The following essay by H. Numan was originally published in Dutch. It has been translated by the author for Gates of Vienna.
When will the dark ages begin again?
by H. Numan
Within 30 to 40 years, in appropriately three decades. Yes: you, the reader, will personally experience this. And your children. As well as your grandchildren. The latter will be fully assimilated in the new halal culture, and feel at best pity for you.
What I’m about to describe has happened before: the fall of the (West) Roman Empire. The Roman senator Quintus Fabius Memmius Symmachus experienced it all. He kept a diary; that’s how we got an impression of what was happening back then. The barbarians needed about three decades. Our bearded fiends are a lot more impatient, and far more aggressive. So they’ll try to do the conversion within two decades.
Allow me to use the life and deeds of Symmachus and his descendants as a guide into the dark ages. Symmachus was born within the top of the elite. On his tenth birthday he celebrated his first questorship with gladiatorial fights in the arena. Of course Symmachus Senior coughed up the necessary dough: several millions of (today’s) dollars in (then) sesterces.
The career of the Roman elite was fixed. Until his seventh year Symmachus was taken care of by his mother. From that year, his father took over. He was given a private teacher or was send to a private school. He learned Latin, Greek, arithmetic, rhetoric and a lot more. That education was extremely expensive, and a solid investment in his future. An elite Roman was expected to communicate with his colleagues all over the empire, on all topics. Not being able to speak Greek fluently was social suicide.
Manhood was granted at the age of fifteen. From that moment onwards he was expected to climb the cursus honorum. Beginning with questor and (possibly) ending with consul. Symmachus was an early starter.
Symmachus lived in a period where land (estates) were the standard of wealth rather than money. That explains why rich Romans so easily collaborated with barbarian rulers. One can take gold on a flight to safety, but not land. That gave them two choices: either flee to Constantinople and live the rest of your life in abject poverty. Or come to some kind of agreement with the barbarians.
The (West) Roman empire still existed, but only in name. Most provinces were taken over or about to be taken over by the Franks, Burgundians or Visigoths. As to how, that varied per province. If a barbarian tribe was strong (Franks) that meant giving up a lot. If a barbarian tribe was less strong (Burgundians), it meant giving up less.
Those barbarian leaders weren’t exactly fools. They might speak (in some cases) Latin with a strong accent; they were in the business of taking over an entire Roman province and setting up shop. That means reward your followers, continue to collect revenues and administer justice. In other words, there was plenty of room for negations.
Many important Romans (Symmachus was one of them) understood the business was from now on under new management. Yes, they had to give up a lot of their estates. But they remained functional and at least alive. Fairly well-to-do, but no longer extremely rich, they kept collecting the taxes and handling the administration.
For the average Joe the Plumber not a lot changed. He had to deal with more legislation. To the existing laws he added new Frankish, Visigothic or Burgundian laws. The tax screw was turned on ten notches tighter, as more people had to live on that surplus.
Symmachus and his colleagues saw of course a lot of change. They quickly realized their expensive education was virtually worthless. Of course they finished educating their sons, but only on a budget. Greek was out, Burgundian could be picked up from the street and from rhetoric on the bare bones necessities.
Rhetoric is the — sadly — almost vanished art of speaking in public. Everything mattered: your posture, you finger movements, your facial expressions, your tone, timbre. For Romans, not mastering rhetoric was to be an utter yokel.
Symmachus and his colleagues were often asked to entertain at court. The new rulers liked to show off their classy culture. Symmachus would do an evening of poetry, or recite some of the classics. He actually didn’t mind it at all. He sometimes wrote to his friends that his performance was a great success or why it wasn’t. Amongst really close friend he would gossip about those uncultured barbarians, but not often. That sort of talk was very dangerous.
In fact, Symmachus got away pretty decently. Yes, he had to give up a major part of his estates and some of his more prestigious jobs. However, the new rulers needed him. The population was Roman by far, and the barbarian take over wouldn’t be too obvious.
Symmachus’ son was distinctly less well-off. We know a good deal less about this chap, so most of what I write are assumptions. His education was a mere shadow of his pop’s education. At best he marginally spoke some Greek and could perform the bare bone basics of rhetoric. He was fairly fluent in Latin, pretty good in Burgundian and okay in arithmetic.
His Burgundian king didn’t need him as much as he had needed his father. There were more Burgundians available, they had their own Burgundian law shoring them up and they had been in uncontested power for over ten years.
Symmachus Junior did more or less the same job as has father did. Only he was no longer in charge. He answered to some Burgundian. Latin was useful for administration, but no longer essential. The same applied to arithmetic . Burgundians weren’t very keen on reading and writing themselves. “Writing? Well, my Symmachus Junior is pretty good at that. Oh, Symmachus, while you’re at it, make some coffee and give the flowers something to drink as well!”
Literacy was much less of a necessity, and foreign-language skills virtually useless. Symmachus Junior with his hy skool edookasjion actually had too much education. That he barely managed Greek wasn’t a problem at all; he didn’t need it in the first place.
Western Civilization had changed enormously during that decade: from an international society with an advanced banking system (yes, the Romans did have a banking system) to many small rural bartering societies in a state of permanent warfare.
Most people in Symmachus’ days lived in walled cities or on strongly fortified manors. The
beards barbarians could be rather unruly. Had been that for many a decade. Living under protection wasn’t free of charge. Far from it. Something has to pay for those fortifications and that someone is rarely the chap ordering them.
The average Joe in the Street had the usual two options available: take it or leave it. Either live in a fortified town or manor in servitude/real poverty. Or live somewhere in the country on our small farm with the absolute certainty of being murdered within a couple of months or at best within a couple of years.
That was during Symmachus’ life when barbarian kingdoms were replacing the old empire. The following generation, Symmachus Junior’s generation, lived in a very different world.
Violence was the norm. Before that, at least the empire did keep up a illusion of normalcy. One lived in either a fortified town or on a heavily fortified manor. One did as little traveling as possible; this was really dangerous. Money was being replaced by bartering, which was quickly becoming the norm. Servants on estates had lengthy contracts with lots of obligations and paid for all in kind.
For Symmachus’ grandchildren this was completely normal. They didn’t know about money, that was something from the past. Foreign languages? Why, for crying out loud? Everybody speaks Burgundian! Arithmetic? What you cannot calculate on your hands and feet is too big to be counted anyway. The pen is mightier than the sword? Now, that’s a really good joke!
This process is currently going on again. Substitute the Roman empire with the demise of the EU as well as the USA. Substitute collaborating politicians (hi Obama!) with whomever you want. Some will resist, just as African Boers resisted until the bitter end.
The Barbarians? Well, I guess you can fill in the blanks yourselves, can’t you?
This wasn’t a shocking event, but a very gradual process. It took about thirty years to complete. About one whole generations (25-30 years). Compare your own situation today in 2015 with 2005, 1995 and 1985. Notice the differences.
The major shock is behind us. That was for the Romans the sack of Rome in 410 AD, for us it was World Trade Center 2001. After that, no really big events, just little changes that go mostly unnoticed. A bit faster here, a bit later there.
Civilization did continue: Constantinople was THE metropolis of the west for another thousand years. It shielded us for a millennium against barbarians with a phobia for pork.
That’s the thing we’re missing right now: Constantinople. It has already fallen.
— H. Numan