When Did The Roman Empire Fall

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When Did The Roman Empire Fall



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Ten Minute History - The Fall of Rome (Short Documentary)

Perhaps the Fall of Rome is best understood as a compilation of various maladies that altered a large swath of human habitation over many hundreds of years. The eastern half became the Byzantine Empire, with its capital at Constantinople modern Istanbul. But the city of Rome continued to exist. Some see the rise of Christianity as putting an end to the Romans; those who disagree with that find the rise of Islam a more fitting bookend to the end of the empire—but that would put the Fall of Rome at Constantinople in !

Certainly, the people who lived through the takeover would probably be surprised by the importance we place on determining an exact event and time. Just as the Fall of Rome was not caused by a single event, the way Rome fell was also complex. In fact, during the period of imperial decline, the empire actually expanded. That influx of conquered peoples and lands changed the structure of the Roman government.

Emperors moved the capital away from the city of Rome, too. The schism of east and west created not just an eastern capital first in Nicomedia and then Constantinople, but also a move in the west from Rome to Milan. Rome started out as a small, hilly settlement by the Tiber River in the middle of the Italian boot, surrounded by more powerful neighbors. By the time Rome became an empire, the territory covered by the term "Rome" looked completely different. It reached its greatest extent in the second century CE. Some of the arguments about the Fall of Rome focus on the geographic diversity and the territorial expanse that Roman emperors and their legions had to control. This is easily the most argued question about the fall of Rome. The Roman Empire lasted over a thousand years and represented a sophisticated and adaptive civilization.

Some historians maintain that it was the split into an eastern and western empire governed by separate emperors caused Rome to fall. Most classicists believe that a combination of factors including Christianity, decadence, the metal lead in the water supply, monetary trouble, and military problems caused the Fall of Rome. And still, others question the assumption behind the question and maintain that the Roman empire didn't fall so much as adapt to changing circumstances. When the Roman Empire started, there was no such religion as Christianity. In the 1st century CE, Herod executed their founder, Jesus, for treason.

It took his followers a few centuries to gain enough clout to be able to win over imperial support. This began in the early 4th century with Emperor Constantine , who was actively involved in Christian policy-making. When Constantine established a state-level religious tolerance in the Roman Empire, he took on the title of Pontiff. Although he was not necessarily a Christian himself he wasn't baptized until he was on his deathbed , he gave Christians privileges and oversaw major Christian religious disputes.

He may not have understood how the pagan cults, including those of the emperors, were at odds with the new monotheistic religion, but they were, and in time the old Roman religions lost out. Over time, Christian church leaders became increasingly influential, eroding the emperors' powers. For example, when Bishop Ambrose — CE threatened to withhold the sacraments, Emperor Theodosius did the penance the Bishop assigned him. Emperor Theodosius made Christianity the official religion in CE. Since Roman civic and religious life were deeply connected—priestesses controlled the fortune of Rome, prophetic books told leaders what they needed to do to win wars, and emperors were deified—Christian religious beliefs and allegiances conflicted with the working of empire.

The barbarians, which is a term that covers a varied and changing group of outsiders, were embraced by Rome, who used them as suppliers of tax revenue and bodies for the military, even promoting them to positions of power. But Rome also lost territory and revenue to them, especially in northern Africa, which Rome lost to the Vandals at the time of St. Augustine in the early 5th century CE. The loss of Spain meant Rome lost revenue along with the territory and administrative control, a perfect example of the interconnected causes leading to Rome's fall.

That revenue was needed to support Rome's army and Rome needed its army to keep what territory it still maintained. There is no doubt that decay—the loss of Roman control over the military and populace—affected the ability of the Roman Empire to keep its borders intact. Early issues included the crises of the Republic in the first century BCE under the emperors Sulla and Marius as well as that of the Gracchi brothers in the second century CE.

But by the fourth century, the Roman Empire had simply become too big to control easily. The decay of the army, according to the 5th-century Roman historian Vegetius , came from within the army itself. The army grew weak from a lack of wars and stopped wearing their protective armor. The third century had seen emperor Alexander Severus murdered by his own troops while on campaign — the ensuing political instability launched the empire into a crippling civil war, which saw dozens of emperors come and go.

This period of conflict was exacerbated by external threats from outside forces and continued well into the fourth century. Although the move made the empire easier to govern, the two halves drifted apart and failed to work in unison to see off external threats. The eastern half continued to grow in wealth, but the western part, which saw economic decline and continued barbarian attacks, eventually fell in the fifth century. The religion was legalised in AD and became a state religion in AD Although this decree saw an end to the persecution of Christians, it also saw the decline of the Roman religion , which worshipped many gods and viewed the emperor as a divine being.

Sign in. Back to Main menu Everything you ever wanted to know about Back to Main menu Virtual history events History masterclasses. When did Rome actually fall? Your guide to the Roman empire : when it was formed, why it split and how it failed, plus its most colourful emperors. More from our explainer series… What happened to the city of Babylon and the Tower of Babel The Great Depression — why did it happen, and how long did it last? The Spanish Inquisition — was it as brutal as it is popularly believed to be? More on: Europe.

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