The “Fall of Rome” usually refers to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century AD, but historians disagree on the exact date or its causes. And some historians argue that the Roman Empire lasted until it fell centuries later in the East.
At its peak around AD 100, the Roman Empire stretched from modern Britain, France, and much of Germany in the northwest to Egypt, Israel, and Jordan in the southeast, and from present-day Morocco and Spain to Romania, Armenia, and Iraq. Later emperors split it up into more manageable chunks, resulting in the Western and Eastern Roman Empires. But by the end of the fifth century AD, the Western Roman Empire from Britain to Italy had collapsed and been replaced by a patchwork of “barbarian” kingdoms.
“Part fell to the invaders, part fell apart” Bryan Ward Perkins (opens in new tab)Historian at Oxford University and author of “The fall of Rome and the end of civilization (opens in new tab)(Oxford University Press, 2006), Live Science said in an email. “What difference this made to local people is debatable.”
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Sack of Rome, 410 AD
Some historians consider August 24, 410 AD to be the crucial date for the fall of Rome. That day, an army of Visigoths sacked the city of Rome for the first time since it had been overrun by Gauls during the early Roman Republic almost 800 years ago. The Visigoths (Visigoths) had fled the invasions of the Huns in Eastern Europe by the fourth century. But in 378, after defeating a Roman army at the Battle of Adrianople (modern-day Edirne, Turkey), the Visigoths were given lands on the empire’s northern border to control and protect themselves from invaders. A few decades later, however, they began plundering the empire again; In 408 they invaded Italy and in 410 they besieged and sacked Rome.
At that time, the Roman Empire was centered in 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 saw this as the end. “The culture shock was great … but the practical impact seems limited.” William Bowden (opens in new tab)Professor of Roman Archeology at the University of Nottingham in the UK, told Live Science.
When it comes to city looting, it doesn’t sound bad: many famous monuments and buildings were left untouched, and because the Visigoths were Christians, they allowed people to take refuge in churches. A few years later, the Visigoths withdrew from Italy.
Abdication of Romulus Augustulus, 476 AD
Some historians see the formal end of the Western Roman Empire centuries later, on September 4, 476, when Odoacer, Italy’s first barbarian king, forced the young emperor Romulus Augustulus to abdicate. Odoacer had been a Roman general of Germanic descent who had professed loyalty to the Eastern Roman Emperor, and he captured Romulus at Ravenna after defeating the 16-year-old’s father in battle. However, Odoacer did not kill Romulus; Because of his youth, he received a pension instead and was sent to live with relatives. (Odoacer ruled from Ravenna until 493, when he was killed by an invading army of Ostrogoths – Ostrogoths – under their leader Theodoric the Great, who established a powerful new kingdom in Italy.)
“It’s an important moment” Peter Heide (opens in new tab)Historian at King’s College London and author of “The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians (opens in new tab)(Oxford University Press, 2007), said Live Science. “Odoacer sent the imperial robes of the West back to Constantinople, along with a delegation from the Senate of Rome, and the delegation says, ‘There is no longer any need for an Emperor in the West.'”
By this point, many regions of the Western Empire were already effectively independent kingdoms, but “if you’re looking for a symbolic moment, it’s a pretty good one,” Heather said.
empire in the east
By the fifth century AD, however, the center of gravity of the empire had shifted east to Constantinople, now Istanbul. Once the Greek city of Byzantium, the city was rebuilt in AD 330 by Emperor Constantine the Great, who moved the imperial capital to his “New Rome”.
“My own view is that the eastern half of the Roman Empire is still the Roman Empire,” Heather said. “It’s not immutable, but there’s a kind of continuity of change, not a big break.”
Although Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, Heather sees its decline in the Arab invasions of 632-661, when they conquered Egypt, the Levant and parts of Anatolia from the Eastern Roman Empire. “The Arabs take about three quarters of the empire’s revenue and about three quarters of its territory,” he said. “After the Arab conquest, it’s a very different kind of entity. … it reduces empire from a global power to a regional power.”