Fall Of The Roman Empire

Published: 2020-07-14 03:30:06
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Fall of the RomanEmpireTowards the end of the second centuryA.D., , the Roman empire began to weaken. ecological factors may have beenresponsible. In some of the longest settled parts of the Mediterranean,the number of settlements began to fall – maybe the land, was overused,andhad started to show it affects. The climate seems to have been graduallygetting worse. In the reign of Marcus Aurelius there could have beenplagues. But mostly, the weakness of Rome was the weakness of its politicalsystem. The Roman citizen body was not what it used to be, a clearly identifiedgroup with a direct interest in the res publica.
This change had begun before A.D.

200. Even before 100 B.C., the affects of constant warfare and the amazingwealth it produced for a very few at the center of it had destroyed socialagreements among the Romans and the government. Military dictatorshipthen under Caesar, 27 B.C.-A.D. 14Only a tiny minority had a real politicalrole in the res publica as a whole. For a century or more after Augustus,citizenship continued to be promoted, because it still, outside of Italy,marked one off from one’s neighbors, and showed that one was a person ofimportance. By the middle of the second century, so many people were citizensthat the privileges were gone.

Suddenly, the obligations of citizenshipwere much more clear than the privileges. Since the opportunities for conquesthad fallen, those citizens ambitious for advancement or fearful of fallinginto the unprivileged mass of the poor had to compete mainly with eachother for the shrinking profits of empire. Indicative of this situationis the way the Roman citizenry was divided, at first informally and thenby law, into honestiores and humiliores, more honorable” and more humble”citizens. Only the more honorable” were treated by the imperial authoritieswith the respect that had once been due all citizens. The more humble”could be beaten, tortured, and executed with little ado. The division reflectedthe needs of imperial officials, who needed arbitrary powers to controlwhat they saw as an over-privileged population. But the process of dividingthe citizenry sharpened the struggle for places in the new elite. Suchcompetition, and the growing poverty of the government, led to anothergreat breakdown in orderly government after A.D. 196. Again, would-be militarydictators fought for supreme power. Between 235 and 297 the civil warswere constant. The boundaries collapsed and Persian and barbarian armiesadded to the problems of the empire’s subjects.

A blance of unity was restored onlyby a long and destructive reconquest of the empire, first by Aurelian 270-275,then by Diocletian and his colleagues 284-305. But the easy well beingof the second century did not return. In many areas, especially in thewest where cities were newer than in the east, urban life was damaged.

Following the wars, and in the changed natural conditions, the economyof the empire, of the civilization as a whole, was not strong enoughto allow all the wrecked cities to be rebuilt. The passage of time wouldshow that the urban network built before and during the Roman expansionwas in a long slow decline.

More apperaent to contemporarieswas the damage sustained by Roman prestige. The rulers of the fourth centurydevoted themselves to restoring the honor of the Roman name and the unitythat had once been based on it. But official efforts in this directionwere less effective in creating a new social solidarity than unofficialideologies that came boiling out of the cosmopolitan cities of the easternMediterranean.

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