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Similarities Between the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and the United States
Posted on 07/27/2003 9:01:16 PM PDT by 2nd_Amendment_Defender
I do not pretend to call the Roman Empire the United States, but it seems to me there are some similarities as if history is repeating itself.
Why did Rome Fall?
There are some adherents to single factors, but more people think Rome fell because of a combination of such factors as Christianity, decadence, lead, monetary, and military problems. Even the rise of Islam is proposed by some who think the Fall of Rome happened at Constantinople.
Since not all viewpoints are available on the Internet, this list of theories about the Fall of Rome is limited:
*The Dole and Barbarians
*Economic, Military, Gradual
*Vandals and Religious Controversy
*Division of the Empire
*Hoarding and Deficit
"But the 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.... The victorious legions, who, in distant wars, acquired the vices of strangers and mercenaries, first oppressed the freedom of the republic, and afterwards violated the majesty of the purple. The emperors, anxious for their personal safety and the public peace, were reduced to the base expedient of corrupting the discipline which rendered them alike formidable to their sovereign and to the enemy; the vigour of the military government was relaxed, and finally dissolved, by the partial institutions of Constantine; and the Roman world was overwhelmed by a deluge of Barbarians."
Because the East survived when the West collapsed, institutional weakness and barbarian invasions, conditions common to both halves, are insufficient explanation of Rome's Fall. Instead Elton sees the cause in financial difficulties only the West faced. The best single explanation would be poor leadership rather than military failure.
*The Dole and Barbarians
The other side of Roman decadence was the dole. Millions spent on bread (including pork by the end of the second century) and circuses for the non-working poor. Barbarians ruled Rome and even when a Roman, Diocletian, regained control, he was influenced by the East. With Constantine came a barbaric Christianity and the move of the Empire's center from Rome to Constantinople.
*Economic, Military, Gradual
Site reviews the theories of others to provide three single-issue models for the collapse: economic (lack of circulating currency and trade deficit, and other factors not clearly economic like environmental change and decaying infrastructure), military (citizenship granted to all reduced the incentive to join the army), and gradual transformation (it never fell or fell to Islam).
Chapter from Antiquity Online about the division of the Empire into East and West and the reign, including conversion of Constantine.
*Vandals and Religious Controversy
Chapter from Antiquity Online about the fifth century Empire showing the role of Vandals and religious controversies in the decline of Rome.
*Division of the Empire
Richard Hooker marks the Fall during the reign of Diocletian (284-305) when the Empire was split into two halves.
A bibliography of sources since the nineteenth century that have suggested lead poisoning led to the Fall of Rome.
*Economic - Hoarding and Deficit
Economic decay through hoarding of bullion, barbarian looting of the treasury, and trade deficit; military decay through attrition and disorganization; lack of a military leader.
I see currently in the United States: Trade Deficit, the Invasion of Barbarians (illegal immigrants), Division of the Nation (Republicans and Democrats), and Financial Problems as very similar to the Decline of the Roman Empire.
TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Government; Miscellaneous; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: ancienthistory; godsgravesglyphs; henripirenne; romanempire
Any comments on the above information?
Living in denial of the "limiting' Constitution
via the ACLU, ABA, Supreme Courts,.....the UN and World Couet,..etc.,...."While the USA Slept!!"
posted on 07/27/2003 9:05:12 PM PDT
A more solid comparison would be the EU and not the US.
We are getting there, but a bit more slowly.
Europe is there now.
posted on 07/27/2003 9:11:51 PM PDT
by Cold Heat
(Negotiate!! .............(((Blam!.)))........... "Now who else wants to negotiate?")
Any comments on the above information?
I think "decay" & "decadence" played a pivotal role.
posted on 07/27/2003 9:14:56 PM PDT
"Any comments on the above information?"
Yup. You left out asteroid/comet impacts, worldwide affecting volcanoes, tidal waves and weather/climate changes. (Just to name a few)
posted on 07/27/2003 9:18:16 PM PDT
The Fall of Rome (http://www.cato.org/pubs/journal/cjv14n2-7.html)(Bruce
Constantine (308-37 A.D.) continued Diocletian's policies of regimenting the economy, by tying workers and their descendants even more tightly to the land or their place of employment (Jones 1958). For example, in 332 he issued the following order:
Any person in whose possession a tenant that belongs to another is found not only shall restore the aforesaid tenant to his place of origin but also shall assume the capitation tax for this man for the time that he was with him. Tenants also who meditate flight may be bound with chains and reduced to a servile condition, so that by virtue of a servile condemnation they shall be compelled to fulfill the duties that befit free men [Jones 1970: 312].
Despite such efforts, land continued to be abandoned and trade, for the most part, ceased (Rostovtzeff 1926). Industry moved to the provinces, basically leaving Rome as an economic empty shell; still in receipt of taxes, grain and other goods produced in the provinces, but producing nothing itself. The mob of Rome and the palace favorites produced nothing, yet continually demanded more, leading to an intolerable tax burden on the productive classes. 
In the fifty years after Diocletian the Roman tax burden roughly doubled, making it impossible for small farmers to live on their production (Bernardi 1970: 55).  This is what led to the final breakdown of the economy (Jones 1959). As Lactantius (1984: 13) put it:
The number of recipients began to exceed the number of contributors by so much that, with farmers' resources exhausted by the enormous size of the requisitions, fields became deserted and cultivated land was turned into forest.
Although Constantine made an effort to restore the currency, subsequent emperors resumed the debasement, resulting in renewed price inflation (West 1951). Apparently, Emperor Julian (360-63 A.D.) also refused to believe that the inflation was due to debasement, but rather was caused by merchants hoarding their stores. To prove his point, he sent his own grain reserves into the market at Antioch. According to Gibbon (1932: 801),
The consequences might have been foreseen, and were soon felt. The Imperial wheat was purchased by the rich merchants; the proprietors of land or of corn withheld from the city the accustomed supply; and the small quantities that appeared in the market were secretly sold at an advanced and illegal price.
Although he had been warned that his policies would not lower prices, but rather would exacerbate the shortage, Julian nevertheless continued to believe that his policy worked, and blamed complaints of its failure on the ingratitude of the people (Downey 1951).
In other respects, however, Julian was more enlightened. In the area of tax policy, he showed sensitivity and perception. He understood that the main reason for the state's fiscal problem was the excessive burden of taxation, which fell unequally on the population. The wealthy effectively were able to evade taxation through legal and illegal measures, such as bribery. By contrast, the ordinary citizen was helpless against the demands of the increasingly brutal tax collectors.
Previous measures to ease the tax burden, however, were ineffective because they only relieved the wealthy. Constantine, for example, had sought to ease the burden by reducing the number of tax units--caputs--for which a given district was responsible. In practice, this meant that only the wealthy had any reduction in their taxes. Julian, however, by cutting the tax rate, ensured that his tax reduction was realized by all the people. He also sought to broaden the tax base by abolishing some of the tax exemptions which many groups, especially the wealthy, had been granted by previous emperors (Bernardi 1970: 59, 66).
Nevertheless, the revenues of the state remained inadequate to maintain the national defense. This led to further tax increases, such as the increase in the sales tax from 1 percent to 4.5 percent in 444 A.D. (Bernardi 1970: 75). However, state revenues continued to shrink, as taxpayers invested increasing amounts of time, effort and money in tax evasion schemes. Thus even as tax rates rose, tax revenues fell, hastening the decline of the Roman state (Bernardi 1970: 81-3).
In short, taxpayers evaded taxation by withdrawing from society altogether. Large, powerful landowners, able to avoid taxation through legal or illegal means, began to organize small communities around them. Small landowners, crushed into bankruptcy by the heavy burden of taxation, threw themselves at the mercy of the large landowners, signing on as tenants or even as slaves. (Slaves, of course, paid no taxes.) The latter phenomenon was so widespread and so injurious to the state's revenues, in fact, that in 368 A.D. Emperor Valens declared it illegal to renounce one's liberty in order to place oneself under the protection of a great landlord (Bernardi 1970: 49).
In the end, there was no money left to pay the army, build forts or ships, or protect the frontier. The barbarian invasions, which were the final blow to the Roman state in the fifth century, were simply the culmination of three centuries of deterioration in the fiscal capacity of the state to defend itself. Indeed, many Romans welcomed the barbarians as saviors from the onerous tax burden. 
Although the fall of Rome appears as a cataclysmic event in history, for the bulk of Roman citizens it had little impact on their way of life. As Henri Pirenne (1939: 33-62) has pointed out, once the invaders effectively had displaced the Roman government they settled into governing themselves. At this point, they no longer had any incentive to pillage, but rather sought to provide peace and stability in the areas they controlled. After all, the wealthier their subjects the greater their taxpaying capacity.
In conclusion, the fall of Rome was fundamentally due to economic deterioration resulting from excessive taxation, inflation, and over-regulation. Higher and higher taxes failed to raise additional revenues because wealthier taxpayers could evade such taxes while the middle class--and its taxpaying capacity--were exterminated. Although the final demise of the Roman Empire in the West (its Eastern half continued on as the Byzantine Empire) was an event of great historical importance, for most Romans it was a relief.
posted on 07/27/2003 9:42:12 PM PDT
"A democracy cannot survive as a permanent form of government. It can last only until its citizens discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority (who vote) will vote for the candidates promising the greatest benefits from the public purse, with the result that a democracy will always collapse from loose fiscal policies, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest democratic nations has been 200 years. Each has been through the following sequence:
1. From bondage to spiritual faith.
2. From faith to great courage.
3. From courage to liberty.
4. From liberty to abundance.
5. From abundance to complacency.
6. From complacency to selfishness.
7. From selfishness to apathy.
8. From apathy to dependency.
9. And from dependency back again into bondage."
- Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay, author and politician, in a letter to a friend in 1857
posted on 07/27/2003 9:45:43 PM PDT
by Main Street
(Stuck in traffic.)
The Fall Of Rome
by W. H. Auden
The piers are pummelled by the waves;
In a lonely field the rain
Lashes an abandoned train;
Outlaws fill the mountain caves.
Fantastic grow the evening gowns;
Agents of the Fisc pursue
Absconding tax-defaulters through
The sewers of provincial towns.
Private rites of magic send
The temple prostitutes to sleep;
All the literati keep
An imaginary friend.
Cerebrotonic Cato may
Extol the Ancient Disciplines,
But the muscle-bound Marines
Mutiny for food and pay.
Caesar's double-bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
Writes I DO NOT LIKE MY WORK
On a pink official form.
Unendowed with wealth or pity
Little birds with scarlet legs,
Sitting on their speckled eggs,
Eye each flu-infected city.
Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast.
To: Main Street
Anyone who wants to understand the decline and fall of the Roman Empire should read the multi volume work of that name by Gibbon. There was a long history and many casts of characters. All the people who say "X" caused the fall of the Roman Empire don't know much about the actual history. There are MANY lessons to be learned from that history, but writing a list of "causes" and then deciding that America has the same "causes" ain't one of them. It is more a lesson about the nature of man.
posted on 07/27/2003 9:56:54 PM PDT
If the final blow to the empire came in the 5th century, it was darn slow in its effect. The Roman Empire fell in 1453~
The Roman Empire survived quite well in the east, withstanding the barbarians. It was the Roman Empire that called for help from Europe, which inspired the Crusades. The 4th Crusade was launched from Italy, and sacked Constintanople, a Christian City. The Latin kingdom left behind was later reformed. The muslims pressured , but were unable to break through before they were fatally weakened by the Mongols. Finally the decendents of Osman, the Ottoman Turks used cannon to breach the walls of Theodosius, and Constantinius the 12th fell defending his city.
500 years later, a philogist named Tolkien used the fall of Constantinople as fodder for his fictional battle for Minas Tirith. In his version, the western sources of power joined to fight off the enemy. That is exactly what did not happen in 1453.
What could the Eastern Roman Empire have done? They could have governed more austerely, showed greater flexibility for religious difference. When the Arabs came out of the desert, they offered a degree of religious toleration that was unheard of for that day, and the Jews, Coptic Christians, Arians, and other non-orthodox christians traded sides. The arabs also had no monastic orders which enervated entire families in Christendom.
The Eastern Roman Empire was the superpower of its day, and its dominance was based on the Roman Navy! When the Arabs conquered Lebanon, they were able to build their own Navy and soon rivaled that of the Empire. As the Empire weakened, other rivals such as Venetia and Genoa picked off prime trade routes.
The US dominance is built on Airpower. We ended WWII with great economy using the nuclear bomb. We kept the peace with our greatest rival using the threat of nuclear annilation. Now we make war with precision guided weapons and stealth aircraft. The only rival we have in aircraft construction is in Europe, namely France. We should note that 52percent of all children born in France are to middle eastern immigrants. The France we knew is gone.
posted on 07/27/2003 10:00:23 PM PDT
(I would rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.)
To: Main Street
And just what "democracies" was he talking about? Maybe some reference to ancient Athens? What democracies have gone from freedom to bondage in 200 years? Except for some unstable Third World long-term dictatorships that couldn't hack it as democracies, I can't think of any.
posted on 07/27/2003 10:01:18 PM PDT
"Although the final demise of the Roman Empire in the West (its Eastern half continued on as the Byzantine Empire) was an event of great historical importance, for most Romans it was a relief."
Amazing, because in the first siege the inhabitants were starved to death, and the final fall included the wholesale plunder, rape, and enslavement of the population. But they were all happy because they triumphed over high taxes and overregulation of industry? Snap out of it. Rome was not what democrats would do to America, as convenient as it is to make the argument.
posted on 07/27/2003 10:11:40 PM PDT
"Then began the patricians to oppress the people as slaves, ..., as the kings had done, to drive them from their holdings, and to tyrannize over those who had no property to lose."
St. Augustine--The City of God
Replace politicians with patricians and you can see the same thing that happened to the Romans is now happening to the American people. We are driven from our property by the ESA and environmental laws and high taxes. We are not allowed to profit from our property by restrictive logging, mining, grazing and farming laws. We are enslaved to the rest of the world by trade laws that transfer our wealth and prosperity out of the country to support communist governments such as China's.
I claim Rome started its fall on the day Ceasar crossed the Rubicon. Rome fell because it had too many people in the cart and not enough to pull it! In short it taxed itself to death, a fate which happens to most civilizations.It might have spared itself this fate if power had stayed spread out in the Senate rather than completely in the hands of an emperor.If power had stayed in the Senate, you'd get enough senators now and then to cut taxes, but no such inhabition naturally occurs when you have one man rule.
posted on 07/28/2003 1:03:14 AM PDT
(Socialism first, cancer second.)
it seems to me there are some similarities
I have omitted the author of the following observation so that one need only ponder the merit of the message.
"The Roman Republic fell, not because of the ambition of Caesar or Augustus, but because it had already long ceased to be in any real sense a republic at all.
When the sturdy Roman plebeian, who lived by his own labor, who voted without reward according to his own convictions, and who with his fellows formed in war the terrible Roman legion, had been changed into an idle creature who craved nothing in life save the gratification of a thirst for vapid excitement, who was fed by the state, and who directly or indirectly sold his vote to the highest bidder, then the end of the Republic was at hand, and nothing could save it.
The laws were the same as they had been, but the people behind the laws had changed, and so the laws counted for nothing."
Do you see any similarities?
To: Main Street
Do you have a citation source for this quote? I've seen it many times, but attributed to different authors (the last time to someone named "Alexander Tyler"). If you could provide a source for this quote, I would be grateful -- I'd like to finally pin this down.
posted on 07/28/2003 6:09:33 AM PDT
(Omnia relinquit servare Republicam)
The Dole and Barbarians
Is the analogy here, Bob Dole losing to Bill Clinton?
posted on 07/28/2003 6:28:19 AM PDT
"In conclusion, the fall of Rome was fundamentally due to economic deterioration resulting from excessive taxation, inflation, and over-regulation. Higher and higher taxes failed to raise additional revenues because wealthier taxpayers could evade such taxes while the middle class--and its taxpaying capacity--were exterminated. Although the final demise of the Roman Empire in the West (its Eastern half continued on as the Byzantine Empire) was an event of great historical importance, for most Romans it was a relief."
Those who don't remember history are doomed to repeat it.
"I see currently in the United States: Trade Deficit, the Invasion of Barbarians (illegal immigrants), Division of the Nation (Republicans and Democrats), and Financial Problems as very similar to the Decline of the Roman Empire."
I would agree with the expanding national debt (vs trade deficit), invasion of barbarians (large segments of people coming in and not assimiliating into the culture, but instead forming cultures inside or culture), and our socialist bread and circuses. The last being the most dangerous.
The Roman Empire declined longer than the USA has existed.
posted on 08/29/2003 7:00:37 AM PDT
Liberal America-hating hogwash.
The United States is no where nears a decline and fall like Rome.
We have small blips in the economy. A blip is not a fall. A blip is not a decline. The only thing in our history that came close to an economic collapse was the Great Depression and the decision to use socialism to fix it. Yet we endured. The Great Depression was nothing even close to a Somalian-type disaster. And we have learned a lesson from the Great Depression have many safeguards in place.
We have the greatest military in world history. Nothing on this planet comes even close. There are concerns that enemies may have WMD, but this fear is also overblown. If an enemy uses some on a population center, then what can they do next. We are virtually un-invadable, at least by conventional means. We can be hurt, but we cannot be occupied.
Complacency? Decadence? Of course it exists. And its getting worse. But captitalism and conservatism will always keep these in check. Despite rampant liberalism, we are the most conservative country in the world. And the popularity of the Free Republic is evidence that liberalism doesn't have the stranglehold that some think that it might.
We are a wealthy nation. And as a wealthy nation, we can afford to pay for certain safeguards such as consumer protection and certain environmental safeguards. Yes, I know that these have become excessive lately, but certain basic safeguards are necessary to maintain our longterm health.
We have the most diverse population possible, yet we have relatively minor conflicts between races/religions. We had a war between Northern and Southern attitudes. We survived that. Our pride is nation-wide. Europe (including Rome), on the other hand, is not so well behaved. Countries that are the size of small States have been at each others throats countless times. Their pride (or whats left of it) is concentrated in relatively small groups, thus they clash frequently. We have the geographical benefit of being phyically separated from the misbehaving children of Europe (and every 30 years or so, we go over there and hand out some spankings and make them sit in the corner).
We are vigilant. We do not appease. And we have the greatest Constitution ever written. We are not in decline.
posted on 08/29/2003 7:52:00 AM PDT
posted on 06/09/2013 6:45:53 PM PDT
(McCain or Romney would have been worse, if you're a dumb ass.)
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