Causes of the Decline and Fall of the Western Roman Empire

Last Updated: 03 Mar 2020
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The fall of the Roman Empire was inevitable by A. D. 476. Christianity had weakened the bonds that had held it together, the people became corrupt, and it got too big. It was also because of the barbarian attacks. All empires eventually fall and Rome’s time had come to an end. When discussing the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire one has to see that this occurred over many years and had many different facets. Each issue has to be addressed independently with the understanding that they simultaneously combined to the dissension within the Empire and the falling of the borders that had been established during its height.

By the end of the second century AD, the empire encompassed most of the Mediterranean, including Spain, France, most of Britain, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, Egypt, and Northern Africa. The collapse of the Roman Empire was a calamity; it leads to the Dark (Middle) Ages. Seeing all the bad that came of it, the destruction of art, the collapse of great cities, the deterioration of the system of roads, the ruin of the Mediterranean trade, and the loss of European unity--it's difficult to imagine any good came of it. But some good did result. The break up of the empire led to the abolition of slavery in Europe.

Of course, this, in turn, led to more poverty and the increase of latifundia because the poor people lost their land to the aristocrats. But the slaves were better off as peasants than as slaves. Christianity was a major cause of the fall of Rome. Although Rome had religious tolerance, Romans, especially Jews, didn’t accept Christianity. A lot of people converted to Christianity because they lost faith in the Romans. At first most Christians were Jews but less strict. Many values were different but they still followed Jewish dietary laws and shared many beliefs with the Jews.

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The early Christians also got circumcised. Even Jesus got circumcised because he was born a Jew. Then he thought he was God’s messenger but many other people during that time also thought that so most people started off not believing him. The Christians started adopting the values that they have today during the time that Saul/Paul was alive. At first he started off as a Jew who hated Jesus and hated the Christians but then he converted and traveled around spreading the thoughts of Christians but he said that Christians didn’t need to follow the Jewish dietary laws and they didn’t need to get circumcised.

The Romans and the Jews didn’t like the message that Jesus was spreading so they crucified him. One impact that Jesus had was that more people didn’t want to join the military and they didn’t want to participate in the community. Since the people stopped participating in government and they didn’t join the army, the Roman army composed of the Barbarians from Germany. These Barbarians lead disorganized attacks and even attacked other Roman Barbarian groups. Because of these sloppy attacks, Rome’s army fell and it was no longer the military superpower it was before.

Also, many of the lands that Rome had conquered wanted independence and broke free of the Roman Empire. Herbert J. Muller argues in his book Uses of the Past that Rome got rich by conquering new lands and because of trade with new markets and when the Barbarian attacks went unsuccessful they got no more land therefore losing their source of wealth. Edward Gibbon argues the opposite in his book The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He says that the Roman Empire fell because it was too widespread. He says that there was too much land for the government to govern and because of that the government lost money.

By the end of the Roman Empire it was widespread and had many land. By conquering these lands they got many slaves from war and from these new lands. The abundance of slaves lead to the growth of latifundia, large estates owned by the rich. These slaves were willing to work hard for little pay so the rich got richer and the poor grew poorer. The poor coloni [farmers] lost their lands and the aristocrats bought them out. Then the poor farmers went to the city and became dependent on handouts from the government such as free grain.

There were many causes for the fall of the Roman Empire. Some causes were the rise of Christianity, the fall of the army, the abundance of slaves and the size of the empire. Because of all these reasons and many more Rome couldn’t survive which lead to the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The Eastern Roman empire survived and became the Byzantine Empire. Rome’s fall lead to the Dark Ages but Rome has an impact in our everyday culture because they influenced the Greeks of whose culture we have copied in order to build our own culture.

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Causes of the Decline and Fall of the Western Roman Empire. (2018, Feb 06). Retrieved from

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