Fall of Rome

Fall of Rome

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Here you will find a 5-minute podcast explaining in simple terms why Rome fell, a short text to fill in and a diagram to complete based on that podcast. The transcript and answer keys are all included.

You also have a choice of two wrap-up activities/open questions, should you want to go further, according to your students' level of abilities.

Check out our other resources on ancient Rome:

  • Governments and Society
  • Rome's Legacy
  • Daily Life
  • Religions
  • Warfare and Battles
  • Innovations and Architecture
  • Economy and Trade

All our education material is varied and built to develop middle and high-school students' skills to succeed in social studies.

Let us know what you think!

We are a non-profit organization and it is one of our goals to provide quality material to teachers by building engaging courses and finding reliable sources. If you want to join our team of volunteers and help us create quality material, please contact us.

Fall of Rome - History

A t its height, the boundaries of the Roman Empire stretched from the north of England across the North Sea, along the Rhine and Danube Rivers to the Caspian Sea, south to Egypt, along the coast of Africa to Spain. The decline and eventual collapse of this vast empire took place over a period of years before reaching its bitter end in the middle of the 5th century. Its demise followed a pattern in which extended periods of weakness were followed by unsustainable bursts of strength that inevitably led to further decline. The forces that motivated its destruction came from the internal decay of its economic, political and social structure combined with relentless barbarian attacks from without.

The Barbarian Invasions of the Roman Empire
Click underlined items for more information
The Huns made their first appearance in what is now Eastern Europe around the year 370. Thundering out of Asia's Central Steppes, their arrival pushed the resident tribes such as the Vandals and Visigoths westward into a collision with the Roman Empire (see Dining with Attila the Hun). In 376, the Visigoths crossed the Danube River - a traditional boundary of the Roman Empire - and swarmed southward. Two years later, the Visigoths defeated the Romans at the battle of Adrianople, further weakening the Empire.

Further west, the Vandals crossed the Rhine River - another traditional boundary of the Empire- in 406. They continued their assault southward to Spain, crossing the Pyrenees Mountains in 409. A year later, the Visigoths sacked Rome and continued on to Spain.

In 429, the Vandals crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and reached the shores of Africa. They continued their assault eastward along the coast and re-crossed the Mediterranean to make a landing in Italy. In 455 they followed in the footsteps of the Visigoths and sacked Rome. The Western Roman Empire was dead. However, a vestige of Rome lived on. Its Eastern portion, with its capital at Constantinople, lasted for another 1000 years until the city was sacked by the Muslims in 1453.

St. Jerome was born around the year 340. He came to Rome and was baptized there around 360. He devoted the rest of his life to scholarly pursuits and the translation of the Bible into Latin. He died in 420. He wrote the following observations describing the devastation of the Empire around 406:

Oh wretched Empire! Mayence [Mainz, Germany] , formerly so noble a city, has been taken and ruined, and in the church many thousands of men have been massacred. Worms [Germany] has been destroyed after a long siege. Rheims, that powerful city, Amiens, Arras, Speyer [Germany] , Strasburg, - all have seen their citizens led away captive into Germany. Aquitaine and the provinces of Lyons and Narbonne, all save a few towns, have been depopulated and these the sword threatens without, while hunger ravages within.

I cannot speak without tears of Toulouse, which the merits of the holy Bishop Exuperius have prevailed so far to save from destruction. Spain, even, is in daily terror lest it perish, remembering the invasion of the Cimbri and whatsoever the other provinces have suffered once, they continue to suffer in their fear.

I will keep silence concerning the rest, lest I seem to despair of the mercy of God. For a long time, from the Black Sea to the Julian Alps, those things which are ours have not been ours and for thirty years, since the Danube boundary was broken, war has been waged in the very midst of the Roman Empire. Our tears are dried by old age. Except a few old men, all were born in captivity and siege, and do not desire the liberty they never knew.

Who could believe this? How could the whole tale be worthily told? How Rome has fought within her own bosom not for glory, but for preservation - nay, how she has not even fought, but with gold and all her precious things has ransomed her life.

Who could believe that Rome, built upon the conquest of the whole world, would fall to the ground? That the mother herself would become the tomb of her peoples? That all the regions of the East, of Africa and Egypt, once ruled by the queenly city, would be filled with troops of slaves and handmaidens? That to-day holy Bethlehem should shelter men and women of noble birth, who once abounded in wealth and are now beggars?"

This eyewitness account appears in Robinson, James Harvey, Readings in European History (1906) Duruy, Victor, History of Rome and of the Roman People, vol VIII (1883).

Fall of Rome - History

Teaching the Fall of Rome

How do you teach the fall of Rome? When I first began teaching, I lectured about all the events and issues that led to the fall of Rome and then gave my students a mini-research project about the different groups of people that were involved in the fall. It was OK. It wasn't horrible, I just wanted it to be more engaging. So, this is what I came up with . . .

Day 1: Hook them with a game. I created a simulation where students randomly choose an emperor profile (based on an actual emperor who ruled during Rome's downturn and fall) and a treasury amount. Then, they are presented with situations where they have to make a decision (they are given several options to choose from).

The decisions result in the students either gaining or losing gold coins. At the end of the simulation, students tally up all of their gold coins in their treasury and learn whether they were successful (or not) in stopping the fall of the Roman Empire. What makes this so awesome is that students don't realize that while they are playing, they are actually learning about the key events that took place during the collapse of the Roman Empire. And, when they start learning the actual content for this part of the Ancient Rome unit, they easily make connections to the game they just played and remember the content a lot better!

Day 2: Follow up the simulation with Doodle Notes on the events leading to the Fall of Rome. I love to make Doodle Notes and students love using them! Incorporating visual cues along with students writing down their notes on the pages helps immensely with retention.

Day 3: More Doodle Notes! This time, the Doodle Notes focus on the military, social, economic, and political issues that contributed to the fall of Rome.

Day 4: Wrap everything up with a map activity to help students better understand the invasions that took place.

Day 5: Student often ask to re-play the game. If there's time, it's a great way to reinforce what they've learned!
*it also works just as well to start with the Doodle Notes and use the simulation on the last day.

If you love these lessons, you can find there here (print and digital versions are both included!):


Since 1776, when Edward Gibbon published the first volume of his The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Decline and Fall has been the theme around which much of the history of the Roman Empire has been structured. "From the eighteenth century onward," historian Glen Bowersock wrote, "we have been obsessed with the fall: it has been valued as an archetype for every perceived decline, and, hence, as a symbol for our own fears." [4] The Fall is not the only unifying concept for these events the period described as Late Antiquity emphasizes the cultural continuities throughout and beyond the political collapse.


The Fall of the Western Roman Empire was the process in which it failed to enforce its rule. The loss of centralized political control over the West, and the lessened power of the East, are universally agreed, but the theme of decline has been taken to cover a much wider time span than the hundred years from 376. For Cassius Dio, the accession of the emperor Commodus in 180 CE marked the descent "from a kingdom of gold to one of rust and iron", [5] while Gibbon also began his narrative of decline from the reign of Commodus, after a number of introductory chapters. Arnold J. Toynbee and James Burke argue that the entire Imperial era was one of steady decay of institutions founded in republican times, while Theodor Mommsen excluded the imperial period from his Nobel Prize-winning History of Rome (1854–56). As one convenient marker for the end, 476 has been used since Gibbon, but other key dates for the fall of the Roman Empire in the West include the Crisis of the Third Century, the Crossing of the Rhine in 406 (or 405), the sack of Rome in 410, and the death of Julius Nepos in 480. [6] [ page needed ]


Gibbon gave a classic formulation of reasons why the Fall happened. He gave great weight to internal decline as well as to attacks from outside the Empire.

The story of its ruin is simple and obvious and, instead of inquiring why the Roman empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted so long. The victorious legions, who, in distant wars, acquired the vices of strangers and mercenaries, first oppressed the freedom of the republic, and afterwards violated the majesty of the purple. The emperors, anxious for their personal safety and the public peace, were reduced to the base expedient of corrupting the discipline which rendered them alike formidable to their sovereign and to the enemy the vigour of the military government was relaxed, and finally dissolved, by the partial institutions of Constantine and the Roman world was overwhelmed by a deluge of Barbarians.

Gibbon felt that Christianity had hastened the Fall, but also ameliorated the results:

As the happiness of a future life is the great object of religion, we may hear without surprise or scandal that the introduction, or at least the abuse of Christianity, had some influence on the decline and fall of the Roman empire. the soldiers' pay was lavished on the useless multitudes of both sexes who could only plead the merits of abstinence and chastity. If the decline of the Roman empire was hastened by the conversion of Constantine, his victorious religion broke the violence of the fall, and mollified the ferocious temper of the conquerors (chapter 38). [7]

Some modern Roman historians do not believe that Christianity per se had a significant role in the Empire's fall, in part because of the Eastern (and thoroughly Christian) empire’s continuation for almost a thousand years longer. [8]

Alexander Demandt enumerated 210 different theories on why Rome fell, and new ideas have emerged since. [9] [10] Historians still try to analyze the reasons for loss of political control over a vast territory (and, as a subsidiary theme, the reasons for the survival of the Eastern Roman Empire). Comparison has also been made with China after the end of the Han dynasty, which re-established unity under the Sui dynasty while the Mediterranean world remained politically disunited.

Harper identifies a Roman climatic optimum from about 200 BCE to 150 CE, when lands around the Mediterranean were generally warm and well-watered. From 150 to 450, the climate entered a transitional period, in which taxes were less easy to collect and bore more heavily on the working population. After about 450, the climate worsened further in the Late Antique Little Ice Age. [11] [ page needed ] Climate change has also been suggested as a possible driver of changes in populations outside the Empire, in particular on the Eurasian steppe, though definite evidence is lacking. [12]

Alternative descriptions and labels

From at least the time of Henri Pirenne scholars have described a continuity of Roman culture and political legitimacy long after 476. [ citation needed ] Pirenne postponed the demise of classical civilization to the 8th century. He challenged the notion that Germanic barbarians had caused the Western Roman Empire to end, and he refused to equate the end of the Western Roman Empire with the end of the office of emperor in Italy. He pointed out the essential continuity of the economy of the Roman Mediterranean even after the barbarian invasions, and suggested that only the Muslim conquests represented a decisive break with antiquity. The more recent formulation of a historical period characterized as "Late Antiquity" emphasizes the transformations of ancient to medieval worlds within a cultural continuity. [13] In recent decades archaeologically-based argument even extends the continuity in material culture and in patterns of settlement as late as the eleventh century. [14] [15] [ page needed ] [16] [ page needed ] Observing the political reality of lost control (and the attendant fragmentation of commerce, culture, and language), but also the cultural and archaeological continuities, the process has been described as a complex cultural transformation, rather than a fall. [17] [ page needed ]

Height of power, systematic weaknesses

The Roman Empire reached its greatest geographical extent under Trajan (r. 98–117), who ruled a prosperous state that stretched from Armenia to the Atlantic. The Empire had large numbers of trained, supplied, and disciplined soldiers, drawn from a growing population. It had a comprehensive civil administration based in thriving cities with effective control over public finances. Among its literate elite it had ideological legitimacy as the only worthwhile form of civilization and a cultural unity based on comprehensive familiarity with Greek and Roman literature and rhetoric. The Empire's power allowed it to maintain extreme differences of wealth and status (including slavery on a large scale), [18] [ page needed ] and its wide-ranging trade networks permitted even modest households to use goods made by professionals far away. [19]

The empire had both strength and resilience. Its financial system allowed it to raise significant taxes which, despite endemic corruption, supported a large regular army with logistics and training. The cursus honorum, a standardized series of military and civil posts organised for ambitious aristocratic men, ensured that powerful noblemen became familiar with military and civil command and administration. At a lower level within the army, connecting the aristocrats at the top with the private soldiers, a large number of centurions were well-rewarded, literate, and responsible for training, discipline, administration, and leadership in battle. [20] City governments with their own properties and revenues functioned effectively at a local level membership of city councils involved lucrative opportunities for independent decision-making, and, despite its obligations, became seen as a privilege. Under a series of emperors who each adopted a mature and capable successor, the Empire did not require civil wars to regulate the imperial succession. Requests could be submitted directly to the better emperors, and the answers had the force of law, putting the imperial power directly in touch with even humble subjects. [21] The cults of polytheist religion were hugely varied, but none claimed that theirs was the only truth, and their followers displayed mutual tolerance, producing a polyphonous religious harmony. [22] Religious strife was rare after the suppression of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 136 (after which the devastated Judaea ceased to be a major centre for Jewish unrest).

Nevertheless, it remained a culture based on an early subsistence economy, with only ineffective inklings of a germ theory of disease. Despite its aqueducts, the water supply did not allow good hygiene, and sewage was disposed of on the streets, in open drains, or by scavenging animals. Even in the Roman Climatic Optimum, local harvest failures causing famines were always a possibility. [23] [ page needed ] And even in good times, Roman women needed to have, on average, six children each in order to maintain the population. [23] [ page needed ] Good nourishment and bodily cleanliness were privileges of the rich, advertised by their firm tread, healthy skin color, and lack of the "dull smell of the underbathed". [24] Infant mortality was very high, diarrhoeal diseases were a major cause of death, and malaria was endemic in many areas, notably in the city of Rome itself, possibly encouraged by the enthusiasm of rich Romans for water features in their gardens. [23] [ page needed ]

Climatic worsening and plague

From about 150, the climate became on average somewhat worse for most of the inhabited lands around the Mediterranean. [25] [26] Heavy mortality in 165–180 from the Antonine Plague seriously impaired attempts to repel Germanic invaders, but the legions generally held or at least speedily re-instated the borders of the Empire. [27]

Crisis of the Third Century

The Empire suffered multiple serious crises during the third century. The rising Sassanid Empire inflicted three crushing defeats on Roman field armies and remained a potent threat for centuries. [28] Other disasters included repeated civil wars, barbarian invasions, and more mass-mortality in the Plague of Cyprian (from 250 onwards). Rome abandoned the province of Dacia on the north of the Danube (271), and for a short period the Empire split into a Gallic Empire in the West (260–274), a Palmyrene Empire in the East (260–273), and a central Roman rump state. The Rhine/Danube frontier also came under more effective threats from larger barbarian groupings, which had developed improved agriculture and increased their populations. [29] [30] The average nutritional state of the population in the West suffered a serious decline in the late second century the population of North-Western Europe did not recover, though the Mediterranean regions did. [31]

The Empire survived the "Crisis of the Third Century", directing its economy successfully towards defense, but survival came at the price of a more centralized and bureaucratic state. Under Gallienus (Emperor from 253 to 268) the senatorial aristocracy ceased joining the ranks of the senior military commanders, its typical members lacking interest in military service and showing incompetence at command. [32] [33]

Reunification and political division

Aurelian reunited the empire in 274, and from 284 Diocletian and his successors reorganized it with more emphasis on the military. John the Lydian, writing over two centuries later, reported that Diocletian's army at one point totaled 389,704 men, plus 45,562 in the fleets, and numbers may have increased later. [34] With the limited communications of the time, both the European and the Eastern frontiers needed the attention of their own supreme commanders. Diocletian tried to solve this problem by re-establishing an adoptive succession with a senior (Augustus) and junior (Caesar) emperor in each half of the Empire, but this system of tetrarchy broke down within one generation the hereditary principle re-established itself with generally unfortunate results, and thereafter civil war became again the main method of establishing new imperial regimes. Although Constantine the Great (in office 306 to 337) again re-united the Empire, towards the end of the fourth century the need for division was generally accepted. From then on, the Empire existed in constant tension between the need for two emperors and their mutual mistrust. [28]

Until late in the fourth century the united Empire retained sufficient power to launch attacks against its enemies in Germania and in the Sassanid Empire. Receptio of barbarians became widely practised: imperial authorities admitted potentially hostile groups into the Empire, split them up, and allotted to them lands, status, and duties within the imperial system. [35] In this way many groups provided unfree workers (coloni) for Roman landowners, and recruits (laeti) for the Roman army. Sometimes their leaders became officers. Normally the Romans managed the process carefully, with sufficient military force on hand to ensure compliance, and cultural assimilation followed over the next generation or two.

Growing social divisions

The new supreme rulers disposed of the legal fiction of the early Empire (seeing the emperor as but the first among equals) emperors from Aurelian (r. 270–275) onwards openly styled themselves as dominus et deus, "lord and god", titles appropriate for a master-slave relationship. [36] An elaborate court ceremonial developed, and obsequious flattery became the order of the day. Under Diocletian, the flow of direct requests to the emperor rapidly reduced and soon ceased altogether. No other form of direct access replaced them, and the emperor received only information filtered through his courtiers. [37]

Official cruelty, supporting extortion and corruption, may also have become more commonplace. [38] While the scale, complexity, and violence of government were unmatched, [39] the emperors lost control over their whole realm insofar as that control came increasingly to be wielded by anyone who paid for it. [40] Meanwhile, the richest senatorial families, immune from most taxation, engrossed more and more of the available wealth and income, [41] [42] while also becoming divorced from any tradition of military excellence. One scholar identifies a great increase in the purchasing power of gold, two and a half fold from 274 to the later fourth century, which may be an index of growing economic inequality between a gold-rich elite and a cash-poor peasantry. [43]

Within the late Roman military, many recruits and even officers had barbarian origins, and soldiers are recorded as using possibly-barbarian rituals such as elevating a claimant on shields. [44] Some scholars have seen this as an indication of weakness others disagree, seeing neither barbarian recruits nor new rituals as causing any problem with the effectiveness or loyalty of the army. [45]

In 313 Constantine I declared official toleration of Christianity, followed over the ensuing decades by establishment of Christian orthodoxy and by official and private action against pagans and non-orthodox Christians. His successors generally continued this process, and Christianity became the religion of any ambitious civil official. Under Constantine the cities lost their revenue from local taxes, and under Constantius II (r. 337–361) their endowments of property. [46] This worsened the existing difficulty in keeping the city councils up to strength, and the services provided by the cities were scamped or abandoned. [46] Public building projects became fewer, more often repairs than new construction, and now provided at state expense rather than by local grandees wishing to consolidate long-term local influence. [47] A further financial abuse was Constantius's increased habit of granting to his immediate entourage the estates of persons condemned of treason and other capital charges this reduced future though not immediate income, and those close to the emperor gained a strong incentive to stimulate his suspicion of plots. [46]

Constantine settled Franks on the lower left bank of the Rhine their settlements required a line of fortifications to keep them in check, indicating that Rome had lost almost all local control. [38] Under Constantius, bandits came to dominate areas such as Isauria well within the empire. [48] The tribes of Germany also became more populous and more threatening. [29] In Gaul, which did not really recover from the invasions of the third century, there was widespread insecurity and economic decline in the 300s, [29] perhaps worst in Armorica. By 350, after decades of pirate attacks, virtually all villas in Armorica were deserted, and local use of money ceased about 360. [49] Repeated attempts to economize on military expenditure included billeting troops in cities, where they could less easily be kept under military discipline and could more easily extort from civilians. [50] Except in the rare case of a determined and incorruptible general, these troops proved ineffective in action and dangerous to civilians. [51] Frontier troops were often given land rather than pay as they farmed for themselves, their direct costs diminished, but so did their effectiveness, and there was much less economic stimulus to the frontier economy. [52] However, except for the provinces along the lower Rhine, the agricultural economy was generally doing well. [53]

The numbers and effectiveness of the regular soldiers may have declined during the fourth century: payrolls were inflated so that pay could be diverted and exemptions from duty sold, their opportunities for personal extortion were multiplied by residence in cities, and their effectiveness was reduced by concentration on extortion instead of drill. [54] However, extortion, gross corruption, and occasional ineffectiveness [55] were not new to the Roman army there is no consensus whether its effectiveness significantly declined before 376. [56] Ammianus Marcellinus, himself a professional soldier, repeats longstanding observations about the superiority of contemporary Roman armies being due to training and discipline, not to physical size or strength. [57] Despite a possible decrease in its ability to assemble and supply large armies, [58] Rome maintained an aggressive and potent stance against perceived threats almost to the end of the fourth century. [59]

Julian (r. 360–363) launched a drive against official corruption which allowed the tax demands in Gaul to be reduced to one-third of their previous amount, while all government requirements were still met. [60] In civil legislation Julian was notable for his pro-pagan policies. All Christian sects were officially tolerated by Julian, persecution of heretics was forbidden, and non-Christian religions were encouraged. Some Christians continued to destroy temples, disrupt rituals, and break sacred images, seeking martyrdom and at times achieving it at the hands of non-Christian mobs or secular authorities some pagans attacked the Christians who had previously been involved with the destruction of temples. [61]

Julian won victories against Germans who had invaded Gaul. He launched an expensive campaign against the Persians, [46] which ended in defeat and his own death. He succeeded in marching to the Sassanid capital of Ctesiphon, but lacked adequate supplies for an assault. He burned his boats and supplies to show resolve in continuing operations, but the Sassanids began a war of attrition by burning crops. Finding himself cut off in enemy territory, he began a land retreat during which he was mortally wounded. His successor Jovian, acclaimed by a demoralized army, began his brief reign (363–364) trapped in Mesopotamia without supplies. To purchase safe passage home, he had to concede areas of northern Mesopotamia, including the strategically important fortress of Nisibis, which had been Roman since before the Peace of Nisibis in 299.

The brothers Valens (r. 364–378) and Valentinian I (r. 364–375) energetically tackled the threats of barbarian attacks on all the Western frontiers [62] and tried to alleviate the burdens of taxation, which had risen continuously over the previous forty years Valens in the East reduced the tax demand by half in his fourth year. [63]

Both were Christians and confiscated the temple lands that Julian had restored, but were generally tolerant of other beliefs. Valentinian in the West refused to intervene in religious controversy in the East, Valens had to deal with Christians who did not conform to his ideas of orthodoxy, and persecution formed part of his response. [64] The wealth of the church increased dramatically, immense resources both public and private being used for ecclesiastical construction and support of the religious life. [65] Bishops in wealthy cities were thus able to offer vast patronage Ammianus described some as "enriched from the offerings of matrons, ride seated in carriages, wearing clothing chosen with care, and serve banquets so lavish that their entertainments outdo the tables of kings". Edward Gibbon remarked that "the soldiers' pay was lavished on the useless multitudes of both sexes who could only plead the merits of abstinence and chastity", though there are no figures for the monks and nuns nor for their maintenance costs. Pagan rituals and buildings had not been cheap either the move to Christianity may not have had significant effects on the public finances. [29] Some public disorder also followed competition for prestigious posts Pope Damasus I was installed in 366 after an election whose casualties included a hundred and thirty-seven corpses in the basilica of Sicininus. [66]

Valentinian died of an apoplexy while shouting at envoys of Germanic leaders. His successors in the West were children, his sons Gratian (r. 375–383) and Valentinian II (r. 375–392). Gratian, "alien from the art of government both by temperament and by training" removed the Altar of Victory from the Senate House, and he rejected the pagan title of Pontifex Maximus. [67]

Battle of Adrianople

In 376 the East faced an enormous barbarian influx across the Danube, mostly Goths who were refugees from the Huns. They were exploited by corrupt officials rather than effectively resettled, and they took up arms, joined by more Goths and by some Alans and Huns. Valens was in Asia with his main field army, preparing for an assault on the Persians, and redirecting the army and its logistic support would have required time. Gratian's armies were distracted by Germanic invasions across the Rhine. In 378 Valens attacked the invaders with the Eastern field army, perhaps some 20,000 men—possibly only 10% of the soldiers nominally available in the Danube provinces [68] —and in the Battle of Adrianople, 9 August 378, he lost much of that army and his own life. All of the Balkan provinces were thus exposed to raiding, without effective response from the remaining garrisons who were "more easily slaughtered than sheep". [68] Cities were able to hold their own walls against barbarians who had no siege equipment, and they generally remained intact although the countryside suffered. [69]

Partial recovery in the Balkans, internal corruption and financial desperation

Gratian appointed a new Augustus, a proven general from Hispania called Theodosius. During the next four years, he partially re-established the Roman position in the East. [70] [71] These campaigns depended on effective imperial coordination and mutual trust—between 379 and 380 Theodosius controlled not only the Eastern empire, but also, by agreement, the diocese of Illyricum. [72] Theodosius was unable to recruit enough Roman troops, relying on barbarian warbands without Roman military discipline or loyalty. In contrast, during the Cimbrian War, the Roman Republic, controlling a smaller area than the western Empire, had been able to reconstitute large regular armies of citizens after greater defeats than Adrianople, and it ended that war with the near-extermination of the invading barbarian supergroups, each recorded as having more than 100,000 warriors (with allowances for the usual exaggeration of numbers by ancient authors). [73]

The final Gothic settlement was acclaimed with relief, [71] even the official panegyrist admitting that these Goths could not be expelled or exterminated, nor reduced to unfree status. [74] Instead they were either recruited into the imperial forces, or settled in the devastated provinces along the south bank of the Danube, where the regular garrisons were never fully re-established. [75] In some later accounts, and widely in recent work, this is regarded as a treaty settlement, the first time that barbarians were given a home within the Empire in which they retained their political and military cohesion. [76] No formal treaty is recorded, nor details of whatever agreement was actually made when the Goths are next mentioned in Roman records, they have different leaders and are soldiers of a sort. [77] In 391 Alaric, a Gothic leader, rebelled against Roman control. Goths attacked the emperor himself, but within a year Alaric was accepted as a leader of Theodosius's Gothic troops and this rebellion was over. [78]

Theodosius's financial position must have been difficult, since he had to pay for expensive campaigning from a reduced tax base. The business of subduing barbarian warbands also demanded substantial gifts of precious metal. [79] Nevertheless, he is represented as financially lavish, though personally frugal when on campaign. [80] At least one extra levy provoked desperation and rioting in which the emperor's statues were destroyed. [81] A contemporary reports that at his court "everything was for sale", with corruption rampant. [82] He was pious, a Nicene Christian heavily influenced by Ambrose, and implacable against heretics. In 392 he forbade even private honor to the gods, and pagan rituals such as the Olympic Games. He either ordered or connived at the widespread destruction of sacred buildings. [83]

Civil wars

Theodosius had to face a powerful usurper in the West Magnus Maximus declared himself Emperor in 383, stripped troops from the outlying regions of Britannia (probably replacing some with federate chieftains and their war-bands) and invaded Gaul. His troops killed Gratian and he was accepted as Augustus in the Gallic provinces, where he was responsible for the first official executions of Christian heretics. [84] To compensate the Western court for the loss of Gaul, Hispania, and Britannia, Theodosius ceded the diocese of Dacia and the diocese of Macedonia to their control. In 387 Maximus invaded Italy, forcing Valentinian II to flee to the East, where he accepted Nicene Christianity. Maximus boasted to Ambrose of the numbers of barbarians in his forces, and hordes of Goths, Huns, and Alans followed Theodosius. [85] Maximus negotiated with Theodosius for acceptance as Augustus of the West, but Theodosius refused, gathered his armies, and counterattacked, winning the civil war in 388. There were heavy troop losses on both sides of the conflict. Later Welsh legend has Maximus's defeated troops resettled in Armorica, instead of returning to Britannia, and by 400, Armorica was controlled by Bagaudae rather than by imperial authority. [86]

Theodosius restored Valentinian II, still a very young man, as Augustus in the West. He also appointed Arbogast, a pagan general of Frankish origin, as Valentinian's commander-in-chief and guardian. Valentinian quarreled in public with Arbogast, failed to assert any authority, and died, either by suicide or by murder, at the age of 21. Arbogast and Theodosius failed to come to terms and Arbogast nominated an imperial official, Eugenius (r. 392–394), as emperor in the West. Eugenius made some modest attempts to win pagan support, [81] and with Arbogast led a large army to fight another destructive civil war. They were defeated and killed at the Battle of the Frigidus, which was attended by further heavy losses especially among the Gothic federates of Theodosius. The north-eastern approaches to Italy were never effectively garrisoned again. [87]

Theodosius died a few months later in early 395, leaving his young sons Honorius (r. 393–423) and Arcadius (r. 383–408) as emperors. In the immediate aftermath of Theodosius's death, the magister militum Stilicho, married to Theodosius's niece, asserted himself in the West as the guardian of Honorius and commander of the remains of the defeated Western army. He also claimed control over Arcadius in Constantinople, but Rufinus, magister officiorum on the spot, had already established his own power there. Henceforward the Empire was not under the control of one man, until much of the West had been permanently lost. [88] Neither Honorius nor Arcadius ever displayed any ability either as rulers or as generals, and both lived as the puppets of their courts. [89] Stilicho tried to reunite the Eastern and Western courts under his personal control, but in doing so achieved only the continued hostility of all of Arcadius's successive supreme ministers.

The ineffectiveness of Roman military responses from Stilicho onwards has been described as "shocking", [90] with little evidence of indigenous field forces or of adequate training, discipline, pay, or supply for the barbarians who formed most of the available troops. Local defence was occasionally effective, but was often associated with withdrawal from central control and taxes in many areas, barbarians under Roman authority attacked culturally-Roman "Bagaudae". [91] [92] [93]

Corruption, in this context the diversion of public finance from the needs of the army, may have contributed greatly to the Fall. The rich senatorial aristocrats in Rome itself became increasingly influential during the fifth century they supported armed strength in theory, but did not wish to pay for it or to offer their own workers as army recruits. [94] [95] They did, however, pass large amounts of money to the Christian Church. [96] At a local level, from the early fourth century, the town councils lost their property and their power, which often became concentrated in the hands of a few local despots beyond the reach of the law. [97]

The fifth-century Western emperors, with brief exceptions, were individuals incapable of ruling effectively or even of controlling their own courts. [89] Those exceptions were responsible for brief, but remarkable resurgences of Roman power.

Without an authoritative ruler, the Balkan provinces fell rapidly into disorder. Alaric was disappointed in his hopes for promotion to magister militum after the battle of the Frigidus. He again led Gothic tribesmen in arms and established himself as an independent power, burning the countryside as far as the walls of Constantinople. [98] Alaric's ambitions for long-term Roman office were never quite acceptable to the Roman imperial courts, and his men could never settle long enough to farm in any one area. They showed no inclination to leave the Empire and face the Huns from whom they had fled in 376 indeed the Huns were still stirring up further migrations which often ended by attacking Rome in turn. Alaric's group was never destroyed nor expelled from the Empire, nor acculturated under effective Roman domination. [91] [92] [99]

Stilicho's attempts to unify the Empire, revolts, and invasions

Alaric took his Gothic army on what Stilicho's propagandist Claudian described as a "pillaging campaign" that began first in the East. [100] Alaric's forces made their way along the coast to Athens, where he sought to force a new peace upon the Romans. [100] His march in 396 passed through Thermopylae. Stilicho sailed from Italy to Greece with his remaining mobile forces, a clear threat to Rufinus' control of the Eastern empire. The bulk of Rufinus' forces were occupied with Hunnic incursions in Asia Minor and Syria, leaving Thrace undefended. Stilicho's propagandist Claudian reports that only Stilicho's attack stemmed the plundering as he pushed Alaric's forces north into Epirus. [101] Burns' interpretation is that Alaric and his men had been recruited by Rufinus's Eastern regime, and sent to Thessaly to stave off Stilicho's threat. [87] No battle took place. Zosimus adds that Stilicho's troops destroyed and pillaged too, and let Alaric's men escape with their plunder. [a]

Stilicho was forced to send some of his Eastern forces home. [102] They went to Constantinople under the command of one Gainas, a Goth with a large Gothic following. On arrival, Gainas murdered Rufinus, and was appointed magister militum for Thrace by Eutropius, the new supreme minister and the only eunuch consul of Rome, who controlled Arcadius "as if he were a sheep". [103] Stilicho obtained a few more troops from the German frontier and continued to campaign ineffectively against the Eastern empire again he was successfully opposed by Alaric and his men. During the next year, 397, Eutropius personally led his troops to victory over some Huns who were marauding in Asia Minor. With his position thus strengthened he declared Stilicho a public enemy, and he established Alaric as magister militum per Illyricum. A poem by Synesius advises the emperor to display manliness and remove a "skin-clad savage" (probably Alaric) from the councils of power and his barbarians from the Roman army. We do not know if Arcadius ever became aware of the existence of this advice, but it had no recorded effect. [104] Synesius, from a province suffering the widespread ravages of a few poor but greedy barbarians, also complained of "the peacetime war, one almost worse than the barbarian war and arising from military indiscipline and the officer's greed." [105]

The magister militum in the Diocese of Africa declared for the East and stopped the supply of grain to Rome. [87] Italy had not fed itself for centuries and could not do so now. In 398, Stilicho sent his last reserves, a few thousand men, to re-take the Diocese of Africa, and he strengthened his position further when he married his daughter Maria to Honorius. Throughout this period Stilicho, and all other generals, were desperately short of recruits and supplies for them. [106] In 400, Stilicho was charged to press into service any "laetus, Alamannus, Sarmatian, vagrant, son of a veteran" or any other person liable to serve. [107] He had reached the bottom of his recruitment pool. [108] Though personally not corrupt, he was very active in confiscating assets [103] the financial and administrative machine was not producing enough support for the army.

In 399, Tribigild's rebellion in Asia Minor allowed Gainas to accumulate a significant army (mostly Goths), become supreme in the Eastern court, and execute Eutropius. [109] He now felt that he could dispense with Alaric's services and he nominally transferred Alaric's province to the West. This administrative change removed Alaric's Roman rank and his entitlement to legal provisioning for his men, leaving his army—the only significant force in the ravaged Balkans—as a problem for Stilicho. [110] In 400, the citizens of Constantinople revolted against Gainas and massacred as many of his people, soldiers and their families, as they could catch. Some Goths at least built rafts and tried to cross the strip of sea that separates Asia from Europe the Roman navy slaughtered them. [111] By the beginning of 401, Gainas' head rode a pike through Constantinople while another Gothic general became consul. [112] Meanwhile, groups of Huns started a series of attacks across the Danube, and the Isaurians marauded far and wide in Anatolia. [113]

In 401 Stilicho travelled over the Alps to Raetia, to scrape up further troops. [114] He left the Rhine defended only by the "dread" of Roman retaliation, rather than by adequate forces able to take the field. [114] Early in spring, Alaric, probably desperate, [115] invaded Italy, and he drove Honorius westward from Mediolanum, besieging him in Hasta Pompeia in Liguria. Stilicho returned as soon as the passes had cleared, meeting Alaric in two battles (near Pollentia and Verona) without decisive results. The Goths, weakened, were allowed to retreat back to Illyricum where the Western court again gave Alaric office, though only as comes and only over Dalmatia and Pannonia Secunda rather than the whole of Illyricum. [116] Stilicho probably supposed that this pact would allow him to put Italian government into order and recruit fresh troops. [106] He may also have planned with Alaric's help to relaunch his attempts to gain control over the Eastern court. [117]

However, in 405, Stilicho was distracted by a fresh invasion of Northern Italy. Another group of Goths fleeing the Huns, led by one Radagaisus, devastated the north of Italy for six months before Stilicho could muster enough forces to take the field against them. Stilicho recalled troops from Britannia and the depth of the crisis was shown when he urged all Roman soldiers to allow their personal slaves to fight beside them. [117] His forces, including Hun and Alan auxiliaries, may in the end have totalled rather less than 15,000 men. [118] Radagaisus was defeated and executed. 12,000 prisoners from the defeated horde were drafted into Stilicho's service. [118] Stilicho continued negotiations with Alaric Flavius Aetius, son of one of Stilicho's major supporters, was sent as a hostage to Alaric in 405. In 406 Stilicho, hearing of new invaders and rebels who had appeared in the northern provinces, insisted on making peace with Alaric, probably on the basis that Alaric would prepare to move either against the Eastern court or against the rebels in Gaul. The Senate deeply resented peace with Alaric in 407, when Alaric marched into Noricum and demanded a large payment for his expensive efforts in Stilicho's interests, the senate, "inspired by the courage, rather than the wisdom, of their predecessors," [119] preferred war. One senator famously declaimed Non est ista pax, sed pactio servitutis ("This is not peace, but a pact of servitude"). [120] Stilicho paid Alaric four thousand pounds of gold nevertheless. [121] Stilicho sent Sarus, a Gothic general, over the Alps to face the usurper Constantine III, but he lost and barely escaped, having to leave his baggage to the bandits who now infested the Alpine passes. [121]

The empress Maria, daughter of Stilicho, died in 407 or early 408 and her sister Aemilia Materna Thermantia married Honorius. In the East, Arcadius died on 1 May 408 and was replaced by his son Theodosius II Stilicho seems to have planned to march to Constantinople, and to install there a regime loyal to himself. [122] He may also have intended to give Alaric a senior official position and send him against the rebels in Gaul. Before he could do so, while he was away at Ticinum at the head of a small detachment, a bloody coup against his supporters took place at Honorius's court. It was led by Stilicho's own creature, one Olympius. [123]

Stilicho's fall and Alaric's reaction

Stilicho had news of the coup at Bononia (where he was probably waiting for Alaric). [124] His army of barbarian troops, including a guard of Huns and many Goths, discussed attacking the forces of the coup, but Stilicho prevented them when he heard that the Emperor had not been harmed. Sarus's Gothic troops then massacred the Hun contingent in their sleep, and Stilicho withdrew from the quarreling remains of his army to Ravenna. He ordered that his former soldiers should not be admitted into the cities in which their families were billeted. Stilicho was forced to flee to a church for sanctuary, promised his life, and killed. [125]

Alaric was again declared an enemy of the Emperor. The conspiracy then massacred the families of the federate troops (as presumed supporters of Stilicho, although they had probably rebelled against him), and the troops defected en masse to Alaric. [126] The conspirators seem to have let their main army disintegrate, [127] and had no policy except hunting down supporters of Stilicho. [128] Italy was left without effective indigenous defence forces thereafter. [90] Heraclianus, a co-conspirator of Olympius, became governor of the Diocese of Africa, where he controlled the source of most of Italy's grain, and he supplied food only in the interests of Honorius's regime. [129]

As a declared 'enemy of the Emperor', Alaric was denied the legitimacy that he needed to collect taxes and hold cities without large garrisons, which he could not afford to detach. He again offered to move his men, this time to Pannonia, in exchange for a modest sum of money and the modest title of Comes, but he was refused as a supporter of Stilicho. [130] He moved into Italy, probably using the route and supplies arranged for him by Stilicho, [124] bypassing the imperial court in Ravenna which was protected by widespread marshland and had a port, and he menaced the city of Rome itself. In 407, there was no equivalent of the determined response to the catastrophic Battle of Cannae in 216 BCE, when the entire Roman population, even slaves, had been mobilized to resist the enemy. [131]

Alaric's military operations centred on the port of Rome, through which Rome's grain supply had to pass. Alaric's first siege of Rome in 408 caused dreadful famine within the walls. It was ended by a payment that, though large, was less than one of the richest senators could have produced. [132] The super-rich aristocrats made little contribution pagan temples were stripped of ornaments to make up the total. With promises of freedom, Alaric also recruited many of the slaves in Rome. [133]

Alaric withdrew to Tuscany and recruited more slaves. [133] Ataulf, a Goth nominally in Roman service and brother-in-law to Alaric, marched through Italy to join Alaric despite taking casualties from a small force of Hunnic mercenaries led by Olympius. Sarus was an enemy of Ataulf, and on Ataulf's arrival went back into imperial service. [134]

Alaric besieges Rome

In 409 Olympius fell to further intrigue, having his ears cut off before he was beaten to death. Alaric tried again to negotiate with Honorius, but his demands (now even more moderate, only frontier land and food [135] ) were inflated by the messenger and Honorius responded with insults, which were reported verbatim to Alaric. [136] He broke off negotiations and the standoff continued. Honorius's court made overtures to the usurper Constantine III in Gaul and arranged to bring Hunnic forces into Italy, Alaric ravaged Italy outside the fortified cities (which he could not garrison), and the Romans refused open battle (for which they had inadequate forces). [137] Late in the year Alaric sent bishops to express his readiness to leave Italy if Honorius would only grant his people a supply of grain. Honorius, sensing weakness, flatly refused. [138]

Alaric moved to Rome and captured Galla Placidia, sister of Honorius. The Senate in Rome, despite its loathing for Alaric, was now desperate enough to give him almost anything he wanted. They had no food to offer, but they tried to give him imperial legitimacy with the Senate's acquiescence, he elevated Priscus Attalus as his puppet emperor, and he marched on Ravenna. Honorius was planning to flee to Constantinople when a reinforcing army of 4,000 soldiers from the East disembarked in Ravenna. [139] These garrisoned the walls and Honorius held on. He had Constantine's principal court supporter executed and Constantine abandoned plans to march to Honorius's defence. [140] Attalus failed to establish his control over the Diocese of Africa, and no grain arrived in Rome where the famine became even more frightful. [141] Jerome reports cannibalism within the walls. [142] Attalus brought Alaric no real advantage, failing also to come to any useful agreement with Honorius (who was offered mutilation, humiliation, and exile). Indeed, Attalus's claim was a marker of threat to Honorius, and Alaric dethroned him after a few months. [143]

In 410 Alaric took Rome by starvation, sacked it for three days (there was relatively little destruction, and in some Christian holy places Alaric's men even refrained from wanton wrecking and rape), and invited its remaining barbarian slaves to join him, which many did. The city of Rome was the seat of the richest senatorial noble families and the centre of their cultural patronage to pagans it was the sacred origin of the empire, and to Christians the seat of the heir of Saint Peter, Pope Innocent I, the most authoritative bishop of the West. Rome had not fallen to an enemy since the Battle of the Allia over eight centuries before. Refugees spread the news and their stories throughout the Empire, and the meaning of the fall was debated with religious fervour. Both Christians and pagans wrote embittered tracts, blaming paganism or Christianity respectively for the loss of Rome's supernatural protection, and blaming Stilicho's earthly failures in either case. [144] [103] Some Christian responses anticipated the imminence of Judgement Day. Augustine in his book "City of God" ultimately rejected the pagan and Christian idea that religion should have worldly benefits he developed the doctrine that the City of God in heaven, undamaged by mundane disasters, was the true objective of Christians. [145] More practically, Honorius was briefly persuaded to set aside the laws forbidding pagans to be military officers, so that one Generidus could re-establish Roman control in Dalmatia. Generidus did this with unusual effectiveness his techniques were remarkable for this period, in that they included training his troops, disciplining them, and giving them appropriate supplies even if he had to use his own money. [146] The penal laws were reinstated no later than 25 August 410 and the overall trend of repression of paganism continued. [147]

Procopius mentions a story in which Honorius, on hearing the news that Rome had "perished", was shocked, thinking the news was in reference to his favorite chicken he had named "Roma". On hearing that Rome itself had fallen he breathed a sigh of relief:

At that time they say that the Emperor Honorius in Ravenna received the message from one of the eunuchs, evidently a keeper of the poultry, that Roma had perished. And he cried out and said, "And yet it has just eaten from my hands!" For he had a very large cockerel, Roma by name and the eunuch comprehending his words said that it was the city of Roma which had perished at the hands of Alaric, and the emperor with a sigh of relief answered quickly: "But I thought that my fowl Roma had perished." So great, they say, was the folly with which this emperor was possessed.

The Goths move out of Italy

Alaric then moved south, intending to sail to Africa, but his ships were wrecked in a storm and he shortly died of fever. His successor Ataulf, still regarded as an usurper and given only occasional and short-term grants of supplies, moved north into the turmoil of Gaul, where there was some prospect of food. His supergroup of barbarians are called the Visigoths in modern works: they may now have been developing their own sense of identity. [148]

The Crossing of the Rhine in 405/6 brought unmanageable numbers of Germanic and Alan barbarians (perhaps some 30,000 warriors, 100,000 people [149] ) into Gaul. They may have been trying to get away from the Huns, who about this time advanced to occupy the Great Hungarian Plain. [150] For the next few years these barbarian tribes wandered in search of food and employment, while Roman forces fought each other in the name of Honorius and a number of competing claimants to the imperial throne. [151]

The remaining troops in Britannia elevated a succession of imperial usurpers. The last, Constantine III, raised an army from the remaining troops in Britannia, invaded Gaul and defeated forces loyal to Honorius led by Sarus. Constantine's power reached its peak in 409 when he controlled Gaul and beyond, he was joint consul with Honorius [152] and his magister militum Gerontius defeated the last Roman force to try to hold the borders of Hispania. It was led by relatives of Honorius Constantine executed them. Gerontius went to Hispania where he may have settled the Sueves and the Asding Vandals. Gerontius then fell out with his master and elevated one Maximus as his own puppet emperor. He defeated Constantine and was besieging him in Arelate when Honorius's general Constantius arrived from Italy with an army (possibly, mainly of Hun mercenaries). [153] Gerontius's troops deserted him and he committed suicide. Constantius continued the siege, defeating a relieving army. Constantine surrendered in 411 with a promise that his life would be spared, and was executed. [154]

In 410, the Roman civitates of Britannia rebelled against Constantine and evicted his officials. They asked for help from Honorius, who replied that they should look to their own defence. While the British may have regarded themselves as Roman for several generations, and British armies may at times have fought in Gaul, no central Roman government is known to have appointed officials in Britannia thereafter. [155] The supply of coinage to the Diocese of Britannia ceases with Honorius. [156]

In 411, Jovinus rebelled and took over Constantine's remaining troops on the Rhine. He relied on the support of Burgundians and Alans to whom he offered supplies and land. In 413 Jovinus also recruited Sarus Ataulf destroyed their regime in the name of Honorius and both Jovinus and Sarus were executed. The Burgundians were settled on the left bank of the Rhine. Ataulf then operated in the south of Gaul, sometimes with short-term supplies from the Romans. [157] All usurpers had been defeated, but large barbarian groups remained un-subdued in both Gaul and Hispania. [155] The imperial government was quick to restore the Rhine frontier. The invading tribes of 407 moved into Spain at the end of 409 the Visigoths left Italy at the beginning of 412 and settled themselves around Narbo.

Heraclianus was still in command in the diocese of Africa of the clique that overthrew Stilicho, he was the last to retain power. In 413 he led an invasion of Italy, lost to a subordinate of Constantius, and fled back to Africa where he was murdered by Constantius's agents. [157]

In January 414 Roman naval forces blockaded Ataulf in Narbo, where he married Galla Placidia. The choir at the wedding included Attalus, a puppet emperor without revenues or soldiers. [158] Ataulf famously declared that he had abandoned his intention to set up a Gothic empire because of the irredeemable barbarity of his followers, and instead he sought to restore the Roman Empire. [159] [143] He handed Attalus over to Honorius's regime for mutilation, humiliation, and exile, and abandoned Attalus's supporters. [160] (One of them, Paulinus Pellaeus, recorded that the Goths considered themselves merciful for allowing him and his household to leave destitute, but alive, without being raped.) [158] Ataulf moved out of Gaul, to Barcelona. There his infant son by Galla Placidia was buried, and there Ataulf was assassinated by one of his household retainers, possibly a former follower of Sarus. [161] [162] His ultimate successor Wallia had no agreement with the Romans his people had to plunder in Hispania for food. [163]

Settlement of 418 barbarians within the empire

In 416 Wallia reached agreement with Constantius he sent Galla Placidia back to Honorius and received provisions, six hundred thousand modii of wheat. [164] From 416 to 418, Wallia's Goths campaigned in Hispania on Constantius's behalf, exterminating the Siling Vandals in Baetica and reducing the Alans to the point where the survivors sought the protection of the king of the Asding Vandals. (After retrenchment they formed another barbarian supergroup, but for the moment they were reduced in numbers and effectively cowed.) In 418, by agreement with Constantius, Wallia's Goths accepted land to farm in Aquitania. [165] Constantius also reinstituted an annual council of the southern Gallic provinces, to meet at Arelate. Although Constantius rebuilt the western field army to some extent, he did so only by replacing half of its units (vanished in the wars since 395) by re-graded barbarians, and by garrison troops removed from the frontier. [166] The Notitia Dignitatum gives a list of the units of the western field army circa 425. It does not give strengths for these units, but A. H. M. Jones used the Notitia to estimate the total strength of the field armies in the West at 113,000 : Gaul, “about” 35,000 Italy, “nearly” 30,000 Britain 3,000 in Spain, 10–11,000, in the diocese of Illyricum 13–14,000, and in the diocese of Africa 23,000. [167]

Constantius had married the princess Galla Placidia (despite her protests) in 417. The couple soon had two children, Honoria and Valentinian III, and Constantius was elevated to the position of Augustus in 420. This earned him the hostility of the Eastern court, which had not agreed to his elevation. [168] Nevertheless, Constantius had achieved an unassailable position at the Western court, in the imperial family, and as the able commander-in-chief of a partially restored army. [169] [170]

This settlement represented a real success for the Empire—a poem by Rutilius Namatianus celebrates his voyage back to Gaul in 417 and his confidence in a restoration of prosperity. But it marked huge losses of territory and of revenue Rutilius travelled by ship past the ruined bridges and countryside of Tuscany, and in the west the River Loire had become the effective northern boundary of Roman Gaul. [171] In the east of Gaul the Franks controlled large areas the effective line of Roman control until 455 ran from north of Cologne (lost to the Ripuarian Franks in 459) to Boulogne. The Italian areas which had been compelled to support the Goths had most of their taxes remitted for several years. [172] [173] Even in southern Gaul and Hispania large barbarian groups remained, with thousands of warriors, in their own non-Roman military and social systems. Some occasionally acknowledged a degree of Roman political control, but without the local application of Roman leadership and military power they and their individual subgroups pursued their own interests. [174]

Constantius died in 421, after only seven months as Augustus. He had been careful to make sure that there was no successor in waiting, and his own children were far too young to take his place. [169] Honorius was unable to control his own court, and the death of Constantius initiated more than ten years of instability. Initially Galla Placidia sought Honorius's favour in the hope that her son might ultimately inherit. Other court interests managed to defeat her, and she fled with her children to the Eastern court in 422. Honorius himself died, shortly before his thirty-ninth birthday, in 423. After some months of intrigue, the patrician Castinus installed Joannes as Western Emperor, but the Eastern Roman government proclaimed the child Valentinian III instead, his mother Galla Placidia acting as regent during his minority. Joannes had few troops of his own. He sent Aetius to raise help from the Huns. An Eastern army landed in Italy, captured Joannes, cut his hand off, abused him in public, and killed him with most of his senior officials. Aetius returned, three days after Joannes' death, at the head of a substantial Hunnic army which made him the most powerful general in Italy. After some fighting, Placidia and Aetius came to an agreement the Huns were paid off and sent home, while Aetius received the position of magister militum. [175]

Galla Placidia, as Augusta, mother of the Emperor, and his guardian until 437, could maintain a dominant position in court, but women in Ancient Rome did not exercise military power, and she could not herself become a general. She tried for some years to avoid reliance on a single dominant military figure, maintaining a balance of power between her three senior officers, Aetius (magister militum in Gaul), Count Boniface governor in the Diocese of Africa, and Flavius Felix magister militum praesentalis in Italy. [176] Meanwhile, the Empire deteriorated seriously. Apart from the losses in the Diocese of Africa, Hispania was slipping out of central control and into the hands of local rulers and Suevic bandits. In Gaul the Rhine frontier had collapsed, the Visigoths in Aquitaine may have launched further attacks on Narbo and Arelate, and the Franks, increasingly powerful although disunited, were the major power in the north-east. Aremorica was controlled by Bagaudae, local leaders not under the authority of the Empire. [177] Aetius at least campaigned vigorously and mostly victoriously, defeating aggressive Visigoths, Franks, fresh Germanic invaders, Bagaudae in Aremorica, and a rebellion in Noricum. [178] Not for the first time in Rome's history, a triumvirate of mutually distrustful rulers proved unstable. In 427 Felix tried to recall Boniface from Africa he refused, and overcame Felix's invading force. Boniface probably recruited some Vandal troops among others. [179]

In 428 the Vandals and Alans were united under the able, ferocious, and long-lived king Genseric he moved his entire people to Tarifa near Gibraltar, divided them into 80 groups nominally of 1,000 people (perhaps 20,000 warriors in total), [149] and crossed from Hispania to Mauretania without opposition. (The Straits of Gibraltar were not an important thoroughfare at the time, and there were no significant fortifications nor military presence at this end of the Mediterranean.) They spent a year moving slowly to Numidia, defeating Boniface. He returned to Italy where Aetius had recently had Felix executed. Boniface was promoted to magister militum and earned the enmity of Aetius, who may have been absent in Gaul at the time. In 432 the two met at the Battle of Ravenna, which left Aetius's forces defeated and Boniface mortally wounded. Aetius temporarily retired to his estates, but after an attempt to murder him he raised another Hunnic army (probably by conceding parts of Pannonia to them) and in 433 he returned to Italy, overcoming all rivals. He never threatened to become an Augustus himself and thus maintained the support of the Eastern court, where Valentinian's cousin Theodosius II reigned until 450. [180]

Aetius campaigned vigorously, somewhat stabilizing the situation in Gaul and in Hispania. He relied heavily on his forces of Huns. With a ferocity celebrated centuries later in the Nibelungenlied, the Huns slaughtered many Burgundians on the middle Rhine, re-establishing the survivors as Roman allies, the first Kingdom of the Burgundians. This may have returned some sort of Roman authority to Trier. [181] Eastern troops reinforced Carthage, temporarily halting the Vandals, who in 435 agreed to limit themselves to Numidia and leave the most fertile parts of North Africa in peace. Aetius concentrated his limited military resources to defeat the Visigoths again, and his diplomacy restored a degree of order to Hispania. [182] However, his general Litorius was badly defeated by the Visigoths at Toulouse, and a new Suevic king, Rechiar, began vigorous assaults on what remained of Roman Hispania. At one point Rechiar even allied with Bagaudae. These were Romans not under imperial control some of their reasons for rebellion may be indicated by the remarks of a Roman captive under Attila who was happy in his lot, giving a lively account of "the vices of a declining empire, of which he had so long been the victim the cruel absurdity of the Roman princes, unable to protect their subjects against the public enemy, unwilling to trust them with arms for their own defence the intolerable weight of taxes, rendered still more oppressive by the intricate or arbitrary modes of collection the obscurity of numerous and contradictory laws the tedious and expensive forms of judicial proceedings the partial administration of justice and the universal corruption, which increased the influence of the rich, and aggravated the misfortunes of the poor." [183]

Vegetius's advice on re-forming an effective army may be dated to the early 430s, [184] [185] [186] (though a date in the 390s has also been suggested). [187] He identified many deficiencies in the military, especially mentioning that the soldiers were no longer properly equipped:

From the foundation of the city till the reign of the Emperor Gratian, the foot wore cuirasses and helmets. But negligence and sloth having by degrees introduced a total relaxation of discipline, the soldiers began to think their armor too heavy, as they seldom put it on. They first requested leave from the Emperor to lay aside the cuirass and afterwards the helmet. In consequence of this, our troops in their engagements with the Goths were often overwhelmed with their showers of arrows. Nor was the necessity of obliging the infantry to resume their cuirasses and helmets discovered, notwithstanding such repeated defeats, which brought on the destruction of so many great cities. Troops, defenseless and exposed to all the weapons of the enemy, are more disposed to fly than fight. What can be expected from a foot-archer without cuirass or helmet, who cannot hold at once his bow and shield or from the ensigns whose bodies are naked, and who cannot at the same time carry a shield and the colors? The foot soldier finds the weight of a cuirass and even of a helmet intolerable. This is because he is so seldom exercised and rarely puts them on. [188]

A religious polemic of about this time complains bitterly of the oppression and extortion [89] suffered by all but the richest Romans. Many wished to flee to the Bagaudae or even to foul-smelling barbarians. "Although these men differ in customs and language from those with whom they have taken refuge, and are unaccustomed too, if I may say so, to the nauseous odor of the bodies and clothing of the barbarians, yet they prefer the strange life they find there to the injustice rife among the Romans. So you find men passing over everywhere, now to the Goths, now to the Bagaudae, or whatever other barbarians have established their power anywhere . We call those men rebels and utterly abandoned, whom we ourselves have forced into crime. For by what other causes were they made Bagaudae save by our unjust acts, the wicked decisions of the magistrates, the proscription and extortion of those who have turned the public exactions to the increase of their private fortunes and made the tax indictions their opportunity for plunder?" [189]

Gildas, a 6th-century monk and author of De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, wrote that "No sooner were the ravages of the enemy checked, than the island [Britain] was deluged with a most extraordinary plenty of all things, greater than was before known, and with it grew up every kind of luxury and licentiousness." [190]

Nevertheless, effective imperial protection from barbarian ravages was eagerly sought. About this time authorities in Britannia asked Aetius for help: "To Aetius, now consul for the third time: the groans of the Britons." And again a little further, thus: "The barbarians drive us to the sea the sea throws us back on the barbarians: thus two modes of death await us, we are either slain or drowned." The Romans, however, could not assist them. [190]

The Visigoths passed another waymark on their journey to full independence they made their own foreign policy, sending princesses to make (rather unsuccessful) marriage alliances with Rechiar of the Sueves and with Huneric, son of the Vandal king Genseric. [191]

In 439 the Vandals moved eastward (temporarily abandoning Numidia) and captured Carthage, where they established an independent state with a powerful navy. This brought immediate financial crisis to the Western Empire the diocese of Africa was prosperous, normally required few troops to keep it secure, contributed large tax revenues, and exported wheat to feed Rome and many other areas. [192] Roman troops assembled in Sicily, but the planned counter-attack never happened. Huns attacked the Eastern empire, [193] and "the troops, which had been sent against Genseric, were hastily recalled from Sicily the garrisons, on the side of Persia, were exhausted and a military force was collected in Europe, formidable by their arms and numbers, if the generals had understood the science of command, and the soldiers the duty of obedience. The armies of the Eastern empire were vanquished in three successive engagements . From the Hellespont to Thermopylae, and the suburbs of Constantinople, [Attila] ravaged, without resistance, and without mercy, the provinces of Thrace and Macedonia" [194] Attila's invasions of the East were stopped by the Theodosian Walls, and at this heavily fortified Eastern end of the Mediterranean there were no significant barbarian invasions across the sea into the rich southerly areas of Anatolia, the Levant, and Egypt. [195] Despite internal and external threats, and more religious discord than the West, these provinces remained prosperous contributors to tax revenue despite the ravages of Attila's armies and the extortions of his peace treaties, tax revenue generally continued to be adequate for the essential state functions of the Eastern empire. [196] [197]

Genseric settled his Vandals as landowners [198] and in 442 was able to negotiate very favourable peace terms with the Western court. He kept his latest gains and his eldest son Huneric was honoured by betrothal to Valentinian III's daughter Eudocia, who carried the legitimacy of the conjoined Valentinianic and Theodosian dynasties. Huneric's Gothic wife was suspected of trying to poison her father-in-law Genseric he sent her home without her nose or ears, and his Gothic alliance came to an early end. [199] The Romans regained Numidia, and Rome again received a grain supply from Africa.

The losses of income from the Diocese of Africa were equivalent to the costs of nearly 40,000 infantry or over 20,000 cavalry. [200] The imperial regime had to increase taxes. Despite admitting that the peasantry could pay no more, and that a sufficient army could not be raised, the imperial regime protected the interests of landowners displaced from Africa and allowed wealthy individuals to avoid taxes. [201] [202]

444–453 attacks by the empire of Attila the Hun

In 444, the Huns were united under Attila. His subjects included Huns, outnumbered several times over by other groups, predominantly Germanic. [203] His power rested partly on his continued ability to reward his favoured followers with precious metals, [204] and he continued to attack the Eastern Empire until 450, by when he had extracted vast sums of money and many other concessions. [205]

Attila may not have needed any excuse to turn West, but he received one in the form of a plea for help from Honoria, the Emperor's sister, who was being forced into a marriage which she resented. Attila claimed Honoria as his wife and half of the Western Empire's territory as his dowry. Faced with refusal, he invaded Gaul in 451 with a huge army. In the bloody battle of the Catalaunian Plains the invasion was stopped by the combined forces of the barbarians within the Western empire, coordinated by Aetius and supported by what troops he could muster. The next year, Attila invaded Italy and proceeded to march upon Rome, but an outbreak of disease in his army, lack of supplies, reports that Eastern Roman troops were attacking his noncombatant population in Pannonia, and, possibly, Pope Leo's plea for peace induced him to halt this campaign. Attila unexpectedly died a year later (453) and his empire crumbled as his followers fought for power. The life of Severinus of Noricum gives glimpses of the general insecurity, and ultimate retreat of the Romans on the Upper Danube, in the aftermath of Attila's death. The Romans were without adequate forces the barbarians inflicted haphazard extortion, murder, kidnap, and plunder on the Romans and on each other. "So long as the Roman dominion lasted, soldiers were maintained in many towns at the public expense to guard the boundary wall. When this custom ceased, the squadrons of soldiers and the boundary wall were blotted out together. The troop at Batavis, however, held out. Some soldiers of this troop had gone to Italy to fetch the final pay to their comrades, and no one knew that the barbarians had slain them on the way." [206]

In 454 Aetius was personally stabbed to death by Valentinian, who was himself murdered by the dead general's supporters a year later. [207] "[Valentinian] thought he had slain his master he found that he had slain his protector: and he fell a helpless victim to the first conspiracy which was hatched against his throne." [208] A rich senatorial aristocrat, Petronius Maximus, who had encouraged both murders, then seized the throne. He broke the engagement between Eudocia and Huneric, prince of the Vandals, and had time to send Avitus to ask for the help of the Visigoths in Gaul [209] before a Vandal fleet arrived in Italy. Petronius was unable to muster any effective defence and was killed by a mob as he tried to flee the city. The Vandals entered Rome, and plundered it for two weeks. Despite the shortage of money for the defence of the state, considerable private wealth had accumulated since the previous sack in 410. The Vandals sailed away with large amounts of treasure and also with the princess Eudocia, who became the wife of one Vandal king and the mother of another. [210]

The Vandals conquered Sicily, and their fleet became a constant danger to Roman sea trade and to the coasts and islands of the western Mediterranean. [211]

Avitus, at the Visigothic court in Burdigala, declared himself Emperor. He moved on Rome with Visigothic support which gained his acceptance by Majorian and Ricimer, commanders of the remaining army of Italy. This was the first time that a barbarian kingdom had played a key role in the imperial succession. [212] Avitus's son-in-law Sidonius Apollinaris wrote propaganda to present the Visigothic king Theoderic II as a reasonable man with whom a Roman regime could do business. [213] Theoderic's payoff included precious metal from stripping the remaining public ornaments of Italy, [214] and an unsupervised campaign in Hispania. There he not only defeated the Sueves, executing his brother-in-law Rechiar, but he also plundered Roman cities. [213] The Burgundians expanded their kingdom in the Rhone valley and the Vandals took the remains of the Diocese of Africa. [215] In 456 the Visigothic army was too heavily engaged in Hispania to be an effective threat to Italy, and Ricimer had just destroyed a pirate fleet of sixty Vandal ships Majorian and Ricimer marched against Avitus and defeated him near Placentia. He was forced to become Bishop of Placentia, and died (possibly murdered) a few weeks later. [216]

Majorian and Ricimer were now in control of Italy. Ricimer was the son of a Suevic king, and his mother was the daughter of a Gothic one, so he could not aspire to an imperial throne. After some months, allowing for negotiation with the new emperor of Constantinople and the defeat of 900 Alamannic invaders of Italy by one of his subordinates, Majorian was acclaimed as Augustus. Majorian is described by Gibbon as "a great and heroic character". [217] He rebuilt the army and navy of Italy with vigour and set about recovering the remaining Gallic provinces, which had not recognized his elevation. He defeated the Visigoths at the Battle of Arelate, reducing them to federate status and obliging them to give up their claims in Hispania he moved on to subdue the Burgundians, the Gallo-Romans around Lugdunum (who were granted tax concessions and whose senior officials were appointed from their own ranks) and the Suevi and Bagaudae in Hispania. Marcellinus, magister militum in Dalmatia and the pagan general of a well-equipped army, acknowledged him as emperor and recovered Sicily from the Vandals. [218] Aegidius also acknowledged Majorian and took effective charge of northern Gaul. (Aegidius may also have used the title "King of the Franks". [219] ) Abuses in tax collection were reformed and the city councils were strengthened, both actions necessary to rebuild the strength of the Empire but disadvantageous to the richest aristocrats. [220] Majorian prepared a fleet at Carthago Nova for the essential reconquest of the Diocese of Africa.

The fleet was burned by traitors, and Majorian made peace with the Vandals and returned to Italy. Here Ricimer met him, arrested him, and executed him five days later. Marcellinus in Dalmatia and Aegidius around Soissons in northern Gaul rejected both Ricimer and his puppets and maintained some version of Roman rule in their areas. [221] Ricimer later ceded Narbo and its hinterland to the Visigoths for their help against Aegidius this made it impossible for Roman armies to march from Italy to Hispania. Ricimer was then the effective ruler of Italy (but little else) for several years. From 461 to 465 the pious Italian aristocrat Libius Severus reigned. There is no record of anything significant that he even tried to achieve, he was never acknowledged by the East whose help Ricimer needed, and he died conveniently in 465.

After two years without a Western Emperor, the Eastern court nominated Anthemius, a successful general who had a strong claim on the Eastern throne. He arrived in Italy with an army, supported by Marcellinus and his fleet he married his daughter to Ricimer, and he was proclaimed Augustus in 467. In 468, at vast expense, the Eastern empire assembled an enormous force to help the West retake the Diocese of Africa. Marcellinus rapidly drove the Vandals from Sardinia and Sicily, and a land invasion evicted them from Tripolitania. The commander in chief with the main force defeated a Vandal fleet near Sicily and landed at Cape Bon. Here Genseric offered to surrender, if he could have a five-day truce to prepare the process. He used the respite to prepare a full-scale attack preceded by fireships, which destroyed most of the Roman fleet and killed many of its soldiers. The Vandals were confirmed in their possession of the Diocese of Africa and they retook Sardinia and Sicily. Marcellinus was murdered, possibly on orders from Ricimer. [222] The Praetorian prefect of Gaul, Arvandus, tried to persuade the new king of the Visigoths to rebel, on the grounds that Roman power in Gaul was finished anyway, but he refused.

Anthemius was still in command of an army in Italy. Additionally, in northern Gaul, a British army led by one Riothamus, operated in imperial interests. [223] Anthemius sent his son over the Alps, with an army, to request that the Visigoths return southern Gaul to Roman control. This would have allowed the Empire land access to Hispania again. The Visigoths refused, defeated the forces of both Riothamus and Anthemius, and with the Burgundians took over almost all of the remaining imperial territory in southern Gaul.

Ricimer then quarreled with Anthemius, and besieged him in Rome, which surrendered in July 472 after more months of starvation. [224] Anthemius was captured and executed (on Ricimer's orders) by the Burgundian prince Gundobad. In August Ricimer died of a pulmonary haemorrhage. Olybrius, his new emperor, named Gundobad as his patrician, then died himself shortly thereafter. [225]

After the death of Olybrius there was a further interregnum until March 473, when Gundobad proclaimed Glycerius emperor. He may have made some attempt to intervene in Gaul if so, it was unsuccessful. [226]

In 474 Julius Nepos, nephew and successor of the general Marcellinus, arrived in Rome with soldiers and authority from the eastern emperor Leo I. Gundobad had already left to contest the Burgundian throne in Gaul [226] and Glycerius gave up without a fight, retiring to become bishop of Salona in Dalmatia. [226]

In 475, Orestes, a former secretary of Attila, drove Julius Nepos out of Ravenna and proclaimed his own son Flavius Momyllus Romulus Augustus (Romulus Augustulus) to be Emperor, on October 31. His surname 'Augustus' was given the diminutive form 'Augustulus' by rivals because he was still a minor, and he was never recognized outside of Italy as a legitimate ruler. [227]

In 476, Orestes refused to grant Odoacer and the Heruli federated status, prompting an invasion. Orestes fled to the city of Pavia on August 23, 476, where the city's bishop gave him sanctuary. Orestes was soon forced to flee Pavia when Odoacer's army broke through the city walls and ravaged the city. Odoacer's army chased Orestes to Piacenza, where they captured and executed him on August 28, 476.

On September 4, 476, Odoacer forced then 16-year-old Romulus Augustulus, whom his father Orestes had proclaimed to be Rome's Emperor, to abdicate. After deposing Romulus, Odoacer did not execute him. The Anonymus Valesianus wrote that Odoacer, "taking pity on his youth", spared Romulus' life and granted him an annual pension of 6,000 solidi before sending him to live with relatives in Campania. [228] [229] Odoacer then installed himself as ruler over Italy, and sent the Imperial insignia to Constantinople. [230]

By convention, the Western Roman Empire is deemed to have ended on 4 September 476, when Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustulus and proclaimed himself ruler of Italy, but this convention is subject to many qualifications. In Roman constitutional theory, the Empire was still simply united under one emperor, implying no abandonment of territorial claims. In areas where the convulsions of the dying Empire had made organized self-defence legitimate, rump states continued under some form of Roman rule after 476. Julius Nepos still claimed to be Emperor of the West and controlled Dalmatia until his murder in 480. Syagrius son of Aegidius ruled the Domain of Soissons until his murder in 487. [231] The indigenous inhabitants of Mauretania developed kingdoms of their own, independent of the Vandals, with strong Roman traits. They again sought Imperial recognition with the reconquests of Justinian I, and they put up effective resistance to the Muslim conquest of the Maghreb. [232] While the civitates of Britannia sank into a level of material development inferior even to their pre-Roman Iron Age ancestors, [233] they maintained identifiably Roman traits for some time, and they continued to look to their own defence as Honorius had authorized. [234] [235]

Odoacer began to negotiate with the East Roman (Byzantine) Emperor Zeno, who was busy dealing with unrest in the East. Zeno eventually granted Odoacer the status of patrician and accepted him as his own viceroy of Italy. Zeno, however, insisted that Odoacer had to pay homage to Julius Nepos as the Emperor of the Western Empire. Odoacer never returned any territory or real power, but he did issue coins in the name of Julius Nepos throughout Italy. The murder of Julius Nepos in 480 (Glycerius may have been among the conspirators) prompted Odoacer to invade Dalmatia, annexing it to his Kingdom of Italy. In 488 the Eastern emperor authorized a troublesome Goth, Theoderic (later known as "the Great") to take Italy. After several indecisive campaigns, in 493 Theoderic and Odoacer agreed to rule jointly. They celebrated their agreement with a banquet of reconciliation, at which Theoderic's men murdered Odoacer's, and Theoderic personally cut Odoacer in half. [236]

The mostly powerless, but still influential Western Roman Senate continued to exist in the city of Rome under the rule of the Ostrogothic kingdom and, later, the Byzantine Empire for at least another century, before disappearing at an unknown date in the early 7th century. [237]

The Roman Empire was not only a political unity enforced by the use of military power. It was also the combined and elaborated civilization of the Mediterranean basin and beyond. It included manufacture, trade, and architecture, widespread secular literacy, written law, and an international language of science and literature. [236] The Western barbarians lost much of these higher cultural practices, but their redevelopment in the Middle Ages by polities aware of the Roman achievement formed the basis for the later development of Europe. [238]

Observing the cultural and archaeological continuities through and beyond the period of lost political control, the process has been described as a complex cultural transformation, rather than a fall. [239]

The Early Modern Era

During the late seventeenth century, the excesses of the papal builders began to be curbed, while the cultural focus of Europe moved from Italy to France. Pilgrims to Rome began to be supplemented by people on the ‘Grand Tour,’ more interested in seeing the remains of ancient Rome than piety. In the late eighteenth century, the armies of Napoleon reached Rome and he looted many artworks. The city was formally taken over by him in 1808 and the pope was imprisoned such arrangements didn’t last long, and the pope was literally welcomed back in 1814.


Ando, Clifford. Imperial ideology and provincial loyalty in the Roman Empire. Vol. 6. Univ of California Press, 2013.

Gibbon, Edward. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: Volume Six. Sheba Blake Publishing, 2017.

Kaegi, Walter Emil. Byzantium and the Decline of the Roman Empire. Princeton University Press, 2015.

Luttwak, Edward N. The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire: From the First Century CE to the Third. JHU Press, 2016.

White, Leslie A. The evolution of culture: the development of civilization to the fall of Rome. Routledge, 2016.

Charlemagne ‘Holy Roman Emperor.’

He controlled Dalmatia and was named Emperor by Leo I of the Eastern Empire. He was murdered in a factional dispute.

No serious claim to the throne of the Western Empire was to be made again until the Frankish king Charlemagne was crowned ‘Imperator Romanorum’ by Pope Leo III in Rome in 800 AD, the founding of the Holy Roman Empire, a supposedly unified Catholic territory.

The Fall of Rome: Theophilus' 6000 Year Prediction

Theophilus did not directly predict the fall of Rome. Nonetheless, the timing of the events I describe on this page are mystifying—to say the least.

All the years from the creation of the world amount to a total of 5698 years, and the odd months and days. (Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus III:28, A.D. 169

You will find no more thorough, more accurate, nor more interesting retelling of the events surrounding Constantine (a century before the fall of Rome) than Decoding Nicea.

Let me explain very quickly what's so amazing about this statement by Theophilus.

My books and those Christian-history.org has published get great reviews. Synopses are at my Rebuilding the Foundations site. They are available wherever books are sold!

This site is also supported by Xero shoes because their shoes have relieved the arch pain I have had since leukemia. I wear the Mesa Trail model it is the only model I've tried. Their shoes sell themselves.

Six Thousand Years and the Fall of Rome

6,000 years was a significant number to the early church. The Letter of Barnabas (not actually written by the Barnabas of Acts) was considered Scripture by some early churches. It reads:

Theophilus' reckoning is based on the Septuagint (LXX), which was the Old Testament of the early Church and is still the Old Testament of the Orthodox churches in the Middle and Far East. It states, for example, that Adam was 230 when he had Seth, rather than 130 as our Masoretic Text has it. Differences like this add up to a difference of somewhere around 1500 years.

Attend, my children, to the meaning of the expression, "He finished in six days" [Gen. 2:2]. This implies that the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, for a day is like a thousand years with him. He himself testifies, saying, "Behold, today will be as a thousand years" [Ps. 90:4]. Therefore, my children, in six days—that is, in six thousand years —all things will be finished. (Letter of Barnabasꀕ)

If the world was 5,698 years old in A.D. 169, the year to which Theophilus was counting, then the world would hit 6,000 years in A.D. 471.

Theophilus, like the other Christians of his day, would have believed that when the world hit 6,000 years, the fall of Rome would occur, and the Antichrist would arise in Rome's place.

How accurate was he? Wikipedia states, "The traditional date of the fall of the Roman Empire is September 4, 476 when Romulus Augustus, the last Emperor of the Roman Empire was deposed by Odoacer."

The Fall of Rome

The fall of Rome is not as simple as "Romulus Augustus, the last western Roman emperor, was removed from office in A.D. 476." Rome was first sacked by the Visigoths in 410, then again by the Vandals in 455.

By 476, the emperor (of the west only) wasn't even in Rome anymore, but Ravenna.

That doesn't change anything on this page. Very little in history happens suddenly in one day. The timing and what happened is still amazing.

Theophilus, who pointed out he could be off by a few years due to odd months and days not covered in Scripture, predicted the fall of Rome to within a decade!

The Fall of Rome Produces a Little Horn Speaking Arrogantly

While I was considering the horns, suddenly another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. … and it had a mouth that spoke arrogantly. (Dan. 7:8, HCSB).

Daniel only mentions four kingdoms in his prophecies (Dan. 7:17-18), followed by the reign of the Antichrist (the "little horn"), and then the rule of the saints of the Most High. The early Christians understood this to mean that the 4th of those kingdoms would be the last before Antichrist took over.

They, like most Bible interpreters today, believed that 4th kingdom to be Rome.

"For the mystery of iniquity is already at work only he who now hinders must hinder, until he is taken out of the way" [2 Thess. 2:7]. What obstacle is there but the Roman state, the falling away of which, by being scattered into ten kingdoms, shall introduce Antichrist? (Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Fleshꀤ, c. A.D. 200)

Thus, once Rome fell, the Antichrist would rise up. He would be a little horn that uprooted three other horns, which were three kings that would willingly give their power to him (Rev. 17:12-13).

Because the tribes that sacked Rome were converted to Christianity, they made themselves subject to the bishop of Rome. The bishop of Rome was probably not yet an official pope, but he did carry great authority throughout the western empire and especially within the Germanic tribes.

In A.D. 410, Rome was sacked by Alaric, king of the Visigoths. In A.D. 455, it was sacked again by the Vandals. Finally, Odoacer, leading a tribe of Germanic peoples originally loyal to the emperor, killed the emperor's father, deposed the emperor, and sealed the fall of Rome in 476.

Each of these tribes were converted to Christianity, though they were Arians, before sacking Rome. Philip Schaff writes:

The Gothic king Alaric, on entering Rome, expressly ordered that the churches of the apostles Peter and Paul should be spared, as inviolable sanctuaries … Odoacer, who put an end to the western Roman empire in 476, was incited to his expedition into Italy by St. Severin, and … showed great regard to the catholic bishops. The same is true of his conqueror and successor, Theodoric the Ostrogoth … the conquered gave laws to the conquerors. Christianity triumphed over both. (History of the Christian Church, vol. III, p. 69)

It's been disputed to me by a reader that it's fair to say the barbarians gave their power to the bishop of Rome. His statements appear to be accurate to me, so I have to make some changes to this section. Please give me till Spring of 2011 to devote some study to this.

To whom did the Visigoths, the Vandals, and Odoacer's Germanic people give their allegiance? Despite bringing about the fall of Rome, they gave their allegiance—willingly—to the bishop of Rome.

Think about the Bible's prophecy. Just how likely is it that three kings would simply turn their power over to another king?

It doesn't seem quite so strange now because we're used to the idea of a pope with civil power. When the books of Daniel and Revelation were written, however, there was no pope. The idea of three kings voluntarily giving up their power to another was unlikely in the extreme.

Is the Earth 6,000 Years Old?

I do not believe the earth is only 6,000 years old. I personally, like millions of other Christians (and like Origen and some others in the early Church), do not believe that Genesis one is meant to be a literal, scientific story. Origen, for example, wrote, "Who is so foolish as to suppose that God, like a farmer, planted a paradise in Eden … and placed in it a tree of life, visible and tangible, so that someone who tasted its fruit with bodily teeth obtained life?" (De Principiis IV:16).

I understand that many of my readers do take Genesis literally. I apologize that I cannot agree with them. I wish I could.

You might as well know that I also have a site called Proof of Evolution. The same honesty that forces me learn from history rather than read my preferred opinions into it forces me to admit that the scientific evidence for evolution is irrefutable, despite the diligent, but unfortunately less than honest, Christian attempts to overthrow that evidence.

However, whether the dates are literal or not, the Scriptures are spiritual—which means they're not always literal.

Isaiah 7, for example, contains a prophecy from Isaiah to Ahaz that a young lady would bear a child named Emmanuel. While the child was still young, the kings of Samaria and Syria, who were troubling Ahaz, would be removed from their thrones. That prophecy was fulfilled.

Later, that prophecy was translated into Greek by the Septuagint using a word that can only mean virgin, not young lady. It was then used by the early Church as prophecy of the virgin birth of Christ. I believe that prophecy to be true and fulfilled in Jesus.

There are many similar prophecies, and if you watch, you may well find God using the Scriptures in your life in the same way. The earth does not have to be 6,000 years old for the things on this page to apply.

Perhaps the 6,000 years are just the time of man's civilization, and centuries as nomads and hunter-gatherers are ignored. Perhaps there is some other explanation. The God who created a hundred billion galaxies with a hundred billion stars in each of them is unlikely to be fully explained by our limited human minds.

What Do We Do with All This?orIs the Pope the Antichrist?

The little horn, who uproots three other horns, does not only speak arrogantly. Daniel says the following about him:

He will speak words against the Most High. He will intend to change religious festivals and laws, and the holy ones will be handed over to him for a time, times, and half a time. (Dan. 7:25, HCSB).

Did the bishop of Rome do these things?

We can argue whether the pope—for the bishop of Rome is the pope— speaks words against the Most High. Protestants, in most cases, would say yes, and Catholic theologians would be greatly insulted at the suggestion.

However, it cannot be doubted that he intended to change religious festivals and laws—and succeeded— and that many saints of God were handed over to the Roman Catholic Church to be imprisoned, tortured, and put to death as heretics.

I know it's out of vogue to suggest that the pope is the Antichrist. He certainly doesn't have the power of an antichrist today, as he did throughout the middle ages. However, can we ignore all the following?

  • At or very near the 6,000 year mark by Theophilus' reckoning, the fall of Rome occurred.
  • The early Christians believed that when the fall of Rome happened, the Antichrist would rise in its place.
  • Scripturally, the Antichrist is predicted to:
    1. Receive his rule from kings who hand it over willingly.
    2. Intend to change religious festivals and laws.
    3. Be given power over the saints and wear them out.
  • Historically, the bishop of Rome:
    1. Received his civil rule from kings who handed it over willingly.
    2. Changed numerous festivals and religious laws and ascribed to himself the right from God to do so. Even the quite similar Orthodox churches divided from Rome in 1054 over such arrogance.
    3. Persecuted "heretics," including some of the most godly Christians in history, such as the Waldensians ("the poor") and Anabaptists.

Note to Readers: Correction

It's been pointed out to me by a reader that it's not really fair to say that the Visigoths, Vandals, and Odoacer's group "handed over their rule" to the bishop of Rome.

It appears to me that he's correct that I'm overstating the case.

I haven't figured out exactly how to correct that yet. I don't want to simply remove that bullet point because although it's overstated, it's not devoid of truth. I need a little while to look into this to make it better. Again, feel free to add your comments below.

I don't know. Maybe that's all coincidence, but it seems awful hard to ignore to me.

As I said, this is all mystifying to me. I'll let you form your own opinions about Theophilus and the fall of Rome. Those bullet points I just gave you, however, are not opinion, but history. They all happened.

The reason this is so mystifying is that the things that have happened over the 1533 years since Rome fell are much more difficult to fit into prophecy. Let's say the prophecies about the fall of Rome and the Antichrist really were about the papacy of the middle ages. Does it make any sense that the Antichrist's reign has simply come to an end, and we've moved on to a secular age?

It doesn't make any sense to me, but it's awful hard to ignore the events surrounding the fall of Rome as coincidence. At least, it's hard for me to ignore.

16 reviews for Hardcore History 34-39 – Death Throes of the Republic Series

zevenpots &ndash November 9, 2014

Never have I felt history in this way. Rome has always been a favorite topic of mine ,but this brought Rome into reality showing me people doing things I can understand. People I see everyday and for the first time their wasn’t a distance between me and the past. To be honest it got very emotional as the world brought to life was so relatable and real I could feel its loss. If you want to cheer on Romans as they work their way up to honor then cry as they fall from glory then listen to this podcast. Thanks for everything Dan.

willo7734 &ndash April 22, 2015

Brilliantly epic and accessible account of the fall of the Roman Empire. I especially like the way that Dan gets into the heads of the people involved in these historical events. This is how history should be taught in school. Instead of listening to a collection of dry facts and dates we get to live through these real events along with the real people that they happened to.

Zeitgeist &ndash May 24, 2015

Easily worth the $10, this is one of my favorite HH podcasts ever.

Hayley &ndash November 4, 2015

This was an amazing series. Although I am no where near knowledgeable enough to personally validate the ‘truth’ of what Carlin is conveying, I feel as if I am being told a story that is being reiterated to the best ability of the factual evidence. I love Dan Carlin! This is now my 4th series set I have finished and am just continually amazed at the enthusiast level which Carlin tells the tale of our historical record. I never thought I could be so excited about history, but Carlin has me hooked on this journey to centuries past. Thanks for being amazing!

jzwier &ndash March 20, 2016

We listened to the first three episodes uninterrupted. They were great. They shed so much light on our own ‘republic’. We need to learn from the past!

sam &ndash April 16, 2016

By and far one of the best history podcast I have ever heard. This is S-class history displayed and spoken in a way no other has ever done before. If you have listened to any HH before now, this is your moment to show your appreciation because $10 dollars is a steal for the amount of information that is in this podcast. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys history or even listening to podcasts, it will bring you enthralling entertainment for hours!

VisenyasRevenge &ndash November 7, 2016

buy this here cos $9.99 is a much better rate than on iTunes.
i was never really interested in ancient history, but this really comes alive though Dan Carlins “storytelling”

David &ndash May 11, 2017

Most of the Roman histories you hear about anymore are about the Roman Emperors like Caligula, Nero, etc…This podcast precedes most of the modern “History Channel” stories and tells us about the fall of the Senate. I found this fascinating because Dan paints the picture of the many reasons that Roman Culture & the Roman Senate destroyed itself. Very well done!

Geoffrey &ndash June 7, 2017

For $10 this is one of the best values in the Hardcore History library. You could easily spend hundreds of dollars on a college course to get this same information but with nowhere near the passion and art of storytelling displayed in this series. My personal favorite (so far) in the HH library.

Jake &ndash October 8, 2017

No other podcast has driven me to acquire outside knowledge about history quite like Hardcore History. Dan makes you WANT to learn. I have listened to each of his podcasts multiple times and am constantly telling other people to listen to them as well. I have even picked up books from Dyer and others that he quotes in the podcasts to widen my knowledge on each subject. Simply amazing work Dan and Ben.


Gibbon offers an explanation for the fall of the Roman Empire, a task made difficult by a lack of comprehensive written sources, though he was not the only historian to attempt it. [c]

According to Gibbon, the Roman Empire succumbed to barbarian invasions in large part due to the gradual loss of civic virtue among its citizens. [8]

He began an ongoing controversy about the role of Christianity, but he gave great weight to other causes of internal decline and to attacks from outside the Empire.

The story of its ruin is simple and obvious and, instead of inquiring why the Roman empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted so long. The victorious legions, who, in distant wars, acquired the vices of strangers and mercenaries, first oppressed the freedom of the republic, and afterwards violated the majesty of the purple. The emperors, anxious for their personal safety and the public peace, were reduced to the base expedient of corrupting the discipline which rendered them alike formidable to their sovereign and to the enemy the vigour of the military government was relaxed, and finally dissolved, by the partial institutions of Constantine and the Roman world was overwhelmed by a deluge of Barbarians.

Like other Enlightenment thinkers and British citizens of the age steeped in institutional anti-Catholicism, Gibbon held in contempt the Middle Ages as a priest-ridden, superstitious Dark Age. It was not until his own era, the "Age of Reason", with its emphasis on rational thought, it was believed, that human history could resume its progress. [9]

Gibbon's tone was detached, dispassionate, and yet critical. He can lapse into moralisation and aphorism: [10]

[A]s long as mankind shall continue to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than on their benefactors, the thirst of military glory will ever be the vice of the most exalted characters.

The influence of the clergy, in an age of superstition, might be usefully employed to assert the rights of mankind but so intimate is the connection between the throne and the altar, that the banner of the church has very seldom been seen on the side of the people.

[H]istory [. ] is, indeed, little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.

If we contrast the rapid progress of this mischievous discovery [of gunpowder] with the slow and laborious advances of reason, science, and the arts of peace, a philosopher, according to his temper, will laugh or weep at the folly of mankind.

Citations and footnotes Edit

Gibbon provides the reader with a glimpse of his thought process with extensive notes along the body of the text, a precursor to the modern use of footnotes. Gibbon's footnotes are famous for their idiosyncratic and often humorous style, and have been called "Gibbon's table talk." [11] They provide an entertaining moral commentary on both ancient Rome and 18th century Great Britain. This technique enabled Gibbon to compare ancient Rome to his own contemporary world. Gibbon's work advocates a rationalist and progressive view of history.

Gibbon's citations provide in-depth detail regarding his use of sources for his work, which included documents dating back to ancient Rome. The detail within his asides and his care in noting the importance of each document is a precursor to modern-day historical footnoting methodology.

The work is notable for its erratic but exhaustively documented notes and research. John Bury, following him 113 years later with his own History of the Later Roman Empire, commended the depth and accuracy of Gibbon's work. Unusually for 18th century historians, Gibbon was not content with second-hand accounts when primary sources were accessible. "I have always endeavoured", Gibbon wrote, "to draw from the fountain-head that my curiosity, as well as a sense of duty, has always urged me to study the originals and that, if they have sometimes eluded my search, I have carefully marked the secondary evidence, on whose faith a passage or a fact were reduced to depend." [12] The Decline and Fall is a literary monument and a massive step forward in historical method. [d]

Numerous tracts were published criticising his work. In response, Gibbon defended his work with the 1779 publication of A Vindication . of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. [14] His remarks on Christianity aroused particularly vigorous attacks, but in the mid-twentieth century, at least one author [ clarification needed ] claimed that "church historians allow the substantial justness of [Gibbon's] main positions." [15]

Misinterpretation of Byzantium Edit

Some historians such as John Julius Norwich, despite their admiration for his furthering of historical methodology, consider Gibbon's hostile views on the Byzantine Empire flawed and blame him somewhat for the lack of interest shown in the subject throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. [16] This view might well be admitted by Gibbon himself: "But it is not my intention to expatiate with the same minuteness on the whole series of the Byzantine history." [17] However, the Russian historian George Ostrogorsky writes, "Gibbon and Lebeau were genuine historians – and Gibbon a very great one – and their works, in spite of factual inadequacy, rank high for their presentation of their material." [18]

Criticism of Quran and Muhammad Edit

Gibbon's comments on the Quran and Muhammad reflected his anti-Islamic views. He outlined in chapter 33 the widespread tale of the Seven Sleepers, [19] and remarked "This popular tale, which Mahomet might learn when he drove his camels to the fairs of Syria, is introduced, as a divine revelation, into the Quran." His presentation of Muhammad's life again reflected his anti-Islamic views: "in his private conduct, Mahomet indulged the appetites of a man, and abused the claims of a prophet. A special revelation dispensed him from the laws which he had imposed on his nation: the female sex, without reserve, was abandoned to his desires and this singular prerogative excited the envy, rather than the scandal, the veneration, rather than the envy, of the devout Mussulmans." [20]

Views on Jews and charge of antisemitism Edit

Gibbon has been accused of antisemitism. [21] He has described the Jews as "a race of fanatics, whose dire and credulous superstition seemed to render them the implacable enemies not only of the Roman government, but also of humankind." [22]

Number of Christian martyrs Edit

Gibbon challenged Church history by estimating far smaller numbers of Christian martyrs than had been traditionally accepted. The Church's version of its early history had rarely been questioned before. Gibbon, however, knew that modern Church writings were secondary sources, and he shunned them in favor of primary sources.

Christianity as a contributor to the fall and to stability: chapters XV, XVI Edit

Historian S. P. Foster says that Gibbon:

blamed the otherworldly preoccupations of Christianity for the decline of the Roman empire, heaped scorn and abuse on the church, and sneered at the entirety of monasticism as a dreary, superstition-ridden enterprise. The Decline and Fall compares Christianity invidiously with both the pagan religions of Rome and the religion of Islam. [23]

Volume I was originally published in sections, as was common for large works at the time. The first two were well received and widely praised. The last quarto in Volume I, especially Chapters XV and XVI, was highly controversial, and Gibbon was attacked as a "paganist". Gibbon thought that Christianity had hastened the Fall, but also ameliorated the results:

As the happiness of a future life is the great object of religion, we may hear without surprise or scandal that the introduction, or at least the abuse of Christianity, had some influence on the decline and fall of the Roman empire. The clergy successfully preached the doctrines of patience and pusillanimity the active virtues of society were discouraged and the last remains of military spirit were buried in the cloister: a large portion of public and private wealth was consecrated to the specious demands of charity and devotion and the soldiers' pay was lavished on the useless multitudes of both sexes who could only plead the merits of abstinence and chastity. Faith, zeal, curiosity, and more earthly passions of malice and ambition, kindled the flame of theological discord the church, and even the state, were distracted by religious factions, whose conflicts were sometimes bloody and always implacable the attention of the emperors was diverted from camps to synods the Roman world was oppressed by a new species of tyranny and the persecuted sects became the secret enemies of their country. Yet party-spirit, however pernicious or absurd, is a principle of union as well as of dissension. The bishops, from eighteen hundred pulpits, inculcated the duty of passive obedience to a lawful and orthodox sovereign their frequent assemblies and perpetual correspondence maintained the communion of distant churches and the benevolent temper of the Gospel was strengthened, though confirmed, by the spiritual alliance of the Catholics. The sacred indolence of the monks was devoutly embraced by a servile and effeminate age but if superstition had not afforded a decent retreat, the same vices would have tempted the unworthy Romans to desert, from baser motives, the standard of the republic. Religious precepts are easily obeyed which indulge and sanctify the natural inclinations of their votaries but the pure and genuine influence of Christianity may be traced in its beneficial, though imperfect, effects on the barbarian proselytes of the North. If the decline of the Roman empire was hastened by the conversion of Constantine, his victorious religion broke the violence of the fall, and mollified the ferocious temper of the conquerors (chap. 38). [24]

Voltaire was deemed to have influenced Gibbon's claim that Christianity was a contributor to the fall of the Roman Empire. As one pro-Christian commenter put it in 1840:

As Christianity advances, disasters befall the [Roman] empire – arts, science, literature, decay – barbarism and all its revolting concomitants are made to seem the consequences of its decisive triumph – and the unwary reader is conducted, with matchless dexterity, to the desired conclusion – the abominable Manicheism of Candide, and, in fact, of all the productions of Voltaire's historic school – viz., "that instead of being a merciful, ameliorating, and benignant visitation, the religion of Christians would rather seem to be a scourge sent on man by the author of all evil." [25]

Tolerant paganism Edit

The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true by the philosophers as equally false and by the magistrate as equally useful.

He has been criticized for his portrayal of Paganism as tolerant and Christianity as intolerant. In an article that appeared in 1996 in the journal Past & Present, H. A. Drake challenges an understanding of religious persecution in ancient Rome, which he considers to be the "conceptual scheme" that was used by historians to deal with the topic for the last 200 years, and whose most eminent representative is Gibbon. Drake counters:

With such deft strokes, Gibbon enters into a conspiracy with his readers: unlike the credulous masses, he and we are cosmopolitans who know the uses of religion as an instrument of social control. So doing, Gibbon skirts a serious problem: for three centuries prior to Constantine, the tolerant pagans who people the Decline and Fall were the authors of several major persecutions, in which Christians were the victims. . Gibbon covered this embarrassing hole in his argument with an elegant demur. Rather than deny the obvious, he adroitly masked the question by transforming his Roman magistrates into models of Enlightenment rulers – reluctant persecutors, too sophisticated to be themselves religious zealots.

Gibbon's initial plan was to write a history "of the decline and fall of the city of Rome", and only later expanded his scope to the whole Roman Empire:

If I prosecute this History, I shall not be unmindful of the decline and fall of the city of Rome an interesting object, to which my plan was originally confined. [26]

Although he published other books, Gibbon devoted much of his life to this one work (1772–1789). His autobiography Memoirs of My Life and Writings is devoted largely to his reflections on how the book virtually became his life. He compared the publication of each succeeding volume to a newborn child. [27]

Gibbon continued to revise and change his work even after publication. The complexities of the problem are addressed in Womersley's introduction and appendices to his complete edition.

  • In-print complete editions
      , ed., seven volumes, seven editions, London: Methuen, 1898 to 1925, reprinted New York: AMS Press, 1974. 0-404-02820-9. , ed., two volumes, 4th edition New York: The Macmillan Company, 1914 Volume 1Volume 2 , ed., six volumes, New York: Everyman's Library, 1993–1994. The text, including Gibbon's notes, is from Bury but without his notes. 0-679-42308-7 (vols. 1–3) 0-679-43593-X (vols. 4–6).
  • David Womersley, ed., three volumes, hardback London: Allen Lane, 1994 paperback New York: Penguin Books, 1994, revised ed. 2005. Includes the original index, and the Vindication (1779), which Gibbon wrote in response to attacks on his caustic portrayal of Christianity. The 2005 print includes minor revisions and a new chronology. 0-7139-9124-0 (3360 p.) 0-14-043393-7 (v. 1, 1232 p.) 0-14-043394-5 (v. 2, 1024 p.) 0-14-043395-3 (v. 3, 1360 p.)
    • David Womersley, abridged ed., one volume, New York: Penguin Books, 2000. Includes all footnotes and seventeen of the seventy-one chapters. 0-14-043764-9 (848 p.)
    • Hans-Friedrich Mueller, abridged ed., one volume, New York: Random House, 2003. Includes excerpts from all seventy-one chapters. It eliminates footnotes, geographic surveys, details of battle formations, long narratives of military campaigns, ethnographies and genealogies. Based on the Rev. H.H. [Dean] Milman's edition of 1845 (see also Gutenberg e-text edition). 0-375-75811-9, (trade paper, 1312 p.) 0-345-47884-3 (mass market paper, 1536 p.)
    • AMN, abridged ed., one volume abridgement, Woodland: Historical Reprints, 2019. It eliminates most footnotes, adds some annotations, and omits Milman's notes. 978-1-950330-46-1 (large 8x11.5 trade paper 402 pages)

    Many writers have used variations on the series title (including using "Rise and Fall" in place of "Decline and Fall"), especially when dealing with a large polity that has imperial characteristics. Piers Brendon notes that Gibbon's work "became the essential guide for Britons anxious to plot their own imperial trajectory. They found the key to understanding the British Empire in the ruins of Rome." [28]

    • Playfair, William (1805). An Inquiry into the Permanent Causes of the Decline and Fall of Powerful and Wealthy Nations. Designed To Show How The Prosperity Of The British Empire May Be Prolonged. ISBN978-1166472474 .
    • Davis, Jefferson (1868). The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. ISBN978-1540456045 .
    • Cuppy, Will (1950). The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody. ISBN978-0880298094 .
    • Shirer, William (1960). The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. ISBN978-0671728687 .
    • Jacobs, Jane (1961). The Death and Life of Great American Cities. ISBN978-0679741954 .
    • Kinks, The (1969). Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). ASINB00005O053.
    • Toland, John Willard (1970). The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire 1936-1945. ISBN978-0812968583 .
    • Green, Celia (1976). The Decline and Fall of Science. ISBN978-0900076060 .
    • Balfour, Patrick (1977). The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire. ISBN978-0688030933 .
    • Martin, Malachi (1983). The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church. ISBN978-0553229448 .
    • Eysenck, Hans (1986). Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire. ISBN978-0765809452 .
    • Kennedy, Paul (1987). The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. ISBN978-0679720195 .
    • Wilson, Henry (1872). History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America. ISBN978-1504215428 .
    • Cannadine, David (1990). The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy . ISBN978-0375703683 .
    • James, Lawrence (1998). The Rise and Fall of the British Empire. ISBN978-0312169855 .
    • Faulkner, Neil (2000). The Decline and Fall of Roman Britain. ISBN978-0752414584 .
    • Ferguson, Niall (2002). Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power. ISBN978-0465023295 .
    • Carlin, David (2003). The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America. ISBN978-1622821693 .
    • Brendon, Piers (2007). The Decline and Fall of the British Empire. ISBN978-0712668460 .
    • Simms, Brendan (2008). Three victories and a defeat: the rise and fall of the first British Empire. ISBN978-0465013326 .
    • Pourshariati, Parvaneh (2008). Decline and Fall of the Sasanian Empire. ISBN978-1784537470 .
    • Ackerman, Bruce (2010). Decline and Fall of the American Republic. ISBN978-0674725843 .
    • Smith, Phillip J. (2015). The Rise and Fall of the British Empire: Mercantilism, Diplomacy and the Colonies. ISBN978-1518888397 .
    • Ober, Josiah (2015). The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece. ISBN978-0691173146 .

    The title and author are also cited in Noël Coward's comedic poem "I Went to a Marvellous Party", [e] and in the poem "The Foundation of Science Fiction Success", Isaac Asimov acknowledged that his Foundation series – an epic tale of the fall and rebuilding of a galactic empire – was written "with a tiny bit of cribbin' / from the works of Edward Gibbon". [30] Feminist science fiction author Sheri S. Tepper gave one of her novels the title Gibbon's Decline and Fall.

    In 1995, an established journal of classical scholarship, Classics Ireland, published punk musician's Iggy Pop's reflections on the applicability of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire to the modern world in a short article, Caesar Lives, (vol. 2, 1995) in which he noted

    America is Rome. Of course, why shouldn't it be? We are all Roman children, for better or worse . I learn much about the way our society really works, because the system-origins – military, religious, political, colonial, agricultural, financial – are all there to be scrutinised in their infancy. I have gained perspective. [31]

    1. ^ sometimes shortened to Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
    2. ^ The original volumes were published in quarto sections, a common publishing practice of the time.
    3. ^ See for example Henri Pirenne's (1862–1935) famous thesis published in the early 20th century. As for sources more recent than the ancients, Gibbon certainly drew on Montesquieu's short essay, Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and their Decline, and on previous work published by Bossuet (1627–1704) in his Histoire universelle à Monseigneur le dauphin (1763). see Pocock, The Enlightenments of Edward Gibbon, 1737–1764. for Bousset, pp. 65, 145 for Montesquieu, pp. 85–88, 114, 223.
    4. ^ In the early 20th century, biographer Sir Leslie Stephen summarized The History's reputation as a work of unmatched erudition, a degree of professional esteem which remains as strong today as it was then:

    The criticisms upon his book . are nearly unanimous. In accuracy, thoroughness, lucidity, and comprehensive grasp of a vast subject, the History is unsurpassable. It is the one English history which may be regarded as definitive. . Whatever its shortcomings, the book is artistically imposing as well as historically unimpeachable as a vast panorama of a great period. [13]