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The Fall Of Rome - Thematic

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The ancient world was marked by many successful and great civilizations and their equally great falls from power. Perhaps the most grand of failures in this time was that of the Roman Empire. After the death of Marcus Aurelius, an empire that had stood strong for centuries began its long, painful decline which lasted almost three centuries. No one person could possibly be blamed for this progression of abasement in the empire, but rather the entire Roman population. There were multiple political, economic, military, and social causes of the fall of the Roman Empire.

The early Roman Republic will always be remembered for its revolutionary government. Citizen-elected leaders who represented both the rich and the poor worked together for the well-being of the country as a whole. After the decline of the Empire began, however, politics in Rome became less and less respectable. The emperor, who was at one time chosen fairly and based on merit and potential as a leader, was now being given away on other terms. The Praetorian Guard, who had the job of being the emperor’s private army as well as the selectors of his successor, began to take bribes from prospective emperors. They were essentially selling the throne of Rome to the highest bidder. This kept very able men out of leadership, and contributed a lot to the deterioration of the empire’s political infrastructure. Greed began to take over the elite in Rome, and over the course of 100 years, there were an astounding 37 emperors who entered office. Of them, 25 were assassinated by power-hungry generals and officials looking for the position of emperor. Because of this corruption, many Romans lost faith in their leaders, which lowered the overall quality of Roman government very much.

The economy in Rome was at a point one of the greatest parts of the empire. The city of Rome flourished as it was the Mediterranean’s largest and most wealthy seaport, bringing in goods from all around the world. However, late in the empire’s reign over the ancient world, the government began taxing its people absurdly. Middle and low-class Romans owed the government money they didn’t have, and this debt that accumulated among almost all farmers, merchants, artisans, etc. forced many of them to leave their trade. Eventually, most middle-class Romans were reduced to begging in the streets of their cities because they lost everything they had. For the farmers who hadn’t been stripped of their lives by taxes, life was becoming increasingly hard because of very rich families that were taking over the trade. They began to set up gargantuan agricultural estates called latifundias, on which they used slave labor to grow their crops faster, more efficiently, and in far greater abundance than simple farming families. Because of this, the rich latifundia owners were able to lower their prices substantially and eventually force hard working families into poverty. This seizure of all money-making opportunities by the richest Romans created an astounding gap between the high and low social classes. Poverty and abjection were so widespread in Rome that at one point, the government was forced to begin a practice that became known as Bread and Circuses. Because people had such little money, the government provided unlimited supplies of free wheat and free entertainment to the poor citizens of the empire. During particularly low times, over 100,000 people could be living off of Bread and Circuses in the city of Rome alone. This depleted the wealth of the Roman government and sent the empire into a time of great struggle.




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