PHASES OF HISTORY
When dealing with a long stretch of time such as the millennium and a half since the end of the classical world, it is convenient to divide that time into different periods. However, periods do not begin and end cleanly and such breaks obscure continuities. The Roman Empire came to an end. But when? Conventionally, the sack of Rome by Alaric and the Visigoths in 410 marks the spot. But pagan writing about the universe and rather metaphorical gods continued unabated throughout fifth-century north Africa, and the apparatus of the western Roman state continued in one way or another, however limited, till the Lombards invaded Italy in 567.