“The Fall of Rome” usually refers to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD. But historians disagree on the exact date and causes. And some historians claim that it lasted until the Roman Empire collapsed in the East centuries later.
At its peak around AD 100, the Roman Empire stretched from modern Britain, France, and most of Germany in the northwest to Egypt, Israel, and Jordan in the southeast, and from what is now Morocco and Spain to Romania, Armenia, and Iraq. Later emperors divided it into more manageable parts, creating the Western and Eastern Roman Empires. By the end of the fifth century AD, however, the Western Roman Empire, stretching from Britain to Italy, had collapsed and was replaced by a patchwork of “barbarian” kingdoms.
“Some of them fell into the hands of the invaders, some of them were destroyed” Bryan Ward-Perkins (opens in new tab)A historian at Oxford University andThe Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization (opens in new tab)“(Oxford University Press, 2006) told Live Science in an email. “It’s debatable what difference this makes for people in the field.”
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The Sack of Rome, 410 AD
Some historians consider August 24, 410, to be the decisive date for the fall of Rome. An army on this date Visigoths He sacked the city of Rome – for the first time since it was invaded by the Gauls during the early Roman Republic, almost 800 years ago. The Visigoths (Western Goths) had fled the Huns invasion of Eastern Europe in the fourth century. In 378, however, after defeating a Roman army at the Battle of Edirne (now Edirne, Turkey), the Visigoths were given lands on the empire’s northern border to control and protect themselves from invaders. But after a few decades they began to plunder the empire again; They invaded Italy in 408 and besieged and sacked Rome in 410.
By this time, the center of the Roman Empire was Constantinople in the east, and even western Roman emperors lived in Milan (then called Mediolanum) or Ravenna in northern Italy. But Rome was the “eternal city” and the sacred heart of the empire, and many of the empire’s inhabitants saw it as their last. “The cultural shock reverberated… but the practical impact seems limited” William Bowden (opens in new tab)He is a professor of Roman archeology at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, told Live Science.
As for city looting, it doesn’t sound too bad: many famous monuments and buildings were left untouched, and the Visigoths, being Christian, allowed people to take shelter in churches. The Visigoths withdrew from Italy a few years later.
Dethronement of Romulus Augustulus, 476 AD
Some historians think the official end of the Western Roman Empire occurred centuries later, on September 4, 476, when Odoacer, Italy’s first barbarian king, forced the young emperor Romulus Augustulus to abdicate. Odoacer was a Roman general of Germanic origin who declared his loyalty to the Eastern Roman emperor and captured Romulus at Ravenna after defeating the 16-year-old boy’s father in battle. But Odoacer did not kill Romulus; Due to his youth, he was given a pension and sent to his relatives. (Odoacer reigned from Ravenna until 493, when he was killed by an invading Ostrogoth – Eastern Gothic – army under their leader, Theodoric the Great, who had established a powerful new kingdom in Italy.)
“An important moment” Peter Heather (opens in new tab)A historian at King’s College London andThe Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians (opens in new tab)“(Oxford University Press, 2007), told Live Science: “Odoacer, along with the delegation from the Roman Senate, sent the imperial garb of the West back to Constantinople, and the delegation says, ‘There is no need for an emperor any more. West.'”
By this time, many parts of the Western empire were already de facto independent kingdoms, but “if you’re looking for a symbolic moment, this is a pretty good one,” Heather said.
Empire in the East
In the fifth century AD, however, the focus of the empire shifted east to Constantinople, now Istanbul. The city, once a Greek city of Byzantium, was rebuilt by the emperor Constantine the Great, who transferred the imperial capital to his “New Rome” in 330 AD.
“My view is that the eastern half of the Roman Empire is still the Roman Empire,” Heather said. “It’s not immutable, but it’s not a major break, it’s a kind of continuum of change.”
Although Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, Heather sees its decline in Arab invasions from 632 to 661, when they captured Egypt, the Levant, and parts of Anatolia from the Eastern Roman Empire. “The Arabs get about three-quarters of the empire’s income and about three-quarters of its land,” he said. “A completely different entity after the Arab conquest. … reduces the empire from a global power to a regional power.”