The Causes of the Economic Recession of Later Roman Empire

Topics: Roman Empire, Decline of the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire Pages: 7 (2451 words) Published: October 2, 2012
The causes of the economic recession of later Roman Empire

Ziyan Kong
GLS 470
Jennifer Zoller
March 27, 2012

The decline and fall of Roman Empire was an attractive topic. This paper will focus on the economic field. There will be three parts in this paper to analyze the reason of the economic recession happened in later Roman Empire. After the back background introduction, the first part will focus on how the Empire's military affected the economy. The legions of Empire used to be the reason for the prosperity of the Empire but in the later period they couldn't protect the Empire any more. The second part will focus on how the political chaos affected the economy. The turbulence in administration system brought the disorder to the Empire and interrupt increase of economy. In the third part, to analysis what kinds of changes happened in the economic field is the purpose. The people lived in Roman Empire, including the Emperor, officers and citizens, didn't know the importance of industry and commerce. To sum up, the economic recession was resulted by the cause from these three fields.

Few topics are more attractive than the decline and fall of Roman Empire, one of the world’s earliest superpowers. Roman grew from a small settlement of farmers into an Empire which nearly ruled whole west part of the then known world. The Roman Empire stretched from Scotland to Egypt and lasted a considerable long time. Some influence left by Roman still affects the world. Italian, Spanish and French are romance languages and much of the world's law is derived from imperial Rome. However, as the splendid of Rome's Rise, the fall of Rome is also very mysterious and rouses endless debate. It took several centuries rather than a few years. The empire experienced a series of disasters during the third century. The civil wars, foreign invasions, plagues and other calamities it suffered for more than half a century after 235AD would have been enough to cause the terminal disintegration of most empires(Rodgers, 2008, p.222). It’s great fortune that the empire had several powerful soldier-emperors, such as Aurelian, Constantine I and Valentinian I. The empire survived, however, in a different form and at a price that grew steadily more crushing, politically, financially and militarily (Rodgers, 2008, p.222).

The economic developments of the later Roman period provide a clue to the decline and fall of Roman Empire (Brown, 1967). Rather than analysis all the answers for what lead the fall of Roman Empire, this paper will focus on the recession in economic filed. The economic recession was caused by several relative issues including changes happened in military, politic and economical field.

The influence of military decay on economy
In the first part of my paper, I want to discuss what kind of role the military power of the Empire play in the Economic recession in later Empire period. In the words of Rodgers, "Rome didn't acquire or keep its empire by noble ideals or fine words" because "it was, first and last, a nation of soldiers." (2008, p.10)The biggest cost of Roman Empire is the soldier's pay and provisions. Roman legions used to be invincible and be regarded as the most powerful military power. However, it didn't take no price. As Roman troops were the best army, they also were the most expensive military force in ancient world.

Before I analysis the negative influence of the military force, I must list the positive effects of legions, because the Roman Empire was gained by swords not others. The war of conquest brought salve, silver and gold to the center of the Empire, Rome. The salve provided the cheap labor which was needed by thousands farms and plantations in Italy. The large amount of precious metal stimulates the desire of the nobles and rich men to purchase amusement and entertainment. The triumphs of the legions made Rome became the trade center of the Mediterranean. As it grew, Rome...

References: Brown, P., (1967). The Later Roman Empire. The Economic History Review. New Series, 20(2), 327-343. Retrieved from
Fall of Roman Empire
Gray, J. (2007). The Fall of the Roman Empire.MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History. 20(1). Retrieved from
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Rostovtzeff, I. (1957). The Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Retrieved from
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