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The Impact of the Plague

"The Three Living and the Three Dead"
Medieval depiction of the plague episode of
A.D 1346 [The Black Death]

Suddenly everything changed. In A.D. 170 the plague, which had already ravaged the Italian peninsula, spread westward and decimated the populations of the northwestern provinces. At the turn of the 3rd century A.D., Gaul's economy was recovered well, rather better than that of Italy, in fact. But it was torn apart once more during the vicious warfare that ensued when the forces of the Alemanni, along with Frankish warbands, streamed across the Rhine frontier in A.D. 260, and thrust southward as far as northeastern Spain.

Meanwhile, the Atlantic-bound regions of Gaul became prey to pirate raids which steadily eroded the local economic structure to a point where the main buildings on estates were abandoned as homes in favor of nearby bath-houses converted into rough-and-ready dwellings. An idled and disgruntled peasantry finally lashed out in a series of slave uprisings during the 280's that undermined the Gallic economy even more. Vineyards were ruthlessly foraged or trampled upon by roving bands of soldiers, both Roman and barbarian; and they were only poorly tended, as farmers kept away from their fields, for fear of being murdered.