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The Fall of the Roman Empire []
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Antiquity Online
At least five distinctive
chapters on the fall of
Rome can be found at
this history buff's
website. In­depth essays
provide the real info on
what happened in
Rome, from the political
chaos to the rise of
Christianity. Also, visitors
can find out what was
going on in the rest of
the world while Rome
was decaying.
f. The Fall of the Roman Empire
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6f. The Fall of the Roman Empire
The invading army reached the outskirts of
Rome, which had been left totally
undefended. In 410 C.E., the Visigoths, led
by Alaric, breached the walls of Rome and
sacked the capital of the Roman Empire.
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The Visigoths looted, burned, and pillaged
their way through the city, leaving a wake
Attila, King of the
Attila has gone down in
history as one of the
most vicious conquerors.
He created an alliance
with neighboring clans,
the Franks and Vandals,
then tore through the
countryside and
decimated western
Europe. Find out more
about Attila the Hun's
invasion of Italy at this
Virtual History of Venice
of destruction wherever they went. The
plundering continued for three days. For
the first time in nearly a millennium, the
city of Rome was in the hands of someone
other than the Romans. This was the first
time that the city of Rome was sacked, but
by no means the last.
Constantine the Great, 306­337
C.E., divided the Roman Empire in
two and made Christianity the
dominant religion in the region.
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Constantine and the Rise of
One of the many factors that contributed
to the fall of the Roman Empire was the
rise of a new religion, Christianity. The Christian religion, which was
The Huns
Attila the Hun's lust for
power, money, and land
is legendary. Check out
this independent
enthusiast's website on
the Huns and the battles
that shook the Roman
Empire. It's text only, but
full of great information.
The Barbarians
Discover the
contributions the
Barbarians made to
modern society.
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monotheistic ran counter to the traditional Roman religion, which was
polytheistic (many gods). At different times, the Romans persecuted the
Christians because of their beliefs, which were popular among the poor.
In 313 C.E., Roman emperor Constantine
the Great ended all persecution and
declared toleration for Christianity. Later
that century, Christianity became the
official state religion of the Empire. This
drastic change in policy spread this
relatively new religion to every corner of
the Empire.
By approving Christianity, the Roman state
The Best of Edward
Gibbon's Decline and
Fall of the Roman
Historian Edward
Gibbon's most influential
work is his Decline and
Fall of the Roman
Empire. In it he argues
that Barbarian attacks
and religious
disagreements led to the
downfall of the mightiest
Western power of the
ancient world. Although
later historians have
pointed out factual and
interpretive flaws in
Gibbon's scholarship, it
remains one of the most
widely read historical
directly undermined its religious traditions.
Finally, by this time, Romans considered
their emperor a god. But the Christian
belief in one god — who was not the
emperor — weakened the authority and
This 16th­century medallion depicts
Attila the Hun, one of the most
vicious invaders of all time.
credibility of the emperor.
Constantine enacted another change that helped accelerate the fall of the
Roman Empire. In 330 C.E., he split the empire into two parts: the western
half centered in Rome and the eastern half centered in Constantinople, a city
he named after himself.
Why Two Empires?
The Fall of the Roman Empire []
works in the world. At
this site, browse through
excerpts from Gibbon's
celebrated book.
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Attila the Hun's army
was so fearsome to the
Roman Empire they
called it the "Scourge of
Learn More...
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This map of the Roman Empire in 476 C.E. shows the various people who
invaded and how they carved up the Empire.
In 324, Constantine's army defeated the forces of Licinius, the emperor of
the east. Constantine became emperor of the entire empire and founded a
new capital city in the eastern half at Byzantium. The city was his New
Rome and was later named Constantinople (the "city of Constantine").
Constantinople was advantageously
situated for two reasons. First, it was
on a peninsula that could be fortified
and defended easily. Further, because
Constantinople was located on the
frontiers of the empire, imperial armies
could respond more easily to external
attacks or threats.
Some scholars also believe that
Constantine established a new city in
order to provide a place for the young
religion of Christianity to grow in an
environment purer than that of corrupt
The western Empire spoke Latin and was
Roman Catholic. The eastern Empire
spoke Greek and worshipped under the
Eastern Orthodox branch of the Christian
church. Over time, the east thrived, while
the west declined. In fact, after the
Empress Theodora was one of the
most powerful women of late
antiquity. She helped keep her
husband, Emperor Justinian, in
power and solidified the strength of
the Byzantine Empire in the 6th
century C.E. as the western Empire
western part of the Roman Empire fell,
the eastern half continued to exist as the Byzantine Empire for hundreds of
years. Therefore, the "fall of Rome" really refers only to the fall of the western
half of the Empire.
Other fundamental problems contributed to the fall. In the economically ailing
west, a decrease in agricultural production led to higher food prices. The
western half of the empire had a large trade deficit with the eastern half. The
west purchased luxury goods from the east but had nothing to offer in
exchange. To make up for the lack of money, the government began producing
more coins with less silver content. This led to inflation. Finally, piracy and
attacks from Germanic tribes disrupted the flow of trade, especially in the west.
There were political and military difficulties, as well. It didn't help matters that
political amateurs were in control of Rome in the years leading up to its fall.
Army generals dominated the emperorship, and corruption was rampant. Over
time, the military was transformed into a mercenary army with no real loyalty
to Rome. As money grew tight, the government hired the cheaper and less
reliable Germanic soldiers to fight in Roman armies. By the end, these armies
were defending Rome against their fellow Germanic tribesmen. Under these
circumstances, the sack of Rome came as no surprise.
Goth Rockers
Wave after wave of Germanic barbarian tribes swept through the Roman
Empire. Groups such as the Visigoths, Vandals, Angles, Saxons, Franks,
Ostrogoths, and Lombards took turns ravaging the Empire, eventually carving
The Fall of the Roman Empire []
out areas in which to settle down. The Angles and Saxons populated the British
Isles, and the Franks ended up in France.
In 476 C.E. Romulus, the last of the Roman emperors in the west, was
overthrown by the Germanic leader Odoacer, who became the first Barbarian to
rule in Rome. The order that the Roman Empire had brought to western
Europe for 1000 years was no more.
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