Roman Frontier Systems – Conclusion

We have seen that there was no overall defensive strategy applied to the Roman frontiers, which were either beefed-up or neglected as the political situation dictated. Gaps in the system were “plugged”, often after the event, the Roman administration being reactive rather than pro-active in this regard. Derek Williams says of the situation: “frontiers had been quietly forming for years … though prompted by a nod from the Palatine, the frontiers were moving toward permanence of their own accord” (Williams, pp.54/5).

The fact that the borders of the empire had been allowed to form almost by default shows that the Romans did not plan to adopt the less-effective ‘oyster’ system of defence along a perimeter over the cost effective and more flexible ‘peach’ system. This haphazard defensive system was to prove very expensive in August 410, when the Roman ‘oyster’ was cracked open by the Visigoths who poured into Italy and captured Rome, the ‘pearl of the empire’.

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