Talk:Decline of the Roman Empire

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Internal link to "Roman decadence"[edit]

The link redirects to this very article and should probably be removed. Someone who can edit the article please consider looking into this. 91.19.168.10 (talk) 19:51, 1 February 2011 (UTC)

Ok, I made an account, can now edit it, removed the link. Hornvieh (talk) 16:42, 9 April 2011 (UTC) what link?

When did the decline started[edit]

The article states that the decline occured over a period of 320 years. This means the decline already started around 150 AD. Isn't that a little early? --24.132.210.98 (talk) 00:56, 14 December 2010 (UTC)

Well, this is actually quite reasonable (if you accept he decline narrative at all, of course.. :) - the Danube and Eastern wars of Marcus Aurelius (and the first instance of the plague) started in about 161 CE. So that's about it. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Bazuz (talkcontribs) 11:00, 13 February 2011 (UTC)

Errors[edit]

The help page about "factual errors" led me to post here since this article is currently protected against vandalism.

There is a grammatical error in the article:

"A set of coins from the later years of the Western Roman Empire shows dramatic evidence of numismatic adulteration"

should say "A set of coins ... show dramatic evidence..."

"set of coins" is a singular collective noun; the verb needs be singular.

Untitled[edit]

The first quotation belongs to Momigliano (see ...). Cheers from italy! —Preceding unsigned comment added by 79.41.27.180 (talk) 21:00, 16 September 2009 (UTC)

"The West Demoted to the Periphery"[edit]

This section seems to be based on original research. The basic theory seems sound, but it is completely lacking citations. It appears to have been written by a single author, due to repeated misspellings (e.g. "capitol" instead of "capital"). Also, persecution isn't the same thing as prosecution. I suppose Christians were also prosecuted in first-century Rome, but mainly they were persecuted. I've fixed the section up a bit and added a "citation needed" tag. Fuzzform (talk) 20:31, 6 April 2008 (UTC)

Agreed on the need for citations (should be removed with them).
On that note, I am curious. Although the shift to Constantinople is often brought up as "THE" shift to the East, in reality the shift to power to the East was Nicomedia (really one could argue that it was before even that since emperors had been spending a lot of time in the East before Diocletion). And what seems to not be brought up that often is that Diocletian, and Constantine after him, did not simply decide to take up residence in the East but transferred most of the government bodies to the East as well. My understanding (correct me if anybody has other information) is that when they (and their successors) were all done, most of the expertise in civil administration at the imperial scale as well as most of the actual institutions that made this possible were in the East. So to my thinking when the Empire permanently split in two, the West was actually heavily dependent on the East (much more so than vice versa) and, frankly, didn't know how to manage itself. This is partially supported by the fact that as soon as the split became permanent the West went into a nosedive. My opinion has always been that the "fall of Rome" really boiled down to that (in other words you can point to other specific causes like the "barbarization" of the army but I would argue that all of that stemmed from the West's incompetence at self-management). I have not, however, ever seen any scholarly opinion that states this explicitly (i.e. some works hint at this but do not state it concretely). Does anybody know of such a work?
I don't believe a word of this. Stilicho ran a perfectly competent government in the West, with the same hierarchy as the East; whether his policy was prudent is another question. After the collapse of Gaul and Africa, the West may not have had the same pool to draw from as the East; but that is very late in the process. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 18:23, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

I'm not sure how all this formatting works, so feel free to edit it to make it consistent with the rules: but in answer to the question, the 'West Demoted to the periphery' is essentially the view of Peter Brown (he argues Christianity and religious asceticism arose in the Eastern Empire, which divided the Empire, rather than focusing on the barbarian North, thus demoting the West to the periphery). It's quite a convincing and well-researched argument as written in his The World of Late Antiquity from Marcus Aurelius to Muhammad (1971) , where you will be able to draw references from to support this view. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 194.80.32.9 (talk) 01:11, 18 May 2009 (UTC)

When a historian uses the rise of Christianity as a primary factor for the fall of Rome, to the point of denying the role of German and Asian incursion in the process, they are usually the same ones who advocate the fall of Rome is a smooth and peaceful transition from the Roman to German rule. This view in fashion because it allows tribal cultures to be seen in the same light as major civilizations, avoiding the uncomfortable but necessary problem of ranking certain ancient civilizations as "superior" than others. Ward-Perkins, in his book on the Fall from Rome, stated the historian's view of this topic has changed according to the contemporary social and political sentiments. Nevertheless, from his archeological evidence, he deduced that the change of the supposed "smooth transformation" was anything but smooth, and the once great civilization of Rome did, indeed, collapse catastrophically.
As for religion dividing the Roman Empire, there are three important facts that people often forgot. (1) The division took place before the official recognition of Christianity. (2) Even after the Constantinian era, Christians were still being prosecuted rigorously whenever a Pagan emperor reigned. (3) More imporantly, Christians, though much better organized, comprised only a small fraction of the Roman population; Pagans still commanded a very strong and devoted following. Colin Wells noted how early Christians acknowledged the immense difficulty in dismantling Pagan traditions, even after the Christian domination. So the division of Eastern and Western Roman empires was not necessarily indicative of the religious disparity of the Roman people. And certainly, the division was not a conscious effort of the Roman administration to "peripherate" the West. --Bart weisser (talk) 04:26, 29 May 2009 (UTC)

the fall of the roman empire was made by the effort to try to take all of the empire of europe —Preceding unsigned comment added by 76.243.95.117 (talk) 22:57, 18 March 2010 (UTC)

Article name (Requested move)[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the proposal was no consensus. JPG-GR (talk) 16:08, 16 September 2008 (UTC)

This article should be renamed to "Fall of the Roman Empire", on the grounds that this is the undisputedly commonest name in the English language (and any language for that matter) which is used to describe a very precise event: The fall of the Roman Empire. I know that all Romanticists and revisionists will stand up and repeat the same banal story "But the empire never fell, it only got transferred to the East, yadda, yadda, yadda", which of course falls under WP:POV. Editors should finally stop trying to use wikipedia as a medium to rewrite or reinterpret history. This period of history marks the end of the Roman Empire, period. The Eastern Roman Empire was renamed to Byzantine Empire by modern historians for a precise reason: It's not considered as the same state, period. Likewise for the Holy Roman Empire. Whether or not this view is correct is irrelevant, just accept that this is the consensus today and has been so for over 1300 years, and go on with your editing lives. Any serious editor should be able to see that as it stands now, this article breaches WP:NAME. Miskin (talk) 23:05, 23 August 2008 (UTC)

I'm by no means an expert in this, but from what I've learned what you've said isn't at all the case. Such 20th c. historians as Peter Brown and Henri Pirenne would sharply disagree with your assessment. These may be the Romanticists and revisionists you mean, but they were emphasized in my university class on late antique/early middle ages Europe, so I wouldn't say they're fringe. There's no need to move the article, on this basis. Carl.bunderson (talk) 07:24, 25 August 2008 (UTC)

Pirenne would hardly qualify as a 20th century historian. Regardless, I'm curious to know on what context would Brown and Pirenne disagree with those assessments, and how their view implies that we can only talk about a decline and not a fall of the Roman Empire. Even if that's the case (yet to be proven), there's still a breach of WP:NAME on the grounds of the most common name in the English language. Miskin (talk) 10:34, 29 August 2008 (UTC)

    • Pirenne scripsit 1917; publicavit 1936. Last I heard both of those were in the twentieth century. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 16:00, 13 September 2008 (UTC)
Ok, to start off, I now support a move. The Name policy supports it, (4490 gscholar hits for "fall of the roman empire -decline and" v. 1620 "decline of the roman empire"). Also, it seems it was proposed some 3 years ago, but there was no consensus, and there was no objection but the one I raised earlier. Anyway, given how little attn this has gotten, I think we can say there's consensus and go ahead with it.
And Brown and Pirenne both have this late antiquity idea, and the most basic, generalized thrust of it, is that the barbarians didn't really change that much about the empire. Ok, so it was broken up and ruled by different groups, but the administrative system, and day-to-day life, was by and large the same for the centuries surrounding 476. They tend to say that the Roman Empire continued until the rise of Islam; I'd say this is a different contention from saying that it continued in the East, because it really is saying that it continued in the west, and that the "fall" wasn't as drastic a change as it's made out to be. Carl.bunderson (talk) 20:21, 29 August 2008 (UTC)

Agreed, it's a different contention, which in my understanding does not favour the usage of the current title. Miskin (talk) 14:27, 30 August 2008 (UTC)

In view of all that's been said so far, what about Fall of the Western Roman Empire, presently a redirect to this page? Canonically, to Gibbon, the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire covered more than a millenium, even though he was mainly interested in the fall of the West. Yes, there was and is a lot of cultural continuity in the West, but the Western Empire did, as a matter of undisputed fact, fall militarily and politically. And the Eastern empire didn't, not for centuries, and they called themselves Roman and were Roman; they were only called "Byzantine" after they were all dead. I suggest that "Fall of the Western Roman Empire" describes accurately the subject of this page and will end all reasonable dispute, and that all of the other suggestions do not; they will leave this argument to run and run. Comments? Richard Keatinge (talk) 10:20, 30 August 2008 (UTC)

The name 'Fall of the Western Roman Empire' is also controversial because according to many, the Western Empire is resurrected as the Holy Roman Empire. But I would vote for "Fall of the Roman Empire" simply to abide by WP:NAME, regardless of its merit. Miskin (talk) 14:27, 30 August 2008 (UTC)

To be resurrected the Western empire had to fall first, no? I can see the point but wouldn't think it a very substantial objection. Considering Wikipedia:Naming conventions (precision) I'm forced back on the fact that Fall of the Western Roman Empire is exactly what this page is about. It describes one, admittedly large, element of the decline and fall of the Roman empire - as Gibbon makes clear, that process covered a much longer period and a much larger area. Only in retrospect, and only by some Western European historians, have the terms Decline or Fall been limited to the West. Richard Keatinge (talk) 16:33, 30 August 2008 (UTC)
Agreed, per the naming policy, "fall" is the better choice. Carl.bunderson (talk) 18:46, 30 August 2008 (UTC)
I don't think that the name 'fall of the Western Roman Empire' adds more precision as the Western Empire may refer to many different events, including the fall of the German Empire to Napoleon Bonaparte. What would really add precision for me would be "fall of the ancient Roman Empire" or something along those line, but this title would also be a POV. Besides as Wikipedia:Naming conventions (precision) states, in cases like these we should look to the titles used in most populars encyclopedias or dictionaries. Therefore we have to look for the most popular name, not the most precise one in our own opinion, because as I have demonstrated, precision here is an subjective issue. Miskin (talk) 12:09, 1 September 2008 (UTC)
Napoleon? I think that's stretching it a bit. However, I can't say that the issue is really important enough to spend more time on, especially as the obvious alternative titles redirect here anyway. I'll leave it to others to decide. Richard Keatinge (talk) 15:08, 1 September 2008 (UTC)
"Fall of the Roman Empire" is good. I believe that the vas majority of users will take "Roman Empire" to mean that of Augustus, and not any other. Everyone thinks of Charlemagne's as the Holy Roman Empire, and I tend to think of Napoleon's as the one of the French Empires. I don't think there is ambiguity over the name "Fall of the Roman Empire". Carl.bunderson (talk) 18:24, 1 September 2008 (UTC)
Agreed with both, maybe we could call it a consensus and rename to "Fall of the Roman Empire". Miskin (talk) 09:04, 2 September 2008 (UTC)

I disagree as it goes against the actual content of the article. Currently it attemps to cover both a long-term decline and the explanations given for it by different historians. The "fall" seems to cover only an isolated historical event. By the way I have trouble understanding why the term "Roman Empire" would only bring to mind Augustus and the archaic emperors. What was Caracalla and his successors by this definition? I would consider Constitutio Antoniniana to have more long-term effects than anything Augustus ever did. Dimadick (talk) 07:58, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

"Fall" does not refer merely to the isolated historical event of 476, it is a different nomenclature for "decline". And I fail to see your point about Caracalla. I suspect most people couldn't tell you he was a Roman Emperor. But if you want later emperors, I'd say Marcus Aurelius and Romulus Augustulus have recognition. Carl.bunderson (talk) 21:55, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

Is it not often called Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire? Narson (talk) 13:05, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

We have a use for that page. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 18:06, 4 September 2008 (UTC)
Not really. D&F is only used as a redirect to The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. 199.125.109.124 (talk) 23:33, 10 September 2008 (UTC)
And getting those who want it to the page they want is a very great use. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 15:58, 13 September 2008 (UTC)
A hatnote would work better. Do we want to redirect every article about a subject to an article about a book about the subject and then link back to the article about the subject? That seems highly convoluted. Making Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, or better, Decline and fall of the Roman Empire the article name with a link to the book makes much more sense. 199.125.109.126 (talk) —Preceding undated comment was added at 17:07, 14 September 2008 (UTC).

The real problem with a change of name is that there is an ongoing dispute over whether the (Western) Roman Empire actually fell. The proposal would take a side on the issue. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 18:06, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

I had that hesitation too. Did you find Miskin's argument "Even if that's the case (yet to be proven), there's still a breach of WP:NAME on the grounds of the most common name in the English language." unpersuasive? And couldn't we argue that that if it did in fact fall, having it at "Decline of..." is incorrect and is taking a side on the issue? Either location is 'taking sides' as it were, and I think there is a compelling case that "Fall of" is the more common English usage. Carl.bunderson (talk) 21:55, 4 September 2008 (UTC)
  • I'm not sure about the statistics; I haven't seen them, and raw Google is rarely persuasive; scholarly usage on this subject is what counts. In particular, many references to the "fall of the Roman Empire" will certainly false positives; they mean Gibbon.
  • Your second point is more interesting; but there's an obvious answer. Those who treat the Empire as falling also hold that this was preceded by a decline; indeed it is hard to read an accout of Honorius and not think so. So both sides agree that this title refers to the period. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 02:23, 5 September 2008 (UTC)
I think that, thanks to Gibbon, either title will be perfectly understood by the reading public. That said, a "decline" is worse than a "fall" for a civilisation, in my opinion, so neither title escapes "POV" concerns. But neither title has a neutrality problem: both are accepted terms for what happened, whether we like their "descriptive" side or not. Like Middle Ages: "Middle" is very POV, but not very controversial. Srnec (talk) 03:49, 5 September 2008 (UTC)

The title is fine as is. That fact that this thread cannot find consensus for a fall indicates that there was in actuality a decline. The confusion probably arises from trying to view ancient political events through the eyes of modern nation-state citizens. There was a Roman state that in some form went back to at least 510 BC (founding of the Republic) and could probably encompass all the way back to 753 BC. This state grew in size so that by the time of Julius and Augustus Caesar had initiated political changes that lead us in modern times to delineate the Republic from the Empire, the Roman state ruled the better part of Europe, North Africa, and the Mediterranean side of the Middle East. Later, the power of the Roman state began to decline in some areas, notably Western Europe and western North Africa leading to the end of a recognized Roman emperor based in Italy. However, by this time, the senior authority of the Roman Empire had for centuries been in the eastern half of the empire. Instead of one unitary Empire, or a two Emperor state, you now had a strong Roman state in the east under the authority of a Roman emperor based in Constantinople, with a patchwork of territories in the Western half of the Empire that were a mix of rump states, vassal states, and areas under direct rule from Constantinople. From this point forward you have the fall of Roman civilization in some areas, but the Roman state persists at least until 1204 AD. There was a steady decline from the beginning of the migration period to the overthrow of Alexius V during the Fourth Crusade, then you have some resurgence until the final collapse of the Roman state in 1453. Making a long story short, between 753 BC - 1453 AD there was a Roman state. It might not be "The Roman State" of Holywood, but it was always A Roman State which rose up from obscurity, became overwhelmingly strong, and then declined until it was little more than a regional power which was eventually swallowed up by a new, more powerful neighbor. Hiberniantears (talk) 16:51, 11 September 2008 (UTC)

What about the Decline and fall of the Western Roman Empire? It solves the issue of using "decline and fall" and the issue that the Empire did not disappear, but became the Byzantine Empire. 70.51.9.124 (talk) 07:39, 15 September 2008 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

So did the Roman Empire actually ever fall??[edit]

I told myself I would stop participating in conversations that are composed by what I regard as irrational arguments stemming from personal opinions, i.e. what wikipedia largely tells editors not to do and yet they keep doing it. Hiberniantears' logic is very flawed because it is only based on one side of the story and completely ignores another side of the story which regards the Holy Roman Empire as the authentic continuation of the ancient (western) R. E. This may mean nothing to us now but at the time, in the entire Latin-catholic world, including the Pope, the Vatican and the city of Rome, in other words the undisputed essence of the original R. E. viewed and officially recognised the Holy Roman Empire as the one and only Roman Empire. This is why they started calling Byzantium "Empire of the Greeks" and ended up hating it so much that they even went to war against it. So things are not so black and white as some people have set them up in their minds, and the scholars who coined the term "fall of the Roman Empire" were well aware of that. In the middle ages we have two imperial states, both claiming heritage to Rome, one of them is officially recognised by its contemporaries and the original Roman institutions in the city of Rome itself as the Imperium Romanorum, and the other, though the direct unbroken political successor of the Roman Empire, is only recognised as Imperium by itself. Which one of them really deserves the title I don't know and I don't care, but if the Holy Roman Empire is regarded as the R. E. then we would have to state that the "fall of the Roman Empire" is an achievement Napoleon Bonaparte. If we regard Byzantium as the undisputed successor of the R.E. then we would have to acknowledge that the "fall of the Roman Empire" was achieved by Western Europe itself, the so called "Latin Catholics", ironically enough those who claimed (and still do) to be the direct offspring of the Roman Empire. They are the offspring of what they conquered and destroyed and looted? That doesn't make any sense. I think you would agree that both interpretations I gave are absurd, and yet these are the only possible scenarios implied to the reader if we don't acknowledge that the "Fall of the Roman Empire" and the "Fall of the Western Roman Empire" is the exact same thing and that the "Roman Empire" is a concept of antiquity not the middle ages, the view which is generally established in the scholarly world. If we stick to Hiberniantears's logic and don't name this article "Fall of the Roman Empire" then it is implied that the Roman Empire never fell, something which is plainly stupid per se. So unless you somehow go against all policies and rename Fall of Constantinople to "Fall of the Roman Empire", then a bunch of stupid and abstract things will be implied in wikipedia. Excuse my french but I like to be blunt about how I feel. Miskin (talk) 13:24, 5 November 2008 (UTC)

In short, you are saying that the "Decline of Roman Empire" should be the "Decline of Western Roman Empire". That should fix up a lot of confusion. Another thing, the "Holy Roman Empire" is a different entity, and the "Rome" in the Holy Roman Empire refers to the center of Christiandom, not the Eternal City. --Bart weisser (talk) 03:59, 20 May 2009 (UTC)

Yes, tit's like when a brand name that used to indicate a factory is now owned by Standard Brands or something like that. There is no unique date when it fell, but after Justinian nothing was any longer on the old scale. David R. Ingham (talk) 17:24, 16 May 2012 (UTC)

I haven't seen it around for a while, so I conclude that it falled. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 18:31, 12 July 2012 (UTC)

Why is their no table of contents that goes with this page?[edit]

why no contents directory, list? Dogru144 (talk) 18:34, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

Lead poisoning factor in decline[edit]

Numerous authors have attributed drinking from lead-laden vessels and actually lead-laden drink mixtures to contributing to the decline of the empire. E.g., see articles in New York Times:

"A CLUE TO THE DECLINE OF ROME By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD, SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK TIMES Published: May 31, 1983

A chemical analysis of skeletons of Romans killed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 indicates that, although they were generally healthy and well-nourished people, some of them may have suffered chronic lead poisoning, an American archeologist reported here today.

This is the first direct physical evidence that seems to support the popular hypothesis that lead poisoning, which can cause mental retardation and erratic behavior, contributed to the downfall of the Roman Empire. Historical records reveal that Roman food and wine was heavily contaminated with lead.

Dr. Sara C. Bisel, a classical archeologist and physical anthropologist from Rochester, Minn., reported these findings in a lecture at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. . . . " http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9D04E3DE163BF932A05756C0A965948260&scp=1&sq=lead%20poisoning%20rome&st=cse and anoter article in March, 1983: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9403E0D71539F934A25750C0A965948260&scp=3&sq=lead%20poisoning%20rome&st=cse Dogru144 (talk) 18:34, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

I've added a section called Role of lead poisoning, with references. Some of these are better than not, but I think it's a good go. Feel free to review it for completeness and NPOV. Thanks. --InsufficientData (talk) 20:53, 11 January 2009 (UTC)
The Romans already had recorded knowledge on the potential dangers of lead contamination in water pipes, in the works of Vitruvius, Frontinus, and Columella). It can be assumed that the knowledge could be diffused to general food preparation and consumption (though I have no evidence suggesting so).
The section in question dwells on the use of lead instruments in the preparation of defrutum and sapa. First, according to Columella, the preparation of said foodstuff requires pots made of either bronze or lead, with the latter as preference. This means that the preparation is not always performed with lead pots.
Another issue concerns an "estimation" of daily lead consumption. First off, Anderson (whose topic has nothing to do with the fall of Rome) referenced the work of Nriagu (1983), who quoted a daily consumption of 2 L of alcohol among Roman citizens. This alone logically makes alcoholism much more likely than lead poisoning as a contributing factor for the decline of Rome. The estimates, I must think, might be exaggerated to the author's favor.

--Bart weisser (talk) 15:34, 19 May 2009 (UTC)

I question whether the alcohol content of wine was the 10-12% that we see today. I agree that consumption of 2L of 10% alcohol wine can be "hazardous to your health" but many peoples did this back when and didn't die off like the Romans. I just put the question on the "wine" discussion page. Maybe someone there will have an idea. Student7 (talk) 21:08, 19 May 2009 (UTC)
Re: Alcohol content I would imagine the alcohol content of ancient wine would be around the same level as modern wine. Without distillation 10% - 12% is about the amount yeast can normally produce, maybe 14% - 16% (at which point the yeasts will be destroyed in the process).
Besides, the Romans didn't die off only because of alcoholism or lead poisoning. War, famine, decease, etc., etc., would be much more prevalent, especially when Roman medical knowledge still had room for improvement. --24.83.210.23 (talk) 03:44, 20 May 2009 (UTC)

Theory of Western brain drain[edit]

Hopefully this does not start a major argument but ...

I have tended to believe that the West's fall has a simpler explanation that is not really spelled out in the article (although some similar ideas are there). I am curious if anybody knows of an authoritative source that has articulated this theory.

Certainly throughout the imperial history the major centers of scholarship, technology, and manufacturing (not to mention simply population) were always more concentrated in the East than the West. For the first couple of centuries, of course, Rome was the largest and wealthiest city and held most of the expertise in the civil and military administration at the level of the whole Empire. This rapidly changed during the 3rd century as non-Italians gained more influence and the administration became less prejudiced in favor of Rome. Because of the East's practical importance and the wars on the Eastern front the emperors gradually spent more time in the East than the West and gradually moved a lot of the expertise in imperial administration to the East especially under Constantine. What you could say is that there was a brain drain during the 3rd and 4th centuries from Italy to the East. Yes, at times the Empire split in two but the history seems to indicate that each time the Empire split the West started falling apart. This would make sense if you accept the premise that all the expertise in running the Empire had moved to the East. The Empire finally split permanently at the end of the 4th century and that correlates closely with when the West entered its final death spiral. So it seems there is some logic in arguing that the West simply slit its own throat by trying to run itself because it simply no longer knew how.

Yes, there is more to the story than this simplistic explanation but it seems to me that the West's demise primarily boils down to this.

Comments?

--Mcorazao (talk) 06:24, 10 January 2009 (UTC)

I like this idea, even though my first thought is that it's probably nonsense. Could I remind you that, to legitimate putting this in, you'll need to find a respectable reference? Richard Keatinge (talk) 10:47, 10 January 2009 (UTC)

With all due respect to your condescending attitude I think that you need to re-read what I asked at the beginning.
--Mcorazao (talk) 17:07, 10 January 2009 (UTC)

I do apologize; offence was not intended. Clearly my attempt at light-heartedness failed dismally. More directly, I will be surprised if you can find any reliable source on this one. The dismal failure of the main State functions under Honorius might give some colour to it, though. Best of luck. Richard Keatinge (talk) 12:46, 12 January 2009 (UTC)


I think there's an authorative source on something vaguely similar to what you describe. The norwegian wikipedia presents a theory which seems to be attributed to the historian Denys Hay. Summarized as "despotism without economy" it claims that Rome and Italy lived on taxes alone. Production was in the provinces and the trading ships were also controlled from outside Italy. Contrast this with the more successfull constantinople, which was a trading hub. When the influx of slaves and taxes dwindled, this hit Rome especially hard, leading to revolts and the eventual transition from republic to empire. (Agriculture was dependent on slaves) This idea is also found in Western_Roman_Empire#Economic_stagnation_in_the_West.
Moving on from Denys Hay to another, unsourced article, it is claimed that the rule of an emperor in turn worsened the situation: You had to gain the favor of the emperor to rise in the ranks and it was impractical for the emperor to travel much in the empire. This meant that the political elite was not recruited from people who made a career out in the empire such as Caesar had done earlier and a lot of ambitious men who made their name as generals revolted.
So no, the emperors did NOT spend more time in the east, but trade and industry did move out of Italy, I guess you could call that a "drain". Denys Hay's idea of a vulnerable rome who had little trade and industry on its own could be summarized in a few lines, but I'd like the opinion of others here first, before we make the effort to include it in the list. Priorities must be made and we are about 200 theories short of a full list after all. ;-) EverGreg (talk) 16:15, 16 February 2010 (UTC)

One can interpret the division of the Empire as an effective amputation of the decrepit part of the Roman Empire. The western sector was allowed the formality of a government, but anyone could then have seen the western provinces as financially bankrupt and militarily indefensible. Pbrower2a (talk) 23:34, 26 August 2011 (UTC)

Both East and West declined at about the same time, but the East survived on a reduced scale. David R. Ingham (talk) 17:30, 16 May 2012 (UTC)

Ferrill[edit]

I believe his name is Arther Ferrill, not Arthur Ferrill. Spiekier (talk) 22:59, 15 February 2009 (UTC)

Edward Gibbon[edit]

I have heard that Edward Gibbon retracted his theory of Christianity causing the fall of the Roman Empire. If this is true, does anyone have a reputable source?

Semi-protection[edit]

Why is this article semi-protected? The icon claims that it's due to a high risk of vandalism (which is a very good joke, if it is one), but there has been no discussion whatsoever on this page or in either of the archives. Presumably it's quite difficult to tell how high the risk of vandalism is if an article is indefinitely protected, so I wonder how the conclusion was reached that this page still needs it. 86.8.176.85 (talk) 11:15, 3 May 2009 (UTC)

I protected it because the page was being constantly vandalized. So the high risk was backed up by a high prevalence rate. Hiberniantears (talk) 15:43, 20 May 2009 (UTC)
That is a very good joke though! At one point the physics page was said to have declined in content. Maybe that will happen here too? David R. Ingham (talk) 17:35, 16 May 2012 (UTC)
I think the protection is wise. I have been amazed at the number of people who engage in what I would call "historical advocacy:" trying to spin wikipedia's history entries in order to support slender and sometimes strange off-stage arguments. It is very distressing to those many who are just trying to make it as complete, balanced, objective, and readable as possible. This article is well written and handsomely sourced, so people spend a lot of time venting their suspicious levels of spleen over the title. (Really? Because it doesn't directly track a guy who died more than 200 years ago and whose scholarship has been way superseded?) Protection is quite wise. (And yes, good pun too.)TheCormac (talk) 22:13, 11 June 2012 (UTC)

Mining, Lead, and the Environment[edit]

Are these really reasons for the collapse or the decline of the (Western) Roman Empire? These problems might exist (and would have existed), but this would affect the East just as equally as the West.

From the various theories, the common themes seem to be

(1) The military was no longer loyal to Rome; they only fought for financial gains promised by generals with political ambitions.

(2) Change in social mores resulting from the rise of Christianity (money was no longer spent on public infrastructures, but instead on the Church)

(3) Economical collapse (hyperinflation and high taxes forced citizens to seek refuge in proto-feudal states operated by wealthy local landowners).

(4) Political instability (generals and soldiers realized they would profit better from constantly fighting one another)

(5) Invasions from Germans, and other Barbarians.

Points (1) to (4) would be prevalent to both sides of the Empire. However, point (5) affected the West much more often than the East. So the fall of the (Western) Roman Empire was really a result of its inability to fend off invaders. On the other hand, as Ward-Perkins stressed, the geographical location of Constantinople alone was enough reason for the longevity of the Eastern Empire, despite haved shared many of the same problems as its western counterpart. --Bart weisser (talk) 05:05, 29 May 2009

Grammatical correction[edit]

The following sentence in the article "Decline of the Roman Empire" is grammatically incorrect:

Throughout the fifth century, western emperors were usually figureheads, while in the eastern emperors managed to secure their independence from influential military leaders.

It should read "...while in the east the emperors managed..." —Preceding unsigned comment added by 70.75.188.247 (talk) 17:41, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

Macedonian version[edit]

{{editprotected}} Please add an interwiki link for the Macedonian version. Thank you.

Yes check.svg DoneTheDJ (talkcontribs) 15:22, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

Dates[edit]

After reading through the article, I noticed there are no date suffixes. The dates in the article are all Gregorian from what I can tell, shouldn't they be marked "AD"? Caleb Gray (talk) 17:34, 15 August 2009 (UTC)

Odoacer Reference[edit]

{{editsemiprotected}} In the second paragraph of the introduction, Odoacer is referred to as "the Visigoth king". This is the only time I have seen him referred to as such, and it contradicts the Odoacer article, which reads: "There is a good chance that Odoacer was the son of the Scirii chieftain, Edeko, a vassal of the Huns under Attila. ...Odoacer's mother may have been Germanic herself, but her name and nationality are left unmentioned throughout history. That Odoacer was a Scirian is taken from John of Antioch, that he was a Rugian is from Jordanes, though Jordanes also affirms him as king of the Turcilingi (Torcilingorum rex). The Consularia Italica calls him king of the Heruli, while Theophanes appears to be guessing when he calls him a Goth." Please strike from this article (Decline of the Roman Empire) the the phrase "the Visigoth king", and possibly replace it with "the Germanic king", if deemed necessary. Thank You. --SaaHc2B (talk) 20:56, 6 October 2009 (UTC)

Yes check.svg Done   Set Sail For The Seven Seas  330° 41' 45" NET   22:02, 6 October 2009 (UTC)

Blaming Christianity of Rome's Decline[edit]

Has anyone ever done that? Or jokenly tried to make it fit? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 98.238.184.168 (talk) 20:14, 17 October 2009 (UTC)

Yes, Edward Gibbon did it in the 1700's. It's the third item on the list. EverGreg (talk) 16:21, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
However, the full context of what he has to say needs to be read, otherwise a simplistic knee-jerk reaction to "Christianity caused the fall" will be left with the reader. HammerFilmFan (talk) 23:49, 18 July 2011 (UTC) HammerFilmFan
"Knee-jerk" (though perhaps not "simplistic") is an accurate description of Gibbon's stance -- which wouldn't necessarily make it wrong either, mind you... FilipeS (talk) 12:03, 15 May 2012 (UTC)

Errors/Corrections[edit]

The following sentence, "An empire at maximum stretch due to the Sassanids, then, encountered, due to the Hunnic expansion, unprecedented immigration in 376 and 406 by barbarian groupings who had become significantly more politically and militarily capable than in previous eras." needs to be edited. Two commas I can understand, but four is ridiculous. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Thomasse (talkcontribs) 20:58, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

Soil demineralisation[edit]

There must be a better phrase for it, but I wanted to make it clear that this is distinct from deforestation which is already covered. The idea is that the soil was depleted of essential minerals by centuries of cultivation, leading the Romans to have to forage further afield for food (Hispania, Britannia and Egypt), making them more vulnerable. I heard some figures once, which I can't locate anymore, that the Italian mainland agricultural yields declined by a factor of 10 or a 100 over the course of the Republic and Empire.

This would tie in with areas around volcanoes being highly prized and heavily populated (e.g. Vesuvius), since the surrounding soil is re-mineralised from magma outflows. Any sources for the theory? --Michael C. Price talk 22:08, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

Italian soil is known to be worn out, and this may have happened in ancient times. I saw a map of predicted and measured plant growth, showing a deficit around the Mediterranean where there had been most agriculture. This would aggravate climate change and the Arab conquest of North Africa. David R. Ingham (talk) 17:52, 16 May 2012 (UTC)

François Masai[edit]

the name of my father, François Masai, is quoted in red in the article. Thanks a lot for this. I just want to bring to your knowledge that there are already a number of articles on him in different languages, the longest being the one in the french wikipedia, but also on the italian wikipedia, as his 1956 book over Pletho has just been translated into italian language in 2010. Is it possible to put a reference to the french wikipedia like fr:françois masai, that would at the same time notify the wish for an article, and give the material for a potential translator? Thanks a lot, Pierre Masai (talk) 21:19, 30 January 2011 (UTC)

Classification of theories needed![edit]

There are now 18 various theories listed in this article. I think they should be grouped into a few 'schools' so that the reader gets a better sense of the subject; otherwise it's grapeshot.

Here's a possible list of schools: 1. invasions (heather, bury) 2. systemic decay (gibbon (?), vegetius, toynbee) 3. transformation (pirenne, late antiquity) 4. monocausal (lead poisoning, plague, demineralization or whatever).

Probably my list is patchy but the list of theories as it stands is a bit of a mess.

Anybody volunteers?

Bazuz (talk)(UTC) Bazuz, 21:00, 2 February 2011 (GMT)

Three Terms confused: Eastern Empire, Western Empire, & Rome[edit]

I have to wonder if I'm missing something big and obvious here. If so, I apologize.

Quote article: "The...author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776) made this concept part of the framework of the English language." Yup, "Roman Empire," is a cute buzzword from 1776 and the movies that we all grew up with. However as used here, the term "Roman Empire," seems to be a misnomer. In fact, here in the United States that term is so widely misused to mean the "Western Roman Empire," that it's almost never used correctly.

Like so many papacy-oriented and Western- Europe-centered historians, (perhaps most historians?) this article talks about the fall of Rome, when actually it seems to be talking about the fall of the Western Roman Empire (according to the dates and so forth). It then gets really smudgy and confusing by rather than correcting these errors; adding patches and patches. (The end of the Western Roman Empire approximately coincides with the power transfer to, or rise of the Eastern Roman Empire (who naturally thought of themselves simply as Roman citizens.)) These misnomers are understandable (but not excusable) considering that most (say) Americans, the victims of our often Cold War, always Western-European-centered, schools never heard of the "Eastern Roman Empire," but rather learned that the funny-sounding "Byzantine Empire" was a new, highly foreign, and mostly unconnected thing. (That's what I mislearned in high school anyway.)

But worse than confusing, this leads to factual misstatements in the text, for example when Rome, Roman Empire, Holy Roman Empire, or Western Roman Empire are seemingly used interchangeably and certainly in error. For example:

"Justinian I, the last Roman Emperor who"

...was actually an Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Emperor from 527 to 565 EXCLUDED by the article's dates: "This slow decline...culminating on September 4, 476" ... Or: "The decline of the Roman Empire is one of the events traditionally marking the end of Classical Antiquity," is clearly talking about the the decline of the Western Roman Empire.
... ...Yes I could easily be wrong...like I say, because it's confusing it's hard to be certain about much. But in any case these terms need more than silent (lazy) hyperlinks to be clear to the average reader (who, good chance, is also unaware of his own misnomers that excludes the Eastern Roman Empire as the foreign, backward funny-dressing priests using the "Russian" alphabet).

It seems to me that either this article might be 1) misnamed, or 2) needs a full rewrite. If it were me, I'd just lose the snappy, cool, catchy, and Western-oriented title in favor of accuracy.
--68.127.87.182 (talk) 14:05, 22 July 2011 (UTC)Doug Bashford

I do see your point. However, to call the fifth century a period of decline for the empire as a whole seems unarguable. This article is quite carefully named the "decline" of the Roman Empire, and the lede and overview point out (perhaps rather clumsily) that this includes the events in the Eastern empire which carried on for a millennium. Taking your point, I'd suggest a rewrite, incorporating much of the Overview into the lede, and correcting the issues that you rightly identify. Richard Keatinge (talk) 09:19, 1 August 2011 (UTC)

What I am going on is The Dawn of European Civalization, the Dark Ages, Edited by David Talbot Rice, 1965, McGraw-Hill. Yes, both sides declined together and never really separated from each other. So the decline is one subject, though the fall is two subjects. Nominally the Roman Empire had one emperor who lived in the East after Constantine. It was also in fact, at least to some extent, one empire until the fall of Italy. The Holy Roman Empire is an other name for Germany, except that Charlemagne also founded France. David R. Ingham (talk) 18:22, 16 May 2012 (UTC)

It was not only one empire until the "fall" of Italy, but thereafter as well. The trouble, it seems to me, is in definition. As a legal entity (under Roman law) there was only ever one empire, which was divided for administrative purposes between co-emperors at times. This was true right down to 1453. On the other hand, it is hard not to see that the co-emperor's administrations often acted as separate - ad not always friendly - states in terms of policy. It is likewise hard not to notice that the culture of the medieval, Constantinople based empire has as many differences with the empire of antiquity as it does similarities (hence the often convenient but always arbitrary labeling of the "Byzantine Empire.") It is hard to take in or get your intellectual arms around a sprawling 1,500 year long entity spreading onto three continents. Different people give different aspects of the thing different weights, or even just slice off a piece for ease of assimilation. Depending on your perspective, the division of the empire in time or space is either deeply significant or completely meaningless. If I had to take a stab at it, I'd say the best way to say it might be something like "The ebbing of Roman rule in Western Europe." Not exactly pithy, but pretty accurate, I think.TheCormac (talk) 22:36, 11 June 2012 (UTC)

Is there a date/event(s) for the start of the decline of the Western Roman Empire?[edit]

Could someone include this? I havent found it anywhere in the article. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 82.1.87.234 (talk) 19:00, 27 August 2011 (UTC)

There is much conflict on when the decline began. As significant as when the decline began is when the failure of the Roman Empire in the West became a certainty. Perhaps, as Toynbee and Burke suggest, the Roman Empire had rottenness that few recognized as such at the time. Maybe the Antonine Emperors reversed some of that and the partial reversal was seen then and later as genuine progress. But it is also possible that even the "Indian Summer" of the Roman Empire was a incomplete and inadequate correction of the flaws if the whole order. For a recent analogy look at the fall of the Soviet Union, an event that few foresaw ten years earlier.
Toynbee would tell us that the Roman Empire was the dreary end of classical civilization that had its peak in the Golden Age of Greece. To be sure, Roman civilization at its best looks far more attractive than almost anything in the early Middle Ages, but its intellectual achievements (unless you wish to hold Christianity as an advancement of humanity) pale behind the Golden Age of Greece. To make material and intellectual advances analogous to those of Periclean Greece the Romans would have had to adopt such technologies as the steam engine and such intellectual advances as Calculus. Pbrower2a (talk) 01:11, 12 September 2011 (UTC)

I think that is overstated. The Romans were much better engineers than the Greeks, and a lot of the Greek "knowledge" had to be overthrown after the Renaissance. It was in the Empire that Greek Theory and Egyptian experiment first merged in Alexandria, eventually leading to chemistry and other modern science. The Romans were the first to temper their hardened steel, showing it off by shaving. David R. Ingham (talk) 18:32, 16 May 2012 (UTC)

I agree that the Romans had merits of their own, and the history of ancient Rome was by no means a decline from beginning to end. On the other hand, the rudiments of science to which you refer really took off before the Empire and outside it, in the hellenistic world. In many ways, the Roman world is little more than a continuation and an extension of hellenistic culture. Toynbee is right that the Empire always had a "rotennness within", but it was political rotenness, not intellectual rotenness per se. FilipeS (talk) 10:29, 17 May 2012 (UTC)

THe problem here is the devotion to the idea that civilizations, states, history, etc. have a unified narrative arc. They rise, they reach apogee, they decline (slowly, suddenly, whatever.) While this is very good for human recall (stories stick with us) it is not actually how history has always worked. Some civilizations, ebb and flow many times. Science and knowledge fires-up, slows, returns, goes unevenly from this field to that one. It is truly a challenge for our desire to have simple, straightforward dates, protagonists, and causation.TheCormac (talk) 22:41, 11 June 2012 (UTC)

Linguistic "decline"[edit]

Nobody here seems to recognize that the decline of intellectual life in Rome coincides with the deterioration of Classical Latin as a means of communication without replacement by something else. To be sure, Classical Latin was the language of the educated elite of the late Republican era as well as the official language of the bureaucracy. The spoken language of the masses of the Roman Empire became increasingly unlike Classical Latin through phonetic changes (loss of h and most final consonants, disappearance of weak vowels, confusion of intervocalic b and v, and the destruction of some vowel distinctions) that gutted the meaning of noun declensions and confused some verb tenses and even persons in verbs. For example, the verb forms cantabit (he shall sing), cantavit (he has sung), and cantavi (I have sung) became homophones in practice. Such would make verbal anarchy out of such critical communications as military dispatches when the distinction between the present perfect to denote what has been done and the future which suggests what is to be done as well as whether one relates what one has done himself or what someone else has done whenever the verb is in the commonplace first declension.

The commonplace popular Latin was already making transformations that prevented such confusion, as demonstrated by the ability of the early Christian Church to get its message across to multitudes who surely did not speak or read Classical Latin. The Common Latin (or proto-Romance) may have never been written, and it might not have been uniform, but it would have been fully adequate for mass communications and, no less significantly, official use. It just never became a literary or bureaucratic language. Once the linguistic descendants of the Romans quite pretending that they were speaking Latin and started using vernaculars that would become French, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Italian, and Romanian and started writing the vernacular and using it in official communications they could resurrect the sophistication of Roman life even if such sophistication was no longer Roman. But by then nobody could revive the Roman Empire. Pbrower2a (talk) 02:07, 12 September 2011 (UTC)

Falling, declining, collapsing, on and on...[edit]

I have posted a comment on this page, this section.

I am interested in creating a comprehensive article that would discuss the fall - or collapse, or dissolution - of the Western Roman Empire. I have been involved in two similar discussions, and understand that there are multiple opinions on the topic. However, I think we can all agree that the Western Empire ceased to exist at some point, probably around 480. This was the last time someone (Emperor Julius) actually claimed to rule the Western Empire. The proposed article would talk about the collapse of the western entity, from about 390-500, and would not delve into lead poisoning and other (qualified, but non-political) theories.

Are there any ideas? DCItalk 17:14, 29 October 2011 (UTC)

I'm afraid I don't understand. Are you saying you want another article that would deal solely with the end of the final incarnation of the on-again/off-again political/legal sub-division that people today call the Western Roman Empire, or an article on the loss of effective Imperial control over the Western provinces at the end of the fifth century? I think the first one would be interesting to some of us but pretty dry to the lay user and pretty deep. The later would run-up on some of the same kinds of problems that all these articles seem to (in this instance the fact that Imperial control continued in same parts of the West, and waxed and waned in others for another few centuries.)TheCormac (talk) 22:49, 11 June 2012 (UTC)

Time for a restructure[edit]

I have been thinking about this, and I feel like some changes should me made in regard to this topic. Below are my proposals:

  • This article should remain intact, but still be restricted to coverage of theories and opinions on the empire's collapse.
  • There should be an article titled Fall of the Western Roman Empire.
    • That article would cover events in the western empire from about 390 to 480.
    • Coverage of the western empire's fall on Roman Empire should be reduced slightly, as the new article would have the details.
    • The new article would not delve in to theories, such as lead poisoning and the like. It would be restricted to proven-factual coverage of the actual events.
    • The new article could be a moved and expanded Deposition of Romulus Augustulus. If necessary, this article could be merged or deleted.

I am willing to open an RfC on this topic, but I think that my concerns and ideas could be addressed here. DCItalk 16:39, 6 November 2011 (UTC)

Sounds like a reasonable proposal to me. Are you still there? Bazuz (talk) 16:10, 22 May 2012 (UTC)

I don't know about DCI but I was stimulated by him (I was thinking of something similar anyway) to make a start (with a few changes) in user space. Feel free to comment on User talk:Richard Keatinge/Fall of the Western Roman Empire on my talk page. As you will see it's meant as an outline of the historical events, with attention to postulated causative factors. I've got to about 416, the rest is not really even ready for alpha testing. Richard Keatinge (talk) 18:49, 22 May 2012 (UTC)

But it wasn't just the western empire that fell. The eastern empire also lost most of its provinces few centuries afterward. The "two falls" are arguably part of the same process. To single out the fall of the western empire separates them artificially. That said, your proposed rewrite has the potential to improve the article a great deal. You've put a lot of work into this! FilipeS (talk) 21:30, 23 May 2012 (UTC)
I don't understand why the events of circa 390-480 would be surgically removed from the full history of the empire for a special article. It seems to me that there is an agenda and embedded POV in that that leaves me deeply suspicious. The entire tendency to treat the Western Empire as a separate topic or entity is something that needs to be watched by all of us with vigilance. While such parceling out of the subject in to more manageable pieces is necessary and allows us more depth, we have to make sure that we remember that it is essentially artificial. The "Western Empire" wasn't something distinct from the "Eastern Empire" in a very real sense - it is primarily a political subdivision, which is not the most profound level of a civilization's attributes. It might be more legitimately distinct than, say, a history of the Western US from the Eastern US, but it is still a piece of a larger whole and we need to have a good rationale for putting the end of lens there. It seems to me that any meaningful examination of the decline of Roman authority in the Western provinces needs to start earlier than 390, for instance. And once again, you have the issue of the name. "Fall of the Roman Empire" is just too laden a term to used in an encyclopedia - unless it is (or encompasses) a discussion of the term itself and the controversy over its usage. (I know that distresses fans of the term - but wiki needs to provide information, not taken sides implicitly.)TheCormac (talk) 23:07, 11 June 2012 (UTC)

Edit request on 30 December 2011[edit]

Please replace the wrong link in note 8 to Ludwig von Mises' "The Rise and Decline of Civilization": http://www.capitalismmagazine.com/index.php?news=3015 by the correct one: http://www.capitalismmagazine.com/economics/classics/3015-politics-ideas-the-rise-and-decline-of-civilization-lecture-6-part-3-of-4.html Atiwara (talk) 17:17, 30 December 2011 (UTC)

DoneBility (talk) 22:28, 30 December 2011 (UTC)

Edit request on 29 January 2012[edit]

The von Mises section would benefit from a link to this page: Roman_currency, as it gives extensive information concerning the debasement of the Roman currency. As an aside, I do not think it is accurate to have the von Mises section, which is an economic argument, under the "Decay owing to general malaise" heading. Economics is not a subset of malaise.

Edit request (April 13, 2012)[edit]

Could someone kindly remove the section entitled "Linguistic change"? It is entirely original research added quite recently by one user. It is also unspeakably perverse and inexcusably idiotic from a linguistic standpoint. 60.242.48.18 (talk) 06:32, 13 April 2012 (UTC)

OK, it is deleted. Rjensen (talk) 08:45, 13 April 2012 (UTC)

There is no such thing as "linguistic decline" (the language of Dante Aligheri is no more a debasement of classical Latin than the language of Ernest Hemingway is a 'degeneracy' from the language of Geoffrey Chaucer), but there was linguistic change during Imperial times. This is not to say that linguistic change caused the fall of the Roman Empire, but failure to adapt could have been a contributing factor by leading to confusing communications between the Emperor and the Army at various levels and political instability. Roman authority weakened far more in the Latin-speaking West than in the East. The written language of the official bureaucracy did not change, but the spoken language did. Some changes wee trivial, but some -- the ones that created confusing homophones -- could create linguistic anarchy.

In view of the economic failure and the degeneration of the political structure, any small factor that could contribute to military disasters or other failures of public administration could accelerate the political, economic, and military decline.Pbrower2a (talk) 06:52, 15 May 2012 (UTC)

The Roman political and military structures were "degenerate" from the start (a fight to the death was the most common method of choosing who would be the next ruler, for heaven's sake!) That doesn't explain how they still managed to survive for half a millenium, or how the East survived a millennium further. What needs to be explained is how they held on for so long, not why they fell. As for "economic failure", there are many claims around but they fail to convince. It's unrealistic to judge the Roman economy by modern capitalist standards. Rome wasn't a modern industrialized economy. Human societies all over the world were not capitalist for millions of years, yet plenty of them managed to stick around for appreciable amounts of time. Finally, even allowing that Rome might have had serious economic, political, and military flaws, where is the connection between that and their language? FilipeS (talk) 11:57, 15 May 2012 (UTC)

The Romans had command of the Mediterranean to the extent that it could destroy any pirates, so the entire Mediterranean basin became a free-trade zone with its waters some of the safest shipping lanes ever. For a maritime power the Roman Empire had unusually-low naval costs because it almost never waged a naval war. Rome had competent commanders (culminating in Julius Caesar) at times capable of fending off enemies with effective strategies. The Roman political order lavished its troops (as long as was possible) with good pay, armor, and weaponry to the extent that soldiers uncharacteristically for the time had longer life expectancies than did civilians. The Mediterranean climate that prevailed in most of the Roman Empire offered the potential for a varied diet consisting of meat, grain, fruit, and nuts. Olive oil and wine were nutritious, durable, and portable. The Roman Empire began with plenty of assets that incompetent rulers eventually frittered away. The Romans were extremely competent at big projects including aqueducts, amphitheaters, roads, and docks... and at maintaining them until nearly the end.

For a polyglot empire the Romans had comparative peace from ethnic strife. Was there ever any significant revolt after the Jewish revolt? Once nations ended up under Roman rule they stayed under Roman rule. So it was with Britons, Gauls, Basques, Berbers, Arabs, Copts, Assyrians, Greeks, Thracians, and Illyrians. The Romans seemed to have been very tolerant with ethnic diversity, never forcing their language upon other peoples.

So for an economic model: a dissolute rake with $10,000 in assets is likely to last a far shorter time before going bankrupt than a dissolute rake with $1,000,000 even if the latter-identified rake spends $10,000 a month. Such is the difference between the Roman Empire in the middle of the last century of the old era and (on asset use alone) and some less-durable empires. But any political order that fritters away its assets will eventually lose its power and ultimately its ability to survive against aggressive outsiders. Pbrower2a (talk) 23:23, 10 June 2012 (UTC)

Minor revert[edit]

I have reverted user David R. Ingham's recent edit

Although the eastern half still survived with varying borders for another millennium (until taken by the Turks), the Empire as a whole had initiated major cultural and political transformations since the Crisis of the Third Century, with the shift towards a more openly autocratic and ritualized form of government, the adoption of Christianity as the state religion, and a general rejection of the traditions and values of Classical Antiquity.

back to

Although the eastern half still survived with borders essentially intact for several centuries (until the Muslim conquests), the Empire as a whole had initiated major cultural and political transformations since the Crisis of the Third Century, with the shift towards a more openly autocratic and ritualized form of government, the adoption of Christianity as the state religion, and a general rejection of the traditions and values of Classical Antiquity.

I regard this as a minor revert because the fall of the Byzantine Empire is already mentioned elsewhere in the article. The reason why did it is that this article on the Decline of the Roman Empire focuses on the process by which the Roman Empire went from its classical extension/structure to its medieval/Byzantine extension/structure, in other words how it lost its western provinces, or more broadly if we wish, how it came to lose most of its provinces (if we include Egypt and the middle eastern provinces, which were lost within few centuries of Italy) and be confined mostly to Greece and Anatolia. This only goes so far as the first few centuries of the Byzantine period. The decline of the Byzantine Empire per se is a different, and much later story, best addressed in the article Byzantine Empire. After all, the Byzantines did eventually recover after the original debacles of the 3rd - 8th centuries. FilipeS (talk) 12:30, 20 May 2012 (UTC)

Catastrophic Collapse: Peter Heather addition suggestion[edit]

In the section Catastrophic Collapse, subsection Peter Heather "Contact with the Empire had increased their material wealth, and that in turn had led to disparities of wealth sufficient to create a ruling class capable of maintaining control over far larger groupings than had previously been possible."

I feel this would be an excellent point to mention how the Romans used German mercenaries extensively, since this would later be their downfall when they denied the Germans citizenship and the benefits thereof.

"Contact with the Empire had increased their material wealth, including through employment as mercenaries. This led to disparities of wealth sufficient to create a ruling class capable of maintaining control over far larger societies than had previously been possible, precluding the development of an organized Germanic military using Roman technology and tactics."

Of course, I do recognize this section details one scholar's view on the subject, and it may not be appropriate to add details. PotatoSamurai (talk) 15:31, 14 July 2012 (UTC)

Correct Trier as Roman Capital?[edit]

In the quote:

"At first a haphazard form of power sharing, this eventually settled on an East-West administrative division between the Western Roman Empire (centered on Rome, but now usually presided from other seats of power such as Trier, Milan, and especially Ravenna)"

I can't believe that Trier is correct, simply on geographical grounds: it's near Luxembourg, far from the late Roman frontier. Anyone with expertise want to offer a better list? Mordecai-Mark Mac Low (talk) 21:23, 14 July 2012 (UTC)

The following reply was given on my User page, but I think is perhaps of more general interest Mordecai-Mark Mac Low (talk) 00:45, 27 August 2014 (UTC)

"My understanding is that after CE 286 the capital of the Western Empire went on the wander as it were, first to Milan, then to Trier and Arles, and back to Milan, possibly with other stops en route before finally coming to rest in Ravenna in CE 402. I can't provide the kind of sources needed in a Wikipedia article, but this statement in the article on Milan may provide a starting-point of sorts:

Milan was declared the capital of the Western Roman Empire by Emperor Diocletian in 286 AD. Diocletian chose to stay in the Eastern Roman Empire (capital Nicomedia) and his colleague Maximianus ruled the Western one. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Decline_of_the_Roman_Empire

See also the Wikipedia article on the History of Trier:

From 367, under Valentinian I, Trier once more became an imperial residence (lasting until the death of Theodosius I in 395) and remained the largest city north of the Alps. It was for a few years (383 – 388) the capital of Magnus Maximus, who ruled most of the western Empire. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Trier#Roman_Empire

What is really meant by the word capital in these contexts beyond something like Western emperor's main or favourite seat of residence is unclear. Sorry I can't be more helpful. Perhaps someone well qualified will write an article on "The Western Roman Empire's Wandering Capital". Norvo (talk) 03:05, 12 March 2014 (UTC)"

Decline vs Fall vs Transformation[edit]

The article is taking a position that the Empire had a slow and gradual decline over time. However this is just one theory, the other theory being that it had a sudden and violent collapse (and a third theory that it was a transformation). People living in the Empire at the time generally did not see themselves as declining, it is a later point of view made famous by Edward Gibbon. "Decline" is a purely historical construct with debate on either side, it is not objective fact, it is an opinion. The problem is the title of the article states it as fact, editors are trying to match up the text with the article title. If the article was titled "Fall of the Roman Empire", we'd have the exact opposite problem. If it was titled "Transformation of the Roman Empire" it would be another problem. So we have these three ways to describe it - Decline, Fall, Transformation - but no neutral description. Gibbon got around the problem by using both "Decline and Fall".. we could say "Decline, Fall and Transformation of the Roman Empire" since those are the three things the article discusses. Green Cardamom (talk) 15:57, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

"opinions?" no. "facts?"--wrong terminology. What we have are competing complex models of very large-scale events that cover large areas, evolving societies & governments, major internal & external forces (which keep changing) all happening over long periods of time. Scholars work in complex interactive international communities filled with papers, reviews, articles, books, dissertations, lectures and discussions that involve hundreds or thousands of scholars who spend not a few days but a few decades on these issues. Rjensen (talk) 16:17, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
Good enough but we are still limited by article titles which influence editors and readers. Like we have a title that says it was a "decline" and a sub-section titled "Theories of a fall, decline, transition and continuity" .. -- Green Cardamom (talk) 19:39, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
Perhaps the three possibilities refer to rather different concepts? A "fall" implies loss of (political) power (which clearly did happen from 376 onward), a "decline" a reduction in some desirable attributes (which may or may not have happened before 376), and a "transformation" references the major cultural continuities and changes, power being only one of them. Where this leaves us I'm not sure, but we do have articles for Fall of the Western Roman Empire and Late Antiquity as well as this one. Perhaps we should sharpen this one up on the basis of the existing title? A section in the lede might help to clarify it: "The Western Roman Empire lost power and territory from 376. This article outlines the debate on whether, and how, it may have been weaker and its enemies stronger than in earlier centuries." Does anyone have any better ideas? Richard Keatinge (talk) 21:21, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
The purpose of the article from its inception was a place for theories on the fall/decline/transformation of Rome. It was never intended to be a history article, rather a historiography article. Later editors added the history section, which is redundant with (and inferior to) Fall of the Western Roman Empire. It certainly was never intended to be a POV article that tries to make a case for a "decline" vs a fall. The article title is and has always been problematic. Green Cardamom (talk) 17:36, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
The history section is not useful as it stands and arguably is redundant (we could follow Gibbon and structure the article chronologically, but doing it by themes is also reasonable).
So how should we define the scope (and the title)? Decline has been a major theme of historiography for over two centuries so I'm happy with the title, and this article should indeed discuss themes/theories. But the article does not need to breach NPOV, it does not need to conclude that a decline actually happened. Or that it didn't. I do feel that, because of the problems you mention, the scope needs better definition in the lede. Does anyone have any better ideas for doing so? Richard Keatinge (talk) 21:41, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
I tweaked the lede to stress the historiography Rjensen (talk) 22:34, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Better. The article title still gives preference to the "decline" theme, which I think will continue to lead editors to emphasize it over other ideas. Part of the the problem is the other ideas are not well articulated in the article because the decline and fall narrative is so popular with non-specialists. It really comes back to the long standing feud between classicists and medievalists over whether the Medieval period was a step backwards: depending on your point of view, one frames the Medieval period accordingly. If the Roman Empire "fell" the implication is that what came after was not good, a worse time, a Dark Ages. So the Late Antiquity folks created this buffer period between classic Rome and the Medieval period and say it was a gradual transition, neither a good or bad thing, just a change from one period to another period, a gradual transition from Empire to Medieval, not a hard break or fall. Was Late Antiquity a period of decline? The historians who study Late Antiquity generally don't portray it that way. Green Cardamom (talk) 19:45, 17 August 2012 (UTC)

With thanks to you and Rjensen, surely that discussion should be precisely the matter of this article? We are describing the historiography of decline, a large and fertile subject. If we are to structure it by theme, we can take the chronology of each theme in turn.
If we are to structure it chronologically, I suggest that it divides naturally into two or more chronological sections. Gibbon defined the decline as starting from the Antonines, perhaps we should start there, or with the end of the Republic? Wherever we start, the first chronological section comes to a natural end with the crossing of the Danube and the battle of Adrianople; both the fact of decline and much of the mechanism (territorial loss) are clear from then until the end of the Western Empire. (The fact of its fall from political and military power is not widely disputed, whatever came after.) In this article we should perhaps have a short section on the fall of the Western Roman Empire and explore the idea of decline in the East at greater length. From the late 400s we may - or may not if we so decide, I would probably leave it for other articles - have a section on the long progress of Byzantium and its end. Richard Keatinge (talk) 21:45, 17 August 2012 (UTC)
As for the title, for 200 years the debate has largely been about whether/when/how much decline there has been. That means "decline" is the standard term used on all sides. Rjensen (talk) 21:52, 17 August 2012 (UTC)
The article is about the "Decline, Fall and Transformation of the Roman Empire" ie. a mixture of ideas, like Risks to civilization, humans, and planet Earth. That title came about because no one could decide if the article should be called end of civilization, end of humanity, end of the world etc.. problem of scope, so it made sense to include everything in the title. We might even consider Theories of the decline, fall and transformation of the Roman Empire, to take a descriptive approach, though it's not as romantic sounding as the current Gibbon title. Green Cardamom (talk) 04:56, 19 August 2012 (UTC)

ciao — Preceding unsigned comment added by 58.164.4.243 (talk) 07:17, 30 August 2012 (UTC)

Name change (again)[edit]

The lead and the bulk of the article that it is the Western Empire that is in scope. The lead makes it clear that the Eastern Empire endured for a further millennium. So should the name not reflect this scope. For example, Decline of the Western Roman Empire. Laurel Lodged (talk) 22:02, 15 December 2012 (UTC)

I don't think so. The Western empire did most of the falling, but the whole Empire in some sense declined. Both halves lost military dominance and while barbarians managed to take over almost all of the West they made quite a mess of large parts of the East too, most of the Balkans and anyone living near Isauria for example. Most of the ideas about internal weakness as cause of the fall apply to both West and East. Richard Keatinge (talk) 18:10, 16 December 2012 (UTC)
Decline of the Western Roman Empire could be a sub-article of the main article: Decline of the Roman Empire. Following Gibbon, presumably 476 is a key date in the Decline of the West while the Empire as a whole didn't end till the 1453 Fall of Constantinople. The Empire had its largest extent under Trajan, so presumably on a size basis its decline started then. 75.0.10.162 (talk) 19:52, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

Contemporary views[edit]

Adding a section wholly dedicated to contemporary or near-contemporary views on the decline of the Roman Empire would be very useful to this article. St Augustine's Christian somberness (mentioned but not expounded); how the barbarians viewed their own actions, if known; Jerome's and Pelagius' horror. I don't know many contemporary reactions, particularly after Romulus Augustulus' deposing, so I don't know what else is out there or how much of it there is. But it seems to me that such a section would be very insightful for the reader. Running From Zombies (talk) 14:07, 7 August 2013 (UTC)

The very point of this article is to be the contemporary view on the decline.  —Sowlos  16:09, 7 August 2013 (UTC)
I apologise if I wasn't clear, but I'm speaking of the views the Romans themselves had at the time. Running From Zombies (talk) 09:48, 8 August 2013 (UTC)
Oh; I see. As long as it's limited to major figures, I think it's a good idea. (Actually, if their's enough material on the subject, there could even be a full article on the subject with no such limit.)
As always, RSes dictates what we can reasonably add.  —Sowlos  11:51, 8 August 2013 (UTC)

Ludwig von Mises[edit]

" Historian Michael Rostovtzeff and economist Ludwig von Mises both argued that unsound economic policies played a key role in the impoverishment and decay of the Roman Empire. "

I understand that there are a lot of for pay bloggers trying to re-write Wikipedia to reflect the ideology of neoliberal economics, but what the heck is Ludwig von Mises doing on a page about the decline of the Roman empire? Is he a historian? An archaeologist? Exactly what *research* has Ludwig von Mises done on the fall of the Roman Empire?MrSativa (talk) 03:06, 20 November 2013 (UTC)

Cost of Elections[edit]

The costs of elections eventually became so out of hand that for example; Julius Cesaer had invested so much of his own money that he would have had nothing if had not be elected. This is also common in the United States today. The last election costs close to $3 Billion, which is more than enough money that could have been invested into the economy. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Osnap0207 (talkcontribs) 18:49, 4 December 2013 (UTC)