The research paper first makes a brief general overview of the ancient Roman Empire mainly looking at its' leadership structure, division of regions, senatorial and equestrian order in the empire, the religious history detailing its earlier religious practices and beliefs. The highlights or the transformations that took place before the empire finally collapsed shall also be mentioned from the third century up to the fifth century where it finally collapsed.
The research topic which is Christianity as the reason for the fall of the empire is in the third section of the paper. Various factors that were brought along with formalization of Christianity as an official language of the Roman Empire and contributed to its' downfall will be critically analyzed. Other documented causes that led to the fall of Roman Empire will also be briefly mentioned before the research is concluded.
The research explores a topic that has being widely studied and researched upon by other authors such as Bury, J.B., History of the Later Roman Empire, (New York, 1958), 23-57[footnoteRef:2], but unlike the other studies and researches earlier done, this paper will primary look at Christianity as the main cause of the fall of the Roman Empire and try to answer questions such as; [2: Bury, J.B., History of the Later Roman Empire, (New York, 1958), 23-57,]
Was Christianity being practiced even when the Roman Empire was still united?
What were some of the changes brought about by Christianity to the Roman Empire?
Did any of these changes cause the fall of the Roman Empire?
The study and research conducted by Bury, J. B and printed in his book, History of the Later Roman Empire (New York, 1958), 23-57[footnoteRef:3], show that the Roman Empire was under the rule of an Emperor appointed either by the empire's senate or his successor which was mostly the case. The emperor was the leader of Roman's civil government including the Roman Empire's senate. [3: Bury, J.B., History of the Later Roman Empire, (New York, 1958), 23-57]
The emperor exercised excessive authority and in the modern civil world the powers endowed to him could be regarded as those of an autocratic leader. The Empire's army was also under his full control and entrusted with ensuring that there was no threat to the leadership, he had the powers to decide who goes to the senate and who does not, his office could declare war against an enemy and even in religious institutions where he had membership in all the major priesthoods they were all under his authority.
Hierarchy of authority was lead by the emperor, senators came at second in command but were viewed as just sideshows they never had any real authority as compared to senators whom are in the present governments, they merely acted on emperor' mercy and at times on order given by him. To be appointed as a senator one was supposed to be a rich person coming from a well-known family. The equestrians were third in command but never had as much prestige as those above the hierarchy however their appointment criteria were similar to those of the senators.
The Empire was divided into two provinces namely; the senatorial and imperial provinces. Senatorial provinces were strategically located inland far from the borders where the ruling government had strong influence and control over them. The imperial provinces were majorly located at the borders of the empire mainly because of the fact that they were newly conquered territories that were governed by the imperial governments Sources Pirenne. Henri. The Holy Roman Empire (Walter Hamilton. London. 1957), 77-112.[footnoteRef:4] [4: Pirenne. Henri. The Holy Roman Empire (Walter Hamilton. London. 1957), 77-112.]
Important to note about these imperial provinces was the Aegyptus province that's today's modern Egypt, the Aegyptus province was a very important part of the Roman Empire as it was the major supplier of agricultural produce to the entire empire. The Roman capital of Rome also mostly dependent on it for grain supplies thus it was treated in a special manner such that Senators from other regions of the empire were restricted in entering the province. Commanders and governors in authority at this province were appointed by the emperor himself from the equestrian arm of the government and not from the traditional senatorial arm of the government.
Studies devoted to Roman Empire's religious history have reported conflicting findings; however most studies have collectively shown that in the earlier periods, emperors who were either dead or alive were worshiped as goddess, but during the period of 200 BC other foreign gods were also being worshiped in the empire. Such a god was Cybele who was regarded as the first foreign god in the Roman Empire, then he was followed by Osiris and Isis; both originated from the imperial province of Aegyptus, Sol Invictus and Bacchus were also later to commonly worshipped in the empire, as god Mithras became widely worshiped by the Roman army.
Judaism and Druids were referred to as the controversial religions of the Roman Empire by various authors. Druids was viewed as non-Roman leading to banning of all the practices that were associated with it, while Jews only worshipped after paying their "Jewish Tax" in spite of the numerous reported cases of Jewish-Roman battle that at times lead to Jews being expelled from Rome.
Christianity was earlier regarded as a sect of Judaism when it began in Jerusalem before spreading to other parts of the Roman Empire and during the rule of emperor Nero Christians were subjected to torture and violence which became worse after the emperor committed suicide. But by the year 313 Christianity was widely practiced forcing a tolerance policy against Christians and their faith to be established, furthermore the appointment of emperor Constantine and the formal establishment of Christianity as Roman Empire's official religion by emperor Theodosius in the year 380 meant that Christianity had conquered the whole Roman Empire.
Fall and decline of Roman Empire
Perhaps the most notable piece of writing, study or research on the fall and decline of the Roman Empire was the one conducted by author Edward Gibbon in 1952 in his book "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Chicago. 1952), 12-56[footnoteRef:5], other author have also made their contribution to this topic with Professor Demandt, a German in 1984 writing a book that covers on two hundred and ten theories that try to explain causes of the Roman Empire downfall. [5: Gibbon, Edward. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, (Chicago. 1952), 12-56]
Historians have noted that the fall of the Roman Empire was a gradual process that took place progressively century after century, although no precise dates could be given on when certain events happened but highlights are available on centuries when certain relevant events took place that could have led to the fall.
In the third century there was lack of control or government disorder in the empire, reforms took place on the economy and political landscape of the empire that contributed to the fall. In the fourth century is when Roman army was defeated in war against the Visigoths, Christianity became an official religion in the empire and emperor Theodosius eliminated paganism out of the empire, all these contributed to the fall. In the fifth century another war against the Visigoths took place that left the City of Rome badly damaged, this was later to be repeated by the Vandals who brought destruction and loss of life in Rome, also the removal of emperors Augustus and Nepos out of power, rise of Hunnic Empire and the establishment of Italy as an independent kingdom from the Roman empire were some of the highlights in the fall of the Roman Empire.
Christianity as a cause to the fall of Roman Empire
This research first focused on the general history of the Roman Empire and it is clear from this history that originally the Roman Empire religion practiced cult worship that was based on worshiping gods who included Roman emperors either dead or alive and then later there was introduction of foreign gods from provinces like Aegyptus. Thus the formalization of Christianity as an official religion by emperor Theodosius into the well controlled empire caused some changes into the empire's political and economical structure that lead to its' decline and sudden fall. Source Adena, L. "The 'Jesus Cult' and the Roman State in the Third Century," Clio History Journal (2008):16-24[footnoteRef:6]. [6: Adena, L. "The 'Jesus Cult' and the Roman State in the Third Century," Clio History Journal (2008):16-24]
Referring to studies conducted by Edward Gibbon on this topic its apparent that Christianity changed they way rulers of Roman Empire were viewed by their subjects. In the early centuries before Christianity was recognized in the empire, emperors were also religious leaders and members of all the major priesthoods, they were also regarded as men with unique qualities. All these changed when Christianity…