The main cause of the fall of the Roman Empire is still a topic of debate among historians, maybe because it is a symbol of what we fear about our own civilization. There are many different theories about why a superpower that ruled for 500 years crumbled and fell, but most scholars degree that it wasn’t one event, but a series of factors that caused a steady decline.
- Decline in values and morals. Even during the Pax Romana (stable and relatively peaceful period), there were more than 30,000 prostitutes in Rome. Emperors such as Caligula and Nero are historically famous for their wasting money on luxurious parties, where guests ate and drank wine and spirits until they became ill.
- Public health and diseases. In the Roman Empire there were many environmental and public health problems. Only those who were more wealthy had water that came to their houses through lead pipes.
- Poor technological development. Another factor that contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire was that during the last 400 years of the empire, the scientific achievements of the Romans were limited to engineering and the organization of public services.
- Inflation. The Roman economy underwent inflation (excessive increase of prices) just after the reign of the emperor Marco Aurelio. When the conquests of the Roman Empire were halted, the flow of gold from the new territories to Rome began to decline.
Feb 10, 2020 · Some historians maintain that it was the split into an eastern and western empire governed by separate emperors caused Rome to fall. Most classicists believe that a combination of factors including Christianity, decadence, the metal lead in the water supply, monetary trouble, and military problems caused the Fall of Rome.
Jul 24, 2018 · Decadence in some form is another popular single-issue cause of the fall. Edward Gibbon’s massive 1776 to 1789 work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was a proponent of this idea. Gibbon argued that Romans became effeminate and weak, unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to defend their territories.
- Colin Ricketts
- The Beginning of The End
- Rise of Its Enemies
- Economic Problems
- Lasting Effects
First, the Roman Empire became divided between the East, under Constantinople, and the West, ruled by several different leaders. This double-reign was a new concept that weakened the empire. Infighting over leadership and decaying government strength helped set the stage for other groups, such as the Greeks and Byzantines, to become uncooperative. With its foundations weakened, outside powers were also able to cripple the Romans.
External military threats were a major cause of Rome's fall, and its effects spread across the empire. During its days of prosperity and conquest, many of Rome's enemies were scattered tribes who lived in a small number of villages. After Rome was divided, a powerful group known as the Huns began moving west, their numbers growing with captured prisoners and new allies. People from all walks of life were eager to reap the rewards of war. They kept the pressure on the Roman Empire, while nations such as Russia became powerful and sophisticated. What had been barbarian villages in Germany soon turned into 2,300 walled towns and cities. Out of these rose the countries of Denmark, Sweden and Poland. Meanwhile, groups such as the Arabs and Saracens of India and Spain sat in anger and contempt. Once its enemies united, the Roman Empire was surrounded with new competition without the proper leadership to address it.
The Roman economy was affected by weak currency and high inflation. With all the money going toward national defense, taxes were raised to compensate. Few people actually got a chance to enjoy Rome's prosperity. The value of Roman money plummeted to the point that bartering was preferable to paying for goods. Also, many Romans lost their jobs because of cheaper slave labor. As a result, the government subsidized the working class. Many workers chose to simply live off of these subsidies, costing the government even more money.
A big reason for the Roman Empire's collapse was the geographical extent of its military conquest. Rome's constant expansion required more resources and manpower to defend its borders. Additionally, conquered civilizations hated the Romans, so rebellions were a constant problem. All of these issues required mammoth military spending and recruitment. Manpower became so scarce that even conquered societies were allowed to join the ranks. In turn, this gave barbarians intimate knowledge of Roman battle tactics.
Regardless of the reasons, Rome had a profound impact on the world. When Rome's infrastructure fell, so did the quality of life. What followed were the Dark Ages, which can be grouped into two separate eras. The first lasted until 700 A.D. because of the destruction of trade and infrastructure. After a brief revival, a second decline took place around 1000 A.D. as a result of invasions by Vikings from Scandinavia and Magyars from Hungary. Essentially, whatever stability that Rome provided was gone, and many new nations had to build themselves on their own.
- External Causes
- Internal Causes
- A Divided Empire
- The Invasion
- An Enemy from Within
- Barbarian Invasions
- Conclusion: Multiple Factors
One of the most widely accepted causes - the influx of a barbaric horde - is discounted by some who feel that mighty Rome, the eternal city, could not have so easily fallen victim to a culture that possessed little or nothing in the way of a political, social or economic foundation. They believe the fall of Rome simply came because the barbarians took advantage of difficulties already existing in Rome - problems that included a decaying city (both physically and morally), little to no tax rev...
There are some who believe, like Gibbon, that the fall was due to the fabric of the Roman citizen. If one accepts the idea that the cause of the fall was due, in part, to the possible moral decay of the city, its fall is reminiscent of the “decline” of the Republic centuries earlier. Historian Polybius, a 2nd century BCE writer, pointed to a dying republic (years before it actually fell) - a victim of its declining moral virtue and the rise of vice within. Edward Gibbon reiterated this sentim...
Although Gibbon points to the rise of Christianity as a fundamental cause, the actual fall or decline could be seen decades earlier. By the 3rd century CE, the city of Rome was no longer the center of the empire - an empire that extended from the British Isles to the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and into Africa. This massive size presented a problem and called for a quick solution, and it came with the reign of Emperor Diocletian. The empire was divided into two with one capital remaining at R...
During the reign of the eastern emperor Valens (364 -378 CE), the Thervingi Goths had congregated along the Danube-Rhine border - again, not as a threat, but with a desire only to receive permission to settle. This request was made in urgency, for the “savage” Huns threatened their homeland. Emperor Valens panicked and delayed an answer - a delay that brought increased concern among the Goths as winter was approaching. In anger, the Goths crossed the river with or without permission, and when...
The Goths remained on Roman land and would ally themselves with the Roman army. Later, however, one man, a Goth and former Roman commander, rose up against Rome - a man who only asked for what had been promised him - a man who would do what no other had done for eight centuries: sack Rome. His name was Alaric, and while he was a Goth, he had also been trained in the Roman army. He was intelligent, Christian, and very determined. He sought land in the Balkans for his people, land that they had...
Although Alaric would soon die afterwards, other barbarians - whether Christian or not - did not stop after the sack of the city. The old empire was ravaged, among others, by Burgundians, Angles, Saxons, Lombards, and Magyars. By 475 CE Spain, Britain, and parts of Gaul had been lost to various Germanic people and only Italy remained as the “empire” in the west. The Vandals would soon move from Spain and into northern Africa, eventually capturing the city of Carthage. The Roman army abandoned...
One could make a sound case for a multitude of reasons for the fall of Rome. However, its fall was not due to one cause, although many search for one. Most of the causes, initially, point to one place: the city of Rome itself. The loss of revenue for the western half of the empire could not support an army - an army that was necessary for defending the already vulnerable borders. Continual warfare meant trade was disrupted; invading armies caused crops to be laid to waste, poor technology mad...
- Donald L. Wasson
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1 – Internal Strife In ‘The History of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’, Edward Gibbon had a controversial theory. He claimed the rise of Christianity contributed to the fall of Rome as it bred a ‘turn the other cheek’ mentality. He also claimed the religion valued idle and unproductive people and also led to internal divisions.
In 467, the Germanic soldier and statesmen Odoacer took the throne from the Roman emperor Romulus Augustulus and became the first king of Italy. The year of 467 is considered to be the year when...
Oct 17, 2018 · Germans on the other hand had a different interest in the fall of the Roman Empire. The military who were soldiers to the governors and the senates in the Roman Empire entered into a symbiotic relationship where they provided services to the affluent Germans in return for protection (Todd 46).
The rise of the Roman Empire may be attributed to the ambitions (and undeniable skill) of various Roman patricians (or, nobles) at the approach of the Common Era, with Caesar Augustus emerging as ...