Previously, the fall of the Roman Empire has been famously attributed to Christianity (largely, but not completely). Edward Gibbon claims that there was a flow of money away from the state which is responsible for the fall of the empire. Gibbon is correct in his assumption, but he is incorrect in this reasoning. He claims that money flowed to churches and monasteries and away from the strong Roman military (military accounted for ¾’s of Rome’s tax budget, there were no burdens such as a school system to take away from military spending which enabled Rome to have a large standing army). I will prove that Gibbon is wrong, and the fall of Rome is based upon funneling money away from the military by other means. Barbarian invasions (Goths under Radagaisus) hit Rome hard in 404/5 AD, and in response the Roman emperor of the west, Honorius, lowered taxes to assist in the recovery of the empire.

After Honorius’s failure to protect Rome, the Roman army proclaimed several of its own generals to be emperor; Marcus (406/7 in Britain), Gratian (406 in Britain) and Constantine III (407-11 in Spain). Rome assumed at state of civil war and Constantine III further complicated the situation. He was named co-emperor in 409 AD, greatly reducing the strength of the autocracy. The eastern empire had been hard pressed at Hadrianopolis, but had been able to maintain its military strength. In the west, the military had to be greatly reduced due to the drop off in tax money, as a result of Honorius tax reductions as well as the civil strife of the empire. Coupled with the reduced military and the weakness of Honorius, the Romans were no longer able to keep the barbarians out of the provinces.

The true fall of Rome occurred in 410 AD at the hands of the Visigoths, under their king, Alaric. The city of Rome was sacked and the empire would never recover. The dying empire of the west would once again be left with one emperor, as Constantine the III abdicated and was later executed in 411 AD. Honorius would lead to a series of emperors that held power in name only, which would eventually end with Romulus Augustulus in 476 AD. The fifth century would be the last of the Western Roman Empire.