The dissolution of the Roman Empire was a monumental occurrence that continues to elicit varied reactions from theorists and scholars around the world. Historians seeking to determine the actual cause of the decline and eventual dissolution of the Roman Empire have formulated several theories.
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Such theories interrogate the decline of political, economic, military, and related social entities, owing to external aggression and sabotage within the ranks of the empire. The decline of the empire spanned four centuries. The ultimate dissolution occurred on 4th September 476 with the ouster of Romulus Augustus by Odoacer.
Several factors precipitated dissolution of the Roman Empire. During the 5th century, the territories in Europe and Africa suffered attacks from aggressive indigenes. Historians argue that the population in the empire was diminishing at alarming rates. They argue that some areas within the empire were completely unoccupied. Towards the end of 3rd century, power decentralized from Rome to other cities in the empire.
The dispersal of administrative power undermined effective consolidation of power and other administrative functions. This weakened the authority by giving rise to competing and antagonistic forces. These forces were instrumental in the eventual weakening and dissolution of the empire.
Historians argue that the Roman Empire founded on poor ideological foundation. According to Gibbon, it was difficult to enhance cohesion for an entity that had no ideological identity. He blames Christianity for the fall of the empire. He argues that the principles and teachings of Christianity had negative effects on the basic tenets of the empire.
Some scholars argue that the dissolution was not pre-meditated and should not be viewed as a deliberate act. They attribute the fall to undue pressure occasioned by migration of people. According to them, migration applied excessive pressure on the structure of the empire. Other scholars attribute the fall to abrupt transformations that distorted the social setup within the empire.
According to Gibbon, roman citizens abdicated their civic duties by allowing barbarian mercenaries to assume the role of guarding and defending the empire. The mercenaries eventually turned against the Romans. He argued that Christianity taught the people that they should abandon worldly desires and seek the heavenly kingdom. As a result, people did not see a reason to guard and protect the empire from external aggression.
This effectively increased the vulnerability of Romans to attacks by external aggressors. The military also deteriorated due to admission of German mercenaries into the top echelons of power and control. This lowered the requisite levels of loyalty and allegiance to the government of Rome.
The fall resulted from weakness and ineptitude within the empire. Proponents of this view argue that the Roman Empire was weak and mediocre and could not stand pressures in a dynamic society. The empire had poor management of resources. They embezzled resources, thereby putting the empire in a state of jeopardy. They plundered resources through systematic looting and extensive corruption and greed.
This pattern of behaviour weakened the economy of the empire. Naturally, the empire became insolvent and unviable. Therefore, the decline of the empire resulted from poor economic policies and mismanagement of resources. The decline and dissolution also resulted from adjustments within the Roman society.
It is evident that the dissolution of the Roman Empire resulted from several internal and external factors. These factors were influential in determining the fate of the empire.