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My taxes since moving to MD are much higher than the other places I’ve lived. I knew this ahead of time. What I expected in return, though, is more services. Instead, I have have FEWER services that I’m used to any other place I’ve lived!
-Electricity is deregulated and costs a fortune here.
-Water? Nope, no water–even though there’s no way we’d be on well water having a neighborhood this big this close to city water in any other state I’ve lived in.
-Sewer? You’re kidding, right?
-Trash? Okay, it gets picked up twice a week instead of once a week. But, of course, that means I’m paying more than twice as much what I’m used to.
-Police? We do have a professional policed department, at least!
-Fire? Come on, now! You don’t expect the city or county to actually PAY for professional firefighters when the altruism of the citizens can be exploited instead?
-Hospitals? Well, there’s some in the next county over. Does that count?
Roads and Traffic Management
-In some ways, it’s unfair to compare our ratsnest of pre-interstate-system roads to traffic patterns further west. And road repairs really are handled well and *swiftly* here–many times better than in NM. (The first word the Bear ever read was “closed,” from a sign that said “road closed.” It’s sad when you kid sees more signs about road and lane closures than stop signs…) But on the other hand, we’ve still got one of the worst places for commutes in the country.
Rec and Parks
-Community centers. Got tons of these with lots of activities. All the activities charge a small fee and most are run by volunteers, though.
-Swimming pools. There is 1 swimming pool for every 80k residents or so. FAIL. The little town in Texas I grew up with has 1 public pool per 17k county residents. And the taxes, of course, were much lower, with entrance fees lower, too.
-State parks. These suck. I mean, really, really SUCK. When we went on vacation to VA this year, the state parks were quite nice but nothing that blew us away. We were puzzled, then, as to why they were rated the best state parks in the US. Then we came to MD and figured it out–it was a matter of comparison. MD state parks make VA state parks look like five-star resorts.
Responsiveness of Legislators
-In NM, my state representative came by my house twice. She introduced herself and talked to me the first time, and the second, she talked to my mother–not only did she remember me, specifically (she asked if my mother was a new resident), but she even remembered my occupation. That’s called paying attention to your constituents. Here, delegates participate in the 4th of July parade and have their people hand out campaign stickers and flyers. That’s called grandstanding.
-I wrote to my NM representatives–several at the county level and at both levels in the state legislature–on multiple issues of interest to me. First, I received an IMMEDIATE response that was usually written by a staffer, I’m sure, (if it was at the state legislature level) but was actually, you know, relevant to the specific issue I wrote about. Second, several of the representatives who chose to take a stand in agreement with my position kept me updated as to the status of their efforts to either defeat or pass the bill in question. Now, recently, I contacted my US Representative and my local state legislature delegates about a matter and received a form letter that was more than underwhelming–with a totally inappropriate photocopied article attached–from the US Rep. and nothing–absolutely freaking nada–from my delegates. Want to guess who I’m voting against this fall? Yeah. Them. I might add that my parents have also written letters to their state and federal representatives in Texas at various times and have always received replies. I’d like to note that all of our representatives from which we received fast, meaningful replies were Republicans. The ones here, who blew me off? Democrats. I find it doubly ironic that these people got elected on their claims to really CARE about the “common man.” Guess what? Paying attention to your constituents rather than just trying to schmooze your way into political power IS CARING ABOUT THE “COMMON MAN.”
-The schools in my hometown were better. And cost less. And offered more electives. And had a much better special ed program. And more AP offerings. Um. What am I paying for, again?
TIME’s “Curious Capitalist” blog recently had an article about using median hourly wages to gauge the economic status of the US (as opposed to focusing on the rising minimum wage). The median hourly wage, for hourly workers, is $11.95 an hour.
This is made into a Big Deal because the poverty line is $21,200 for a family of four, and $11.95 works out to $23,900 a year. (The blogger states $24,856, but for some unknown reason isn’t aware that “full time” is considered to be 2,000 hours a year. Oh, well.) So some proportion of hourly wage-earners would be below the federal poverty line with family consisting of a husband, a wife, and two kids. The implication is that we should be shocked that so many single wage-earners “can’t” support a family alone because in a just society, everyone should be able to have the 1950s ideal of a wage-earning husband, a stay-at-home-wife, and two kids, if they should so chose.
The only problem is that this is complete bosh, from a historical and a modern perspective, both.
Wage data in particular includes many people who are dependents and/or work part time. Is is reasonable to get worked up about the fact that a 16-y-o part-time burger flipper wouldn’t be able to support a family if he worked full time? Or, from another point of view, is burger-flipping the kind of job that is fit for an adult who has the capacity to have a family? Or is it more reasonable to assume that a person who starts a family should have moved up the skill ladder from a low-skill starting position into a higher position?
Historically speaking, there have always been a large body of jobs that was not intended for independent adults. There are relatively few of these now–lowest-rung fast-food work, amusement park attendant work, babysitting, waiting tables (to a large extent), and the like. Historically, jobs began for kids much younger, there was a larger discrepancy between kid-pay and adult pay, and overall pay was lower, in real terms. Additionally, children were employed more regularly–either as assistants
Blocks of apartment complexes tower five stories and more over streets so crowded that delivery vehicles are allowed only at night. The walls are scribbled with graffiti, and people jostle in and out of bars and restaurants as people settle down to eat or clamor for takeout. Property values are sky-high–and it seems like insurance premiums are even higher.
This isn’t Victorian London or 20th-century New York but ancient Rome. The more things change, eh?
(The issues of change and continuity are ALWAYS a fierce battleground for historians. The real answer is that there is always–always–both, and the continuity between one period and the next is usually greater than any abrupt change while the change is usually more distinctive.)
One of the aspects of Rome as an imperial city that fascinates me is how everything *functioned.* There was a constant influx of immigrants from the countryside as well as other cities and provinces. The people from the countryside were typically displaced peasants–a social problem that grew increasingly difficult to tackle as the empire aged. Poor farmers were economically flattened by the rich landowners and their slave labor and went to where there was free food and entertainment and, with any luck, jobs. But such a large group of people became a destabilizing force in an already volatile city.
Whatever their origins, the poor lived packed in the upper stories of brick and wood apartment complexes that could be half a dozen or more stories high. The richer you were, the lower in the complex you lived, while the bottom floor was reserved for businesses. (Living above the baths was somewhat like having an apartment above a rowdy nightclub in NYC today…) The very wealthy had their own villas, of course, but the vast majority of people, including what we’d call middle class today, lived in these apartments. There were laws passed by at least four emperors to try to limit the height and/or the number of stories, but the number of times these laws were passed simply go to demonstrate how useless they were. The laws set the max height at 60 or 70 Roman feet and one set the number of stories at five.
There weren’t any building inspectors in the ancient world–or even in the early modern world. There was no zoning commission or fire marshal. There was no institutional mechanism to enforce any of the laws about building safety or even height. The owner basically got in trouble when the building actually fell down. Which happened regularly–death from building collapse was a constant danger! Imagine if landlords only got in trouble for fire safety violations when someone actually, you know, died in a fire…. Additionally, though we think of Rome and a magnificent city of stone, these buildings were somewhat temporary. A change in ownership often meant that the existing building would be razed and a new one–with equally shoddy, temporary construction–thrown up. The level of construction that was constantly going on was simply massive, and there was a low incentive to build well when you knew that it would only last a dozen years or so.
Interestingly, this kind of temporariness was pretty common in the past. Peasants in medieval Western Europe, for example, were required to rebuild their houses on inheritance because of the poor state that houses got into after a while. This generally worked out to a lifespan of a house of about 20 years. This also explains why peasant houses were so small–they weren’t an investment but always an expense which was made only great enough to meet the family’s minimum requirements. The building materials for most construction just didn’t last. So much for the good ol’ days!
Some people who resent building codes and inspections think that common sense and self-interest would make people largely build quality buildings even without such restrictions–some of which can be, admittedly, pretty silly. I’m afraid, though, that throughout the history of urban living, I can’t think of a single place o time that this would be the rule rather than the exception! Because of an interesting link of death by disease and the acceptability of death by accident, things would likely be much better than in the past, but not good enough for me, at least! I like knowing that there’s a very low chance that my house is constructed of spit and bubblegum under the sheetrock.
Before elevators–and still, now, in cities with few or none–the higher you have to climb, the cheaper the rent (and so the smaller and more rickety the rooms). Ancient cities had few to no neighborhoods of rich and poor. Instead, the districts were largely integrated, with the rich and poor living next to one another and in the same building but on different floors. (Suburbs and “garden districts” were an invention of mass transit–ancient cities were also incredibly compact even by modern standards.) This made things safer when life was good, as the wealthy wouldn’t stand for gangs running the streets, but incredibly dangerous when times were bad, when any rich guy could get knifed on the street unless he was accompanies by a bevy of guards. Rome had both of these times.
So in ancient Rome, a very poor family typically lived in a single room at the very top of a six story building or so. They almost never had a means of cooking food or heating, which was good because of the fire danger. But this meant that they shivered on cold days (and roasted directly under the eaves on the hot ones!), and for their meals, they went to the local taverns and bakeries to buy pre-prepared meals–ancient takeout. In an age before building codes and inspectors, the apartment complexes could be incredibly dangerous, and there are records of buildings collapsing and killing the occupants inside. Of course, fires still occurred even with the strictest regulations, and even when the emperors eventually instituted public fire brigades, the results could be devastating.
True story: One of the important public figures near the end of the republic amassed a fortune by running a private fire department. A fire would break out, and his force would rush to the scene and offer to buy the burning structure for a pittance. If the owner agreed, they put out the fire. If he refused, they let it burn to the ground.
Yeah. I like modern insurance and fire departments, too, even when they aren’t perfect!
If you saw the latest “Lie To Me,” the firefighters are tested for implicit racism to see who killed one of them. You can take the test here.
My score was:
“Your data suggest little to no automatic preference between African American and European American.”
Yeah, but if they reported the FULL results, they’d had found that I’m really prejudiced against my right hand.
What I find interesting is all the plucked eyebrows of the white people. Even the men looked plucked! What the heck? And there were only female whites, as far as I could tell. (At least, I think they’re women….) *shakes head* The fringes of white hair also looked….too perfect. Basically, the whites looked like magazine pictures. (So I probably had a reaction AGAINST them, if the reporting were honest, because they felt fake to me.)
So you can take the test if you want, but it feels hinkey to me. The overly groomed whities seem hand-picked to make people like them better.
Stinkerbell’s name is now almost always Stinky, and I think this one is going to stick because not only is she, well, stinky a lot of the time, but she’s also a total stinker, too. Inquisitive, pigheaded, temperamental, charming, engaging, and ridiculously cute–that’s my girl!
She spent quite a while before she turned three months trying very hard to talk, imitating us and making noises to get us to say favorite words. (”Hi!” meant, of course, “hi,” and “Guhguh,” together, meant she wanted to hear us say “good girl.”) But now she’s mostly lost interest and had concentrated on grasping, standing, bouncing, etc. She’s pretty much stuck to two signs that she uses well (”milk” and “pacifier”), but a lot of that is fine motorskills–that is, a total lack of them. She can play 20 questions pretty well. Depending on her mood, “yes” is either an excited arm-flap or crying, so if we ask “Do you want…?” and go down the list of usual suspects (milk, diaper, pacifier, sleep, hugs, Daddy, Mommy), she’ll respond to the one that she’s wanting. She’s tried to do “potty”, but it’s too hard to distinguish it from “milk.” She also follows one instruction–”Come to (Mommy, Daddy, me, whoever).” Sometimes, she’ll cry when she leans across, but she still leans! Good girl.
The Bear said his first word at seven months, his first two-word combination at ten, and his first long sentence at nearly fourteen. I’m not sure that Stinky will speak that soon, since she seems to have lost most of her interest as long as he can make herself understood. Her most common spound now, though she babbles, it “Hoohooooooooo.” My owl-baby!
She has discovered how to manipulate things with her hands now. She batted almost immediately, but at 2 mo, she could grasps the object of her desire pretty quickly. Now, she can reach for, grasp, and lift things, though she often has to use the arm opposite to help. She LOVES chewing things, which makes me uneasy since the Bear was such a non-chewer. I’m going to have to be really careful of his Legos and other toys now! I also hope she doesn’t do things like pull the safety outlet covers out of the outlets–the Bear left the outlets alone once I removed the covers (AKA “wall toys,” to him), but I don’t think she would. She does not have the skill that she wants to with this whole object manipulations thing, so at times, she’ll start sobbing in frustration as she’s trying to make something do what she wants, and even if I know what it is, having Mommy do it does NOT help because SHE wants to do it, all by herself. The walker is actually a favorite toy right now because of that. She can paddle around in it when she wants to, but mainly, she loves how close the tray brings things to her hands. (She barely tolerates tummy time and shows very little interest in crawling. She wants to WALK, darn it. The Bear, at the same age, worked with ferocious concentration at crawling–and he learned to walk slightly late, at 14 months! Stinky might skip crawling entirely, the way my mother did.
She’s not a terribly cuddly baby. The Bear would just melt into a boneless mass of contentment in your arms. Stinky is all about DOING things. Being talked to, eating, playing, go-go-going, always. She won’t rest her head against your chest. She’s always looking around and is an unapologetic out-facing baby.
I’m pretty sure that Sinky has my muscle condition, which is why she’s so incredibly strong. (We jokingly call her “superbaby.”) If we hold onto her hands just enough to balance, she can walk bearing her own weight. She can stand while holding onto an object. This week, she even pulled up once, using her arms over my arm to get to her feet–and this from a full sitting position, not leaning forward at all. She’s now hit every developmental milestone for 7 months except sitting without support, though she can almostalmost do that, and it’s mostly an issue of confidence rather than skill. She even waves goodbye when other people wave first. She stands pretty firmly while holding onto something at chest-height. She’ll steal something she wants out of your hand (even if she does usually drop it because its to heavy), and she’ll lean over to gently touch an item of interest if you support her hips. Where did my newborn go????
Bath time continues to be…interesting. At her bath on her 3-week birthday, she sprang into a standing position when I rocked her forward to wash he back. Talk about terrifying! Here I was, holding a screaming, furious baby (all open mouth, squeezed eyes, and red, red face), standing on these impossibly skinny legs and literally stomping up and down while I’m desperately trying to keep her from flinging her sudsy, slippery body out of the baby tub. That scared me badly enough that I bathed her in the big tub with me for a while, but then she got so where she mostly liked baths as long as I kept her from startling herself. (This is easier now, but it used to be that she’d startle at a molecule of air.) Even if she gets upset now, a stern “No!” when she tries to stand makes her settle down.
Stinky believes that sleep is for chumps. Chumps, I tell you! The Bear sleeps 10-12 hours a day, and the days are becoming more and more frequent that she sleeps less than he does. Not fair!!!! I NEED those naps, even if she doesn’t, but these days, one 15-minute nap and one hour long nap are the absolute most I can hope for, and some days it’s only one 5-to-15 minute nap. The good thing, though, is that she’s now sleeping in her crib–and will asked to be put down! First, she eats like crazy for about an hour. Then she cries very softly and makes a “paci” sign. Then she sucks it and either her eyes slide shut and she cries softly some more or she looks imploringly at me with huge eyes. A question of “Sleep?” is met with a single, weak wiggle, and she goes down–in her own crib! Hooray! It took the Bear, who was a total snuggle baby, six months to start the night in his crib, but she prefers it. She prefers to finish it in my bed, still, but as she sleeps longer and longer, that will become less of an issue.
When she does take a couple of really long naps–like and hour and a half–that means I’m in trouble at night. She’ll go down, sure, but she’ll be up with the roosters, crowing and talking and giggling and pawing at me to play with her. Stinky LOVES mornings. NOT MY BABY. While Bear and I are lurching around like zombies, she’s having the time of her life, laughing and playing. She’s usually a lot more mellow in the evenings.
She loves watching dancing and being danced with–of course! What baby wouldn’t? And she has the advantage of a constantly dancing Daddy!
The most surprising thing she’s come up with recently, though, is that she’s insanely jealous of the Bear. She was in her walker, happily playing with her toys when the Bear climbed onto my lap for snuggles. With a cry out outrage, she dropped the toy and flung herself over to me, her arms desperately reaching for me. Um, yeah. That needs to end about yesterday! It was hilarious, though.
I do hope she’s a really early walker. She’ll be so happy to investigate her world under the power of her own steam!
I have to say just how incredibly proud of the Bear I am. He’s just turned six, and except for bad days, he is so exceptionally mature for his age. I was born an “old soul,” but he’s a kid’s kid, so it’s easy for me, from my perspective, to forget sometimes just what a great kid he is. So this post is a huge brag-fest.
-He almost never meets anyone he can’t get along with. He negotiates, mediates, goes along, persuades, cajoles, and otherwise makes things work.
-I don’t have to worry about him when he plays with others. In a four-hour period, I might tell him once to be more gentle or calm or to share something in a different way. Max. When the kids are playing in another room and one screams and five other parents leap to their feet to make sure their kid wasn’t the one who did something to cause it, I don’t have to stand up anymore because he’s never the guilty party. He doesn’t push. He doesn’t hit. He doesn’t even cheat his turn or pick stupid, pointless “kid” arguments. He goal is harmony among the people he’s playing with, and he makes it happen. In fact, there are rarely problems in the area where he’s playing because he diffuses situations between other kids.
-I can take him almost anywhere. The opera, the theater, a nice restaurant, a long car trip–he almost always behaves. Now, he might be singing at the top of his lungs in the car :-), but he’s appropriate to the situation. (He loves operas. I take him to all kinds of things to see what “sticks,” and opera is his #1 hit. His very favorite is The Magic Flute. Next is Hansel und Gretel. Then is Amahl and the Night Visitors.)
-He’s generally polite and respectful. He forgets in impatience and excitement, but he really wants to be as polite as he can, and it shows. Every time we go to an event or have someone over or have some kind of lesson, people tell me what a great kid he is. I agree.
-He works his tail end off to the extent of his abilities. The autism/ADD/sensory processing disorder/dyslexia/CAPD complex of conditions runs in my family. He dodged any hint of autism or SPD, but he got a medium dose of CAPD and ADD and a heavy one of dyslexia, and yet this kid works hard to overcome it. He sets his own timer in math to keep himself on task. He’s stretched his memory to phenomenal limits to compensate for his CAPD. (I had him formally evaluated this summer, and there was a 5-standard deviation difference between his normal performance on most tasks and his performance in his weakest areas. Seriously, FIVE standard deviations!) When he’s doing well, I can simply give him his written assignments, and he comes to me when they’re done. Yep, in Kindergarten, and he’s ADD enough that he could not learn in a normal classroom setting with medication. (No way am I medicating a 6-year-old at home, though!) He’s also caught the love of reading after an awful lot of hard work to get him fluent. Because of the nature of his dyslexia, he could test at a 5th grade level and read 6th grade level books before he could read 2nd-grade texts at an appropriate speed and fluency. Now, he’s reading 4th grade books independently. He read 20 books in January alone! He’s not at the maturity level I’m hoping for him here. I’d like to see him working with more speed and diligence. But he’s pretty amazing for any 6-year-old, never mind one with issues that make it harder.
-When you take his ADD and CAPD into account, his behavior is even more impressive. Behavior, because of lack of impulsiveness control, tends to be a big problem with kids with ADD. It’s been a long, hard row to hoe from where we started. A few years ago, I was complaining bitterly about parents who don’t hold their kids to high standards since the Bear consistently was the third worst kid (wiggly and spacey instead of listening) in any group because the bad behavior of the very worst distracted him so. It is one thing to ask a kid with ADD to not misbehave. It’s another to ask him to behave *better* than other kids. But now, that’s exactly what he does–most of the time, at least! He’s still never the worst kid, but now he’s often one of the best at any given moment. Totally awesome, and the result on lots of hard work on his part.
-The strides he’s made this year in swimming really impress me, as well. He took his first swim lesson this summer, when he was afraid to put his head underwater. But gamely, he persevered. He passed Red Cross Level I in one go, II in one go, and now III after two goes. He’s in IV, the old Advanced Beginner, and is actually almost ready for V, Intermediate. I know that because of a blooper on my part. We’d been doing Tues/Thurs lessons all along, except that now he’s in a level that has so few kids in it for his age group that it only has three times total instead of 17 for Level II and 14 for Level III. All of these are Mon/Wed. (UGH!) I had a brain fart and took him on Tues, accidentally missing the Mon class. By now, most of the swim teachers know us, so I asked if one of the other classes didn’t have a hole he could slip into. The Level V class, which only meets Tues/Thurs, only had one child enrolled, and the teacher asked if he could swim a 25-yard lap. “Sure!” I said. That’s the most he’d swum at a go before, but he’s done it and wasn’t tired at the end. So she got him in the water and and had him doing laps–alternately with a kickboard practicing rotary breathing and with freestyle. And the kid swam for 30 minutes straight! He gave it every ounce he had, even when his freestyle devolved into a pathetic semi-dog paddle because he didn’t have the strength to get his elbow out of the water any more. All heart, that kid. The instructor said he was right on the edge of Level V already, so one session of level IV, and he’s there. This thrills me to no end because after he graduates from Level V (by summer????), he’ll be swim team level, which means that the cost will drop to a bit more than a third of what it is for lessons. Wooohooo!
-He makes his own cereal and hot dogs. He hangs his own clothes. He cleans his room and the playroom. Sometimes, he even cleans them without my asking. We’re working on combing hair and brushing teeth without being asked, though, and I’ll do bed-making at some point….
-And finally, he’s the best big brother I’ve ever heard of. I’m rather ashamed at my and my brother’s relationship in comparison, and we actually bump along pretty well. He adores his sister–absolutely dotes on her and spoils her rotten. He declares to anyone who will listen that she’s the prettiest and sweetest and smartest and strongest baby int he world. (The very last one might actually be right! 8-0 ) He had NEVER shown the least bit of jealousy, not even when her eating has prevented me from doing something he needed–like feed him, too! He reads to her, sings to her, holds her, plays with her, gets more excited than we do over her new abilities. He doesn’t find her boring in the least, not even when she’s asleep, because she’s HIS little sister. I would simply not have believed such a relationship among siblings of such ages in a book, but it’s happening before my eyes. It makes me miss my little sea monkeys that much more–how happy he would have been to have at least one more, in between him and Stinky! It’s not just me who missed holding them in my arms. He would be thrilled to be in the middle of a huge passel of children.
He does things that drive me crazy, of course. (”What is there to eat?” is a favorite.) But more and more, I’ve been impressed with how much I can depend on him to apply himself to being good and working hard and getting along. I can say that some of it’s parenting, sure. But some of it is just plain him and his sweet-yet-stubborn disposition. Stinky? I’m not so sure that’s she’s going to be quite so sweet.
I’d assumed that most of them were either killed fighting the Normans or got turned into peasantry when their lands were overtaken. Turns out that more than 5,000 Anglo-Saxons and Danes–elites and their men–fled England in 1088 alone for Byzantium. There, they settled around the Black Sea or became part of the Varangian Guard, a traditionally Scandinavian group of elite mercenaries who protected the emperor.
So that means that those of us who have early American families and are tied to the Washingtons (an Anglo-Saxon elite family) might have some very distant but historical-era cousins in the Balkans!
If I’ve been talking more about Roman history than I usually do, that’s because I’m constantly being reminded of it recently–in bad ways. The stimulus package reminds me uncomfortably of the standard response of Roman Emperors to bad economic times–that is, to invent money. (They devalued the currency. We just print more. Pretty much, same diff.) Theoretically, they’d pay back the debt created by these acts. Somehow, it never happened that way.
Heck, I still don’t understand what the bank bailout was supposed to achieve, or rather by what means it was supposed to achieve it…. :-/
I have no idea what I want to invest in anymore–or where to invest, for that matter. If I lived in my hometown, where real estate prices stayed sane, the economy is solid, and growth is steady, I’d have half a dozen four-plexes by now. (The one where I lived when I was a baby is for sale, BTW!) Here? I’d need half a million just to get off the ground, and then the value would implode. Not good.
Current (or semi-current) issues always make me think about their parallels in history. Immigration is one of them.
One of the more interesting areas of study in ancient history is trying to understand the so-called barbarian invasions of Rome more fully. (They weren’t called “barbarian invasions” as a recognized pattern when they were happening–this is a more recent term for a whole bunch of different movements.) There’s a growing group of scholars who are becoming convinced that calling them “invasions” is a misnomer. The purpose of invading an area is to establish dominance, to overthrow the current regime, or to accomplish a political or territorial goal. The purpose of the movements of many, if not most, of the barbarians was to get a piece of Rome to call their own–some fertile farmland, a part of the existing trade, that sort of thing. They mostly wanted, in short, to become settled Romans.
The handling of these barbarians by Roman proconsuls indicates how well Rome knew this. It would be dangerous to Rome’s political stability to allow an entire tribe with its own political system fully intact to just pick a chunk of the empire to call their own, never mind what the provincials already on that chuck would think. The skilled proconsul, then, would march an army out, defeat the invading/immigrating force (effectively removing its political cohesion), and then separate everybody into smaller groups for settling in low-population areas that are in Rome’s interests to have them live in (rather than in the first bit of fertile ground they run across). There, the new immigrants would settle down, intermarry, become good Roman provincials, and enlist in the army, where they helped to the same thing to the next group of barbarians.
Slowly, Rome slid into decadence, and unable to handle barbarians in the old manner, it began granting tracts of land to intact barbarian units. In some ways, this actually made things harder for the barbarians because they kept more of their old traditions and were more “barbarian” than “provinicial” for longer. Problems with maintaining population in the Roman Empire mean that there was a demographic and cultural shift–there were more barbarians and fewer “Romans” with every decade, and Rome was both dependent upon and fearful of these new arrivals for keeping the empire intact. (The populations estimates of 400 and 600 shown here show the demographic collapse that was already at the edge of beginning. despite massive immigration. As I’ve already mentioned, demographic collapse is bad for a society!)
Ironically, the barbarian Alaric’s sack of Rome was not at all an attempt to destroy Rome but should be much better viewed as a civil war symptomatic of the weakness of the western empire–and even more ironically, his first foe representing the legitimate power of Rome wasn’t a born Roman but another barbarian confederate general by the name of Stilicho, the guardian of the emperor who rather blatantly desired the empire for himself. Alaric was probably the most able of Rome’s generals at the time. With another pedigree, with the traditions of succession returned to those of 100 years before, and with the bad luck he seemed to encounter at every turn, he might have been the emperor to revive the Western Empire’s flagging fortunes. But then again, perhaps not. Much of the reasons of Rome’s growing weakness are poorly understood and hotly debated even now. If the root was primarily part of a long cold spell or successive droughts or increasing pestilence or many other things that societies are vulnerable (and there’s some evidence for many of these), everything he could have done might have been too little. And the economic/monetary situation may have been so screwed up that there was no saving it either, either. There are many “only ifs” in history, and a disproportionate number of them are in Roman history!
(Some classical scholars would even argue hotly with the declaration that Rome EVER “fell.” The people of AD 600 never would have thought so–or even 700 or 800. Charlemagne’s contemporaries did not find his title of emperor at all laughable or disingenuous–it was deadly serious and extremely significant. I’m of the camp that says that there was no single event that marked Rome’s fall, but Rome fell gradually, nevertheless, even if it was kept alive in people’s imaginations. And then comes the argument of what a government is, if not an idea in people’s imaginations… )