Front Page Titles (by Subject) 19.: The Breakup of the Western Empire - Judgments on History and Historians
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19.: The Breakup of the Western Empire - Jacob Burckhardt, Judgments on History and Historians 
Judgments on History and Historians, ed. Alberto R. Coll (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
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The Breakup of the Western Empire
It is a general pathological fact that when a great organism comes to its end, a whole number of maladies and terrible accidents occur simultaneously or in rapid succession.
Whether accidental or not, there was the special circumstance that the Empire was represented not by strong emperors by adoption, choice, or usurpation, but by two legitimate weaklings whose leadership in decisive moments could or had to become a matter of competition, so that instead of vigorous harmony there was disharmony, created by subordinates. Added to this was the problematic nature of the army.
The bodies of troops seem to acquire individual wills of their own; Roman legions in Britain show mistrust of the central government and then revolt against it; invasion and Roman usurpation cross paths and the barbarian troops occasionally obey their own impulses more than the Empire’s authority. The crises within the army assume the aspect of unpredictable elemental events.
To be added to all this is the pressure from the outside. The great barbarian world senses all at once that the day of its power has come (Radagaisus; the Germani in Gaul, 406). It need no longer be satisfied with mercenary pay, partial colonization, and so on; the dominant will of world history passes over to it. Völkerwanderung [the migration of the peoples] in a narrower sense means that parts of the Empire fall prey to Germanic peoples; the modes of this vary greatly.
As shortcomings of tradition these are to be emphasized: we lack a circumstantial Western historian, even an exact chronology that would be capable of determining months and weeks. However, the course of events is of necessity inwardly obscure, judged by the causalities, and unavoidably burdened with false motivations. Gigantic and inevitable destinies are, after all, conceived of as the faults of individuals. With the general suffering and misery there are fancies and fictions and, especially, recriminations, and the mania for accusation grips even those who could have known the truth. And so it is that the nexus causalis [causal connection], of which we are now and then informed, either was not present at all, or had an entirely different form.
In Claudian and Zosimus there is a garrulity which forcibly presses after the most secret intrigues and intentions. But in addition it is unfortunately true that at world-decisive moments base personal intrigues did play some part. Finally we must take into consideration the all-confusing sectarian hatred of the orthodox for Stilicho. In the Eastern as well as the Western Roman Empire, every defection of a province, every barbarian irruption is regarded as instigated by the competitor.