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Fall of the Roman Empire

John Simkin

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It has been argued that one reason for the fall in the Roman Empire concerns the decline in fertility of the Romans (it was blamed on lead water pipes). The birth-rate in Europe has been falling for some time. It is usually assumed that this is a result of decisions made by modern men and women. However, a report published today suggests that this might not be the complete story.

Bill Ledger, who runs a clinic in Sheffield, claims that about one in seven couples have problems with fertility now, and that would rise to as many as one in three to four "depending on what the population does".

Two important factors include huge increases in obesity and a decline in male fertility. The Romans attempted to solve the problem with importing more slaves. Is this the real reason why governments throughout Europe are so keen on immigration?

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Hi John,

Bill Ledger was on Irish radio yesterday talking about his findings. Interesting indeed. For years in school we learned that population decline in developed nations was indeed because of the social and economics implications of having children. I believe Sweden and Germany's populations are declining somewhat.

The inability of couples to cenceive isn't directly related to the size of ones family. If somebody is able to conceive, that does not mean they are going to have a large family, I do believe that the decline in population is as a result of economic factors.

With regards to the Roman empire I haven't seen any ballpark figures so it is difficult for me to speculate on the effect a decline in population had.

Rome looked abroad for many of its legionaries so I don't think there would have been much of a problem in the military.

Like to many other empires, their borders stretched too far. And with the Empire split in two their position is weakened.

You could argue that while the Roman Empire fell, Christianity took its place but thats another story alltogether.

I did not hear many of the details of the report but with regard to male fertility, this is indeed most likely down to diet, climate, gases inhaled in everyday life and lack of proper exercise.

I doubt if fertility was poor enough among the Romans that they could not go on, an interesting theory nonetheless.

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It has been argued that as a result of the fall in population the Romans had to make more use of slaves and auxiliary soldiers. It has been claimed that the loyalty of these people was less reliable than that of native Romans. Therefore the Roman Empire was less able to withstand the invasion of the Visogoths. When Alaric’s army entered Rome in 410 Roman slaves joined in sacking the city. Many of these slaves joined Alaric’s army and they then went around the Roman Empire taking what the needed (eventually settling in Aquitania).

A similar thing happened when Gaiseric and the Vandals entered Italy in 455 (they had already taken Roman Africa, Sardinia and Corsica). Once again, the auxiliary soldiers and slaves did not remain loyal to the Romans. Nor should we have expected them to be in favour of a system that had oppressed and exploited them.

Some people have argued that this is a warning from history. Is the American Empire vulnerable because of its reliance on immigrants and auxiliary soldiers? It definitely having trouble getting soldiers from other countries to do its fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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