Finally, the student must confront the difficult yet central question of the extent and quality of the Barbarization of both Roman state and Roman society beginning in the 370s. First, it is no longer possible to view the process as a sudden, calamitous, or even apocalyptic process. As an example, though struggling with invasions put a tremendous burden on economy and finances, these invasions themselves were not responsible for the Empire's economic woes. Basically, the Roman economy was neither productive, entrepreneurial, nor technologically innovative. Spoils of war and governmental largesse had driven economic growth, which is not the same as development. As conquest slowed, new sources of tribute ceased to materialize, and the price of a large and expanding army was felt ever more. In this context, and with coinage losing value, the drift of elites to rural landowning and the growth of latifundias is understandable, though it damaged urban commerce.

Second, many elements of Roman life had undergone Barbarization prior to the 370s. The increasingly large scale use of Barbarian slaves in all aspects of unfree labor meant that Romans were aware of and assimilating Barbarian ways. Early fifth-century laws forbidding Roman sporting of trousers, vests, and long hair attest to the attraction to Barbarian styles. Of course, the Barbarization of Rome continued much more intensely after the large-scale importation of Germans into Roman cities and the army.

Third, it is possible to posit a Romanization of the Barbarians. Service in Roman Legions as soldiers and officers not only accustomed them to Roman forms, but to a degree instilled in them a Roman identity, or a sense that the Roman way should be the aspired-to goal. Whether in Roman office (usurped or not) or as landowners manipulating foederati agreements, Germans in Roman lands assimilated into the system as much as they could.

What prevented a more thoroughgoing melding of cultures within the umbrella of the Roman imperial edifice? Some of the factors were A) opposition on the part of large segments of Roman traditionalists, both urban and rural; B) the already compromised state of the Roman polity, military, and economy from the 370s; C) constant political and military bickering between emperors, claimants, and the senate, which made policy continuity impossible; D) the sheer difficulties of assimilating such comparatively large numbers of Barbarians, who were not predisposed to immediately grasp or cultivate Roman society; E) Barbarian religious differences; and F) German legal conventions. These last two were perhaps the most lasting inhibitors of cultural coalescence.

It is true that all the Germanic tribes of note (except the Angles, Saxons, and Franks) had converted to Christianity before their entry into Roman lands. Unfortunately for the German integration into a Roman society that was increasingly Christians, the Germans had been converted into the Arian form of the faith. Arius had been a priest in Alexandria Egypt in the 320s. Combining principles of Hellenic philosophy prevalent in this center of ancient learning with the notion of Jesus Christ being the son of God, he concluded that Christ must be less than God, as he was both junior to him and not eternal. Though denounced by the local Bishop and other Church leaders, some agreed with Arius, as his position was philosophical sound in those days' terms. Eventually, the 325 Council of Nicaea (in modern Iznik, Turkey) established as Orthodox creed the divine equality of Jesus and God, yet several clerics did not accept it; in fact, though the council had been presided over and directed by Constantine, in the ensuing fifty years the Eastern Empire would occasionally and temporarily changed its orthodoxy back to Arianism for a while. It was during one of these returns to Arianism that Ulfillias converted the Goths. Still, the West had never accepted Arianism. In the West, the idea that Christ was not quite as divine as God was blasphemous heresy, and an insurmountable barrier to meaningful Roman-German integration was erected.

Lastly, in a state where law was held to be the basis of all interaction, German law was completely foreign to the Roman sense of legal decency. In Rome, with the exception of the single sovereign Emperor, civil and military authority had long been totally separate. The opposite was the case in Germanic custom, in which the ruling assemblies held all sway. Furthermore, when settled in Roman lands as military foederati, the Barbarians were made exempt from Roman civil law. Not only did this constitute an affront to Roman practice, but Germanic law, such as it was, was revolting to Romans. More than assigning responsibility, guilt, or innocence, Germanic law was designed to avoid blood- feuding, which was rampant and debilitating. Thus, by means of wergild, or 'worth-money', Germans sought to circumvent revenge by instituting the recompense of financial sums for various bodily injuries or homicides. Further, testings, in which an accused person's was subjected to ordeals such as drowning or burning, were used to establish guilt, based on a pagan past. Also, and of real insult to Romans who believed in the ideal of equality, all the different wergild scales and legal systems of the various tribes were based on the principle that law, or nationality for that matter, was not territorial, but personal, and dependent on social status and ethnicity. At this point, with several Barbarian tribes settled from Iberia to the Rhine, Roman law, Res Publica, long the pillar of Roman society, ceased to have any real meaning.

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