History not only relates significant events that happened over the past centuries and years. It suggests as well that people could learn something from such events, probably by not committing the same mistakes again the older generation had done. One example of this is the age when empires dominated the world. Empires rose and fell in every continent, which apparently proved that any empire undergoes a certain life cycle. It would rise but it would definitely decline, no matter how great it was. A classic illustration of this is the Roman Empire, which, due to various factors, still collapsed despite its success, greatness, and power.
The paper would discuss in general the life cycle of an empire, with the Roman Empire as an example. It would specifically scrutinize if the decline was due to specific mistakes committed by the Romans or it was just a natural part of the empire life cycle. It would also address the issue on societal changes and adaptation before an empire collapsed. Finally, the paper would try to suggest the most important factor that contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire.
According to Upsher (2001), the life cycle of an empire starts with the age of outburst or pioneers, followed by the age of conquests, commerce, affluence, and intellect, going down to the age of decadence, and finally to the age of decline and collapse. The Roman Empire started with its pioneers aiming to expand their land. It grew after centuries of battles and conquests that eventually led Romans to desire not only more lands but also more wealth (Pasha and Goetz 1984). These wealth were later on invested by the empire to build educational institutions, thus producing the intellectuals. The age of intellect was then characterized as the time when the intellectuals scrutinized the values and beliefs of the empire’s founders and developers. This was one of the factors that affected the decline of the Roman Empire.
Apart from this, the decline of the Roman Empire could also be attributed to specific mistakes committed by the Romans themselves. Examples of these were bad leadership and corruption. The senate, for example, due to its growing power, forgot to rule the people. Emperor Nero’s extravagant and irresponsible spending during his term was also an example.
Thus, it could be argued that the decline of the Roman empire was due to specific human mistakes. However, it could be argued as well that the decline of the empire happened naturally. As the law of nature says, anything that goes up must goes down.
One of the distinct characteristics of a declining empire is the “increased political and economical power of women” (Pasha and Goetz 1984). By 127 A.D, Roman women were seen as gladiators, poets, actresses, and athletes. For a patriarchal-type of society just like the Roman society, this societal change practically implied moral and cultural decline.
The most important factor that could be attributed for the decline of the great Roman Empire was its greatness itself. The empire grew too big it could no longer possible to be handled properly. The Romans’ desire for expansion and growth led to division of power. Because of this division of power, the people were easily got affected by societal changes.
For example, the senate should not have allowed one man to hold power. They should have kept the Roman empire a senatorial state with a unified control system. Religion played as well a vital role in unifying or separating people (Lee 2008).
The decline of the Roman empire, thus, occurred not only because of a single factor. Human mistakes and the natural law of things both contributed to the fall of the considered greatest empire ever built in the world.
Upsher, T., Holoka, Goff & Cassar. (2001). World History – Before 1600: The development of civilization. Vol.1 4th Ed.US: Cengage Learning
Lee, N. “Cycle of an Empire-The Roman Empire”. Associated Content.com. 27 Aug 2008. Retrieved 3 June 2009. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/968074/ cycle_of_an_empire_the_roman_empire.html?cat=37
Pasha and Goetz. (1984). When the Empire Strikes Out. US: Harvil Press