The Collapse of the Roman and Han Empires


Dylon Eladel

Dylon Eladel

Dylon wrote this essay for AP World History with Mr. Holderfield

The Roman and Han empires were very similar in their civilizations yet more similar in their downfalls. The falls of both empires were direct results of ongoing social, political, and economic problems within the empires. These downfalls resulted in great changes that impacted the world.

Economic problems were the first commonality in both empires’ collapse. The Roman Empire was in severe debt from so many wars fought to defend its borders from invaders that it was crippled by inflation. Some emperors debased the currency to feed the money demand. By the time that Emperor Commodus was assassinated there was close to no money left in the empire. Additionally, the over-reliance on slave labor was to no help to the economy in this fragile time. Meanwhile, the Han empire’s economy was hurt from previous laws and heavy taxes placed on the peasant population so when the first emperors of the Han empire came to power, they tried to impose tax reforms to limit the power of merchants and landowners. The insufficient amount of tax funds coming from the population meant that the empire could not fund the armies and courts to defend the empire from invaders.

There were also political reasons for why the empires’ fall, particularly constant unrest due invasions and wars. The Roman Empire was the target of invasions by the Germanic barbarians, invasions which lasted the duration of the empire and weakened it to the point of collapse. Repeated raids and attacks from the Germanic tribes such the Goths were devastating to the Romans, the tribes pushing beyond the borders of the empire and eventually raiding Rome. The Romans could not defend their land since their empire expanded, and they could not defend all the borders. The mass migration of the Germanic tribes from the Hun invasions caused a political problem and created an enemy within the borders of the empire. This dissent from within has been deemed the greatest cause for the Roman Empire’s fall, and it hindered the empire’s ability to function. The Han Empire suffered from similar political problems and constant war damaged the empire to the point of collapse. The ongoing war with the Xiongnu in the western regions of China came at great cost to the empire of the Han. Though they did win the Sino-Xiongnu of 133 C.E to 89 C.E., the victory came with the fall of the Han as well. The defeat of the Xiongnu only created new warlords and a new ethnic group called the Huns who would eventually bring down the Han.

The social aspects of the two empires were both leading factors to why they fell. For the Roman Empire, the spread of the new faith called Christianity was much to blame for the empire’s collapse as it detracted from the traditional polytheistic Roman values and replaced them with a monotheistic one. Ultimately, it took the divine power of the emperor and disregarded it. Religious figures slowly started to play bigger roles in the political affairs of the empire which made government roles even more confusing and fused. The Han had similar problems, but they were not sprouted from religious reasons but rather internal conflicts with ethnic groups. The migration of the Xiongnu people to the west is the reason for much ethnic disagreements, which created many problems.

In conclusion, the Han and the Roman empires were closely aligned in their downfalls, and similar reasons took a toll on the empires to the point of collapse. Social, political, and economic factors all had devastating impacts on the empires, which produced decaying societies, changing the world’s distribution of power and creating new empires in the dust.