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Fall of the Roman Empire

Fall of the Roman Empire term papers report that the historians and observers of the Roman Empire often take the position that the Roman Republic fell into chaos because of the loss of its former moral fiber.  Cornelius Tacitus, writing his Historiae the between 104 and 109 CE, advocates the viewpoint that the morality of the Roman citizens was no longer as strong as it had been during the time of the Republic.  Fall of the Roman EmpireIn Book I, he describes the transition from Republic to Imperial State, condemning Augustus for becoming a despot who undermined the former authority and power of the Senate.  To some degree, he believes that the governmental instability caused by the civil wars made it necessary for a strong leader to restore order.  Yet the continued reliance on a despotic Emperor was the result of an increasing lack of morality. “War or judicial murder had disposed of all men of spirit,” he states, and laments that “political equality was a thing of the past; all eyes watched for imperial commands”.

After the Claudian family firmly secured imperial authority, the people of Rome “plunged into slavery- consuls, senators, knights. The higher a man’s rank, the more eager his hypocrisy, and his looks the more carefully studied, so as neither to betray joy at the decease of one emperor nor sorrow at the rise of another, while he mingled delight and lamentations with his flattery”.  As a result, the concept that the citizen owed a civic duty to the state was no longer a potent force in Roman government.  The individual became more concerned with personal advancement than with the good of the state.

One of the most important factors in the decline of the Roman military was the lack of recruits from “Romanized” backgrounds, who had become comfortable and perhaps even spoiled in their way of life.  One problem was the granting of citizenship to all free men within the empire.  Originally, non-citizens who served in the Roman army would be granted citizenship at the end of their enlistment.  This provided ample incentive to serve.

Rome was also experiencing a population decrease during this time. As the population decreased, the available manpower did as well.  Among the factors contributing to this decrease were widespread disease, war, starvation, and forcible deportation.  In accordance with their effects on the general population, these factors naturally had a negative effect on the military establishment as well.  And because of factors such as the aforementioned free citizenship now offered by Rome and its lack of available manpower, Rome’s army, which had been the symbol of its power, was left unorganized and nearly useless. Because of this, the Barbarians began to seize the opportunity to infiltrate the Western Empire, first in small groups of settlers and mercenaries, and eventually in whole tribes or “hordes”.

Once the Barbarians detected the military impotence of the Romans, they exploited it and established their own kingdoms, thus effectively bringing to an end the political entity known as the Roman Empire, and beginning a new age in history in which the Germanic kingdoms of Western Europe began to flourish.

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