Monastery villas of Late Antiquity
With the decline and collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the fourth and fifth centuries, the villas were more and more isolated and came to be protected by walls. In England the villas were abandoned, looted, and burned by Anglo-Saxon invaders in the fifth century. But the concept of an isolated, self-sufficient agrarian working community, housed close together, survived into Anglo-Saxon culture as the vill, with its inhabitants, if formally bound to the land, as villeins. In regions on the Continent, large working villas and overgrown abandoned ones were donated by aristocrats and territorial magnates to individual monks, becoming the nuclei of monasteries. In this way, the Italian villa system of late Antiquity was preserved into the early Medieval period, in the form of monasteries that survived the disruptions of the Gothic War (535-552) and the Lombards. Benedict of Nursia established his influential monastery of Monte Cassino in the ruins of a villa at Subiaco that had belonged to Nero. From the sixth to the eighth century, Gallo-Roman villas in the Merovingian royal fisc were repeatedly donated as sites for monasteries under royal patronage in Gaul, where Saint-Maur-des-Fosses and Fleury Abbey provide examples. In Germany a famous example is Echternach; as late as 698, Willibrord established an abbey at a Roman villa of Echternach near Trier, which was presented to him by Irmina, daughter of Dagobert II, king of the Franks. Kintzheim was Villa Regis, the "villa of the king". Around 590, Saint Eligius was born in a highly-placed Gallo-Roman family at the 'villa' of Chaptelat near Limoges, in Aquitaine (now France). The abbey at Stavelot was founded ca 650 on the domain of a former villa near Liege and the abbey of Vezelay had a similar founding. The decline of the Roman Empire refers to the historiographical debate among scholars regarding what happened to the Western Roman Empire. The "Decline" theme was introduced by one of the most influential historians, Edward Gibbon. Many theories of causality have been explored and most concern the disintegration of political, economic, military, and other social institutions, in t ndem with barbarian invasions and usurpers from within the empire. Gibbon was an English historian whose very widely read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776) made this concept well known to serious readers. Gibbon was not the first to speculate on why and when the Empire collapsed. "From the eighteenth century onward," Glen W. Bowersock has remarked, "we have been obsessed with the fall: it has been valued as an archetype for every perceived decline, and, hence, as a symbol for our own fears."  The story remains one of the greatest historical questions, and has a tradition rich in scholarly interest. In 1984, German professor Alexander Demandt collected 210 different theories on why Rome fell, and new theories have emerged since then. The decline, seen in retrospect, occurred over a period of four centuries, culminating in the final dissolution of the Western Roman Empire on September 4, 476, when Romulus Augustus, the last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire, was deposed by Odoacer, a Germanic chieftain. Some modern historians question the significance of this date. One reason was that Julius Nepos, the emperor recognized by the East Roman Empire, continued to live in Dalmatia, until he was assassinated in 480. The Ostrogoths who succeeded considered themselves upholders of the direct line of Roman traditions. (The Eastern Roman Empire was going through a different trajectory as it declined steadily after 1000 AD to 1453 with the Fall of Constantinople to the Turks.) Many events after 378 worsened the Western empire's situation. The Battle of Adrianople in 378, the death of Theodosius I in 395 (the last time the Roman Empire was politically unified), the crossing of the Rhine in 406 by Germanic tribes, the execution of Stilicho in 408, the sack of Rome in 410, the death of Constantius III in 421, the death of Aetius in 454, the second sack of Rome in 455, and the death of Majorian in 461 are emphasized by various historians. A recent school of interpretation argues that the concept of "fall" points backward, not forward, and says the great changes can more accurately be described as a complex transformation.
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