Abstract and Keywords
The analysis and periodisation of the events and changes that take us from the Roman Empire at its height to whatever came after it have long occupied a distinguished place in European historiography. The collapse of the Roman state, however understood, issued in multiple polities of greater and lesser stability, as well as multiple vernaculars in law and language. This historiographic tradition was a European tradition, produced first in Latin and later in Romance and Germanic languages, and was preoccupied with explaining a European past and present. In the analysis of cause, much attention was focused on barbarism and religion, and in both cases there was a sharp divide in assessment. In addition, however positively the emergence of Europe was esteemed, the fall of Rome and the changes consequent to it were construed as a decline, a falling-off from classical ideals in reason, classical aesthetics in literary and decorative arts, and classical standards of prosperity in urban and economic life. This article explores when classical antiquity ended, focusing on literatures of the Roman decline and fall.
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