The history of The Roman Empire is one of the mostly covered concepts in history all the world. It draws the attention of both the young and the old. What is so interesting with the Roman Empire history? Is it its origin, emperors or its decline and ultimate collapse? In deed there is a multitude of reasons why many people have invested their time and resources in studying the Roman Empire. As a way of understanding this history, this essay explores comprehensively some of the causes of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire after 180 CE. These causes range from political, economical, religious social and environmental factors which greatly contributed to the crumbling of the once powerful and influential empire in the world.
The decline of the Roman Empire has been described as the gradual disintegration of various Roman institutions including but not limited to military, economic, political and social structures leading to the invasions which culminated the fall of the Empire. It is important to note that several theories have been put across, suggested and even published regarding reasons behind the fall of the Roman Empire some of which have been suggested as late as mid 1980s. Nevertheless, the process took approximately 320 years which came to an end on 4 September 476 when a German Chieftain, Odoacer toppled the last Emperor, Romulus Augustus. Throughout the falling process, there are many important dates to be remembered like death emperors, invasions and the arrival of Islam (Fenner). The decline and fall of the empire has however been described as a complex transformation.
The Roman Empire suffered severe plagues between 166-180 CE. This adversely affected the life of many people. For instance, high death rates which resulted from plagues led to depopulation and low birth rate. As a result other tribes of people were welcomed to settle in the Empire and help in ensuring population growth and economic development. This introduction of barbaric tribes was viewed as an opening for their integration in the Roman society. They ended up joining the military and carrying out mercenary activities. According to historical experts and research findings, deforestation of Italy affected Roman civilization. As a result land erosion took place, destroying land which was meant for agricultural activities, mainly farming. Many rivers were also silted as a result of deposits which were washed down stream by running water. Silting of water later led to alteration of the course of several rivers which resulted into flooding. Swamps also begun forming and acted as breeding sites for mosquitoes. All these led to malaria attack which haunted Romans severely. Another cause related to disease infection emanated from the use of lead pipes to convey water to various parts of the Empire (Typology of Values). This led to lead poisoning that claimed several lives leaving permanent wounds some of which are nursed today.
On the other hand, social factors also contributed to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. The Empire was ruled by oppressive governance which led to the dominance of the State over the interests of individuals who had no better survival options but to persevere. This is quite amazing since Rome established its societal history on discipline and fully supported good and strong family set up. However, these principles were not to stand the test of time. Many people got attracted by militarism as they craved for victory. Normally those who joined the military were expected to protect their families and promote their welfare. It was not the case. They devoted themselves to serve as mercenaries in serving the interests of private groups and individuals. There was increase in demand for foreign goods leading to the outflow of currency to foreign countries. Many people moved to cities after being attracted by a wealthy Roman society only to become wealth dependent. This resulted into the need to restructure leadership to cover taxation in urban areas and oversee the acquisition of resources. The middle class was consequently forgotten making Roman people to gradually relinquish their social leadership.
Another cause of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire was inflation propagated by leaders who had their selfish interests at heart. According to historical research, Nero collaborated with other Emperors in desecrating the Roman currency with an aim of supplying coins. This had severe economic implications. Currency lost its original value and only represented the gold or silver from which it was formed. Consequently, inflation struck the Empire, weakening its economy and rendering it vulnerable to coups. Luxurious leaders like Commodus also exhausted the resources of the Roman Emperor leaving the treasury with insufficient funds at his assassination (Decline of the Roman Empire). Resources were also drained through political campaigns which targeted fulfilling individual passions and needs. The Great fire that destroyed property including businesses and building also affected the economy of the Roman Empire during the reign of Nero. Although Nero claimed that the fire was started by Christians, it was believed that Nero wanted to deal with Christians who were opposed to his leadership. It was therefore a way of persecuting Christians who completely criticized his oppressive leadership and misuse of public resources.
Another cause of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire was the tyranny of the military. Although early leaders used the Senate to govern their areas of jurisdiction, later Emperors applied military force in ruling. As a result, Civil wars were very common leading to continuous internal warfare which destabilized the Empire. Based on these factors, it is clear that the decline and fall of the Roman Empire was not an instant event. It was attributed to a number of factors some of which were long term, short term and even inter related. However, leaders and leadership played a pivotal role in shaping the future and stability of the Empire before it succumbed to the fall.