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CAUSES FOR THE FALL

OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE

 

A.                       By 476 AD Germanic invasions have

totally destroyed the old Roman Empire in the west.

 

1. The Germanic tribes had been a constant

source of pressure on the empire for centuries.

2. Many tribes had moved peacefully into the

empire and had become citizens of Rome.

3. Britain was overrun by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes.

4. Gaul was overrun by the Franks and Burgundians.

5. Spain was overrun by the Vandals.

6. Italy was taken over by the Ostrogoths,

Visigoths and later the Lombards.

(While the Germanic invasions were the obvious

causes for the fall of Rome, the underlying

causes were much more significant for historians.)

 

 

B.                       Social Causes.

 

1. Slavery had weakened the moral fiber of the

citizens and a large discontented mass of people

had become disenfranchised.

2. There had been a decline in the traditional

Roman citizenry.

3. Moral decay was evident as depicted in its

literature, amusements, and lifestyles that often

portrayed gratuitous sex and violence.

4. Patriotism declined as people lost their

allegiance to the state.

5. Christianity challenged the traditional character

traits and caused people to neglect the state

when they concentrated on personal salvation.

 

C.                      Economic Causes.

 

1. As productivity declined, Rome became

more dependent on foreign products.

2. A breakdown in the labor force occurred

as the traditional work ethic declined.

3. The infrastructure of the cities declined and

began a steady decay.

4. A balance of trade deficit began to occur.

5. The cost of government, including the military

and welfare, became burdensome.

6. Class economic warfare broke out between

the rich and poor.

7. Parts of the empire were not taxed while

others were overtaxed.

8. The small farm all but disappeared.

 

 

D.                      Political Causes.

 

1. The Romans never really solved the

problem of succession.

2. The government was not designed to

rule a large, polyglot empire and reform came too late.

3. The government became increasingly run

by the rich and the military.

4. Citizens lost interest in government as it

became distant to them.

5. The military became less loyal to the country

- it became a job not a mission.

 

CRISIS, RENEWAL AND COLLAPSE

 

I. The "Barracks Emperors" (235-284)

A.                       Twenty Emperors ruled during this period.

B.                       All were connected to the military.

C.                      All but one died a violent death.

D.                      Germanic invasions from the north

increased dramatically during this time.

II. Diocletian (245-305)

      Reorganized the empire into a "Tetrarchy",

or rule by four.

      Empire was divided into two halves,

with each half subdivided into

1. prefectures

2. dioceses

3. provinces

      Removed much of the influence of the

military eliminated any pretense of a republic.

      Sometimes remembered as the emperor

who attempted to systematically and brutally

eliminate Christianity.

      Reportedly starved himself to death when

he became too weak to rule.

 

 

III. The period (305-324) saw a renewed struggle

to hold back the barbarians as well as increasing

Pressure to split the two halves of the empire

into separate and distinct units.

 

IV. Constantine (274-337)

      Rome's last great emperor.

      Converted to Christianity after the Battle of

Milvain bridge in 312.

1. defeated a rival for emperor

2. reported seeing a vision of the

cross in the sky prior to the battle

      Issued the Edict of Milan which legalized

Christianity in the empire.

      Built a new capital on the Dardenelles and

named it after himself, Constantinople.

      Called the first Church council at Nicaea in

325 AD to determine the nature of Jesus.

      Died in 327 while attempting to christianize Persia.

 

V. The Roman Empire quickly collapses with

only a few emperors leaving a lasting mark on the empire.

      Julian (332-378)

1. known as the "Apostate"

2. remembered for trying to restore

the old Roman religion

      Valens (354-378)

1. last Roman emperor to try and

drive out the barbarians

2. killed at the Battle of Adrianople in 378

      Theodosius (379-395)

1. made Christianity official state religion

2. totally divided the empire into two

separate entities after signing a treaty

with the barbarians to preserve the eastern empire

      Romulus Augustus (c. 476)

1. last Roman emperor

2. abdicated at the age of 16

      Odovocar (476-?) - Germanic chieftan who

proclaimed himself emperor of Rome in 476

after occupying the city.

 

VI. Although the western empire collapsed,

the eastern empire continued on, now being

known as the Byzantine Empire, until it

was overthrown in 1453.