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Thread: The Fall Of Rome?

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    The Fall Of Rome?

    What do you think based on facts that you know about the roman empire led to its destruction?
    "He who knows, does not speak, He who speaks, does not know"- Lao-Tzu

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    HKHolic Senior Contributor leib10's Avatar
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    Internal corruption and decadence and Attila the Hun.
    "The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world. So wake up, Mr. Freeman. Wake up and smell the ashes." G-Man

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    Quote Originally Posted by leibstandarte10
    Internal corruption and decadence and Attila the Hun.
    Bad treaty alliances with the Visigoths and other 'barbarians' sure didn't help either.

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    Romes fall was mainly derived from my belief, because of the fact that they switched religions from the greeko/roman to christianity and became soft
    "He who knows, does not speak, He who speaks, does not know"- Lao-Tzu

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    It was falling before it converted. Christianity united the empire that was coming apart at the seams. Not to mention the eastern roman empire (byzantine) that lasted another 1000 years under christianity

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    Senior Contributor kNikS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EricTheRed
    It was falling before it converted. Christianity united the empire that was coming apart at the seams. Not to mention the eastern roman empire (byzantine) that lasted another 1000 years under christianity
    Good point.
    For King and Fatherland ~ Freedom or Death

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    Actus Reus Senior Contributor sparten's Avatar
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    It had outlived its sell by date.
    Sniper, you are part of the Gibbon crowd it seems.

    Quote Originally Posted by EricTR
    It was falling before it converted. Christianity united the empire that was coming apart at the seams. Not to mention the eastern roman empire (byzantine) that lasted another 1000 years under christianity
    From 636 AD onwards it was except for a short period of time on the defensive. Romans giving tribute to Arabs? That has gotta suck.
    "Any relations in a social order will endure if there is infused into them some of that spirit of human sympathy, which qualifies life for immortality." ~ George William Russell

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    Quote Originally Posted by sparten
    From 636 AD onwards it was except for a short period of time on the defensive. Romans giving tribute to Arabs? That has gotta suck.
    It was on the defensive long before that.

    Rome's biggest problem, and the largest contributor to its decline, was the fact that rebellion was considered a legitimate method of succession. If one had an army and successfully rebelled, then one could also get readily accepted as emperor. This resulted in continual civil wars during times of crisis (which incidently was when the most armies were tramping about the landscape). In these civil wars the Roman factions focused on one another while using foriegners (mostly Germans) against their domestic opponents. This was because while tribute could be paid to outsiders, usurpers could not be tolerated (because of the very real legitimacy their troops gave them).

    This continual civil war in addition to the de-romanization of the army resulted in the eventual collapse of the empire in the face of barbarian migrations. It should be noted that the actual size of the barbarian armies that overan the empire in the 4th century was extremely small when compared to the territories that they were conquering. They didn't have to be large though, with Rome's internal politics tearing herself apart.

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    Senior Contributor Amled's Avatar
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    The reliance on mercenary armies to defend itself is always a bad idea.
    When Rome fielded armies composed mainly of Romans, and whose allegiance was to Rome itself, these armies were virtually unsurpassed.
    When this practice fell into decline, so did the West Roman Empire.
    When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow. - Anais Nin

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    Quote Originally Posted by Amled
    The reliance on mercenary armies to defend itself is always a bad idea.
    When Rome fielded armies composed mainly of Romans, and whose allegiance was to Rome itself, these armies were virtually unsurpassed.
    When this practice fell into decline, so did the West Roman Empire.
    The Romans had used mercenaries as far back as the Republican period. For a long time, allied peoples formed the alae or wings of the manipular legion. Later in Roman history, these forces would be known as foederati, meaning roughly 'federates.'

    The problem was not the fact that the later Roman army used mercenaries, but that the later emperors lost control of the officer corps. Incidentally, this officer corps was made up of many Germans and other federated people. The Roman army was capable even in the fifth century and could defeat any opponent if it was properly used. It was the loss of central control that led to the constant civil wars of the third and fourth centuries.

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    I highly recommend J.B. Bury's History of the Later Roman Empire. It is more objective than Gibbon's illustrious, but biased, work.

    This is a relevant excerpt from History of the Later Roman Empire, Volume 1, chapter IX, section 7:
    http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/...RLAT/9*.html#7

    § 7. Modern Views on the Collapse of the Empire

    The explanations of the calamities of the Empire which have been hazarded by modern writers are of a different order from those which occurred to witnesses of the events, but they are not much more satisfying. The illustrious historian whose name will always be associated with the "Decline" of the Roman Empire invoked the "principle of decay," a principle which has itself to be explained. Depopulation, the Christian religion, the fiscal system have all been assigned as causes of the Empire's decline in strength. If these or any of them were responsible for its dismemberment by the barbarians in the West, it may be asked how it was that in the East, where the same causes operated, the Empire survived much longer intact and united.

    Consider depopulation. The depopulation of Italy was an important fact and it had far-reaching consequences. But it was a process which had probably reached its limit in the time of Augustus. There is no evidence that the Empire was less populous in the fourth and fifth centuries than in the first. The "sterility of the human harvest" in Italy and Greece affected the history of the Empire from its very beginning, but does not explain the collapse in the fifth century. The truth is that there are two distinct questions which have been confused. It is one thing to seek the causes which changed the Roman State from what it was in the best days of the Republic to what it had become in the age of Theodosius the Great — a change which from certain points of view may be called a "decline." It is quite another thing to ask why the State which could resist its enemies on many frontiers in the days of Diocletian and Constantine and Julian suddenly gave way in the days of Honorius. "Depopulation" may partly supply the answer to the first question, but it is not an answer to the second. Nor can the events which transferred the greater part of western Europe to German masters be accounted for by the numbers of the peoples who invaded it. The notion of vast hosts of warriors, numbered by the hundreds of thousands, pouring over the frontiers, is, as we saw, perfectly untrue.The total number of one of the large East German nations probably seldom exceeded 100,000, and its army of fighting men can rarely have been more than from 20,000 to 30,000. They were not a deluge, overwhelming and irresistible, and the Empire had a well-organised military establishment at the end of the fourth century, fully sufficient in capable hands to beat them back. As a matter of fact, since the defeat at Hadrianople which was due to the blunders of Valens, no very important battle was won by German over Imperial forces during the whole course of the invasions.

    It has often been alleged that Christianity in its political effects was a disintegrating force and tended to weaken the power of Rome to resist her enemies. It is difficult to see that it had any such tendency, so long as the Church itself was united. Theological heresies were indeed to prove a disintegrating force in the East in the seventh century, when differences in doctrine which had alienated the Christians in Egypt and Syria from the government of Constantine facilitated the conquests of the Saracens. But, after the defeat of Arianism, there was no such vital or deep-reaching division in the West, and the effect of Christianity was to unite, not to sever, to check, rather than to emphasise, national or sectional feeling. In the political calculations of Constantine it was probably this ideal of unity, as a counterpoise to the centrifugal tendencies which had been clearly revealed in the third century, that was the great recommendation of the religion which he raised to power. Nor is there the least reason to suppose that Christian teaching had the practical effect of making men less loyal to the Empire or less ready to defend it. The Christians were as pugnacious as the pagans. Some might read Augustine's City of God with edification, but probably very few interpreted its theory with such strict practical logic as to be indifferent to the safety of the Empire. Hardly the author himself, though this has been disputed.

    It was not long after Alaric's capture of Rome that Volusian, a pagan senator of a distinguished family, whose mother was a Christian and a friend of Augustine, proposed the question whether the teaching of Christianity is not fatal to the welfare of a State, because a Christian smitten on one cheek would if he followed the precepts of the Gospel turn the other to the smiter. We have the letter in which Augustine answers the question and skilfully explains the texts so as to render it consistent with common sense. And to show that warfare is not forbidden another text is quoted in which soldiers who ask "What shall we do?" are bidden to "Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages." They are not told not to serve or fight. The bishop goes on to suggest that those who wage a just war are really acting misericorditer, in a spirit of mercy and kindness to their enemies, as it is to the true interests of their enemies that their vices should be corrected. Augustine's misericorditer laid down unintentionally a dangerous and hypocritical doctrine for the justification of war, the same principle which was used for justifying the Inquisition. But his definite statement that the Christian discipline does not condemn all wars was equivalent to saying that Christians were bound as much as pagans to defend Rome against the barbarians. And this was the general view. All the leading Churchmen of the fifth century were devoted to the Imperial idea, and when they worked for peace or compromise, as they often did, it was always when the cause of the barbarians was in the ascendant and resistance seemed hopeless.

    The truth is that the success of the barbarians in penetrating and founding states in the western provinces cannot be explained by any general consideration. It is accounted for by the actual events and would be clearer if the story were known more fully. The gradual collapse of the Roman power in this section of the Empire was the consequence of a series of contingent events. No general causes can be assigned that made it inevitable.

    The first contingency was the irruption of the Huns into Europe, an event resulting from causes which were quite independent of the weakness or strength of the Roman Empire. It drove the Visigoths into the Illyrian provinces, and the difficult situation was unhappily mismanaged. One Emperor was defeated and lost his life; it was his own fault. That disaster, which need not have occurred, was a second contingency. His successor allowed a whole federate nation to settle on provincial soil; he took the line of least resistance and established an unfortunate precedent. He did not foresee consequences which, if he had lived ten or twenty years longer, might not have ensued. His death was a third contingency. But the situation need have given no reason for grave alarm if the succession had passed to an Emperor like himself, or Valentinian I, or even Gratian. Such a man was not procreated by Theodosius and the government of the West was inherited by a feeble-minded boy. That was a fourth event, dependent on causes which had nothing to do with the condition of the Empire.

    In themselves these events need not have led to disaster. If the guardian of Honorius and director of his government had been a man of Roman birth and tradition, who commanded the public confidence, a man such as Honorius himself was afterwards to find in Constantius and his successor in Aetius, all might have been tolerably well. But there was a point of weakness in the Imperial system, the practice of elevating Germans to the highest posts of command in the army. It had grown up under Valentinian I, Gratian, and Theodosius; it had led to the rebellion of Maximus, and had cost Valentinian II his life. The German in whom Theodosius reposed his confidence and who assumed the control of affairs on his death probably believed that he was serving Rome faithfully, but it was a singular misfortune that at a critical moment when the Empire had to be defended not only against Germans without but against a German nation which had penetrated inside, the responsibility should have devolved upon a German. Stilicho did not intend to be a traitor, but his policy was as calamitous as if he had planned deliberate treachery. For it meant civil war. The dissatisfaction of the Romans in the West was expressed in the rebellion of Constantine, the successor of Maximus, and if Stilicho had had his way the soldiers of Honorius and of Arcadius would have been killing one another for the possession of Illyricum. When he died the mischief was done; Goths had Italy at their mercy, Gaul and Spain were overrun by other peoples. His Roman successors could not undo the results of events which need never have happened.

    The supremacy of a Stilicho was due to the fact that the defence of the Empire had come to depend on the enrolment of barbarians, in large numbers, in the army, and that it was necessary to render the service attractive to them by the prospect of power and wealth. This was, of course, a consequence of the decline in military spirit, and of depopulation, in the old civilised Mediterranean countries. The Germans in high command had been useful, but the dangers involved in the policy had been shown in the cases of Merobaudes and Arbogastes. Yet this policy need not have led to the dismemberment of the Empire, and but for that series of chances its western provinces would not have been converted, as and when they were, into German kingdoms. It may be said that a German penetration of western Europe must ultimately have come about. But even if that were certain, it might have happened in another way, at a later time, more gradually, and with less violence. The point of the present contention is that Rome's loss of her provinces in the fifth century was not an "inevitable effect of any of those features which have been rightly or wrongly described as causes or consequences of her general 'decline.' " The central fact that Rome could not dispense with the help of barbarians for her wars (gentium barbararum auxilio indigemus) may be held to be the cause of her calamities, but it was a weakness which might have continued to be far short of fatal but for the sequence of contingencies pointed out above.
    Last edited by Bulgaroctonus; 11 Apr 06, at 05:17.

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    Senior Contributor Amled's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bulgaroctonus
    The Romans had used mercenaries as far back as the Republican period. For a long time, allied peoples formed the alae or wings of the manipular legion. Later in Roman history, these forces would be known as foederati, meaning roughly 'federates.'

    The problem was not the fact that the later Roman army used mercenaries, but that the later emperors lost control of the officer corps. Incidentally, this officer corps was made up of many Germans and other federated people. The Roman army was capable even in the fifth century and could defeat any opponent if it was properly used. It was the loss of central control that led to the constant civil wars of the third and fourth centuries.
    That they used allied units as auxiliaries even before Marius’ reforms, yes. But the core legions were still made up of Romans and/or people subjugated by Rome. Their incentive to fight was it not based on the promise of land grants and/or the promise of Roman citizenship at the end of their tour of duty? Therefore they ultimately had an added personal incentive in preserving the Roman state, be it the Republic or the Empire.
    When later Roman legions were comprised mainly of Gaul’s, Germans fighting mainly for a pay check, this incentive disappeared.
    When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow. - Anais Nin

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    Actus Reus Senior Contributor sparten's Avatar
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    Amled,
    Sir you are making the same mistake that Gibbon and others made about the Roman Army in the later empire period. It is true that Hannible destroyed Roman army after army and they simply raised new ones, while in the later period (as seen glaringly after Adrianpole) they found it difficult if not impossible to raise troops. But, in the time of Messrs Hannible and Scipio Rome was still a city state, one which could do so. All men were liable for service. But in the later period they were an empire, what more an empire which was now centered largly outside Rome (no longer even the capital) and they could not simply make all men liable for service like they did before. It was not due to a loss of "civic" sence.

    Moreover after the "fall" in 476AD the Eastern Empire was able to reconquer large parts of the West, except parts of Iberia, all of Gaul and Britannia, not to mention defeat Persia. True, the Arabs nullified those gains, but the empire was by no means "dead" until then. Great lack of civic sence . I would say it existed in until the Arab conquests.
    "Any relations in a social order will endure if there is infused into them some of that spirit of human sympathy, which qualifies life for immortality." ~ George William Russell

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    Quote Originally Posted by Amled
    That they used allied units as auxiliaries even before Marius’ reforms, yes. But the core legions were still made up of Romans and/or people subjugated by Rome. Their incentive to fight was it not based on the promise of land grants and/or the promise of Roman citizenship at the end of their tour of duty? Therefore they ultimately had an added personal incentive in preserving the Roman state, be it the Republic or the Empire.
    When later Roman legions were comprised mainly of Gaul’s, Germans fighting mainly for a pay check, this incentive disappeared.
    There is merit to your statement. Although I do not think that the Roman legions themselves ever became German or Gallic. Essentially, a Roman legion started fighting along side of increasing numbers of Alans, Visigoths, and whatnot. I return to my point that the critical error was loss of control of the officer corps. This was both a cause and effect of the 'Germanization' of the Army, especially in the West. Since the legions were no longer guided by the senatorial military tribunes, there was less of a central loyalty to the state.

    The lack of senatorial or central command meant that the barbarian troops were not moved around and split up as they had been during the Principate. For example, in the time of Trajan or Hadrian, Syrian auxiliaries may have served along the Rhine or Hadrian's wall, thus eliminating the problem of loyalty that would have resulted if these Syrian troops patrolled their own province. By the fifth century it seems that federated tribes were not moved around as much. This led to a situation where Alans and Franks served in France and Germany, the homelands of those people. This led to the decreased lack of loyalty. When federated barbarian units were kept intact, it meant that they acted as independent allies, not subject auxiliaries. That fact proved very dangerous.

    Furthermore, the poor judgement of Theodosius I in settling the Visigoths in the Balkans was a critical error. Something must also be said for the tremendously poor quality of Emperors like Honorius and Valentinian III. These men were fools that executed their best commanders and allowed a viable strategic position devolve into outright imperial collapse.

    I am doing some research in my Later Roman history books, I'll report what I find on the exact composition of the Army from about 395 AD to 565 AD. It is important to be accurate about history in this period.
    Last edited by Bulgaroctonus; 11 Apr 06, at 22:53.

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    Actus Reus Senior Contributor sparten's Avatar
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    Syrian Archers are not a very good example, they were for the most part standard in the Roman ORBAT anywere the empire went.
    Did'nt local auxilleries serve only in their own province while , legionairres served only elsewere?
    "Any relations in a social order will endure if there is infused into them some of that spirit of human sympathy, which qualifies life for immortality." ~ George William Russell

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