The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire

The Roman Empire is an ancient civilisation and one of history’s most legendary sovereign states. It was a powerful civilisation that ruled for nearly a 1000 years, controlling a huge portion of Europe 

Ancient Rome is remembered for its supreme power, advanced engineering, military successes, religious customs, entertainment and its brutality. Whatever your view of Ancient Rome, you can’t deny that its international rule had wide-scale effects on our development. Beginning in the 8th century BC, ancient Rome grew from a small town on central Italy’s Tiber River into an empire that at its peaked encompassed most of continental Europe, Britain, much of Western Asia, northern Africa and the Mediterranean islands. After 450 years as a major republic, Rome became an empire in the wake of Julius Ceasar’s rise and fall in the 1st century BC. With such a long and complex history spanning across different continents, the Roman Empire can be hard to trace, in order to distinguish its rise and fall we must first go back to its beginnings.

The Beginning of the Roman Empire

The reign of the Roman empire began in 27 BC with the first Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar. He was known for restoring the republic of Rome and bringing peace to the era, listed as one of the greatest emperors to rule. It’s almost ironic that his reign which started with the brutal assassination of Julius Caesar then ensued a golden age of peace and prosperity. Augustus’s’ reinstating of political institutions restored morale in Rome after a century of discord and corruption and ushered in the famous Pax Roma (peace). Despite being the first emperor and following a period of turmoil within the republic Augustus was loved and admired by the people and successfully ruled for 56 years. During his reign, he instituted various social reforms, won numerous military victories and allowed Roman literature, art, architecture and religion to flourish. His popularity continued even after his death, with the Senate elevating Augustus’ status to that of god, beginning a long-running tradition of apotheosis for popular emperors.

The Success of the Roman Empire

There were many emperors who followed Augustus, some good, some bad. Caligula was the third emperor of Rome, bloodthirsty and unhinged, and the first emperor to be assassinated. Nero has also been well -remembered in history and similarly not very liked, for he drained the Roman treasury and murdered those who questioned him. The Flavian dynasty followed these two which saw the construction of the Colosseum, the restoration of the Senate and consideration for public welfare. Emperor Trajan (98-117 BC) expanded Rome’s borders to the greatest extent in history, with victories over the kingdoms of Dacia and Parthia. The military was one of the key reasons for Rome’s success. The Roman army was highly trained and disciplined, growing in reputation as the best army in the world. With their success in war, the empire was able to expand its control over 3 separate continents including Asia, Africa, and most of Europe. In the end, the empire got so big they had to split it into two separate areas, named the Eastern and Western Roman Empires. With this large amount of area, the newly made Roman citizens were forced to pay tax to their new controllers, ensuring the empire’s wealth to grow as such and ensure its stability.

As well as gaining power, the Romans were exceptionally advanced in other areas. Including ethical issues, engineering, and technology. Ethical problems were faced with new laws set in place to ensure morality, such as setting laws that minimised infidelity which in turn improved family life. Roman engineering was very advanced for their time, developing undergrown sewage systems, using cement and concrete to make longstanding buildings, as well as building the best road system the world had ever seen. Even today we see the remnants of a ‘Roman road’, which were vital to the maintenance and development of the Roman state. They provided efficient means for the movement of armies, officials, citizens and trade goods. The technology was no exception, with the creation of the Julian calendar, safer surgical tools and procedures, and the invention of bound books.

The Downfall of the Roman Empire

So, where did it all go wrong for the Roman Empire? There is not one definitive reason why the empire fell, but a series of reasons and events that triggered its final collapse. With their military, finance, religion, and power all being contributing factors. The empire was used to having a strong and capable military, but its decline in success resulted in less land, and more vulnerability. Looting and slavery was also a key factor that supported the empire, with Rome’s economy heavily reliant on salves. With new laws banning slavery, an increase in unemployment and government distributions arose. The slow rise of the new religion Christianity also threatened Roman society. The old religion saw the emperor as a god, with many never disagreeing due to their power. However, Christianity did not agree with this, which caused more and more people to lose respect for the emperor and the empire. Government corruption, political dispute, and power struggle all weakened the empire. The continuous death and replacement of the emperor caused haphazard leading, with a continuous conflict between the Emperor and the Senate. Although these issues on their own could have been resolved, all events taking place at similar times cause the empire to slowly crumble. Rome eventually collapsed under its own bloated empire, losing its provinces one by one. The first was Britain, then Spain, northern Africa, Gaul, and finally, Italy.

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