The Roman Empire was one of the most powerful in the world history. It had an international structure of its politics and a great economic strength. It also offered one common language to the people from the areas that were part of Rome. All these factors contributed to prosperity of the Roman Empire and unity among the different nations. It seemed that nothing could ever shake such a powerful system. Nevertheless, the Roman Empire fell. For a modern society, it is important to understand the reasons that were behind the fall and learn the lessons that could help to prevent mistakes and build a better society.
The Greatness of the Roman Empire
The Roman Empire rose after Greece weakened and lost its power. The foundations of the greatness were removed from Greeks and set on the banks of Tiber. The victory of Rome turned into triumph and it became a great economic and political power. The fidelity of the Roman citizens that they had to each other was based on their habits of education and religious practices. In his work "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" (1776-1788), Edward Gibbon put it in this way, "Honor, as well as virtue, was the principle of the republic; the ambitious citizens labored to deserve the solemn glories of a triumph; and the ardor of the Roman youth was kindled into active emulation as often as they beheld the domestic images of their ancestors." Roman citizens were not only hard working but had a sense of patriotism toward their country. They bound themselves by oath to serve in an army, and their military service was considered sacred and lasted for ten years. The discipline was, perhaps, the main feature of the character of the Roman citizens. It enabled them to be successful in waging wars, as well, as in labor. They were also organized. Actually, these things were so important because they contributed to the building the Roman Empire and, eventually, made it great. At the same time, the immoderate greatness triggered the decline of Rome.
The Reasons of the Fall of the Roman Empire
As the territory of the Roman Empire grew, it took much more efforts and spending to defend its territories from the barbarian attacks. It was a constant drain on the government and left little resources for social needs. The Roman citizens got disappointed and began to lose their desire to join the military service. The government tried to hire recruits but they were not reliable. The recruits did not have the sense of patriotism. Their level of discipline was considerably lower than that of Roman citizens.
The decline in morals and values also contributed to the weakening of the Roman Empire. For example, during a period of relative peace and stability, Rome had 32,000 prostitutes. That affected the Roman citizens in a negative way encouraging them to have pleasures and waste their money. Perhaps, that ruined many families and lives. The motivation for hard labor to contribute to the state's welfare was also decreased. Besides that, emperors wasted their money on lavish parties. They and their guests enjoyed drinking and eating until they got sick, while poor people did not have enough food. That undermined the trust of many ordinary people to their leadership and led to degradation of the leadership. Perhaps, the emperors and their entourage believed in the economic and military power of their Empire as they behaved very carelessly. At the same time, their immoral behavior affected their judgment. As a result, the decisions they made were not always wise.
The political corruption was also one of the reasons of the fall of the Roman Empire. ROME.INFO gives an interesting comment about election of a new emperor, "Unlike Greece where transition may not have been smooth but it was at least consistent, the Romans never created an effective system to determine how new emperors would be selected. The choice was always open to debate between the old emperor, the Senate, the Praetorian Guard (the emperor's private army), and the army." However, this does not look like a democratic election. Ordinary people could not influence the process of choosing their emperor. Later, it got even worse. As the Praetorian Guard usurped the authority to choose a new emperor, the emperor would try to please the guard and would have little regard to the interests of other social groups.
Inflation was also one of the reasons of decay of the Roman Empire. Especially, an increase of prices was considerable since the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius. A lot of gold was spent by wealthy for luxury things. As a result, there was no enough gold to use in coins. Since the coins contained little gold they lost their value. In order to compensate that loss, the traders raised the costs on their goods. As the coins lost their value many people decided to barter.
How It Works
Some people say that Christianity was one of the greatest causes of the fall of the Roman Empire. For instance, a writer N.S. Gill noted, "Over time, Church leaders became influential and took power away from the emperor; for example, the threat of withholding the sacraments compelled Emperor Theodosius to do the penance Bishop Ambrose required." While it is true that emperors lost some influence on Church leaders, it is also very important to say that Christianity changed the morals in the Roman society. Emperors would prefer to have a more decent lifestyle than before. However, even Christian values could not prevent the fall of the Roman Empire. Was it possible?
Could the fall of the Roman Empire Be Prevented?
Before the Roman Empire arose, the history had already known about Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Mido-Persia and Greece. Most of them were wealthier than Rome and seemed to have more chances to survive. However, all of them fell. The Roman Empire was not an exception. Any empire is based on power, and the power is usually corrupt. According to the Phrase Finder (n.d.), in 1887, the historian John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton in his letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton wrote, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." Considering this fact, any empire, no matter how powerful it is, over time will get social and economic problems that will bring it to ruin. That was exactly what happened to Rome.
The Roman Empire was, perhaps, the most powerful in the history of the world. In the beginning, the Roman citizens really loved and trusted their country. However, over time, when the level of corruptness in Rome was very high, Romans got disappointed, and emperors began to lose the support of their people. Among the sicknesses of the Roman Empire was also the decline in morals and values, political corruption, and economic problems like inflation. Like many other empires, Rome did not have chances to survive and eventually it fell.
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