Lesson Six: The Fall of Rome Information Literacy

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Lesson Six: The Fall of Rome

Information Literacy


Your challenge in this lesson is going to be gathering detailed information on the variety of causes for the fall of the Roman Empire. Here is how you will do it.

Step One: I will give you a quick overview of the reasons for Rome’s fall. While doing this, you will want to copy down the outline of topics and main ideas for the fall of Rome. Set yourself up with a separate piece of paper for each topic and spread your main ideas out so that you will have plenty of space to add details from other sources.

Step Two: That night for homework read the following section in your textbook. Record any details that help explain the main ideas in your Fall Of Rome Outline

Group One: 8:2 and 8:4

Group Two: Chapter 6:5

Group Three: Packet
Assignment Three: Watch the video, “Rome: Power and Glory” in class. As you watch add any new details to your Fall Of Rome Outline.
Assignment Four: Read the Handout, “Reasons For The Fall of Rome” that is attached to this packet. Add any new details to your Fall Of Rome Outline.

There, now you should have a complete and detailed outline of information as to what contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire.

Lesson Six: The Fall of Rome

Historical Connection: You’ve done it once before, now its time to perfect it. You will once again put together a side by side comparison of how Rome fell to what is going on in our society. Only this time you will want to:

  • Pick a topic from your Fall of Rome Outline. Make sure that each person in your group is picking a topic from one of the different reasons why Rome fell. In other words, someone needs to pick from Social Reasons, someone from government reasons, someone from military reasons, etc.

  • Your thesis question this time is slightly different.

Based on what happened to Rome, is the United States falling or not?

  • This time you have to show a reason that Rome fell, and then argue whether or not the same thing is happening to us. Your whole group must argue that the US is currently falling or not.

  • Push yourselves to make your final project more visually appealing. Get organized, get coordinated. Have a theme. Can you use your experience from your last round to improve your ability to work together as a group and come up with something pretty?

  • Each individual in your group will choose a topic from one of the five categories of civilization. Each person in the group must pick a separate category so that as a group you get a bigger picture of all the things that made Rome great. Use your homework assignment or the list on the back of this paper for ideas.

  • You have one class period to complete your research. GO!


Immigration brought down the Roman Empire, but it is not bringing down the US

One reason for the fall of Rome was due to the migration of German people into the Empire. Tribes like the Visigoths wanted to enter the Empire to escape from violence in their own homeland and for opportunities in the empire like land and serving in the army. However, when the Roman officials starved the Visigoths the Visigoths turned their swords on the Romans and sacked the city of Rome, killing thousands of Romans.

Today, the United States has an issue with illegal immigration. It is estimated that almost 12 million people, mostly from Mexico and other parts of Latin and Central America are immigrating into the United States. Most of these immigrants are coming to the United States for job opportunities.

Both Rome and the US have issues with immigration, but they do not create the same problem. Immigrants like the Goths turned violent and attacked the Romans because the Romans were corrupt. Immigrants in the US are not currently armed and violent. If we find a way to deal with them humanely, there is no reason that they would attack the United States like the Goths did the Romans.

Reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire

All left Rome open to outside invaders

adapted from History Alive material

There were many reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire. Each one intertwined with the next. Many even blame the introduction of Christianity for the decline. Christianity made many Roman citizens into pacifists, making it more difficult to defend against the barbarian attackers. Also money used to build churches could have been used to maintain the empire. Although some argue that Christianity may have provided some morals and values for a declining civilization and therefore may have actually prolonged the imperial era.

Decline in Morals and Values

Those morals and values that kept together the Roman legions and thus the empire could not be maintained towards the end of the empire. Crimes of violence made the streets of the larger cities unsafe. Even during PaxRomana there were 32,000 prostitutes in Rome. Emperors like Nero and Caligula became infamous for wasting money on lavish parties where guests ate and drank until they became ill. The most popular amusement was watching the gladiatorial combats in the Colosseum. These were attended by the poor, the rich, and frequently the emperor himself. As gladiators fought, vicious cries and curses were heard from the audience. One contest after another was staged in the course of a single day. Should the ground become too soaked with blood, it was covered over with a fresh layer of sand and the performance went on.

Public Health

There were many public health and environmental problems. Many of the wealthy had water brought to their homes through lead pipes. Previously the aqueducts had even purified the water but at the end lead pipes were thought to be preferable. The wealthy death rate was very high. The continuous interaction of people at the Colosseum, the blood and death probable spread disease. Those who lived on the streets in continuous contact allowed for an uninterrupted strain of disease much like the homeless in the poorer run shelters of today. Alcohol use increased as well adding to the incompetency of the general public.

Political Corruption

One of the most difficult problems was choosing a new emperor. Unlike Greece where transition may not have been smooth but was at least consistent, the Romans never created an effective system to determine how new emperors would be selected. The choice was always open to debate between the old emperor, the Senate, the Praetorian Guard (the emperor's's private army), and the army. Gradually, the Praetorian Guard gained complete authority to choose the new emperor, who rewarded the guard who then became more influential, perpetuating the cycle. Then in 186 A. D. the army strangled the new emperor, the practice began of selling the throne to the highest bidder. During the next 100 years, Rome had 37 different emperors - 25 of whom were removed from office by assassination. This contributed to the overall weaknesses of the empire.


During the latter years of the empire farming was done on large estates called latifundia that were owned by wealthy men who used slave labor. A farmer who had to pay workmen could not produce goods as cheaply. Many farmers could not compete with these low prices and lost or sold their farms. This not only undermined the citizen farmer who passed his values to his family, but also filled the cities with unemployed people. At one time, the emperor was importing grain to feed more than 100,000 people in Rome alone. These people were not only a burden but also had little to do but cause trouble and contribute to an ever increasing crime rate.


The roman economy suffered from inflation (an increase in prices) beginning after the reign of Marcus Aurelius. Once the Romans stopped conquering new lands, the flow of gold into the Roman economy decreased. Yet much gold was being spent by the romans to pay for luxury items. This meant that there was less gold to use in coins. As the amount of gold used in coins decreased, the coins became less valuable. To make up for this loss in value, merchants raised the prices on the goods they sold. Many people stopped using coins and began to barter to get what they needed. Eventually, salaries had to be paid in food and clothing, and taxes were collected in fruits and vegetables.

Urban decay

Wealthy Romans lived in a domus, or house, with marble walls, floors with intricate colored tiles, and windows made of small panes of glass. Most Romans, however, were not rich, They lived in small smelly rooms in apartment houses with six or more stories called islands. Each island covered an entire block. At one time there were 44,000 apartment houses within the city walls of Rome. First-floor apartments were not occupied by the poor since these living quarters rented for about $00 a year. The more shaky wooden stairs a family had to climb, the cheaper the rent became. The upper apartments that the poor rented for $40 a year were hot, dirty, crowed, and dangerous. Anyone who could not pay the rent was forced to move out and live on the crime-infested streets. Because of this cities began to decay.

Inferior Technology

During the last 400 years of the empire, the scientific achievements of the Romans were limited almost entirely to engineering and the organization of public services. They built marvelous roads, bridges, and aqueducts. They established the first system of medicine for the benefit of the poor. But since the Romans relied so much on human and animal labor, they failed to invent many new machines or find new technology to produce goods more efficiently. They could not provide enough goods for their growing population. They were no longer conquering other civilizations and adapting their technology, they were actually losing territory they could not longer maintain with their legions.

Military Spending

Maintaining an army to defend the border of the Empire from barbarian attacks was a constant drain on the government. Military spending left few resources for other vital activities, such as providing public housing and maintaining quality roads and aqueducts. Frustrated Romans lost their desire to defend the Empire. The empire had to begin hiring soldiers recruited from the unemployed city mobs or worse from foreign counties. Such an army was not only unreliable, but very expensive. The emperors were forced to raise taxes frequently which in turn led again to increased inflation.


For years, the well-disciplined Roman army held the barbarians of Germany back. Then in the third century A. D. the Roman soldiers were pulled back from the Rhine-Danube frontier to fight civil war in Italy. This left the Roman border open to attack. Gradually Germanic hunters and herders from the north began to overtake Roman lands in Greece and Gaul (later France). Then in 476 A. D. the Germanic general Odacer or Odovacar overthrew the last of the Roman Emperors, Augustulus Romulus. From then on the western part of the Empire was ruled by Germanic chieftain. Roads and bridges were left in disrepair and fields left untilled. Pirates and bandits made travel unsafe. Cities could not be maintained without goods from the farms, trade and business began to disappear. And Rome was no more in the West.

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