By: Tim Bortoli
The Roman Empire is perhaps one of the most famous empires to ever exist. At the height of its power in 117 AD, the Roman Empire extended from the United Kingdom dominating all of Europe, as well as parts of Northern Africa and the Middle East. For two centuries the Roman Empire had great stability and prosperity known as Pax Romana meaning Roman Peace. During the 3rd century of its reign cracks started to develop and by the 5th century parts of the empire split off to form separate empires. Due to its long and relatively stable existence the Roman empire has impacted dramatically on literature, language, religion, architecture, philosophy, law, and forms of government. Many of these ideals also spread to others areas of the world through the exploration and rule of the European countries. What caused this mighty empire to collapse? Read this article to find out.
What caused the collapse of the Roman Empire?
Many theories abound about the collapse of the Roman Empire, but most agree that it was a culmination of political problems, economic problems and military problems. The Roman Empire existed for a period of 500 years and the ability to govern, maintain and protect such a large empire caused the empire to collapse.
Political problems began to arise when the once Roman Republic became an Empire. The connection between the people’s senate and the emperor became strained. The senate itself also became corrupt with seats given to those who could pay. It was also relatively common for bribes to be taken to sway votes on important matters. This led to the appointment of some very questionable emperors who did not always make the best decisions for the empire. The citizens of the Roman Empire began to revolt under such poor treatment creating political unrest in the empire. The split of the Empire into two empires, the Eastern and the Western Roman Empire also caused political tension.
The military of the Roman Empire was a formidable and imposing opponent. As the Empire continued to expand it became more and more difficult for the Roman army to recruit soldiers and maintain the strength and tactical advantages they had over surrounding countries. Many of the militia held no love for the Roman Empire and were not interested in fighting their battles. Others had becomes integrated into the culture where they were stationed and did not want to engage in combat against their communities. Another problem that faced the Roman Empire was the growing threat by organised barbarian cultures such as the Vandals, Goths, and Huns. The Roman army was spread so thinly it was impossible for the Roman army to defend their borders. The military efforts of the Roman Empire became so costly that they were unable to continue to expand and conquer as they had done in the past.
The economy of the Roman Empire also disintegrated over time. As political unrest grew in the Roman Empire, the capital of Rome could not support itself economically. Money was no longer coming in from the surrounding areas and it had nothing to trade to support itself. High taxes also caused unrest and the imprisonment of many people within the empire. This added to the loss of support by the people of the empire. Roman money became virtually worthless and people had to rely on bartering and trading to acquire goods and services.
The empire also began to fail morally. As it embraced more of the culture of other countries it had conquered the moral fabric of the empire degraded. Sexual promiscuity, alcohol, the devaluing of life for sport, and gambling eroded the moral philosophies of the empire. The Empire was no longer able to inspire and uplift people and the population became disillusioned with their senate and emperors. People were no longer willing to work to build up the glorious empire.
Another factor that contributed to the collapse of the empire included the rise of Christianity. As more of the Roman population accepted this new faith the empire changed from an attitude of conquest to one of love and compassion. The people were no longer interested in expanding the empire and these ideals no longer held sway. The Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great declared himself to be a Christian and actively promoted a more peaceful empire. Slave labour also begin to decline after the rise in Christianity and the workforce that the Roman Empire had relied on for so long no longer existed in the numbers that were needed.
The Roman Empire finally collapsed for good after a number of barbarian attacks and sacking of the city of Rome. The sacking of Rome clearly showed the loss of Roman authority and military power.