|The Roman Empire under Theodosius the Great|
|Emperor Constantine I|
|Emperor Theodosius I|
After that, things began to go downhill again, though even then, there were men of energy who provided bright spots of hope for Roman civilization. One of those at his funeral was the Vandal-Roman commander Stilicho (who was actually married to the niece of Emperor Theodosius), a man who, mostly during the reign of Honorius, was dashing all over the Roman Empire fending off attacks in Italy, the Balkans and even Africa. Flavius Aetius was another inspiring Roman general who, during the reign of Emperor Valentinian III, gave cause for hope by his stunning victory over the seemingly unstoppable Attila the Hun at the battle of the Catalaunian Fields in 451 AD. However, both Stilicho and Flavius Aetius ended up being the victims of their own success, killed by their own countrymen who feared them because of their ability. This is another lesson the peoples of today would do well to remember; when success is punished rather than rewarded the only inevitable result is that failure becomes the norm.
Again, we see a moral failing on display. It was the corrupt political elite who set Emperor Majorian up to be deposed and later murdered because his reforms were forcing them to make sacrifices for the good of the Empire which they were not prepared to tolerate. Like others before him, Emperor Majorian was effectively punished for being too successful. Still, he is a shining example of how much just one driven man can accomplish. The noted author on Roman history Edward Gibbon described Emperor Majorian as a figure, “to vindicate the honour of the human species” which is quite a compliment coming from someone who had very little positive to say about Imperial Rome in its final days. The point is that, it is never too late to try. At some point, we cannot deny, it may be too late to succeed, but that can only be known with absolute certainty after the fact and even when things are falling apart all around us and even if there really is no realistic reason to carry on, we should be inspired by Emperors like Constantine, Theodosius and Majorian who really did seem to turn back the clock. Of course, we could go even further and point to the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian who went quite far toward restoring the whole Roman Empire even after the west had fallen completely.