Rome was the superpower of the first and second centuries. But by the third century, this mightiest of empires was starting to crumble. The fall of this superpower wasn’t the result of an all-out invasion, a disease, disaster, or internal uprising. Many different factors took their toll as Rome declined. But one of the biggest contributors was an old problem for extensive empires—disunity. From the middle of the second century to the end of the third, the empire went through a long marathon of civil wars, diplomatic stalemates, political intrigues, and even natural disasters. It all started with the assassination of Alexander Severus, the Roman Emperor who ruled starting in 193 AD. He was facing intense invasions and threats from the Germanic tribes from the North. He opted to begin peaceful negotiations and bribery with the invaders instead of outright war, but this decision greatly angered the legions who wanted to pay the tribes back for earlier wars. In the end, Alexander lost the confidence of his army and ended up getting taken out by a rebellion. From then on, the empire was already divided up into rival factions in 238 AD, one faction was ruled by co-emperors who were so reviled by the public that they were met with flying sticks and stones during their coronation. The rival faction wasn’t in much better shape however, since it was ruled by rival warlords. The year went down in history as the Year of Six Emperors and things did not improve. The two sides of Rome battled it out through wars, negotiations, backbiting and eventually defeat when a deadly plague hit in 249 AD and the already weak foundations of the empire began to crumble. Finally, Germanic tribes swept down from the north starting in 250s AD and filled the rapidly opening vacuum from Rome’s fall (Vuckovic).
Today, unity is no less important. Unity equals strength as Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” As we face the crucial times ahead, we can also take this proverb to heart. We can’t live up to our mission of telling about Jesus’ love without Holy Spirit power, but a result of experiencing this power is binding together as a unified community of disciples. It’s becoming more obvious that our world is badgered, chaotic, and scared, especially with the latest world health concerns. But we can take each new crisis as a reminder that the grand reunion of disciples of Christ is not far off. That reunion will be the ultimate celebration of uniting around loving our Friend and Savior Jesus.
Vuckovic, Aleksa. “When Greed Takes Root: The Roman Empire’s Crisis of the Third Century.” Ancient Origins. 2 January 2020. Accessed March 2, 2020. Online.