Could any medieval European state have rejected the legacy of Rome?

I would argue this is impossible for any Christian state. Given how intertwined Rome is with Christianity and European society as a whole
 
You are right. But it was not only the Catholic Church. Entire Western Europe saw things like that.
However, that kind of symbolic political position can easily change. After all, the Catholic Church still exists now and the current pope does not claim the Roman Empire still exists.


If you want to reject Rome's legacy to the point of not using Latin scripts anymore, you need to transform much more than simply the Catholic Church.
Germans didn't use the Latin script before Christianization and Goths used their own liturgy for a while dsspite being a small minority.
I see absolutely no reason to believe the ascendancy of Latin and its script were a foregone conclusion outside of Romance speaking region.
 
The Romans killed Christ. It's not hard to see some Protestant sect breaking from Rome away using that ideology.
 
If they hadn't built their fiefs on the carcass of the western empire? Maybe. But I don't see any real way they could have escaped Rome's shadow earlier.
 
New/weak states emerging in/near the cultural space of decayed states frequently associate themselves with the former civilization as a means of legitimacy.
Using that logic all of Europe would have been Mesopotamian, Hittite or Egyptian influenced indefinitely or would have cared about those places ideologically but that is clearly not the case.
If they hadn't built their fiefs on the carcass of the western empire? Maybe. But I don't see any real way they could have escaped Rome's shadow earlier.
Anglo-Saxon Britain hardly had that much continuity with what happened before, at the very least nominally.
Also just because you are influenced by Rome doesn't mean you actively carry out its legacy or archon back to its motifs and features. There was already a dissociation between West and East caused by mere political conflicts, you can easily find examples of people both in Italy and Byzantium effectively "forgetting" or rejecting various parts of Roman history or identity.
In fact it's less about "escaping" and more about not having people actively reviving and consciously arching back to Roman times like Renaissance era people and Neo-classicists did.
 
Last edited:
I think the best example of a state that did reject the Roman legacy is the Caliphate, which despite absorbing huge swathes of former Roman territories mostly overwrote the previous imperial legacy. So with that in mind if you were to take a people from outside the former Roman territory, and gift them with an independent script and religion, then unify them and send their armies off on waves of conquest you could probably get a similar result. The Norse, Germans, Baltics or Goths could all be prime candidates for this scenario.
 
Using that logic all of Europe would have been Mesopotamian, Hittite or Egyptian influenced indefinitely or would have cared about those places ideologically but that is clearly not the case.

Anglo-Saxon Britain hardly had that much continuity with what happened before, at the very least nominally.
Also just because you are influenced by Rome doesn't mean you actively carry out its legacy or archon back to its motifs and features. There was already a dissociation between West and East caused by mere political conflicts, you can easily find examples of people both in Italy and Byzantium effectively "forgetting" or rejecting various parts of Roman history or identity.
In fact it's less about "escaping" and more about not having people actively reviving and consciously arching back to Roman times like Renaissance era people and Neo-classicists did.
Because the Manchus didn't adopt hieroglyphics and worship cats, it would be inaccurate to say that they built their legitimacy on the emulation of a preexisting civilization?
 
The Romans killed Christ. It's not hard to see some Protestant sect breaking from Rome away using that ideology.
Some of the early Protestant sectaries were quite hostile to anything "Romish", with iconoclasm, discouraging the use of the "Devil's tongue" Latin, etc...
 
The Romans killed Christ. It's not hard to see some Protestant sect breaking from Rome away using that ideology.
While still using Roman letters, grammar, punctuation, a religion that came from the Roman Empire even if reformed, and political institutions either already existing or inspired by republican Rome....
 
My major nitpick is: to reject is much harder than to never adopt. Both for the nations themselves, and the general consensus of the elites.
By the year 500, there was a strong identification of Rome with universal supremacy (which was itself strongly tied with Christianity); the ones who less bought in, like Islam and its Caliphate, simply never adopted the legacy in the first place and instead founded a model of their own, only adopting select elements via cultural osmosis. It could however be argued they ended up claiming and incorporating the Iranian legacy to some extent instead. I also agree that France generally was the least obsessed with Roman legacy, but they still fit in the heavily Roman-ispired romance culture, down to language and religion.

Thus, you either need something that breaks down the old Latin culture more dramatically (centering groups more on their own legacy than on reclaiming less-desirable Roman glory) or, failing that, have a strong group develop a very strong national identity and system before conquering one or more European places, entering the system without needing or having the cultural and political incentives most OTL players had.
 
Last edited:
Didn't the Kingdom of Hungary for most of their history celebrate their claimed "hunnic ancestry"?
But had Latin as an official language from the 11th century all the way until 1844.
The Romans killed Christ. It's not hard to see some Protestant sect breaking from Rome away using that ideology.
Not from a medieval POV, from which it was the evil Jews (tm), who were out for Jesus' blood ("His blood be on us and our children.") and forced poor old, reluctant to execute Jesus, Pilate's hand.
 
Because the Manchus didn't adopt hieroglyphics and worship cats, it would be inaccurate to say that they built their legitimacy on the emulation of a preexisting civilization?
There is a difference between being inspired what came before and consciously copying its architecture, using its language and trying to identify yourself with them after a millennium.
The idea that the latter is natural or the most likely consequence regardless of context is IMO false.

Ultimately history offers example of weaker forms of inspiration and emulation, "rejecting the legacy of X" shouldn't be equated to becoming a sort of technological, cultural and economic autarkic civilization that rejects everything from said X civilization.
My major nitpick is: to reject is much harder than to never adopt. Both for the nations themselves, and the general consensus of the elites.
By the year 500, there was a strong identification of Rome with universal supremacy (which was itself strongly tied with Christianity); the ones who less bought in, like Islam and its Caliphate, simply never adopted the legacy in the first place and instead founded a model of their own, only adopting select elements via cultural osmosis. It could however be argued they ended up claiming and incorporating the Iranian legacy to some extent instead. I also agree that France generally was the least obsessed with Roman legacy, but they still fit in the heavily Roman-ispired romance culture, down to language and religion.

Thus, you either need something that breaks down the old Latin culture more dramatically (centering groups more on their own legacy than on reclaiming less-desirable Roman glory) or, failing that, have a strong group develop a very strong national identity and system before conquering one or more European places, entering the system without having the cultural and political incentives most OTL players had.
By around 800 CE despite Charlemagne the concept of "Rome" was very nuanced, from "Introduction: Early medieval Romanness - a multiple identity":
Thus, eventually, many forms of Roman representation in the West were detached from a sense of Roman identity, as far as we can see. This means that they became available for reappropriation, a process that has gone on until the present. As Stefan Esders puts it, ‘the process by which Roman law in many areas lost its importance as an identity marker could also give way to it being more freely used and adapted as a legal resource’.²⁰⁰ Romanness remained only in a vague sense as a general frame of reference that might allow social groups, individuals or cultural contents to be reconnected to the prestigious notion of Rome. Ideological references to that ancient source of magnetism mattered until modernity in European history.²⁰¹ By 800, when a new Roman emperor was crowned in Rome, self-identification as Romans had become marginal in most areas of Western Europe, and most of these ‘Romans’ had a lower social status. Living Romans, in Rome and elsewhere, had a rather dubious reputation. Hate or despisal of Romans is recorded more frequently in the Carolingian period. Stulti sunt Romani, sapienti sunt Paioarii is what an early ninth-century gloss records in both Latin and Old High German.²⁰² Saint Goar, according to his Life written in 839 at Prüm, had to deal with people who hated omnes Romane nationis et linguae homines.²⁰³ As Liudprand of Cremona put it in the tenth century: ‘We regard “Roman!” as one of the worst insults.’²⁰⁴ In such cases, Roman identities could still become quite conspicuous, though controversial.

At the same time, Romanness remained a political and cultural model, and a source of unfailing prestige. The name ‘Rome’ could be attached to the second and third Rome, Constantinople and Moscow, to the Scandinavian Romvarar or to the Rum Seljuks, and European cities and aristocratic families were proud of their often imagined Roman origins. The Roman past continued to generate Roman identifications and appropriations, because they were no longer linked to a consistent Roman identity. This paradox can tell us a lot about how identities work.
So there is something to work with, I'd argue a strong religious separation from the papacy and Constantinople, the abandonment or rejection of Latin among non-Romance speakers(and maybe even marginal Romance speakers) and having some kind of hostile group of people that is connected to Rome(be they Byzantines, or even Catholic elites in a world where non-Catholics are in power) would steer many people away from them.

Plus honestly just not having Charlemagne(set the trend of claiming connection to Rome) is going a long way, if he didn't then the subsequent states would try to emulate him directly. I guess on that note having a strong Arian Gothic state survive for a sizeable amount of time while being strongly hostile to Rome(maybe after a failed Italian invasion?) could help making this happen even earlier.
 
Last edited:
While still using Roman letters, grammar, punctuation, a religion that came from the Roman Empire even if reformed, and political institutions either already existing or inspired by republican Rome....
Most political institutions from the early modern period were largely directly descendant from medieval ones with hardly any connection to Classical Rome, claiming descent or claiming inspiration from Republican's Rome is hardly much above the level of Poles trying to connect themselves and their early modern institutions to Sarmatians.
 
The Romans killed Christ. It's not hard to see some Protestant sect breaking from Rome away using that ideology.
But the Christian theological perspective is that this death (and subsequent resurrection) was essential to happen, hence the name "Good Friday".

A church would have to develop a very different perspective of the Crucifixion to fully reject Roman heritage. The Protestant perspective in general is not that the Roman church was bad from the start, but that it lost its way over the centuries.
 
Most political institutions from the early modern period were largely directly descendant from medieval ones with hardly any connection to Classical Rome, claiming descent or claiming inspiration from Republican's Rome is hardly much above the level of Poles trying to connect themselves and their early modern institutions to Sarmatians.
If you're admitting that societies evolve from what came before, then you're accepting that you have no argument with respect to a medieval European society outright rejecting Roman legacy.
 
If you're admitting that societies evolve from what came before, then you're accepting that you have no argument with respect to a medieval European society outright rejecting Roman legacy.
Like I said before there is a difference and the way you are defining terms is frankly completely useless to the discussion at hand.
Using that logic adopting the lightbulb in the late 19th century meant "embracing the legacy of the United states" or adopting Arabic numerals meant "embracing the legacy of Muslims/Arabs/Indians". The comparison can be extend to cultural osmosis happening between clearly separate societies and communities.

In reality to actually embrace someone's legacy you have to consciously do it, being inspired by others while clearly separating yourself from them is different.
 
Last edited:
The only way to have that happen is paganism and ties to anti Roman Germanic ancestry. I don’t see what else can offer an alternative.
 
I think the best example of a state that did reject the Roman legacy is the Caliphate, which despite absorbing huge swathes of former Roman territories mostly overwrote the previous imperial legacy. So with that in mind if you were to take a people from outside the former Roman territory, and gift them with an independent script and religion, then unify them and send their armies off on waves of conquest you could probably get a similar result. The Norse, Germans, Baltics or Goths could all be prime candidates for this scenario.
Huns could probably do it then. Attila built himself an incredible legend in the years after his death and his empire united a sizable portion of the Germanic peoples. They had their own script (either Runic or Gothic work here) and if his empire survives as a powerful entity stretching over much of the Danube and Rhine basins then you have an alternative to the Roman legacy.

If you need a different religion, you'd probably need something emerging from Germanic paganism.
 
Top