Sunday, July 26, 2020

On Gibbon’s Theory of the Roman Empire’s Fall

On 4 September AD 476, the barbarian king Odoacer deposed and replaced the last emperor Romulus Augustulus, and brought the Roman Empire to an end. But why was the 500-year old Roman Empire toppled so easily? With his The History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, published in the eighteenth century, Edward Gibbon popularized the view that the rise of Christianity had weakened the pagan principles of the Roman Empire; he sneers at Christian culture, and is full of praise for paganism and the religion of Islam. The Enlightenment philosophes were influenced by Gibbon’s thesis that Christianity was a factor in the Roman Empire’s fall; they used this thesis to drive their atheistic movements. But Gibbon’s thesis does not explain why the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) thrived for another 1000 years when it was the real center of Christianity—the people in Byzantine Empire called themselves Romans till the fifteenth century. Moreover, the history of last fifteen hundred years shows that the Christians too are competent fighters and rulers.

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