The Fall of Rome
The Roman Empire was without a doubt the
most powerful governing body in the Mediterranean ever. Why did Rome fall?
There was not any single cause to the fall of Rome. It was many things
occurring in succession to each other.
After the Punic wars with Carthage, Rome
acquired many new lands that it did not have before. During peace times
it was easy to govern these areas but during war times it proved difficult.
The government had to pay soldiers to patrol the frontiers of the empire;
it could no longer rely on the loot to serve as the pay for the soldiers.
This took a significant amount of money out of the Roman treasury. Some
emperors wanted to save money and made the army too small to have control
over such a large empire.
The economy of Rome was also suffering.
Rome was importing goods from its colonies but wasn’t exporting nearly
as much. This created an imbalance of trade. The colonies were creating
their own finished goods and no longer relied on Rome for them. New coins
were then made out of lead and gold to devalue the currency. Merchants
now charged more money because these new coins were not worth as much as
the old ones. This created inflation, this problem plagued the empire until
The problem of succession also contributed
to the fall of Rome. There was never a set system of succession. After
the death of an emperor, generals competed with each other for power. Once
someone gained power they didn’t rule for long; someone often assassinated
them. This weakened the authority of Rome; corruption was common and law
was almost non-existent.
Diocletian tried to make reforms to make
the empire as strong as it was before. He realized that the empire was
too large for one person to govern, he split the empire in half and took
control of eastern part himself. He then appointed a co-emperor to rule
in the west. He also reorganized the problems in the civil service and
made them responsible directly to the emperor. He increased the size of
the army and trained them better. To improve the economic health of the
empire, Diocletian set limits on prices and wages to slow down inflation.
To give some stability in agriculture and manufacturing, he ordered people
to stay in their jobs. There was no room for promotion. Diocletian died
in 305 A.D.
In 324 A.D. Constantine took over as emperor.
He reunited the east and west under his own rule. He also built a new capital
at Byzantium, on the Bosporus. He named this city Constantinople. Constantine
wanted a new capital that would be a Christian city, not a pagan one. He
continued the policies of Diocletian. People saw no need to work hard with
no chance of getting ahead. These reforms only slowed down the process
of collapse. After Constantine’s death in 337 A.D., the empire was again
To the north of the Rhine and Danube rivers,
lived a group of people known as the German tribes. They were herders and
farmers who had migrated from Scandinavia. As their population grew, they
began to look for new land. They decided that moving into the Roman Empire
was a good idea. The Roman army was spread thin and could barely cope with
the Germans. In the fourth century, the Huns, a nomadic people from central
Asia, began attacking the German tribes. Thus the tribes looked for protection
from the Huns in the Empire. They received permission from the Emperor
to live in the Empire. A couple of years later the Romans sent an army
to defeat the Germans and failed to defeat them. This proved that Rome
was not invincible. The Germans continued to sack the west; they invaded
Italy and sacked Rome. Rome bought peace by giving the Germans most of
Gaul and Spain. The Huns then marched into Rome and they were soundly defeated
by Rome and its German allies. The west of the Empire became a mess with
no one in any real control.
In the east, Constantinople continued
to be the capitol city. Its rulers called themselves Roman emperors and
its people were Roman citizens subject to Roman law. True, the western
portion of the Empire was crumbling, but all through the fifth and sixth
centuries the people of the east could say without a doubt that the Roman
Empire had not fallen.
There was no certain official date when
Rome was considered to fall. Many historians though, believe it was in
476 A.D. A small German chief, Odoacer captured Rome and proclaimed himself
king. The city of Rome was finally overthrown. Despite this, the people
who lived throughout the Empire considered themselves Roman citizens and
followed Roman laws. In the East Rome was still strong. Even today we have
adopted many of the Roman ways of life. Rome influenced every civilization
after and in a sense we are all Roman citizens.
The great Empire of Rome, the greatest
power to ever rule the Mediterranean had fallen. It was unthinkable. Their
faults in politics, economics and other things contributed to their fall.
There was no one single cause; it was many things happening at once, which
caused the fall of Rome. The leaders of today should look at Rome’s mistakes
and be sure not to make the same ones again.