Lack of Money
Lack of money was one of the great evils. The empire did not have sufficient supplies of precious metals for the demands of business; and what money there was was steadily drained away to India and the distant Orient (p. 15). By the fourth century this movement had carried away hundreds of millions of dollars of coined money. Even the imperial officers were forced to take part of their salaries in produce, robes, horses, grain. Trade began to go back to the primitive form of barter; and it became harder and harder to collect taxes.
In the third and fourth centuries there were no more great poets or men of letters. Learning and patriotism both declined. Society began to fall into rigid castes, the serf bound to his spot of land, the artisan to his trade, the curial to his office, Freedom of movement was lost. Above all, there was dearth of money and dearth of men. The Empire had become a shell.
For five hundred years, outside barbarians had been tossing wildly about the great natural walls of the civilized world. Commonly they had shrunk in dread from any conflict with the mighty Roman legions, always on sleepless ward at the weaker gaps – along the Rhine, the Danube, the Euphrates. Sometimes, it is true, the barbarians had broken through for a moment, but always to be destroyed promptly by some Roman Marius or Caesar. In the fifth century they broke in to stay.
But meanwhile Christianity had come into the world. The supreme service of the dying Empire was to foster this new force for human progress.
Excerpt from The Story of Modern Progress by Willis Mason West – 1920
Further Reading and External Links