But there came a time when the tribute of the provinces no longer returned to the provinces to be expended on the public buildings and the frontier garrisons and the military roads. The rivers of gold which had so long flowed into Rome at last dried up: the empire became poor, and yet its expenses remained the same. The Praetorian Guards had still to be paid; the mob of the capital had still to be rationed with bread, and bacon, and wine, and oil, and costly shows. Accordingly the provinces were made to suffer. Exorbitant taxes were imposed: the aldermen and civil councillors of towns were compelled to pay enormous fees in virtue of their office, and were forbidden to evade such expensive honours by enlisting in the army, or by taking holy orders. The rich were accused of crimes that their property might be seized: the crops in the fields were gathered by the police. A blight fell upon the land. Men would no longer labour, since the fruits of their toil might at any time be taken from them. Cornfield and meadow were again covered with brambles and weeds; the cities were deserted; grass grew in all the streets. The province of Gaul was taxed to death, and then abandoned by the Romans. The government could no longer afford to garrison the Rhine frontier: the legions were withdrawn, and the Germans entered.
The invading armies were composed of free men, who, under their respective captains or heads of clans, had joined the standard of some noted warrior chief. The spoil of the army belonged to the army, and was divided according to stipulated rules. The king's share was large, but more than his share he might not have. When the Germans, instead of returning with their booty, remained upon the foreign soil, they partitioned the land in the same manner as they partitioned the cattle and the slaves, the gold crosses, the silver chalices; the vases, the tapestry, the fine linen, and the purple robes. An immense region was allotted to the king; other tracts of various sizes to the generals and captains (or chiefs and chieftains) according to the number of men whom they had brought into the field; and each private soldier received a piece of ground. But the army, although disbanded, was not extinct; its members remained under martial law the barons or generals were bound to obey the king when he summoned them to war; the soldiers to obey their ancient chiefs. Sometimes the king and the great barons gave lands to favourites and friends on similar conditions, and at a later period money was paid instead of military service, thus originating rent.