Imperial Rome Essay Sample

The decline of the Roman Empire is seen as the societal collapse that was brought about by steady disintegration of the economic, military, political, and other Rome’s social institutions.  The inversions of the barbarian also resulted into the Roman Empire’s final doom. The gradual decline took place over a period of approximately 320 years and reached a climax on September 4, 476 (Gibbon and Dero pg. 282).

Many years of war resulted into decline of the Roman economy. The economic growth was severely depressed as the trade routes were closed, the taxes become very steep, and this was due to rampant inflation which was experienced. Above all, traders and businessmen craved stability and peace so ensure that their wealth was rebuilt. Increasingly, the traders and businessmen came to consider that stability and peace could be maintained only if the political powers were to be centered in one man. This man was called Octavian, and later was named Augustus as he became Rome’s first emperor in 27 B.C until 14 A.D (Gibbon and Dero pg. 292).  It was seen that the establishment of Roman’s supreme rule represented a decline in the political freedom but brought about a great improvement of the economic freedom. Emperor Augustus favored enterprises and properties that belonged to the private sector, and he also favored free trade. Taxation, which was a great burden, was significantly done away with since the regularization of taxes as well as tax farming was abolished. Therefore in period between 27 B.C and 14 A.D., the attained peace brought about revival of commerce and trade which were encouraged further by the Roman investments in better harbors and roads (Gedacht pg.22).

In the period between 14 A.D. and 37 A.D., Rome was under Tiberius as the second Emperor after Augustus. With his efforts and perseverance, Tiberius extended Augustus policies into the first century A.D. Tiberius had a strong natural desire to promote the growth and establishment of a bourgeoisie class, whish he conceived the Roman Empire’s backbone.  Later on in the republic of Rome, began extortion and oppression, which continues until their proportions were fantastic. It was found that most governors were basically interested in getting military glory as well as making a lot of money during when they were in office. Collusion occurred between the tax contractors and the governor as the senate could not effectively control them because it was far away. Extensive money lending at unconscionable rates of interest to various communities in the provinces was another great abuse of the Roman’s provinces. These rates of interest could not generate adequate ready cash to meet the steep demands of tax contractors as well as the blackmail imposed by the governors (Gedacht pg.23).         

Tax farming was superseded by direct taxation due to the occurrence of the Roman provincial abuses.  The Roman provinces started to pay wealth taxes amounting to 1 percent and a head tax or flat poll on every adult. There was a need to assess the taxable property within the provinces such that regular census were conducted to determine the taxable population. Taxation was absolutely based on the tax farmers’ current income which brought about consequent variation of yield from agricultural sector. The tax farmers had a limited time to gather the revenue they were entitled to, they indubitably had to focus on gathering the revenue where they could get it with ease. Since assets for example land could not be easily converted into cash, the primary base of taxation was income (Gedacht pg.21).   

The private wealth of Roman Empire was slowly taxed away or confiscated, hidden or driven away, and this led to the slowdown of economic growth to a practical standstill. The wealthy could not be able to pay the bills of the state such that the burden was experienced by the individuals in lower classes. The deteriorating economic conditions posed negative consequences to the ordinary people. This is the point during the third century A.D. when the money economy broke down altogether. Irrespective of the economic degradation, the military demands upon the state were still high. The borders of Rome experienced persistent pressure from the tribes of Germany in the North and in the East from the Persians. It was clearly understood that the power and position of an emperor depended fully on the army’s support, and therefore the needs of the army required being satisfied regardless of the results to the private economy (Gibbon and Dero pg. 280).

As the money economy collapsed, the usual system of taxation also decomposed. The only alternative that the state could employ was to directly set aside all the resources it required and this resulted into direct requisitioning of cattle and food from farmers. The individuals were now forced to work at their particular places of employment and continue with the same occupation, having minimal freedom to change jobs or move from place to another.  The farmers and their children were restricted to the land, and similar restrictions were made on the rest of workers, artisans, and producers. Soldiers were restricted being soldiers for the rest of their lives, and their sons were obligated to follow this. The individuals from the upper classes were urged into giving municipal services, for instance, tax collection with no payment. These members of the upper classes were given thorough conditions concerning tax collection, for instance, incase tax collections are not sufficient for demands of the state; they were supposed to adjust the difference themselves. This brought about more efforts to hide any wealth that remained in the Roman Empire, particularly among those individuals who still found means of getting rich. This is because they feared of becoming responsible to provide municipal services using their own money (Sallares pg. 280).

As the state gradually encroached into these intimate economic workings, the growth of economy was as well greatly eroded. This resulted into increased feudalization of the economy as well as an absolute decomposition of the division of labor. Most of the people flee to the countryside where they started practicing peasant farming or joined themselves into the estates of the rich, which at least operated as closed systems, catering for their basic needs while not participating in trade altogether. For the time being, most of the land was deserted and remained unplowed for many years or was taken by the state, who failed to manage it sufficiently resulting into diminution in production (Louis pg. 360).   

Rome had apparently reached a complete crisis by the end of the third century A.D. through research findings; the state could not be able to acquire adequate resources even if it used compulsion, such that there was an increased need for the state to depend heavily on degradation of the currency to at least raise revenue. Under the rule of Claudius in the period between 268 and 270 A.D., the denarius silver content dropped to 0.02 percent. As a result of this, the prices for every commodity of service provided skyrocketed. For instance, a given amount of Egyptian wheat, whose cost was seven to eight drachmae during the second century, now went at 120,000 drachmae. This clearly suggests that there was an inflation of about 15,000 percent in the third century A.D. (Gibbon and Dero pg. 302).

In 64 A.D., Nero was the Emperor of the Roman Empire. During this time, the Great Fire of Rome, which was an urban fire, occurred. The fire spread very fast and burned for about five and half days. It was found that, four of the Rome’s fourteen districts escaped the fire altogether; of the affected districts, three were absolutely destroyed and the rest districts suffered severe damage. One hundred and thirty two houses as well as four blocks were consumed by the fire in six days. During this time Rome contained roughly 47,000 tenement blocks and 1,700 private houses. Immediately as Nero heard the news about the fire, he went back to Rome to prepare a relief attempt, which he used his own funds to pay for. After the fire incident, Nero decided to open his palaces for the homeless to get sheltered, and he organized for food to be supplied so that to avoid starvation among those who survived the tragedy (Dando-Collins pg. 172).

Nero devised a fresh plan for urban development in the wake of this fire. After the fire the houses were spaced out, were built in bricks, and fronted by porticos on wide roads. He also established a new palace complex in the area that was cleared by the great fire. The new palace complex covered a large area of land which can be approximated to be 100 to 300 acres. So that the necessary funds could be acquired for the reconstruction of the burnt buildings, imposing tributes on the Roman Empire’s provinces was the option that was taken. The Great Fire of Rome deteriorated the economy of the community since very many projects were to be started afresh, in which lots of funds were also invested. It was also found that malaria brought about the fall and decline of the Ancient Roman Empire (Dando-Collins pg. 180).  Malaria can be defined as a mosquito-borne fever that is brought about by a protozoan parasite which flourishes in warm and marshy places for instance the river valley of Tiber. It has been found that the strain called falciparum causes infant death and miscarriages (Sallares pg. 320)

In the ancient Rome malaria posed dangers to a great number of people. As the Roman population grew large, there was an increased demand for agricultural products, which encouraged deforestation to give more farming space. Deforestation results into absence of vegetation on the ground which allows for ground water run-off. The run-off water is collected in ponds and other depressions creating the breeding places for Malaria causing female Anopheles mosquito. In the ancient Rome, Malaria worked together with other disease causing organisms and increased mortality rate. It was found that the malarial parasite brought about low birthrates simply by infesting the placenta resulting into stillbirths. Sometimes the malarial parasite can sap the fetal nutrition such that infants are born with very low birth weight which makes them vulnerable to other deadly diseases. It is true that, malaria caused the fall of Rome, in that, it resulted into enormous fertile lands near Rome uninhabited by the natives that created a deep need for large scale slave labor. This consequently brought about instability and revolts which resulted in the fall of Rome. It has also been suspected that malaria contributed to the Roman Empire’s decline by sapping manpower and morale (Sallares pg. 324).

In the Ancient Roman a variety of new crops which included cabbage, spelt, and parsnip as well as carrots were cultivated. These new crops complemented the crops that already existed for example barley, wheat, oats, vetch, rye, tic beans, and peas. Better iron ploughs that could plough deeper into the tough soils, were introduced and cultivation was made even easier. Introduction of machines and two handed scythes made the harvesting of the cereal crops easier and faster. The discovery of good quality axes made easier clearing of woodland such that more space was created for farming. It has been found that, after 350 CE the climate experienced a shift to colder, wetter weather in the north Western parts of Europe, and this deterioration in climate was heightened after 450 CE. Attributed to deforestation and the expanded grazing and agriculture, torrential rains brought about flooding as well as defined soil erosion. The fertile lands experienced leaching of fertility and nutrients; and bogs and heaths claimed arable soil as the productivity was lessened (Louis pg. 373).

The decomposition of the Roman Empire was associated with the cooling trend as this affected agriculture negatively, with very low yield from cultivated crops. The climate fluctuations appeared to be the direct cause of the Roman Empire decomposition as well as many other problems that were encountered in Rome (Louis pg. 380).    

Conclusion

The Roman Empire is one of the ancient empires in the world. The decline of the Roman Empire is seen as the societal collapse that was brought about by steady disintegration of the economic, military, political, and other Rome’s social institutions.  The inversions of the barbarian also resulted into the Roman Empire’s final doom. A number of factors led to the decomposition of the Roman Empire. These factors include the Great Fire of Rome which consumed many properties and led to spending of lots of money to reestablish buildings; fluctuation of the climatic conditions due to deforestation which resulted into decreased agricultural production; malaria incidents which resulted to high mortality rate especially with children; and the increased inflation rates which brought about deterioration of Rome’s economy as a lot of money was spent to buy minor properties.