The Failure and Grandeur of Roman Civilization

The Highs and the Lows of Roman Empire Civilization

The greatness and squalor of Roman civilization: how the Empire was built on violence, degeneracy and corruption.

Most books on the Roman Empire and on Roman civilization tend to focus on its glorious history and achievements: its conquests, its engineering marvels, and its enduring legacy and contribution to the rise of civilization. However, there was a seedier, less glamorous side to Rome: its gladiatorial games, the depravity of many of its leaders, infanticide, slavery, the persecution of Christians, mass unemployment, the oppression of other people and nations, economic stagnation, a lack of scientific progress or cultural originality. It was a civilization that could produce a Cicero and Saint Augustine, and yet held public spectacles at which people went to watch women and children killed in recreations of famous myths and legends, where family entertainment consisted of watching public executions. The Roman Empire was the greatest of civilizations as well as the lowest of civilizations.

These are things which tend to be ignored when one speaks of Rome, and if they are mentioned at all, they are considered as small evils compared to Rome's towering achievements. This book, however, focuses on Rome's failures as a society, and so offers a unique and largely ignored perspective on life in the Roman Empire, and why Rome fell. In the end, the people who had conquered almost all of the known world, were no longer willing to fight for an Empire and a society which was rotten at its core. When its ultimate test came in the form of the barbaric invasions, Rome no longer had the fighting spirit that had made it the ruler of the world. Its will to fight and to triumph had been sapped by corruption and incompetence.

Here we present the online text of this important work, dedicated to exploring the low points of Roman culture and history and casting a light on these unlit corners of the Roman Empire.