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Kent Schardt
Conrad
ERWC
April 12, 2016
The Greatest Fall
Rome, some would argue that it was the greatest empire of all time. In its time it stretched
across the entire known world and its military might was a feat of prowess and discipline that no
country had ever managed before. They brought a new age of engineering and architecture that
no previous world power could have hoped to achieve. Their rulers were viewed as divine
dignitaries who were chosen by the gods to rule the empire. The roman empire not only left it’s
mark in our history books but traces of it can be found even in our current society so many years
later: ”The system of laws of the United States has its roots in ancient Rome, a fact reinforced by
the Roman- and Greek-influenced architecture that dominates the official buildings of the U.S.
capitol in Washington, DC” (Rome). The question then is, how could the greatest social construct
of man be diminished to almost nothing? The answer is anything but simple as many factors
played into such a huge downfall of all time, of these factors the most prevalent being the rise of
barbarian migration, economic troubles based on their reliance on slave labor, corruption and
political unrest, and the rise of christianity. But before these can be thoroughly explored we must
first decide when the empire itself fell.
The fall of the roman empire is not only confusing because of the many factors that came
into the ultimate downfall of the empire but experts are still arguing about when the downfall
truly happened. The two theories that preside over this debate is whether the empire fell, one
being that the true roman empire fell when it was dissolved into two separate countries and the
other being that it fell when the western roman empire fell and the city of rome with it. When the

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roman empire split, by Emperor Diocletion, in an attempt to control the empire more easily but
the plan backfired. When the two empires split the Eastern Empire grew wealthy and the Western
Empire began to degrade as much of its wealth was being pulled over towards the other half.
Thus the Eastern Empire’s army grew in size, training and prowess and consequently the
Western’s only degraded ever more which caused the
barbarians to see weakness in it and attack it more often
and with much more ferocity than they ever attacked the
Eastern Empire. The western empire by then was poor
onslaught in with attacks from the northern barbarian
peoples and then the vandals took north africa from them
which they had campaigned for many years to seize from the Carthaginians at the height of their
conquests. At this point the western half of the empire has dwindled in size, lost its main source
of income and is outstanding debt with their eastern counterparts and is all but finished with its
rule. With a final blow to the Western Empire the germanic leader Odoacer staged a revolt and
killed the emperor Romulus Augustulus and from then on no roman ruler ever ruled from italy
again, this in many historians eyes was the end of the empire. But we’ll be exploring the theory
that the true end of the roman empire was split between the two half of the empire and what lead
to that separation.
Before the separation of the empire, the rise of barbarian migration was putting a lot of
pressure on defense of their borders. This pressure caused a great deal of problems for the
empire, the need for new soldiers created economical and infrastructure problems that the empire
never had to deal with before. Not only the increase in barbarian numbers but also in the increase
of barbarian tribes was putting the empire in a very serious situation that caused many problems:

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“Huns in what is now Russia and Ukraine drove Gothic tribes to cross the Danube, either as
invaders or immigrants” (Introduction). When the call for new soldiers came the recruiters had
trouble finding enough roman recruits to bolster their troops in their
border armies and cities, to compensate for this problem the Roman
Empire hired germanic tribes to fight for their cause as mercenaries.
These mercenaries fought well but there was one major problem with
hiring these mercenaries, they were being asked to fight against their own
people for nothing more than a soldier's wage. Unfortunately for the romans this lead many of
the mercenaries to turn upon the romans in battle and otherwise. This happened so common that
it is believed that many of the barbarians who later sacked Rome were in fact hired as
mercenaries by Rome to fight off the barbarians. With the Empire’s coffers getting shallower and
shallower and it’s armies ranks being flooded with more and more barbarians and less and less of
the world renown legionaries the Empire had created a situation where only disaster could occur.
This situation undoubtedly led to the demise of this once great empire.
Another large reason for the separation and destruction of the Roman Empire was the
corruption and political unrest that could be found throughout this ever-expanding empire.
Governing the huge empire that Rome had become became an almost impossible venture that
countless emperors had miserably failed at. The emperor's job was so stressful that many went
mad and became unstable: “Caligula was so cruel and violent that his military officers finally
murdered him” (Roman). Not only was the job of the empire nigh on impossible, the job itself
had almost become a death sentence as 20 men had taken the throne in only 75 years. The
corruption didn't end there though, the Roman Senate was so filled with corruption that they
were nearly incompetent at their job and completely failed at reigning in the recent emperors.

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Even the emperor’s bodyguards, the Praetorian Guard, was corrupt as they carried out
assassinations of their own and instituted their own emperors on the throne. The Praetorian
Guard in one event went as far as selling the thrown to the person who'd pay the most. When this
corruption didn’t cease the people of Rome began to lose their pride in their empire and no
longer believed that Rome was the god's ideal civilization and began to doubt the true strength of
the empire. This loss in faith that the Roman commonfolk experienced sow the seeds that would
eventually lead to the complete loss in patriotism and an utter dissatisfaction with their
government that would give cause for civil war and
strife.
Another reason and perhaps the biggest cause
for the fall of Rome was the increase and later
acceptance of christianity in the capital and
throughout the rest of the empire. The rise in
christianity played roles in rome's fall throughout their society, one particular aspect was their
emperor. The Roman religion caused many people to view the emperor as a god-man which
disagreed with the christians: “the Christian belief in one god weakened the authority and
credibility of the emperor”(The Fall). The main reason the acceptance of christianity created
such a problem for the emperor was the fact that under the old religion he had been viewed as
being almost a god and with christianity being monopolistic it therefore decreased the emperors
standing in their society. With the emperor's power and standing diminished it became harder to
effectively rule the empire from the single seat of power in Rome. It also diminished the people's
view of the army and therefore made recruitment more difficult because the men of the empire
no longer drawn by fighting for the gods because now they were just fighting for a man. The lack

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of power the emperor contained influenced one emperor in particular to split the empire into
halves in a desperate attempt to prevent an absolute crumble. Christianity was without a doubt
one of the largest factors among many that lead to the destruction of such a great empire.
The factors of barbarian invasion, economic trouble, political unrest and the rise in
christianity created such a huge turmoil throughout the empire that the only possible outcome
would be the pure and harsh destruction of one of the greatest empires of all time. The empire
from which many of the greatest engineering and military breakthroughs occurred finally came
to end that was wrought with many many problems that first destroyed the republic, then split the
empire and finally finished it off with the fall of Rome
itself. The greatest civilization of its time who led the
known world through its military might and conquests,
it’s political stability, its economic system and its
portrayal of leaders as god-men. When all these systems
crack and fail it undoubtedly caused trouble for the
empire, troubles that managed to upset everything the empire stood for and troubles that led to its
eventual collapse.

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Works Cited
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PBS. "The Roman Empire." The Roman Empire in the First Century. PBS, n.d. Web.
"Roman Empire." Gale Student Resources in Context. Detroit: Gale, 2015. Student Resources in
Context. Web. 4 Apr. 2016.
"Rome." Ancient Civilizations Reference Library. Ed. Judson Knight and Stacy A. McConnell.
Detroit: UXL, 2000. Student Resources in Context. Web. 2 May 2016.
Ushistory.org. "The Fall of the Roman Empire." Ancient Civilizations Online Textbook. N.p.,
n.d. Web. 02 May 2016