Rome was one of the biggest, most powerful empires in recorded history. Such an empire could not fall due to one factor alone in a short period of time. It was a slow process of decay. Many factors would influence the toppling of this Empire, such as social gaps, religion, economic troubles, and corruption in politics. Among all of these factors, one of the most obvious and major causes was the crumbling of one most powerful military forces in history, The Roman army. It is widely believed that the fortunes of Rome were directly linked to the prowess and stability of her military. During the later periods of the Empire, this military would steadily deteriorate for several reasons. In the end, this was one of the chief factors that led to the toppling of what had once been the mightiest empire in the world.
One of Rome’s many mistakes was to pay soldiers to fight for them. These soldiers are called mercenaries. Reliance on these mercenaries gave too much of a “comfortable” feeling among the real Roman soldiers. They did not realize that the mercenaries lacked one essential thing. They lacked the strong patriotism and loyalty that all the other men had. This was part of what fueled their fire in battle. Mercenaries were in it only for the money. They aided whoever was willing to bid top price for their services. Eventually, the Roman soldier’s began to rely wholly on these mercenaries. As a result, a lack of incentive to enlist began to grow in potential warriors. This was one of the most important issues, which began the decline of the military. Because of Rome’s gargantuan boundaries, they needed all the recruits they could get.
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This lack of recruits was partly due to a population decrease Rome was experiencing at that time. First, of course, you must take into account the very deadly widespread diseases. Starvation and forcible deportation must be considered as well. Another factor influencing this slow decay was utter disorganization. Historian Arthur Ferrill states that the massive Roman army of perhaps two hundred thousand men eventually disintegrated into an unorganized crowd. Rome began to grant citizenship to any free man within the Empire who was willing to fight. It used to be that non-citizens who served in the Roman army would be granted citizenship at the end of their enlistment. Soon, the entire military was composed either of ignorant fellow citizens from the most backward parts of the empire or of foreigners. The soldiers had little to no respect for the people they were supposed to protect. These people obviously lacked the discipline needed to be part of this army.
Rome’s military suffered financially as well. Though the army was essential to the security of Rome, the cost of it doubled between 96 and 180 AD. Imperial tax collectors made increasingly harsh demands for funds. These funds were to support the troops and the bureaucracy. Some farmers were barely surviving and could no longer pay such harsh taxes. Many fled to their land to work for large landholders. Some even turned to robbery. As if all of the previous factors weren’t enough, there was always a civil war between the rival emperors. This civil war was drainage on many things that could have been used to fight off attacks on the Empire. The wars wasted resources such as weapons, armour, and lives, most importantly. With all of the things the Roman army had to use, it wasted it on itself.
In the end, the barbarians took advantage of the military in such a state and moved in for the attacks. The barbarians began to infiltrate the Western Empire. They came like waves. They were waves of tribes, or hordes, one after another. Once one group of barbarians had entered, the Romans could not muster the military strength to keep others out. What could they do? The army, once the symbol of their strength and unity, was left unorganized and practically useless. Rome was the constant victim of barbaric waves of attacks. From the Visigoths to the franks to the Huns, they constantly overpowered the Roman armies. This is simply because they knew no limits. Romans were civilized with the rule of law, innocent until proven guilty, etc. These concepts were unreal to the barbarians. They detected the military impotence of the Romans and exploited it to establish their own kingdoms. “Thus the political entity knows as the Roman Empire came to an end, and the Germanic kingdoms of Western Europe began to flourish.” In conclusion, many factors influenced the fall of Rome. However, the destruction of the Roman military would prove to be an ending factor to one of the most powerful Empires in history.