As the fourth century came towards an end, the Great Western Roman Empire started to crumble from being the world’s superpower – a position it had held onto for about 500 years.
Historians have tried to explain the collapse basing on several factors such as a failed taxation system, military mistakes, climate changes and natural disasters. Other experts hold that the Roman empire fall did not actually take oplace in 476 A.D. considering its eastern fraction still operated for yet another 1000 years in the form of the Byzantine Empire, reports History.
Whereas the reasons and the timeline for the fall is something that has dominated many discussions, a number of theories have been devised to try and explain the reasons.
Here are the top 5 reasons why the Rome fell
Overreliance on slave labor
External forces were constantly attacking Rome. But there were also internal attacks emanating from the slaves brought in to serve the masters. There were huge economic troubles like unfair taxation and inflation that meant the gap between the rich and the poor was a wide deep valley. Most wealthy individuals also started to run into the countryside in a bid to evade the taxman. As all the economy faced tough financial crisis, labor deficit began to crawl in. Rome’s labor relied on slaves and its progressive military operations had greatly helped with that. But the supply of slaves started to dry up, and so did the war treasures. The blow was more imminent in the 5th century after the Vandals claimed North Africa and began disrupting the empire’s trade from the Mediterranean Sea as pirates.
Attacks from the Barbarian tribes
A bigger number of historians agree that the Western Rome fell because of losses attributed to external attacks. Rome had for a long time been in conflicts with Germanic tribes but towards the 300s, ‘barbarian’ groups such as Goths penetrated past the empire’s enclosures. Romans were able to counter Germanic attacks in the late fourth century but in 410, the Visigoth King Alaric managed to sack the city of Rome. The proceeding years saw the empire’s occupants face attacks from different groups such as the Vandals until 476 when Emperor Romulus Augustulus was desposed by the Germanic leader Odoacer. This year is cited as the date when the Rome fell because no Roman emperor ever managed to rule from a post in Italy.
Too much growth and increased military expenditure
The growth of Rome was in disguise its own enemy. The empire stretched from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Euphrates River in the Middle East, increasing the area to govern and thus leading to administrative hurdles. Even though their road systems were excellent, the Romans could not communicate effectively to help in the management of their holdings.
The military on the other hand was consuming lots of resources as the Rome attempted to keep safe these resources. Emperor Hadrian built the famous wall in Britain during the second century just to keep out the enemy. More money was spent in military, declining advancement in technology and civil infrastructure.
The rise of the Eastern Rome Empire
Emperor Diocletian decided to divide the vast Rome into two halves – the Eastern Empire in Byzantium and the Western Empire seated in the city of Milan. This division was meant to make it easy to govern the empire but overtime, the two sides fractured apart completely. They were unable to join forces and fight against external forces and constantly quarreled over military aid and resources. The Eastern side, mainly speaking Greek, grew in wealth at a faster rate than their Latin-speaking counterparts who fell into an economic crisis. The Eastern Empire grew so strong that the barbarians focused their attacks on the West. The Western political structure would finally disintegrate in the fifth century but the Eastern Empire existed for another 1000 years before the Ottoman Empire crumbled it in the 1400s.
Christianity and declining adherence to traditions
Historians argue that the rise of Christianity – anew faith among the Romans then – was a huge contributor to Rome’s fall. Christianity was legalized by the Edict of Milan in 313 and in 380 it became the state religion. The changes helped wash away decades of Christian persecution but may have in return eroded Rome’s traditional values. Christianity displaced the polytheistic Roman religion, which considered the emperor to be a divine being. At the same time, the pope and churches started to get deeply embroiled in political affairs. This theory was coined by Edward Gibbon, an 18-th century historian and has been largely criticized. The spread of Christianity some extent curbed Roman civic virtue and some historians believe its effect can be equaled to military, economic and administrative factors.