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The Fall of the Western Half of the Roman Empire

The gradual weakening of central authority of the Western Roman Empire can be explained by serious socio-economic changes in Roman society in 4th – 5th centuries: a more acute crisis of slave mode of production and related economy, decay of cities, reduction of commodity production and trade, constantly increasing naturalization of the economy and the movement of economic life of the cities to the countryside – huge latifundia, which transformed into centers of not only agriculture, but trade and commerce to the nearest neighborhood (Markel, 2007).

The layers of slaveholders associated with the slave economy and forms of urban life, primarily municipal slave-owners, or, as they were called in 4th – 5th centuries, curials, became bankrupts and degraded as the main class of society. On the contrary, social positions of major barons became stronger: the owners of huge tracts of land with the most diverse population, possessing large reserves of food and handicraft products, having their own guards and fortified villas (Markel, 2007).

An important factor in the economic situation of the Western Empire in the 4th and especially 4th centuries became a state tax policy (Markel, 2007). In general, we can speak of a sharp increase in the tax burden, which exceeded economic opportunities of taxpayers gradually plunging them into poverty, undermining their households. Unbearable fiscal oppression, tyranny of bureaucracy and social interests touched provincial nobility, which together with local church communities headed by bishops fought for their privileges, as well as a weakening of the Empire demanded a more vigorous measures for the maintenance of security of borders and the suppression of social movements of the oppressed masses: colones, slaves, dependent and vulnerable people.

The social base of the Roman Empire got narrower; its slow but steady agony began. Overall consenescence of the Western Roman Empire clearly reflected in the collapse of its military organization, while the radical changes of socio-economic structure, the state organization took place in a growing influx of barbarian tribes to the Roman borders, their constant breakthroughs and looting the border and deep areas (Markel, 2007). However, since the late 4th century the advance of the Huns, Goths and Vandals turned into invasion resist which was getting harder and harder.

In 476, the Western Roman Empire ceased to exist, and new states arose on its ruins.

 

References:

Markel, R.J. (2007). The Fall of the Roman Empire. Twenty-First Century Books.