Much like its birth, the destruction of Rome did not happen all at once. Rather, there were many contributing factors to its ultimate demise. Rome’s destruction began as a disease slowly disintegrating from the inside. Political corruption, the division of wealthy and poor, decline in moral values, and public health to name a few, were all major contributors to this disease. For the purpose of this paper, this disease will be called ‘The Roman Condition’.
To understand the Roman Condition, we must first understand how it got from a thriving empire to an empty shell in the span of 200 years. From the year 14 – 180 AD, there were five good emperors which attempted to reestablish a republic type empire. They restored the senate and established a new succession line. Previously, since the establishment of the empire, succession was limited only to the Julio-Claudine bloodline.
These five good emperors established a succession policy by appointment rather than bloodline. Unfortunately this opened a much more serious problem for the military. By the year 190 AD, Rome’s army was spread throughout western Europe. The army had begun to split into parts, and each part had its own idea who should be emperor. This caused them to war with one another until one part was successful in establishing their emperor. Between 211 – 284 AD, twenty three of such emperors were established by the different parts of the army, almost all were killed by rival emperors. This fighting among the Roman army and within Rome weakened the structure of the Roman political system and reduced the respect for moral law and order only advancing the infection of the Roman Condition. (Heather)
In 284 AD, Rome was divided into an Eastern and Western empire each with its own ruler by the Emperor Diocletian. This caused many administrative problems. More defenses were needed to protect both empires, more money was required to fund these defences, and inflation was rising as a result of the increase in spending. (Damen)
By this time, the public health of Rome was rapidly deteriorating. It is said, the Romans wanted nothing more than entertainment and food. Emperors like Nero wasted money on lavish parties for the guests to eat and drink so much that they became sick. Nero also held huge 100 day celebrations in the coliseum with over 20,000 people and animals killed. This desire for bloodshed displays just how much the Roman Condition had grown. The continuous interaction of people at the Coliseum also allowed for a greater spread of disease from the blood and death. The divide between the rich and poor increased as well, allowing for the poor to come in contact with even more diseases. (Rome.info)
Rome continued to increase in population and it was growing increasingly harder to keep with the demand for grain and foreign trade. Coupled with the inflation and raise in taxes the Roman people grew increasingly dissatisfied with anyone in power. (Van)
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