The end of the story

SacoHarry
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Joined: 9:29 PM - Aug 22, 2006

8:58 PM - Jan 29, 2007 #1

So Sam and I saw Children of Men this weekend, and it really got me thinking.

The movie's set in 2027 London. Humanity has been infertile for 20 years. No babies means no future. And as society faces its own extinction, everything's pretty much going to heck. I know, not so uplifting, but still, got me thinking!

It seems there's an awful lot of parallels with Britain in the early 5th C. I've always been fascinated by the "end of the story" there. I think you can learn about a civilization from how it fell, as well as how it rose. At Vindolanda, they knew the end to their way of life was coming, and yet had to live on for years--decades--after hope had gone.

All the texts & documentaries kind of talk about Hadrian's Wall just drying up; people wandering off to go make a living farming. Maybe a few old forts became warlord strongholds. But mostly it was all just a big, gradual, peaceful change. To me, that's hard to picture. These were cultured people who had experienced something of the good life for centuries. Watching it disappear -must- have had some kind of effect on them!

So my question is, is there enough left of the "end" of Vindolanda to make any kind of statement about how people dealt with what was the end of their world, as it was?

To me, the movie did a great job of this. (I -loved- it by the way; it's visceral, it's frighteningly believable, and yet it offers a glimmer of hope in the end.) There, the people left all kinds of physical evidence of their state of mind:

-- Litter everywhere. Who cares anymore?
-- Graffiti everywhere. Last-ditch efforts by people to make some lasting mark.
-- Crumbling infrastructure, patched up cars & buses.
-- No more new technology or improvements. Again, what would be the point?
-- Massive refugee migrations as parts of the world collapse utterly.
-- Backlash against refugees, as govt sets up martial law to maintain order.
-- Apocalypic cults rising, flagellants, lots of religious extremism, crime.
-- A shrinking of the world. Livestock rots in fields, lawless countryside abandoned.

I know that Vindolanda shows the vicus abandoned by the late 4th C, and there's the evidence of the shoddy repairs to the Stone Fort II wall. But what about, say, loose rubbish on ground surfaces, or old, worn-out tools being used far after they should have been replaced. Or changes in kinds of pottery showing immigration or emigration? Or anything?

Cheerily yours,
Harry
:lol:
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Joined: 6:33 PM - Feb 18, 2007

9:16 AM - Feb 19, 2007 #2

excellent post.
wrote: These were cultured people who had experienced something of the good life for centuries. Watching it disappear -must- have had some kind of effect on them!
Now were they.....certainly in the more Romanised areas of Britain the South East and west, places such as Silchester, Canterbury and Wroxeter...but here in the North East I am not so sure.

This area was Militarised for a reason, the native Brigantians apper to have had a far more loose and confederated cohesion than their southern counterparts...as such insurrection could be sparked off at a moments notice by factions within the tribal whole. The analogy I would use is try walking around Newcastle wearing a Sunderland shirt and see what happens.

The wall of Hadrian and the earlier Stanegate would have been seen much like the Berlin Wall was in the 20th century, imposed and policed by invaders and built straight across their Tribal lands acting to separate the north from the south : divide and conquer comes to mind in the same breath as controlling import/export and collecting taxes.

There is much evidence that in the north east the natives continued to live as they always had in round huts in more or less a subsistence economy...Ok the Vicus grew up around the Forts and places such as Corbridge briefly blossomed and in these places there was a far greater adoption of the Romanised way. But the Roman way of surplus production, the Villa system, could not operate in such Northern climes - the furthest North Villa that there is currently evidence for is located at Old Durham.

So how Romanised were the natives and how did they view the withdrawal of the forces on and around the wall...was it "whoops there goes the neighbourhood" or was it "whoopee the B@@@@@ds have gone". How were they treated by the Roman forces during the occupation...there is a tablet that mentions the Brittunculi, rather a derogatory term, which suggests that the locals were sneered at by those more Romanised soldiers of the empire.

Was there any encouragement for the most northerly of Britain's inhabitants to become Roman, using a core periphery viewpoint, it could be argued that were they encouraged to stay native and provide, by tribute rather than trade, those luxuries that Rome wanted.


interesting arguments









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mhullin
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mhullin
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Joined: 7:10 AM - Mar 22, 2007

11:56 PM - Jun 19, 2007 #3

I know that this is a bit off topic (on a topic that seems to have faded out), but as I'm just getting around to reading it, here's my 2 cents.

For reasons I can't explain, I always like the "End of the Story" story too.

If you find yourself sitting around with nothing to read this summer (I hear it's raining like mad up there), check out "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" by Jared Diamond.

I thought it was a very interesting look at the End Story of several societies (Unfortunatly, Romans were not included).
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SacoHarry
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Joined: 9:29 PM - Aug 22, 2006

2:28 PM - Jun 21, 2007 #4

Sounds like a good read, and thanks for the post. Gets my mind back to the idea of the "end." Chris makes great points. Just because I might look back and see the collapse of architectural knowledge, paved roads, aqueducts, bath facilities, etc., as some horrible calamity, that doesn't necessarily mean that a local living through it would see it the same way. It could have been a very liberating time in many ways.

I guess that's kind of what I'm trying to find out about Vindolanda; does the evidence lend any ideas at all about how the people there viewed this momentous change? Or was it such a gradual change that it was barely noticed? Did the removal of a money economy affect the frontier the same way that it affected the Romanized towns down south? Or by 410 had the Wall become so much a subsistence lifestyle that very little changed at all? And like Chris says, were the locals actually "Romanized" at all, or were they separate from the whole "Romanization" whose decay is so obvious?

I love this stuff.

- Harry
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