The Fall of The Roman Empire
Why the topic is interesting:
The Roman Empire was one of the greatest and most powerful communities that ever existed, so how such a mighty Empire could decline in power is very interesting. Background:
What was the Roman Empire?
The Roman Empire came after the era of The Roman Republic. At its peak, it controlled territories from Britain and Germany to the Persian Gulf and North Africa. The great Empire was then separated into the Byzantine Empire and the Western Roman Empire and attacked by Barbarian invaders. Thesis
In my opinion, the Fall of the Roman Empire was mostly caused by sociological and political factors. Some examples of this are the decline of morals and values in Rome that caused internal chaos and an increase in crime. Other factors included political reforms and wars with the Barbarians. Another possible conflict was that the introduction of Christianity to the Roman Empire led to many of the people becoming pacifists and thereby creating a weaker military force and allowing the Empire to be over taken far more easily. This is a case where an internal social conflict resulted in an external military issue.
In order to have all possible arguments shown, I have been sure to choose 10 different sources that portray many different points of view, ideas, reasoning, etc. Some of the ideas in the sources go hand in hand with my thesis whereas others provide completely new information or thoughts that disagree with my thesis completely. However, all of the sources used are valid forms of information and will help in forming my opinions.
For this paper, my thesis is that the Roman Empire’s decline in power was ultimately due to political and sociological causes. In order to prove my thesis is correct, I will state my supporting facts and ideas as well as counter claims to my thoughts. I believe this is the only way to properly state an idea; by giving an idea as well as its opposition. Part Two
Social Causes lead to Political Causes
In 509 b.c., Rome changed their government to a Republic which became an internal conflict amongst the Romans. This was largely due to the fact that the Republic had a Senate and a Consul, both of which were positions of authority only given to the wealthy men of Rome, also called Patricians. Many disputes among the people of Rome began to arise, and acts of violence even began to occur within the empire walls. It was not until the less wealthy citizens found an officer that would vote in their favor and veto the bills of the rich. Once the people of Rome solved the political issue, and had a stable government, they began to take control of Italy and the Carthage Empire, proving that the Empire does not thrive during social or political conflict.
Sociological Issues affect Military
Another issue that arose from social troubles and led to political problems was when the religion of Christianity was introduced to the Roman people. Some have a theory that by introducing the religion of Christianity to the Roman Empire, a religion widely based around forgiveness, mercy, kindness etc., the Roman people, military men included, became weaker. Mercy was seen as a sign of weakness in the eyes of a military as strong as Rome’s. Some authors think even go as far to say that “Christianity made many Roman citizens into pacifists, making it more difficult to defend against the Barbarian attackers.”
However valid this point may be, the view of Dr. Khan is slightly biased on the issue because he has proclaimed to be Muslim and defends his religion in several of his other writings. Therefore, his views on religion cannot be viewed as an impartial source. But, there are some other authors who agree that the Barbarians did play a descent size role in the Fall of the Roman Empire such as Peter Heather who wrote The Fall of The Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians. There are also other authors that believe that the Christian religion was a partial cause of the Roman Empire’s Decline. These authors are N.S. Gill and the unknown author of the Rome.info website.
Many other Causes
Now obviously the fall of such a great and powerful Empire could not have been caused with only a few factors such as change of government, a new religion, and one enemy. There had to be other faults and weaknesses. A few that I believe to be valid causes are that Rome’s extended borders made them very vulnerable to attacks, the Roman’s had inferior technology compared to their enemies, and the lack of a proper selective process when choosing a new emperor led to political corruption.
Some of the Empire’s greatest achievements turned out to be its downfall. It had conquered so much land and sea that it had too much territory than it could protect and defend properly. The Roman Empire’s borders stretched from Egypt, Anatolia, Italy, The Mediterranean Sea, Gaul, and several more. The problem was that these lands were very vulnerable. By having such a wide range of territory, it makes it a great deal easier for opposing Empires and countries to conquer one territory at a time and eventually have control of the entire Empire. This is what the Ostrogoths and the Visigoths did. The Ostrogoths and the Visigoths were the two new branches of the Goths. Ostrogoths an Eastern Germanic tribe that successfully invaded The Roman Empire, and after invading Italy, made what they called “The Kingdom of Italy”. The Visigoths successfully ruled Gaul for a short period of time. Their reign was ended by their loss at the Battle of Vouille. Though this point does not agree with my thesis, I think it is a very plausible reason as to why the Empire declined in power.
During the last 400 years of the Empire, their scientific achievements were very limited and lacking. When it came to engineering and public services, however, the Empire did wonderfully. They built very good bridges, structures, roads, and aqueducts. However, the Roman’s success was extremely dependent on human labor and the labor of animals. This prevented them from inventing very many new machines or technology that could help produce items faster and produce more of them. As previously stated, the Roman Empire had a great deal of territory. They, however, could not produce enough products to support such a large population. As well, they were getting defeated more frequently because they could not compete with other militaries’ technological superiority. Due to all of this, they could no longer maintain several territories, they were not gaining new ones or the new technology that would come with new territories, and the Empire could no longer maintain its military. This is also a cause that does not correspond with my thesis, but I am willing to agree that it has great validity.
This argument, however, completely supports my thesis that political an sociological reasons were the main causes of the fall of the Roman Empire. One of the Empire’s huge mistakes was that its people never created a system that determined who would be the new emperor. The decision of who was to be the new emperor was simply left up to a discussion between the previous emperor, the senate, the Praetorian Guard (this was the Emperor’s personal army), and the Empire’s army. Eventually it go to the point where only the Praetorian Guard was choosing the new emperor and in return, the new emperor would give the Praetorian Guard more power and other perks. Although this was an obvious issue with the political system, a bigger problem arose when the army strangled one of the emperors in 186 A.D. This began a cycle of selling the throne to whomever was willing to pay the most for it. Throughout the next 100 years, Rome had 37 different emperors. Out of these 37, 25 were assassinated. This ultimately weakened the Empire’s government a great deal and strongly contributed to both the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.
This article claims that the gladiatorial events that occurred throughout Rome’s history was merely a distracting device created by emperors to divert the common people’s attention away from wars and battles like the First Punic War and the Battle of Cannae. The author, Jason Mille, says that these distractions were strategically placed to keep the population amused and prevent street violence and such. Mille compares the gladiatorial events to television, radio, video games, and movies. This could be a true reason as to why the Emperors began the gladiator fights, but the fact that Mille suggests they were successful is absurd when so many other authors agree that it was social conflict, unemployment, uprisings, and violence that helped lead to the end of the Roman Empire. There are even historic records of mobs being started in order to violently control political situations. Men were even violently carried out of court and beaten simply for not agreeing with the mass opinion. And if anything, the gladiatorial events would encourage violence in the minds of the young just as people complain that violent videogames are poisoning the minds of our youth today.
Another issue with this claim is that he compared it to the result of modern television, music, movies, and videogames. I believe that when an event as massive as your country engaging in war occurs, it is impossible to simply be distracted from it by entertainment. For instance, when the events of September 11, 2001 occurred in the U.S. and America entered a war with Iraq, a mere television sitcom could not distract the nation from the current events. And true, events were not broadcasted in Ancient Rome as they are broadcasted now, but wives and children of the soldiers knew their beloved men were fighting in wars and battles. They may not have known as many details as we do now given mass media, but a country still knew if it was at war, even then. Therefore, I do not consider this counter argument to be a valid one against my thesis. It is simply not plausible.
I believe that the main reasons the great Roman Empire fell, were mostly due to problems in the government and with its population such as failure to have a proper selective system in choosing the new emperor, the population becoming passive and weakening the military in doing so, changing the government to a Republic putting the rich in power and upsetting the poor etc. I also agree with some other opinions that widely spread borders making invasion easier to enemies and not being very technologically advanced are also causes of the Empires ultimate failure. However, I do not think these causes were as influential as the sociological and political reasons. And ultimately, I do not believe it was possible for the people of the Roman Empire to be distracted from political injustice and wars going on around them. I think the population was very aware of how corrupt their government was and the fact that unemployment was at a high. And although a certain group may have been affected by the introduction of Christianity into society and became pacifists, I think during the decline of the Roman Empire, many people became violent and reckless.