed he contends that so far from being incompatible with autonomous selfdetermination. predestination. 481. intellectually or in any other way. Cf. for it is the crux of the matter.

largely unaffected by the hopes and struggles of mankind. but it is not easy to be certain that St. Augustine had the whole of it. Augustine's contempt for some of the thinking of his 8lbid. it seems probable that we must conclude. nor of inquiry since the Evangel. Augustine associated himself with the Christian "revolt against 'reason. in his mind. even of its thinking. a finer balance. whose reverence for Plato. the Academy with the Church? . the compulsion of Christian asceticism was still too strong. to find a deeper truth in the union of reason and faith. It is admitted that St. but on the other hand. To lack of such a starting point many writers have attributed the intellectual progress of modern times. or that his fierce castigation of his classical precursors merited all the endorsement which it has sometimes received. In spite of St." Of course Tertullian was an extremist.. therefore. it is said. Nothing of this extremism appears in St. the earthly city was opposed to the city of God. It was the supreme example of the flight from the market-place and the attitude of dependence created by the conditions of life in Imperial Rome. Augustine himself came very close to that fortunate balance between the claims of the intellect and of the spirit which are the hall-mark of a happy and progressive age. His was the greatest and finest effort of classical learning to come to terms with Christianity. it is argued. he would not have refuted it. . The truth probably lies somewhere between these assertions. We have no need for curiosity since Jesus Christ. They themselves partook of it. Forever the story of human evolution manifested itself as the fulfilment of God's purpose. it is said. Yet something of the same general attitude inevitably does appear. But the heat of the struggle was still too great. a balance that led straight to the accomplishments and errors of our modern age. he had to make large concessions to the non-rational apprehension of truth: "the new starting point. is inaccessible even to the most acute intelligence and must. He would not. What these consequences might be is already. as some would think. perhaps. be accepted on 'faith. "What. Augustine and other creators of Christian philosophy. struck by St. It was merely the supreme expression and consequence of political decline. was second only to his reverence for Holy Writ.. Christianity did not represent a transformation of the Empire. Thomas Aquinas. Not until more than eight hundred years after his death was a newer and. Augustine."'8 but only. foreshadowed by Tertullian. 400. In the acceptance of the Christian revelation as the basis of his philosophy. not being given ratiocinando.. therefore..' " To the lack of such a starting point Professor Cochrane attributes the deficiencies of classical speculation in its effort to investigate the problems of nature. have been content only with Tertullian's credo quia absurdum. "had Athens to do with Jersualem. Perhaps it is fair to say that St." he asked.26 THE PHOENIX In one sense. Nor could the consequences of this be halted by the intellectual genius of St. Forever.

It would be an age of growing darkness and superstition. Each generation does. Augustine would be free from at least a suspicion of hostility towards philosophical speculation. There was absolute logic in this triumph. based on the new logos. Few great churchmen for some centuries after St. And the cause of this failure must still be sought. Monasticism. What has to be insisted upon is the fact that the triumph of Christianity in the Roman world could not. any more than the Christian attitude of which such monasticism formed a part. but of mysticism and of reason narrowed and confined. just as his predecessors. . even though ennobled. in any case. prevent a continuation of its intellectual decline. not of philosophy but of miracle and hagiography. in the conditions of political life. as pointed out above. a religion of escape. when men were letting slip from their grasp the classical legacy which they no longer really cared to understand. at bottom it was a failure of intellectual confidence. Thus the triumph of Christian philosophy in the late Roman Empire does not invalidate the general argument set out at the beginning of this paper. the Empire saved only to destroy. Christianity was essentially. for it expressed the almost complete failure of the vitality of political life and the true nobility of the ideals which had been embraced to sustain and nourish men in their political bankruptcy. with its asceticism and renunciation of the world would be the highest ideal of the sixth. seventh and eighth centuries. Christianity provides no exception. It was not a failure of particular ideas or premises. That of the fifth century inevitably reflected the ethos of a declining political order. it seems probable. But it was not. reflected the fundamental cause of intellectual failure in the later Empire. That age would not be an age of triumphant Christian speculation.who really set the pattern of the early Middle Ages. make its own interpretation of the fundamental tenets of its Christian faith and these have varied astonishingly in the course of history. It did not save the intellectual life of the Empire. Without their ideals of other-worldliness. Augustine both professed and combatted continued to rise like a flood because it was the product of political conditions which Christianity did nothing. it is questionable whether civilization in Europe could ever have survived the political decline of Rome. At bottom even in the sphere of intellectual life. It was Tertullian and not he. The irrationalism which St. and did not. in the deepest interpretation. not of reason in the service of religion. in the contemplative life. St. It was simply a continuation of the ethos of the later Empire of Rome. Augustine. St. it seems probable that. by its very nature. It would be an age. it did not set out to save it. he is to be regarded as expressing the same outlook as that of most of the classical writers since Seneca. This is not to disparage the service which he and all the Christian teachers of the Empire rendered to humanity. and could.DECLINE OF CITIZENSHIP IN THE LATER ROMAN EMPIRE 27 classical precursors. at that time but by no means in every generation. the beginning of a new period in history. Augustine had no real successors. do nothing to ameliorate.

and the way in which these led. not when the barbarians burst into the Empire. of course. Such an enumeration can be as misleading as the over-simplification which represents the revival of culture in the Middle Ages as merely the product of a process of assimilation. They affect all our judgements. the rebirth of political vigour will go far to explain the changing intellectual attitude of the age. to each other. the new syntheses of knowledge which had to be attempted by men like Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquihas. by which our ancestors learned how to substitute progress for decline. The true Middle Ages may be said to have begun. for example. through the Renaissance and Reformation to the debates. It is the supreme problem of the present as of the past. Yet the truth that lies in this enumeration of ingredients should not be allowed to obscure the fact that the real problem lies in the evaluation of them. as central. The coming together of various ingredients was important. Yet it is as baffling. an over-simplification. It will go far towards explaining the great rise in men's confidence. that political progress will as adequately explain all the main features of civilization in the Medieval period as political decline will explain the main features of the late Roman world. will be the same. The Medieval revival. the same problem studied in reverse. difficulties and progress of modern times. They began with the emergence of feudalism as the dominant pattern of political life in the Medieval world. This is. not with the rise of the Papacy or the beginnings of the Holy Roman Empire. but it is intended to emphasize one main conclusion which seems to follow from all that has gone before. Most historians talk learnedly of the one but they take the other for granted. The underlying problem of the ultimate cause of progress in modern civilization is. It is. indeed. no less debatable than that of the cause of failure in the late Roman Empire. of course. All that . That is to say. indeed. indeed for all students of history. for the student of the Middle Ages. but not nearly as important as the birth of a vigour and power in the communities of the Middle Ages which enabled them both to assimilate and to improve upon the heritage of the Graeco-Roman world. is still too often regarded as merely the coming together of various ingredients drawn from the Teutonic invaders. are by no means unimportant.28 THE PHOENIX The consequences of this. in reason in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. over-confidence. The ultimate problem confronting historians of the Middle Ages is not its resumption of knowledge but its resumption of progress. In particular. and as fundamental as the problem of decline in the later history of Rome. the political will be the fundamental cause. That is. the Roman heritage and the Christian church. and not with the coming together of the various ingredients of the Medieval civilization in the age of Charlemagne. On the whole it seems likely that in both cases the relation of the main causes of progress and of decline. a simple relearning of the knowledge of the past. for the purpose of the historian.

Scholarsof this period. is largely prejudgedby an acceptancewithout question of the thesis that the ultimate cause of Rome's failure was the failureof the Graeco-Romanmind. it is to be hoped. There is a commonagreementthat the periodwas one of quite remarkable poverty. to try to formulatean opinion of their own. in spite of their meagre equipment. It is possible that in any society the art of living together is still more important than the art of speculation. in which scholars attach too much importance to the power of abstract ideas. There. can still be divided between those who find the answer to their problemof decline or progressin the intellectual traditionsand those who consideras still morefundamentalthe conditions of political life. until classical historians have arrived at an overwhelmingconsensus of opinion about the problemof decline in their own period.DECLINE OF CITIZENSHIP IN THE LATER ROMAN EMPIRE 29 can be said of it here. both material and intellectual. it does seem to be true that the problem of progress in the Middle Ages. Perhaps the study of both periodsstill sufferstoo much from an intellectualistic interpretation. as of the later Roman Empire. in the contemporaryworld. and indeed. but also of astonishingprogress and vigour. . the idea of the Middle Ages as a period either of Romantic idealism or of stagnation. perhaps. That is why. other historians will have to push their studies back. Whether this is true or not. is that modern historical writing on the Middle Ages has destroyed for ever. agreementso far has ended.