A Brief Note On Immigration

Boris Johnson, Britain's Prime Minister/lad with the best haircut, recently said the following:

“When the Roman Empire fell, it was largely as a result of uncontrolled immigration. The empire could no longer control its borders, people came in… and Europe went into a dark ages that lasted a very long time. The point is that it can happen again”
Hrm. He seems a smart guy. This totally isn't just a dog whistle for racist right-wingers worked up about swarthy foreign types. I wonder if the history holds up.

So, in the late 4th century, the Visigoths were running away from the Huns. (Don't feel like this reflects badly on them. EVERYONE ran away from the Huns. Or died.) They petitioned the Roman Emperor, Valens, to give them land to settle and protection, in return for which they would help defend Rome.

Valens at first thought this was a good idea (being the later Roman Empire, so-called "barbarians" were better fighters and more technologically advanced than Rome at this point) so agreed, and the Visigoths prepared to settle in northern Dacia (what is now Romania, in Eastern Europe). But then famine broke out (a frequent occurance) and Valens decided Rome needed Dacia's farmland for themselves, not newcomers. The Visigoths were told to go… somewhere else.

Angry at what they justifiably saw as a betrayal, the Visigoths got mad and said "nah, we're staying, bro." So, once again, the Roman legions made ready for war. Seven of the Empire's finest legions, under the personal command of Valens himself, marched on the Visigoths' encampment at Adrianople.

It… didn't go well for the Romans. Outmaneuvered and outfought (the Visigoth's small but decisive light cavalry a precursor to the armored knights that would rule the battlefield for the next thousand years or so), the Romans lost 75% of their forces, in the most crushing and decisive defeat Rome had suffered since Varus lost a similar number of legions in a futile march on Germany hundreds of years prior. Among the losses - Emperor Valens himself, who fell in battle leading his legions (his body was never recovered).

The Visigoths were later stopped by desperate Roman defenders on the Danube, but Rome never recovered from Adrianople, in 378. And from that point on, the Western Roman Empire was sacked and looted by invasion and invasion, until the final boy-Emperor Romulus Augustus was a mere footnote to be disposed of by the Ostrogoth king of Italy, a hundred years later.

So… the Roman Empire fell because of immigration, all right. They fell because they tried to stop it.