The Roman republic was very successful for a long time, but eventually the republic ended, and the empire began. For a while, the empire enjoyed peace and prosperity. But eventually people became more focused on the free stuff the emperors gave them and the economy and culture both began to decline. Finally, it collapsed in A.D. 476. The modern world has much to learn from how Rome fell.
The Fall of the Republic
Conflict among the city’s elite leaders was made worse by the wealth gap because the poor and unemployed supported whoever offered them more free stuff. Because of this, whoever made the best promises for free stuff often ended up in power, and Rome suffered from poor leadership. In 27 B.C., the Senate granted power and the title emperor to Augustus.
Bread and Circuses
But over time, the peace and wealth led to a corrupt welfare state. To appease the people, the emperors handed out free bread to the Roman citizens and built the colosseum for entertainment. When people became focused on entertainment and luxury, the Roman birth rates fell. Rome was unable to maintain its power, and the long peace was interrupted by centuries of civil war and unrest. Rome finally collapsed in A.D. 476.
Christianity injected new energy and people into the Mediterranean civilization, but it was too late to save Rome.
However, the eastern part of the Roman Empire survived the collapse. Historians today call it the Byzantine Empire. This Christian civilization had the city of Constantinople as its capital. The Empire prospered and sustained itself for another 1,000 years until its fall in 1453 to the Ottoman Empire.