To countless historians, the loss of the west Roman empire in the 5th century CE has always been viewed as the finish of the ancient world and the onset of the middle Ages, regularly improperly referred to as the Dark Ages, in spite of Petrarch"s assertion. Since much that the west had currently fallen by the middle of the 5th century CE, once a writer speaks of the autumn of the empire, he or she typically refers come the fall of the city that Rome. Return historians typically agree on the year that the fall, 476 CE, and its after-effects for western civilization, they often disagree on its causes. English chronicler Edward Gibbon, that wrote in the late 18th century CE, points come the increase of Christianity and also its impact on the roman inn psyche if others think the decline and autumn were due, in part, to the influx 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 existing day; however, one far-reaching point must be established before a discussion of the root of the fall can continue: the decrease and autumn were only in the west. The eastern fifty percent - the which would eventually be dubbed the oriental Empire - would proceed for numerous centuries, and, in countless ways, it kept a distinctive Roman identity.

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Roman empire under Augustus
Cristiano64 (CC BY-SA)

External Causes

One that the most widely accepted reasons - the influx of a barbaric tribes - is discounted by some who feel the mighty Rome, the eternal city, could not have so quickly fallen victim come a society that possessed little or naught in the means of a political, social or economic foundation. They believe the fall of Rome just came since the barbarians took advantage of difficulties currently existing in Rome - troubles that contained a disk city (both physically and also morally), tiny to no taxes revenue, overpopulation, negative leadership, and, most importantly, inadequate defense. To part the fall was inevitable.

Unlike the fall of previously empires such as the Assyrian & Persian, Rome did not succumb come either battle or revolution.

Unlike the autumn of previously empires such together the Assyrian and Persian, Rome did no succumb to either battle or revolution. Top top the last day that the empire, a barbarian member of the Germanic tribe Siri and also former command in the Roman military entered the city unopposed. The one-time military and financial strength of the Mediterranean to be unable come resist. Odovacar conveniently dethroned the sixteen-year-old emperor Romulus Augustalus, a human he regarded as posing no threat. Romulus had actually recently been called emperor by his father, the roman commander Orestes, who had overthrown the western emperor Julius Nepos. Through his entrance right into the city, Odovacar ended up being the head that the only part that remained of the once an excellent west: the peninsula that Italy. By the moment he entered the city, the Roman regulate of Britain, Spain, Gaul, and also North Africa had already been lost, in the last three instances to the Goths and also Vandals. Odovacar automatically contacted the east emperor Zeno and informed him that he would certainly not expropriate that title of emperor. Zeno can do small but accept this decision. In fact, come ensure there would certainly be no confusion, Odovacar went back to Constantinople the royal vestments, diadem, and also purple coat of the emperor.

Internal Causes

There space some that believe, like Gibbon, the the fall was due to the fabric of the roman citizen. If one accepts the idea the the cause of the autumn was due, in part, come the feasible moral decay of the city, its autumn is reminiscent of the “decline” of the Republic century earlier. Historian Polybius, a 2nd century BCE writer, pointed to a dying republic (years before it actually fell) - a victim of its decreasing moral virtue and also the rise of angry within. Edward Gibbon reiterated this emotion (he decreased the prestige of the barbaric threat) as soon as he claimed the rise of Christianity together a variable in the “tale that woe” for the empire. He organized the faith sowed internal department and urged a “turn-the-other-cheek mentality” which ultimately condemned the war machine, leaving it in the hands of the invading barbarians. Those that discount Gibbon"s claim point to the visibility of the same religious zealots in the east and also the truth that plenty of of the barbarians to be Christian themselves.


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

A candid yet rational inquiry into the progress and also establishment that Christianity, might be thought about as a an extremely essential component of the history of the roman inn empire. While this good body was got into by open up violence, or undermined by slow-moving decay, a pure and humble religion greatly insinuated itself right into the psychic of men, grew up in silence and also obscurity, derived brand-new vigour indigenous opposition, and finally put up the triumphant banner that the cross on the ruins of the Capitol.”

He added that the roman government appeared to it is in “odious and oppressive to its subjects” and also therefore no serious threat come the barbarians.

Gibbon, however, does not single out Christianity together the just culprit. It was only one in a series that carried the realm to the knees. In the end, the fall was inevitable:

…the decline of Rome was the natural and also inevitable result of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the rule of decay; the reasons of destruction multiplied through the degree of conquest, and as shortly as time or accident has actually removed artificial supports, the stupendous towel yielded come the pressure of its very own weight.

A split Empire

Although Gibbon points come the increase of Christianity as a an essential cause, the actual autumn or decrease could it is in seen years earlier. By the 3rd century CE, the city of Rome was no much longer the facility of the empire - an empire that extended from the British isles to the Tigris and also Euphrates Rivers and into Africa. This substantial size presented a problem and also called because that a rapid solution, and also it came with the power of Emperor Diocletian. The realm was separated into two v one resources remaining in ~ Rome and another in the Eastern empire at Nicomedia; the eastern funding would later be moved to Constantinople, old Byzantium, by Emperor Constantine. The Senate, long-serving in an advisory capacity to the emperor, would certainly be greatly ignored; instead, the power focused on a solid military. Some queens would never ever step foot in Rome. With time Constantinople, Nova Roma or brand-new Rome, would end up being the financial and cultural center that had once been Rome.


Despite the renewed toughness that the department provided (the empire would be divided and also united number of times), the empire remained delicate to attack, specifically on the Danube-Rhine border come the north. The visibility of barbarians along the north border that the realm was nothing brand-new and had existed because that years - the military had met v them on and also off due to the fact that the time that Julius Caesar. Part emperors had tried come buy lock off, when others invited them to work out on roman inn land and even join the army. However, numerous of these brand-new settlers never ever truly came to be Roman also after citizenship was granted, retaining lot of your old culture.

Roman vulnerability became much more obvious together a significant number of german tribes, the Goths, gathered follow me the northern border.

This vulnerability became much more obvious as a far-reaching number of germanic tribes, the Goths, gathered follow me the northern border. They go not desire to invade; they wanted to be part of the empire, no its conqueror. The empire"s great wealth was a attract to this diverse population. Castle sought a far better life, and also despite your numbers, they appeared to it is in no prompt threat, in ~ first. However, as Rome failed to act to your requests, stress grew. This stress and anxiety on the part of the Goths was because of a new menace more to the east, the Huns.

The Goth Invasion

During the power of the 4th century east emperor Valens (364 -378 CE), the Thervingi Goths had congregated follow me the Danube-Rhine border - again, no as a threat, but with a desire only to obtain permission come settle. This request was made in urgency, because that the “savage” Huns endangered their homeland. Emperor Valens panicked and also delayed solution - a hold-up that brought increased concern amongst the Goths together winter to be approaching. In anger, the Goths crossed the river through or without permission, and also when a roman inn commander planned an ambush, war quickly followed. It was a war that would certainly last for five years.

Although the Goths were greatly Christian countless who joined them to be not. Their presence had caused a considerable crisis for the emperor; he couldn"t administer sufficient food and housing. This impatience, an unified with the corruption and also extortion by numerous Roman commanders, complex matters. Valens prayed for aid from the west. Unfortunately, in battle, the Romans were completely outmatched and also ill-prepared, and the fight of Adrianople verified this when two-thirds of the Roman army was killed. This death toll included the emperor himself. It would certainly take Emperor Theodosius to carry peace.


An enemy from Within: Alaric

The Goths continued to be on roman inn land and also would allied themselves v the roman army. Later, however, one man, a Goth and also former roman commander, rose up against Rome - a guy who just asked for what had been promised him - a guy who would carry out what no other had actually done because that eight centuries: sack Rome. His surname was Alaric, and while he was a Goth, he had also been trained in the roman army. He was intelligent, Christian, and very determined. That sought floor in the Balkans for his people, land that they had actually been promised. Later, as the west emperor delayed his response, Alaric increased his demands, not only grain for his people but additionally recognition as citizens of the empire; however, the emperor, Honorius, continuous refused. V no other course, Alaric gathered with each other an army of Goths, Huns and also freed slaves and crossed the Alps right into Italy. His army was well-organized, not a mob. Honorius to be incompetent and completely out of touch, one more in a long line the so-called “shadow emperors” - kings who ruled in the zero of the military. Oddly enough, he didn"t also live in Rome yet had a villa in nearby Ravenna.

Alaric sat outside the city, and over time, as the food and also water in the city came to be increasingly scarce, Rome began to weaken. The moment was now. If he had actually never wanted war but only land and recognition for his world Alaric, through the supposed aid of a Gothic servant who opened up the gates from within, entered Rome in respectable of 410 CE. The would continue to be for 3 days and fully sack the city; back he would leave St. Paul and St Peters alone. Honorius remained totally blind to the seriousness of the situation. While temporarily agreeing to Alaric"s demands - something he never intended to respect - 6,000 roman soldiers were sent out to defend the city, yet they were conveniently defeated. Even though the city"s coffers were virtually empty, the Senate lastly relinquished; Alaric left with, among other items, two lots of gold and thirteen tons of silver.

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


Barbarian Invasions

Although Alaric would soon die afterwards, other barbarians - whether Christian or no - did not stop after the bag of the city. The old empire was ravaged, among others, through Burgundians, Angles, Saxons, Lombards, and Magyars. Through 475 CE Spain, Britain, and parts that Gaul had actually been shed to assorted Germanic people and also only Italy remained as the “empire” in the west. The Vandals would soon move from Spain and into north Africa, eventually catching the city of Carthage. The Roman military abandoned every hope that recovering the area and also moved out. The ns of Africa supposed a loss of revenue, and the lose of revenue expected there was less money to support an army to safeguard the city. In spite of these significant losses, there was some success for the Romans. The danger from Attila the Hun was lastly stopped at the fight of Chalons by roman inn commander Aelius that had created an military of Goths, Franks, Celts and also Burgundians. Even Gibbon well-known Attila together one “who urged the rapid downfall the the roman empire.” while Attila would certainly recover and sack several Italian cities, he and the Hun threat ended with his death due come a nosebleed on his wedding night.

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

Conclusion: many Factors

One can make a sound situation for a multitude of factors for the loss of Rome. However, its fall was not due to one cause, although many search for one. Many of the causes, initially, suggest to one place: the city of Rome itself. The lose of revenue because that the western half of the empire could not support an military - an military that was necessary for defending the currently vulnerable borders. Continual warfare meant trade was disrupted; invading militaries caused plants to be laid to waste, poor technology made for short food production, the city to be overcrowded, joblessness was high, and also lastly, there were constantly the epidemics. Included to these to be an inept and untrustworthy government.

The presence of the barbarians in and also around the empire included to a dilemm not only externally yet internally. These factors helped bring realm from “a state of health into non-existence.” The Roman military lacked both appropriate training and equipment. The federal government itself to be unstable. Peter heath in his The loss of the roman inn Empire says that the “fell not due to the fact that of that is "stupendous fabric" but due to the fact that its German next-door neighbors responded to its strength in means that the Romans might not ever have foreseen… through virtue of its unbounded aggression, roman imperialism was responsible for its very own destruction.”

Rome"s fall ended the old world and also the Middle eras were borne. These “Dark Ages” brought the finish to lot that to be Roman. The West fell into turmoil. However, while lot was lost, western civilization still owes a blame to the Romans. Although only a few today deserve to speak Latin, it is component of ours language and also the foundation of the romance languages that French, Italian, and also Spanish. Ours legal mechanism is based on Roman law. Plenty of present day European cities were founded by Rome. Our expertise of Greece come though Rome and also many various other lasting effects besides. Rome had actually fallen but it had actually been for so so long one the the history"s truly world cities.

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Donald has actually taught Ancient, Medieval and also U.S. Background at Lincoln college (Normal, Illinois)and has always been and also will constantly be a student of history, ever due to the fact that learning about Alexander the Great. He is passionate to pass knowledge on come his students.