Fall of the Roman Empire

Fall of the Roman Empire




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Fall of the Roman Empire


Historians tell us that the Roman Empire did not collapse, but instead it decayed over several centuries. Under the rule of Diocletian (285-305AD), the Empire had been deemed too large to govern. As a result it was divided into two parts, the eastern and western empires. Now, the western capital was in Rome and the eastern capital was in Constantinople (Byzantium). Historians also tell us that the principle reason for the collapse was laziness. Things became so bad that the Roman Senate stopped debating issues and instead let the emperor decide everything. At this time political issues were decided by armies and battle, and if the emperor maintained control of the military he could stay in office forever. Unfortunately, if the soldiers did not like the emperor they could easily overthrow him. Then along came Emperor Domitian. He made things even worse by creating a new law which stated that the father's occupation would be that of the son. Consequently, there was no way for upward mobility. At the same time, those who were already at the top became lazy because they could not be fired and nothing could effect their social status. Another problem was the social division of the Romans. Over time they had become so socially divided that they were unable to unite as a group with a common cause. There were patricians(upper class), plebeians (lower class), and slave classes. There were also farmers and city dwellers, citizens and non-citizens, tax payers and non-tax payers. Probably, the one issue that divided the Roman Empire the most was the issue of pagan or Christian.

Throughout the history of the Rome, barbarian tribes had attacked the outer fringes of the Empire. From 200 AD to 300 AD they were continually attacked by Germanic tribes who lived north of the Empire. These Germanic tribes were semi-nomadic people who raised herds of cattle and sheep, and were known to eat meat raw. Then between the years of 300-375 AD, the Germanic tribes did not attack the Empire. However, soon afterward, they once again went to war against the Empire in search of riches. At the same time a new group of invaders appeared. They were a tribe of horsemen from Mongolia who were called the Huns. Without much resistance, the Huns stormed into eastern Europe and conquered the Germanic tribe called the Ostrogoth or East Goths. As the result, the neighboring Visigoths feared that they would surely be the next target of the savage Huns. Frightened, the Visigoths pleaded for Rome to offer them protection inside the boundaries of the Roman Empire. Not long afterward the Roman Emperor Valens agreed, and the immigration began. Immediately afterward, the Visigoth people crossed the Danube River and sought protection in the Roman Empire. What they didn't know was that Emperor Valens had ulterior motives. He needed soldiers, and he wanted to use the Visigoths in his army. However, things did not go as planned. The rush of new people created a food shortage and before long the Visigoths were starving. Soon afterward they started attacking Roman cities and towns. As a result, Emperor Valens was forced to defend the Empire by attacking the Visigoths in Adrianople. There in Adrianople he was badly defeated and died on the battle field.

Emperor Theodosis managed to restore peace, which lasted until 395 AD. At this time, the Visigoth leader named Alaric began raiding the Italian Peninsula. Then in 410 AD, he attacked the city of Rome and emerged victorious. Before long, other tribes began invading the Western Roman Empire, and it would come to an end. The Eastern Roman Empire would survive for another 1,000 years. It would be known as the Byzantine Empire.