I believe the Roman Empire was the greatest throughout the history of mankind. First of all just the fact they lasted over 1,000 years (625B.C. – 476 A.D.) is absolutely amazing because most civilizations only last around 200 years. I can’t begin to tell you all the things the Romans invented but some of my favorites are: the invention of cranes, a central government, paved roads, the sawmill, the steam engine (amazing), architectural engineering, and advanced military strategies and tactics.
After reviewing various research I’ve compiled what to me seems to make the most sense as to what led to the fall of the Roman Empire; you’ll have to see if you agree. I think the greatest mistake they made was aggressively expanding their Empire. There’re several reasons why I think this was so detrimental. Throughout the history of mankind there’s been a limit countries could empire build before they were beaten back. They get beaten back for several reasons among these is that eventually they encounter an enemy that not only has a strategic advantage because of their military position but also has a tremendous advantage because of what they’re fighting for; they were protecting their homes and families so they had huge incentives to fight with all they had. Roman soldiers fought for territory that someone else would own; they didn’t have the incentive to fight to their last breath.
Another problem has to do with logistics. The further the army travelled the more difficult it was to supply them with clothing, food, medical supplies, money, etc. Anyone in the military will tell you that if you want to negatively affect your enemy go after their supply routes and take away their necessities.
Let me talk about the lack of food a little bit. It only takes a few days to begin to feel the negative affects of not having protein. The soldiers grew weaker and weaker which not only meant they weren’t in good condition to fight they also couldn’t travel as fast. Lack of good nutrition also affected their healing if they were injured. It was difficult enough to survive back then due to a lack of medical capabilities let alone lack of nutrition. Could you imagine trying to kill enough food (i.e. deer, rabbits, squirrels, etc.), to feed 1,000 soldiers on a daily basis? How about an army of 5,000 or 10,000? Of course water was always an issue too; finding a small watering hole didn’t provide enough water for their animals and soldiers; they needed huge water supplies.
So the bottom line is that as Roman soldiers got further away from Rome, they began to lose their effectiveness both physically and mentally. The logistics it took to support them wasn’t effective. My guess is that these troops felt negatively about Rome because they sent them out to fight yet they weren’t taking care of them. All military commanders know that situations like this can be detrimental to morale and of course performance.
I’m going to stick with the military a little bit longer because I feel it was a huge reason for the fall of the Roman Empire. These military marches went on for thousands of miles and as you can imagine the number of soldiers continuously dropped due to deaths (both in battle and disease) and with desertion. So each time they’d approach a battle they did it with less troops.
They’d also lose troops due to some having to stay behind to protect the conquered cities. So once again the army would encounter their next battle with even less troops. What all of this created is that it became easier for them to lose battles and the opposing force would start going down the path the Romans took and attacked the cities which the Roman’s had just taken over; basically a wasted military campaign.
There’s a lot more to this but let me wrap up with the financial impact in their pursuit of expanding their empire. There’re a lot of things which make up the cost of government and the military is a huge budget item. Their aggressive efforts towards empire building caused them to spend unreal amounts of money to fund their quests. Just like with any government tax payers had to foot the bill. More and more was asked of them yet they weren’t getting anything in return. What did having all these other lands due for the citizens of Rome? Nothing, thus those proud Romans started becoming very angry Romans. This in turn negatively affected the respect they had for their politicians which began the process of fracturing their republic. Sound familiar?
One more point in reference to costs. Rome’s economy took a huge hit because money was leaving the city and going to other lands; basically anywhere where the soldiers went. That money in turn was spent away from the city and it usually didn’t make its way back. What this means is that money was being siphoned out of Rome and no longer in their economy. Just like with any economy (money going round and round) it eventually ends in depression if it continues to shrink and that’s exactly what was happening to Rome. Their economy was headed south at the same time their soldiers were overextended and beginning to lose battles. It’s never good when a military loses its edge. They were mighty warriors who were feared but with a chink in their armor other armies felt they could beat them and did.
Another area that led to their decline has to do with their economy in general. I already mentioned how funding the military created a major drain on them. Another way money began leaving Rome is due to their citizens’ abundant lifestyles. Because they were well off and living in the city they didn’t want to do a lot of the manual labor they used to do. Kind of like in the U.S. where we hire people to clean our homes, mow our yards, etc. With this in mind, Rome enticed people to live outside of the city (Rome was too packed) and brought them in to work. These people took their money back to their own communities and spent most of it there. So almost all this money that was used to outsource labor left the city and only part of it came back to the government through taxes.
I mentioned earlier what it does to an economy to lose money so here we have not only the military’s impact on Rome’s economy but also the impact of labor. A lot of the money that was going round and round between citizens because of all the products and services sold began leaving the city. Something like this can only go on so long before a depression occurs.
I’ll wrap up with one more thing that I believe was a factor but not more so than what I just covered. Roman citizens lost faith in their government. At one point politicians were respected but then with the economy tanking and them still enjoying their luxurious lifestyles while the citizens suffered, the citizens started getting more and more angry and like us they knew things had reached a critical level they just couldn’t figure out how to change it.
Their citizens weren’t willing to give up more taxes so they didn’t. The politicians got worried as to a potential uprisings so they tried to find ways to placate the citizens including having more events at the Coliseum. They also began escalating the events to include more gore such as putting a man in the ring with a tiger. They thought it would be a nice distraction but in the end it wasn’t enough. Most of the empires they built were taken over by other armies and so the pride of being a Roman waned. As we all know, when a country loses the hearts and minds of their people some form of ruin is just around the corner which is what happened to them in 476 A.D.
Once again there’re hundreds of theories as to what really led to the fall of the Roman Empire. In taking a look at the research and using some good old fashion common sense, I’ve pieced together what I think makes the most sense. Think about it, even the Russian Empire crumbled due to having too large of a military because their citizens couldn’t fund it. Here we had a Cold War with them with the threat of nuclear weapons but President Ronald Reagan, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and CIA knew we’d win the war due to economic reasons. They were just waiting for Russia to collapse and it did. My philosophy whether a good situation or bad is to follow the money. This is why I feel the underlying cause of the collapse of the Roman Empire was economic.