8 Reasons Why Rome Fell
- Invasions by Barbarian tribes. In 410 the Visigoths successfully sacked the city of Rome. The empire spent the next several decades under constant threat. It was raided by the Vandals. In 476, the Germanic leader Odoacer deposed the Roman emperor.
- Economic troubles and overreliance on slave labor. Rome was suffering a severe financial crisis. Constant wars and overspending left the treasury empty. Heavy taxation and inflation impoverished the population. Many wealthy Romans fled to the countryside and set up independent fiefdoms. By the second century the empire was no longer able to expand its territory. Without a new source of slaves, the empire did not have enough laborers.
- The rise of the Eastern Empire in the late third century. The two halves of the empire often quarreled over resources and military aid. The largely Greek-speaking Eastern Empire grew in wealth while the Latin-speaking West descended into economic crisis. The Western political structure finally disintegrated in the fifth century, while the Eastern Empire functioned for another thousand years.
- Overexpansion and military overspending. At its height, the Roman Empire stretched from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Euphrates River in the Middle East. With such a vast territory to govern, the empire faced administrative and logistical challenges. Rome struggled to enlist the required troops and resources to defend its frontiers from local rebellions and outside attacks.
- Government corruption and political instability. Ineffective and inconsistent leadership also weakened the empire. Civil war created chaos, and there were more than 20 emperors over a 75-year span. The changes often occurred due to murder of a reigning emperor.
- The arrival of the Huns and the migration of the Barbarian tribes. The Huns invaded Europe in the late fourth century, leading to migration of Barbarian tribes. As the Barbarians rampaged through northern Europe, many Germanic tribes took refuge on the borders of the Roman Empire. The Romans allowed these Visigoths into the safety of Roman territory, but they treated them with extreme cruelty. Germanic tribes like the Vandals and the Saxons began to occupy Britain, Spain, and North Africa.
- Christianity and the loss of traditional values. Christianity displaced the polytheistic Roman religion, which viewed the emperor as having a divine status. There was a shift in focus from the glory of the state to a single god.
- Weakening of the Roman legions. Unable to recruit enough Roman citizens to serve as soldiers, Roman emperors hired foreign mercenaries to fill out their armies. These Germanic soldiers proved to be fierce warriors but had little loyalty to the empire.
Source: 8 Reasons Why Rome Fell
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