From: Office of Historical Research Studies, Time Travel Division, Open University of the Inner Solar System, September 3, 2476
To: Board of Solar Regents, Open University of the Inner Solar System
On the bi-millennium of the official fall of the Roman Empire as dated by the overthrow of Romulus, the last of the western Roman emperors in 476 C.E., we are pleased to report on preliminary results from the Historical Travel Team’s visit to the event period. We apologize for the length of time it has taken to submit our preliminary report but time-line decontamination and infection control procedures on the return complicated matters. Several team members left assorted personal possessions behind in Pompeii and retrieval took longer than expected. As well, there was the matter of a minor funding shortfall, which delayed fully assembling the Clio Visualization Cube for subsequent analysis.
The Roman empire period turned out to be a far more diverse and complicated era than traditional accounts have portrayed it – a result only obtainable by the onsite visits permitted by our new research technology that allows faculty to spend extended research sabbatical periods in past eras. We are also pleased to note to the Board that transferring faculty to past eras with a lower cost of living has allowed for substantial savings in current budgets. The HTT is nevertheless pleased to acknowledge the financial support of the Human and Natural Science Off Earth Research Enhancement Council in sponsoring this fine research for you and all your life units.
Traditional reasons for the end of the Roman Empire include invasion by barbarian tribes, low productivity from a slave economy, military overreach, corruption and political instability. We wish to report that these traditional reasons for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire have failed to take into account some previously unrealized economic and social trends that resulted in policies that eroded the power of the empire and the response to the barbarian invasions. We have discovered the following from our valuable on site research visits.
Roman decline began after the onset of play-based learning in the Roman elementary educational system. Rote memorization was replaced by activities to help Roman citizens learn by engaging in fun self-discovery learning activities. While playing with wooden swords and shields was always a part of Roman childhood, the activities were institutionalized into the Roman curriculum and delayed the transition to proper military training. We also discovered that play based learning was originally a crafty plan designed by the Roman Secret Service to destroy other empires by weakening their educational systems. Unfortunately the memos drafted on the plan were mistakenly sent to education ministry officials who implemented the approach en masse for legions of Roman children. The result was successive cohorts of Roman soldiers and officers who lacked the discipline to focus and take the barbarian invasions seriously. Moreover, the weakening of the Latin and rhetoric curriculum destroyed the ability of the Roman military to communicate effectively on the battlefield.
The damage from this policy was reinforced by a social movement that viewed the “barbarian” labeling of the northern tribes as hurtful and damaging to future political relations, not to mention the self-esteem of individual barbarians. Barbarians came to be viewed as simply suffering from a poor upbringing and/or being “imperially challenged” and numerous accommodations and rationalizations were made for their destructive behavior as they made incursions into Roman territory. As a result, when the barbarians finally arrived at the gates of Rome, most Romans simply assumed that they were misunderstanding barbarian intentions.
All this was compounded by a movement amongst Roman citizens to block the building of new aqueducts for both environmental and aesthetic reasons. Piping water long distances for drinking and bathing purposes came to be regarded as damaging to the natural order. Moreover, while we view the remnants of the aqueducts as artistic architectural triumphs, the Romans came to see their aqueducts as a visual blight. As a result, building new aqueducts came to a halt plunging the construction sector into a prolonged recession. In addition, urban growth slowed down due to a shortage of water and most cities became dependent on very few water sources making them vulnerable to easier siege and capture.
As a result, when the barbarians finally arrived, the Romans were unable to process or assess the situation after decades of a weakened educational system that eroded their discipline and analytical ability. Moreover, they were conflicted about what the barbarians really wanted from the empire. To deal with the stress of the situation, the Romans simply retreated to their amphitheaters to watch the games they had become addicted to through play-based learning resulting in little organized opposition to the barbarian invasions. Once ensconced in the countryside, the barbarians were able to finish off the major cities of the empire by destroying a handful of poorly guarded aqueducts cutting off the drinking water supply. The empire fell and the rest is history. The Romans apparently never realized what hit them though there was a substantial wave of new Senate committees engaging in strategic planning exercises near the start of the 4th century C.E.