The Roman Empire had extended from Scotland to the cataracts of the Nile in southern Egypt. It was one of the most powerful empires in the region at the time. According to Jongman et al. (2019), “At the peak of its political power in the first and early second century A.D. it had a population that has been variously estimated between 60 and 90 million inhabitants.” However, by the end of the third century, Ancient Rome fell under the rule of Theodosius I. He was the last emperor to rule over a unified Roman Empire. The Empire, which suffered from repeated invasions and the flight of peasants into the cities (Mathisen, 2019), had grown weak compared to the Eastern Empires. When Theodosius died, in 395, Rome split into Eastern and Western empires. This paper will examine the causes of its collapse, the long-term effects of the collapse, and the successor states that inherited its place.
The main causes of the collapse of the Roman Empire are usually defined by Barbarian invasions, economic troubles, the rise of the Eastern Empire, military overspending, political instability, and Christianity. Barbarian invasions by groups like the Goths had shaken the long-lasting Empire. As it is stated by Mathisen (2019), “Barbarians were highly recruited in the Roman army.” Ever since the beginning of the third century Romans recruited defeated Barbarians into their military forces, thus steadily growing their forces. However, towards the end of the century, political instability caused military instability, which caused Barbarians to rise against the Romans. By the year 400, the Romans had been using Gothic auxiliaries for over 150 years. This was also accompanied by continuous invasions from the outside (Mathisen, 2019), which in turn, considerably weakened the Roman Empire, causing its inevitable collapse.
The political instability of ancient Rome was also one of the contributing factors to the empire’s collapse. The size of the Roman Empire made it difficult to manage. According to Christian and Elbourne (2018), “the Roman Empire, which lasted from 27 BC to 476 AD, had a total of eighty-two emperors.” Emperor assassinations were quite common at the time, caused by the troops along the Western frontier, incited by starvation. These initial assassinations weakened the empire’s political stability, in turn increasing the probability of more assassinations occurring.
Toward the end of the third century, ancient Rome suffered from economic troubles. To keep their border safe and to conquer new land, Romans spent the majority of their financial income on the army and mobility (Verhagen et al., 2019). The taxation turned oppressive, which widened the gap between the rich and the poor. Moreover, the economic decline and military overspending are directly linked to the empire’s fall. Romans did have an elaborate commute system; however, the communication and following actions suffered because of the size of the empire. As a result, this weakened Rome from within, making it prone to invasions.
It is argued that the introduction to Christianity was one of the causalities of the collapse of ancient Rome. One of the first theorists to introduce this idea was Gibbon in 1862. He attempted an interpretation of the fall of the Roman Empire attributing it mainly to the decline of traditional values. As it is argued by Clark (2020), Christianity displaced the polytheistic Roman religion, which viewed the emperor as having a celestial status, however, it did not contribute to the empire’s fall as much as other factors.
After the fall of ancient Rome, the empire split into two parts, the Western Roman Empire and Eastern Roman Empire. Eastern Empire was under the influence of Constantinople and the West was based in Milan. Eastern Empire then dissolved into Byzantine Empire. The western empire fell under the Germanic invasion because when the power of the Roman Empire weakened, the strength of the Germanic tribes increased considerably (Marx et al., 2018). Over time, two empires drifted apart, with Greek-speaking Eastern Empire and Latin-speaking Western One.
The fall of the Roman Empire resulted in two smaller, more manageable empires that developed separately, although they did face difficulties on the way. The trade between the empires decreased because Roman roads were not maintained and thus it was difficult to commute. Without Rome, which was a powerful civilization, ancient Europe suffered from intellectual deficiency and growth. However, one of the biggest results of the collapse of the Roman Empire is the rise of Christianity. Under the rule of Constantine the Great Christianity flourished (Clark, 2020). Although Constantine continued conquering and increasing his land and promoting the religion, it would not be until the next millennium that another civilization could rival Rome.
In conclusion, it could be stated that Roman Empire was powerful and vast, which in turn caused its demise. Barbarian invasions, economic troubles, the rise of the Eastern Empire, military overspending, political instability, and Christianity development were among the factors that contributed to the fall of the empire. The collapse resulted in the formation of Western and Eastern empires, which while being governed by Milan and Constantinople accordingly, grew apart. This led to the fall of trade and knowledge distribution among the empires and the rise of Christianity.
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Clark, B. (2020). Christianity and uncertainty in Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Web.
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