November 19, 2012
AN ENDLESS CYCLE OF success leading to self-destruction. Just remember: The so-called Dark Ages were a period of great creativity. Though scribes and bureaucrats recorded the fall of Rome with horror — because it was terrible for scribes and bureaucrats — the average person’s caloric intake went up. I recommend reading Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies.
UPDATE: Jim Bennett disagrees: “I read Ward-Perkins’ book a few years ago. He has some interesting data, such as the archeological evidence that not only were cattle in Dark Age Europe smaller than those in the Roman Empire, they were smaller than those in Iron Age Europe a thousand years before. He also has some amusing comments about how the European Union has been anxious to promote the idea that the ‘transition’ of Rome was a peaceful affair of mutual cooperation between Germanic and Latin peoples, just like today.”