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St. Benedict vs. Dreher’s ‘St. Benedict’

The Benedict Option [1], says George Demacopoulos, distorts the St. Benedict of history. [2] Excerpts:

Surprisingly, Dreher says little about the historic St. Benedict. In his rendering, the saint lived when the Roman world was entering the “dark ages”—barbarian invasion spurred the decline of government institutions, which in turn led to widespread moral decay among the population. In response, St. Benedict is said to have deliberately left the Roman world behind in order to establish a new and independent community where the practice of Christian life could survive the trials to come.

The reasons for this ought to be clear in the book: because I’m riffing off of Alasdair MacIntyre’s reference to Benedict as the founder of intentional religious communities in the sixth century, and how we need “a new — and very different — St. Benedict” in our time. Of course the analogy only goes so far! MacIntyre himself wrote:

It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the epoch in which the Roman Empire declined into the Dark Ages. None the less certain parallels there are.

An analogy doesn’t have to be perfect in every way to be instructive and helpful.

I spent the whole book talking about the kinds of chaos and decadence this new and very different Benedict would have to deal with. There’s an entire chapter on a contemporary monastery of traditionalist Benedictines, who talked to me about how some of the core aspects of the Benedictine monastic life can be adapted to help lay Christians live in the contemporary world.

More:

Among other things, he asserts historical causality where there is no evidence for it. For example, he implies that the moral decay of Roman civilization in St. Benedict’s lifetime was caused by the barbarian invasions. I’m not sure how we are to measure moral decay in any society, especially a pre-modern one, but I don’t know of a single Christian text from the ancient world that attributes moral decline among Christians to the presence of “barbarians” or the failure of the Roman government to respond to the barbarian challenge.

change_me

No. If anything, I would say that the barbarian invasions occurred because of the weakness of the Roman state and Roman civilization — a weakness that was due to a number of factors. Historians still argue over why Rome fell, but the overall point is that it succumbed to barbarian invasion because it had become internally weak. MacIntyre says that today

the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament.

My book is an argument not that barbarians are coming over the frontier, but that they have already been governing us (broadly speaking, to include media, entertainment, academia) for some time. They accomplished this because of our own moral weakness and religious infidelity.

More Demacopoulos:

Given the book’s thesis, an even more problematic assertion of historical causality lies in Dreher’s suggestion that St. Benedict established his monastery in order to escape a world that was collapsing both politically and morally—for Dreher, the political and the moral are always intertwined.

In this regard, it is noteworthy that Mr. Dreher seems to have ignored the famous Life of St. Benedict, which was written by St. Gregory the Great, a great ascetic teacher in his own right. From a close reading of the Life of St. Benedict, one learns not only that Benedictine communities had widespread interaction with the world outside of their monasteries but that the saint himself routinely engaged with the Roman secular elite and even with barbarian warlords who had little interest in Christianity.

Well, let’s go to the tape. From the prologue of the Life of St. Benedict [3], which I certainly did read:

There was a man of venerable life, blessed by grace, and blessed in name, for he was called “Benedictus” or Benedict. From his younger years, he always had the mind of an old man; for his age was inferior to his virtue. All vain pleasure he despised, and though he was in the world, and might freely have enjoyed such commodities as it yields, yet he esteemed it and its vanities as nothing.

He was born in the province of Nursia, of honorable parentage, and brought up at Rome in the study of humanity. As much as he saw many by reason of such learning fall to dissolute and lewd life, he drew back his foot, which he had as it were now set forth into the world, lest, entering too far in acquaintance with it, he likewise might have fallen into that dangerous and godless gulf.

Therefore, giving over his book, and forsaking his father’s house and wealth, with a resolute mind only to serve God, he sought for some place, where he might attain to the desire of his holy purpose. In this way he departed, instructed with learned ignorance, and furnished with unlearned wisdom.

He withdrew from the world precisely because he did not want to fall “into that dangerous and godless gulf.” As I say over and over in the book, the Benedictine monks could not have done so much to preserve and proclaim Christian civilization in the West if they had holed up and had no contact at all with the outside world. Never do I claim that they did that, or that we lay Christians today should do that. In fact, here’s but one example from the book of what I actually advocate:

This is not just about our own survival. If we are going to be for the world as Christ meant for us to be, we are going to have to spend more time away from the world, in deep prayer and substantial spiritual training—just as Jesus retreated to the desert to pray before ministering to the people. We cannot give the world what we do not have.

To imply that I argue for total withdrawal indicates to me an eisegetical reading of the book. To put it diplomatically.

I don’t mind critical reviews, but I do wish people would review the book I actually wrote instead of the one they believe I wrote, according to their own presuppositions. I know, I know, same song, seven-hundred-and-seventy-seventh verse…

37 Comments (Open | Close)

37 Comments To "St. Benedict vs. Dreher’s ‘St. Benedict’"

#1 Comment By Robert On July 7, 2017 @ 10:14 am

The Fordham crew’s mission is the Modernization of Orthodoxy. Of course they’re going to poo poo your book.

#2 Comment By anselm13 On July 7, 2017 @ 10:14 am

I had hoped for a more engaging and fair review from Demacopoulos. As I’ve come to have a greater sense of the lay of the land of Orthodoxy in the West since my exploration began in early 2014 up through chrismation this past December, I have enjoyed reading publicorthodoxy.org. Particularly because I was coming from the secular atheist left through liberal mainline protestantism. That said, I find these criticisms frustrating coming from those who seek what they might consider a fairer and deeper engagement with secular modernity but others might think verges on surrendering what is vital and true. Thank you for your book Rod. After my son and I heard you speak at Notre Dame last fall, he got me a “Think Eternal, Act Local” custom T-shirt based on someone’s off hand remark during your talk.

#3 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 7, 2017 @ 10:28 am

the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time.

That, at least, forms a consistent analogy, whethre valid or not. Rome did not “fall” to “invading barbarians” so much as its legions became full of barbarian generals and foot soldiers who were quite as happy to strike for the imperial purple as any others of their status and rank.

It didn’t take long for the barbarian chiefs to become Christians, taking entire tribes with them. Arians, for the most part. If Charlemagne had lost to the Visigoths and the Lombards had retained their dominant position vs. Rome, think who might be the “heretics” of history and what the “true faith.”

#4 Comment By anonymousdr On July 7, 2017 @ 10:40 am

As someone who has read your book and tried to incorporate some of its themes into my life, the response from many otherwise reasonable people has been maddening. It feels like banging my head into a wall. Thank you for writing the book and being so patient. I really have to be careful who I even talk about the book with because it gets so frustrating.

[NFR: Thank you! Just please patiently tell people that the book is not what they think it is, and that they ought to read it and make their own minds up. — RD]

#5 Comment By mrscracker On July 7, 2017 @ 10:47 am

“I don’t mind critical reviews, but I do wish people would review the book I actually wrote instead of the one they believe I wrote, according to their own presuppositions.”
*************
People don’t take the time to listen thoughtfully or read fully & carefully anymore. We’re all in a hurry. I know I’m guilty of that, too.

#6 Comment By Bookbread On July 7, 2017 @ 11:12 am

A few of us are trying to review the book that was written: [4]

#7 Comment By Sam On July 7, 2017 @ 11:20 am

Rod, as someone who read your book and was equal parts enamored and frustrated by it at certain points, I think Demacopoulos, as much as it pains me to say so, may be on to something. For instance, you write that your book is a riff off of the end of “After Virtue” and the “new and very different” St. Benedict that would have to emerge. Fair enough, yet you spend a substantial part of the book discussing the ways of the “old” St. Benedict in your interviews with the monks of Nursia and their model for preserving Western Civilization, which may lead some readers to ask: Which is it?

While it’s true that there are limits and dangers to comparing our own time with another historical period too closely, and I believe both you and MacIntyre were intentionally trying not to do so, the very nature of choosing a distinct person, such as St. Benedict, inevitably means that comparisons will be made where they shouldn’t be.

#8 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 7, 2017 @ 12:02 pm

One thing that seems to be missing from the Benedict Option is the “new St. Benedict.” I don’t think that’s a weakness, I would be wary of relying on a charismatic individual to make it all happen. But its notable that this is something for lots of people to do in their own local way, not something called into being by “the new St. Benedict.”

[NFR: I say in the book’s intro, addressing the reader, that he or she might be the new St. Benedict (by which I mean: don’t sit around waiting for somebody to save you, get busy doing it yourself, with your community). — RD]

#9 Comment By Charles Cosimano On July 7, 2017 @ 12:06 pm

Complaining that a book is not the book they would have written is something reviewers always do. It’s a feature, not a bug.

#10 Comment By Chris Jones On July 7, 2017 @ 12:16 pm

I can do no better than to refer to my earlier comment about Dr Demacopoulos’s “review” (scare quotes intentional) when it was noted on the “BenOp With The Saints” thread:

[5]

and see my back-and-forth with Narses on that thread.

As noted on that earlier thread, I agree with Robert that “The Fordham crew’s mission is the Modernization of Orthodoxy.”

#11 Comment By William Tighe On July 7, 2017 @ 1:36 pm

“If Charlemagne had lost to the Visigoths and the Lombards had retained their dominant position vs. Rome, think who might be the ‘heretics’ of history and what the ‘true faith’.”

Quite a couple of ifs, since (a) the Visigothic kingdom was destroyed by the Arab Muslims between 711 and 725, while Charlemagne, born in 742, ruled from 768 to 814, and in any case the Visigoths converted from Arianism to Catholicism in 589; and (b) the Lombards, so far as I can make out, were divided into Arian, Catholic, and pagan factions from the time of their incursion into Italy in 568, with Catholic kings and Arian kings seizing and losing the throne from ca. 600 onwards, with the final triumph of Catholicism occurring in the 690s, considerably before Charlemagne’s time. Moreover, while the Lombards had a number of militarily very able kings, their kingdom was divided into increasingly autonomous duchies, that of Benevento in southern Italy, later itself fragmented, lasting down to the 1070s.

#12 Comment By William Tighe On July 7, 2017 @ 1:38 pm

George Demacopoulos, by the way, has written some strange stuff insinuating that homosexual practice or “marriage” might be acceptable in an Orthodox Christian context.

#13 Comment By Greg On July 7, 2017 @ 1:47 pm

‘There’s an entire chapter on a contemporary monastery of traditionalist Benedictines, who talked to me about how some of the core aspects of the Benedictine monastic life can be adapted to help lay Christians live in the contemporary world.’

This ^ was what I experienced after becoming Catholic (as well as a Benedictine Oblate, more recently).

And it wasn’t just the Benedictines, but the whole Catholic Church.

Three decades ago, I walked, somewhat unwittingly, smack into the BenOp.

#14 Comment By Alan F On July 7, 2017 @ 2:54 pm

Robert beat me to the punch with his comment.

The Fordham Crowd are the trojan horse of The Orthdox Church.

#15 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 7, 2017 @ 3:54 pm

Complaining that a book is not the book they would have written is something reviewers always do. It’s a feature, not a bug.

Ah yes. Like movie scripts that tell the story the way the script writer thinks it should have been told, rather than the way the author of the book wrote it. Or even, the way it really happened in history.

#16 Comment By bayesian On July 7, 2017 @ 4:30 pm

Siarlys, I think you meant Clovis (champion of Nicene Christianity and victor over the Visigoths at Vouille in 507 while [probably] still a pagan [the sources are inconsistent on the sequencing of CLovis’ baptism]), not Charlemagne, who was not born until rather long after the Muslims had finished off the Visigoths (who left Arianism for Nicene Christianity in the late 6th C anyway).

#17 Comment By Dale McNamee On July 7, 2017 @ 4:46 pm

Rod,
I guess that it’s too hard for the “critics” to actually read your book like I did and think about your thesis…So, they read someone else’s review instead…

#18 Comment By Priest Raphael On July 7, 2017 @ 4:56 pm

Is the art of careful reading really such a rarity these days?

#19 Comment By Dhoff On July 7, 2017 @ 5:28 pm

Look! Your book is on a few people’s list!
[6]

#20 Comment By JonF On July 7, 2017 @ 7:08 pm

Re: Quite a couple of ifs

I’m going to chime in on this and point out that the Germanic invaders were only a small fraction of the total population of the lands they ruled. Even in England genetic studies set a limit on the Anglo-Saxon invaders at about 10% of the population. The continental Arians were moreover very tolerant of Catholic Christianity, and some like Theodoric and his remarkable daughter Amalasuntha were on excellent terms with the Catholic bishops in their lands. Also, Byzantium was not exactly a far away land and the “Barbarians” were well aware that the Emperor was eager for any pretext to take back the western lands.

#21 Comment By bayesian On July 7, 2017 @ 7:55 pm

@JonF

“were well aware that the Emperor was eager for any pretext to take back the western lands.”

As a hypothetical Arian ruler over a majority Romanized [Nicene] population during the period when there were such (roughly 455 [Gaiseric] to ~589 [from memory, that’s the best guess for when Recared II converted]), I would assume that any Emperor would not lack for pretexts no matter how nicely I treated the populace – more a matter of ways than wills. According to my dimming memory, it was only in Visigothic Spain that dislike for the Arian heresy played that significant a role in local support for the Byzantines (the Hasdingi Vandal kingdom was already pretty fragile, and as to Italy, well, you already made reference to Amalsuntha).

On the other hand, again as that hypothetical Arian ruler, if I had a border with the Franks then I could and should assume that my [Catholic] bishops would make common case with them at any opportunity, which I recall happened repeatedly in the Frankish expansion against the Alamanni, Burgunds, etc.

I love how many people (e.g. you and William Tighe) here are experts in late Antiquity. Any general reading recommendations more recent than Peter Brown? Has anybody read the second edition of Averil Cameron?

#22 Comment By First Deacon On July 7, 2017 @ 8:46 pm

Lets hope your book has much more influence than anything coming out of Fordham.

Dr Demacopoulos seems to be far more worried about ‘fundamentalism’ in the Orthodox church than anything else (he apparently means something far broader than calendar disputes), so probably sees your work as supporting everything he believes is wrong with Orthodoxy. So you must be opposed.

#23 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 7, 2017 @ 9:28 pm

bayesian, you are undoubtedly correct that it was Clovis who took advantage of the Visigoth’s Arianism to smash them. I believe it was Charlemagne who came to the defense of the Pope against the Lombards. Yes, what remained of the Visigothic kingdom on the south side of the Pyrenees converted to Athanasianism, persecuted Jews as potential allies of the Muslims, which, given the persecution they experienced, Jews were indeed when the opportunity arose.

As for the fragmentation of the Lombards, that was well after Charlemagne’s time. Rome didn’t have that long to wait.

#24 Comment By Brian in Baltimore On July 7, 2017 @ 10:46 pm

Rod, consider a critique from George D and the Public Orthodoxy site an indication that your’re thinking and writing in the right direction.

#25 Comment By William Tighe On July 7, 2017 @ 10:46 pm

If Siarlys meant Clovis rather than Charlemagne, he can make a better case – but whether the Franks would have persisted in Arianism after the unnecessarily-prolonged Justinianic conquest of Ostrogothic Italy, any more than did the Visigoths, is hard to say.

bayesian, there is, of course, Robin Lane Fox’s wonderful, and wonderfully readable, *Pagans and Christians* (1987).

#26 Comment By Chris Jones On July 7, 2017 @ 11:40 pm

@bayesian

I don’t know about JonF’s expertise, but my friend Bill Tighe actually is a historian by profession. His period of specialization is early modern England, but he is certainly well-versed in late antiquity as well.

I learned long ago not to cross swords with Bill on a point of history.

#27 Comment By William Tighe On July 8, 2017 @ 9:01 am

“As for the fragmentation of the Lombards, that was well after Charlemagne’s time. Rome didn’t have that long to wait.”

The fragmentation of the Lombard duchies of southern Italy did begin “long after Charlemagne’s time,” in the late Ninth Century, resulting in three duchies, occasionally but temporarily reunited, Benevento, Salerno, and Capua; the fragmentation of the Lombard kingdom, however, began as early as the late Sixth Century, precisely with the Duchy of Benevento, and although a few Lombard kings were able to slap down its overassertive dukes, and until the destruction of the Lombard Kingdom in 774 the duchy remained dependent upon the kingdom (indeed, after Charlemagne destroyed that kingdom the Duke of Benevento declared himself King of the Lombards, until Charlemagne, in turn, slapped him down).

I posted a reply to baysesian last night, but it appears to have gotten lost in cyberspace. I recommended Robin Lane Fox’s wonderful (and big) book, *Pagans and Christians* (1987). Judith Herrin’s book from the 1990s is pretty good as well. I haven’t read Averil Cameron in either edition, I’m afraid.

#28 Comment By William Tighe On July 8, 2017 @ 9:42 am

Oh, and also on last night’s lost attempted comment, if Siarlys Jenkins meant Clovis rather than Charlemagne, he has a point. On the other hand – and I’m simply thinking aloud here – while there was an institutionalized tradition of homoian Arianism among the Goths, both Visi- and Ostro-, dating back to the 360s or 350s (when Gothic kings still persecuted Arian Christian Goths), there was no such tradition among other Germanic tribes. The Vandals may have got their Arianism from the Goths in ca. 400, as likewise the Burgundians and the Gepids (if, indeed, the Gepids did embrace Christianity, which is uncertain). When the Lombards came to Italy in 568 they appear to have been mostly pagan, and their later Arian faction – there was a strong orthodox faction by the 590s as well – may have been picked up from remnant Ostrogoths in northern Italy – we know that there were such – or from the Gepids (if the latter were Christian), whom the Lombards defeated/annihilated/assimilated in 552.

My point is, the Franks under Clovis appear to have been as thoroughly pagan as were the Anglo-Saxons in Brittania a century later. They were always on hostile terms with their neighbors to the southeast, the Burgundians, and once they defeated Syagrius in 486 or 87, with the Visigoths as well – so why even consider embracing an Arianism which would have been almost as foreign to them as Nicene orthodoxy?; and it does appear that once they did embrace Nicene orthodoxy, they pressured/coerced the Burgundian kings to abandon Arianism even before they destroyed the Burgundian kingdom in 532.

#29 Comment By JonF On July 8, 2017 @ 10:24 am

Re: Orthodox fundamentalism: I do believe we need to wary of importing wholesale into Orthodoxy attitudes from Western confessions, notably Biblical literalism and a preoccupation with the political tempests du jour that some Protestant bodies (on both the Left and Right) seem to obsess over. And yes, also that should include wariness about notions Catholic converts like myself and Rod may unconsciously bring in the church door with us. I want the Orthodox Church to remain Orthodox, and not become the Baptist Orthodox Church, nor Rome To The East.

FYI, this site (not just Rod’s but the whole of TAC) has gone back to its wicked ways with regard to auto-streaming video ads bringing things to a screeching halt. Let those accursed things be anathema, and cast into the outer darkness, where failed business concerns wail and gnash their teeth and plead for annulment of debt before Chapter Seven judges and smirking lawyers.

[NFR: I’m sorry about that. I’m passing the information on to the Mothership. — RD]

#30 Comment By Donald Bryant On July 8, 2017 @ 11:41 am

Your thoughtful responses, Rod, show ur listening. This shows that ur not selling or selling out but thoughtfully developing a model that can endure.

#31 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 8, 2017 @ 4:26 pm

For the record, I don’t know that the Franks ever dabbled in Arianism, but the Visigoths did, and the Franks made use of the Visigoths’ Athanasianism to delineate themselves and provide rationales for warfare that probably would have happened anyway. Sort of like the Irish used their Catholicism and the British their Protestantism to fuel the long conflict, even though the original English invasion of Ireland was approved by the Pope, before there were Protestants. As for the Lombards, some body of Lombards inspired a Pope to cry for help to Charlemagne, whatever their proper claim to kingship or other titles may have been.

#32 Comment By JonF On July 8, 2017 @ 4:28 pm

Bayesian,
We don’t have to be hypothetical here. Theodoric and Amalasuntha, though both were formally Arian, were extremely friendly to both the Bishop of Rome and the Byzantine emperor. With the latter they had treaties of alliance. Theodoric was a very strong ruler and got away with considerable Romanizing. His well-educated daughter had masculine prejudice against her, and she was forced to marry a Gothic anti-Romanizer in an attempt to keep her throne– only her husband deposed and murdered her as soon as he could. It was this act which gave Justinian the pretext for his Italian War, which along with famine and plague rang down the curtain on Roman civilization in Italy.

My larger point is that the Germanic invaders formed a thin ruling elite over a much larger Roman population, and necessarily accommodated them in many ways, including religiously in order to bolster their rule.

#33 Comment By First Deacon On July 8, 2017 @ 8:40 pm

“I want the Orthodox Church to remain Orthodox, and not become the Baptist Orthodox Church, nor Rome To The East”

You should be equally wary of the desire of some academics to transform the Orthodox church into something like the Episcopal church with a Greek or Russian accent.

#34 Comment By bayesian On July 9, 2017 @ 3:17 am

JonF –

I don’t think I disagree that much with anything you said.

And yes, I do know the basic history of 6th C Italy (although most of the finer points are now lost to me, plus I haven’t kept up on the recent scholarship), including the fact that Amalasuntha actually did not marry Theodahad (who was already married), although she did make him co-ruler (after Athalaric died, I believe) in a failed effort to conciliate the anti-Roman majority (?) among the (Ostro-)Gothic aristocracy. As you allude to, she apparently really wanted to be a Roman (as much as any Amaling could be one at the time).

I do think, and suspect that you would agree, that Theodoric’s regime was probably the last chance for a soft landing for the late Roman civilization in the West, but how sustainable that regime was in the absence of the unique combination of Theoderic’s skills, some remaining civil society (e.g. Boethius and Cassiodorus), and the fact that Constantinople had other more pressing problems. I don’t know if it could have held together.

I think the main original point in your first comment that I was reacting to what I took as the implication that the Emperor (Justinian I in particular) would somehow not find pretexts to attempt conquests of a barbarian-ruled country in the event that the ruling caste were nominally Orthodox rather than nominally Arian. Heretic rulers did obviously play very much in the correlation of forces, so they would be the first targets.

I guess the other part is that I find it grating how many, err, dispensations the early Franks got simply for having a thin veneer of Orthodoxy rather than a thin veneer of Arianism. I get it from the perspective of Realpolitik and also avoiding the costs of schism/heresy, plus when the early Merovings could stop killing each other they had the most effective military force west of the Empire, so they made sense as favored allies to Constantinople.

#35 Comment By St Louisan On July 9, 2017 @ 7:17 pm

“One thing that seems to be missing from the Benedict Option is the “new St. Benedict.” I don’t think that’s a weakness, I would be wary of relying on a charismatic individual to make it all happen. But its notable that this is something for lots of people to do in their own local way, not something called into being by “’the new St. Benedict.’”

St Benedict is a fitting symbol of what’s needed now in part because of the nature of the Benedictine order: it’s completely decentralized, with each abbey operating independently and nobody exercising any direction over the whole. Just myriad points of light scattered about. Like the classic “BenOp” communities in the US: the Hyattsville, MD St Jerome classical school, the Clear Creek people, the various small Catholic colleges, etc.

#36 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 10, 2017 @ 12:49 pm

St Benedict is a fitting symbol of what’s needed now in part because of the nature of the Benedictine order: it’s completely decentralized, with each abbey operating independently and nobody exercising any direction over the whole.

That would be the Benedictine Option, not the Benedict Option.

#37 Comment By JonF On July 10, 2017 @ 1:40 pm

Re: I do think, and suspect that you would agree, that Theodoric’s regime was probably the last chance for a soft landing for the late Roman civilization in the West, but how sustainable that regime was in the absence of the unique combination of Theoderic’s skills, some remaining civil society (e.g. Boethius and Cassiodorus), and the fact that Constantinople had other more pressing problems.

The most salient specific question is, What would have happened after Amalasuntha’s reign, if she had managed to hang on to the throne? She was forty-ish when she was murdered; her only child had already died. Perhaps she would have been an ally of Justinian’s in his imperial ambitions elsewhere in the west (i.e., Africa and Spain), but unless she found a younger and quite capable Goth of like mind to marry and arrange to succeed her, once she shuffled off this coil Italy would have been up for grabs, and Justinian would have had his chance regardless.

Of course what really doomed everyone’s best laid plans was the brute fact of demographic collapse, which rendered Justinian’s conquests more nominal than real, because Byzantium lacked the man power to hold them, indeed could not even defend the line of the Danube. And likewise further west where any possible renaissance of classical civilization among the Franks or (less probably) among Romanized Visigoths landed in the plague pits with a hundred million other corpses.