Victoria Grossack: I believe that income inequality played an enormous role in the end of the republic. Why past tense? Because this column is concerned mostly with the end of the Roman Republic, which ended at about 27 BCE. After that it was known as the Roman Empire. It has been determined that the Roman Empire suffered from severe inequality of income. Only a few nations have had worse – and yes, the USA is now one of them. But what may not be known or understood is how much the increase in income inequality led to the end of the republic.
For me, income inequality, though certainly a large factor for the demise of the Roman Republic, is not the defining cause for its fall. The author pretty much plays down the impact that an endless cycle of civil war had on Roman society, infrastrucutre, commerce, economy, army etc etc. For the record, the Roman Republic spent far more time at war with itself than at peace, with potential emperors, generals, politicians and businessmen using their gravitas to influence those around them into aiding their cause for the throne. This often led to pitch battles between Roman armies, with countrymen fighting countrymen in the hope of placing their candiate on the throne, and thus reap the rewards that duly followed. This led to the Roman society becoming very insular; where rather than looking out to the hordes that repeatedly threatened the borders, emperors were becoming increasingly worried about those around them, and whether they would try to supplant them just as they themselves had in taking the throne. Where once armies massed on borders, they were now being used to wage war on compatriots. Where once great generals like Pompey, Scipio Africanus, Caius Marius and Julius Caesar were trusted at the head of great armies who conquered everything before them, thus enlarging the empire and bringing in the riches that followed, paranoid Emperors only allowed generals to take control of smaller armies, thus minimising the potential risk that a popular general would pose to himself and his position.
The wealth of the state was continuously bled dry buying up these new armies which the emperor could use to protect himself with, and the pretender could use to attack the emperor, and as the decades progressed, and Romans becoming increasingly tiresome of joining the army, these legions were filled more with 'Barbarians'; ie paid foreigners.
These barbarian tribes, who were increasingly infused into a Roman soicety that were paying for their services in the army, and to keep other invaders from attacking, realised that not only was the state was in an advanced state of decay, but that they themselves held the true power.
Plays for the throne ended up coming from across those borders, with emperors unable to recruit enough quality Roman armies to opose the invaders, and the Roman society ultimately perished.
This is a basic overview of my reason for the demise of Rome, though I am happy to go into further detail should anyone wish it.
Edited by kosciuszko303, 06 December 2012 - 09:47 PM.