The Theories for the Fall of the Roman Empire

Dividing the Empire into an Eastern and Western Empire split the resources of the old Empire and had an especially negative impact on the Western half

The dynasty of Theodosius I who ruled the united Roman Empire in 379-395 divided Roman completely. Before his death in 395, Theodosius I divided the Empire into two: Eastern and Western Roman Empires. He left the eastern part of the empire to his son: Arcadius. At this time, Arcadius was only 18 years of age. The western part was in the hands of his second son, Honorius. He was 10 years old when leadership was transferred to him to rule the western part of the Empire. Theodosius’ legacy and division of the empire into the two portions was the final blow to the Empires unity. The two sons had continued succession disputes over the control of the taxes. Theodosius I’s treaty with the Visigoths was renounced after his death; the new king Alaric attacked the territory from the North. Since there was no unity, the Empire could not defend itself. The western Empire started to weaken due to economic disintegration and the coming into power by the weak emperors. They were also invaded by the Germanic tribes and could not defend themselves. They could not solicit funds and finance the war. The eastern was more stable; its emperors were strong and were able to defend off the Dardanelles. They isolated the western emperors from their activities and forced the emperors from the west to recruit foreigners into their army: the Germanic people. Later the Gauls invaded Rome easily leading to its final collapse (Grant 628).

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Poor leadership in which the Roman Emperors and the government bureaucracy were more interested in maintaining their positions rather than supporting the Empire

This theory depicts the fall of the Empire to poor leadership. The leaders concentrated much on titles and bureaucracy. The style of leadership practiced in the 4th century was not a match for modern society. The leaders had more than 40,000 leaders against 60,000,000 populations; this was not a cost-effective measure. The economy was draining a lot to pay the leaders and soldiers. The bureaucratic tendency associated with the system, made leaders exaggerate their titles and made the empire malfunction perfectly with antediluvian and time-wasting modus operandi. The poor leaders promoted their cronies based on loyalty rather than competency. The system led to massive corruption. The government officials took bribes and were inefficient in their services delivery. According to this theory, there was also a growing demand by the military that forced the government to look for alternative sources of finance since the elites stopped paying taxes. Healthier explains that; the peasant who now remained with the tax burden later fled the firms and the government lost all its revenues and manpower. The military then hired some German band of soldiers, who were not loyal to the authority. This trend diluted the Empire slowly and finally collapsed in 479 completely (362).

Civil wars reduced the strength of the Empire and made it vulnerable to barbarian invaders

The theory of civil wars explains the fall of the Roman Empire through the weakening of the military. There were several civil wars experienced by the Empire. Between 91-88 B.C., there was a war between Rome and its Italian allies: the social war. In 91 B.C., the Italian allies revolted against the Rome Empire. The Latin allies remained loyal at this time except for the Venusians. The Italian allies wanted to break from Rome and gain their independence from the dictatorship of Rome. The allies also opted for their city at Corfinium. This weakened the operations of the Roman Empire. They easily destabilized the Empire since most of their soldiers had served in the Empire’s army. There were other civil wars in the empire, for instance, the Catiline war of (108-62 BC). The Roman politician who initiated the civil war wanted to overthrow the Roman Emperor and transfer the power to Aristocratic Senate at that time. The final blow to Empire was “Antony’s civil war”. This war was being fought between Octavian and Antony. Antony betrayed the Romans when he joined the side of the Egyptian Queen: Cleopatra after the Romans senate declared war with them. The queen was his lover so he went for her defense. They were defeated when they committed suicide after they were besieged for months in their hiding place. In 375 A. D., Emperor Valens permitted Barbarians to cross to the Danube, but since there was a constant war in Rome; the war against the Germans, and other civil war in this Empire, the Barbarians took his opportunity to invade the empire. The invasion and constant civil wars weakened the Roman Empire contributing much to its insatiability and final Collapse (Nardo 108).

Works cited

Grant, Michael. The fall of the Roman Empire. New York: Phoenix, 1997.

Healther, Peter. The fall of the Roman Empire: a New History of Rome and the Barbarians. London: University Press, 2007.

Nardo, Don. Fall of the Roman Empire: History’s Great Defeats. Rome: Lucent Books, 2004.

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