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Why did the Western Roman Empire Collapse?
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Constant Civil Wars

The Roman Empire during the 2nd and 3rd century was increasingly run by military men who undermined the integrity of the state. Multiple military candidates led to constant civil war and economic problems. This model sees a slow decline in stability starting with the Severan dynasty.

The Argument

When popular military generals began to compete for the imperial office, the Roman state started to unravel. Men who were popular with the army could easily declare themselves emperor, and they did very frequently. During the 3rd-century Rome had more than 20 emperors in 50 years, and many more usurpers.[1] From Septimius Severus onwards the Imperial throne was the subject to multiple claimants. Rome never recovered from this period of crisis, and all subsequent emperors became preoccupied with staying alive. The endless chaos of small civil wars made Rome a persistently unstable place. Neither its economy nor its civic life could recover from the damage. Senators no longer mattered, and the city of Rome itself fell out of favor with subsequent emperors who spent time in more strategic locations.[2] Materially, archaeology shows that Rome never recovered from the 3rd-century crisis. Endless Civil war weakened Rome irreparably. The Roman way of life was forever changed and the emperorship became an unstable and dangerous office to hold.

Counter arguments

The idea that Rome went into terminal decline during the 3rd century from which it never recovered is highly disputed. The 4th century saw the beginning of an economic recovery, the restoration of a new Christian monarchy, and the birth of a new aristocracy.[3] Although frequent usurpations and challenges to the throne continued, powerful monarchs such as Diocletian, Constantine, and Theodosius had long and stable reigns. The fall of Rome was not inevitable, the 5th century was a time of the unprecedented disaster, with invasions on an enormous scale. Structural problems were not the cause of the collapse. As the Eastern Empire shows, the West could have survived for a long time afterward under different circumstances.[4]



[P1] The office of the emperorship was threatened from the late 2nd century onwards [P2] Persistent civil wars led to political and economic instability [C] Civil wars contributed to the fall of Rome

Rejecting the premises


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