The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire
The Roman Empire is a known global power that rose to domination, but then declined just as easily as it had grown. Why did it do this? What events caused the rise and eventual downfall of the mighty Roman nation? Many know of this global superpower, but many also do not care to ask how the Roman Empire achieved so much influence. This paper attempts to shed light on the events that led to the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. Not every event is highlighted, but the most important events are illuminated and evaluated for their importance in the historical scope of one of the most important global powers to ever grace the earth.
The city of Rome was founded on the banks of the Tiber River, in 753 B. C. (Mark). Not many know the humble beginnings of the Romans, who lived under the rule of the nearby Etruscan people. It wasn’t until the Roman people rebelled in 509 B. C. that they came onto the international stage (Mark). This event allowed them to establish themselves as an independent and strong people and it served as a strong starting point for what was to come. This rebellion allowed the Roman people to declare themselves a republic and thus the Roman Republic came into being.
The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire Essay Example
From this point on however, the real reasons for the rise and fall of the Roman Empire can be debated continuously. In the very beginning of Rome’s existence, the Roman people created a complex constitution that centered on the principles of a separation of powers and checks and balances. This constitution was largely unwritten, passed down through precedent, and constantly evolving due to the struggle of power between the rich upper class, the patricians, and the lower classes of Rome (Mark).
The fact that this constitution was based on checks and balances and could change to fit the needs of the current time is the probable cause for the relative ease with which the Roman Republic was able to govern and exist at such a large scale. This constitution set the framework for the Roman Republic and through them, the Roman Empire. One can reasonably assume that the constitution laid forth by the Roman Republic in the early years is one of the most important events leading to the rise of the Roman Empire.
The next event that led to the rise of the Roman Empire is not its expansion outward from the city of Rome, but rather the events that allowed Rome to expand so quickly and systematically. When Rome first began to expand, it encountered enemies that were more flexible militarily and that were able to defeat the Roman forces quite easily (Morey). To deal with these defeats, Rome shifted its military tactics, but this did not lead to Rome’s inevitable expansion across the Eastern Hemisphere.
This was because Rome’s military had to equip themselves and so there was a property requirement to join the military (Morey). It wasn’t until Consul Gaius Marius introduced a number of reforms, known as the Marian Reforms, that the stage was set for the consequential expansion of Rome. These reforms professionalized the army, allowed allies of Rome to become citizens, increased the efficiency of Rome’s military tactics, and allowed generals to equip soldiers with their own money (Morey).
These reforms were successful in allowing Rome to become militarily dominant, and the expansion of the Roman Republic to skyrocket. It can be inferred that it was the Marian Reforms that allowed the Roman Republic to expand so methodologically, as it can be seen that after the reforms, Rome was very successful in its practice of expansion. The moment at which the Roman Republic ceased to exist and became known as the Roman Empire can be seen as a matter of interpretation. Some will argue that this was when Marc Antony was defeated in battle in 31 B.
C. (Mark). Others will assert that it was when the senate gave extraordinary powers of authority to Octavius in 27 B. C. (Mark). However, I believe the time when Rome shifted from a republic to an empire was when Julius Caesar was appointed perpetual dictator in 44 B. C. (Mark). This signaled a time when the power within the Roman government shifted from the people, as they were the ones who elected the Senate, to the rule of one. Rome was no longer a republic, as the rise of the Roman Empire had been realized in the appointment of Caesar as dictator.
Caesar is often regarded as the first emperor of Rome, but this incorrect. Caesar never took the title of Emperor, and so Rome was an Empire without an Emperor. The power and influence of Rome continued to rise under Caesar’s rule, as he instituted many reforms that included relieving debt and extending Roman citizenship to conquered peoples. (Mark). The time when the Roman Empire reached its apex can be argued to be when Gaius Octavian Thurinus became the first, and by many accounts the greatest, Emperor of Rome in 31 B. C. (Morey).
He took the title of Augustus Caesar, and set about to change Rome. Augustus reformed the laws of Rome, secured its borders, and initiated the Pax Romana, or Roman Peace, which would last over 200 years (Morey). It is reasonable to assume that because of this, Rome was allowed to reach its apex of power and influence in the ancient world, and from the time of Augustus’ death, the Roman Empire declined in both of these aspects until it finally fell to nothing more than a memory to be recounted in history books. The fall of the Roman Empire can be presumed to begin when Octavius died in 14 A.
D. (Mark). The next four emperors after Octavius lacked the strength of leadership that defined Octavius and under their rules Rome did not prosper as much as it had under Octavius’. One can assume that because of their lack of leadership that Rome so required, the empire began to fall and would never again attain the power and influence it once had. These emperors continued their rule until a time of social turmoil that would once again lead in part to the fall of the Roman Empire. This time of social strife was known as “The Year of the Four Emperors.
” In a short span of only one year, two emperors were assassinated and once committed suicide. It ended with General Vespasian assuming the title of Emperor (Morey). It can be reasoned that by this time the government of Rome had already weakened substantially from what it once was. A government that sees three leaders pass through it due to death in one year cannot be a strong one. The Roman Empire had already fallen from what it had once been, but would continue to survive as it would take much more time for the Empire itself to fall completely.
The next great event to help bring about the fall of the Roman Empire occurs after the Flavian Dynasty started by Vespasian, and the “Five Good Emperors of Rome,” and the “Year of the Five Emperors. ” It was a time known as the “Crisis of the Third Century. ” This was a time characterized by civil war (Mark). Once can easily see that this time period must be one of the leading causes of the fall of the empire. A global power cannot continue to be a driving force while civil war is erupting within its own borders.
Rome would first need to quiet its own citizens, and strengthen its own economy and social structure before it could complete on the global stage at a level comparable to its past. This could not be done however, as this time period is also when the Roman Empire was split into the Eastern Roman Empire and the Western Roman Empire (Mark). Once again, we see why Rome is continuing to fall in influence and power. If a country is split in half, once can reason half of its influence is also lost.
This assumption should also apply to the Roman Empire. By dividing the empire in two, the power and prestige of this global force only decreased and continued to decrease. Years later, Emperor Constantine of Rome died and his three sons took over. These three sons divided the empire evenly, but soon began fighting over it. The victorious son named his cousin Julian heir, and when Julian took over, he did everything in his power to stop the spread of Christianity that Constantine had worked for (Morey).
This is yet another example of social unrest leading to the eventual fall of the empire. More civil wars and more confusion over who actually rules can only bring about non-desirable endings. A country cannot possibly remain in power while the rule is constantly changing and religious prosecution is occurring throughout. The same can be said of empires. One of the last events to bring about the fall was the rule of Emperor Theodosius I, who outlawed pagan worship and re-established Christianity as the dominate faith of the Roman Empire (Morey).
Nothing good can come from outlawing something that has been with a country and part of that countries culture since it was founded. Paganism was a big part of Rome, and this could only have led to social unrest and political strife. The final event in the time of the fall of the Roman Empire is undisputedly the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 A. D (Mark). A clearer reason for the fall could not be found anywhere else. Half of the entire Roman Empire had fallen. Rome’s power and influence can be assumed to have dropped tremendously after this event.
Rome would never recover from this loss. The eastern half of the Roman Empire would even be renamed to the Byzantine Empire, undoubtedly bringing about the final fall of this once great power (Morey). The history of the Roman Empire is a bloody one, starting from the transition from republic to empire in 44 B. C. , and ending with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and renaming of the Eastern Roman Empire in 476 A. D. The cause and effects for the rise and fall of this mighty empire are always vigorously debated, but the true causes for the rise and fall may never be known.