In 133 BC, the Republic of Rome took control of the Mediterranean Sea. The empire was prosperous and strong, but eventually experienced a downfall. The fall of the Western Roman Empire was caused by internal decay in political and military issues, economics, sociology, and religion.
The political and military state of Rome started to decline after the death of Marcus Aurelius in A.D. 180. When he died, his spoiled son, Commodus, took over. Commodus was a poor leader causing civil wars and tribes around the Mediterranean to invade. The Roman Empire declined from a kingdom of gold into one of iron dust. To deal with the invasions, the size of the Roman army was increased. Serfs, one of the largest segments of the population, were not allowed to serve in the army. From the excerpt from the textbook, The Course of Civilization, the serfs were “bound to the soil andexcluded from political responsibilities. Therefore, many foreigners, especially Germans, took part in the army. With outlanders coming in the army, the army did not succeed because these people did not have the same drive (as a Roman) to protect the empire. With these political and military issues, the empire weakened, and so did the economics.
Economics of the empire hit an all time low with continued spending and high taxation to support the army. According to the excerpt by Herbert J. Meller, while the empire was expanding, its prosperity was fed by plundered wealth and by new markets in the semi-barbaric provinces. When the empire ceased to expand, however, economic progress soon ceased. Furthermore, the supply of gold was eroding as Rome was no longer bringing in new sources through expansion but still paying foreigners for goods. Emperors tried to mint new coins out of silver and copper. The result was inflation, or a dramatic rise in prices as people failed to accept this currency at face value. With the civil wars and other tribal invasions, the people were forced to support the military. In order to raise money for the army, the government raised taxes. According to Henry Haskell, the government made people put their money in for the maintenance of the army and of the vast bureaucracy. As a result, Henry Haskell tells us, The heart was taken out of enterprising mentenants fled from their farms and businessmen and workmen from their occupation. The government though created a welfare system for the people. With the welfare system though, the people further lost an initiative to work.
The economy was also strained by over-population. Many people were forced to become serfs and till the soil for low wages. There was a failure to advance technologically because of slavery. It was also difficult to govern so many people which impacted the political issues above.
The deterioration of the empire led to changing beliefs. People took refuge in mysticism and other religious beliefs. From its beginnings in Judaea, Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire. Clergy preached the doctrine of patience and pacifism. This generated negative influences on military virtues and patriotism.
As Roman power continued to decline in the West, invasions continued, and pressure from Germanic tribes ultimately led to the fall of Rome.