Why Did the Roman Civilization Fall?
The Roman Empire lasted from 27 BC – 476 AD, a period exceeding 500 years. At its most powerful the territories of the Roman Empire included lands in West and South Europe (the lands around the Mediterranean), Britain, Asia Minor, North Africa including Egypt. The Decline of the Roman Empire was due to many reasons but there was no specific order of the causes for the fall of the Roman Empire. Different causes occurred over its time period of over five hundred years.
Rome’s conquest of the Near East, mainly in the last century B.C. probably sowed the seeds of decay which led to the fall of one of the mightiest empires ever known. Beginning as a tiny settlement on the Palatine Hill, about 17 miles from the mouth of the Tiber in central Italy, Rome had become the conqueror and leader of the western world.
But then the ancient and sturdy simplicity of the Roman character gave way to Oriental luxury and bitter hostility developed between the wealthy aristocracy and the poverty stricken majority.
The death of Tiberius Gracchus in 133 B.C. marked the beginning of a century of revolution and civil war which ended in the downfall of the republic and the establishment of an empire. Julius Caesar (102-44 B.C.), the great warrior statesman, welded the tottering structure together and two centuries of peace followed. They included periods of great splendor, such as the wise rule of Hadrian (A.D.117-138), when the empire reached its greatest extent.
The Christian religion spread until, in the reign of Constantine (280-337), it became the official faith of the Roman Empire. Rome was prosperous and her influence in art and letters reigned throughout the known world, but prosperity brought corruption and self-indulgence completed the ruin.
Diocletian (284-305) took the first step which led to the division of the empire, entrusting an associate with the government of the west, while he ruled the east. Then Constantine the Great in 330 moved the capital to the Greek city of Byzantium renaming it Constantinople.
The story of the Byzantine Empire is long and glorious but that of the western empire is one of weakness and decline. Northern barbarians invaded Italy and in 410 the Visigoth King Alaric conquered Rome. The western empire from that time became the prey of successive waves of fierce barbarians.
In 476 Romulus Augustus, the last of the imperial line in the west, was deposed by the barbarian leader Odoacer, and the Roman Empire was formally brought to an end.
However, in reading the history of France, Italy and Spain, you will see that the end of the Roman Empire was in a way only it beginning. These new Kingdoms governed themselves mainly by Roman law, spoke forms of Latin and professed the Christian religion. Thus even though a great empire decayed and fell, Rome had won a dominion which persists to this day.