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The end of the story
Topic Started: Jan 29 2007, 03:58 PM (562 Views)
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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,
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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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