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Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, Reaction Paper Example

Pages: 7

Words: 1882

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Introduction

One of the most significant books of history ever written is Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon’s goal is to explain Rome’s decline and demise. He accomplishes so by considering a variety of variables such as barbarian invasions, economic challenges, and the advent of Christianity. Gibbon’s work is significant because of its historical insights and how it represents the ideas of the enlightenment. First, Gibbon was an Enlightenment figure, and his work represents the concept that development is attainable and that reason may help you get there. Second, 18th-century attitudes, notably the belief in progress, influenced Gibbon’s writing. This is clear in his account of Rome’s decline, which he attributed to several circumstances, including barbarian invasions and economic issues. For example, Livy perceived Rome’s collapse due to moral flaws and felt it was unavoidable.

On the other hand, Gibbon attributed Rome’s collapse to several circumstances, including barbarian invasions and economic issues. However, he argued that these issues might have been avoided if Rome had preserved its moral character. Many ancient historians considered history cyclical, in contrast to this belief in progress. Finally, Roman historians affected Gibbon’s thinking, notably Livy, who regarded Rome’s collapse due to moral flaw. On the other hand, Gibbon differed with Livy in his theory of causality, believing that Rome’s collapse was caused by more than only moral degradation.

According to these extracts from Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, what were the principal causes of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire? “

Details from Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, as obtained from the extracts, show that the Roman Empire collapsed because of wide-ranging reasons, including the weakening of the military, which allowed the invasion of legions of barbarians that overran Rome’s defenses. Further, the extracts reveal that Rome was weakened by the corruption of the leaders who had lost the discipline of the previous Roman leaders and chose to appropriate power for their benefits.[1] The leaders also became unpopular among the subjects because they had turned oppressive and deprived the people of the freedoms and liberty they had previously enjoyed. Also mentioned in the extracts was the role of Christianity in the weakening of Rome’s military spirit. The extracts reveal that the Christian messages that had encouraged tolerance, patience, and other virtues affected the military to the extent that they became highly vulnerable to outside attackers.

Having noted the weaknesses in the Roman military order, legions of barbarians and mercenaries began launching sustained attacks against the empire, which gradually weakened the already dispirited soldiers.[2] The extracts further reveal the leadership became interested in luxury instead of merit and exposed itself to the ridicule of the subjects. Rome had also become too large that it needed more soldiers to protect itself. The decline of resources also culminated in a general disorder across the empire because there were insufficient resources to motivate the soldiers. There was also the problem of indiscipline, which manifested in how the leaders and soldiers behaved before the public. Greed overtook the glories of the past for material possessions. The leadership with little regard for the people’s welfare. The embittered populations were generally disinterested in the affairs of the empire. This also translated into the internal disorganization of Rome and exposed it to the legions of the barbarians.

The extracts also mention the role of betrayals and internal divisions as other principal factors that contributed to the empire’s decline. Groups, which were traditional enemies, began fighting against each other, leading to divisions in various parts of the empire. The natural consequence of divisions is that they usually work against the interests of a state or an Empire. This position reflects how the empire failed to unite the warring factions that did not see the merits of staying together as a people belonging to the same empire. Rome had lost its glory among its subjects, and each group desired to secede and identify itself with its traditional identity. The betrayal of Rome to its enemies was also a strong factor that occasioned the empire’s disintegration. Such betrayals to the enemies increased the empire’s susceptibility to attacks by the barbarian legions and other traditional foes.

How does Gibbon measure “decline and fall,” and what does this tell us about his construction of this historical paradigm or model?”

Gibbon measures decline and fall in terms of the inability of political unity to hold itself together. Gibbon believes in an empire that can defend itself against its enemies with a strong army and disciplined leadership. In Gibbon’s view, the character of leaders and the strength of the armies constitute an important element of strength. The loss of these two qualities leads to the decline of an Empire. For example, he mentions the vices of corruption and brutality against the people as some of the characteristics of the decline of the Roman Empire. He juxtaposes the previous glories of the empire characterized by virtuous and desirable leadership to the weak and corrupt leaders. They emerged in the last phases of the empire as a sign of decline. Gibbon thinks of a fall as the final decline stage where an Empire becomes completely ungovernable and vulnerable to external aggression. At this point, the structures of the empire and the leadership have become dysfunctional. Internal divisions and rebellion of the subjects also characterize the fall.

Gibbon describes decline as the period that followed the splendor of Rome’s Eastern Empire under the leadership of Justinian (527-565 CE), whose series of victories has restored part of Rome’s former glory.[3] The decline of Rome was aggravated by a series of attacks such as those staged by the Lombards against Italy. More conquests by outsiders were from the Arabs, who conquered the Asiatic and African provinces. Such attacks further weakened the empire and accelerated its decline and eventual fall. The rebellions that characterized the decline of the empire were witnessed in Constantinople. Gibbon’s perspective concerning decline and collapse shows that he played an outsized role in constructing the paradigm and model. He originated various perspectives on the element of decline and fall to the extent that he established a tradition that modern historians use to study the rise and fall of empires. Based on this view, he might be described as a progenitor or foremost exponent of the model.

How was Gibbon’s thesis on Rome’s decline and fall shaped by Enlightenment philosophy and other 18th-century attitudes and influenced by Roman historians and their explanations of causation and change?

According to Edward Gibbon’s thesis, Christianity and Germanic culture led to the fall of the Roman Empire. His argument did not consider constructive outcomes that Christian and Germanic cultures created and seemed focused on the transformation perspective. Although some new political realities merged many of the traditions of the Roman Empire with the emerging and powerful religion, Christianity, some did not reinforce unity, leading to the increased impact of the Germanic culture in the transformation process. Gibson offers two reasons for the fall of the empire. First is Christianity, as it limited most political, social, and economic processes at the time. The Christianity ideologies corrupted the existing political structures hence their eventual collapse. Most Christians also failed to engage in the social and economic welfare of the empire. Second, are the exterior problems related to Germanic tribes. The migrating Germanic tribes attacked the empire and hampered its internal processes. With the Germanic tribes already in Roman Territory, internal structures collapsed.

Enlightenment philosophy brought new ideas of liberty, progress, and constitutional government and separated the church and the state. In the Roman Empire case, Gibbon provides that the advent of Christianity brought new ideas about involvement in government affairs.[4]. First, Christians were reluctant to engage in civil affairs, causing divisions between them and the pagan Roman. Also related is the idea of immortality, whereby Christians believed in actions for a better afterlife and hence did not want to participate in worldly affairs. These enlightenment ideas affected the Roman Empire. Gibbon has an enlightenment age perspective and did not believe in miracles as Christians did. It corrupted the church. 18th century attr9itudes such as the early Christian virtues are significant causes of the empire’s fall. For instance, Christianity was against the principle of love of pleasure but fostered a love of action. The failure to harmonize the two attitudes led to the refusal to engage in governance and society issues.

Also, a concern for Gibson is the increased influence of Christianity, whereby the society began to elect bishops into political positions. As a way to transform the society, it, unfortunately, led to the falling of the Roman state since the new religious leaders were fallible and corruptible.[5].

Causal agents put pressure on existing systems for change by acting. In the case of the Roman Empire, the erosion of traditional Roman values and the introduction of Christianity shifted attention from the glory of the state to the sole deity. Therefore, Gibson’s thesis is highly influenced by enlightenment and new virtues in the 18th century with the spread of Christianity. New enlightenment ideas (reduced civic virtues) that come with it are perceived to pressure governance structures for change.

Conclusion

Edward Gibson’s memories reveal some of the information that people miss when discussing leadership. The Roman Empire is one of the examples of ideal administrative units that are taught in history. However, there are few lessons that leaders derive from such an empire. Considerably, at the moment, there are instances where leaders are getting involved in corruption when Gibson indicates that one of the primary factors that might have resulted in the fall of the Roman Empire is infective leadership. The information in the text demonstrates a misconception that people have about leadership. There are those leaders who feel that leadership is about power when it is about service delivery. With the immense power that the Roman Empire had, few people would try to think about its collapse. However, what Gibson showcases is that there are those times when people feel that the leadership does not coincide with their needs. In this case, the issue that Gibson highlights to students of history is that primarily with leadership, it is about the impact that a regime has on the people and, in this case, positively. Gibson, in his memories, reveals that it is a lesson that people should learn regarding the ways they are supposed to treat the public, which may be lesser influential but had the power to make the Roman Empire collapse.

Further, in his memories, Gibson reveals that the empire of Rome collapsed because of the weakness of the army. The information is vital because it highlights some of the issues regarding how leaders treat civil servants. When people are in leadershi8p, they tend to ignore the plight of some of the persons that serve society. There is that level of respect that public servants require, which Gibson exposed regarding the collapse of the Roman Empire.

Bibliography

Edward Gibbon, Memoires of my Life and Writings (published posthumously in 1796) p. 134, n. 4.)

[1] Edward Gibbon, Memoires of my Life and Writings (published posthumously in 1796) p. 134, n. 4.)

[2] Edward Gibbon, Memoires of my Life and Writings (published posthumously in 1796) p. 134, n. 4.)

[3] Edward Gibbon, Memoires of my Life and Writings (published posthumously in 1796) p. 134, n. 4.)

[4] Edward Gibbon, Memoires of my Life and Writings (published posthumously in 1796) p. 134, n. 4.)

[5] Ibid

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