The Roman Empire was without a doubt the most powerful governing body in the Mediterranean ever. Why did Rome fall? There was not any single cause to the fall of Rome. It was many things occurring in succession to each other.
After the Punic wars with Carthage, Rome acquired many new lands that it did not have before. During peace times it was easy to govern these areas but during war times it proved difficult. The government had to pay soldiers to patrol the frontiers of the empire; it could no longer rely on the loot to serve as the pay for the soldiers. This took a significant amount of money out of the Roman treasury. Some emperors wanted to save money and made the army too small to have control over such a large empire.
The economy of Rome was also suffering. Rome was importing goods from its colonies but wasn’t exporting nearly as much. This created an imbalance of trade. The colonies were creating their own finished goods and no longer relied on Rome for them. New coins were then made out of lead and gold to devalue the currency. Merchants now charged more money because these new coins were not worth as much as the old ones. This created inflation, this problem plagued the empire until its fall.
The problem of succession also contributed to the fall of Rome. There was never a set system of succession. After the death of an emperor, generals competed with each other for power. Once someone gained power they didn’t rule for long; someone often assassinated them. This weakened the authority of Rome; corruption was common and law was almost non-existent.
Diocletian tried to make reforms to make the empire as strong as it was before. He realized that the empire was too large for one person to govern, he split the empire in half and took control of eastern part himself. He then appointed a co-emperor to rule in the west. He also reorganized the problems in the civil service and made them responsible directly to the emperor. He increased the size of the army and trained them better. To improve the economic health of the empire, Diocletian set limits on prices and wages to slow down inflation. To give some stability in agriculture and manufacturing, he ordered people to stay in their jobs. There was no room for promotion. Diocletian died in 305 A.D.
In 324 A.D. Constantine took over as emperor. He reunited the east and west under his own rule. He also built a new capital at Byzantium, on the Bosporus. He named this city Constantinople. Constantine wanted a new capital that would be a Christian city, not a pagan one. He continued the policies of Diocletian. People saw no need to work hard with no chance of getting ahead. These reforms only slowed down the process of collapse. After Constantine’s death in 337 A.D., the empire was again divided.
To the north of the Rhine and Danube rivers, lived a group of people known as the German tribes. They were herders and farmers who had migrated from Scandinavia. As their population grew, they began to look for new land. They decided that moving into the Roman Empire was a good idea. The Roman army was spread thin and could barely cope with the Germans. In the fourth century, the Huns, a nomadic people from central Asia, began attacking the German tribes. Thus the tribes looked for protection from the Huns in the Empire. They received permission from the Emperor to live in the Empire. A couple of years later the Romans sent an army to defeat the Germans and failed to defeat them. This proved that Rome was not invincible. The Germans continued to sack the west; they invaded Italy and sacked Rome. Rome bought peace by giving the Germans most of Gaul and Spain. The Huns then marched into Rome and they were soundly defeated by Rome and its German allies. The west of the Empire became a mess with no one in any real control.
In the east, Constantinople continued to be the capitol city. Its rulers called themselves Roman emperors and its people were Roman citizens subject to Roman law. True, the western portion of the Empire was crumbling, but all through the fifth and sixth centuries the people of the east could say without a doubt that the Roman Empire had not fallen.
There was no certain official date when Rome was considered to fall. Many historians though, believe it was in 476 A.D. A small German chief, Odoacer captured Rome and proclaimed himself king. The city of Rome was finally overthrown. Despite this, the people who lived throughout the Empire considered themselves Roman citizens and followed Roman laws. In the East Rome was still strong. Even today we have adopted many of the Roman ways of life. Rome influenced every civilization after and in a sense we are all Roman citizens.
The great Empire of Rome, the greatest power to ever rule the Mediterranean had fallen. It was unthinkable. Their faults in politics, economics and other things contributed to their fall. There was no one single cause; it was many things happening at once, which caused the fall of Rome. The leaders of today should look at Rome’s mistakes and be sure not to make the same ones again.