The Fall of The Roman Empire
The Fall of The Roman Empire
According to historical accounts, the Roman Empire fell in the year 476 C.E. when Odoacer, a Germanic king, deposed Emperor Romulus Augustulus. However, contrary to common belief, the Roman Empire did not fall suddenly. Before its eventual collapse, it had been going through a phase of gradual decline. Most of the territories that Rome controlled had already been lost and only a small part of the empire remained under Rome’s control (Gibbon, 2015). 476 C.E thereby represents the climax of the decline that had been going on for a long time. Different historians have developed various theories on how the Roman Empire fell and the factors which caused it. Some of the factors which have been blamed for the collapse include natural disasters, crippling taxation, while some have even blamed it on climate change. Other historians argue that the empire did not actually fall in 476 C.E. since the Byzantine Empire which was part of the Roman Empire continued to exist for a long time (Kaegi, 2015). While historians have tried to pinpoint the collapse of the Roman Empire on one particular cause, in reality the fall of the empire was a complex event that was a result of many factors.
Causes of the fall of the Roman Empire
There are a number of factors which were responsible for the decline and eventual fall of the Roman Empire. They include invasion by barbarian tribes, economic problems, overexpansion and overspending on military and political instability and government corruption (Christie, 2011).
Invasion by barbarian tribes
The invasion by barbarian tribes is one of the main factors which resulted in the collapse of the Roman Empire. Before its fall, the Roman Empire had sustained a number of military losses against outside forces. For centuries, Rome had engaged in wars with Germanic tribes. However, by 300s, barbarian tribes such as the Goths had significantly invaded the empire. As such, the empire was in a constant war with these tribes, trying to quell constant uprisings (Kaegi, 2015). In late 4th century, the empire managed to weather a Germanic uprising. However, in 410, it faced another uprising led by the Visigoth King Alaric. In 455, the city of Rome experienced another attack by the Vandals. The constant invasions by the Germanic and barbarian tribes resulted in the weakening of the empire and eventual fall in 476 after the invasion of Odoacer.
Apart from the constant attacks by outside forces, the Roman Empire was also collapsing from within due to a severe financial crisis it was facing. Overspending and constant wars the empire engaged in had considerably depleted imperial coffers. On the other hand, inflation and oppressive taxation had broadened the gap which existed between the poor and the rich (Gibbon, 2015). Most wealthy individuals also escaped to the countryside to avoid taxation as well as set up their own independent fiefdoms. These factors reduced the revenue collected by the empire thereby making it to crumble financially.
The empire’s economy was also negatively affected by labor deficit. The economy of Rome relied mainly on slaves who worked on fields and as craftsmen. From its constant military campaigns, the empire had always a constant supply of slaves from conquered regions. However, when expansion stopped in the 2nd century, the supply of slaves dwindled (Kaegi, 2015). In addition, Vandals took control of North Africa in the 5th century thereby disrupting Rome’s trade. With a decline in agricultural and commercial production and a faltering economy, Rome began to lose control over Europe and this eventually led to its collapse.
Overexpansion and military overspending
At the height of its powers, the Roman Empire comprised of a vast region which went all the way to the Middle East. Historians believe that its vast size contributed to its collapse. Governing such a vast region presented administrative and logistical problems for the empire. Although there were excellent road systems which made travel easy, communication was not quick enough among different regions under its control (Christie, 2011). In addition, the empire struggled to gather enough resources and troops to defend its territories. As more resources were channeled into the military, the empire civil infrastructure collapsed and technological advancement stalled. These factors led to its eventual collapse.
Political instability and government corruption
While the huge size of the empire made it hard to govern, its collapse was also contributed to by political instability and government corruption. While being an emperor in Rome was always a dangerous job, in the 2nd and 3rd centuries it was almost a death sentence being an emperor. Civil war plunged the empire into chaos and in a period 75 years only over 20 individuals occupied the throne. The emperor’s personal bodyguards, the Pretorian Guard, carried out constant assassinations of emperors and installed new ones (Gibbon, 2015). The situation was worsened by corruption in government where the senate failed to put in check the emperors’ excesses because of its own corruption. Poor leadership eventually resulted to the collapse of the empire.
What leaders could have done to slow down or prevent its collapse
There are a number of things that the leaders could have done to slow down or prevent the collapse of the empire. One of them is they could have sought alliances rather than concentrate on conquering only. By engaging in conquests only, the empire created enemies instead of friends. This explains the constant civil wars that it experienced (Kaegi, 2015). On the other hand, forging alliances would have helped the empire to easily fight the barbarians by using its allies. In addition, forging alliances would have enhanced trade which would have boosted its economy.
Another thing that the leaders should have done is to focus its military on the defensive purposes rather than offensive purposes. By constantly engaging its military in offensive campaigns, the Roman Empire gradually weakened its military powers and this made it easy for the Germanic and barbarian tribes to invade it (Christie, 2011). Lastly, the leadership should have developed a mechanism for transition of power after the death of an emperor. Having a structured way of taking over the throne would have helped to control the constant civil wars which arose as people fought to occupy the throne.
Critical failures in leadership which ...