The western Roman empire is the modern term because that the western fifty percent of the Roman realm after that was split in 2 by the emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305 CE) in c. 285/286 CE. The Romans themselves did not use this term. In ~ its height (c. 117 CE), the Roman realm stretched from Italy through Europe come the british Isles, throughout North Africa, down v Egypt and also up right into Mesopotamia and across Anatolia. By 285 CE the Roman empire had get an impression so large that it to be no much longer feasible to govern every the provinces from the central seat that Rome.

Soon after coming to power, Diocletian made a fellow-officer named Maximian (r. 285/286-305 CE) his co-emperor and, in doing so, split the empire into halves v the east Empire"s funding at byzantine (later Constantinople) and the Western empire governed indigenous Milan (with Rome as a “ceremonial” or symbolic capital). Both halves were well-known as "The roman Empire" although, in time, the Eastern realm would take on Greek instead of Latin as its official language and also would lose much the the personality of the traditional Roman Empire.

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The Eastern realm flourished while the Western realm struggled and also finally fell c. 476 CE. In time, it became the structure of the holy Roman realm (962-1806 CE) - seen as a resurgence of the values and also order that the Roman empire at its height - an initial under the power of Charlemagne (r. 800-814 CE) whose successors could not maintain it, and then officially started by otto I that Germany (r. 962-973 CE). The holy Roman empire steadily lost cohesion and also authority as an outmoded college incapable of administer in a modern age, ending up being increasingly corrupt and also ineffectual, until it was finally dissolved in 1806 CE.

After Marcus Aurelius, his boy Commodus (r. 180-192 CE) came to be emperor and dissipated Rome"s power through self-indulgent and inefficient rule. After ~ Commodus was assassinated, Rome proficient a year of man (known as The Year the the 5 Emperors) during which five various men took power and also were deposed until Septimius Severus (r. 193-211 CE) started the Severan empire and restored order. Severus courted the donate of the military, having actually learned from The Year of the 5 Emperors the this remained in an emperor"s best interest, and also debased the money in bespeak to be able to generate an ext money to raise the value of the troops. The further developed the criterion of the emperor relying greatly on the support of the military, thus effectively compromising the traditional function of roman inn emperor.

When Diocletian came to power, he revived order & divided the empire"s rule between himself in the eastern & Maximian in the west.

In 235 CE, the emperor Alexander Severus (r. 222-235 CE) to be assassinated by his very own troops who felt he was not acting in their ideal interests. This plunged Rome into the era well-known as the dilemm of the third Century (also the imperial Crisis, 235-284 CE) throughout which 20 kings would come and also go in almost 50 years, a startling statistic when contrasted with the 26 majesties who rule in the 250 years between Augustus and also Alexander Severus.

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When Diocletian involved power, he restored order and also divided the empire"s rule between himself in the east and also Maximian in the west. The dilemm of the 3rd Century had presented how perilous it to be to have actually Rome dependence on a single emperor whose death could result in instability, and Diocletian likewise understood that the empire was just too large for one male to administer effectively. After ~ the division, Diocletian instituted his tetrarchy – dominance of 4 – whereby the realm was further divided in between four guys who ruled their own unique sections.

Under the regime of Constantine the great (324-337 CE), the empire as a whole flourished but it was never ever as cohesive as it had actually been under the Five good Emperors. The Eastern empire established profitable trade and prospered if the Western empire struggled and, due to the fact that the 2 sections had tendency to see the various other as competition, they worked as different entities who shared a common bond but served their very own interests.

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The dissolved of the Empire

Even so, the 2 halves the the empire continued to prosper equally till the reign of the Emperor Theodosius ns (379-395 CE) once internal and also external pressures exerted themselves to rest the two halves apart. These pressures included, but were not minimal to:

political instability The self-interest of the 2 halves intrusion of barbaric tribes government corruption Mercenary armies Over-reliance on slave labor enormous unemployment and also inflation

As noted, Eastern and Western Rome pursued their own interests instead of functioning in concert toward mutual goals. This absence of cohesion fostered political instability which to be made worse by federal government corruption, especially amongst provincial authorities that abused their positions for personal gain. The Goth and Hun mercenaries in the Roman army owed no allegiance to Rome, lock were just fighting for pay and, further, were no treated as well as they felt lock deserved. The over-reliance on servant labor took work away from the lower classes that then relied on windy assistance and also the earlier debasement the the currency under Septimus Severus had end up being a plan of later emperors, leading to inflation.

Theodosius I"s zeal in spreading Christianity and crushing pagan influences has additionally been detailed as a contributing cause to the loss of Rome. The earlier pagan belief system the the Romans had actually been a state religion; the belief informed the state, and the state supported the faith. The roman gods were came to with Rome and also its success; the new Christian god had actually no vested interest in Rome every se and also was the god the everyone. The nature that Christianity, according to some scholars, offered to threaten the classic cohesion roman paganism detailed to the empire. That point has been debated for centuries yet Theodosius I"s persecution that the pagans is a far much more certain element since, together emperor the both the east and also the west, he had the power to hold together the Roman empire but, instead, separated it further through spiritual intolerance.

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Theodosius I concerned power complying with a number of serious setbacks because that Rome. The Gothic war of 376-382 CE severely weakened the Western realm even despite the battles were routinely battled by forces from the eastern Empire. In ~ the fight of Adrianople in 378 CE, the east Emperor Valens (r. 364-378 CE) was beat by Fritigern (d. C. 380 CE) the the Goths and also many chroniclers agree the this clues the beginning of the end of the roman Empire. The emperor Gratian (of the west Empire, r. 367-383 CE) had elevated Theodosius come co-emperor condition and, once he died, Theodosius I came to be emperor of both halves of the empire. Theodosius I"s therapy of the mercenary Goths – specifically at the battle of the Frigidus in 394 CE – enraged the Goth king Alaric ns (r. 395-410 CE) to bag Rome in 410 CE.

This is no at every to case that Theodosius I"s reign resulted in the end of the Western roman inn Empire. There is no solitary cause because that the decline and fall of Rome. A steady deterioration in power and prestige had actually been continuous prior come the roman inn defeat in ~ Adrianople and all this challenges and also pressures culminated in the deposition of the emperor Romulus Augustulus (r. 475-476 CE) by the german king Odoacer ~ above 4 September 476 CE, prior to Adrianople. The Western roman Empire, essentially, dropped with the increase of Odoacer who introduced a brand-new era i m sorry would check out the Kingdom the Italy change the power of Rome in the west.

The Kingdom of Italy

While c. 476 CE is the traditionally accepted date for the finish of the Western roman Empire, that reality did continue on under the preeminence of Odoacer (r. 476-493 CE) who, officially anyway, was merely ruling in ar of the deposed emperor Julius Nepos (who had actually been deposed by the basic Orestes who had actually placed his son, Romulus Augustulus, top top the throne). Therefore, there space historians and also scholars who day the end of the Roman empire to the assassination that Julius Nepos in 480 CE. After ~ Nepos" death, Odoacer linked the an ar of Dalmatia come his own lands which came to the emperor the the eastern part of the empire, Zeno (r. 474-475, 476-491 CE), by whose authority Odoacer had actually been allowed to rule. In Zeno"s view, Odoacer was acting with too lot independent authority and was beginning to posture a far-ranging threat.

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His suspicions were confirmed when Odoacer was found to it is in backing Zeno"s rival, the basic Illus, in a revolt. Zeno employed the Gothic leader Theodoric (later well-known as Theodoric the Great, r. 493-526 CE) to loss Illus yet then Theodoric turn his formidable army on Zeno and Constantinople. Scholar guy Halsall explains:

The Goths intimidated Constantinople and ravaged the Balkans but could not take the capital, whilst Zeno, secure behind the city"s famed triple line of walls, was unlikely to drive the latter fully from his territories. A equipment was required, agreeable come both parties, and also found: because that Theodoric"s Ostrogoths to relocate to Italy and also dispose the the "tyrant" Odoacer. (287)

Theodoric attacked Italy at the head of his army in 488 CE and battled the forces of Odoacer throughout the region for the next 4 years. A weaken was lastly brokered by John, Bishop the Ravenna, whereby Odoacer and also Theodoric would certainly jointly rule but, in ~ the feast come celebrate the finish of hostilities in 493 CE, Theodoric assassinated Odoacer and claimed the kingship because that himself.

Theodoric"s reign lugged order and prosperity come the region in the type of laws, building projects, and also increased food production but, ~ his death in 526 CE, his successors can not organize the kingdom together as well. The east emperor Justinian ns (r. 527-565 CE) check his manage over the Kingdom the Italy and met the biggest resistance indigenous the Ostrogoth king Totila (r. 541-552 CE) who claimed the ideal to the very same autonomy Theodoric had actually won indigenous Rome. Justinian I sent out the famous general Belisarius (l. 505-565 CE) come Italy but even he can not outsmart or outfight Totila. The basic Narses (l. 480-573 CE) finally defeated Totila at the fight of Taginae in 552 CE, return Italy to roman authorities till the invasion of the Lombards in 568 CE.

The divine Roman Empire

The Lombards thrived in power, creating dukedoms transparent Italy till they were beat in 774 CE through Charlemagne in ~ the battle of Desiderius. By this time, most Lombards had assimilated with the human being of Italy and the surrounding Franks and also Charlemagne"s victory simply increased this process. Christianity was currently the dominant religion of Europe and, due to the fact that it had been legitimized and also spread under roman rule, there were plenty of Christians that refused come let the principle of the Roman empire disappear. Charlemagne that the Franks was proclaimed Western roman Emperor in 800 CE by Pope Leo III and also entrusted v protecting and perpetuating the Christian message.


Bust the Charlemagne
Beckstet (CC BY-NC-SA)

Charlemagne became the preeminent Christian champion that his time, expanding his realm while in ~ the very same time launching crusades versus the Muslim Saracens as he had actually previously done versus the pagan saxons (through the Saxon battles of 772-804 CE). Plenty of tales and poems, including the well known Chanson de Roland (the track of Roland), were composed praising Charlemagne and his knights for their chivalrous adventures defending Christian values at the cost of Christian and also non-Christian lives. This brand-new Christian empire asserted to it is in the straight descendant that the old Roman empire only championing the cause of Christ instead of that of an individual emperor.

This new Christian empire asserted to it is in the direct descendant of the old Roman realm only championing the reason of Christ rather of that of an individual emperor.

Charlemagne set the structure for the new empire but, as with many powerful and effective rulers, his successors can not maintain his exact same level the efficiency and also the realm dropped apart. That was rejoined by rose oil I of Germany that had followed Charlemagne"s instance of the course to power v crusades versus non-Christians (in this case, the Magyars). Continuing to associate himself through Charlemagne, otto I had actually himself proclaimed emperor the The holy Roman empire of Germany in 962 CE.

Otto i then ongoing the plans of maintaining a Christian nation following Charlemagne"s instance throughout his regime and set the traditional for those that would follow him. The divine Roman Empire continued to watch itself in this role as an reality championing Christian truth through warfare until, in a steady decline involving politics intrigue, corruption, practically incessant war, and consistent internal strife, it was dissolved in 1806 CE.

The renowned French writer, Voltaire, in thing 70 of his 1756 CE work-related Essay on the Manners and also Spirit the Nations, notes, “This agglomeration which was called and which tho calls itself the divine Roman realm was no holy, nor Roman, no one an Empire” and also historians due to the fact that Voltaire have actually agreed. The divine Roman realm was therefore in name only and after the critical emperor, Francis II, abdicated the throne, Napoleon disassembled the existing political framework which supported it and also the territory came under French manage through the Confederation the the Rhine.


The autumn of Rome and also its various causes has to be the topic of dispute for centuries. Even though there is presently a general agreement on the causes, no two lists emphasize the same suggest or even incorporate the very same reasons. Halsall uses an exciting insight right into Western Rome"s autumn in addressing the decrease of the fifth century CE:

The many ironic thing of all is that during the coming before century it is almost impossible to determine a single figure who had actually actually do the efforts to cause demise. Every the decisive action in bringing under the empire were brought out by world attempting to create a far better position because that themselves in ~ the sorts of royal structures that had actually existed in the fourth century. In a renowned dictum, Andre Piganiol created that "Roman civilisation did no die a herbal death; it was assassinated." Neither alternate seems correct. The Roman empire was no murdered and nor walk it dice a natural death; the accidentally committed suicide. (283)

Halstall"s point is that, in do the efforts to preserve a system of government and social structure which could no longer work, Rome doomed chin to fall. Rome “accidentally committed suicide” through holding top top a version of its previous which might not work-related anymore. The mistreatment that the Goths by roman provincial governors, which led to the Goth rebellion, wars, and the fight of Adrianople, is simply one instance of this. The so-called “barbarians” would certainly no longer tolerate bad treatment at the hands of the Romans as they had actually in the past and also as the Romans believed they should proceed to do.

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The attempts to revive, preserve, and force the version of the Roman empire on one era which can no much longer support it must be thought about as a significant underlying reason for the loss of Rome in the west. This same passion for reviving the “glory days” of the empire likewise contributed to the resolution of the divine Roman Empire. The times had changed, the civilization had adjusted with it, and also an outmoded form of government simply had actually no hope of making it through in the new political and social climate.

Forms that government, like people, perform not make it through by clinging come the past yet by adapting come the challenges of the present and moving on towards the future. Rome to be incapable the that type of vision and also so, like any kind of entity i m sorry holds tightly to the past, it can not endure the type of challenges which present methods for adjust and growth.