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The rise of religion and the fall of the Roman Empire

Updated on January 9, 2013

Roman Emperors such as Julius Caesar were instrumental in the creation of an Empire that would last over 600 years .The Imperial Roman Empire is possibly the greatest Empire to have ever existed in the ancient world. At the height of its power it stretched from Britain (excluding Scotland and Ireland) in Western Europe. It had dominion over the lands of Continental Europe what is now Spain ,Italy , France, Greece ,Turkey , Austria, Bulgaria ,Croatia ,Serbia, Romania and some parts of Germany. In Africa the Romans annexed Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt. In Asia it took over the lands of the successors to Alexander the Greats. In Asia the lands of Syria, Persia, and Judea fell within the Roman Empires sphere of influence.

The Roman Empire was an Empire which others in the future could only dream of controlling. The nearest Empire to it is maybe the British Empire but that was more a trading Empire than a marching, killing, and colonizing machine. For an Empire to last 500 years, it must have been an administrative nightmare. Historians had many theories why the Empire fell, and although i am not disputing them i do believe the reason why Rome fell was down to Religious intolerance and Roman inflexibility.

The Roman Senate
The Roman Senate

My Opinion

I believe that Rome was unable to pull all of the different cultures together and Romanized the indigenous population. This meant that the borders of the Roman Empire were never going to be fully secure as the annexed Roman territories always had the enemy within. The opponents to Rome relied on their own religious conviction to wear down the mighty Roman war machine. The Northern European tribes and their Warrior religion encouraged their men to fight hard and fearless, while their womenfolk are instructed to encourage and chastise the men. The Pagan Germanic tribes were a constant thorn in the side of successive Roman Generals and Emperors. As much as Roman citizenship could tempt the barbarians with money and success, the pagan religion could remind the population of who they were and where they came from. And this alone caused a resistance against the Roman occupation of Eastern and Northern Europe.

Another religion which was instrumental in the decline and fall of the Roman Empire is Christianity and Judaism. With the Roman occupation of the holy land Judaism had to exist with the Roman belief system of many gods each controlling certain actions, desires and elements. With each successive Emperor the tolerance to the indigenous religion changes. The Jews in Judea where able to strike against superior Roman legions by using guerrilla tactics. When draconian rulers persecuted the Jews rebellion usually followed. Although the Jewish insurgents scored hits upon the occupation force, the ring leaders where discovered and executed. This created a legend and a martyrdom that allowed rebellion to continue and inspired other areas such as Greece to revolt.The split of Rome into a Western and Eastern Empire was possibly a consequence of the non-Roman religions. With the growth of Christianity the Roman Empire was under pressure to adapt to the new religion of the new millennium. In the early years of Christianities beginnings it was regarded as an obscure Jewish cult. Little did they know, that in less than 300 years it would be the Empires official religion and would itself become the foundation and protector of the Christian faith.

Tiwaz rune
Tiwaz rune

What do you think?

Do you believe that Religion was important in the downfall of Rome?

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If i was to state that Christianity was a contributing factor to the fall of the Western Empire then Islam was responsible for the fall of the Byzantine Empire. The Eastern Roman Empire ended in the 15th Century A.D although it did outlive its Western brother it suffered the same loss of territory and prestige. The Byzantine Empire was involved in many conflicts with the Arabs and Muslim Turks. The Byzantine Empire supported no Religion as its state religion, but under Constantine a preference for Christianity was obvious. The Eastern Empire fell to the Muslim Turks as they were more organised and they wanted the land of their forefathers back.


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      Marcus Prometheus 5 years ago

      There are about 270 different theories about the causes of the decline and fall of Rome. the lead poisoning is just one of them, but quite famous. I read some time ago it might be totally dismissed at least for the roman citzens residing in Rome as the composition of water arriving through various aqueducts in Rome "neutralizes" (plainly speaking) the possibility of lead being absorbed by human stomachs.

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      Marcus Prometheus 5 years ago

      I agree on most of the affirmations of ASP 52, but I must object about two:

      1) I read:

      ""The Byzantine Empire supported no Religion as its state religion, but under Constantine a preference for Christianity was obvious"".

      I must object:

      The Empire based in Constantinople (which always called itself "Roman Empire" or Roman Empire of the East) never called himself Byzantine - but is called Byzantine by modern historians to distinguish him from the previous united empire. But after the divorce of the two halfs (and even before it) the eastern (or byzantine) empire was absolutely intolerant of any other religion except the christian of which it even began to estabilish the ortodoxy and the dogma admitted.

      2) I read also

      ""The Eastern Empire fell to the Muslim Turks as they were more organised and they wanted the land of their forefathers back.

      I must object: The turk people had no origin in Anatolia (present Turkey) but in Central Asia, present Turkmenistan and near countries situated between Mongolia and Persia, and are kin with other Mongolian peoples, not with greek or armenian or persian peoples which are indo-european.

    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 7 years ago from England

      Actually i had heard of that theory but not in the context of the Emperors. But it does stand to reason when you think about it. It makes you wonder what this planet would have been like if the Western Empire had never fallen. But all Empires fall eventually. Thanks for your kind feedback.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 7 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      Thank you for an interesting hub. The romans have always been a fascinating subject. Have you ever come across the theory that lead poisoning from the water pipes might have contributed to the fall of Rome. This is said to have mainly affected the upper classes, as they were the ones most likely to have piped water in their houses. This is said to have been one of the reasons why they had so many mad emperors, like Nero and Caligula.