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What If the Roman Empire Never Fell? | Unveiled

VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio
What if we still lived like the Romans did? Join us... and find out!

Around 2,000 years ago, the Roman Empire stretched all across the world map, and so much of modern society can be traced back to Roman times... but, eventually, it all came to an end. In this video, however, we're imagining what life would be like now if Rome had NEVER fallen... if it had continued to this day... and it's an alternate reality like no other!
Transcript

What if the Roman Empire Never Fell?


For thousands of years, Rome has been an influential city on the world stage - from the power of the Roman Kingdom all the way through to its modern position as the seat of the Catholic Church. Few places have remained so powerful for so long. But what if the continent-spanning Roman Empire still existed today?

This is Unveiled, and today we’re answering the extraordinary question; what if the Roman Empire never fell?

Following various crises in the ancient world involving Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, and Egypt’s Cleopatra VII, the Roman Republic was in such a state of disarray that it was down to Augustus, the First Emperor, to make Rome stable again. This happened in the year 27 BC and though Rome’s influence had been considerable already, it began to stretch out across parts of Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia at considerable speed, reaching its biggest in the year 117 AD. Rome’s huge military, power, and wealth allowed it to continually expand and seize more and more territories – but it was this drive for expansion that ultimately ended Rome’s dominion over Eurasia. It was plagued by crises from the third century onward and ultimately got far too big to be effectively managed; slowly but surely, hostile armies began chipping away at Rome’s influence. The date commonly given as the end of the Western Roman Empire is the year 476, when Ravenna – which was actually the Empire’s capital at the time, rather than Rome itself – fell to a coalition of Germanic armies. The last Emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed and sent into exile. By 480 it was all over.

But 480 certainly wasn’t the end of the Roman Empire, as any historian will tell you. It was only the west that collapsed; in the previous century the Empire had been split into two administrative regions, the Western and Eastern Roman Empires, and the heart of the Eastern Empire was Constantinople, previously named Byzantium. The Byzantines, as they’re known today, would control a huge part of the world for the next millennium, until falling to the Ottoman Empire in the late 15th century when the walls of Constantinople – modern day Istanbul – were finally breached. At its height in the 6th century, the Byzantine Empire had a similar sphere of influence to its predecessor; the Byzantines controlled parts of Africa, Greece, and Turkey, as well as stretching into parts of the Middle East. They were generally the Christian arm of the Roman Empire after Constantine the Great converted to Christianity in the 4th century.

It’s often been claimed that after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the entirety of the western world was plunged into darkness, losing the advances that the Romans brought to the world - from the way their society was ordered to numerous inventions. The subsequent period in human history is called the “Dark Ages” – but actually, the Dark Ages weren’t all that dark. In fact, the Dark Ages are so-named simply because many of the records and literature of the time haven’t survived; it’s us who are in the dark, not the people living in the Dark Ages. It was much later historians who claimed that the fall of Rome caused a societal regression. In actuality, Europe wasn’t left with a power vacuum for long; not only did the Byzantines continue going, but various “barbarian” empires began to rise as well – including the Franks. And then, in the 7th century, Arabia was unified, and the Islamic conquests began. By the eleventh century, there were many European kingdoms, and they began to expand as well and embarked upon the Crusades to the Holy Land.

Various empires continued to rise and fall in Europe up until the twentieth century, with one nation always ready and willing to start expanding and absorbing territories. The Ottoman Empire that captured Byzantium continued all the way up until 1922, along with many other powerful European empires that ended in the same century – including the Russian, French, and British Empires. The latter was – just like Rome – the most powerful empire in the world at one point. But could a pan-European Roman Empire that continued for the next 1500 years have averted many of the wars Europe started in more modern history? Possibly.

The deadliest conflict in human history was World War II, and it was directly caused by the First World War, with the countries involved forging similar alliances all over again. World War I had many complex causes, but the reason it became a “world war”, despite revolving around internal conflicts in Europe, was because of Europe’s large empires and colonies that were drafted in to fight against Germany. The same is true of World War II; in fact, many of the former British colonies that fought in World War II did so on the agreement that after the war ended, they’d finally be granted independence. And this is largely what happened, with the breakup of the empires post-World War II leading to the end of colonialism in this form.

But if Rome had been able to keep control of Europe, it’s possible not only that both world wars would have been avoided, but that many other conflicts involving various European nations would have, too. This includes wars like the Hundred Years' War in the Late Middle Ages between the kingdoms of England and France, and the Crimean War in the 19th century between the Ottoman Empire and Russia. In fact, with a Roman autocracy controlling Europe, it’s doubtful that Europe’s monarchies would have been able to form in the first place. This includes the British monarchy as there was no king of all England until as late as the tenth century, and no unification between England and Scotland until James I ascended to the English throne as well in 1603. It’s a similar story in France, with Philip II being the first “King of France” in the late 12th century. If this hadn’t happened, there would have been no French Revolution, a decade-long event that brought forward political ideas and beliefs perhaps as influential as those of Ancient Rome. And if Rome had expanded northwards far enough, it could have taken over western Russia – this means not only that the Russian monarchy and the Tsar also may not have been founded, but that there would have been no Russian Revolution to create the Soviet Union – and therefore no Cold War with the United States.

And would the United States exist at all? Such a powerful Rome would undoubtedly have attempted to cross the Atlantic at some point, but would it have taken over the New World like the Spanish conquistadors and English Puritans? It’s not just Christianity that a world-spanning Roman Empire would have affected; the Fall of Rome pre-dated the foundation of Islam by two centuries. If Rome spread even further into Africa and the Middle East, it could have hindered the birth of Islam – today the second largest religion on Earth. Since the Islamic Golden Age gave us all kinds of incredible inventions like algebra, the windmill, and even the basis of modern chemistry, perhaps a more powerful Rome would have led to a true Dark Age in the early Medieval period. At the very least, Islam would look completely different and could be less influential.

Of course, despite all that could be lost, there may have also been some benefits.The Romans did bring lots of advancements to the parts of the world they conquered, particularly by building infrastructure like roads and aqueducts.

The reality, however, is that even if Rome hadn’t fallen when Ravenna was seized by Germanic mercenaries, it would have eventually. As powerful as the world’s many empires have grown, they’ve all ended at some point or another - whether that’s from collapsing under their own weight like Rome, or being conquered by another, more powerful empire like Byzantium. So, it’s highly unlikely that the Roman Empire would have been able to exist for two thousand years. If nothing else, a stronger Rome leading to even stronger trade links along the Silk Road could have meant that the Plague – when it swept the world in the 14th century – could have killed even more people, possibly destroying Rome without the need for any rival power.

The collapse of the Western Roman Empire came after centuries of political turmoil and decline, but Rome’s influence has never wavered for long and continues today regardless. But that’s what would happen if the Roman Empire never fell.
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