Social And Economic Decline In The Western Roman Empire

877 words - 4 pages

By the fourth century, the Roman Empire had developed exponentially with significant growth in cultural, social, and political activity. Leading up to the Battle of Adrianople of 378 AD, the Empire suffered significant division and its once uniform body began to splinter. After multiple attempts to unify the empire, the East and the West grew increasingly independent. The battle proved a critical turning point in the prominence of the West significantly foreshadowing its future. While the declining reputation of Rome was apparent long before the battle itself, it was clear that the Roman defeat at Adrianople significantly contributed to the Western Empire’s gradual disintegration as the dominance of the East thrived.
Nearing the fourth century, the Roman Empire had experienced a teetering struggle for uniformity under the rule of Diocletian and the tetrarchy. Though Diocletian’s goals had been to strengthen the empire, more division resulted and as a result, the Western Empire suffered. This back and forth transition in leadership left the Empire in political disarray. The attempts to assimilate by Germanic tribes into Roman territory also played a significant role in this chaos. In addition, the economy suffered considerably. An increased inflation resulted from “Diocletian’s attempts to establish a reliable currency” (Kagan 154). Romans struggled to pay their taxes, and subsequently grew resentful of the emperor. The economic differences that existed between the more rural West and commercial East further distanced the two empires from the others affairs. This separation continued beyond the Battle of Adrianople and the empire found itself in a spiraling state of turmoil.
The Battle of Adrianople served as the vehicle by which the decline of the Western Roman Empire continued. In order to escape persecution from the Huns, Germanic tribes requested the opportunity to settle in Roman territory. As the two mingled, conflict arose and the Goths revolted. The conflict grew and the forces met at Adrianople. The Roman army numbered 30,000 as the Germanic tribes numbered nearly 60,000 (Barbarians). The Western emperor, Valens, acted in haste attacking the Goths head on using little strategy. The Romans ill-prepared army was defeated, losing two thirds of its men and even its emperor.
The Roman loss at Adrianople proved very significant to the decline of the Western Empire. Being such a powerful empire, the inconsistency of leadership left the social and economic order in a state of jeopardy. “…in the course of fifty years some twenty-three emperors succeeded to the imperial throne” and with so many emperors, there was little sincere leadership for the success of the Empire (Barbarians 5). As Valens rose to power, he quickly became unpopular in the eyes of the...

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