Whenever I have a speaking engagement I like to pose this question: “If we could go back in time to a few months before the fall of Rome and warn the people of their impending doom—would they believe you, or would they call you an ‘alarmist’ or ‘conspiracy theorist’?” Who would have believed that one of the greatest, most influential empires on earth could have been wiped out completely? Most of the citizens of Rome certainly didn’t, despite the fact that they had many signs leading up to it. One scholar accurately stated that Rome didn’t necessarily “fall”—as in buildings being obliterated or wiped out—but instead it was a slow, gradual “rot” from within.
What follows are some of the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire. Please know this is a very abridged version; there are many more involved aspects of this subject and I highly encourage you to read more about it on your own. Unfortunately one can’t help but notice the many similarities between “us” and “them”.
Cause #1: Division between Leaders and their Senate
Roman Emperors had the power to rule Rome’s religious, civil and military affairs with the Senate acting as an advisory board. However, when the Emperors started using their own form of “Executive Orders”—overruling and/or ignoring the Senate and doing whatever they wanted to do–that’s when the real problems started. Basically, Roman Emperors became “too much” of everything—too powerful, too wealthy, and too corrupt.
Cause #2: Decline in Morals
The decline in morals within the rich upper classes had a devastating impact on Romans. Orgies, incest, gambling and prostitution flourished, along with barbaric practices such as gladiator competitions in the Coliseum arena. This affected the lower classes because they were the people who were sold into slavery, raped without consequence and were sadistically murdered and tortured in Coliseum competitions.
Cause #3: Political Corruption and the Praetorian Guard
The Praetorians were an elite group of soldiers that protected the Emperors. Although they started out as the “good guys” the Praetorians eventually became drunk with power and literally got away with murder, rape and torture of Roman citizens. They organized masses of soldiers that ultimately contributed in overthrowing and assassinating emperors.
Cause #4: The Roman Empire Fast Expansion & Too Many Enemies
“Barbarian” is an Ancient Greek term used for describing what they considered “uncivilized “people and/or non-citizens. Many of the lands the Romans conquered were “Barbarian” countries and as a result the Barbarians despised Romans. It didn’t help that once the Barbarians were relocated into Rome they were taxed at a much higher rate than regular Roman citizens, which led to frequent riots and rebellions.
Cause #5: Non-stop Wars & Heavy Military Spending
Because of ongoing wars, the Roman army became stretched very thin and required constant recruiting so they allowed their “former” enemies—the Barbarians and other foreign mercenaries—to join their army. (Note: Providing your enemy with weapons and not expecting them to use those weapons against you is never a good idea…See #6.)
Cause #6: Barbarians Learned Roman Military Tactics—from the Roman Army Themselves
Once the Roman army allowed the Barbarians to join their military, they were essentially teaching the enemy all their tactical secrets–which, of course, the Barbarians eventually used against them.
Cause #7: Failing Economy and High Inflation
The Roman government was constantly on the verge of bankruptcy due to military spending, high taxation and high inflation. Bottom line: They were spending more than they could afford. The free food rations for the poor were costing Rome and Constantinople a fortune. And Rome’s upper class love for luxury items caused them to send more and more of their gold to the orient to pay for products like silk and spices—gold which had no return. This led to a shortage of gold and ultimately Roman currency was devalued to such an extent that the bartering system returned to what was once the greatest civilization in the world.
Cause #8: High Unemployment Rates
Cheap slave labor resulted in high unemployment rates among the Roman working class, including the Plebs in Rome who became dependent on handouts from the state. Because of this, the Romans attempted a policy of unrestricted trade but this ultimately caused the Plebs to be unable to compete with foreign markets. The Plebs’ standard of living was drastically affected resulting in a massive divide among the rich and the poor classes in Rome.
Cause #9: Mob Rule and the Expensive Gladiator Games
Realizing that their unemployed and bored citizens would soon become restless, Roman emperors created the Gladiator games in part to keep the “mobs” occupied. The cost of the games was exorbitant and excessive, and corrupt politicians/lobbyists used the games to curry favors with the mob. The cost of the games eventually came to one third of the total income of the Roman Empire.
Cause #10: Decline in Ethics and Values
Once morals had left the state, ethics and the value of life was also in decline. The values, ideals, customs, traditions and institutions that had once made Rome great were now in fast decline. There was little regard for human (or animal) life, and basically their system of judging right/wrong, good/bad was completely skewed. Chaos and non-conformity prevailed and citizens were considered “intolerant” if they didn’t go along with whatever debauchery that came their way.
Cause #10: Slave Labor
The number of slaves increased drastically during the first two centuries of the Roman Empire. The wealthy classes were completely dependent on slaves for their every move, including bathing. Slaves were treated as subhuman and in many cases were treated much worse than animals (although animal abuse was rampant, too). The poor treatment of slaves led to the Servile War, led by the most famous gladiator slave, Spartacus.
Cause #11: Natural Disasters
In addition to the ongoing wars, revolts and uprisings among the mobs, natural disasters such as earthquakes, plagues and famines prevailed.
Cause #12: Christianity
As Christianity became popular, immoral and depraved Roman society started becoming unstable. People were starting to see that their way of life was wrong and their previously futile, hopeless lives were given meaning for the first time. Roman Emperor Constantine the Great proclaimed himself a Christian, leading many in Rome to move from antagonistic to pacifistic.
Cause #13: Barbarian Invasion
The Barbarian armies consisted of the Visigoths, Huns and the Vandals. They attacked when they saw Rome at her weakest—failed economy, high unemployment, and all the while aiding and abetting her enemies. Ultimately it was the Roman army-trained Barbarians that helped overthrow Rome in 410, and the Vandals finished her off in 455.
So to summarize, Rome’s ultimate collapse was basically due to a slow and steady decay from the inside out.
As bad as things currently are in America, I don’t believe for one moment we are anywhere near this type of disaster—but nevertheless I suggest we always live our lives as if we were. Take good care of your families; call your parents, family members and friends and tell them you love them. Expect the best but prepare for the worst, or as our PolitiChick Angela Love says, “Stock your larder or risk starving”. And don’t do these things because you’re afraid of “end times” but rather because it’s the right thing to do.
(Note: I took the attached photo in St. Louis, Missouri. The statue represents the dismembered head of Eros, the Greek god of love & desire. The bandages covering his face suggest his desires & ideas have been imprisoned. They also symbolize two opposing views of the world: either that civilization is broken beyond repair, or that it is being held together despite destructive forces. A-MM)