Fall of the Western Roman Empire
The fall of the Western Roman Empire (fall of the Roman Empire, fall of Rome) is a protracted process of decline of the Western Roman Empire, as a result of which the state was unable to manage its vast territory and ceased to exist. In 410, Rome was taken by the Visigoths, and on September 4, 476, the German leader Odoacer forced the last emperor of the Western Roman Empire, Romulus Augustus, to abdicate. Thus ended the centuries-old rule of Rome.
Division of the Empire between the sons of Theodosius
In 395, shortly before his death, Emperor Theodosius I (reigned 347-395) divided the previously unified Roman Empire into two parts: the Eastern Roman Empire with its capital in Constantinople (also known as the Roman Empire, or as it will be called much later - the Byzantine Empire, which lasted until 1453) and the Western Roman Empire with its capital in Mediolana (modern Milan), and later in Ravenna (from 402), which lasted until 476. Both parts of the empire were ruled by Theodosius I's sons, Arcadius and Honorius.
In the East, the first emperor was Flavius Arcadius Augustus (reigned 395-408), and in the West, the first emperor was Flavius Augustus Honorius (395-423). The two parts of the former Roman Empire were competing and feuding with each other, in addition, barbarian tribes increased the pressure on them, especially in the Western part of the empire, which was caused by the Great Migration of peoples that began. The power of the emperors in the West was increasingly weakened after the crisis of the third century.
The Great Migration of peoples is a mass movement of barbarian European tribes from north to south, to the borders of the Roman Empire. It took place in the IV-VII centuries. In Europe, and as a result, the Western Roman Empire fell to the barbarians in particular. The beginning of the Great Migration of peoples is considered to be the invasion of nomadic tribes of the Huns from the east in the middle of the IV century.
Stilicho and his wife Serena. Detail of the diptych, Monza Cathedral. 5th century AD
Ivory diptych of the Consul Anicius Petronius Probus with the image of the Emperor Honorius. From the Cathedral of Aosta, Italy, A detail of the Emperor and an inscription with an inscription in the nomination of Christy Winkas Semper. Aosta, Museo del Tesoro (Art Museum). Beginning of the 5th century.
Portrait of Aetius and his wife. Relief on a Roman sarcophagus from the 5th century AD.
Major events leading up to the fall of the Western Roman Empire
Due to the weakening of the emperor's power and the increasing pressure of Western barbarians, the Empire began to gradually decline in trade, economy, crafts and cities.
- In 401, the Visigoths led by Alaric invaded the Western Roman Empire, but were defeated in 402.
- In 404, the barbarian tribes of Ostrogoths, Vandals, and Burgundians, led by Radagais, again invaded Rome. They were barely able to stop the guardian and tutor of the young Emperor Honorius, the vandal Stilicho.
- Stilicho (358-408) was a vandal on his father's side, made a military career under Theodosius I, and later, until his execution in 408, was the de facto ruler of the Western Roman Empire under the Emperor Honorius and more than once saved the empire from invading barbarian tribes. In particular, it was he who thwarted Alaric's first attempt to capture Rome in 408, defeating his troops on the outskirts of Rome. As a result of intrigue and conspiracy, Stilicho was slandered before Honorius and executed. After Stilicho's execution, Honorius began to persecute his barbarian supporters in the Roman service. In response, some of Stilicho's soldiers sided with Alaric and took part in his second campaign against Rome in 409-410. In the course of this campaign, Rome was taken in 410 and subjected to two days of devastation, while the emperor himself did not even try to help the city, hiding behind the high and safe walls of Ravenna. After that, the Visigoths were given territories in Aquitaine (south-west of modern France), which were now formally part of the Western Roman Empire, and de facto formed the first independent barbarian kingdom in the territory of the Western Roman Empire.
- Part of the territories of the Western Roman Empire-Britain, Spain, and part of Gaul-were captured by the usurper Constantine (407-411). In 411, he was defeated, and the unity of the Western Roman Empire was restored. While the struggle between the usurper and Honorius was going on, the barbarians were able to break through the German limes (border) and began ravaging Gaul and Spain.
- Under Honorius ' successor, Emperor Valentinian III (425-455), the barbarian onslaught on the Western Roman Empire increased.
- In 429, the Vandal and Alanian tribes, led by Geiseric, began to seize the province of Africa, from which they first drove out the troops of the emperor of the Western Roman Empire, and then the army of Byzantium, creating their own state in the territories they conquered, which lasted until 534, when it was captured and destroyed by Byzantium.
The infant emperor of the Western Roman Empire, Romulus Augustus, was deposed in 476. The title of emperor, however, was still claimed by Julius Nepos.
Profile of Odoacer on a coin from Ravenna. 477 A.D.
Solidus of Valentinus III. 5th century AD
- In the 440s, the pressure of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes on the territory of Britain increased. There lived Romanized tribes of Britons, who after the departure of the Romans in 409 were left to their own devices and had to defend themselves against the attacks of the Saxons and Jutes.
- In 451, the Huns, led by their leader Attila, invaded the Western Roman Empire from the East. They were stopped by the Roman general Aetius, along with several barbarian tribes (Visigoths, Franks, Burgundians and Saxons), defeating the Huns at the battle of the Catalaunian fields in Gaul in June 451.The Huns retreated, but in 452 they invaded Italy, and only the death of Attila in 453 and the collapse of the Hunnic alliance saved Rome from the threat. Aetius, repeating the fate of Stilicho, rose to the top of power, but because of the intrigues of his enemies, he was executed in 454 by the Emperor Valentinian III. Aetius was the last major Roman general of non-Barbarian origin. His death helped the enemies of Emperor Valentinian III overthrow him in March 455, and in June 455. Rome was terribly ravaged by the vandals who captured it. After that, the words "vandal" and "vandalism"entered many languages of the world. As a result, the vandals subdued Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica.
- In 457, the Burgundians occupied the Rodan basin (modern Rhone), creating an independent Burgundian kingdom.
- The Western Empire began to weaken further and lose its territories and provinces, and the emperors became toys in the hands of barbarian warlords who proclaimed and overthrew emperors at will.
The last glimmer of hope for the Western Roman Empire was the short-lived reign of Emperor Flavius Julius Majorian (he ruled in April 457-August 461), who was able to win back part of Spain and part of Gaul for Rome, but was overthrown and killed in 461 by the barbarian general Ricimer. The decline of the Western Roman Empire continued again, and by the mid-460s, only Italy remained under Roman rule.
Thomas Kohle. Painting "The Fall of the Roman Empire". 1841
Odoacer's ambassadors hand over symbols of the Western Emperor's power to the Byzantine Emperor Zeno
Painting " The Sack of Rome by vandals”
Fall of the Western Roman Empire
Finally, the Western Roman Empire fell in 476, when the German commander Odoacer deprived the last Roman emperor Romulus Augustus of power, and sent the symbols of his power – the purple cloak and diadem – to the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire Zeno (reigned in 474-491). Odoacer founded his own barbarian kingdom in Italy.
Emperor Zeno of the Eastern Roman Empire, in response to the symbols of power received from Italy by the Western Roman Emperor, granted Odoacer to the patricians and recognized him as the Roman governor of Italy, although he actually remained an independent ruler.
In modern historical science, the events of 476 are considered the end of the era of Antiquity and the beginning of the next historical period-the era of the Middle Ages.
Reasons for the Fall of the Western Roman Empire:
1. Economic: desolation of the economy, inefficiency of slave labor;
2. Political: the weakening of the power of the Roman emperors;
3. Foreign policy: the increasing barbarian onslaught on the empire's borders;
4. Climate: climate change towards aridity and cold.
The reasons for the fall of the Western Roman Empire are still debated in scientific circles. On the ruins of the Western Roman Empire, barbarian kingdoms emerged, from which many modern European states were eventually formed. The decline continued after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, with the Senate ceasing to exist by 630.
Europe and the Mediterranean in 476
The Roman Empire, The Emperors of Rome