By the 5th century AD, it became clear to every Roman man or woman of letters that the Empire was gone. With it, gone were the schools, roads, economic and social networks and a great deal of cultural capital which had been familiar to those living during the period commonly known as late antiquity. Antiquity was very late indeed, and the Empire, at least in the West, was no more.
There was no vaccum, but the old certainties were gone. The old pantheon dissolved under the pressure of a new religion, of decadence, political turmoil and military violence.
Language didn’t die, even though it slowly ceased to be the language spoken at home, as every new generation increasingly lost the romanitas which has given the culture its cohesion and main points of reference.
Scholarship didn’t die, literacy didn’t die, acquired knowledge certainly didn’t disappear – but they were all transformed.
To someone accustomed to the written word, it must have felt apocalyptic. The end of an age. Though nobody, as far as we know, articulated the thought that the world, their world, was never going to be the same again.
The fall of the Roman way of life in the West, the dissolution of the Empire, the collapse of old structures had a huge impact on the world of books, on literacy and education. The rural monasteries and the urban cathedrals picked up the crumbs under the table and kept the ruins from becoming ruinous. In time, a new culture evolved, which was both different and familiar. As far as language is concerned, things stayed the same while becoming completely transformed. 500 years later, Latin was still there, but it was a half fossilized, half mutated language, one that created the space for other languages to rise while itself turning into golden dust.
After a house burns down, the area gets cleared and is quickly offered for reconstruction. The wastelands of the Roman world may not have been cleared, but they were almost immediately built over. A new world emerged that in time would remember that it was built on the ruins of another. Our mission is to preserve that memory, the layers upon layers on which our brittle stilt houses are set on.
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