Classical Civilizations

7 July 2016

Between 100 CE and 600 CE, the Roman empire underwent a change in government as the empire collapsed due to corruption within. Also, the influence of Christianity increased greatly. However, the “Eastern Roman Empire”, the Byzantines, kept the culture going. Clearly, the most important change that the Roman Empire experienced in the late classical era was its collapse. But, this phenomenon was one that the other great powers of the age, Han China and Gupta India, also grappled with as each saw their reign come to an end in the waning years of the classical period.

In the year 100 CE, the Mediterranean basin, and most of Europe, was in the midst of the Pax Romana, a time of relative peace and prosperity for the Roman Empire. After 180 CE, the Rome’s decline was visible as ineffective leadership and outside invasions end the empire’s golden age. Rome’s leadership increasingly suffered from confusion of leadership as succession problems and intervention by army in political affairs destabilized the government. This lack of strong leadership quickened Rome’s collapse as many other mounting factors limited its ability to prosper, but without effective leadership, they could not be clearly addressed.

Classical Civilizations Essay Example

As the size of the Roman Empire and its institutions grew, taxes levied on the peasants grew more burdensome and crushed the lower classes. Free peasants often fled these financial hardships by selling their land and becoming enserfed tenants of the land. With cumbersome and chaotic leadership limiting the economic effectiveness of the realm, tax revenues declined and brought additional strain to the Roman Empire. Germanic soldiers were increasingly used to guard the frontiers of the empire.

This expense and the migration pattern that this influx created was the final blow to the empire in decline. Germanic peoples helped spread plagues leading to population decreases, and some Germanic groups seized on the opportunity to attack Rome. Finally, in 476, Rome was sacked, and the Roman Empire was ended. This spiraling decline and fall of the Roman Empire was likely the result of it expanding its territory too widely thus creating financial burden and elevating the power of the army as “king-maker” over weakening imperial leadership.

Another important change to the Roman Empire during the late classical period was the growing influence of Christianity. The spreading popularity of religion in the Roman Empire was a trend matched by the spread of Buddhism in China during the decline of the Han dynasty. In 100 CE, the vast majority of Romans still subscribed to the polytheistic mythology that they adapted earlier from the Greeks, despite being years after the death of Jesus. Facing frequent persecution, Christianity attracted many poor Romans because of its emphasis on leading a simple life and the equality of believers.

These teachings garnered the faith a small but important group of practitioners that gradually expanded as conditions in the empire deteriorated. Unable to quash the start-up religion, finally in the 4th century, Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. Now with official favor, Christianity spread more easily. Representing perhaps ten percent of the population prior to Constantine’s conversion, Christianity grew in popularity, and Christian symbols and hierarchy were increasingly used by state officials.

After the fall of Rome, the organization of the Christian church, which mirrored the imperial government, often provided stability for people in a time of political chaos. This organization and stability provided yet another means for Christianity to earn converts. Christianity’s growing importance in the Mediterranean basin and Europe is likely the result of the emotional connection that the religion provided in the face of political turmoil that the sterile Roman mythology was not able to offer.

To the east of Rome, the empire survived and continued, in the form of the Byzantines, uninterrupted for nearly a thousand years after Rome’s fall. Although the Gupta empire declined, Indian culture continued largely unchanged despite political transitions, much the Byzantines. At the beginning of the period, Rome was a land ruled by an emperor with a strong legal tradition and commercial economy, and the Byzantines shared many of the characteristics with its Roman predecessor. In the 6th century, Emperor Justinian led a number of conquests in an attempt to capture the former lands of the united Roman Empire.

This quest to recapture the lands is a testament to the continuity that existed between Byzantine’s and the former Roman Empire. Additionally, Justinian codified and simplified many former Roman legal codes in order to aid in the administration of the government. Not only did the Eastern Roman Empire continue the legal traditions of Rome, but economically, the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) remained a commercial center as it dominated much of the silk and spice trade in the Mediterranean Sea much like its predecessor brokered the exchange of goods between Asia and Europe or between regions around the Mediterranean.

The Byzantine’s represent one of the clearest continuations of classical traditions in the later postclassical era as a Roman emperor sat on a throne in the eastern capitol of Constantinople. Because civilization was more deeply entrenched in the eastern Mediterranean and the East faced less pressure from invasion, Constantinople was never sacked and the Eastern Roman Empire was never conquered. Although the Roman Empire seemed to face many dramatic changes in the fall of Rome and influx of Christianity, the stability of the Eastern Roman Empire carried the mantle of Roman traditions throughout the period.

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