Skip to comments.THE REASONS FOR THE FALL OF ROME
Posted on 12/23/2008 11:41:49 AM PST by briarbey b
There were many reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire. Each one intertwined with the next. Many even blame the introduction of Christianity for the decline. Christianity made many Roman citizens into pacifists, making it more difficult to defend against the barbarian attackers. Also money used to build churches could have been used to maintain the empire. Although some argue that Christianity may have provided some morals and values for a declining civilization and therefore may have actually prolonged the imperial era.
Decline in Morals and Values
Those morals and values that kept together the Roman legions and thus the empire could not be maintained towards the end of the empire. Crimes of violence made the streets of the larger cities unsafe. Even during PaxRomana there were 32,000 prostitutes in Rome. Emperors like Nero and Caligula became infamous for wasting money on lavish parties where guests ate and drank until they became ill. The most popular amusement was watching the gladiatorial combats in the Colosseum. These were attended by the poor, the rich, and frequently the emperor himself. As gladiators fought, vicious cries and curses were heard from the audience. One contest after another was staged in the course of a single day. Should the ground become too soaked with blood, it was covered over with a fresh layer of sand and the performance went on.
There were many public health and environmental problems. Many of the wealthy had water brought to their homes through lead pipes. Previously the aqueducts had even purified the water but at the end lead pipes were thought to be preferable. The wealthy death rate was very high. The continuous interaction of people at the Colosseum, the blood and death probable spread disease. Those who lived on the streets in continuous contact allowed for an uninterrupted strain of disease much like the homeless in the poorer run shelters of today. Alcohol use increased as well adding to the incompetency of the general public.
One of the most difficult problems was choosing a new emperor. Unlike Greece where transition may not have been smooth but was at least consistent, the Romans never created an effective system to determine how new emperors would be selected. The choice was always open to debate between the old emperor, the Senate, the Praetorian Guard (the emperor's's private army), and the army. Gradually, the Praetorian Guard gained complete authority to choose the new emperor, who rewarded the guard who then became more influential, perpetuating the cycle. Then in 186 A. D. the army strangled the new emperor, the practice began of selling the throne to the highest bidder. During the next 100 years, Rome had 37 different emperors - 25 of whom were removed from office by assassination. This contributed to the overall weaknesses of the empire.
During the latter years of the empire farming was done on large estates called latifundia that were owned by wealthy men who used slave labor. A farmer who had to pay workmen could not produce goods as cheaply. Many farmers could not compete with these low prices and lost or sold their farms. This not only undermined the citizen farmer who passed his values to his family, but also filled the cities with unemployed people. At one time, the emperor was importing grain to feed more than 100,000 people in Rome alone. These people were not only a burden but also had little to do but cause trouble and contribute to an ever increasing crime rate.
The roman economy suffered from inflation (an increase in prices) beginning after the reign of Marcus Aurelius. Once the Romans stopped conquering new lands, the flow of gold into the Roman economy decreased. Yet much gold was being spent by the romans to pay for luxury items. This meant that there was less gold to use in coins. As the amount of gold used in coins decreased, the coins became less valuable. To make up for this loss in value, merchants raised the prices on the goods they sold. Many people stopped using coins and began to barter to get what they needed. Eventually, salaries had to be paid in food and clothing, and taxes were collected in fruits and vegetables.
Wealthy Romans lived in a domus, or house, with marble walls, floors with intricate colored tiles, and windows made of small panes of glass. Most Romans, however, were not rich, They lived in small smelly rooms in apartment houses with six or more stories called islands. Each island covered an entire block. At one time there were 44,000 apartment houses within the city walls of Rome. First-floor apartments were not occupied by the poor since these living quarters rented for about $00 a year. The more shaky wooden stairs a family had to climb, the cheaper the rent became. The upper apartments that the poor rented for $40 a year were hot, dirty, crowed, and dangerous. Anyone who could not pay the rent was forced to move out and live on the crime-infested streets. Because of this cities began to decay.
During the last 400 years of the empire, the scientific achievements of the Romans were limited almost entirely to engineering and the organization of public services. They built marvelous roads, bridges, and aqueducts. They established the first system of medicine for the benefit of the poor. But since the Romans relied so much on human and animal labor, they failed to invent many new machines or find new technology to produce goods more efficiently. They could not provide enough goods for their growing population. They were no longer conquering other civilizations and adapting their technology, they were actually losing territory they could not longer maintain with their legions.
Maintaining an army to defend the border of the Empire from barbarian attacks was a constant drain on the government. Military spending left few resources for other vital activities, such as providing public housing and maintaining quality roads and aqueducts. Frustrated Romans lost their desire to defend the Empire. The empire had to begin hiring soldiers recruited from the unemployed city mobs or worse from foreign counties. Such an army was not only unreliable, but very expensive. The emperors were forced to raise taxes frequently which in turn led again to increased inflation.
THE FINAL BLOWS For years, the well-disciplined Roman army held the barbarians of Germany back. Then in the third century A. D. the Roman soldiers were pulled back from the Rhine-Danube frontier to fight civil war in Italy. This left the Roman border open to attack. Gradually Germanic hunters and herders from the north began to overtake Roman lands in Greece and Gaul (later France). Then in 476 A. D. the Germanic general Odacer or Odovacar overthrew the last of the Roman Emperors, Augustulus Romulus. From then on the western part of the Empire was ruled by Germanic chieftain. Roads and bridges were left in disrepair and fields left untilled. Pirates and bandits made travel unsafe. Cities could not be maintained without goods from the farms, trade and business began to disappear. And Rome was no more in the West.
???? Fall of the United States ????
Decline in Morals and Values
Make a prediction about the future of the United States.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll go down shooting.
Rome fell because it moved. Left town. Bu-bye. Sayonara. Later. Look around, it’s still here. The Roman Empire still owns the planet.
Welcome to the Dark Ages!
Disturbingly familiar patterns.
Now we have our first Caligula preparing to take the helm.
The ancient Romans had a saying, “vae victis”—woe to the vanquished.
The parallels are apparent.
I'm with ya.
One relatively new theory is population decline.
Yes. First and second Christianity was notable for its pacifism.
???Fall of any similar society???
I thought it was due to Roman warming? :)
The City of Rome went from over a million to about 10,000. It’s back now, and then some.
Let’s not forget the final point of factional infighting.
Actually they were. They felt the end of the world/the return of Christ was imminent and so why bother?
Don't forget the massive grain distributions of the later Roman Empire. This welfare scheme was started for the same reasons that the modern welfare state was created, to cause dependence and thereby consolidate political power. It contributed to the softening and decay of that society, just as it has in our own.
Rome fell becase Carthage was vanquished. Had Carthage been victorious, there would have been no Rome to fall.
The Roman Empire actually fell in AD 235. That was the end of the Severan Principate and the beginning of a nearly 50 year period of civil war, invasions, plagues and murders. During this time, nearly the entire empire was lost. Out of this mess emerged a massive proto-typical feudal state that was Roman in name only. It possessed most of the territory as the old empire, but that is where the similarities end. The capital was at Ravenna, until it was moved to Constantinople. Diocletian and his successors cast aside any pretense of the Republic, donned crowns and ruled without the machinery of the Republic. The army was taken over by Germans. The only unifying force was Christianity. This arrangement lasted from 285 to 1453.
Yeah, I’m not sure about that. Constantine, Justinian, Charlemagne—all Christians who fought to restore the Roman Empire (really a quite different Empire in the case of the latter) to its former glory.
Churchmen might have been more pacifist than they were during the Crusades, but I think the immorality of the late Empire had much more to do with it.
No country in the history of the world has ever planned its own demise - except the United States. Lack of morals and political corruption are coupled with obscene spending to delude the poor and planned extermination of an entire generation.
We started with so much and we allowed our leaders to squander it all away. The tipping point is near. What will it take to say, “Enough!”?
What a bunch of crock....Gee watch HBO’s Rome much?
Everyone knows it was Bush’s fault that Rome fell.
And Yes, he had some help....from the Amish.
It’s rather useless to analogize with a non-event. The capital of the Roman Empire was moved from Rome to New Rome (a.k.a. Constantinople) in 324.
The retirement of the last Western Augustus to a villa near Naples in 476 happened at the behest of the Eastern Augustus Zeno, who decided (rightly, I think) that the system of parallel Augusti led to bad governance, and (wrongly, I think) that Imperial interests in Italy could be adequately handled by the King of the Ostrogoths in his role as Patrician of the Romans. No Empire ‘fell’ in 476.
Justinian reasserted direct Imperial control over Italy, Spain and North Africa in the sixth century, though this was not long-lived, except in the area around Ravenna.
The ‘Fall of Rome’ like ‘the Byzantine Empire’ represents not an historical reality, but an invention of Gibbon, who wanted to claim the ‘glories of (pagan) Rome’ for the “Enlightenement” by denying the continuity of the Empire at some convenient point.
The Roman Empire, throughly Christian, continued until, having dwindled to a city-state through neglect of the fleet, betrayals by allies, and a failure to embrace firearms, it fell to the Turks in 1453.
We have destroyed a generation with our abortion policies, and replaced them with immigrants. HOW stupid is that??
The seed of the fall of the Roman Republic began to grow with the great victories in the Punic Wars and the following wars. Soldiers prior to that period, a couple of centuries BC, were citizens, not professional soldiers, with farms and homesteads of their own. War was seasonal so the soldier went home to tend his farm.
After the expansion during the Punic Wars there was a vast importation of slaves captured during the conquests and purchased by the wealthy. Soldiers would return from the wars wherein these slaves were captured to find their homesteads seized and being farmed by them for the benefit of the wealthy classes with their families thrown off the land. The Gracchi tried to stop this but were assassinated by the Patrician class for their efforts. Thus died the Republican character of the Roman army and transformed it into a tool for empire despite great resistance to the expansion required as a permanent feature to support such a system. The latifundia region of southern Italy has suffered for the last two millenium because of this system which depopulated the area and turned much of it into a wasteland.
As the city filled up with this dispossessed lumpenproletariat it became the the means that the wealthy patrons used to obtain and keep power. The client-patron relationship wherein the client was bribed with money and aid to vote as the patron wished has been problematic ever since and is still used by the big city political machines through the patronage system.
In Rome it eventually led to the state itself being the prey of the competing political factions erupting in the huge bloodletting civil wars in the century before Christ. The final struggle between Octavian and Antony was throughout the whole Mediterranean.
Private citizens such are Marcus Crassus could fund armies and fight wars using Roman authority. Of course, such matters were the means to achieving fabulous wealth through which the state itself was manipulated by bribery and corruption of secular and sacred offices.
It was the existence of such factions which the Founders warned against (see the Federalist) and tried to prevent from dominating political life in our Republic. That lasted until Jefferson and Madison formed the forerunner of the Democrat party to oppose Hamilton. We still suffer the consequences of that creation.
Do you have any book or listins of books that might flesh out these ideas? This is quite fascinating for me. Thanks in advance.
Where did you get that?
I would like to read more.
Oh, goodness, that quote has been in my archives for years. If you google Roosevelt, you may find more of it. If I recall, it was a speech given after he was out of office.
Immorality, which would have been condemned even in the old pagan Republic, was the source of several of the factors mentioned. The bottom line was the message sent out that state, or the emperor, owes you free food, lodging, and circuses, as long as you remain a mob friendly towards him.
I feel that the brutality of the circuses directly undermined people's interest in serving in the military. They could enjoy real death and dismemberment (as opposed to our reliance on special effects) from a safe distance. Unless you were a condemned prisoner, you were on the arena floor of your own free will to provide a good show for some sort of personal gain.
Join the military, and you spend 25 years of taking orders, and sometimes risking your life. There were benefits of the best medical care available, the best equipment, and a reasonable concern for your food and shelter. At the end of the enlistment, aliens could look forward to full Roman citizenship for themselves and their families.
But in a society that organized itself around mobocracy and free sustenance and entertainment, no sane person would want to sign up to defend the empire.
Many believers have their eyes turned toward a Europe that will be what we see as a revived Roman Empire of the last days. I disagree.
The similarities between the US and Rome are unprecedented. Right down to our Coliseums. A senate..architecture..conquering the world and making them democracies (and we are suppose to be a republic..that is a laugh). If anyone can think of more...chime in!!
Unfortunately we have much in common with Imperial Rome. We may be living in the last days of the Republic.
Naaaah! Welcome to New Kenya (Africa U.S.A.)
“Where the law of the jungle has replaced the Law of the Land.”
de Texas Fossil
People generally take the growth of power and centralization as a reason for Rome's fall. There's a lot in that. But there's another side to the coin.
If you were a wealthy Roman you could live well on your estate and not care about the city and the empire. The fact that life would go on, empire or no empire, led people to care less about what happened to Rome.
If anyone can think of more...chime in!!
Thanks for the invite.
The empire had to begin hiring soldiers recruited from the unemployed city mobs or worse from foreign counties. Such an army was not only unreliable, but very expensive. The emperors were forced to raise taxes frequently which in turn led again to increased inflation.
How obvious is it that Alaric, who sacked Rome in 410, was a certified Roman General.
In other words, the Roman citizens became so apathetic, or feckless, that the job of defending the empire was reassigned to foreign agents. It is not that they were not good soldiers, but that they were not inculcated or born with the empathy that was the Roman empire. They were diverse. Too diverse.
Just like illegal Mexican immigrants.
And all so Democrats can keep "power" (and sad "republican politicians" can keep their jobs).
How obvious is it?
How obvious is it?
Obvious enough to make me squirm.
The *turn the other cheek* crowd need to remember the *eye for an eye* method.
“Then in 186 A. D. the army strangled the new emperor, the practice began of SELLING THE THRONE TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER.”
Seems that was attempted in Illinois. What price did “O” pay for his presidency????
All true, but the article is about the fall of the Roman Empire, not the Republic.
It was because of the destruction of the Republic and its morality that the Empire rose. But it contained the same destructive forces which had destroyed the Republic.
These forces became an uncontrollable violence against people and places once moral control was gone. Cato had fought for a retention of Republican virtue by attacking the love of luxury and dissipation. But it was irresistible without a moral core undermined by emerging rationalism and philosophy.
An empire based upon brute force cannot last.
There were other factors, of course. The establishment of Constantinople split the empire into administrable regions once it became obvious to Constantine and others that it was too large geographically to be administered from Rome. That in turn revivified the already strong Greek influence within the empire. It also split the revenue stream, a good deal of which was, actually, filling Church coffers but not (my contention now) enough to fully explain the atrophy of Roman government.
In the end it was the influx of migratory peoples that changed the empire the most, a wild cascade of tribes that first surrounded, then invested, and then infiltrated the Roman body politic. The real damage was already done by the time the Vandals swept through Spain and into the breadbasket of Rome, which was northern Africa. Once the food supply was controlled by the barbarians it was all over, at least for a century or so until Justinian's great general Belisarius threw the Vandals out of possession. Procopius chronicles what happened next in the Gothic Wars, when the Greeks attempted to wrest Rome from the Goths. We are here into the hideously misnamed "Dark Ages." Gibbon takes us through this and the next nearly thousand years in the Decline and Fall. Some of the best stuff I've ever read, and highly, highly recommended.
Don't tell me your statement of hideously misnamed Dark Ages will be twisted like the ...there was no Holocaust...just something made up by the Jews. Why do I feel I won't be surprised. :)
You are right, the Roman state (Kingdom, Republic, and Empire) lasted for 2200 years, may we be so lucky...
The seeds of the end of any empire in history were planted in its beginning.
The road to empire is mounted on how that which precedes it fails to sustain things without a drive for greater power at higher levels of power, and thus greater tyranny.
The seeds of the Roman Empire, and its destruction, arise in the demise of the Roman Republic.
Our founders knew this from history.
When the mob in the street has an entitlement in the treasury of the state, even emperors, with all their power, cannot forever sustain that treasury or the state.