The Role of Christianity in the Fall of Roman Empire
One of the major causes for the Fall of Roman Empire was the installment of Christianity. New religion provided people with new life ideas, which stated that future for this place of death seemed hopeless. According to that, people were no more dedicated to their nation and believed in the afterlife, which could help to overcome the desperate. However, it was not the only one cause; many other factors played also a role in the decline of the great Roman Empire.
Firstly, let briefly overview the main reasons of the Roman Empire Fall. After the death of Marcus Aurelius, in AD 180, political struggles occupied Rome. The Praetorian Guard (the emperor’s personal soldiers) chose or deposed emperors at will, and there were 60 emperors between AD 235 and 284 alone. Because of it, the Empire fell into anarchy and was beset by famine, plague and invasion. To improve the situation, Diocletian (emperor from 284) tried to make the Empire easy to govern by splitting it in two parts – East and West. It did not help to overcome troubles. However, after that, Constantine became Emperor, and it was the period of prosperity again. After his death, the empire fell into chaos again. It became split permanently into East and West. The Western Empire suffered from the invasions of barbarians. Vandals invaded Spain and North Africa. Goth and Huns such as Attila attacked from the North. In AD 410, Visigoths led by Alaric invaded Italy and sacked (burned and looted) Rome. In AD 455, Vandals sacked Rome again. In AD476, the Western empire finally collapsed (Farndon, 2003, 46).
Although it seems that Christianity did not play any role in it, the facts show otherwise. The late second century was a period of important cultural changes in the history of Roman Empire, for example, in religion. Mithraism and perhaps a little later Christianity provided new forms of belonging and a sociability that no longer depended on Patronal benevolence (Hekster, 2007, 199). Christianity introduced a new style of life, which could not exist together with old pagan one. That is why many people began to doubt the greatness and longevity of their empire. However, it was not the main reason of Roman Empire Fall. Although, at first church failed to gain official acceptance, as early as the beginning of the early fourth century the emperor Constantine began encouraging the Christianization of the Empire. As the official religion, Christianity influenced not only citizens of Roman Empire, but also its future (Dunstan, 2011, 482). The emergence of the Church gave the people chance to escape from the State. Citizens realized that Church was more powerful than State. That is why it was a perfect place for influential and educated persons. The Church was attractive for such creative people as St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, Hilarius of Poitiers, St. Jerome in the West, John Chrysostom, Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus and Basil of Caesarea in the East.( Momigliano, 1963) Church was responsible for the Roman Empire Fall because those, who could be excellent governors, generals or emperor’s advisers, dedicated their lives to Church, not to prosperity of the nation. However, the crux of the matter was also in squabbles between East and West Church as Empire was divided into two parts. It caused disorganization and together with other social and political factors leaded to the Roman Empire Fall.
To sum up, Christianity was one of the factors that caused the destruction of the Roman Empire stability. It, in combination with political and social situation, contributed to the transformation of the people life and these changes ultimately led to the fall of the Roman Empire.