In the later 6th to early 7th centuries, the Balkan provinces of the eastern Roman empire experienced a series of financial, political, military, and environmental crises, which ultimately precipitated socio-economic and political collapse in most of these regions. The descent into the so-called ‘Dark Age’ of the 7th and early 8th centuries has been attributed to the short-term exogenous shock of Avar and Slav invasions or to long-term economic, political, and environmental stresses. This paper will argue that a complex combination of contingent and structural factors contributed to the collapse. In doing so, it will both highlight the traumatic immediate impact of natural disasters and barbarian raiding and question the oft-held view that these catastrophes were the direct causes of long-term economic decline evident in the archaeological record.
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