Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Locating a Peak

Wikipedia, Decline of the Roman Empire
The causes and mechanisms of the decline of the Roman Empire are a historical theme that was introduced by historian Edward Gibbon in his 1776 book The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire...

There is no consensus on a date for the start of the Decline. Gibbon started his account in 98. The year 376 is taken as pivotal by many modern historians. In that year there was an unmanageable influx of Goths and other barbarians into the Balkan provinces, and the situation of the Western Empire generally worsened thereafter, with recoveries being incomplete and temporary.

By these accounts, the peak came early (around year 98) or late (around year 376) in the imperial phase of Roman civilization. That's what I once thought, that the Roman Empire was an advance from the Roman Republic -- though really, the Star Wars story could have shown me the error in my thinking.

Arnold Toynbee showed me my error. Wikipedia:
In contrast with the declining empire theories, historians such as Arnold J. Toynbee and James Burke argue that the Roman Empire itself was a rotten system from its inception, and that the entire Imperial era was one of steady decay of institutions founded in Republican times.

The rise of empire was a solution to the problems of the republic.


greg said...

And the problems of the Republic arose from the over-concentration of wealth, and the consequent deterioration or the Roman Senate as an effective body of governance. Which tells you about where we're at.

The Empire was an economic basket case, and increasingly so as the common era progressed. Having all the wealth, and then all the surplus income, as they ground everyone else to subsistence, the wealthy became the only effective tax base for the Empire. The wealthy at first refused to pay enough of their taxes,and then as the economy continued to deteriorate, were no longer able to pay enough taxes sufficient to support the government and its Legions.

Basically, the wealthy, in their greed, destroyed the social commonwealth, the foundation of their own wealth, and their own wealth collapsed as a consequence.

With modern technology, the same process will happen much faster to us.

The Arthurian said...

God, Yes! Well said, greg.

I never noticed the "no longer able" part. Thanks.

Late in the Empire, some among the wealthy had income comparable to the imperial revenues