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Old 05-14-2013, 02:19 AM   #1
steelhouse
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Cause of the Fall of the Roman Empire.

I found this response and I think I agree with it. Private property destroyed Rome!

http://www.henrygeorge.org/pchp29.htm

==========

Unfortunately, inequality, once produced, always tends toward greater inequality. This struggle — between equal rights to the soil and the tendency to monopolize it in individual possession — caused the internal conflicts of ancient Greece and Rome. But the final triumph of the tendency toward ownership eventually destroyed both.

By the power with which the great attracts the less, small family estates became part of the great estates — the latifundia — of enormously rich patricians. The former owners were forced into slave gangs, or became virtual serfs. Others fled to the cities, swelling the ranks of the proletariat, who had nothing to sell but their votes. As a result, population declined, art sank, the intellect weakened, and once splendid civilizations became empty shells.

The hardy virtues born of personal independence died out, while exhaustive agriculture impoverished the soil. At length the barbarians broke through; a civilization once proud was left in ruins. During Rome's grandeur, such a fate would have seemed as impossible as it seems to us now that the Comanches could conquer the United States or Laplanders desolate Europe.

The fundamental cause was tenure of land. On the one hand, denial of the common right to land resulted in decay; on the other, equality gave strength. Every family in the German villages was entitled to an equal share of common land. This impressed a remarkable character on the individual, which explains how small bands of barbarians overran a great empire. Rome perished from "the failure of the crop of men."

==========

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decline...e_Roman_Empire

A german professor collected 210 different theories of the fall of Rome, However, it seems obvious private property, land collecting in fewer and fewer hands led to the collapse of Rome.

What theory do you think correct?
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Old 05-14-2013, 02:07 PM   #2
Wamy Einehouse
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Re: Cause of the Fall of the Roman Empire.

"The root of all superstition is that men observe when something hits, but not when it misses"

- Francis Bacon
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Old 05-14-2013, 02:34 PM   #3
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One of my favorite topics, I love the ancient world. Altogether your analysis falls in line with "common sense" as you say. Among the myriad of factors contributing to the fall, private ownership (in general) was a pivotal factor in the republic's demise. Much like modern capitalistic societies, the barometer of success is (and was) directly tied to owned property, therefore the conditions of that success become exponentially greater with each successive generation.

By the time the big triumvirates started rolling around, the stakes were already at nose-bleed altitudes and pushing momentum at a blistering pace. The class divide quickly became an impassable gap, and the entire known world was suddenly held by only a few hands. There is no place in such a world for the individual citizen, he simply exists to support the elite on shaken shoulders and broken back. When the common man could no longer distinguish himself from the slave on a chain-gang (via private ownership), the entire basis of the Republic crumbled.
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Old 05-27-2013, 10:52 PM   #4
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Re: Cause of the Fall of the Roman Empire.

One view point:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_His...e_Roman_Empire


Gibbon offers an explanation for why the Roman Empire fell, a task made difficult by a lack of comprehensive written sources, though he was not the only historian to tackle the subject.

According to Gibbon, the Roman Empire succumbed to barbarian invasions in large part due to the gradual loss of civic virtue among its citizens. They had become weak, outsourcing their duties to defend their Empire to barbarian mercenaries, who then became so numerous and ingrained that they were able to take over the Empire. Romans, he believed, had become effeminate, unwilling to live a tougher, "manly" military lifestyle. In addition, Gibbon argued that Christianity created a belief that a better life existed after death, which fostered an indifference to the present among Roman citizens, thus sapping their desire to sacrifice for the Empire. He also believed its comparative pacifism tended to hamper the traditional Roman martial spirit. Finally, like other Enlightenment thinkers, Gibbon held in contempt the Middle Ages as a priest-ridden, superstitious, dark age. It was not until his own age of reason and rational thought, it was believed, that human history could resume its progress.

Gibbon sees the Praetorian Guard as the primary catalyst of the empire's initial decay and eventual collapse, a seed planted by Augustus at the establishment of the empire. He cites repeated examples of the Praetorian Guard abusing their power with calamitous results, including numerous instances of imperial assassination and incessant demands for increased pay.

************************************************** *********

It should be noted that the Western Roman Empire "fell" in 476; the administrative capitol had been transferred to Ravenna in 402.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Roman_Empire

The Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) lasted almost 1000 years longer although its last 200 years it was just a small state, finally falling in 1453 to the Ottomans.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Roman_Empire

Note that IMO wiki is not the best source for history but it is reasonable in basic facts and broad structure and commentary. Use with caution.
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Old 05-27-2013, 11:27 PM   #5
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Re: Cause of the Fall of the Roman Empire.

IMO the biggest contributor to the fall of Rome was plague. The empire suffered several plagues that decimated it's population. I think a lot of the problems that Rome suffered during it's decline really stem from a lack of population.
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Old 05-28-2013, 09:15 AM   #6
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Some great points in that the Republic, Western Empire, and Eastern Empire were each entirely different animals at differing points in time. I think most can agree that the general scale and resulting bloat of a "world empire" is altogether too much for a solitary governmental system or singular religion to uphold. Not to mention the diminishing of "the hero," and life becoming less about legendary achievements, instead focusing to a smaller more manageable scale of living.
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Old 05-31-2013, 10:46 PM   #7
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Re: Cause of the Fall of the Roman Empire.

I would say it ended shortly after Commodus (after the Praetorians killed Pertinax and auctioned the purple to Julianus; although the Severines restored some* stability for a generation). At the latest, it ended during the crisis years of the third century (after the assassination of Alexander Severus). With Diocletian, I think we're already dealing with a transformed, east based empire. He ruled from Nicomedia and despised Rome.

* You had Macrinus in there after the assassination of Caracalla, but he didn't last long and was overthrown in favor of one of the goat deviant emperors ever in Elagabalus
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Old 06-05-2013, 01:56 PM   #8
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Re: Cause of the Fall of the Roman Empire.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeno View Post
They had become weak
yup
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Old 12-12-2015, 12:14 PM   #9
DVaut1
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Re: Cause of the Fall of the Roman Empire.

Dredging up an old thread because I just finished Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Pirenne's Mohammed and Charlemagne and then Medieval Cities: Their Origins and the Revival of Trade.

I'm not sure I'm particular compelled as either Gibbon or Pirenne from having a complete answer but I favor Pirenne's explanations that economics and trade are more causative than a loss of civic virtue or the introduction of Christianity.

To wit:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeno View Post
One view point:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_His...e_Roman_Empire


Gibbon offers an explanation for why the Roman Empire fell, a task made difficult by a lack of comprehensive written sources, though he was not the only historian to tackle the subject.

According to Gibbon, the Roman Empire succumbed to barbarian invasions in large part due to the gradual loss of civic virtue among its citizens. They had become weak, outsourcing their duties to defend their Empire to barbarian mercenaries, who then became so numerous and ingrained that they were able to take over the Empire. Romans, he believed, had become effeminate, unwilling to live a tougher, "manly" military lifestyle. In addition, Gibbon argued that Christianity created a belief that a better life existed after death, which fostered an indifference to the present among Roman citizens, thus sapping their desire to sacrifice for the Empire. He also believed its comparative pacifism tended to hamper the traditional Roman martial spirit. Finally, like other Enlightenment thinkers, Gibbon held in contempt the Middle Ages as a priest-ridden, superstitious, dark age. It was not until his own age of reason and rational thought, it was believed, that human history could resume its progress.

Gibbon sees the Praetorian Guard as the primary catalyst of the empire's initial decay and eventual collapse, a seed planted by Augustus at the establishment of the empire. He cites repeated examples of the Praetorian Guard abusing their power with calamitous results, including numerous instances of imperial assassination and incessant demands for increased pay.

************************************************** *********

It should be noted that the Western Roman Empire "fell" in 476; the administrative capitol had been transferred to Ravenna in 402.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Roman_Empire

The Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) lasted almost 1000 years longer although its last 200 years it was just a small state, finally falling in 1453 to the Ottomans.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Roman_Empire

Note that IMO wiki is not the best source for history but it is reasonable in basic facts and broad structure and commentary. Use with caution.
With this explanation, where Gibbon really fails to compel a point you note: the Byzantine Empire was just as if not more thoroughly Christianized (the western half of the empire maintained very large pockets of paganism, particularly at the highest strata of society). But it survived and thrived into the 1400s.

"The Cause of the Fall of the Roman Empire" is better asked why did the Western half of the Roman Empire fail since the eastern half, which considered itself wholly Roman and maintain many of its civic customs, continued for another 1000 years.

But "Christianity" and "loss of civic virtue" remain unsatisfactory because we have something of a control group -- one side of the empire is just as Christian and shares roughly equivalent virtues but doesn't disintegrate for another millenuium.

Peirenne' theory is that, starting with the Crisis of the Third Century -- a full hundred years before the eventual Barbarian conquests of Rome -- the western Europe started to suffer from economic degradation and depopulation. This is almost unfathomable for modern people to consider, that a flourishing civilization up until the 2nd century would start a process of slow but sustained and continued depopulation over 500 years.

But that's precisely what happened.

From that point, all of the consequences -- INCLUDING Christianity -- a messianic religion (we often see messianic religions embraced in times of societal disintegration) -- became almost a fait accompli.

When the western half started experiencing depopulation, the tax base erodes, trade devolves, and Rome is forced to start arming and training Barbarian armies to fight off other Barbarian invaders. Not because Romans were too fat and lazy and overfed, and indulging in Christian dogma that said to consistently turn-the-other-cheek.

Again, this is hard to fathom, but Romans were dying off en masse. They didn't have enough people to defend themselves. For instance, by third and fourth century tax collectors wrote with surprise and alarm that when they went into the country-side and outlying towns -- that year over year farms had been turned into abandoned fields, that towns starting on the outer edges of the empire (e.g., beginning in Britain -- where the empire collapsed first) and then closer and closer to Rome itself were practically abandoned. Towns had fallen apart. Aqueducts and bath-houses were no longer maintained, and were populated with squatters. Thriving productive farms were empty, replaced with people scratching out subsistence livings.

Without the ability tax and extract wealth from the rest of the empire -- since wealth and people had eroded and disappeared -- Romans turned to taxing its elites at a higher and higher rate.

With the degradation of order, urban elites and the higher classes started to flee urban areas to what was then the nascent beginning of feudal estates -- causing a collapse of urban civic order and most importantly education systems, and leading to an increasingly economically depraved and less literate and learned urban population who are eventually forced to flee cities to become tenant farmers or fiefs of estate lords.

From there, the Barbarian conquests are a symptom of an already-collapsed civilization, due to processes of depopulation and the collapse of the western economic order.

The Crisis of the Third Century and the strength of Diocletian and Constantine to maintain the empire through the 4th century are better seen as the last gasps of a dying empire, due to processes started in the 2nd century. Ancient Rome is estimated at one point to have had more than one million people. By the 6th century Rome had less than 30k inhabitants. That's just an incredible loss of people.

What you're THEN left with is a question of how and why did a thriving society find itself increasingly depopulated? It's a simple question, but a critical one -- where did all the people go?

To that end, Pirenne is silent but here we have a good post -- that epidemiology is probably the best answer we have:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Huskalator View Post
IMO the biggest contributor to the fall of Rome was plague. The empire suffered several plagues that decimated it's population. I think a lot of the problems that Rome suffered during it's decline really stem from a lack of population.
tl;dr summary: Huskalator has IMO, the correct answer.

Rome was, unfortunately, likely a victim of its own success but not in the way people think. It wasn't that they were rich, lazy, and abandoned their collective civic spirit. It's that they were dying out. Literally. As the empire expanded and the tentacles of trade extended into the Middle East and then eventually east Asia, the contact Roman traders initiated brought with it germs and viruses western European populations had yet to be exposed to. Increasing progress and urbanization but without modern sanitation through the 2nd century created led to conditions where plagues and disease could run rampant.

The depopulation of the western empire was very much like what we saw 1000+ years later when Europeans landed in North America, and Native Americans were exposed to the first time to the same germs. Europeans marveled at the relative barren openness of the North American continent and the relative degraded states of Indian civilization, particularly when they had heard legends from natives about large inland Indian cities and civilizations but then often found little trace of them. No doubt had Indians or Asians instead arrived in Europe in Late Antiquity or the Early Middle Ages ("the Dark Ages") they'd have thought much the same and potentially been confused as to what just happened given the legends about the grandeur of the Roman civilization that came before it. But processes caused by invisible things (germs) that play out over decades and centuries are hardest to discern, and the victims certainly would have never appreciated precisely what was happening to them.

Last edited by DVaut1; 12-12-2015 at 12:31 PM.
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Old 12-18-2015, 12:26 PM   #10
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Re: Cause of the Fall of the Roman Empire.

Quote:
Originally Posted by steelhouse View Post
Private property destroyed Rome!
Internalization dealt Rome a crass, brutal blow, to be sure.

How deep has Pompey sank? How many ships the cost?

Alas, we Sardinians are the better for it.




Last edited by Zeno; 12-18-2015 at 03:21 PM. Reason: Not your blog/off topic/spam
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