The Pirenne Argument Analysis

The Pirenne thesis states that sea trade was crucial to the survival of the Roman empire, and the increase of Muslim invasions in the seventh and eighth centuries severed the unity of trade between the Western countries in the Mediterranean. This led to a steady decline of the Roman empire as it was unable to sustain itself through trade. There are differing opinions between modern historians as to the accuracy of the Pirenne thesis, with most historians arguing it is no longer a valid explanation for the demise of the Mediterranean trade route. Instead, historians choose to include other factors such as the rise of Vandals in Tunisia and Africa, and the loss of land from the empire due to the Barbarians.

The Pirenne thesis was first introduced
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Rome was dependent on Africa for grain and the Vandals conquering the region meant the food supply was not guaranteed. Chris Wickham argues that the Vandal invasions are the key moment in the decline of the Western empire, largely because it was so unexpected. 8 After capturing North Africa in 439 the Romans were now aware that the Vandals posed a significant threat to the survival of their empire, however they took no action against them. This led to the Vandals conquering the Sicilian coast, the alternative grain suppliers in the Mediterranean, Wickham argues that without this grain supply, Rome was steadily declining. 9 However, he believes that, on the contrary to the Pirenne thesis, that trading of other goods remained strong. Wickham uses the example of African Red Slip, which was still found all along for western Mediterranean by archaeologists, and never lost it’s dominance to the creation of cheaper, locally-made tableware. 10 The continuation of the trade of African Red Slip over a large area indicates that production and transportation of the item must be affordable. Wickham’s theory is more likely to be correct and accepted over Pirenne’s thesis. It accounts for the declining state of Rome because of the lack of easily accessible grain, but it also explains why …show more content…
14 These invaders were familiar with the social, political and legal institutions of the Roman empire, they had often relied upon trading their agricultural products with the empire and mostly wanted protection from outside threats. 15 The Romans in the West were therefore familiar with the Barbarians and did not see them as much of a threat, however as the period went on more Germanic invaders entered the empire, with three tribes in particular, the Vandals, Sueves and Alans, acquiring more power and land from the empire. 16 Instead of trying to keep the Barbarian forces out, the Romans came to an agreement where in exchange for the right to settle in the empire and a portion of Roman tax revenues, the Barbarians would stop their attacks and instead concentrate on protecting the Roman power. 17 Because of this, it has now been argued that Rome fell only because it “voluntarily delegated away its own power, not because it had been successfully invaded”. 18 Combined with the other problems the Roman empire was facing mentioned in this essay, the seemingly familiar Germanic settlers reduced the size and strength of the empire by being invited into their lands: what the Romans thought would reduce their problems only made them worse. Modern day

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