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Old February 23rd, 2014, 03:15 PM   #11

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I believe that Huns were main player in the destruction of Rome.
There are two main reasons for Rome's fall. Socio-economic factors combined with the mass migration of foreign tribes. The Huns were not the cause of Rome declining in a military sense, but, they were indirectly involved with the end of Rome because they forced a lot of tribes in to Roman territory. This is one of many possible reasons of course.
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Old February 23rd, 2014, 06:42 PM   #12
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From a social / economic POV the Roman world was in trouble pretty much by the late Republic period, though because of it's strength it did not become so readily apparent until much later..

The world of antiquity was basically defined by one thing, Mediterranean trade, yet most modern digs suggest that it's peak was around the time shortly after Alexander. And that from there onward (around after the 2nd Punic war) it begin to go downward, slowly at first, but gradually increasing, and then it hit a major slop around the 3rd century and never looked back until really the great discovery era. with it's absolute bottom coming around the rise of Islam.

One could wonder this from a more social economic POV, that probably due to the growing monopoly nature of trade in the med had much to do with it's decline and also the decline of Rome, as Rome "eliminated" it's competitor , they became a monopoly of sorts , and this also tied into their own shrinking social mobility which could not be reversed, it's not hard to see a bad cycle of shrinking middle class -> less demand for common goods -> price of living in city growing even higher thus even less middle class etc.
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Old February 24th, 2014, 12:12 AM   #13
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From a social / economic POV the Roman world was in trouble pretty much by the late Republic period, though because of it's strength it did not become so readily apparent until much later..
This is correct, as the Roman socio-economic system was based largely on the exploitation of cheap labor and extraction of resources through taxation and plundering enemies, rather than value-added production: one could say that the Roman Empire was almost a constant series of little economic crises, that later became more and more severe when the Empire could no longer guarantee peace and security, with the city of Rome alone being immune due to its dominant position. Much of the resources extracted were spent on maintaining the army and providing subsidized entertainment, food and tax relief. Notice how even under the so-called 'golden age' of the Antonines, Marcus Aurelius upon his accession (before the plague hit) had to cancel debts to the treasury stretching back to his grandfather's reign, indicating that all was not well economically.

This was more or less the constant feature of Roman economics: the government needed a fixed amount of tax revenue year on year to pay the legions, but in an agrarian society economic output was fragile at best even in times of peace. While Rome was top dog, the government could afford to apply band-aids to the problem - remission of tribute, or cancellation of tax debts - but once the Empire was under threat and could no longer afford quick fixes, the government got more and more draconian in its economic and social policies.

As the Roman method of extracting resources to pay for its needs never fundamentally changed from Augustus to the end of the Empire, it could be said that the decline did indeed begin to set in as soon as Rome became the dominant Mediterranean power, and large-scale and lucrative wars of conquest came to an end. Trajan's plundering of Dacia and Parthia, and later Severus' again plundering Parthia, did much to relieve Rome's economic conundrums but did not solve its fundamental problems.
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Old February 24th, 2014, 01:08 AM   #14

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Rome's biggest threat was its army from the onset and even Augustus did not manage to solve the issue of the army. By the end of the second century, the army had essentially become a wild beast always looking for an increasingly generous paymaster and to tame it you had to promise plunder and increase wages, which Septimius Severus did significantly.

After Caracalla's murder, the beast became extremely hard to tame.
I'd say you are right - but I would add that this problem goes back to the late Republic. The army had been out of control ever since the job of paying it was transferred from the Senate to whichever general happened to be in command. This goes back to the time of Marius, who died in 86BC.

Marius had a run of unconstitutional Consulships that undermined the whole principle of orderly transfer of power. It was at that time (107-86BC) that the rot set in.

Of course, there were tremors even before that. The murder of the Gracchi brothers in around 133BC signalled the onset of a period in which political problems started to lead to violence rather than consensus based politics.

Last edited by RoyalHill1987; February 24th, 2014 at 01:11 AM.
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Old February 24th, 2014, 03:35 AM   #15
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The economic decline of the late Roman Empire, while in my opinion inevitable once they stopped conquering new territories,
Essentially Rome stopped conquering new territories by the time of Augustus or earlier. Britain was hardly lucrative, and while Dacia was, to my knowledge its conquest wasn't motivated by an economic crisis requiring seizure of its gold.


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was still immensely sped up by the barracks emperors.
IIRC the third century currency debasement owed much to exhaustion of precious metal sources. It wasn't their fault but more the fault of fatcats who spent too much on imports.


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Julian's army, comprised of the best soldiers in the empire, was mostly destroyed in his Persian campaign,
I don't think it was. It fought well even in retreat, and was just short of supplies and had to be extricated.

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Then, just 15 years later the best of the army was once again destroyed at Adrianople. These two immense defeats, combined with the falling recruitment and loss of the empire's best soldiers, were in my opinion what really were the immediate cause of the Roman Empire's military decline.
Defeats were nothing new, the real problem was falling citizen recruitment. Did the Varrian disaster, Trajan's setback in the Near East or the third century losses lead to lasting weakness?

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These soldiers were extremely hard to replace, and most of their replacements were of inferior quality.
Strange that the Romans had always managed to replace losses, however, massive, prior to the final, late 4rth century triumph of christianity--a doctrine associated with pacifism since the time of Tertullian. In the third century, the still-pagan empire suffered absolutely catastrophic defeats in the Near East and at Abrittus. Within a few decades it had turned the tables on barbarians and persians alike.

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This both contributed to and sped up the replacement of Roman soldiers with Foederati, which were far inferior to the now nearly non-existent native Roman troops.
Not very inferior in fighting prowess, just untrustworthy.
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Old February 24th, 2014, 03:44 AM   #16
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The world of antiquity was basically defined by one thing, Mediterranean trade, yet most modern digs suggest that it's peak was around the time shortly after Alexander. And that from there onward (around after the 2nd Punic war) it begin to go downward, slowly at first, but gradually increasing, and then it hit a major slop around the 3rd century and never looked back
This is hard to believe. Look at what Goldsworthy wrote. Evidence from soot in ice cores indicates economic activity peaked in the first and second centuries and this wasn't again matched until the 19th. I can't believe the Mediterranean was in economic decline in the second century, prior to Aurelius. Look at all the new cities the Romans founded.
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Old February 24th, 2014, 04:18 AM   #17

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The success of the Huns was really the result of, and demonstrated perfectly the underlying decline in the Roman military and political systems that had occurred by the mid-5th century AD.
Not really, since the Huns were ultimately unable to defeat Rome completely nor cope with their maciavellian politics. However, it is true that the Huns had been motiivated to seek fresh lands presumably due to persistent arid conditions and the unusual circumstance of unification under one ruler, during whose reign the Huns built their one and only capital city.

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Rome's biggest threat was its army from the onset and even Augustus did not manage to solve the issue of the army. By the end of the second century, the army had essentially become a wild beast always looking for an increasingly generous paymaster and to tame it you had to promise plunder and increase wages, which Septimius Severus did significantly.
Whilst I agree in prionciple, bear in mind there was no such thing as a Roman national army. Each legion was an independent force of armed men allocated to governing politicians. It wasn't just the nature of the men involved, but also the difficulties and delays of communications across a huge empire when regional areas were self-governing.

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I can't believe the Mediterranean was in economic decline in the second century, prior to Aurelius. Look at all the new cities the Romans founded.
In many cases the Roman cities were built around existing settlements and in such cases as Venta Icenum, the cities themselves failed early on. Many more withered during the late empire with a increased emphasis on ruralism and other factors, not least the selection of cities to support with civic improvementas including defenses.

To see the empire as an economic whole is misleading - it was too large and areas prospered or declined at the same time. After all, one of Augustus's methods of revitalising the existing economic depression in Greece (nothing ever changes, huh?) was to settle veterans from disbanded legions there.
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Old February 24th, 2014, 04:47 AM   #18

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Essentially Rome stopped conquering new territories by the time of Augustus or earlier. Britain was hardly lucrative, and while Dacia was, to my knowledge its conquest wasn't motivated by an economic crisis requiring seizure of its gold.

IIRC the third century currency debasement owed much to exhaustion of precious metal sources. It wasn't their fault but more the fault of fatcats who spent too much on imports.

Defeats were nothing new, the real problem was falling citizen recruitment. Did the Varrian disaster, Trajan's setback in the Near East or the third century losses lead to lasting weakness?

Strange that the Romans had always managed to replace losses, however, massive, prior to the final, late 4rth century triumph of christianity--a doctrine associated with pacifism since the time of Tertullian. In the third century, the still-pagan empire suffered absolutely catastrophic defeats in the Near East and at Abrittus. Within a few decades it had turned the tables on barbarians and persians alike.

Not very inferior in fighting prowess, just untrustworthy.
I disagree with almost everything here.

You are wrong that Britain was not lucrative - Britain was rich in copper, gold, iron, lead, salt, silver, and tin, materials in high demand in the Roman Empire. The abundance of mineral resources in the British Isles was probably one of the main reasons for the Roman conquest of Britain.

Britain's gold mines were located in Wales at Dolaucothi. The Romans discovered the Dolaucothi vein soon after their invasion, and they used hydraulic mining methods to prospect the hillsides before discovering rich veins of gold-bearing quartzite. The remains of the several aqueducts and water tanks above the mine are still visible today.

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IIRC the third century currency debasement owed much to exhaustion of precious metal sources. It wasn't their fault but more the fault of fatcats who spent too much on imports.
The third century crisis was due to a culmination of many factors, chief among them political instability and the inability of the state to control the army. These were exacerbated by outside attack, economic inflation as well as exhaustion of precious metals.

Furthermore, it wasn't the fault of 'fatcats' - there have been fatcats in almost every era of history and the Roman Republic had plenty of them. Human greed is a constant that doesn't change, and I suspect demand for imports had very little to do with Rome's problems.

The real problem was government inability to control spending, ultimately caused by a runaway political machine that had lost control over its own apparatus (i.e. the army). The position of emperor was auctioned off to the highest bidder, who would often end up murdered by the troops shortly after. The pay and conditions of the Praetorians were lavished with gold that the state could not afford. Mismanagement and corruption became rife. In such a situation, economic activity inevitably declines.

The triumph of Christianity had nothing to do with the military ability of the Empire. There is nothing especially 'pacifist' about Christianity in the first place. Those who argue otherwise have a superficial understanding of the Bible at best.

"I came not to bring peace, but to bring a sword" said Jesus, turn to Matthew 10:34.

Jesus also said this:

"Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. Luke 12:49–53

Aside from what Jesus himself is reported to have said, there is the fact that the Christian Eastern Roman Empire continued to wage bloody wars for the next thousand years after the fall of Rome, and never seems to have found it much of a problem reconciling that with its Christian faith. I don't hear about the Byzantines ever having trouble raising good fighting men due to their supposedly 'pacifist' Christian beliefs.

Explain that if you want to continue the argument.

In addition, has nobody looked at Rome's rivals, such as the Persians? It's all very well to talk about Rome being 'doomed' to collapse once its conquests finished, but what about Sassanid Persia? Does the same hold true there as well? If not, then we might have to go back to the drawing board...
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Old February 24th, 2014, 04:54 AM   #19

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There were three main reasons for the Fall of Rome (according to Gibbon). The increase in military skill by the Northern tribes (such as the Visigoths), the growing strength of the Persians, and the constant civil wars that sapped the strength of the Roman army. The Roman army wasn't that large at its peak (only 300000 men against the millions of barbarians), so I would be inclined to feel that the civil wars were the most important factor.
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Old February 24th, 2014, 05:07 AM   #20

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There were three main reasons for the Fall of Rome (according to Gibbon). The increase in military skill by the Northern tribes (such as the Visigoths), the growing strength of the Persians, and the constant civil wars that sapped the strength of the Roman army. The Roman army wasn't that large at its peak (only 300000 men against the millions of barbarians), so I would be inclined to feel that the civil wars were the most important factor.
Interesting - that is almost exactly the same conclusion reached independently by Peter Heather in his legendary book on the subject in 2006. Heather had access to far more resources than did Gibbon, and demonstrates his case well with abundant reference to archaeological evidence.

Gibbon was an astute man.
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