America is getting to know the new Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson.
A previously obscure representative from Louisiana, a national spotlight has been thrust upon him following his surprise election to the speaker role. And inquiries into his past statements have revealed he holds some interesting beliefs, particularly on history and homosexuality.
One newly surfaced statement from Johnson’s past is this 2008 assertion that homosexuality contributed to the fall of Rome:
“Many historians, those who are objective, would look back and recognize and give some credit to the fall of Rome, to not only the deprivation of the society and the loss of morals but also to the rampant homosexual behavior that was condoned by the society.”
The audio can be heard at the 3:10 mark in the following video:
We thought that was worth examining. Did homosexuality really cause the fall of Rome?
The Fall of Rome
At its peak, the Roman Empire spanned three continents, held tens of millions of people, and covered more than two million square miles.
It was easily one of the greatest and most powerful empires in antiquity, which made its subsequent fall all the more fascinating. The disintegration of this world power is one of the most-studied events in human history.
Despite the speaker’s assertion, however, most historians disagree that homosexual citizens of the Roman Empire contributed to its fall.
There were a variety of factors that led to Rome's collapse, historians believe, including:
- Rampant corruption
- Overexpansion and division
- Economic inequality
- Incompetent emperors who were constantly getting assassinated
- Frequent invasions
Here's where historians say Rome went wrong:
Rome was rampant with political corruption from the top down. Cronyism abounded, and influential seats in government were often sold to the highest bidder, resulting in greedy and/or inept individuals in major positions of power.
This practice not only compromised the integrity of the government but also led to the appointment of many unqualified administrators. These individuals prioritized their wealth and power over the welfare of the people, and funds that could have been used for public works and services often ended up lining the pockets of corrupt officials instead.
The Emperor Diocletian divided the Roman Empire in two in an attempt to make the Empire easier to govern. While that worked in the short term, this split eventually sowed the seeds for deep-rooted divisions that would grow over time.
The Western and Eastern Empires developed distinct identities, with differing economic bases, military capabilities, and cultural norms. This separation fostered a sense of independence that weakened the unity and cohesiveness of the empire as a whole.
Constant government spending on wars resulted in increased taxation and inflation on commoners, leading to massive inequality between rich and poor. The wealthy would often flee Roman borders at the first sign of increased taxation, leaving their countrymen high and dry.
For working class citizens, economic woes abounded. Discontent and disaffection among the common people grew, as they struggled to survive under the weight of an economy that favored the affluent and powerful at the expense of the laboring masses.
Leading Rome was a dangerous job; roughly 20% of Roman emperors were assassinated – an astounding stat that reflects the instability and peril of the throne.
This tumultuous leadership scenario was compounded by the fact that many emperors were young and inexperienced, with some being mere children thrust into roles of immense power and responsibility.
Any organization with that kind of leadership turnover is bound to suffer consequences, historians say.
Germanic tribes frequently invaded Rome’s borders, often fleeing attacks from the Huns. While the Roman Empire sometimes tolerated these tribes, they treated them with malice and cruelty. The clear weakness of Rome – from all of the above factors – made it a delicious target for these invading barbarian armies.
In 476 CE, the Germanic king Odoacer sacked Rome and deposed the Roman Empire’s final emperor, Romulus Augustulus, effectively ending the age of the Roman Empire.
What About Homosexuality?
It’s true that the Roman Empire largely embraced homosexual behavior, and men were free to engage in homosexual sex without loss of social status.
In fact, it was often expected that men would have sex with both men and women – so long as they were in the penetrative role.
While things eventually changed in the 3rd century after Christianity’s rise in the Empire, historians largely agree that sexual behavior of Rome's citizens had little, if anything, to do with the cultural, political, and economic rot that plagued it.
In short, most experts and historians would take issue with an assertion that "homosexuality caused the Roman Empire to fall."
What is your take? Do you think it's reasonable to blame the fall of Rome on homosexuality?