Social decline of the Roman Empire
There is the moral of all human tales;
’ Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory—when that fails
Wealth, Vice, Corruption—barbarism at last.
And History, with all her volumes vast,
Hath but one page—
—Lord Alfred Byron
It is said of the Bourbons, that during the time they were in power, they neither learnt nor forgot anything. This could equally well be said of our political leaders, probably too, of the scientists and economists who advise them. It is a great tragedy that we seem incapable of learning the lessons of history.
Of these, one of the most instructive would undoubtedly be that of the fall of the Roman Empire. The parallel it affords with the breakdown of industrial society, which we are witnessing today, is indeed very striking. The two processes differ from one another in two principal ways. Firstly, the former was a very slow one, spread out over hundreds of years, whereas the latter is occurring at a truly frightening pace; and secondly, the role played by slavery in the former case is fulfilled in the latter by machines.
In both cases, the collapse was unexpected. In the same way that even today many intelligent people cannot bring themselves to believe that the industrial world is about to disappear for ever, the intelligentsia of Imperial Rome undoubtedly found it impossible to accept that Rome could be anything but ‘eternal’ and that its great civilising influence could ever wane.
Surprising as it may seem, Rome’s Barbarian conquerors also seemed to share this belief. The Vandals belied their reputation and never really destroyed Rome. They had far too much respect for what it stood for. Even after Odoacer had defeated the last Western Emperor, Romulus Augustulus, and had assumed the government of the Western Empire, he carefully refrained from proclaiming himself Emperor. His letter to Emperor Zeno of Byzantium, after his victory, illustrates his great respect for the institution of the Empire. First of all as we learn from Gibbon, he tried to justify rather apologetically his abolition of the Western Empire, on the grounds that:
“The majesty of a sole monarch was sufficient to protect, at the same time, both East and West”. 
Then he goes on to ask the Emperor to invest him with the title of ‘Patrician’, and with the Diocese of Italy. His successor, Theodoric, it seems, shared Odoacer’s respect for the institutions of Rome.
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Decline of the Roman Empire is a very complexby 58andfixed
".. the gradual disintegration of the political, economic, military, and other social institutions of Rome and the barbarian invasions that were its final doom."
".. slow decline occurred over an estimated period of 320 years .."
- Overexpansion & Inflation
- loss of civic virtue among the Roman citizens
- plunder economy based on looting existing resources
- pattern of tax collection that drove small-scale farmers into destitution
- produced few exportable goods
- Financial needs continued to increase, but the means of meeting them steadily eroded
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