Presentation on theme: "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Objectives Know the various causes for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. The economic reasons The social."— Presentation transcript:
Objectives Know the various causes for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. The economic reasons The social reasons The political reasons The military reasons
The Roman empire hits its high water mark in AD 180 with the death of Emperor Marcus Aurelius It’s all downhill from there.
Economic reasons The Roman economy was partially based on constant expansion. This brought new land, new money, new treasure, new slaves, and new taxes. Once the empire stopped expanding, that influx of goods stopped, and Rome simply wasn’t used to such stasis. It was a shark: it had to keep moving to survive.
Without the influx of goods and money from expansion, rampant inflation started setting in as the currency started to be worth less. The value of coinage was based on how much gold or silver was in the coin. Without the conquering, less gold was coming into the empire, but there was still a lot leaving the empire as it was being spent of foreign goods. With less gold and silver to go around, less was put into the coins. Nice, but that meant the coins were worth less to those who used them. Merchants accordingly raised their prices to get paid the same value in gold as before.
Grain production also decreased due to overfarming. This meant feeding people became more difficult.
Not keeping up with the times. The Romans were marvelous engineers, but they relied too much on human and animal labor instead of building machines. Since they weren’t conquering new people, they also weren’t adapting as much new and different technology (poor Borg). They especially relied too much on slave labor which meant a lot of unemployed folks that strained the economy.
Social reasons The aforementioned unemployment. Being a public servant had become costly and so most qualified, competent people just didn’t want to do it. Morals and work ethic Many Romans had become accustomed to the easy life of bread and circuses. It’s said that when the Vandals sacked Carthage, most of the inhabitants were watching the chariot races. These were also done at state expense, which drained the public treasury.
The rise of Christianity Many Romans blamed Christians for Rome’s problems because they weren’t honoring the Roman deities. Maybe not that, but the ideology may have played a role. The Romans succeeded through aggressive ruthlessness and a concentration on secular, worldly matters. Christianity, especially early on, was pacifist and absorbed with the hereafter. As the religion spread, it weakened Roman resolve. Feedback loop People saw bad things happening to the empire, which lowers their morale, which enables more bad things to happen to the empire.
Political reasons The problem with political office being undesirable. Imperial Succession One big problem with the Roman imperial system is that there was never an established method of passing the crown to another upon the emperor’s death. This meant that it was up for grabs. The best case scenario is that one person is most powerful or can quickly take control. The worst case scenario is that there are many powerful people and they fight in a civil war. Since most legions were stationed on the borders, they were distanced from Rome and loyal to their generals.
Thus, the generals would take their armies and war amongst each other for the throne. Most wound up dead during the fighting or were assassinated or overthrown soon after taking “power.” Sometimes, the crown went to whoever bribed the right people.
The split The empire is eventually and officially divided into two halves: the western and eastern Roman empires.
Military reasons This is a big cause. Long borders As the empire expanded, so did its borders. Maintaining those borders against enemies became a massive and expensive endeavor. Military spending took a significant chunk of the treasury and took money away from many public projects. Mercenaries Rome also began hiring mercenaries. These guys worked for cash, not loyalty, and could be highly unreliable. They also cost more exacerbating the above problem.
Invasion Barbarians started invading the empire and the legions couldn’t stop them. Some just wanted the good Roman life or merely land on which to settle. Others were pushed into Roman territory because the Huns were pushing them west. It didn’t help that some legions were pulled from the borders into Italy to fight in civil wars or that some barbarian forces were led by men who had fought in the Roman army and so knew the Roman tactics and strategies (both how to use them and how to fight against them). That and the Germanic tribes were never tamed or conquered. Oops.
The barbarians proceed to run rampant over Roman territory. In 410, Rome itself is sacked by the Visigoths. By 444, the Huns themselves, under the leadership of Attila (“the wrath of God”) run at will over the empire and threaten to destroy Rome itself. The pope, Leo I, negotiates with Attila and he withdraws his forces. Really, Attila likely withdrew because of food and manpower issues and because winter was approaching. And Leo I bribed him to leave. Leo, though, plays it up as divine intervention and uses it to strengthen the power of the early church.