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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 Roman emperor Romulus Augustulus, and brought the Roman Empire to an end. But why was the 500-year old Roman Empire toppled so easily? In the eighteenth century, with the publication of his The History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon popularized the view that the rise of Christianity had weakened the pagan principles of the Roman Empire. 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.

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