Question: Which Historian First Wrote About the Fall of Rome?
Edward Gibbon is associated with the concept of the Fall of Rome because of his monumental work on Roman history called The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, but was he the first?
Answer: Those who want to look back at the first major historian to deal with the decline and fall of Rome should read the 5th Century historian Zosimus, who thought the decline began when Rome slipped from a republic to a principate. It should be noted that Zosimus is not as factually reliable as other historians. In "Zosimus, The First Historian of Rome's Fall," The American Historical Review, Vol. 76, No. 2. (Apr., 1971), pp. 412-441, Walter Goffart writes about the causes of the Fall of Rome described by Zosimus:
Fanciers of economic causes encounter the spoliation of great fortunes and the imposition by Constantine and Theodosius of new and vexatious tributes on every class, together with unfair and merciless collection. Those tending toward administrative causes are offered the proliferation of praetorian prefects, generals, and their subordinates. Military causes are represented by the relaxation of discipline, cantonment in cities, and the exclusion of pagans from the ranks. The ferocity of Constantine toward his family, the licentious self-indulgence of Theodosius, and the nullity of Arcadius and Honorius constitute suitable personal failings. Partisans of external causes will specially note Zosimus' references to the barbarians, whom imperial indulgence allowed to flood the army and to espy the languishing corpse of the empire they were supposed to defend. Finally, there are religious causes in the form of Christian monks whose greed impoverished everyone in the name of poverty and, most of all, the abandonment of the ancient divinities and rites that had protected the Roman state.