Why was Rome successfully attacked on its borders by the Goths?

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mrkirschner | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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Rome once boasted the strongest military in the history of the world.  They controlled millions of square miles of land and held dominion over 10 million subjects.  The idea that bands of barbaric invaders could successfully defeat Rome was outlandish two centuries prior to the fall of Western Rome.  

The meteoric fall of this once great empire can be traced to economic, political, and military issues that weakened the empire.  The old adage that “Rome was not built in a single day” also applies to its demise.  Events that unfolded over a couple hundred years caused important Roman institutions to collapse. Economically, an over reliance on slave labor caused a large income gap that crippled the economy of Rome.  This also further damaged the economy when slave labor shortages existed.  Inflation was another economic problem that greatly harmed the people of Rome.  When the government realized there were major trade shortfalls and money was in short supply, they simply coined more and put less silver in the coins.  This lowered the value of their currency.

The lack of strong political stability was another factor in Rome’s demise.  The lack of strong leadership led to political turmoil and civil war.  Civil wars further divided the empire and its armies.  Emperors were changing seats so often, it became impossible to know what direction the empire was going. More and more emperors were military leaders, which led to corruption and graft.  A general distrust existed towards leaders of Rome.  

The military of Rome was also in disarray during the border invasions. Soldiers were no longer loyal to the state, but had more allegiance to their generals. Generals used this for their own political benefit and not for the good of the state.  In the twilight years of western Rome’s military, a large percentage of soldiers were mercenaries that had absolutely no ties to Rome.  

All of these factors when taken together, led to a Rome that was vulnerable to attack from outsiders, such as the Goths.

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