The Roman Empire was the most powerful superpower of the world for almost 500 years before it disintegrated in the late fourth century. Just like most superpowers in the history the Romans failed due to a multitude of factors including natural disasters and military failures.
But each civilization or empire has its own distinct mistakes or shortcomings that ultimately result in the failure and eventually disintegration of the empire. As for the Romans we have listed below the five most popular reasons for their downfall.
1. Rise of the Byzantine Empire
Rome was divided into two halves in the late third century by Emperor Diocletian, the capital of the western side was Milan while Byzantium was the seat of the Eastern Empire. The objective was to make governance easier, it worked for short time period but in the long run both halves moved further away from each other. This division provided outside powers with opportunities to strike. Constantinople in the East was heavily guarded which often diverted the Barbarian attacks towards the West which was facing an economic crisis and Rome and Italy were left vulnerable.
2. Military overspending and Overexpansion
At the height of its power the Roman Empire was spread across an area of 5 million square kilometers making it one of the largest empires in the world such a huge territory is extremely difficult when it comes to administration. Many people think that this enormous size of the empire ultimately resulted in its downfall. Rome had an excellent road system but even then the length of the empire proved too much and distant territories became harder and harder to control. In addition most of the funds were invested in the upkeep of military instead of technological advancements which eventually led to the disintegration of the infrastructure.
3. Political Instability and Rampant Corruption
Rome was already having major difficulties in administering such a huge territory and the problem was compounded due to the ineffective, incompetent and extremely corrupt political elite. Assassinations of Roman emperors were so common that becoming emperor was almost a death sentence. At one time over 20 men became emperor in a span of just 75 years most of these people came to power after killing their predecessors. Corruption had spread across the Roman senate and the emperors themselves constantly committed excesses.
4. Barbarian Invasions
The most popular reason for the fall of the Roman Empire is its continuous military failures against foreign forces. Romans had fought with Germanic tribes for hundreds of years and by the 300s Goth tribes were attacking beyond the Roman borders. The city of Rome was successfully attacked by King Alaric of the Visigoths and then in 455 it was once again sacked by the Vandals. The year 476 marked the end of the Western Empire as Germanic leader Odoacer deposed Emperor Romulus Augustulus the last emperor to rule from Italy.
5. Economic crisis and dependence on slave labor
Rome was facing economic crisis at the same time facing attacks from foreign forces, constant spending on military had lightened imperial coffers. In the meantime the gap between the rich and poor kept widening due to over taxation and inflation. Roman economy depended heavily on slaves who performed a wide range of tasks from tilling the fields to craftsmanship and military.
Image Credits: History