By the late Roman period, landlords had become so wealthy and powerful that they refused to allow their workers to be recruited into the legions. Instead, they sought security from barbarian warlords.
Thus the feudal period began.
In the era of the Roman Republic, many farmers were yeoman with the rights and responsibilities of free men. They were gradually replaced by slaves conquered from foreign wars and the relative power and wealth of the aristocracy increased. By the end of the Empire, ordinary peasants had become serfs. They were forced to work for their lord and were not allowed to leave the manor. The average person never ventured more than ten kilometers or so from his village. A few managed to remake themselves by escaping to a town and learning a trade but most would not improve their station until the Black Death…
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