Decline of the Roman Empire

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Summary

The causes and mechanisms of the decline of the Roman Empire are a historical theme that was introduced by historian Edward Gibbon, in his widely read 1776 work The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He started an ongoing historiographical discussion about what caused the Fall of the Western Roman Empire, and the reduced power of the remaining Eastern Empire, in the 4th–5th centuries. Gibbon was not the first to speculate on why the Empire collapsed, but he was the first to give a well-researched and well-referenced account. Many theories of causality have been explored. In 1984, Alexander Demandt enumerated 210 different theories on why Rome fell, and new theories have emerged since then. Gibbon himself explored ideas of internal decline (

Details

There is no consensus on a date for the start of the Decline. Gibbon started his account in 98. The year 376 is taken as pivotal by many modern historians. In that year there was an unmanageable influx of Goths and other barbarians into the Balkan provinces, and the situation of the Western Empire generally worsened thereafter, with recoveries being incomplete and temporary. Significant events include the Battle of Adrianople in 378, the death of Theodosius I in 395 (the last time the Roman Empire was politically unified), the crossing of the Rhine in 406 by Germanic tribes, the execution of Stilicho in 408, the sack of Rome in 410, the death of Constantius III in 421, the death of Aetius in 454, and the second sack of Rome in 455, with the death of Majorian in 461 marking the end of the last opportunity for recovery.

Gibbon took September 4 476 as a convenient marker for the final dissolution of the Western Roman Empire, when Romulus Augustus, the last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire, was deposed by Odoacer, a Germanic chieftain. Some modern historians question the significance of the year 476 for its end. Julius Nepos, the Western emperor recognized by the Eastern Roman Empire, continued to rule in Dalmatia, until he was assassinated in 480. The Ostrogothic rulers of Italia considered themselves upholders of the direct line of Roman tradition, and the Eastern emperors considered themselves the sole rightful Roman rulers of a united empire. Roman cultural traditions continued throughout the territory of the Western Empire, and a recent school of interpretation argues that the great political changes can more accurately be described as a complex cultural transformation, rather than a fall.

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External Links

  • WikipediaFall of Rome – Decline of the Roman Empire

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