The empire of Rome’s destruction was a complex process, affected by various causes and events. The English historian Edward Gibbon claimed that the introduction of Christianity led to the fall of military spirit and weakened the empire, leading to its fall. He also defined some other possible reasons that led to the decline of the empire. Opposite his view, Cole and Carol suggest other arguments that observe civilization constantly changing living organisms. In this paper, both sides will be analyzed, and the relevant conclusion will be drawn.
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Gibbon’s Arguments on the Roman Empire Fall
Some may claim that instead of seeking causes of the Roman Empire’s failure, one needs to be surprised because it existed for so long. Although Gibbon (1776) has the same view on the observation of the empire of Rome, he defined a couple of underlying reasons that led the empire to destruction. For instance, Gibbon (1776) states: “if the decline of the Roman empire was hastened by the conversion of Constantine, his victorious religion broke the violence of the fall, and mollified the ferocious temper of the conquerors” (para. 4). In other words, the scholar claims that the introduction of Christianity to the Roman Empire impacted its destruction.
Gibbons argues that the clergy successfully promoted patience, which destroyed the military spirit and the active virtues of society. Moreover, because of religion, “a large portion of public and private wealth was consecrated to the specious demands of charity and devotion,” which also weaken the empire of Rome (Gibbon, 1776, para. 4). Thus, one of the possible causes of the Roman Empire fall lies in introducing Christianity and, following it, destructive consequences.
Other possible causes of the empire of Rome’s failure are the ignorance of enemies and the loss of national freedom. According to Gibbon (1776), “the Romans were ignorant of the extent of their danger, and the number of their enemies” (para. 6). In other words, they did not take any actions to protect themselves from the growing states that were gaining their power and becoming more assertive. Moreover, as it is claimed by Gibbon (1776), the Roman Empire was established by the singular coalition of its members, which was destroyed by the national freedom loss and the military spirit destructed by Christianity. Therefore, one can see the causes of the Roman Empire’s fall in the destruction of the union established by the empire and its ignorance of the outside enemies.
The Empire of Rome’s Decline in the Book of Cole and Carol
During the third century, the empire of Rome experienced a period that was close to its fall. According to Cole and Carol (2020), Rome had a time of the Barracks Emperors in the third century, meaning the period when the empire had twenty-six rulers in fifty years. Having emperors changing nearly every two years, the empire weakened because all the rulers had their vision of its future. Thus, Diocletian decided to divide the empire in half because he realized that the Roman Empire became too large to be ruled by a single person.
The main difference between the two discussed papers lies in scholars’ views on the leading cause of the Roman Empire’s fall. First of all, Gibbon (1776) sees the main reason for the fall in the introduction of Christianity and its destructive consequences on Roman society. At the same time, Cole and Carol (2020) have a bigger picture of the empire’s decline: scholars argue that each civilization is changing and dynamic, meaning that the evidence of Rome’s decline can also be seen as evidence of its adaptability. Thus, the empire’s fall is a complex process, and one cannot emphasize one or a couple of causes for it, as Gibbon made.
Cole, Joshua, and Carol Lynne Symes. Western Civilizations (Brief 5th Edition), New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2020.
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Gibbon, Edward. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Fordham University, 1776.