The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire


The Roman Empire was known for many things. Its government, its leaders, and even certain achievements in history. People read about the Rise of the Roman Empire...but what about the fall?

Many things in Roman History ultimately led to the fall of the Roman Empire. The population was decreasing. Plagues swept through the Roman citizens and birth rates were at all time lows. They welcomed barbarians who fed them food polluted with lead. Roman wealth in the West was deteriorating and the barbarians who kept camp outside the empire were often just as wealthy as the empire as a whole. Rome was being populated more and more by the barbarians than Roman citizens. This led to the military practically being led and populated by barbarians. The Roman legion was losing dominance because of the military advances of the cavalry. The Romans were also losing the value of their money. Coins worth one dollar were being spent as if they were worth 2 or three.

Roman coins consisted mostly of four type of precious metal. Aureus were made from gold, Denarius were made from silver, sestertius and dupondius were made from bronze, and as was made from copper. As time went by the Roman coinage was losing value. They were still being accepted as a form of payment until the middle of the third century B.C to third century A.D. The coins kept being replaced and denominated until they were basically worth nothing. The Aerarium, or the state treasury, was overlooked by the Quaestors, then the Praetors, and then the Prefects. Eventually the Emperor took over and made his own treasury. It was known as the Fiscus. The Aerarium was still around but was used for tribute. Other Imperial territories put their money in the fiscus.

The Roman trade is what was driving the economy. The Romans knew of two type of business man. The negotiators, part bankers because they lent on interest, and the Mercatoers, usually pleblians or freedmen. The negotiators bought and/or sold things in bulk and/or did whole sale quantities of goods. The Argetarii were considered to be a subset of the negotiators. They acted as agents in public or private auctions, kept deposits of money for individuals, cashed cheques, and served as many changers. They kept strict books or tabulae which were considered legal proof in courts. The Mensarii were public bankers anointed by the state. The Romans did not only trade with each other but also with India and China.

The Roman social class was divided in to several classes based on ancestry and property. The broadest division was by ancestry. The Patricians, persons who could trace their ancestry to the First Roman senate established by Romulus, and the pleblians, the other citizens. At first only Patricians were allowed to hold public offices and the classes couldn’t intermarry. This changed when the pleblians had a sort of workers strike. The with held their labor and pulled enough power to change things.After this the status on the patrician and pleblians became less and less important. There were also non-citizens. This group consisted of slaves, freedmen, foreigners, and women. The freedmen, women, and foreigners had different legal rights from those of citizen status but slaves had no rights what so ever(shocking). The free born women belonged to the social class of their father until they were married. After that they take the status of their husbands. Women who were freed could marry but had restrictions. They couldn’t marry knights or Senators and they didn’t take their husbands rank. Foreigners had the Latin Right. A form of Roman citizenship but people under the Latin Right couldn’t vote and they had fewer rights under the Roman Law. The slaves were not allowed to marry.

The Roman Empire seems(when you read it) as if it was doing fine. The economy was okay, social classes set in order, and the leaders were in the driver’s seat…most of the time. The Roman Empire was said to have fallen on September 4, 476 A.D. He over took Romulus Augustulus and seized control of Italy. He didn’t take the title as emperor and ended 500 years of Roman rule.

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