“Fall of Rome Despatched Europe Again” Query
I wish to preface this put up by saying that I’m not knowledgeable historian, nor am I conscious of any historical past if debate in relation to this topic inside educational circles.
I’m assuming that the usual basis for this understanding is the assumption that the Roughly 1,000 year-gap between the Fall of the Roman Empire and the start of the Renaissanse was basically wasted time and Europe can be, by Implication, 1,000 years extra superior had the collapse of the Western Empire by no means occurred.
Is that actually true although? Does such an idea not low cost the continued existence of the Byzantines? What concerning the Muslim Golden Age, which developed a lot of it is information from foundations set by Classical students?
The entire thought appears typically shortsighted and oversimplified, however that is the factor. I do not know if there was critical and real debate on this topic inside historian circles. I’d often attempt to ask in r/askhistorians or different subreddits for data on this topic, however I really feel the excessive requirements and engagement inside this subreddit may be Price a shot in producing some constructive dialogue.
Comments ( 41 )
The truth is we have no way of knowing, and anyone’s thoughts on the matter are conjecture.
The romans had a working prototype of a steam engine at one point, but the right people didn’t get ahold of the invention to put it to use. Over another thousand years there would be nothing but opportunities to spur an industrial revolution, it just requires a lot of things to go right at once.
It’s true that by the end of the Roman era a lot of technology was lost over the crises of the third century, and a lot of that tech didn’t make it to the Byzantine empire later on. It is also true that slaves make people complacent and thus the need for innovation isn’t as great. However humanity had slaves long before the Romans, and long after. A lot of technological progress was made in spite of them. Whether or not slavery put some sort of glass ceiling on tech denying an industrai revolution we have no way of knowing, but it is possible. The cotton gin was created to free the slaves, but it was used instead to increase their productivity.
That said by the end of the Empire, the governmental power structure was such a net negative impact that people’s lives got better when they were no longer under the Roman boot.
I can go more in depth about Diocletian and his policy that caused 1500 years of caste system, but this post is already long. If anyone would like to hear about it post in the comments.
TL;DR: In peak empire condition an industrial revolution could have happened. If the Empire continued on for another 1000 years at the low it was at when Western Rome fell, I doubt the possibility.
Based on a Medieval history course I took, the “Dark Ages” narrative has been steadily losing favour in recent decades. Recent archeological findings and newer forms of analysis basically now indicate that economic growth began to increase steadily around the time of the Carolingian Empire.
As to the question of whether Rome continuing to exist would being us 1000 years forward in technology… I don’t think so. But there is so much speculation here that we can’t really say.
In my opinion, the Western Roman Empire continuing to exist wouldn’t have changed much because 1) the wealtbier Eastern Roman Empire continued existing anyway, and 2) other civilizations continued to exist and innovate
I think the issue with this take is the idea of a “back and forth” of history/human progress. It’s a teleological interpretation where you understand history in terms of how much it contributed to making the society we have today, and the trajectory we envision for the future.
This interpretation has a number of problems. What one person might consider “good” and “bad”, or “progress” and “regression” might be very different for someone else – so these terms are highly contested. eg the rise of slavery built the wealth of modern european empires but it was an unimaginably horrible phenomenon for millions of people over hundreds of years. Then there is the idea that certain events necessarily lead to other events in the first place. eg arguably the birth of European modernity was historically contingent on them finding (what they deemed) desirable and useful resources in the Americas – ie not just a product of some kind of ambiguous ongoing “development” (cf the so-called “stagnant” technological growth of China in the same period).
Another thing to consider is who is Europe? You could say European people never reach modern statehood if Rome never disintegrates into feudal “barbarian” successor states
Another problem with such a narrative is that it completely detaches the way Roman society was structured and treats it as an entity that provided technological advancement regardless of anything. To an extent that is true, the wealth and complexity of its civilization is what made investments in aquaducts and such possible, but what is often not taken into account are the fundamental societal differences with the Germanic successor states. As it stands we can trace the roots of modern society and institutions like democracy to late medieval representative institutions, which in itself harken back to the public culture of Germanic societies. Aspects that would impact how our society is structured stem from a post-Roman era & that is often not taken into account.
Technological advancement does not happen in a vacuum, much of the ‘dark age’ narrative does not bother to deal with that aspect.
There is both truth and fallacy.
The people of the Renaissance age believed that there was very little advancement of technology and culture between the fall of the Roman Empire and the awakening of the Renaisannse.
That’s not true though. The technology of making armor advanced, as did many weapon types, as did building of castles. But in other areas – such as public water systems, underground sewers, mathematics, roadbuilding, and many other areas, technology either stagnated and just wasn’t used or was lost.
The Feudal system seemed to develop because with smaller populations, less roads in good repair, less roads that were safe to travel on, having a nation run on taxes being collected and transported to a Capitol just didn’t work. So granting lords ownership of the lands and the right to harvest as long as the lord agreed to military service was how most lands were governed.
As far as the knowledge of the Byzantines and the Muslim Golden Age – this knowledge didn’t penetrate Europe much at all. For starters, unless it was written in latin by greeks or romans it was frequently dismissed out of hand. Second, there was limited trade, and very little of it was in books or skilled physicians, astronomers, or mathematicians.
Just to balance out the other answers:
From an economic standpoint, the fall of Imperial authority over Western Europe was a disaster – piracy reappeared in the Mediterranean, seaborne trade virtually ceased, the roads were plagued by banditry, and mass famine (due to the lack of grain exports from North Africa and, later, Egypt) halted population growth.
Warfare between the Germanic kingdoms additionally resulted in many looted or wartorn towns which would not truly return to their former prosperity for centuries, and the cities of Europe would rapidly fall in relevance in favor of the landholding nobility (which had been growing in importance since the Roman Republic, but only really started taking off when the collapse of imperial authority and the rise of banditry allowed them to expand their influence).
In terms of technological advancement, the fall of the WRE did not result in significant technological backsliding, but the regional economic depression would go on well into the Middle Ages, which had the effect of mostly eliminating large-scale urban-focused public works such as aqueducts, since no-one could afford to maintain the existing ones or build new ones. This is not to say we forgot how to make them – well, we sort-of did, since we forgot how to make concrete, but concrete isn’t truly necessary, just *very* useful – we just couldn’t afford it, nor would such public works be particularly profitable after the urban middle class became destitute due to the collapse of the old Europe-wide trade networks.
The East’s prosperity would continue for another 200 or so years after the fall of the WRE, but as Egyptian grain stopped flowing after Egypt fell to Caliphate, their armies weakened, famine broke out in the cities, and, just as in the West, powerful rural landholders became a political force to be reckoned with.
Read the recent book The Bright Ages. It supports the idea that the whole concept of the dark ages is a myth.
Chris Wickham has two excellent books on this subject. The Inheritance of Rome, and if you’re a sadist you also have Framing the Early Middle Ages 400-800 which extensively go over what happened in the lands of the old Roman Empire after the fall of the West and the loss of most of the East.
I’m not going to go into detail because those books are 1500 pages of light reading, but the long and short of it is. “Is collapse a bad thing after all?”
Some argue that the collapse of Rome was a good thing precisely because the stagnation of knowledge/skills had already been occurring even before the fall of the WRE. In fact, starting from the Third Century Crisis and onward, I’m not sure the Roman empire really cared to innovative or introduce improved engineering as compared to its earlier years (including Republic times). It was still a rich, stable and powerful state…but some say the feudal system was already starting with Diocletian reforms.
The idea of stagnation came from Renaissance or Enlightenment propagandists who a bit overrating the ancient Greco-Roman literature. These indeed were kept and even surpassed by the Eastern Roman and Muslim nations. For example, the Islamic Age greatly expanded upon Algebra (and some Trigonometry) more than the ancient Greeks did…they focused more on Geometry. The Romans were never the “lovers of wisdom” type philosophers like the ancient Greeks. They focused more on pragmatic innovations (i.e. military engineering like roads, aqueducts, concrete), but weren’t necessarily always focused on making innovations or funding R&D projects.
And of course this overlooks the renaissance type moments that did come to Europe in Middle Ages (Carolingian or 12-13th century). Things like iron farming tools, horse stirrups, better armor/weapons, watermills, cathedral and castle engineering, establishment of early forms of banks and universities, etc.. Why exactly the Industrial Revolution happened is a matter of still speculative debate and what could have been done to make it happen sooner is even more vague. The idea that if somehow the Roman Empire had survived we would have magically progressed 1000 years quicker is almost certainly simple minded thinking.
As a manner of comparison, other civilizations around the world were experiencing stable and prosperous governments during Middle Age times at points. Certain Chinese Dynasties had long periods of stability with similar population numbers to that of Rome, yet they too suffered from moments of what would be considered “scientific or innovative stagnation” after 14th century.
Its a yes and no answer at the same time. The Romans had helped society advance in a high level of sophistication that would not be achieved in the later medieval periods of 11th century at the very least.
5th-6th century saw a massive drop in standards of living. Decline of late roman central authority on its provinces especially Gaul and Britain saw a massive drop in standard of living. Brick houses decay and break. They were reused once more for other structures like churches. Without the relevant professions for these jobs and roles, many buildings fall into disrepair. As most people alive would have little knowledge to maintain them, it breaks down and becomes completely destroyed overtime.
Bathhouses dry up once the water stops flowing. Too much raiding, war and violence contributes to a decline in many aspects such as amphitheaters. Houses are built in straw, thatch and wood. This means that you’re gonna have issues when it rains and you also have to deal with cockroaches, worms and other insects. Malnutrition might also be a major issue as farming would decline without trade of imported materials.
Aristocrats are most likely murdered or forced to administer provinces ruled by the barbarians but can be subjected to being at best a second class citizen or having to change job and professions such as joining a german king’s retinue at a lower pay than what they usually enjoyed. Sometimes, their properties are seized and confiscated. Making their lives just as difficult as peasants.
Decline of trade. Cut off from the rest of the Mediterranean, Gaul and Britain are very worst off. A lot of bronze coins in the area suggests that the decline of trade means that you can’t do a lot of things. Less concrete, less mining and general decline in pottery means that we can get a rough idea of how much trade has declined.
The abandonment of the city of Londonium is an example of a decline of trade affecting urban life. Even in places like North Africa, we see less pottery dump sites. Less pottery dump sites also shows decline. North Africa is somewhat better off. Italy also mostly maintains a decent standard of living during Ostrogothic rule.
Less taxes from the barbarian rule is both good and bad. Good in the sense that its cheaper, but many aspects decline. Maintaining existing buildings are very difficult and without a sophisticated tax network, many buildings and former professions decline. Causing a near collapse of jobs like blacksmithing.
Even in the Eastern Roman Empire, the empire’s balkan provinces are subject to harsh raiding and invasions. First Attila the hun devastation of Thracian lands during Theodosius II. In the 6th century, it was subject to massive invasions from Slavic tribes and minor hunnic kingdoms.
The Eastern provinces are also exposed to invasions from nomadic groups from the Caucasus and the Sassanian Persians. Its also exposed to arab tribes. The Ghassanids, the allied client tribe of Constantinople engages in regular raiding and wars with Persia’s own allied client arab tribe called the Lakhmids. Hit and run attacks from the Arabian deserts that launch hit and run raids on Syria and Palestine were common.
This is from the catastrophist viewpoint however. There are arguments of a continuity view. Both sides have their own well thought out arguments.
The “fall of the Roman Empire” is in some ways itself not the discrete event it is portrayed to be, since it was falling apart for decades and completely dependent on foederati in the west, before finally disappearing.
There’s no question that the process of Roman decline set parts of the former empire back intellectually in some ways for a few hundred years (not a thousand). This is why we don’t have good written records, for example, of events in Britain from early 400s to early 800s AD, the period in which the Anglo-Saxon invaders formed kingdoms there.
Edit: I agree with many of the arguments of cultural change and innovation, and the importance of a decentralized society where these things thrive. In that sense, it could be argued that a centralized Roman empire, though venerated for centuries after it was lost, was not going to drive the innovation needed for Europe to get to where it was 1000 years later. But someone living in 500 AD may not have understood that argument.
You say Europe like it was civilized and had infrastructure. Most places including Germany France and England were literally “Hill tribesmen shagoth”. Rome was the closest civilization Europe had.
We completely discount Muslim advancements in the “dark age”
The Mosque at Cordoba and baths of the same era rival classical structures and technology.
I believe if we had a more equatorial written history we would not be so slow to advance toward enlightenment going forward.
Christianity forced people into ignorance by design. When Rome fell much knowledge was lost because christians are told not think.
When people tried to pursue advance thought christian leaders persecuted them because it threatened their control over the population.
Our world is the horrific shitstorm it is today thanks to christianity.
Was the rise and fall of Rome primarily due to the concentration of wealth by conquering and subsequent depletion of wealth when expansion of the empire lost its momentum?
Basically inflation and rescission causing a shift in power due to the Roman Economy not being based on economic production but from theft of what other nations had accumulated.
And then black plague decimated the labor force as well as the intellectual engines that drive innovation.
It seems that concentration of wealth has always been required to advance technology and those benefits “trickled down” to the rest of the population in the next generations.
We are in a time that comparatively we have a huge advantage of free time and leisure to create and develop that no other age has ever had. Yet we tend to waste a lot of it whining about how difficult and unfair life is.
Honestly, if anything truly sent the entire world back thousands of years, it’s the bronze age collapse. Aside from Egypt all empires collapsed and so much knowledge was lost that the very concept of writing had to be re-invented by different civilisations like China, Phoenicia, the Mycaeans, etc.
I think with both events it’s not so much the fact that we lost knowledge but rather that the majority of people lost access to the knowledge or infrastructure to keep gaining new knowledge. The Golden Islamic Age was more a case of retrieving a lot of ancient knowledge (like Greek philosophers), translating them and distributing them throughout the world. A lot of schools were built, people became better educated, there were more scholars, etc.
It’s more a case of recreating the infrastructure that could be considered a waste of time. There are a few such moments in history where empires fell and took their knowledge with them and a different empire had to restart the process on their own. It’s not specific to the fall of Rome, but this loss of infrastructure did set back the medieval civilisations in my opinion.
It’s a moot point. We’ll never know for sure. It could have been a slow period even if the Roman Empire didn’t fall.
Look at the current technological progress, compared to 100 years ago… We’re stagnating.
It took less then 70 years since first flight in Kitty Hawk to landing on the moon. We’re not nearly at that pace anymore. Sure, planes and cars get somewhat faster, and people get fatter. That’s about it.
We need another turning point, like successful fusion, to give us new momentum.
The real question should be: “Why did civilization fall, and have we learned from it?”
I don’t think it was particularly caused by the implosion of the empire. It was the demographic collapse, collapse of trade networks and lack of stability that retarded technological and cultural growth.
The fall of Rome coincided with the rise of the Catholic Church in Europe. The church created the dark ages by suppressing science, the arts, history, etc. in its pursuit of power.
One book I’ve really been meaning to read is “Medieval Machine: The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages.”
Anyone here picked up a copy? The Middle Ages had plenty of technological advancements Rome never made (better crop rotation, more advance crossbows, trebuchets… just to name a few).
Also, you have to remember the Black Plague was a major hit to Europe too.
Whether or not the fall of the western Roman Empire (and precipitous decline of the East) was a bad thing in the short run is a question I’ll leave for other people, though I’m of the disaster for the people there camp.
But in terms of technological development, I’m convinced by Walter Scheidel’s argument in Escape from Rome that the Industrial Revolution and associated rapid economic growth in Europe could *not* have happened if the Roman Empire was still intact and controlling the Mediterranean basin. A large empire has some economic benefits- stability, relative peace, some amount of trade and specialization, etc.
But in the long run, empire’s value not-rocking-the-boat over innovation. Centralized authority means that if an idea lost favor with a certain person, it could more easily be suppressed. The more chaotic competition of Europe allowed for the development of military tactics, taxation, bureaucracy, economics that helped the various small states compete against each other, but in short run led to revolts or disputes, in addition to various innovations that plain didn’t work.
For illustrative example, let’s compare Christopher Columbus to Zheng He.
Zheng He was a court eunuch who was part of some powerful factions in the Ming court. He took a massive fleet of ships on several very impresssive expeditions all over Southeast Asia and even reached east Africa. These expeditions, though good at showing the flag, weren’t exactly profitable for the Ming. After his faction lost favor in court, the Ming pulled the plug and later went so far as to ban an ocean-going ships at all.
Christopher Columbus was an ambitious Genoese sailor who had a bold idea- a rather stupid one, but a bold one. He wanted to sail westwards to find an all water route to China and India.
All the traditional maritime powers laughed him out of the room because they knew the world was too big and the distances were far too long for ships at that time. He had miscalculated the size of the earth!
But despite this major screwup, the King and Queen of newly reunited Spain( technically Aragon and Castile) wanted to give him a shot. They noticed their rivals, Portugal, were making a lot of money slaving and trading along the coast of Africa and even gaining access to Indian trade. They didn’t want to be left out, so they gave Columbus three rinky-dink ships and he managed to stumble upon The New World. Even after Columbus was imprisoned for cruelty to the natives, the cat was out of the bag and potential for profit was too high to stop expeditions to America.
It was the disunity of Europe that allowed for the discovery and colonization of America, that disaster as it was for the natives, was a huge boon for the wealth and development of Europe.
Difícil cuestión: por un lado si hubo una pérdida de seguridad y estabilidad en muchas direcciones. La Pax romana se había perdido y nadie podía conjeturar cuando volvería. El comercio y la fabricación de bienes con alto valor agregado se dificultó en gran forma lo que llevó a la división del vasto territorio en una multitud de pequeños y grandes estados en algunos casos Ciudades libres. Los caminos antaño símbolo del poder de Roma ahora estaban destruídos e intransitables en todo sentido. Para avanzar con seguridad solo un grande y fuerte Ejército podía hacerlo y no sin dificultad. Los campesinos antaño esclavos de señores romanos ahora estaban muy cerca de ser libres pero su indefensión los volvía blancos fáciles para el saqueo, la rapiña y el asesinato. De ahí que los nuevos Líderes o Jefes bárbaros consolidaron un pacto con los campesinos: El contrato feudal por el que estos quedaban como siervos y vasallos de un Líder de clan o mejor de una tribu a cambio de la protección militar y la seguridad de que serían defendidos de los ataques de bandidos o Ejércitos foráneos. Éste Contrato fue la Gran Novedad que trajo el intento de restablecer un mínimo orden económico , político y social en un mundo en el cual casi todas las antiguas referencias habían desaparecido o ya no tenían sentido.
El vasallaje y servidumbre feudal no era en los hechos una mejora en la calidad de vida del campesinado y ni siquiera una suerte de libertad y la seguridad solo estaba en el papel, no en los hechos pero no obstante tengo entendido que los historiadores en gral consideran un AVANCE positivo el Contrato feudal sobre la antigua esclavitud romana por eso la caída del Imperio de occidente en 576 AD es vista como el fin de la Antigüedad y el comienzo de la Edad Media. Por supuesto hay mucho más para tratar e investigar y hay debate todavía acerca de sí Roma cayó en esa fecha o fue casi 1000 años después con la caída de Constantinópolis en manos de los turcos lo cual señala el comienzo del fin de la Edad Media. (se reciben escombros)
Look up the yt channel *Told in Stone.* He just interviewed a professor about this very topic.
Technology seems to have kept advancing and spreading throughout the Middle Ages. No one in Western Europe had a big, organized empire, so in the early middle ages they couldn’t do things like build major aqueducts, but they kept building water mills and improving plow designs.
China followed a somewhat different political trajectory but kept a similar pace of technological development, so I don’t think Rome would have invented steam engines in 800 or anything. It does seem that before Rome fell, it was more advanced than China, but after, China became more advanced than Europe. So there was probably some loss of development.
You should check out the /r/askhistorians mockery of [The Chart](https://31.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lkdeee4gtd1qd4jgjo1_500.jpg).
It’s terrible history, and displays a breathtaking amount of ignorance.
See also the [FAQ](https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/wiki/darkages#wiki_late_antiquity_and_the_.27dark_ages.27).
An excellent example ironically are wagons: The technology for a carraige/wagon is actually fairly complex when it comes to the various methods of suspension, wheels, hubs, and turning. Romans literally had wagon technology that wasn’t reinvented until the 1500’s from what we can tell.
In other places, no? Sailing for example was a place where the Romans SUCKED and they possessed very little naval technology nor drive to enhance what they had and ship construction would actually progress streadily throughout the middle ages, albeit slowly due to the deconcentration of power into the smaller kingdoms.
went on a tour of Pompei the guide pointed out they had under floor heating, inside toilets, running water and good drainage systems. All this was lost after the fall of Rome for a good 1500 years
In my architecture history we learned few construction things that went lost. Concrete for example was forgotten as the empire stopped producing it for its projects and thus got lost for the greater population. Similarly Roman arches disappeared from construction in many places outside of Italy and threw experimentation more pointy ones got discovered alongside inspiration from Byzantium and Jerusalem (Islamic architecture) to develop gothic arches.
I think the fall refers to Europe as the west and center and Byzantium was largely just one corner of Europe. Especially as it was a different Christianity and an Old ‘sickly’ empire (bit like late otoman empire) it was a bit ignored.
Technology is cyclical. That’s what so many of your are failing to realize!
The fall of the western roman empire definitely set the economy and the culture back for a while but its absolutely not for 1000 years.
It was essentially an economic crisis and without the roman empire public infrastructure was too expensive to build. But after the governments stabilized the middle ages laid the basis for capitalism, new ways to trade, banks, literature, science. All those things didn’t just appear out of nowhere in the 14th century.
What a great question. For me it’s the details that matter and I think being one of the greatest lasting empires of the world. It is interesting to see what brought it down because maybe we could avoid it.
This current civilization, in which we’re approaching a singularity in energy will put an end to most large scale conflicts soon.
Some of the questions in ancient Rome that their citizens might have been wondering that they could be applied to nowadays as well:
Might all end soon. Who knows?. We might find better ways of coexisting and avoid self destruction for longer.
https://youtu.be/rt0uBzYf4N8. I think you would find this YouTube presentation exactly on point.
Some some technology was lost for sure. Like a supply of clean running water and basic sewage disposal. The very heart of a thriving Society.
I would argue this whole notion that Europe would be more advanced if Rome didn’t fall is a fantasy that some people made up (likely during the Victorian times). We don’t need to hypothesize anything, we just need to look at the Byzantine Empire. Which is the Roman Empire in everything until someone decided to change the name. Rome was the stagnation of Europe and if it continued it would have been just business as usual with constant infighting and civil wars.
The fall of rome was a disaster not because of any technological or intellectual backsliding, but because all of Europe was a primarily agrarian economy with it’s carrying capacity boosted by the stability provided by the roman empire and the somewhat primitive capacity for trade that created, which in turn allowed for some limited regional specialization (allowing for greater crop effeceincy) as people could somewhat depend on external trade. The real success of Rome was not technological, academic or ideological, but administrative.
Before the collapse of the west, you had urban enters capable of supporting a somewhat greater population which allowed for more efficient administration, allowing greater taxation, which enabled the public works and professional army that kept the whole thing afloat. The collapse of he west breaks down this limited inter-connectivity and regions are no longer able o specialize. The carrying capacity of Europe is reduced, population declines quite severely, especially in urban areas. In particular the collapse is such that there’s no significant migration of people, but just a lot of people starving to death.
However even then it’s important to keep an eye on the limits of that success. Rome was still dependant on agriculture and agriculture has very sharp limits on it’s efficiency. It’s easy to lose sight of that today where even the most marginal of land can be made highly productive through ridiculous scale monocrops, irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides, but that’s only possible because of how thoroughly the industrial revolution changed things. Absent that Rome would have continued much as it was.
And while Rome could (and did) make good use of mechanical power, they did not have the kind of demand for mechanical power that’s needed to drive the industrial revolution where access to mechanical power creates more demand for mechanical power. The great mills at Barbegal were fantastic at processing grain, but doing that doesn’t result in more grain being produced (which is limited by the land you can farm).
The industrial revolution wasn’t some advancement on a tech tree but a very specific set of circumstances: Demand for coal for heat leads to deep coal mines that need to pump water which requires mechanical work. Steam engines can run on coal, and that’s he one thing a coal mine has in abundance, so fuel costs are free. This leads to demand for better engines that eventually become powerful and reliable enough o put into other uses, which is found with textiles. The British economy fat on the spoils of empire can trivially produce far more wool and cotton than it can use, and the ability to turn that into fabric is limited by the ability to spin it to thread. The spinning jenny allows for mechanical work to be turned into spun thread. More fabric available allows for greater exports which drove demand in Europe, and so the demand for wool and cotton rises. As more wool and cotton is produced, this cycles back to more demand for mechanical work to turn it into thread, and the whole thing spirals into the modern era. That leap forward could only occur in Rome under similar conditions, those conditions did not exist in Rome, and there’s no reason to believe that those conditions would have developed any sooner.
If anything you can make the argument Rome’s continued existence would have delayed it. Much of the development of steam engines was only possible by the advances in metallurgy and knowledge for the creation of metal cylinders that could stand up to the pressures needed. Those advances were driven by the demand for better and better cannon, which occurred due to intense military competition between all the states in fractured Europe. Rome had no such competition, and it’s very likely the development of gunpowder warfare would have been limited due to Roman hegemony, in much the same way it was limited elsewhere in other great empires. No multi century gunpowder arms race means no steam engine means no industrial revolution.
It’s called the dark ages for a reason. Under Rome they grew and expanded but with the fall they went back to their own ways. Wallowing in their own filth with such numbers you have things like the black plague roaming free.
Also no as Rome enlightened another would come as well. What was lost would be regained and then some because not everyone fell. Things still pushed forward and those advancements would spread again in the future.
Byzantium kept much Roman/Greek thought alive during the “Dark Ages”, including but not limited to:
*A centralized, non-feudalist state (at least until the fourth crusade)
*Literacy and a lively literary tradition
*Hydraulics (The Emperor had a throne that could be raised up and down so as to give the effect that he was floating in midair)
*Greek Fire, an incindeary quite possibly involving the use of petroleum which nobody else could do quite as good as them
*Advanced weapon systems such as primitve flamethrowers and hand grenades using Greek Fire
*Automata such as golden lions and animals that actually made noise
*Robust coinage from gold
*Civil Law Codes (Corpus Juria Civilis, or Justinian’s law code)
*Construction. THe Theodosian Walls lasted for a thousand years, surviving into the age of gunpowder, and took the biggest cannons in the world at the time to break.
*Beacons that could transmit a message across the distance of Asia Minor in under an hour (think ROTK)
Unfortunately, all of this came to an end in 1204. The Fourth Crusade sacked Constantinople and destroyed countless ancient artifacts, stole others, and broke the empire into four pieces. But by that time, the West did not call them the Romans anymore. They were the “Greeks”. Over the next seven hundred years, a narrative of the “Greek Empire” was created that disassociated Byzantium from it’s roman heritage and turned into this amorphous entity that “called itself roman” or had some vague connection to Rome, but was clearly not Roman. Part of this was due to the so called “Problem of Two Emperors” as the HRE existed, but part of it was the view of Byzantium as a failed state, which it wasn’t until 1204.
The Byzantines, or Eastern Romans, called themselves “Rhomioi” 95% of the time. It wasn’t until the 1200’s when some of htem refered to themselves of “Hellenes”, but even then, “Rhomioi” was the majority term and remained so even during the Ottomans. I.e. the greek population of the Ottoman Empire was organized into the “Rum Millet” (Rome). Arabic sources almost always referred to Byzantium as “Rome”. The Byzantines, and their legacy, has been displaced from their Roman heritage.
TLDR: China invented Bureaucracy. Rome developped Law as an artform.
In the legal context:
Think about the law. Any law. Any legal concept. Whatever the matters. Insurance. Real estate. Divorce. Tax. Wills. Contracts.
Well, something around 85% of all the fundamental concepts were established under Roman Rules. And “re-discovered” when they found copy of the Roman Civil Code and Caselaw in Southern France. And simply “applied” to the whole western legal system.
The ADN of our whole legal system, which became essentially the basis of the world legal system, is Roman.
Albeit a few key concept (Fundamental Rights, Rule of Law and such), our legal system is quite a lot closer to 1500 old Roman Law than to whatever mess happened until it’s rediscovery in the eleventh century.
Many civilizations have influenced the world in very specific ways. But none have had a more profound influence in our legal system than the Romans. And nothing can better explain the complexity of the Roman Empire than realizing that, 1500 years ago, hundreds of years before the arrival of papermaking technology in Europe, those madmen had a complex judicial branch with rules of practices, WRITTEN CASELAW AND LEGAL DOCTRINE regarding the general principles of regional marine insurance laws and good practices.
This beind said, Lawyer out.
Carl Sagan said that we would be living on other planets by now if the Great Library of Alexandria had not been put to the torch by the “christians”, and had the mathematician Hypatia not been flayed by a christian mob directed by the bishop. I tend to take certain brilliant people’s words, such as Einstein’s, AND Sagan’s, as incontrovertible. I present this quote to the discussion as proof AGAINST what the OP argues.