The Fall of the Roman Empire

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The fall of the Roman Empire in the West is seen as one of the most pivotal points in all of human history. This event traditionally marks the transition from classical civilization to the birth of Europe. There is an absolutely tremendous scholarly interest in this subject; thousands of books have been published and endless numbers of essays and theories, as to the cause, have been written. Why did the Roman Empire in the West fall? It is difficult to pinpoint a simple explanation. Some scholars have tried to identify one main problem which caused the fall. Some say the culprit is lead, and its use in water pipes; others find that Christian ideology is to blame. The issue is confusingly complex and it stands to reason that one particular issue cannot, in and of itself, be enough to explain the fall of this persistently powerful, sprawling empire. The reason which seems most compelling is a holistic one which considers multiple factors. Thinking in this way, the fall was most likely caused by circumstances which lead to a breakdown of the centralized military and tributary complex producing inherent limitations on the abilities of the army. The state was no longer able to preserve its borders and it was finally overwhelmed by invading barbarian tribes.

Though the invasion of the Roman Empire’s frontier is probably the central problem, many theories exist to explain how Rome first got into trouble. The somewhat outdated, but nevertheless fascinating, theory for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire is the wide spread use of lead pipes in urban centers used for the transportation of drinking water. Some believe this continual exposure to lead poisoned the Romans who drank it. Chronic, long-term lead exposure will caus...

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... own. They are money problems and military ineffectiveness. It is a series of events producing economic limitations which results in the inability to defend the borders at a time when being able to hold the line was imperative. In the past the Roman Empire was able to absorb incoming barbarians while holding its frontier, but additional pressure from the Huns causes the Empire to be overwhelmed and overtaken.

Works Cited

Bury, John B., History of the Later Roman Empire, New York: Dover, 1970.

Heather, Peter, The Fall of Ancient Rome, New York, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006.

Hodge, A. Trevor, "Vitruvius, Lead Pipes and Lead Poisoning," American Journal of Archaeology 85, no. 4 (1981): 486-491.

Nardo, Dan, ed., The End of Ancient Rome, San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2001.

Timbrell, John A, The Poison Paradox, Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
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