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The fall of the Roman Empire

22 Mar 2017History Essays

The fall of the Roman Empire was the subject of countless studies and debates. Culling from these numerous views, here are three major possible causes. From these, it could be said that the decline of the Roman Empire was due to combinations and synthesis of multifarious causes.

The first possible cause was- The Autocratic Roman system of government became outmoded with the times. Imperial Rome, Imperial China, Imperial Russia, Imperial Japan and others, with similar form of governments, faded into history; and were replaced by more liberal systems. These empires and dynasties declined and fall, confirming the principle that nothing lasts forever (Law of Change). Like any technology, its use and importance were superseded by more advance technologies.

The second possible cause was-. Some say Rome fell when it was split into an eastern and western empires, and ruled by separate emperors. The eastern half became the Byzantine Empire, with its capital at Constantinople. The western half remained centered in Italy. Many said that the fall was an ongoing process, lasting for more than a century.

Edward Gibbon, placed the blame on a loss of civic virtue among the Roman citizens. They gradually entrusted the role of defending the Empire to barbarian mercenaries, who eventually turned on them. Gibbon considered that Christianity had contributed to this, making the populace less interested in the worldly here-and-now, and more willing to wait for the rewards of heaven. "[T]he decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the causes of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight.

Adrian Goldsworthy, a British military historian, sees the causes of the collapse of the Roman Empire, not in any “decadence” in the make-up of the Roman legions, but in a combination of endless civil wars, between factions of the Roman Army fighting for control of the Empire. This inevitably weakened the army and the society upon which it depended, making it less able to defend itself, against the growing of numbers of Rome's enemies. The army still remained a superior fighting instrument than its opponents, both civilized and barabarian. But, says Goldsworthy, "Weakening central authority social and economic problems and, most of all, the continuing grind of civil wars eroded the political capacity to maintain the army at this level. 

The third possible cause was- The French historian Lucien Musset, argues the civilization of Medieval Europe emerged from a synthesis between the Graeco-Roman world and the Germanic civilizations penetrating the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire did not fall, and did not decline, it just transformed, but so did the Germanic populations which invaded it.

Remnants of the Great Roman Empire still exist today. Their influence are still felt and are still in use. Some of these blended with the modern ways. The Roman Empire never did fall, it was just transformed into a supporting role. We still have the Roman aphabet, Roman calendar, Roman language, Roman ethical and moral principles, and some Roman government procedural matters- and many more.

References:

  • Goldsworthy, Adrian. The Complete Roman Army. Thames & Hudson 2003.
  • Heather, Peter”. The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians, New York, NY" Oxford University Press, 2006 www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/gibbon-fall.html

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