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The Fall Of The Roman Empire

1290 words - 5 pages

The fall of the Roman Empire in the West is seen as one of the most pivotal points in all of human history. This event traditionally marks the transition from classical civilization to the birth of Europe. There is an absolutely tremendous scholarly interest in this subject; thousands of books have been published and endless numbers of essays and theories, as to the cause, have been written. Why did the Roman Empire in the West fall? It is difficult to pinpoint a simple explanation. Some scholars have tried to identify one main problem which caused the fall. Some say the culprit is lead, and its use in water pipes; others find that Christian ideology is to blame. The issue is confusingly complex and it stands to reason that one particular issue cannot, in and of itself, be enough to explain the fall of this persistently powerful, sprawling empire. The reason which seems most compelling is a holistic one which considers multiple factors. Thinking in this way, the fall was most likely caused by circumstances which lead to a breakdown of the centralized military and tributary complex producing inherent limitations on the abilities of the army. The state was no longer able to preserve its borders and it was finally overwhelmed by invading barbarian tribes.

Though the invasion of the Roman Empire’s frontier is probably the central problem, many theories exist to explain how Rome first got into trouble. The somewhat outdated, but nevertheless fascinating, theory for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire is the wide spread use of lead pipes in urban centers used for the transportation of drinking water. Some believe this continual exposure to lead poisoned the Romans who drank it. Chronic, long-term lead exposure will cause effects on the nervous system which may become serious and may affect development in the young. The victim of lead poisoning feels tired and listless, has constipation, is anemic, and can become infertile. If, as seems likely, it was the upper levels of Roman society that suffered most from lead poisoning, some of these effects could have negatively affected those who ran the empire . Lead was in fact used for domestic water lines and in the main aqueducts. Its use was so common that the workers who produced the pipes were called plumbarii, which translates to “lead men” in English. This connection may seem valid, but when examined further the correlation is not convincing. An obvious argument against this hypothesis is the fact that, well beyond the fall of the Roman Empire, even into the modern era, lead pipes are being used with seemingly no recognized harmful effects. A more specific refutation lies in the hardness or softness of the water. “If the water has been flowing over sedimentary rocks then it acquires a calcium carbonate content which not only makes the water hard but also forms a shell inside the pipes effectively insulating them from the water flowing inside.” The land where roman towns were mostly...

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