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AntoniaR.

Downfall of Rome

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In my History class we are starting to learn about the Roman Empire. I knew alot of information because i have been taking Latin as my laungage. There is one question that is still don't get. what contributed to the downfall of Rome? is there on answer or many?

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Hi AntoniaR, and welcome to UNRV.

 

I'm afraid that (as I'm sure you must have suspected) the reasons for the downfall of the Roman Empire are not only many and varied, but have been argued over passionately long into the night by this forum's contributors for many years.

 

You don't have to look too far through the history here before you find a thread on that subject. I can give you the following as just one example of many, but perhaps the others can post some more links to threads that will help you understand this particularly thorny question.

 

Thread link

 

. . . and also, you have to be clear about what you mean by the downfall of the Roman Empire. Just the Western Empire, or the final downfall of the Eastern Empire (or even the Holy Roman Empire).

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If I may chime in.  

From “The Great Courses,” and the course “The World Was Never The Same”, Professor Fears noted that in 62 BC the empire was in decline, in some part, because of big money in politics.  How we have SCOTUS running Citizens United.  I am looking for additional reference on this topic. 

Any comments, direction, or advice appreciated.

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The common answer to this is with a book, Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  

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Well, one German academic has collected all the various theories about the downfall of Rome - all 238 of them. Personally I prefer to see the downfall as resulting from an analogy to age in a living organism, since a nation state can be said to be an extrapolation of living individuals. Rome had gotten old. Less and less able to fend for itself, requiring more and more outside assistance, and in the end, succumbing to a gothic infection (I don't mean actual disease of course).

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I will point out that except for griping about Clovis's son, there isn't much in there about the European monarchies.  

Perhaps the most memorable quote is this

"The story of its ruin is simple and obvious; and instead of inquiring why the Roman empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted so long. The victorious legions, who, in distant wars acquired the vices of strangers and mercenaries, first oppressed the freedom of the republic, and afterwards violated the majesty of the Purple. The emperors, anxious for their personal safety and the public peace, were reduced to the base expedient of corrupting the discipline which rendered them alike formidable to their sovereign and to the enemy; the vigour of the military government was relaxed, and finally dissolved, by the partial institutions of Constantine; and the Roman world was overwhelmed by a deluge of Barbarians."

Gibbon, Edward. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Penguin Classics) (p. 449). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition. 

That quote is the most important quote from any historian ever, it is about the nature of the relationship between freedom and self defense.  

Edited by dnewhous
this is important

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I notice how easily people use the idea of oppression regarding the Roman Empire. Rome was, despite its occaisional clumsiness, greed, and internal division, a relatively benign entity that favoured individual freedoms. Perhaps this emerges from more recent experience of large empires, but then Gibbon discusses it too back in his day. Is the concept of imperialistic oppression rather more to do with the human psyche or our post-medieval societal structures? Oppression in Roman times did occur, but was not a consistent policy. Indeed, the Senate was often quick to withdraw governors who got too heavy-handed, and some of them got punished for their oppressions. That might explain Gibbon's view - that the individual cases of oppression are colouring a more congenial if rough form of occupation and administration.

Edited by caldrail

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This is what the Dark Ages has to say about the fall of Gaul:

By the second quarter of the fifth century the Franks were firmly established on the Scheldt and Meuse and lower Rhine, where the Roman garrisons never reappeared after the usurper Constantine had carried off the northern frontier legions to aid him in his attack on Italy (406). By this time, too, Colonia Agrippina, first of the great Roman cities of the Rhineland, seems to have already fallen into the hands of the Franks.

Oman, Charles. The Dark Ages 476-918 A.D. (p. 39). Augustine Books. Kindle Edition. 

and this, not altogether unsupportive of Clovis's son, is what the Decline and Fall has to say

The Thuringians served in the army of Attila: they traversed, both in their march and in their return, the territories of the Franks; and it was perhaps in this war that they exercised the cruelties, which, about fourscore years afterwards, were revenged by the son of Clovis. They massacred their hostages, as well as their captives: two hundred young maidens were tortured with exquisite and unrelenting rage; their bodies were torn asunder by wild horses, or their bones were crushed under the weight of rolling waggons;

Gibbon, Edward. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Penguin Classics) (p. 430). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition. 

I don't have any good quotes from it, but another work about the downfall of Rome that is primarily a religious work is City of God by Saint Augustine.

Edited by dnewhous

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Judging from the sermons of certain Roman bishops, the Romans themselves were well aware of how poorly their nation was coping and really didn't seem too motivated by it. Apathy and a lack of patriotic zeal one suspects. Corruption was of course endemic to Roman society and had been as long as wealth was bandied around, with individuals using friends and family like credit cards, or those sordid deals behind other peoples backs. I note that recruiters for the legions were often bribed to go away, and then these men hired barbarians at cheaper rates in order to make a profit from the funds available. The same idea as tax farming essentially.

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