Fall of the Roman Empire Essay

Fall of the Roman Empire

Introduction

Rome was founded in the very early days of the human civilization. It is one of the oldest cities in the world. Today it is known as the Eternal City. It is believed by the Roman people that Rome was founded in 753 B.C. Many histories however believe that it was 625 B.C. when Rome was founded. Early Rome was ruled by seven kings but than Romans took control over their own city and ruled for a long time. The Romans than formed a senate which started ruling over the. The senate, which was under the kings, was only to give advice the king. But not the Senate had more work to do, appointing of consul who ruled Rome like kings for a time frame of one year. This idea was said to be a wise one as the consul appointed rulers carefully and not as dictators for the kings knew that once his time period of one year was up he could not stay more because he could be punished.

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The division of the Roman people was very important to the Romans. There were four different classes of people in Rome. The lowest class was the slaves. Richer men ruled them. No rights were given to the.

The next set of class was the Plebeians. These types of people were free. Still they had little right. The next class was the equestrians also known as the knights. These people were given horses to ride on and fought for Rome. These were quite rich people. The highest class was the Nobles called Patricians. The power of Rome lay with them.

The Republic of Rome had a government, which was very successful. It lasted for almost 500 years from 510 B.C. to around 23 B.C.
The greatest challenge, which the Romans face, was from the Carthaginians. Their city Carthage was a powerful city situated in Northern Africa and like Rome had control over their own Empire. The war between the two empires was a very long one and often took place on land and even on sea.

Perhaps one of the most famous incident was when one of the great Carthaginian named Hannibal crossed the mountain known as the Alps and moved into north Italy with his troops including his war elephant and horses and invaded Italy. The Romans won the battle and the city of Carthage was totally destroyed in the year 146 B.C. One of the most famous citizens in Rome was Julius Caesar. Being a politician and general in Rome, he conquered a major territory of Gauls towards the north of his province in France.

Julius Caesar in 49 B.C. crossed a small river which flowed in between his govern province and Italy and named it Rubicon and conquered Rome and ruled it as a dictator. His campaign took him to Egypt where he met the famous Cleopatra. His life was ended as he was murdered in the Senate. After Julius Caesar many Generals came in Rome and some were good and some were bad. They were all trying to do well for Rome but no one knew that this magnificent Empire would fall.

The Rise of the Roman Empire

Romans treated their empire, as a world of their own which was one of the main reasons behind the success of the Empire. The world was like in other words associated with the Roman Empire. This faith kept the Empire together. This link and consistency was for temporary period but it was the best. No one knows what was the reason behind the fall of the Roman Empire, it could be the result of invasions or pressure from within the Empire or both at the same time but one thing is fore sure that when it fell, it fell with a loud noise. For the Western Civilization it would have taken around ten centuries or more to recuperate and change a world, which could have been an opponent of the Roman Empire.

The Greek-Roman tradition of thought properly started in the third century. At first the Romans limited the influence of Greek thought, but later slowly and gradually the ideas of Greeks joined the conceptions of the Romans and a new though was copied. From a Hellenistic, the world turned into Romanized. This is just example of how Romans accomplished so much by learning other cultures. The Tradition of Greece-Roman refers to the traditional Greece as it does to the Roman Empire. Both empires produced a world, which is called a Pagan. This world was totally material throughout. In both civilizations Gods and Goddesses were common and as time passes the ultimate importance was given to the honest life of a good citizen. The importance was now on living the best life whether they are in the city, state or the country[1].

The Roman-Greece custom was shaped over a thousand year of history of the world of Rome and Greece or the Classical world. The resurgence of the 14th-16th centuries trying to revitalize the principles of the classical world, and that is why the humanists of the resurgence period tried to copy the humanism of the past centuries. During the age of the Pax Romana, this pagan tradition of the Roman-Greece was joined by another vital tradition by a view of another world. The view was known as the Christian-Judeo tradition. This was the moral value of the Christian and the Jewish faith.

The Roman-Greek Tradition was material; it anticipated no one god and no religion as what is today did not exist at that time. The Greeks and the Romans would pay respect to many of their gods and goddesses and but they placed their actual trust in the hands of Man. They thought that Man is the thinker, Man does everything, and Man makes everything so there is not god. The Greeks thought that man has been gifted with reason, the ability to think and to use his intelligence.

First this took the form of adoring the city. Anything, which was out side of the city, was substandard, in other words Barbarian. In an imperative admiration such an approach was constricted in focus and presented the Greeks with a vision that banned them from additional expansion during the age of Hellenistic. The know thyself approach of Socrates made the Greeks so passionate with the personal development. The good man should live a good life and become a very good citizen, a righteous citizen[2]. The collection of righteous citizen would form the right city. The only was of living a good life was possible through Personal Examination.

The Greeks had different questions in their minds like what is knowledge? What is a good feature? What is the finest form of Government?  The Greeks were great thinkers rather than doing a thing. In due time the View of the Greeks was based on intelligence than it is on action. The Romans on the other hand were men who did rather than thought. They put into action, which the Greeks only thought. The Romans also had questions about the world like the Greeks had. The main difference between the two cultures was the Romans accepted the world, which was full of chaos. They very much developed their thought rather than the Greeks.

The result, which came out, was that the Romans managed to make their own world, which was the Roman Empire. The view of their world was personified in the Pagan Cult. This was the cult, which was the worship of Rome. The people of Rome believed that the fate of Rome was the fate of the world. No one knew that this empire would start to fall.

The fall of the Empire

“The warlike states of antiquity, Greece, Macedonia, and Rome, educated a race of soldiers; exercised their bodies, disciplined their courage, multiplied their forces by regular evolutions, and converted the iron which they possessed into strong and serviceable weapons. But this superiority insensibly declined with their laws and manners; and the feeble policy of Constantine and his successors armed and instructed, for the ruin of the empire, the rude valor of the Barbarian mercenaries”.[3]

It is said that the fall of the Roman Empire started in A.D 476, as that was the time when the German’s removed the last emperor of Rome. However there are other dates, which are said to be the fall of the Roman Empire. Some say it fell as it split into two regions. Some say it was a process for the past one century. As Rome is still standing, some say it never fell.

Why did Rome Fall?

Some historians believe some single factors behind the fall of the Roman Empire but most people think that there were different factors behind the fall such as Monetary, Christianity, and Lead etc[4]. The rising of Islam is said to be another reason behind the Fall of Rome. Christianity is said to be a factor as some say it made the Roman people against violence, which made it difficult for them to defend themselves against the Barbarians. Also money, which could have been used to maintain the empire, was used to build churches. The reasons behind the fall are discussed in detail:

Christianity

Constantine tolerated religious activities in the Roman Empire and for that he took a title of Pontiff. Although he wasn’t a Christian, he gave Christians the right and he solved major disputes. He couldn’t understand the pagan cults including those of the emperors. But on his deathbed Constantine changed his religion into Christianity. The path from the Pagan cult to the Roman Christianity had a couple of hurdles but at the time of Constantine, Christianity in Rome is dated. At this point in time the emperors had the power to select bishops. But as time passed, Churches became powerful and took away the power of appointing bishops from the emperors. Thus started the beliefs of Christians conflicting with the working of the Roman Empire.

Vandals and Religious Controversy

People living outside of Rome identified themselves as Roman Citizens. They preferred to live as if they were natives even if they were to live in poverty, which meant turning to those places that could help them like Brigands, Christians or Germans.

Decline in Morals and Values

The Values and morals, which kept the Roman’s together, started to decline and therefore the empire could not be maintained. Increase in crime rate made the streets of large cities unsafe. During the Pax Romana era there were about 32000 prostitutes in Rome. Nero and Caligula, two emperors of Rome who became infamous for wasting their money on Parties in which the Guests ate and drank all the time until n unless they became sick. The most admired enjoyment was watching the gladiators fight in combat in the Coliseum.[5] The rich, the poor and the Emperor himself watched theses combats frequently.  Aggressive cries and curses were heard from the audience while the gladiators fought in combat. Contest after contest were held in a single day, and when the ground became full of blood, a fresh layer of sand was laid so that the performance would continue.

Public Health
There were loads of environmental and health problems. The wealthy had the money to bring water pipes to their homes through lead pipes. The water of the canal was previously purified but the end result, which was preferred, was to lay Lead pipes. The death rate of the wealthy people was very high. The people interacted so much in the Coliseum, also the blood of the death spread many diseases. People who lived in the streets were in continuous contact and diseases were being spread like the homeless who live in poorer shelters in today’s world. The use of Alcohol increased as well as the stupidity of the public.

Political Corruption
Choosing a new emperor was one of the most difficult problems faced by the Romans. In Greece the changeover was not smooth but it was consistent, whereas the Romans never created a system, which was effective in choosing a new emperor. The choice of choosing a new emperor was always open between the existing emperor or old emperor, the private army of the Emperor, the Senate, and the whole army. Slowly the emperor’s private army also known as the Praetorian guards was given the full authority to choose a new emperor. Rewards were given to these guards who became more influential in choosing the new emperor and thus continuing the cycle. But in 186 A.D. the emperor was strangled by the Army and thus began the practice of giving the throne to one whose bid was the highest. In the next 100 years, Rome saw around 37 different emperors of which 25 were removed from the throne by means of Assassination. This led to the overall downfall of the Roman Empire.

Unemployment
During the concluding years of the Empire, farming was mostly done on large lands, which were called as Lati-fundia, which were in possession of the wealthy men who used slaves do the work. Most of the Farmers could not contend with the low prices that wealthy man would give and mostly sold or lost their farms to other men. This damaged the farmer to pass his moral values to his family and also increased the cities with many unemployed people. At one time the situation was so drastic that the emperor had to trade in grain to feed more than a 100000 people in Rome alone. These people were becoming a burden and did nothing but only cause trouble and contributed to the increase of crime rate in cities.

Inflation
The economy of Rome suffered from increasing of prices of all the commodities (Inflation) after the time in power if of Marcus Aurelius. The flow of gold into the Roman economy decreased after the Romans stopped conquering new lands. But still the Romans were spending a lot of gold for their luxury. In return this meant that gold to be used in coins also decreased. This devalued the coins because amount of gold, which was being used in coins, started to decrease. The merchants to make up for the loss in devalue of money raised the prices of the goods they were selling. This affected the people so much that they started to barter instead of paying money for the things they wanted to buy. Salaries to the employees were paid in clothes and food and collecting of taxes were done in vegetables and fruits.

Urban decay
Romans who were wealthy lived in houses, which were made of floors with complex color tiles, windows that were made of small sheets of glass and walls made of Marble. Many Romans were not rich and they used to live in apartments, which were about six or more stories and had small smelly rooms. These types of places were called Islands. These Islands covered a whole block. In Rome, at one time there were around 44,000 apartment houses within the city. The Poor Romans could not afford the first floor apartments as they had a rent of about $100 a year. The more dangerous stairs a family had to ascend, the cheaper the rent became. The poor could rent the upper apartments, which had a rent of $40 a year but they were crowded, dangerous, dirty and hot. People who could not pay the rent were thrown out of the apartment and lived on the streets, which were infested with crime. This made the cities to decay.

Inferior Technology
The Romans achievement in science in the last 400 years was entirely limited to organization of the public and engineering. The Romans built magnificent roads, canals and bridges. In this time period for the first time a system of medicine was established to benefit the poor. The drawback was that Romans relied so much on animal and human labor that they did not invent new technology so that new and better machines could be built to make good more professionally. The Romans could not provide enough food for their own growing public. As they were not conquering other areas and by not adapting their technology, they were starting to lose their own territories and could no longer maintain relations with their own legions.

Military Spending
A constant drain on the government was maintaining of the army to defend the empire against the attacks of the Barbarians. Spending on the military was so much that only a few resources were left such as providing people with houses, maintaining roads and Canals. Romans became so frustrated that they started losing the desire to defend their own Empire. The Roman emperors were forced to recruit soldiers from the unemployed city, worse was they were being forced to recruit from foreign countries. This type was army was totally unreliable and also very expensive to maintain. This forced the emperors to increases taxes, which in turn led to inflation being increased.

Power corrupts

Contentment and ill regulation among the legions spread the seeds for a lack of organization that eventually damaged the Empire. What was once tight military might had become a swollen crowd ripe for the taking.  The Romans had no control over their legions which once served them and defended Rome against the Barbarians.

THE FINAL BLOWS
The Roman army was very well disciplined and held Germany back. But than in the Third Century, Soldiers of Rome was pulled from Danube-Rhine frontier to a fight a civil war happening in Italy. This made the Roman Empire fragile to attack. Slowly and gradually German herders and hunter who hailed from the north began to take Roman lands. Than finally in 476 AD German General Odovacar conquered Rome and over threw the last Roman Emperor Augustus Romulus[6].  From then on German chiefs ruled the western part of the Roman Empire. Roads, Bridges and Canals were not repaired and lands dried out. Bandits and Pirates made traveling unsafe. Cities were not maintained the way they were used to because the trade, business and farms began to disappear. Than Roman Empire was left no more.

Bibliography

Gibbon (1909), Decline and fall of the Roman Empire, ed. by J. B. Bury, London. 2nd ed., vol. 4.
Wikipedia (2007) Roman Empire. Retrieved from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_empire

Peter Heather (2007) The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians. Oxford University Press, USA.

Edward Gibbon (2005)The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Phoenix Press

Heather. P.J (2006) The Fall of the Roman Empire. Pan Books.

[1] Wikipedia (2007) Roman Empire. Retrieved from:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_empire

[2] Heather. P.J (2006) The Fall of the Roman Empire. Pan Books
[3] Gibbon (1909), Decline and fall of the Roman Empire, ed. by J. B. Bury, London. 2nd ed., vol. 4.

[4] Edward Gibbon (2005)The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Phoenix Press

[5] Peter Heather (2007) The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians. Oxford University Press, USA
[6] Peter Heather (2007) The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians. Oxford University Press, USA

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