Fall of Rome - the military's role

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Fall of Rome - the military's role

The Military's Role in the Beginning of the End of Rome

The fall of Rome occurred over many centuries and was caused by several factors including military decay, barbarian invasions, and the failure of the government to respond to these problems.

While these problems existed to a greater of lesser degree, since the end of the 2nd century, their effects were accelerated by the reforms of the emperors Constantine and Diocletian. These reforms changed Roman life as well as the face of the Roman army, moving it away from its classical infantry-based structure to a more cavalry-based system. The army was reorganized into lightly armed troops called "limitanei" who defended the border, and large mobile armies composed of troops called "comitatenses". The border troops were given land to live on around forts they protected. This structure led to farming becoming the job of the border troops so that they could feed as well as protect those on the frontier. Over time, this in turn led to out of date weaponry and neglect in training. The weakness of these troops meant that more mobile troops were needed to compensate, and an easily penetrable border as a result of the weakness led to the need for highly efficient mobile armies. Since the cavalry were the most mobile unit of the army, they began to be the favored military unit. With forces strung along the border and concentrated large mobile armies, an increased number of recruits were required; however, land owners were reluctant to let themselves or their kin be recruited because that left less workers for their farms. At the same time, the division of the empire into outer imperial provinces and inner provinces controlled by the Senate had its own effect. Since the armies largely remained in the outer imperial provinces, the people of the inner provinces were out of touch with the army and were no longer attracted to service, again reducing the available pool of recruits. One reason that many avoided Army service was because Roman citizenship was now offered freely, where in prior times military service had been a path to citizenship. The result was less manpower available for Rome. The Roman army was left with no choice but to recruit barbarians, who could in this way both find employment where they had no skills, and hope to obtain Roman citizenship.
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