To countless historians, the fall of the western Roman realm in the fifth century CE has constantly been perceived as the end of the old world and the start of the center Ages, regularly improperly dubbed the Dark Ages, regardless of Petrarch"s assertion. Because much the the west had currently fallen by the middle of the fifth century CE, as soon as a writer speak of the fall of the empire, the or she normally refers to the autumn of the city the Rome. Back historians normally agree on the year that the fall, 476 CE, and also its results for western civilization, they often disagree ~ above its causes. English historian Edward Gibbon, that wrote in the late 18th century CE, points to the rise of Christianity and its impact on the roman psyche while others believe the decrease and autumn were due, in part, to the flow of "barbarians" native the north and also west.

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Whatever the cause, even if it is it to be religion, external attack, or the internal decay of the city itself, the debate continues to the current day; however, one far-ranging point must be established prior to a discussion of the roots of the autumn can continue: the decline and fall were only in the west. The eastern half - the which would eventually be called the byzantine Empire - would proceed for several centuries, and, in many ways, it maintained a unique Roman identity.

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Roman realm under Augustus
Cristiano64 (CC BY-SA)

External Causes

One the the many widely accepted causes - the flow of a barbarian tribes - is discounted through some that feel that mighty Rome, the eternal city, might not have so easily fallen victim come a culture that possessed little or naught in the method of a political, society or financial foundation. They think the loss of Rome simply came because the barbarians took benefit of difficulties currently existing in Rome - problems that had a decaying city (both physically and also morally), little to no taxation revenue, overpopulation, negative leadership, and, many importantly, inadequate defense. To some the loss was inevitable.

Unlike the loss of previously empires such together the Assyrian & Persian, Rome did not succumb to either war or revolution.

Unlike the autumn of earlier empires such as the Assyrian and also Persian, Rome did no succumb to either war or revolution. Top top the last day that the empire, a barbarian member the the Germanic people Siri and also former commander in the Roman army entered the city unopposed. The one-time military and also financial power of the Mediterranean to be unable to resist. Odovacar easily dethroned the sixteen-year-old emperor Romulus Augustalus, a person he perceived as posing no threat. Romulus had actually recently been called emperor through his father, the roman commander Orestes, who had actually overthrown the west emperor Julius Nepos. V his entrance right into the city, Odovacar became the head of the only component that stayed of the once an excellent west: the peninsula of Italy. By the moment he entered the city, the Roman regulate of Britain, Spain, Gaul, and North Africa had already been lost, in the last three cases to the Goths and also Vandals. Odovacar automatically contacted the east emperor Zeno and informed him the he would certainly not expropriate that location of emperor. Zeno can do small but accept this decision. In fact, come ensure there would be no confusion, Odovacar returned to Constantinople the royal vestments, diadem, and purple cloak of the emperor.

Internal Causes

There room some that believe, prefer Gibbon, that the loss was as result of the cloth of the roman inn citizen. If one accepts the idea that the cause of the autumn was due, in part, come the possible moral degeneration of the city, its loss is reminiscent of the “decline” of the Republic century earlier. Historian Polybius, a 2nd century BCE writer, pointed to a dice republic (years before it in reality fell) - a victim the its declining moral virtue and the rise of evil within. Edward Gibbon reiterated this sentiment (he lessened the importance of the barbaric threat) as soon as he declared the rise of Christianity together a variable in the “tale the woe” for the empire. He hosted the religion sowed internal department and motivated a “turn-the-other-cheek mentality” which ultimately condemned the war machine, leaving the in the hand of the invading barbarians. Those that discount Gibbon"s claim point to the existence of the same religious zealots in the east and also the truth that plenty of of the barbarians were Christian themselves.


To Gibbon the Christian religious beliefs valued idle and also unproductive people. Gibbon wrote in his publication The history of decrease and fall of the roman Empire,

A candid however rational inquiry right into the progress and also establishment that Christianity, might be thought about as a an extremely essential component of the background of the roman inn empire. If this good body was invaded by open violence, or undermined by slow decay, a pure and humble religion considerably insinuated itself right into the psychic of men, prospered up in silence and also obscurity, derived brand-new vigour native opposition, and also finally put up the triumphant banner the the overcome on the damages of the Capitol.”

He added that the roman inn government appeared to be “odious and oppressive to its subjects” and also therefore no major threat come the barbarians.

Gibbon, however, walk not solitary out Christianity as the just culprit. The was just one in a collection that lugged the realm to its knees. In the end, the fall was inevitable:

…the decrease of Rome to be the natural and also inevitable result of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the rule of decay; the reasons of destruction multiplied v the level of conquest, and also as quickly as time or accident has actually removed artificial supports, the stupendous towel yielded to the push of its very own weight.

A separated Empire

Although Gibbon points come the rise of Christianity as a fundamental cause, the actual fall or decrease could it is in seen decades earlier. By the third century CE, the city that Rome to be no longer the facility of the empire - realm that prolonged from the British isles to the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and also into Africa. This huge size gift a problem and called for a rapid solution, and it came with the regime of Emperor Diocletian. The realm was split into two through one capital remaining at Rome and also another in the Eastern empire at Nicomedia; the eastern capital would later on be moved to Constantinople, old Byzantium, through Emperor Constantine. The Senate, long-serving in one advisory volume to the emperor, would certainly be greatly ignored; instead, the power focused on a strong military. Some monarchs would never ever step foot in Rome. With time Constantinople, Nova Roma or brand-new Rome, would end up being the economic and social center that had once to be Rome.


Despite the renewed toughness that the department provided (the empire would be divided and also united numerous times), the realm remained vulnerable to attack, particularly on the Danube-Rhine border to the north. The presence of barbarians along the northern border of the empire was nothing brand-new and had existed for years - the military had met through them on and off because the time the Julius Caesar. Some emperors had tried to buy lock off, when others invite them to settle on roman inn land and even sign up with the army. However, countless of these brand-new settlers never truly ended up being Roman also after citizenship was granted, retaining much of your old culture.

Roman vulnerability became more obvious together a far-reaching number of german tribes, the Goths, gathered follow me the north border.

This vulnerability became more obvious as a far-reaching number of german tribes, the Goths, gathered follow me the northern border. They did not desire to invade; they wanted to be part of the empire, no its conqueror. The empire"s good wealth to be a attract to this diverse population. Castle sought a much better life, and also despite their numbers, they appeared to be no prompt threat, at first. However, as Rome failed come act to their requests, tensions grew. This stress and anxiety on the component of the Goths was due to a brand-new menace more to the east, the Huns.

The Goth Invasion

During the reign of the fourth century eastern emperor Valens (364 -378 CE), the Thervingi Goths had congregated along the Danube-Rhine border - again, no as a threat, yet with a desire only to get permission come settle. This request was make in urgency, for the “savage” Huns intimidated their homeland. Emperor Valens panicked and delayed an answer - a hold-up that carried increased concern among the Goths as winter to be approaching. In anger, the Goths crossed the river through or there is no permission, and also when a roman commander planned an ambush, war shortly followed. It was a battle that would last for five years.

Although the Goths were greatly Christian countless who joined them were not. Their presence had caused a substantial crisis for the emperor; he couldn"t administer sufficient food and housing. This impatience, linked with the corruption and extortion by numerous Roman commanders, complicated matters. Valens prayed for aid from the west. Unfortunately, in battle, the Romans were fully outmatched and ill-prepared, and the fight of Adrianople showed this once two-thirds of the Roman military was killed. This death toll had the emperor himself. It would certainly take Emperor Theodosius to bring peace.


An adversary from Within: Alaric

The Goths remained on roman land and would ally themselves through the roman inn army. Later, however, one man, a Goth and former roman commander, increased up versus Rome - a man who only asked because that what had been promised him - a guy who would do what no other had actually done for eight centuries: sack Rome. His surname was Alaric, and while he was a Goth, the had also been trained in the roman inn army. He to be intelligent, Christian, and an extremely determined. That sought land in the Balkans because that his people, land that they had been promised. Later, as the western emperor delay his response, Alaric boosted his demands, not just grain because that his people but likewise recognition together citizens the the empire; however, the emperor, Honorius, continuous refused. Through no other course, Alaric gathered with each other an army of Goths, Huns and also freed slaves and crossed the Alps into Italy. His military was well-organized, not a mob. Honorius to be incompetent and fully out the touch, another in a lengthy line of so-called “shadow emperors” - monarchs who ruled in the shadow of the military. Oddly enough, that didn"t even live in Rome however had a villa in nearby Ravenna.

Alaric sat exterior the city, and over time, as the food and also water in the city came to be increasingly scarce, Rome started to weaken. The time was now. While he had never want war but only land and recognition because that his world Alaric, with the supposed assist of a Gothic slave who opened the entrances from within, gone into Rome in august of 410 CE. He would stay for 3 days and completely sack the city; return he would leave St. Paul and St Peters alone. Honorius remained completely blind to the seriousness the the situation. If temporarily agreeing come Alaric"s requirements - miscellaneous he never intended to respect - 6,000 roman inn soldiers were sent out to protect the city, yet they were quickly defeated. Even though the city"s coffers were virtually empty, the Senate lastly relinquished; Alaric left with, amongst other items, two tons of gold and also thirteen loads of silver.

Some human being at the time viewed the sacking of the city together a sign from your pagan gods. St. Augustine, who passed away in 430 CE, said in his City the God that the fall of Rome was not a result of the people"s abandonment of your pagan gods (gods they thought protected the city) yet as a reminder come the city"s christians why they required to suffer. There was good, because that the human being was developed by good, however it was flawed by human sin; however, the still believed the realm was a pressure for peace and also unity. Come St. Augustine over there existed two cities: among this world and one that God.


Barbarian Invasions

Although Alaric would soon die afterwards, various other barbarians - even if it is Christian or not - did not protect against after the bag of the city. The old empire was ravaged, amongst others, by Burgundians, Angles, Saxons, Lombards, and also Magyars. Through 475 CE Spain, Britain, and also parts the Gaul had actually been shed to miscellaneous Germanic people and only Italy remained as the “empire” in the west. The Vandals would soon relocate from Spain and also into north Africa, eventually capturing the city that Carthage. The Roman military abandoned every hope the recovering the area and also moved out. The ns of Africa intended a lose of revenue, and also the ns of revenue intended there was less money to assistance an army to protect the city. Despite these considerable losses, there was some success for the Romans. The threat from Attila the Hun was lastly stopped in ~ the fight of Chalons by roman inn commander Aelius that had produced an military of Goths, Franks, Celts and Burgundians. Even Gibbon recognized Attila as one “who urged the rapid downfall of the roman empire.” while Attila would recover and sack numerous Italian cities, he and also the Hun threat finished with his death due come a nosebleed top top his wedding night.

The ns of revenue because that the western fifty percent of the empire might not support an army capable of defending the currently vulnerable borders.

Conclusion: lot of Factors

One could make a sound instance for a multitude of factors for the fall of Rome. However, its autumn was not because of one cause, although numerous search because that one. Many of the causes, initially, allude to one place: the city that Rome itself. The lose of revenue for the western half of the empire could not assistance an army - an army that was vital for defending the already vulnerable borders. Continuous warfare meant trade was disrupted; invading armies caused plants to it is in laid come waste, poor an innovation made for low food production, the city was overcrowded, joblessness was high, and lastly, there were constantly the epidemics. Added to these was an inept and also untrustworthy government.

The visibility of the barbarians in and around the empire added to a situation not only externally yet internally. These factors helped bring realm from “a state of wellness into non-existence.” The Roman military lacked both suitable training and also equipment. The government itself was unstable. Peter heath in his The loss of the roman inn Empire claims that the “fell not due to the fact that of the "stupendous fabric" but because its German next-door neighbors responded come its power in methods that the Romans can not ever before have foreseen… by virtue the its boundless aggression, roman imperialism was responsible for its own destruction.”

Rome"s fall finished the ancient world and the Middle periods were borne. These “Dark Ages” carried the end to much that to be Roman. The West dropped into turmoil. However, while lot was lost, western people still fan a debt to the Romans. Although only a few today can speak Latin, it is part of our language and also the foundation of the romantic languages of French, Italian, and also Spanish. Our legal system is based on Roman law. Numerous present day European cities were founded by Rome. Our knowledge of Greece come though Rome and also many other lasting impacts besides. Rome had actually fallen but it had actually been for so so long one of the history"s truly world cities.

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Donald has taught Ancient, Medieval and also U.S. Background at Lincoln university (Normal, Illinois)and has constantly been and will always be a student of history, ever because learning around Alexander the Great. The is eager to pass expertise on to his students.