Unlike the Greeks, Romans were not open to innovations but instead; they depended on slave labor and used animal power for agriculture. They didn’t seek for opportunities but only “stability, peace, and bread for all.” They relied so much on manpower that even mining jobs were entirely done by slaves. They only probably realized how important pieces of machinery were when the number of slaves dropped and their prices also went up. Their enemies captured many Romans including slaves while others died because of war, famine, and disease. They also probably realized the importance of machinery when the Barbarians attacked and destroyed Rome.
According to Lopez, “their political organization and technological equipment were so modest, that they were utterly incapable of arresting the decline of the ailing Roman economy. Perhaps at one point, they thought about new inventions. However, the absence of capital stopped them from being ambitious. Landowners could have provided the capital but they had no mind for the industry.
Another thing that caused the economic failure in Rome is their self-sufficiency. It could be considered as a good character to have but this could also lead to stagnation. Romans had a backward attitude toward trade and considered it as a low-quality job. They had laws enforced to discourage foreign trades. Instead of exchanging goods, the government handled the production of goods such as salt, grain, and even military uniforms. While other civilizations were progressing, they were left behind. Who knows, other civilizations could already have a cure for the plague that they encountered but their refusal to trade stopped them from getting healed.
Aside from the lack of technological advancement and over self-reliance, they also had an issue with overspending. The Roman Empire was one of the largest in history, with territories throughout Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Because they conquered many lands, they needed more armies to defend their borders and territories. Frequent rebellions arose and heavy military spending was required for the warfare. They even had to hire Barbarians, unemployed city mobs, and foreign mercenaries, as they needed more and more soldiers. They were unreliable as well as very expensive. Because of this, the emperors were forced to raise taxes all the time, which in turn led again to increased inflation.
The problem with the Romans is that they didn’t have long-term plans. They didn’t foresee the future of their empire and they relied so much upon themselves. I believe that the decision of Diocletian and Constantine to divide the empire was only a temporary solution and eventually led to Rome’s fall.