Sunday, October 07, 2012

The Decline and Fall of a Theory

An anti-Islam reader in a comments thread at Jihad Watch recently reflexively blurted out one of many Givens of our Age:

"In the last days of the Roman Empire, she bestowed the highest honor of the office of arms and of the administration of the palaces to barbarians, who maintained secrete correspondence with their country, who acquired the knowledge and advantages that supported its decline."

Actually, this historiographical axiom, like so many others which so many in the West glibly assume to be true, suffers from that peculiar (if not unique) civilizational syndrome which afflicts the modern West: its amnesia about Islam.  More and more, I've come to realize how many historical events and processes of the long arc of Western history from the 7th century forward that we heretofore were taught in schools (or read in books whether popular or higher-brow) to believe as historical fact were at bottom profoundly influenced by the tenaciously vicious -- and protracted (if not perennial) -- expansionism of Islam.

And so for the theory we've all come to know and love about the fall of the Roman Empire.  As formidably charming as Gibbon was, we must set aside our schoolboy's fondness for him and rethink, outside the box.  The conventional theory has been persuasively counter-argued by the Pirenne thesis (early 20th century) -- which, by the 1970s fell out of favor by revisionists (or rather revanchists) in academe but which, more recently, has been given new life and vigor by a new study:

Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited:
The History of a Controversy
by Emmet Scott
New English Review Press · 2012 · 270 pages
$19.95 · Kindle version $9.95

A truly stellar essay about it and its implications (using copious quotes from the book) was written a couple of months ago by Baron Bodissey over at the Gates of Vienna blog:

The answer to that question my reader will find by reading the essay, but I can offer a "spoiler" I'm sure he saw coming a mile away: The Muslims.

One interesting corollary to that answer mentioned by Bodissey in his essay is that the Germanic (and often ultimately central Asiatic) barbarians who slowly percolated into the vast and sprawling Empire, far from being a threat and "ending" the Empire, actually assimilated into its culture and values and virtues because they (with of course exceptions, initial burps along the way in the form of Vandals or Visigoths) saw Rome as superior to their own culture in many ways, and really wanted to be "Roman" -- and they did become Roman, and then not long after that, became Roman Christians, at least a good 300 years before Mohammed was even in diapers (I mean around his loins, not the diapers around his head). 

 I.e., unlike Muslims, the barbarians became civilized -- which is always perforce a voluntary process -- and eventually became productive members of a culture they came to respect as superior to theirs: They had no supremacist script from on high, as did the Muslims, who with an eternal and deranged vengeance maintained a fanatical enmity against all Others -- an enmity that not only remains as virulent today, but is getting worse by the day, aided and abeted by PC MC throughout the West, as well as by the darker consanguinity of radical Leftism which, though only reflecting a small minority in the West, has happened, by a cruel serendipity, to come to be occupying the White House.  Let's hope not for long.

Further Reading:

Western History in the light of Islam


dymphna said...

I was looking for something else about Emmet Scott, the author, and your page popped up...

...that book exemplifies what "paradigm shift" entails. I had a great deal of difficulty getting my head 'round the knowledge that Egypt was once "the breadbasket" for the Med. And that its cheap papyrus aided widespread literacy - on which commerce depended, of course.

One fact has stayed with me, for pondering: the marauders were never able to get a foothold in the higher reaches of Spain because the locals fought back so ferociously. It appears to have been a significantly stellar failure. I mean that yes, they were stalled in some places, and pushed back, but in the northern area of Spain they couldn't even begin.

A lot of questions come to mind re the people and the culture. Were they Visigoths or an even earlier group?

If you have any idea as to how one would even begin to find answers, please let me know.


Hesperado said...


I'm a bit rusty on that period of history. My educated guess is that the Visigoths controlled the same part of Iberia which the Muslims were able to conquer, the south. The north may have been tougher because that was where the main concentration of (proto-)European allies were, helping out the nascent Spaniards. Those same salvaged Spaniards, in turn, continued to attack the south for centuries, finally paving the way for the complete Reconquista. It's kind of a mirror-image of what happened to Byzantium, in every respect: With Byzantium, the Muslims fought for centuries, pushing northward, and fighting offensively in their supremacist expansionism; while in Spain, the non-Muslims fought for centuries, pushing southward, and thoroughly defensively to win back what had been unjustly and violent taken.

Hesperado said...

P.S.: And each side was successful in its goal.