The Fall Of Rome. A Lesson Of History

Reading Time: 15 minutes

There is a lot to be said about history. In this piece, I’d like to discuss the fall of empires. This could be construed as any land mass from the size of a small city, a large city like Los Angeles or an entire country like the United States. The Roman empire encompassed a large land mass stretching from Europe to Northern Africa as shown in the map below.

The Roman empire encompassed 1.6 million square miles of area, roughly about half the size of the United States’ 3.7 million square miles. If you look at an overlay of the Roman empire compared to the United States, It would look like it was just about as big, but you have to take into consideration the area of the Mediterranean Sea.

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So where am I going with all of this?

If we look at history as a guild to the way we should live in future generations, History could be considered a bible of what to and what not to do. As a matter of fact, the bible does hold a ton of history and does tell us how we should and should not be living.

As I look around me on a daily basis, I see the fall of Rome. I see it here in the United States, I see it in Europe and I see it in Asia.

The wrangling of political powers, international relations, mysterious diseases that appear overnight and turn into world-wide pandemics, I see famine that it still prevalent, while the leaders of those countries sit in luxury, eating till their stomachs explode, all the while, they ignore the lessons of history.

The shear arrogance is not only incomprehensible, but it is beyond baffling. As to think that it could never happen to them, is much like a career criminal believing that they could never be caught or die in the line of committing a crime.

If we are to compare our current world political stage with the demise of the Roman Empire, it does not take long to see the similarities and the future history to be written at some time in the future.

With all of this in mind, here are the eight main reasons that the Roman Empire collapsed. While reading these reasons, it not hard to compare them to the troubles that we as a human race face today.

1) Invasions by Barbarian tribes

The most straightforward theory for Western Rome’s collapse pins the fall on a string of military losses sustained against outside forces. Rome had tangled with Germanic tribes for centuries, but by the 300s “barbarian” groups like the Goths had encroached beyond the Empire’s borders. The Romans weathered a Germanic uprising in the late fourth century, but in 410 the Visigoth King Alaric successfully sacked the city of Rome. The Empire spent the next several decades under constant threat before “the Eternal City” was raided again in 455, this time by the Vandals. Finally, in 476, the Germanic leader Odoacer staged a revolt and deposed the Emperor Romulus Augustulus. From then on, no Roman emperor would ever again rule from a post in Italy, leading many to cite 476 as the year the Western Empire suffered its deathblow.

2) Economic troubles and over-reliance on slave labor

Even as Rome was under attack from outside forces, it was also crumbling from within thanks to a severe financial crisis. Constant wars and overspending had significantly lightened imperial coffers, and oppressive taxation and inflation had widened the gap between rich and poor. In the hope of avoiding the taxman, many members of the wealthy classes had even fled to the countryside and set up independent fiefdoms. At the same time, the empire was rocked by a labor deficit. Rome’s economy depended on slaves to till its fields and work as craftsmen, and its military might had traditionally provided a fresh influx of conquered peoples to put to work. But when expansion ground to a halt in the second century, Rome’s supply of slaves and other war treasures began to dry up. A further blow came in the fifth century, when the Vandals claimed North Africa and began disrupting the empire’s trade by prowling the Mediterranean as pirates. With its economy faltering and its commercial and agricultural production in decline, the Empire began to lose its grip on Europe.

3) The rise of the Eastern Empire

The fate of Western Rome was partially sealed in the late third century, when the Emperor Diocletian divided the Empire into two halves—the Western Empire seated in the city of Milan, and the Eastern Empire in Byzantium, later known as Constantinople. The division made the empire more easily governable in the short term, but over time the two halves drifted apart. East and West failed to adequately work together to combat outside threats, and the two often squabbled over resources and military aid. As the gulf widened, the largely Greek-speaking Eastern Empire grew in wealth while the Latin-speaking West descended into economic crisis. Most importantly, the strength of the Eastern Empire served to divert Barbarian invasions to the West. Emperors like Constantine ensured that the city of Constantinople was fortified and well guarded, but Italy and the city of Rome—which only had symbolic value for many in the East—were left vulnerable. The Western political structure would finally disintegrate in the fifth century, but the Eastern Empire endured in some form for another thousand years before being overwhelmed by the Ottoman Empire in the 1400s.

4) Over expansion and military overspending

At its height, the Roman Empire stretched from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Euphrates River in the Middle East, but its grandeur may have also been its downfall. With such a vast territory to govern, the empire faced an administrative and logistical nightmare. Even with their excellent road systems, the Romans were unable to communicate quickly or effectively enough to manage their holdings. Rome struggled to marshal enough troops and resources to defend its frontiers from local rebellions and outside attacks, and by the second century the Emperor Hadrian was forced to build his famous wall in Britain just to keep the enemy at bay. As more and more funds were funneled into the military upkeep of the empire, technological advancement slowed and Rome’s civil infrastructure fell into disrepair.

5) Government corruption and political instability

If Rome’s sheer size made it difficult to govern, ineffective and inconsistent leadership only served to magnify the problem. Being the Roman emperor had always been a particularly dangerous job, but during the tumultuous second and third centuries it nearly became a death sentence. Civil war thrust the empire into chaos, and more than 20 men took the throne in the span of only 75 years, usually after the murder of their predecessor. The Praetorian Guard—the emperor’s personal bodyguards—assassinated and installed new sovereigns at will, and once even auctioned the spot off to the highest bidder. The political rot also extended to the Roman Senate, which failed to temper the excesses of the emperors due to its own widespread corruption and incompetence. As the situation worsened, civic pride waned and many Roman citizens lost trust in their leadership.

6) The arrival of the Huns and the migration of the Barbarian tribes

The Barbarian attacks on Rome partially stemmed from a mass migration caused by the Huns’ invasion of Europe in the late fourth century. When these Eurasian warriors rampaged through northern Europe, they drove many Germanic tribes to the borders of the Roman Empire. The Romans grudgingly allowed members of the Visigoth tribe to cross south of the Danube and into the safety of Roman territory, but they treated them with extreme cruelty. According to the historian Ammianus Marcellinus, Roman officials even forced the starving Goths to trade their children into slavery in exchange for dog meat. In brutalizing the Goths, the Romans created a dangerous enemy within their own borders. When the oppression became too much to bear, the Goths rose up in revolt and eventually routed a Roman army and killed the Eastern Emperor Valens during the Battle of Adrianople in A.D. 378. The shocked Romans negotiated a flimsy peace with the barbarians, but the truce unraveled in 410, when the Goth King Alaric moved west and sacked Rome. With the Western Empire weakened, Germanic tribes like the Vandals and the Saxons were able to surge across its borders and occupy Britain, Spain and North Africa.

7) Christianity and the loss of traditional values

The decline of Rome dovetailed with the spread of Christianity, and some have argued that the rise of a new faith helped contribute to the empire’s fall. The Edict of Milan legalized Christianity in 313, and it later became the state religion in 380. These decrees ended centuries of persecution, but they may have also eroded the traditional Roman values system. Christianity displaced the polytheistic Roman religion, which viewed the emperor as having a divine status, and also shifted focus away from the glory of the state and onto a sole deity. Meanwhile, popes and other church leaders took an increased role in political affairs, further complicating governance. The 18th-century historian Edward Gibbon was the most famous proponent of this theory, but his take has since been widely criticized. While the spread of Christianity may have played a small role in curbing Roman civic virtue, most scholars now argue that its influence paled in comparison to military, economic and administrative factors.

8) Weakening of the Roman legions

For most of its history, Rome’s military was the envy of the ancient world. But during the decline, the makeup of the once mighty legions began to change. Unable to recruit enough soldiers from the Roman citizenry, emperors like Diocletian and Constantine began hiring foreign mercenaries to prop up their armies. The ranks of the legions eventually swelled with Germanic Goths and other barbarians, so much so that Romans began using the Latin word “barbarus” in place of “soldier.” While these Germanic soldiers of fortune proved to be fierce warriors, they also had little or no loyalty to the empire, and their power-hungry officers often turned against their Roman employers. In fact, many of the barbarians who sacked the city of Rome and brought down the Western Empire had earned their military stripes while serving in the Roman legions.

I Only Regret That I Have But One Life To Lose For My Country

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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These words were spoken by Revolutionary War Hero and Patriot Nathan Hale on September 22, 1776. The day the British executed him by hanging for daring to fight tyranny. A fight that he took on in the hopes and dreams of establishing freedom. Freedom for his family. Freedom for his fellow colonists and freedom for all those who would come after him, here in the new land. Nathan’s fellow Patriots won that war. Though he and many others gave their lives doing it. They won the right to freedom, and they went on to establish the greatest country to ever grace the earth.

Yes, this country of ours, it has had it’s ugly moments. Has there ever been a country that has not had it’s ugly moments? For that matter, has there ever been a human being other than Jesus Christ who has not had their ugly moments? Jesus was given to us by God for the very reason that humans do have ugly moments and the only way God could reconcile with our sin was to give his only son for those sins. So now that we have established that no one, and no country is perfect, let’s focus on the fact that ours is the best.

Ours, provides the most opportunity of all of the others on Earth to allow us to live in a free manner. Free to love and pursue happiness. Free to raise children and teach them the values we learned as we grew up and teach them the things that are important to us. Freedom to acquire property and businesses that provide an income and safe haven for those we are responsible for. And perhaps most importantly, the freedom to worship as we so choose. The ability to stand up and say “Thank you Lord for all you have done for us, and for all of this freedom you have Blessed us with.”

But we have come to a point in time where things are looking bleak, many of us believe we are coming quickly to the end of times described in the Bible. I certainly feel that is true. But when faced with an enemy who wishes to do us and our way of life harm, we do not simply lay down to be slaughtered. We rise up and do battle with them. And we do so always while asking God to guide us and make his will known to us. With God on our side, we cannot lose. For even those slain in battle, if they are righteous and true, shall rise up again and join their brethren in eternal life when the day comes. In the mean time, while we all joyfully wait for that day to arrive, we will continue to enjoy our way of life, and the freedoms that come with it. And as many times as it proves necessary, Patriots shall fight….and often give their lives in the process, to protect and perpetuate those freedoms. Yes, I too regret that I have but one life to give for God and my country. For I would gladly give my life as many times as I could, to protect the land and the people that I love. When I am gone, please do not mourn my loss. Rather, just remember why I am gone and use that for inspiration for the same strength and the same passion for each of you to do the same. Fight on and we will continue to win liberty, again and again.

US/Mexico History

Reading Time: 17 minutes

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Mexico obtained independence from Spain and the Spanish Empire with the Treaty of Córdoba in 1821. It briefly experimented with monarchy, but became a republic in 1824. This government was characterized by instability, leaving it ill-prepared for international conflict when war broke out only two decades later, in 1846.

In the decades preceding the war, Native American raids in Mexico’s sparsely settled north prompted the Mexican government to sponsor migration from the United States to the Mexican province of Texas to create a buffer. However, the newly named “Texans” revolted against the Mexican government of President/dictator Antonio López de Santa Anna, who had usurped the Mexican Constitution of 1824, in the subsequent 1836 Texas Revolution, creating a republic not recognized by Mexico, which still claimed it as part of its national territory.

In 1845, the Texan Republic agreed to an offer of annexation by the U.S. Congress and became the 28th state in the Union on December 29 that year.

Mexico’s military and diplomatic capabilities declined after it attained independence from Spain in 1821 and left the northern one-half of the country vulnerable to the Comanche, Apache, and Navajo native Americans. The Comanche, in particular, took advantage of the Mexican state to undertake large-scale raids hundreds of miles into the country to acquire livestock for their own use and to supply an expanding market in Texas and the U.S.

The northern area of Mexico was sparsely settled and not well controlled politically by the government based in Mexico City. After independence, Mexico contended with internal struggles that sometimes verged on civil war and the northern frontier was not a high priority. In northern Mexico, the end of Spanish rule was marked by the end of financing for presidios and for gifts to Native Americans to maintain the peace. The Comanche and Apache were successful in raiding for livestock and looting much of northern Mexico outside the scattered cities. Northern Mexico was a violent and chaotic area due to the Indian raids. The raids after 1821 resulted in the death of thousands of Mexicans, halted most transportation and communications, and decimated the ranching industry that was a mainstay of the northern economy. As a result, the demoralized civilian population of northern Mexico put up little resistance to the invading U.S. army.

Distance and hostile activity from Native Americans also made communications and trade between the heartland of Mexico and provinces such as Alta California and New Mexico difficult. As a result, New Mexico was dependent on the overland Santa Fe Trail trade with the United States at the outbreak of the Mexican–American War.

The Mexican government’s policy of settlement of US citizens in its province of Tejas was aimed at expanding control into Comanche lands, the Comancheria. Instead of settlement occurring in the central and west of the province, people settled in East Texas, where there was rich farmland and which was contiguous to southern US slave states. As settlers poured in from the US, the Mexican government discouraged further settlement, with its 1829 abolition of slavery.

In 1836, Mexico was relatively united in refusing to recognize the independence of Texas. Mexico threatened war with the United States if it annexed the Republic of Texas. Meanwhile, U.S. President Polk’s assertion of Manifest Destiny was focusing United States interest on westward expansion beyond its existing national borders.

Mexican-American War, also called Mexican War, Spanish Guerra de 1847 or Guerra de Estados Unidos a Mexico (“War of the United States Against Mexico”), war between the United States and Mexico (April 1846–February 1848) stemming from the United States’ annexation of Texas in 1845 and from a dispute over whether Texas ended at the Nueces River (Mexican claim) or the Rio Grande (U.S. claim). The war—in which U.S. forces were consistently victorious—resulted in the United States’ acquisition of more than 500,000 square miles (1,300,000 square km) of Mexican territory extending westward from the Rio Grande to the Pacific Ocean.

Mexico severed relations with the United States in March 1845, shortly after the U.S. annexation of Texas. In September U.S. Pres. James K. Polk sent John Slidell on a secret mission to Mexico City to negotiate the disputed Texas border, settle U.S. claims against Mexico, and purchase New Mexico and California for up to $30 million. Mexican Pres. José Joaquín Herrera, aware in advance of Slidell’s intention of dismembering the country, refused to receive him. When Polk learned of the snub, he ordered troops under Gen. Zachary Taylor to occupy the disputed area between the Nueces and the Rio Grande (January 1846).

On May 9, 1846, Polk began to prepare a war message to Congress, justifying hostilities on the grounds of Mexican refusal to pay U.S. claims and refusal to negotiate with Slidell. That evening he received word that Mexican troops had crossed the Rio Grande on April 25 and attacked Taylor’s troops, killing or injuring 16 of them. In his quickly revised war message—delivered to Congress on May 11—Polk claimed that Mexico had “invaded our territory and shed American blood on American soil.”

Congress overwhelmingly approved a declaration of war on May 13, but the United States entered the war divided. Democrats, especially those in the Southwest, strongly favored the conflict. Most Whigs viewed Polk’s motives as conscienceless land grabbing. Indeed, from the outset, Whigs in both the Senate and the House challenged the veracity of Polk’s assertion that the initial conflict between U.S. and Mexican forces had taken place in U.S. territory. Further, legislators were at odds over whether Polk had the right to unilaterally declare that a state of war existed. Principally at issue was where the encounter had actually taken place and the willingness of Americans to acknowledge the Mexican contention that the Nueces River formed the border between the two countries. Active Whig opposition not only to the legitimacy of Polk’s claim but also to the war itself continued well into the conflict. In December 1846 Polk accused his Whig doubters of treason. In January 1847 the by-then Whig-controlled House voted 85 to 81 to censure Polk for having “unnecessarily and unconstitutionally” initiated war with Mexico.

Among the most-aggressive challenges to the legitimacy of Polk’s casus belli was that offered by future president Abraham Lincoln, then a first-term member of the House of Representatives from Illinois. In December 1847 Lincoln introduced eight “Spot Resolutions,” which placed the analysis of Polk’s claim in a carefully delineated historical context that sought to obtain a full knowledge of all the facts which go to establish whether the particular spot of soil on which the blood of our citizens was so shed was, or was not, our own soil at that time.

Ultimately, the House did not act on Lincoln’s resolutions, and Polk remained steadfast in his claim that the conflict was a just war.

Abolitionists saw the war as an attempt by the slave states to extend slavery and enhance their power with the creation of additional slave states out of the soon-to-be-acquired Mexican lands. One abolitionist who agreed with that interpretation was author Henry David Thoreau, who was incarcerated in July 1846 when he refused to pay six years worth of back poll taxes because he felt the U.S. government’s prosecution of the war with Mexico was immoral. Although he spent only a single night in jail (his aunt, against his wishes, paid the taxes, thus securing his release), Thoreau documented his opposition to the government’s actions in his famous book-length essay Civil Disobedience (1849), insisting that if an injustice of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.

When war broke out, former Mexican president and general Antonio López de Santa Anna (the vanquisher of the Texan forces at the Alamo in 1836) contacted Polk. The U.S. president arranged for a ship to take Santa Anna from his exile in Cuba to Mexico for the purpose of working for peace. Instead of acting for peace, however, on his return, Santa Anna took charge of the Mexican forces.

Following its original plan for the war, the United States sent its army from the Rio Grande, under Taylor, to invade the heart of Mexico while a second force, under Col. Stephen Kearny, was to occupy New Mexico and California. Kearny’s campaign into New Mexico and California encountered little resistance, and the residents of both provinces appeared to accept U.S. occupation with a minimum of resentment. Meanwhile, Taylor’s army fought several battles south of the Rio Grande, captured the important city of Monterrey, and defeated a major Mexican force at the Battle of Buena Vista in February 1847. But Taylor showed no enthusiasm for a major invasion of Mexico, and on several occasions he failed to pursue the Mexicans vigorously after defeating them. In disgust, Polk revised his war strategy. He ordered Gen. Winfield Scott to take an army by sea to Veracruz, capture that key seaport, and march inland to Mexico City. Scott took Veracruz in March after a siege of three weeks and began the march to Mexico City. Despite some Mexican resistance, Scott’s campaign was marked by an unbroken series of victories, and he entered Mexico City on September 14, 1847. The fall of the Mexican capital ended the military phase of the conflict.

Ultimately, infection and disease took many more U.S. casualties than combat did. At least 10,000 troops died of illness, whereas some 1,500 were killed in action or died of battle wounds (estimates of the war’s casualties vary). Poor sanitation contributed to the spread of illness, with volunteers—who were less disciplined in their sanitary practices than regular troops were—dying in greater numbers than the regulars. Yellow fever was particularly virulent, but other diseases—such as measles, mumps, and smallpox—took their toll too, especially on troops from rural environments whose immunities were less developed than those of their urban compatriots.

Polk had assigned Nicholas Trist, chief clerk in the State Department, to accompany Scott’s forces and to negotiate a peace treaty. But after a long delay in the formation of a new Mexican government capable of negotiations, Polk grew impatient and recalled Trist. Trist, however, disobeyed his instructions and on February 2, 1848, signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. According to the treaty, which was subsequently ratified by both national congresses, Mexico ceded to the United States nearly all the territory now included in the states of New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California, Texas, and western Colorado for $15 million and U.S. assumption of its citizens claims against Mexico.

Zachary Taylor emerged as a national hero and succeeded Polk as president in 1849. The war reopened the slavery-extension issue, which had been largely dormant since the Missouri Compromise. On August 8, 1846, Rep. David Wilmot of Pennsylvania attempted to add an amendment to a treaty appropriations bill. The Wilmot Proviso—banning slavery from any territory acquired from Mexico—was never passed, but it led to acrimonious debate and contributed greatly to the rising sectional antagonism. The status of slavery in the newly acquired lands was eventually settled by the Compromise of 1850, but only after the nation had come perilously close to civil war. When the Civil War came in 1861, many of the most-noteworthy generals on both sides had profited from their battle experience in the Mexican-American War, including Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee, Thomas (“Stonewall”) Jackson, James Longstreet, George Pickett, Albert Sidney Johnston, Lewis Armistead, and P.G.T. Beauregard, as well as Union Generals Ulysses S. Grant (who later called the Mexican War “one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation”), George Gordon Meade, George H. Thomas, and Joseph Hooker.

In Mexico the war discredited the conservatives but left a stunned and despondent country. It also reinforced the worst stereotypes each country held about the other. Normalization of relations after the war proceeded slowly.