Social and Economic Decline in the Western Roman Empire

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By the fourth century, the Roman Empire had developed exponentially with significant growth in cultural, social, and political activity. Leading up to the Battle of Adrianople of 378 AD, the Empire suffered significant division and its once uniform body began to splinter. After multiple attempts to unify the empire, the East and the West grew increasingly independent. The battle proved a critical turning point in the prominence of the West significantly foreshadowing its future. While the declining reputation of Rome was apparent long before the battle itself, it was clear that the Roman defeat at Adrianople significantly contributed to the Western Empire’s gradual disintegration as the dominance of the East thrived.

Nearing the fourth century, the Roman Empire had experienced a teetering struggle for uniformity under the rule of Diocletian and the tetrarchy. Though Diocletian’s goals had been to strengthen the empire, more division resulted and as a result, the Western Empire suffered. This back and forth transition in leadership left the Empire in political disarray. The attempts to assimilate by Germanic tribes into Roman territory also played a significant role in this chaos. In addition, the economy suffered considerably. An increased inflation resulted from “Diocletian’s attempts to establish a reliable currency” (Kagan 154). Romans struggled to pay their taxes, and subsequently grew resentful of the emperor. The economic differences that existed between the more rural West and commercial East further distanced the two empires from the others affairs. This separation continued beyond the Battle of Adrianople and the empire found itself in a spiraling state of turmoil.

The Battle of Adrianople served as the vehicle by whi...

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...cline as the East began to flourish.

The once great Western Roman Empire, known for its imperialistic authority, political efficiency, and economic sustainability, slowly deteriorated. The Empire began its collapse and the pillars that once supported the great domain cracked and began to crumble. With inconsistent leadership, division into two empires and conflict with the Germanic tribes, The Empires gradual decline foreshadowed an inevitable fall. Though its reign proved tremendously successful in retrospect, it fall proves significant as it paved the way for the thriving empires of the East to emerge.

Works Cited
Barbero, Alessandro. The Day of the Barbarians. New York: Walker & Company, 2005. Print.

Damen, Mark. "The Fall of Rome." Utah State University . NDP. Web. 1 Dec 2009.

Kagan, Donald. The Western Heritage. Ed. London: Prentice Hall, 2010. Print.
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