Podcast episode

Episode 172: ‘And When Rome Falls, Falls the World’: The Fall of Rome and Western Esotericism

In this episode we have created a bookend to Episode 64 where we introduced Rome as a concept in the western mind. Now we look at the concept of ‘the fall of Rome’, perhaps the most powerful memetic echo of the eternal city in that mind. Narratives of decline and fall and of the inevitable collapse of empires interact with narratives of political order, human and divine relations, sacred history, and the ‘myth of progress’. Meanwhile, history on the ground tells us a quite different story about what happened in the year 410 when Alaric and his Visigoths sacked the eternal city than any of these myths would indicate. Come for the somewhat dry historical exposition, stay for the unhinged sacred-historical speculations about decline and fall, esoteric imperium, and eternal empire which echo out from the dusty debris left behind by the Visigoths.

Works Cited in this Episode:


Ammianus Marcellinus on the Huns: Res gestæ XXXI.

Augustine on his motives for writing On the City of God: Ep. 135-138; cf. Retractiones LXIX. Alaric’s selective clemency: De civ. I.1; cf. Orosius 7.29, Jerome Ep. 27.13. It was all through the power of Jesus’ name: De civ. I.7.

Eunapius, Lives 475 Wright (see Wilmer Cave Wright. Philostratus and Eunapius: The Lives of the Sophists. William Heinemann/Putnam, London/New York, NY, 1922.).

Virgil on Agesilaus’ clemency to those who took sanctuary in the shrines after the battle of Coronea: Æneid 2.502.


Joseph A. Tainter. The Collapse of Complex Societies. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1990., we cite p. 4.

Recommended Reading:

Jonathan Theodore. The Modern Cultural Myth of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Palgrave Macmillan, Manchester, 2016.


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