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Roman Collapse



  Mosaic of Plato’s School
        Third Century Anarchy

•   Instability based on succession
•   devastating plague decimates population
•   economic malaise
•   Germanic tribes
•   Persian resurgence
•   loss of hope.
             Spiritual Upheaval

• Gods, mystery religions
  and neoplatonism
  – mithraism
• Christianity
• religion in the empire
  – change from an
    emotionless civic
  – search for spiritual
    fulfillment.           Mithras (sun) slaying the bull (night)
           Internal Problems

• Political breakdown
  – end of independence of cities
  – bloated bureaucracy, expensive army
  – constant assaults from external threats
             Internal Problems

• Social breakdown
  –   lack of connection to/with Roman Empire
  –   decreasing urban middle class
  –   rising banditry and loss of entire provinces
  –   decrease in trade and use of road system
  –   Appian Way
            Roman Roads

Via Appia
Economic Collapse

       • Money is silver or gold
       • Lack of revenue
          – only tax citizens
          – expansion of citizenship
       • Include less silver in each
         coin to “create” more money
         to pay army
       • Merchants raise prices
       • Hyper-inflation
          – 1000% inflation between 256
            and 280
            Rise of the Military

• increasing
  control of the
  military key
  to control of
  the Empire
          Rise of the Military

• military gains an increasingly large role in
  selection of emperor
• focus on defense stops construction in cities
  – aqueducts in 235 AD
• 235-285 known as the period of the
  Barracks Emperors
  – 19 emperors, only 1 did not die violently.
             The Dominate

• A series of strong emperors from the
  frontiers were successful in repulsing the
  Germans and Persians
• regained lost portions of Gaul and in the
• these rulers changed the structure of the
  Empire into a more authoritarian state
  – court ceremonial
  – prostration, costume, make-up.
          Diocletian (284-305)
• Produces stability
• enlarges army
  – German invaders turned into
• Regiments society with caste
• two emperors
   – East and West, title is Augustus
   – each would have an assistant, title is
      • assistant and successor
   – known as the Tetrarchy
• uses any tactic to preserve nation
   – price controls to combat inflation
   – persecution of Christians.

                                              Tetrarchy at time of
Diocletian’s division of the empire
          How are people living?
• Slaves: 1 of 3 people is a slave
• Employment: forced to have same job as parent
  to ensure economy would continue
• Women: increased freedom, but except for
  widows, all still have lives controlled by men
• Farmers
  – living at poverty level
            Peasant Survival
            2%             Produce for

                           Produce saved
6&                         for seed

                           Payment in kind
                           for tax/rent
                           Produce sold for

                           Sold to buy
                           goods for
          Constantine (306-337)

• Diocletian’s death - power
• founds Constantinople
• dynastic state
• legalizes Christianity.
      Crisis of the Fifth Century

• Policies of Diocletian and Constantine delay
• East remains stronger economically
• West faces economic exhaustion
  –   remains agricultural
  –   decrease in trade
  –   no manufactured goods
  –   aristocracy remains withdrawn from economy
  –   inflation, population decline, increasing poverty.
    Crisis of the Fifth Century

• Germans hired to fight Germans
  – revolts
• Visigoths flee Huns
  – after being cheated, fight Romans, victorious at
    Adrianople (378), kill Emperor Valens
• Visigoths under Alaric resume rampage
  – 406 recall of troops on Rhine to block Alaric
  – Vandals and others cross and occupy west
  – 410 Goths plunder Rome.
        Twilight of the West

• Lost of Rome destroys Roman morale
• continued pressure from east pushes Germans
• Germanic peoples carve out own kingdoms
  in the west
• Huns dominate central and eastern Europe
• Rome only controls Italy
  – German generals actually run the country
• 476 Odovacar deposes last emperor.
The end of the Western Romans 476 CE
Why did it end?

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