The union of the Roman empire was dissolved its genius was humbled in
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"The union of the Roman empire was dissolved; its genius was humbled in the dust; and armies of
unknown barbarians, issuing from the frozen regions of the North, had established their victorious reign
over the fairest provinces of Europe and Africa."
Edward Gibbon "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire"
Scholars of Late Antiquity have long labored under the shadow of two monumental works: Edward
Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1787) and M. I. Rostovtzeff's Social and Economic
History of the Roman Empire (1926). Though Gibbon, an intellectual of the Enlightenment, and
Rostovtzeff, a Russian Marxist, approached their topic from very different viewpoints, they both agreed
that the "transformation" of Western civilization from the Roman Empire to the Middle Ages was a story of
decline and decay. While Gibbon favored a moral and cultural explanation, Rostovtzeff not surprisingly
emphasized economic and social factors.
The fall of the Roman Empire came during the reign of the Emperor Constantinus. Rome was driven away
from the political and economic center and became a declining city with only the glory of its past. The
town of Rome, which had boasted of its prosperity, could not adequately perform the repair work
on the sturdy water works, once the symbol of the city, when they became cracked and leaking. Thus the
1,000- year empire of Rome met with destruction.
The question we have to ask ourselves is whether according to Gibbon, the factor which brought about that
destruction was in fact Christianity? At this point I am not even hoping to arrive at an answer, but to bring
some points to light. Definitely Christianity played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire, but I
am going to venture to say that it was just one of the factors which led to that end.
The Roman Empire followed in the footsteps of its predecessors, great civilizations which at one point in
time seemed to dominate their world. All of those great empires had their moment in the sun and then had
to crumble, why? As we see from the ancient and not so ancient history, imperialism does not last. Rome
was a prime example of the expansionism and greed of one nation. People cannot live oppressed by one
nation, every nation needs its sovereignty, even though Rome did not restrict its subjects as much as other
great empires are well known to have done, yet as human history develops, we see that each nation needs
its own time and place. Yes, if not for the Roman Empire, what would we be now, how would we think,
what would be our philosophy? Therefore, just as with other events in history, it seems that it had to have
happened, it shaped our world, not only the Western culture, but also the Eastern.
Cicero in his famous speeches already saw it coming, he saw that the appetite for glory and property was a
trait that was going to bring Rome down. He saw the government failing because of corrupt governors
lusting after money. He saw the people turning away from the customs of their ancestors. And he thought
that the Roman people were not being protected as well as possible. Cicero's view was fairly consistent:
violence is an outcome of a degradation of morals and lust for money or property. As we think about what
Cicero was pointing out to his listeners, we can see the traits that brought down other great empires, so the
question is: is it human nature to turn to those when all else is satisfied?
"It is always treason to speak the truth! In this very senate, not many years ago, a Senator was done to death
because he spoke the truth. Not by knife or sword or spear was he murdered, and not by honest stones. No
honorable hand struck him down, for there was no honest hand here".These words were spoken by Captain
Diodorus in a speech to the Roman Senate . He spoke of Rome. He cried out, that Rome was no longer a
Republic, and that she had become a bloodthirsty empire, ruled not by men of wisdom and not by law, but
by Caesar and his legions, and his generals and his rapacious freedmen and
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Fall of the Western Roman Empire, Societal collapse, Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon, Roman Senate, Flavii
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