The Fall of Rome

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The Roman Empire was the most powerful Empire during Antiquity. It is traditionally considered to have “fallen” in 476, when Rome’s last emperor was deposed. Many theories have been presented as to why it fell, from unsound economic and social policies to mass lead poisoning. The actual cause of Rome’s fall is the result of many factors, but was mainly caused by Rome’s poor economic policies.

A question that must first be addressed is whether or not Rome actually fell. There are two main theories which have lead to this conclusion. One is that the Roman Empire continued in the form of the Byzantine Empire until the rise of Islam in the seventh century. The other theory states that Rome’s cultural ideas spread out across Europe and Asia, and formed the basis of medieval culture. While there is much evidence for these theories (Prienne and Heather) and against them (Havighurse), they essentially only argue the definition of “fall”. The fact remains that the Roman Empire declined dramatically, split into two pieces, and that its capitol city was sacked on numerous occasions. Therefore, the rest of this essay will not deal with the largely semantic question of whether or not Rome fell, but why it fell.

One of the main reasons for Rome’s fall was the collapse of its social order. The chief and best known argument for this is that Rome’s citizens lost their sense of civic responsibility, and became socially decadent, and that the economic interests of the Romans compromised their social stability. He summarizes this by saying “private enterprise, left to itself, was proving unequal to the task of feeding the civilian population” (Walbank 72). Many Roman authors also believed Romes collapse was a result of moral decay (Augustinus) This...

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Walbank, F W. Awful Revolution: the Decline of the Roman Empire in the West. Books on Demand, 1978. 71-72.

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