Unit 5, Page 30 The Fall of Rome

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Unit 5, Page 30

The Fall of Rome

In 313 B.C.E., the Roman Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, which allowed freedom of religion. The effect of the Edict was that it made the practice of Christianity legal in the Roman Empire. Constantine’s mother and sister were both Christians, and Constantine converted to Christianity as well.
Under the Emperor Theodosius, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380 C.E. Over time, loyalty to the Church became more important than loyalty to the Emperor of Rome. The Church continued to become more powerful, even as the Roman Empire started to decline. The Church grew more important in terms of its number of followers and its influence in the Roman Empire. As the Roman Empire started to steadily decline due to internal and external problems, the Church became the main unifying force of Western Europe.

Why Did Rome Fall?

Over a three hundred year period, the western part of the Roman Empire steadily declined because of external and internal problems. Eventually, the Empire would be split into two under the Emperor Diocletian.

Eastern Half of Empire (known as Byzantium):

Wealthier Section

Western Half of Empire:

Poorer Section

While the eastern portion of the Empire would continue to thrive, the western half of the Empire, which included the Italian peninsula, would decline. There were a number of contributing factors to this decline, as described below.

Factors That Contributed to the Fall of Rome

Geographic Reasons for Decline
Due to its immense size, the Roman Empire became difficult to defend and to administer.

The Roman Empire faced an increasing number of invasions and attacks on its borders, especially in the north.

Economic Reasons for Decline

The cost of defending such a large empire became too costly.

Another economic factor that contributed to the decline of the Roman Empire was the continuing devaluation of the Roman currency. In other words, the value of the Roman Empire’s money continued to decrease.

Military Contributes to Decline of Roman Empire

As the Roman Empire continued to face

threats from outside invasions from the

north, it faced difficulty 1) raising funds

to pay its soldiers and 2) recruiting Roman

soldiers into the military. Therefore, the

military recruited non-Roman soldiers into

the military. These non-Roman soldiers did not feel the same loyalty to the Roman Empire as the Roman soldiers, which resulted in a lack of patriotism and discipline in the military.

Moral Decay Contributes to the Decline of the Roman Empire

An increasing lack of patriotism and a lack of faith in the Roman Empire contributed to its moral decay. Additionally, the family was no longer the unifying focus that is once was.

Political Reasons for Decline
Civil conflict and weak administration both contributed to the decline of Rome. Rome experienced a period of five "Good Emperors" from 96 A.D. to 180 A.D. Following the death of the last Good Emperor (Marcus Aurelius), poor leadership, fighting and a lack of an orderly transition from one emperor to the next weakened the Empire.

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