The fall of the Western Roman Empire

The time of 27 BC until the year 180 is often referred to as Pax Romana (Roman Peace). During this time, the Roman Empire hardly pursued plans for expansion and had to deal only with a few suppression of uprisings inside or securing the borders.


But already in this period Rome, especially the Roman Legion, were shown their limits. Thus, in the famous Varus Battle (also known under the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest), not less than 3 whole legions were destroyed by the troops of Arminius. Although a short time later Rome's revenge was carried out by punitive expeditions, but a subjugation of the Germanic tribes never succeeded, such as the Gauls.


Varusschlacht (Schlacht am Teutoburger Wald)

Varus Battle (Battle of the Teutoburg Forest)


Even in Britain, the legions pushed to the limits of the possible. Although Rom conquered southern England in a coup, the resistance in the province of Wales could only finally be broken after 16 long years. The expansion to the north proved to be less difficult, the Scottish tribes of the Legion made lossy resistance. Thus in the year 122 Rome had no choice but to secure its border to the north by erecting a rampart, Hadrian's Wall. Later, this was replaced by the Antoninuswall in 142, held, but this was only 20 years long.


Hadrianswall und der spätere Antoninuswall

Hadrian's Wall and the later Antoninuswall


Heutige Überreste des Hadrianswalls in England

Today's remains of Hadrian's Wall in England


Further evidence of the slow disintegration of the empire was the continuing uprisings of the individual provinces.

So in the year 66 the Judea, by their rebellion 70 AD. was taken by the Romans, the city of Jerusalem and destroyed their temples. Although the Judea held the fortress Masada for another 3 years, they were soon unable to oppose the Roman onslaught, so that they escaped capture by a mass suicide.

Through further clashes between the Roman ruler Trajan and the Parthians in the territory of present-day Israel, the largest expansion of the Roman Empire was made until the year 117. However, the borders in the Middle East did not keep you, so shortly after the relegation of the legions to more defensible positions began. The subsequent pressure by the Parthians in the east and the Germanic tribes in the north-east Rome was then no longer able to oppose much.


Römisches Reich 117 n.Chr.

Roman Empire 117 AD.




The empire of the late period

The last phase of the westRoman realm was geprängt of the dominance of Germanic trunks. Whether as auxiliary troops of the Roman Legion or as an opponent, often blurred the loyalty of the trunks and from enemies became to allied one now or also differently around.

But not only the rising Germanic tribes caused the downfall, even the weak political leadership, the lack of resources and the weakened legions could no longer hold the kingdom together.
Thus, at the end of the third century, the legions were no longer purely Roman, and by using legionnaires from the subjugated provinces of recent centuries, the legions were composed of the most diverse ethnic origins. In addition, the scarcity of scarcity was noticeable in the quality of the equipment, as well as the lack of volunteer soldiers.

The Battle of Frigidus in 394 exemplifies the failure of the Roman system and the breaking of the empire. Under the emperor Theodosius, the Eastern Roman army was under the command of Stilicho, who fought against the Frankish Arbogast with his usurpers. Stilicho's forces included a large contingent of the Visigoths under chief Alaric, who plundered the area after the victory. Former allies became enemies so quickly, which was no longer an isolated case at the time. In 410, after Stilicho's death, the Visigoths plundered Rome. After 800 years, the city fell into hostile hands for the first time. But only a few years later Rome asked these Visigoths for help in order to oppose another Germanic enemy, the Vandals.

Further evidence of the disintegration was the looting of the Hun leader Attila, who moved 1 decade through the Western Roman Empire and spread fear and terror with his raids. Although these ended with the natural death Attila in 453, but at that time, the disintegration of the Western Roman Empire was already in full swing and could not be stopped.


Attila der Hunnenkönig

Attila King of the hunnen




After the decay

The decline of the Western Roman Empire is usually dated to the year 476, since at that time the Germanic army leader Odoacer deposed the Roman Emperor Augustulus, but recognized the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire Zenon in Constantinople Opel.
After the deposition Augustulus new Germanic kingdoms emerged. Thus, the Franks founded a kingdom in Gaul under Clovis, in Spain ruled from then on the Visigoths and 493, after its defeat against the Ostrogoths, ruled Odoakar in Italy only as governor of the Eastern Roman Empire.


Europa nach dem Zerfall des weströmischen Reiches

Europe after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire






You can find the right literature here:


The Romans: From Village to Empire: A History of Rome from Earliest Times to the End of the Western Empire

The Romans: From Village to Empire: A History of Rome from Earliest Times to the End of the Western Empire 2nd Edition

How did a single village community in the Italian peninsula eventually become one of the most powerful imperial powers the world has ever known? In The Romans: From Village to Empire, Second Edition, Mary T. Boatwright, Daniel J. Gargola, Richard J.A. Talbert, and new coauthor Noel Lenski explore this question as they guide students through a comprehensive sweep of Roman history, ranging from the prehistoric settlements to the fall of the empire in 476. Addressing issues that still confront modern states worldwide--including warfare, empire building, consensus forging, and political fragmentation--the authors also provide glimpses into everyday Roman life and perspective, demonstrating how Rome's growth as a state is inseparable from its social and cultural development.

Vividly written and accessible, The Romans, Second Edition, traces Rome's remarkable evolution from village, to monarchy, to republic, to one-man rule by an emperor--whose power at its peak stretched from Scotland to Iraq and the Nile Valley--to the empire's fall in 476. Firmly grounded in ancient literary and material sources, the text describes and analyzes major political and military landmarks, from the Punic Wars, to Caesar's conquest of Gaul and his crossing of the Rubicon, to the victory of Octavian over Mark Antony, and through Constantine's adoption of Christianity. Featuring two new chapters (13 and 14), the second edition extends the book's coverage through the rise of Christianity, the growth of the Barbarian threat, the final years of the empire, its fall in 476, and, finally, to its revival in the East as Byzantium. This edition also combines chapters 1 and 2 into one--"Archaic Italy and the Origins of Rome"--and integrates more material on women, religion, and cultural history throughout.

Ideal for courses in Roman history and Roman civilization, The Romans, Second Edition, is enhanced by two new 8-page, 4-color inserts and almost 100 extensively captioned illustrations. It also includes more than 30 ancient maps, revised and improved under the supervision of coauthor Richard J. A. Talbert, and textual extracts that provide fascinating cultural observations made by ancient Romans themselves. A new Image Bank CD contains PowerPoint-based slides of all the photos and maps in the text.

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SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome Paperback – September 6, 2016

In SPQR, an instant classic, Mary Beard narrates the history of Rome "with passion and without technical jargon" and demonstrates how "a slightly shabby Iron Age village" rose to become the "undisputed hegemon of the Mediterranean" (Wall Street Journal). Hailed by critics as animating "the grand sweep and the intimate details that bring the distant past vividly to life" (Economist) in a way that makes "your hair stand on end" (Christian Science Monitor) and spanning nearly a thousand years of history, this "highly informative, highly readable" (Dallas Morning News) work examines not just how we think of ancient Rome but challenges the comfortable historical perspectives that have existed for centuries. With its nuanced attention to class, democratic struggles, and the lives of entire groups of people omitted from the historical narrative for centuries, SPQR will to shape our view of Roman history for decades to come.

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The Triumph of Empire: The Roman World from Hadrian to Constantine (History of the Ancient World)

The Triumph of Empire: The Roman World from Hadrian to Constantine (History of the Ancient World) Hardcover – November 28, 2016

The Triumph of Empire takes readers into the political heart of imperial Rome and recounts the extraordinary challenges overcome by a flourishing empire. Michael Kulikowski’s history begins with the reign of Hadrian, who visited the farthest reaches of his domain and created stable frontiers, and spans to the decades after Constantine the Great, who overhauled the government, introduced a new state religion, and founded a second Rome.

Factionalism and intrigue sapped the empire from within, even at its apex. Roman politics could resemble a blood sport: rivals resorted to assassination; emperors rose and fell with bewildering speed, their reigns measured in weeks, not years; and imperial succession was never entirely assured. Canny emperors―including Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus, and Diocletian―constantly cultivated the aristocracy’s favor to maintain a grip on power. Despite such volatility, the Roman Empire protected its borders, defeating successive attacks from Goths and Germans, Persians and Parthians. Yet external threats persisted and the imperial government sagged under its own administrative weight. Religion, too, was in flux with the rise of Christianity and other forms of monotheism. In the fourth century CE, Constantine and his heirs reformed imperial institutions by separating civilian and military hierarchies, restructuring the government of both provinces and cities, and ensuring the prominence of Christianity.

The Triumph of Empire is a fresh, authoritative narrative of Rome at its height and of its evolution―from being the central power of the Mediterranean world to becoming one of several great Eurasian civilizations.

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The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: Volumes 1-3, Volumes 4-6 (Everyman's Library)

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: Volumes 1-3, Volumes 4-6 (Everyman's Library) Reprint Edition

Edward Gibbon€s classic timeless work of ancient Roman history in 6 volumes collected into 2 boxed sets, in beautiful, enduring hardcover editions with elegant cloth sewn bindings, gold stamped covers, and silk ribbon markers.

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The Roman Empire and the Indian Ocean: Rome’s Dealings with the Ancient Kingdoms of India, Africa and Arabia

The Roman Empire and the Indian Ocean: Rome’s Dealings with the Ancient Kingdoms of India, Africa and Arabia Hardcover – November 19, 2014

The ancient evidence suggests that international commerce supplied Roman government with up to a third of the revenues that sustained their empire. In ancient times large fleets of Roman merchant ships set sail from Egypt on voyages across the Indian Ocean. They sailed from Roman ports on the Red Sea to distant kingdoms on the east coast of Africa and the seaboard off southern Arabia. Many continued their voyages across the ocean to trade with the rich kingdoms of ancient India. Freighters from the Roman Empire left with bullion and returned with cargo holds filled with valuable trade goods, including exotic African products, Arabian incense and eastern spices.

This book examines Roman commerce with Indian kingdoms from the Indus region to the Tamil lands. It investigates contacts between the Roman Empire and powerful African kingdoms, including the Nilotic regime that ruled Meroe and the rising Axumite Realm. Further chapters explore Roman dealings with the Arab kingdoms of south Arabia, including the Saba-Himyarites and the Hadramaut Regime, which sent caravans along the incense trail to the ancient rock-carved city of Petra.

The Roman Empire and the Indian Ocean is the first book to bring these subjects together in a single comprehensive study that reveals Rome’s impact on the ancient world and explains how international trade funded the Legions that maintained imperial rule. It offers a new international perspective on the Roman Empire and its legacy for modern society.

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