The Roman Empire had a long and storied history, reaching its peak of power in the 2nd century AD. The Roman Empire stretched all the way from the far corners of Scotland in the north, to Egypt in the south, and all the way across the Mediterranean in the east. At the height of their existence, their achievement was unmatched. They had an immense military that was second-to-none, coupled with a complex network of roads, aqueducts, and structures – all of which led to a vibrant and flourishing culture that still has an impact on how we live today.
However, the Roman Empire would eventually succumb to outside forces and fade away, failing to rely on their immense achievements and shared culture and eventually fall apart. In this article, we will look at the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, including their achievements, culture, and the causes of their ultimate decline.
The Rise of the Roman Empire
The Roman Republic, or Res Publica Romanum – meaning “public thing of Rome” – was established in 509 BC, after the city-state of Rome overthrew its final king and established a system of government where the people had a distinctive say in the decision-making of the empire. During this time, Rome become a prosperous trading and military power, expanding their influence by continuous warfare and conquest.
In 49 B.C., Julius Caesar assumed power in the Republic and eventually established himself as Emperor of Rome. Under his rule, the Roman Empire extended their reach to places such as northern Britain, Egypt, and the Middle East. It was not until the reign of Augustus Caesar, the adopted grandnephew of Julius and first Emperor of Rome, however, that the Roman Empire truly reached its golden age.
Under the rule of Augustus, the Roman Empire saw immense success. He created a strong, centralized government as well as a standing military that greatly expanded the Empire’s borders. He strengthened the efficiency of Rome’s taxation systems and helped to increase their revenues, leading to the building of cultural monuments, road systems, and aqueducts, such as the Appian Way and the aqueduct of Segovia. The Romans also had a long tradition of literature, philosophy, and art – these achievements continue to influence us today.
Augustus’ efforts to stabilize the Roman Empire made it possible to pursue a wide range of government roles and tasks, from construction projects and cultural advancement, to warfare and the subsequent expansion of the Empire’s borders.
Roman culture was a perfect blend of the cultures of their conquering nations, which allowed them to create their own distinct identity. Roman culture was characterized by having a distinct religion, one focused on honoring classical gods and goddesses. Additionally, they were well known for their advanced engineering projects, such as the construction of public baths and aqueducts and the establishment of legal traditions that were later adopted by many other emerging nations.
The Ancient Romans were also strong believers of the power of entertainment, therefore they had a wide range of theaters and amphitheaters where they would spectate gladiatorial fights and plays. Moreover, Roman culture was also marked by their advanced literature and art, which, in many ways, still inspire us today.
The Fall of the Roman Empire
Despite their great achievements and influence, the Roman Empire eventually experienced its downfall in the 5th century AD. This was due to a variety of factors, both from within and from outside forces, that had been building up over a long period of time. Here are a few of those factors that ultimately led to the downfall of the Roman Empire:
Aspects of Decline
Financial troubles: The cost of running the Empire, along with an excessive taxation system, left its treasury empty.
Military hemorrhage: Roman armies were overstretched and were suffering from attrition.
Social and political divides: Wealth inequality and social unrest were on the rise, leading to civil wars that weakened the empire even further.
Barbarian invasions: Popular belief was that the barbarians weakened the Empire’s armies, but Roman historians acknowledge that the Roman armies were far outmatched in most respects.
Natural disasters: Earthquakes, plague and drought were increasingly common, leading to civilian unrest and discontent.
Political instability: With the Roman Empire being divided into various factions, no central power was able to effectively respond to these external threats.
The Roman Empire had an immense and lasting influence on the direction of Western Civilization. They achieved an array of accomplishments in the fields of literature, philosophy, art, and engineering, creating a vibrant and powerful culture that still today resonate with us. However, the Roman Empire was not immune to the forces of history, and eventually succumbed to a combination of both internal and external turmoil. The Roman Empire is a testament to the power of empires, but also to the fragility of them. Their rise and fall is something that we can all learn from, as it is a story of the power of shared culture, but also a reminder that no government is immune to the vicissitudes of history.