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The Collapse of the Roman Republic

The Roman Republic, which lasted for over 5 centuries (Roman-colosseum.info), finally collapsed due to a combination of 4 causes for which different sources were responsible.

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Economic Causes

There were 4 economic causes for which the Emperor in larger part, and the Senate to a lesser degree, was responsible. The first was a massive financial expenditure. As much as 33% of the Roman Republic’s income was regularly spent on Gladiatorial Games that were held to entertain the lower classes and keep them from rebelling against the ruling authority. In addition, the many wars fought involved huge military expenditure, while the cost of maintaining the large Roman army constantly increased as more and more soldiers had to be enlisted to control and defend the constantly expanding Roman Republic. The second economic cause was the failing Roman economy and galloping inflation. Large quantities of gold were used to buy luxury goods for rich Romans, leading to a dearth of gold to make Roman coins which caused the Roman currency to be devalued so greatly that people increasingly resorted to barter trade for goods and services. The third economic cause was the high unemployment of the working classes. This was caused by the usage of an increasing number of cheap slave laborers. The government was forced to give subsidies to those unemployed, which not only made them lazy and idle but also caused the gap between rich and poor to widen more and more. The fourth economic cause was the lack of technological development. The existence of near-total dependence on slave labor curtailed the need to acquire new technology to manufacture goods more efficiently (Roman-colosseum.info).

Social Causes

The Roman Emperors, Senators, and Roman people of the upper and lower classes were responsible for two serious social causes that contributed to the fall of the Roman Republic. The first social cause was an alarming decline in morals. The Roman Emperors were spoiled, debauched, and immoral. For example, Emperor Tiberius indulged in sex with young boys, Emperor Nero practiced incest and Emperor Commodus had a harem of concubines. Senators and other rich upper-class members freely practiced adultery and participated in frequent sexual orgies. The lower classes engaged in immoral acts like bestiality, prostitution, gambling, and heavy alcohol consumption. The second social cause was a steep decline in ethics and values. Life turned into a valueless commodity, while bloodshed was common and resulted in more bloodshed accompanied by great cruelty. There was a great decline in ethics as perversions caused differences between good and evil, right and wrong to become blurred and overturned. The basic standards, principles, customs, beliefs, and institutions of the Romans eroded badly (Roman-colosseum.info).

Religious Causes

An important cause of the fall of the Roman Republic was the growth and development of Christianity and the Christian Church within the Roman Republic (Roman-colosseum.info). The Roman religion was founded on a series of individual rituals, taboos, superstitions, and customs accumulated from several sources over many years. The several gods and goddesses were a mixture of several religious influences (Roman-empire.net). As a result, the Romans developed an overall attitude of antagonism which enabled them to build, expand and maintain their country for so long. The intrusion of Christianity, which proclaimed life after death and promoted a peaceful lifestyle, reversed the long-standing trend and caused the Roman attitude to change into pacifism (Roman-colosseum.info). This process became increasingly widespread as Roman Emperors like Constantine the Great and Theodosius greatly encouraged and promoted Christianity in the Roman Republic (Roman-empire.net). Emperor Constantine the Great not only personally embraced Christianity but also publicly declared his support and protection for all Christians in the Roman Republic (Roman-colosseum.info), while Emperor Theodosius declared Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Republic (Roman-empire.net).

Political Causes

There were 2 categories of Political Causes – Internal and External.

Roman Emperors to a great extent, and Roman Senators to a lesser extent, were responsible for the internal political causes. The first cause was the constant hostility that existed between the Senate and the Emperor. Many of the Senators did not approve of the Emperor’s total authority over the Roman Republic’s religious, civil, and military matters while they in the Senate were nothing but advisors. The second internal political cause was the massive power enjoyed by the Praetorian Guard soldiers designated as the Emperor’s bodyguards. They were so powerful and politically corrupt that they could even choose which Emperor should be dethroned and who should replace him. The third internal political cause was the rapid growth of the Roman Republic as a result of frequent wars. The newly conquered territories required more and more soldiers to be enlisted in the Roman army (Roman-colosseum.info).

The single external political cause was the Barbarians – the powerful, aggressive, and ruthless enemy of the Romans. The Barbarians boasted of several huge armies led by fierce warriors like the Visigoths, the Vandals, and the Huns. After several years of conflict with the Romans {during which valuable knowledge of the Roman military strategies and methods of fighting was gained from Barbarians who had previously served in the Roman army and later deserted it}, it was the Barbarians who dealt the final death blow to the Roman Republic. The city of Rome was mercilessly plundered first by the Visigoths in 410 AD, and then by the Vandals in 455 AD, leading to the total breakdown of Roman authority and the collapse of the Roman Empire (Roman-colosseum.info).

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References

  1. Causes for the fall of the Roman Empire” Roman-colosseum.info. 2008. Web.
  2. Roman Religion” Roman-empire.net. (N.d). Web.

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