Waiting for the end of the world

Waiting for the end of the world

Gibbon doesn’t specify that it was raining the day that Odoacer entered Rome, so I don’t know where that image comes from. I imagine the great city battered by the centuries of instability and still bearing fresh scars from Riciner’s sacking. The walls of Rome are dark and gray, not the gleaming white of Marcus Aurelius’ capital, but with dirt accumulated after long periods of violence and neglect. The sky overhead is dark and mean, and the Tiber has long ago become a vein of pollution. Despite its wounds, though, the city still wears its majesty. It is no longer the capital of anything: Constantinople commands the greater portion of the Empire; of the two competing Emperors of the West, one, Romulus Augustulus, lives in Ravenna, and the other, Julius Nepos, is in exile in Dalmatia.

Make no mistake, though: Rome has stood as the light of the west for a thousand years, and even in degradation it is proud. I imagine then this beleaguered city under a a thick layer of dark clouds, surrounded on all sides by the enormous and terrifying army of Odoacer. Romulus has been deposed, and the barbarians await their leader to enter and proclaim himself King of Italy, and the end of the Western Roman Empire.

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