The Fall of the
Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire (also called Fall of the Roman
Empire or Fall of Rome) was the process of decline in the Western
Roman Empire in which it failed to enforce its rule, and its vast
territory was divided into several successor polities. The Roman
Empire lost the strengths that had allowed it to exercise effective
control over the West; modern historians mention factors including the
effectiveness and numbers of the army, the health and numbers of the
Roman population, the strength of the economy, the competence of the
Emperors, the internal struggles for power, the religious changes of
the period, and the efficiency of the civil administration. Increasing
pressure from barbarians outside Roman culture also contributed
greatly to the collapse. The reasons for the collapse are major
subjects of the historiography of the ancient world and they inform
much modern discourse on state failure.
Relevant dates include 117 CE, when the Empire was at its greatest
territorial extent, and the accession of
Diocletian in 284.
Irreversible major territorial loss, however, began in 376 with a
large-scale irruption of
Goths and others. In 395, after winning two
destructive civil wars,
Theodosius I died, leaving a collapsing field
army and the Empire, still plagued by Goths, divided between his two
incapable sons. By 476 when
Odoacer deposed the Emperor Romulus, the
Roman Emperor wielded negligible military, political, or
financial power and had no effective control over the scattered
Western domains that could still be described as Roman. Invading
barbarians had established their own power in most of the area of the
Western Empire. While its legitimacy lasted for centuries longer and
its cultural influence remains today, the Western Empire never had the
strength to rise again.
The Fall is not the only unifying concept for these events; the period
Late Antiquity emphasizes the cultural continuities
throughout and beyond the political collapse.
1 Historical approaches
1.3 Alternative descriptions and labels
2 Height of power, crises, and recoveries
2.1 Height of power
2.2 Crisis of the Third Century
2.3 Reunification and political division
2.4 Growing social divisions
3 313–376: Abuse of power, frontier warfare, and rise of
4 376–395; invasions, civil wars, and religious discord
4.1 Battle of Adrianople
4.2 Partial recovery in the Balkans
4.3 Civil wars
5 Military, financial, and political ineffectiveness: the process of
6 395–406; Stilicho
6.1 Stilicho's attempts to unify the Empire, revolts, and invasions
7 408–410; the end of an effective regular field army, starvation in
Italy, sack of Rome
7.1 Stilicho's fall and Alaric's reaction
7.2 Alaric besieges Rome
Goths move out of Italy
8 405–418 in the Gallic provinces; barbarians and usurpers, loss of
Britannia, partial loss of
Hispania and Gaul
8.1 Settlement of 418; barbarians within the empire
9 421–433; renewed dissension after the death of Constantius,
partial loss of the Diocese of Africa
10 433–454; ascendancy of Aetius, loss of Carthage
10.1 444–453; attacks by the empire of
Attila the Hun
11 455–456; failure of Avitus, further losses in Gaul, rise of
12 457–467; resurgence under Majorian, attempt to recover Africa,
control by Ricimer
13 467–472, Anthemius; an Emperor and an army from the East
14 472–476; the final emperors, puppets of the warlords
15 From 476; last Emperor, rump states
17 See also
20 External Links
Historiography of the fall of the Western Roman Empire
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,"
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." 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
Western Roman Empire was the process of decline in the
Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire 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". Gibbon started his story in 98 and
Theodor Mommsen regarded
the whole of the imperial period as unworthy of inclusion in his Nobel
Prize-winning History of Rome.
Arnold J. Toynbee
Arnold J. Toynbee and James Burke argue
that the entire Imperial era was one of steady decay of institutions
founded in republican times. As one convenient marker for the end, 476
has been used since Gibbon, but other markers include the Crisis of
the Third Century, the
Crossing of the Rhine
Crossing of the Rhine in 406 (or 405), the sack
Rome in 410, the death of
Julius Nepos in 480, all the way to the
Fall of New
Rome in 1453.
Gibbon gave a classic formulation of reasons why the Fall happened. 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.
— Edward Gibbon. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,
"General Observations on the Fall of the
Roman Empire in the West",
Alexander Demandt enumerated 210 different theories on why
and new ideas have emerged since. 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
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
Low taxes helped the Roman aristocracy increase their wealth, which
equalled or exceeded the revenues of the central government. An
emperor sometimes replenished his treasury by confiscating the estates
of the "super-rich", but in the later period, the resistance of the
wealthy to paying taxes was one of the factors contributing to the
collapse of the Empire.
Alternative descriptions and labels
Main article: Late Antiquity
From at least the time of
Henri Pirenne scholars have described a
continuity of Roman culture and political legitimacy long after
476. Pirenne postponed the demise of classical
civilization to the 8th century. He challenged the notion that
Germanic barbarians had caused the
Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire to end, and he
refused to equate the end of the
Western Roman Empire
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. In recent decades archaeologically-based
argument even extends the continuity in material culture and in
patterns of settlement as late as the eleventh century.
Observing the political reality of lost control, but also the cultural
and archaeological continuities, the process has been described as a
complex cultural transformation, rather than a fall.
Height of power, crises, and recoveries
Height of power
Roman Empire reached its greatest geographical extent under Trajan
(emperor 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, as well as 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), and its wide-ranging trade networks permitted even modest
households to use goods made by professionals far away.
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. 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. 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. Religious strife was rare after the
suppression of the
Bar Kokhba revolt
Bar Kokhba revolt in 136 (after which the
Judaea ceased to be a major centre for Jewish unrest).
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
Map of the
Roman Empire in the early second century
Crisis of the Third Century
Main article: Crisis of the Third Century
The Empire suffered from multiple, serious crises during the third
century, including the rise of the Sassanid Empire, which inflicted
three crushing defeats on Roman field armies and remained a potent
threat for centuries. 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
the north of the Danube (271), and for a short period the Empire split
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 threat from larger barbarian
groupings, which had developed better agriculture and larger
populations. The Empire survived the Crisis of the Third Century,
directing its economy successfully towards defence, but survival came
at the price of a more centralized and bureaucratic state. Under
Gallienus 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.
The divided Empire in 271 CE
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. 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
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.
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 practiced:
imperial authorities admitted potentially hostile groups into the
Empire, split them up, and allotted to them lands, status, and duties
within the imperial system. 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.
Map of the
Roman Empire under the Tetrarchy, showing the dioceses and
the four Tetrarchs' zones of responsibility
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
Aurelian (reigned 270–275) onwards openly styled themselves as
dominus et deus, "lord and god", titles appropriate for a master-slave
relationship. 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.
Official cruelty, supporting extortion and corruption, may also have
become more commonplace. While the scale, complexity, and violence
of government were unmatched, the emperors lost control over their
whole realm insofar as that control came increasingly to be wielded by
anyone who paid for it. Meanwhile, the richest senatorial
families, immune from most taxation, engrossed more and more of the
available wealth and income, 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.
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. 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
313–376: Abuse of power, frontier warfare, and rise of
Further information: History of late ancient Christianity
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. This worsened the existing difficulty in keeping the
city councils up to strength, and the services provided by the cities
were scamped or abandoned. 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. 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.
Franks on the lower left bank of the Rhine; their
settlements required a line of fortifications to keep them in check,
Rome had lost almost all local control. Under
Constantius, bandits came to dominate areas such as
within the empire. The tribes of Germany also became more populous
and more threatening. In Gaul, which did not really recover from
the invasions of the third century, there was widespread insecurity
and economic decline in the 300s, 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. 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. Except in
the rare case of a determined and incorruptible general, these troops
proved ineffective in action and dangerous to civilians. 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. However, except for the provinces along the
lower Rhine, the agricultural economy was generally doing well.
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
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. However, extortion, gross corruption, and occasional
ineffectiveness were not new to the Roman army; there is no
consensus whether its effectiveness significantly declined before
376. 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. Despite a possible decrease in its ability to assemble
and supply large armies,
Rome maintained an aggressive and potent
stance against perceived threats almost to the end of the fourth
Solidus of Julian, c. 361. Obverse: Julian with the beard appropriate
Neoplatonic philosopher. Inscription: FL(AVIVS) CL(AVDIVS)
IVLIANVS PP(=Pater Patriae, "father of the nation") AVG(=Augustus).
Reverse: an armed Roman, military standard in one hand, a captive in
the other. Inscription: VIRTVS EXERCITVS ROMANORVM, "the
bravery/virtue of the Roman army"; the mint mark is SIRM, Sirmium
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. 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.
Julian won victories against Germans who had invaded Gaul. He launched
an expensive campaign against the Persians, 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 and Kurdistan, including the strategically
important fortress of Nisibis, which had been Roman since before the
Peace of Nisibis in 299.
Valens (r. 364–378) and
Valentinian I (r. 364–375)
energetically tackled the threats of barbarian attacks on all the
Western frontiers and tried to alleviate the burdens of taxation,
which had risen continuously over the previous forty years;
the East reduced the tax demand by half in his fourth year.
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. The wealth
of the church increased dramatically, immense resources both public
and private being used for ecclesiastical construction and support of
the religious life. 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. Some public disorder also followed
competition for prestigious posts;
Pope Damasus I
Pope Damasus I was installed in 366
after an election whose casualties included a hundred and thirty-seven
corpses in the basilica of Sicininus.
Valentinian died of an apoplexy while personally 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"
Altar of Victory
Altar of Victory from the Senate House, and he rejected
the pagan title of Pontifex Maximus.
376–395; invasions, civil wars, and religious discord
Battle of Adrianople
In 376 the East faced an enormous barbarian influx across the Danube,
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 – 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". Cities were able to
hold their own walls against barbarians who had no siege equipment,
and they generally remained intact although the countryside
Partial recovery in the Balkans
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. 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. 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).
Theodosius's partial failure may have stimulated
offer advice on re-forming an effective army (the advice may date from
the 390s or from the 430s):
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.
The final Gothic settlement was acclaimed with relief, even the
official panegyrist admitting that these
Goths could not be expelled
or exterminated, nor reduced to unfree status. 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. 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. No formal treaty is recorded, nor details of whatever
agreement was actually made, and when "the Goths" re-emerge in our
records they have different leaders and are soldiers of a sort. 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
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. Nevertheless, he is represented as financially
lavish, though personally frugal when on campaign. At least one
extra levy provoked desperation and rioting in which the emperor's
statues were destroyed. 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.
Theodosius had to face a powerful usurper in the West; Magnus Maximus
declared himself Emperor in 383, stripped troops from the outlying
Britannia (probably replacing some with federate chieftains
and their war-bands) and invaded Gaul. His troops killed
he was accepted as Augustus in the Gallic provinces, where he was
responsible for the first official executions of Christian
heretics. 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,
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
Theodosius. 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.
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, 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.
The Eastern and
Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire at the death of
Theodosius I in
Theodosius died a few months later in early 395, leaving his young
sons Honorius (r. 395–423) and
Arcadius (r. 395–408) 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
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. Neither Honorius nor
Arcadius ever displayed any
ability either as rulers or as generals, and both lived as the puppets
of their courts.
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.
Military, financial, and political ineffectiveness: the process of
The ineffectiveness of Roman military responses from
has been described as "shocking", 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
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. They did, however, pass large amounts of money to
the Christian Church. 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.
The fifth-century Western emperors, with brief exceptions, were
individuals incapable of ruling effectively or even of controlling
their own courts. Those exceptions were responsible for brief, but
remarkable resurgences of Roman power.
The emperor Honorius, a contemporary depiction on a consular diptych
Anicius Petronius Probus
Anicius Petronius Probus to celebrate Probus's consulship in
406, now in the
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.
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;
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
Stilicho's attempts to unify the Empire, revolts, and invasions
Stilicho moved with his remaining mobile forces into Greece, 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,
Thrace undefended. He opted to enlist Alaric and his men, and
sent them to
Thessaly to stave off Stilicho's threat, which they
did. No battle took place.
Stilicho was forced to send some of his
Eastern forces home. 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". 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
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. 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
The Favorites of the Emperor Honorius, by John William Waterhouse,
The magister militum in the
Diocese of Africa
Diocese of Africa declared for the East
and stopped the supply of grain to Rome. 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. 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. He had reached the bottom of his recruitment pool.
Though personally not corrupt, he was very active in confiscating
assets; the financial and administrative machine was not producing
enough support for the army.
An ivory diptych, thought to depict
Stilicho (right) with his wife
Serena and son Eucherius, ca. 395 (
In 399, Tribigild's rebellion in
Asia Minor allowed
accumulate a significant army (mostly Goths), become supreme in the
Eastern court, and execute Eutropius. 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. In 400, the citizens
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. By
the beginning of 401, Gainas' head rode a pike through Constantinople
while another Gothic general became consul. Meanwhile, groups of
Huns started a series of attacks across the Danube, and the Isaurians
marauded far and wide in Anatolia.
Stilicho travelled over the
Alps to Raetia, to scrape up
further troops. He left the
Rhine defended only by the "dread" of
Roman retaliation, rather than by adequate forces able to take the
field. Early in spring, Alaric, probably desperate, invaded
Italy, and he drove Honorius westward from Mediolanum, besieging him
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
rather than the whole of Illyricum.
Stilicho probably supposed
that this pact would allow him to put Italian government into order
and recruit fresh troops. He may also have planned with Alaric's
help to relaunch his attempts to gain control over the Eastern
Christian pendant of Empress Maria, daughter of Stilicho, and wife of
Honorius. Musée du Louvre. The pendant reads, around a central cross
The letters form a Christogram
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. His forces, including Hun and Alan
auxiliaries, may in the end have totalled rather less than 15,000
Radagaisus was defeated and executed. 12,000 prisoners from
the defeated horde were drafted into Stilicho's service. 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," preferred war. One senator
famously declaimed Non est ista pax, sed pactio servitutis ("This is
not peace, but a pact of servitude").
Stilicho paid Alaric four
thousand pounds of gold nevertheless.
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.
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. 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
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.
408–410; the end of an effective regular field army, starvation in
Italy, sack of Rome
Stilicho's fall and Alaric's reaction
Stilicho had news of the coup at Bononia (where he was probably
waiting for Alaric). His small escort of barbarians was led by
Sarus, who rebelled. His Gothic troops massacred the Hun contingent in
their sleep, and then withdrew towards the cities in which their
families were billeted.
Stilicho ordered that these troops should not
be admitted, but, now without an army, he was forced to flee for
sanctuary, promised his life, and killed.
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. The conspirators seem to have
let their main army disintegrate, and had no policy except
hunting down supporters of Stilicho. Italy was left without
effective indigenous defence forces thereafter. 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.
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. He moved into Italy, probably using the route and
supplies arranged for him by Stilicho, bypassing the imperial
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.
Alaric's military operations centred on the port of Rome, through
which Rome's grain supply had to pass. Alaric's first siege of
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. 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.
Alaric withdrew to Tuscany and recruited more slaves. 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.
Alaric besieges Rome
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) were inflated by the messenger and Honorius responded
with insults, which were reported verbatim to Alaric. 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). 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.
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. 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.
Attalus failed to establish his control over the Diocese of Africa,
and no grain arrived in
Rome where the famine became even more
Jerome reports cannibalism within the walls.
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.
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
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. 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. 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. The penal laws were reinstated no later
than 25 August 410 and the overall trend of repression of paganism
Inscription honouring Honorius, as florentissimo invictissimoque, the
most excellent and invincible, 417–418, Forum Romanum
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
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.
— Procopius, The Vandalic War (De Bellis III.2.25–26)
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.
405–418 in the Gallic provinces; barbarians and usurpers, loss of
Britannia, partial loss of
Hispania and Gaul
Crossing of the Rhine
Crossing of the Rhine in 405/6 brought unmanageable numbers of
German and Alan barbarians (perhaps some 30,000 warriors, 100,000
people) into Gaul. They may have been trying to get away from the
Huns, who about this time advanced to occupy the Great Hungarian
Plain. 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
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 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
Arelate when Honorius's general Constantius arrived from Italy with
an army (possibly, mainly of Hun mercenaries). 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.
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
Jovinus rebelled and took over Constantine's remaining troops
on the Rhine. He relied on the support of Burgundians and
whom he offered supplies and land. In 413
Jovinus also recruited
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. All usurpers
had been defeated, but large barbarian groups remained un-subdued in
both Gaul and Hispania.. The imperial government was quick to
Rhine frontier. The invading tribes of 407 had passed into
Spain at the end of 409 but the Visigoths had exited Italy at the
beginning of 412 and settled themselves in Narbo.
Heraclianus was still in command in the diocese of Africa, the last of
the clique that overthrew
Stilicho 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.
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.
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. He handed Attalus over
to Honorius's regime for mutilation, humiliation, and exile, and
abandoned Attalus's supporters. (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
Ataulf moved out of Gaul, to Barcelona. There his infant
Galla Placidia was buried, and there
Ataulf was assassinated by
one of his household retainers, possibly a former follower of
Sarus. His ultimate successor
Wallia had no agreement with
the Romans; his people had to plunder in
Hispania for food.
Settlement of 418; barbarians within the empire
Areas allotted to or claimed by barbarian groups in 416–418
Wallia reached agreement with Constantius; he sent Galla
Placidia back to Honorius and received provisions, six hundred
thousand modii of wheat. From 416 to 418, Wallia's Goths
Hispania on Constantius's behalf, exterminating the
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. 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 – the
Notitia Dignitatum gives a list of the units of the western field army
at this time—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.
Constantius had married the princess
Galla Placidia (despite her
protests) in 417. The couple soon had two children,
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. 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
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.
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
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. Even in southern Gaul and
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.
421–433; renewed dissension after the death of Constantius, partial
loss of the Diocese of Africa
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. 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
Joannes as Western Emperor,
Eastern Roman government proclaimed the child Valentinian III
instead, his mother
Galla Placidia acting as regent during his
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.
Galla Placidia, as Augusta, mother of the Emperor, and his guardian
until 437, could maintain a dominant position in court, but women in
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. Meanwhile, the Empire
deteriorated seriously. Apart from the losses in the Diocese of
Hispania was slipping out of central control and into the
hands of local rulers and Suevic bandits. In Gaul the
had collapsed, the Visigoths in Aquitaine may have launched further
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. Aetius at least campaigned vigorously and mostly
victoriously, defeating aggressive Visigoths, Franks, fresh Germanic
Bagaudae in Aremorica, and a rebellion in Noricum. 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.
In 428 the
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), and crossed from
Mauretania without opposition. (The
Straits of Gibraltar
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
433–454; ascendancy of Aetius, loss of Carthage
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. 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. 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
A religious polemic of about this time complains bitterly of the
oppression and extortion suffered by all but the richest Romans.
Many wished to flee to the
Bagaudae or even to foul-smelling
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
Britannia comes an indication of the prosperity which freedom
from taxes could bring.
No sooner were the ravages of the enemy checked, than the island 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
Nevertheless, effective imperial protection from barbarian ravages was
eagerly sought. About this time authorities in
Britannia asked Aetius
"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 ...
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.
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. Roman troops assembled
in Sicily, but the planned counter-attack never happened. Huns
attacked the Eastern empire, 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.
Attila's invasions of the East were stopped by the walls of
Constantinople, 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. 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
Genseric settled his
Vandals as landowners 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 Princess Eudocia, who carried the legitimacy of the Theodosian
dynasty. 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. The Romans regained
Rome again received a grain supply from Africa.
The losses of income from the
Diocese of Africa
Diocese of Africa were equivalent to the
costs of nearly 40,000 infantry or over 20,000 cavalry. 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
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. His power rested partly on his continued ability to
reward his favoured followers with precious metals, and he
continued to attack the Eastern Empire until 450, by when he had
extracted vast sums of money and many other concessions.
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
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,
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
In 454 Aetius was personally stabbed to death by Valentinian, who was
himself murdered by the dead general's supporters a year later.
(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.
A rich senatorial aristocrat,
Petronius Maximus, who had encouraged
both murders, then seized the throne. He broke the engagement between
Huneric, prince of the Vandals, and Princess Eudocia, and had time to
Avitus to ask for the help of the Visigoths in Gaul before
Vandals sailed to Italy.
Petronius was unable to muster any
effective response and was killed by a mob as he tried to flee 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
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.
Vandals conquered Sicily, and their fleet became a constant danger
to Roman sea trade and to the coasts and islands of the western
455–456; failure of Avitus, further losses in Gaul, rise of
Avitus, at the Visigothic court in Burdigala, declared himself
Emperor. He moved on
Rome with Visigothic support which gained his
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. Avitus's son-in-law
Sidonius wrote propaganda to present the Visigothic king Theoderic II
as a reasonable man with whom a Roman regime could do business.
Theoderic's payoff included precious metal from stripping the
remaining public ornaments of Italy, 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. The
Burgundians expanded their kingdom in the Rhone valley and the Vandals
took the remains of the Diocese of Africa. In 456 the Visigothic
army was too heavily engaged in
Hispania to be an effective threat to
Ricimer had just destroyed a pirate fleet of sixty Vandal
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.
457–467; resurgence under Majorian, attempt to recover Africa,
control by Ricimer
During his four-year reign
Majorian reconquered most of
southern Gaul, meanwhile reducing the Visigoths, Burgundians and Suevi
to federate status.
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". 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
Aegidius also acknowledged
Majorian and took effective
charge of northern Gaul. (
Aegidius may also have used the title "King
of the Franks".) 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
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
Soissons in northern Gaul, rejected both
Ricimer and his
puppets and maintained some version of Roman rule in their areas.
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.
467–472, Anthemius; an Emperor and an army from the East
Tremissis of Anthemius
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
confirmed in their possession of the
Diocese of Africa
Diocese of Africa and they retook
Sardinia and Sicily. Marcellinus was murdered, possibly on orders from
Ricimer. 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
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.
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.
472–476; the final emperors, puppets of the warlords
After the death of
Olybrius there was a further interregnum until
March 473, when
Glycerius emperor. He may have
made some attempt to intervene in Gaul; if so, it was
Tremissis of Julius Nepos
In 474 Julius Nepos, nephew and successor of the general Marcellinus,
Rome with soldiers and authority from the eastern emperor
Gundobad had already left to contest the Burgundian throne in
Glycerius gave up without a fight, retiring to become
Salona in Dalmatia.
In 475, Orestes, a former secretary of Attila, drove
Julius Nepos out
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.
In 476, Orestes refused to grant
Odoacer and the
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 his army ravaged the city. Odoacer's army chased
Orestes to Piacenza, where they captured and executed him on August
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
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
Odoacer then installed himself as ruler over
Italy, and sent the Imperial insignia to Constantinople.
From 476; last Emperor, rump states
Europe and the Near East in 476 AD
By convention, the
Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire is deemed to have ended on 4
September 476, when
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
Syagrius son of
Aegidius ruled the Domain of
Soissons until his
murder in 487. The indigenous inhabitants of
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. While the civitates of
into a level of material development inferior even to their pre-Roman
Iron Age ancestors, they maintained identifiably Roman traits for
some time, and they continued to look to their own defence as Honorius
The Ostrogothic Kingdom, which rose from the ruins of the Western
Odoacer began to negotiate with the East Roman (Byzantine) Emperor
Zeno, who was busy dealing with unrest in the East. Zeno eventually
Odoacer the status of patrician and accepted him as his own
viceroy of Italy. Zeno, however, insisted that
Odoacer had to pay
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.
Main article: Legacy of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire was not only a political unity enforced by violence.
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. 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.
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
Comparative studies of the Roman and Han empires
Decline of the Byzantine Empire
Decline of the Byzantine Empire (Fall of the
Eastern Roman Empire)
Historiography of the fall of the Roman Empire
Last of the Romans
Late Roman army
^ Ward-Perkins 2007, p. 1.
^ e.g. Why Nations Fail. Acemoglu D and Robinson JA. Profile Books
(Random House Inc.) 2012. ISBN 978-1-84668-429-6. pp. 166–175
^ Glen Bowersock, "The Vanishing Paradigm of the Fall of Rome"
Bulletin of the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1996. vol. 49
no. 8 pp 29–43.
^ Dio Cassius 72.36.4, Loeb edition translated E. Cary
^ Momigliano 1973.
^ Alexander Demandt: 210 Theories Archived 2015-03-16 at the Wayback
Machine., quoting A. Demandt, Der Fall Roms (1984) 695.
^ Galinsky 1992, pp. 53–73.
^ Morris, p. 184.
^ Brown 1978, pp. 2–3.
^ Hunt 2001, p. 256.
^ Randsborg 1991.
^ Cameron, 1993 & chapter 4.
^ Bowersock 2001.
^ Harper 2011.
^ Ward-Perkins 2005, pp. 87–121.
^ Goldsworthy 2003, pp. 68–73.
^ MacMullen 1988, p. 110.
Edward Gibbon Chapter 2. Fall In The West. The History of the
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
^ Gibbon, 1782 & Chapter I: The Extent Of The Empire In The Age Of
The Antonines. Chapter II: The Internal Prosperity In The Age Of The
Antonines. Chapter III: The Constitution In The Age Of The Antonines.
^ a b Heather 2005, p. 67.
^ a b c d Heather 2005, p. 123.
^ Letki 2012, pp. 52–53.
Aurelius Victor De Caesaribus. chapter XXXIII verse 34. "Et patres
quidem praeter commune Romani malum orbis stimulabat proprii ordinis
contumelia, 34 quia primus ipse metu socordiae suae, ne imperium ad
optimos nobilium transferretur, senatum militia vetuit et adire
exercitum. Huic novem annorum potentia fuit."
http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/victor.caes.html (in Latin)
^ Heather 2005, pp. 63–64.
^ Macarius Magnes, Apocriticus IV: 23: "Therefore you make a great
mistake in thinking that God is angry if any other is called a god,
and obtains the same title as Himself. For even rulers do not object
to the title from their subjects, nor masters from slaves."
^ MacMullen 1988, pp. 110, 147.
^ a b MacMullen 1988, pp. 137–142.
^ Matthews 2007, p. 253.
^ MacMullen 1988, p. 170.
^ Cameron 2012, p. 97.
^ Matthews 2007, p. 278.
^ Rathbone 2009, p. 324.
^ Matthews 2007, p. 284.
^ Heather 2005, p. 119.
^ a b c d Jones 1964, p. 131.
^ Heather 2005, pp. 115–116.
^ MacMullen 1988, pp. 181–183.
^ MacMullen 1988, pp. 23, 178, 186.
^ MacMullen 1988, p. 161.
^ MacMullen 1988, pp. 190–193.
^ MacMullen 1988, p. 176.
^ Heather 2005, pp. 112–115.
^ G. M. Klein Goldewijk and W. M. Jongman. They never had it so good.
Roman stature and the biological standard of living. As quoted in:
Willem Jongman. Gibbon was right: The decline and fall of the Roman
economy. In: Crises and the Roman Empire, pp 183–200. Editors
O. Hekster; G. Kleijn; Daniëlle Slootjes. Brill: 2007. Chapter DOI:
10.1163/ej.9789004160507.i-448.38 E-ISBN 978-90-474-2090-3
^ MacMullen 1988, p. 175.
^ Tacitus, Annals, book 11, chapter 18.
Corbulo ... recalled the legions, as lethargic in their toils and
duties as they were ardent in pillage, to the old code with its
prohibitions against falling out on march or beginning an action
^ Nicasie 1998, p. 187.
^ Ward-Perkins 2005, p. 37.
^ MacMullen 1988, pp. 173–175, 181.
^ Nicasie 1998, p. 261.
^ Ammianus 1935, book XVI, chapter V: "what good he did to Gaul,
labouring as it was in utmost destitution, appears most clearly from
this fact: when he first entered those parts, he found that
twenty-five pieces of gold were demanded by way of tribute from every
one as a poll and land tax; but when he left, seven only for full
satisfaction of all duties. And on account of this (as if clear
sunshine had beamed upon them after ugly darkness), they expressed
their joy in gaiety and dances."
^ Gaddis 2005, pp. 94-95.
^ Burns 1990, p. 283.
^ Jones 1964, p. 147.
^ Jones 1964, p. 152.
^ MacMullen 1988, p. 51.
^ Gibbon & vol.2, p. 513.
^ Gibbon, 1782 & Chapter XXVII: Civil Wars, Reign Of
Theodosius.—Part I. Death Of Gratian.
^ a b MacMullen 1988, p. 185.
^ Nicasie 1998, p. 263ff.
^ Nicasie 1998, p. 256.
^ a b Halsall 2007, p. 183.
^ Burns 1994, p. 48.
Ab Urbe Condita
Ab Urbe Condita by Titus Livius. Translated from the Original with
Notes and Illustrations by George Baker, A.M.. First American, from
the Last London Edition, in Six Volumes (New York: Peter A. Mesier et
al., 1823). Vol. 6, surviving summaries of books LXIII, LXV, LXVII,
accessed 4th July 2012
^ Heather 2005, pp. 182–183,212.
^ a b Jones 1964, pp. 157–158, 169.
^ Milner NP. Vegetius: Epitome of Military Science, second edition,
Liverpool University Press, 1996. pp. xxxvii ff
^ Seeck O. Die Zeit des Vegetius. Hermes 1876 vol.11 pp. 61–83. As
quoted in Milner NP. Vegetius: Epitome of Military Science, second
edition, Liverpool University Press, 1996. pp. xxxvii ff
^ De Re Militari. Flavius
Vegetius Renatus. Translated by Lieutenant
John Clarke 1767. Etext version by Mads Brevik (2001)
^ Heather 2005, p. 188.
^ Burns 1994, p. 54.
^ Jones 1964, p. 157.
^ Halsall 2007, p. 185.
^ Burns 1994, pp. 102, 152.
^ Burns 1994, p. 65.
^ Jones 1964, pp. 162, 169.
^ a b Jones 1964, p. 162.
^ Jones 1964, pp. 166–167.
^ Jones 1964, p. 164.
^ Jones 1964, p. 159.
^ MacMullen 1988, p. 178.
^ a b c Burns 1994, p. 159.
^ a b c Jones 1964, p. 173.
^ a b Macgeorge 2002, p. 171.
^ a b Heather 2005, pp. 213–214, 217–218, 242, 255.
^ a b Jones 1964, p. 187.
^ MacMullen 1988, chapter 2: Power Effective pp=58–121.
^ Alföldy 2001, p. 17.
^ Macgeorge 2002, p. 171-172.
^ Macgeorge 2002, p. 172.
^ a b MacMullen 1988.
^ Burns 1994, p. 153.
^ Burns 1994, p. 154.
^ a b c Zosimus, book 5
^ Burns 1994, pp. 162–163.
^ MacMullen 1988, p. 189.
^ a b Burns 1994, p. 183.
^ Burns 1994, p. 186.
^ Burns 1994, p. 187.
^ Burns 1994, p. 169.
^ Burns 1994, p. 175.
^ Ward-Perkins 2005, p. 60.
^ Burns 1994, p. 173.
^ Jones 1964, p. 192.
^ a b Burns 1994, p. 191.
^ Burns 1994, p. 190.
^ Burns 1994, p. 193.
^ a b Burns 1994, p. 195.
^ a b Burns 1994, p. 198.
^ Gibbon, 277
^ Zosimus, Nova Historia, book 5.
^ a b Burns 1994, p. 215.
^ Burns 1994, p. 216.
^ Burns 1994, p. 218.
^ a b Burns 1994, p. 227.
^ Burns 1994, p. 219.
^ Burns 1994, pp. 224–225.
^ Burns 1994, p. 228.
^ Burns 1994, p. 236.
^ Halsall 2007, p. 216.
^ Burns 1994, pp. 226–227.
^ Connolly 1998, p. 189.
^ Burns 1994, pp. 233–234.
^ a b Burns 1994, p. 234.
^ Heather 2005, p. 227.
^ Heather 2005, p. 226.
^ Burns 1994, p. 239.
^ Burns 1994, pp. 238–239.
^ Burns 1994, p. 240.
^ Burns 1994, p. 242.
^ Burns 1994, p. 243.
^ Burns 1994, pp. 243–244.
^ Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume VI/The Letters of
St. Jerome/Letter 127 Philip Schaff et al.
^ a b Heather 2005, p. 239.
^ Burns 1994, pp. 228–231.
^ Heather 2005, pp. 229–232.
^ Burns 1994, pp. 196, 237, 238.
^ Burns 1994, p. 238.
^ Burns 1994, p. 245.
^ a b Heather 2005, p. 198.
^ Heather 2005, pp. 202–205.
^ Jones, 1964 & 185–189.
^ Burns 1994, p. 128.
^ Heather 2005, p. 244.
^ Heather 2005, pp. 205–212.
^ a b Heather 2005, p. 251.
^ a b Burns 1994, p. 257.
^ a b Eucharisticus
Paulinus Pellaeus English translation by H. G.
Evelyn White, 1921, Loeb Classical Library's Ausonius, vol. II, pp
^ Burns 1994, pp. 258–259.
^ Burns 1994, p. 259.
^ Burns 1994, pp. 259–260.
^ Heather 2005, pp. 240–241.
^ Burns 1994, p. 260.
^ Heather 2005, p. 241.
^ Heather 2005, p. 242.
^ Heather 2005, pp. 246–248.
^ Matthews 1975, p. 378.
^ a b Heather 2005, p. 257.
^ Halsall 2007, p. 234.
^ Halsall 2007, pp. 231–232.
^ Heather 2005, p. 246.
^ Jones 1964, p. 204.
^ Heather 2005, pp. 274–278.
^ Heather 2005, p. 261.
^ Heather 2005, p. 260.
^ Heather 2005, p. 283.
^ Heather 2005, p. 285.
^ Halsall 2007, p. 240.
^ Heather 2005, p. 290.
^ Halsall 2007, p. 244.
^ Heather 2005, p. 288.
^ Gibbon, 1782 & Chapter XXXIV: Attila.—Part II.
^ De gubernatione Dei by Salvianus. The fifth book. verses 5–7.
^ a b Gildas. On The Ruin of Britain (De Excidio Britanniae).
Translation by J. A. Giles
^ Halsall 2007, p. 247.
^ Heather 2005, pp. 288–290.
^ Heather 2005, pp. 291–292.
^ Gibbon, 1782 & Chapter XXXIV: Attila.—Part I.
^ Ward-Perkins 2005, pp. 54–62.
^ Ward-Perkins 2005, pp. 58–62.
^ Jones 1964, pp. 206–207.
^ Heather 2005, pp. 293–294.
^ Gibbon, Chapter XXXV: Invasion By Attila.—Part I. &
^ Heather 2005, p. 298.
^ Heather 2005, pp. 295–297.
^ Jones 1964, pp. 205–206.
^ Heather 2005, p. 330.
^ Heather 2005, p. 332.
^ Gibbon et al.
^ The Life of St. Severinus (1914) by Eugippius pp. 13–113, English
translation by George W. Robinson, Harvard University Press,
^ Gibbon & Chapter XXXV: Invasion By Attila.—Part III.
^ Bury, J. B., The Cambridge Medieval History Vol. I (1924), pages
^ Heather 2005, pp. 375–377.
^ Halsall 2007, p. 256.
^ Gibbon, 1782 & Chapter XXXVI: Total Extinction Of The Western
^ Heather 2005, p. 379.
^ a b Heather 2005, p. 381.
^ Halsall 2007, p. 260.
^ Heather 2005, pp. 382–383.
^ Halsall 2007, p. 261.
^ Gibbon, 1782 & Chapter XXXVI: Total Extinction Of The Western
^ Martindale 1980, pp. 708–710, Chapter Marcellinus 6.
^ Halsall 2007, p. 266–267.
^ Jones 1964, p. 241.
^ Halsall 2007, p. 391.
^ Halsall 2007, p. 273.
^ Halsall 2007, pp. 276–277.
^ Halsall 2007, p. 277.
^ Halsall 2007, p. 278.
^ a b c Halsall 2007, p. 279.
^ Encyclopædia Britannica online
^ De Imperatoribus Romanis
^ Gibbon, p. 406
^ Halsall 2007, pp. 280–281.
^ Jones 1964, p. 246.
^ Halsall 2007, pp. 405–411.
^ Ward-Perkins 2005, p. 118.
^ The Britons: from Romans to barbarians. Alex Woolf. pp 345–380 in
Regna and Gentes. The relationship between Late Antique and Early
Mediaeval Peoples and Kingdoms in the Transformation of the Roman
World. Edited by Hans-Werner Goetz, Jörg Janut, and Walter Pohl with
the collaboration of Sören Kaschke. Brill, Leiden, 2003.
^ Halsall 2007, pp. 284–319.
^ a b Halsall 2007, p. 287.
^ Ward-Perkins 2005, pp. 87–122.
^ Bowersock 2001, pp. 87–122.
Alföldy, Géza. Urban life, inscriptions,and mentality in late
antique Rome. In Urban Centers and Rural Contexts in Late Antiquity,
Thomas S. Burns and John W. Eadie (eds.). Michigan State University
Press 2001. ISBN 0-87013-585-6.
Ammianus. The History. Trans. J. C. Rolfe. Loeb Classical Library,
Vol. I, 1935.
Bowersock, Glen, Peter Brown, Oleg Grabar. Interpreting Late
Antiquity: essays on the postclassical world. Belknap Press of Harvard
University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-674-00598-8.
Brown, Peter. The Making of Late Antiquity, Harvard University Press,
Burns, Thomas S.
Barbarians Within the Gates of Rome : A Study of
Roman Military Policy and the Barbarians, ca. 375–425 A. D. Indiana
University Press 1995. ISBN 978-0-253-31288-4.
Börm, Henning. Westrom. Von Honorius bis Justinian. Kohlhammer 2013.
ISBN 978-3-17-023276-1 (Review in English).
Cameron, Averil. The
Mediterranean World in Late Antiquity. AD
395–700. Routledge 2011, ISBN 978-0415579612.
Connolly, Peter. Greece and
Rome at War. Revised edition, Greenhill
Books, 1998. ISBN 978-1-85367-303-0.
Gaddis, Michael. There Is No Crime for Those Who Have Christ.
Religious violence in the Christian Roman Empire. University of
California Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-520-24104-6.
Galinsky, Karl. Classical and Modern Interactions (1992) 53–73.
Gibbon, Edward. History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
With notes by the Rev. H. H. Milman. 1782 (Written), 1845 (Revised)
Goldsworthy, Adrian. The complete Roman Army.
ISBN 978-0-500-05124-5. Thames & Hudson, 2003.
Goldsworthy, Adrian. The Fall of the West: The Slow Death of the Roman
Superpower. ISBN 978-0-7538-2692-8. Phoenix, an imprint of Orion
Books Ltd, 2010.
Heather, Peter. The fall of the Roman Empire. A new history. Pan
Books, 2006. ISBN 978-0-330-49136-5.
Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376–568
(Cambridge Medieval Textbooks)
Harper, Kyle. Slavery in the late Roman world AD 275–425. ISBN
(hardback) 978-0-521-19861-5. Cambridge University Press 2011.
Hunt, Lynn, Thomas R. Martin, Barbara H. Rosenwein, R. Po-chia Hsia,
Bonnie G. Smith. The Making of the West, Peoples and Cultures, Volume
A: To 1500. Bedford / St. Martins 2001. ISBN 0-312-18365-8.
Hodges, Richard, Whitehouse, David. Mohammed, Charlemagne and the
Origins of Europe: archaeology and the Pirenne thesis. Cornell
University Press, 1983.
Jones, A. H. M. The Later Roman Empire, 284–602: A Social, Economic,
and Administrative Survey [Paperback, vol. 1] ISBN 0-8018-3353-1
Basil Blackwell Ltd. 1964.
Letki Piotr. The cavalry of Diocletian. Origin, organization, tactics,
and weapons. Translated by Pawel Grysztar and Trystan Skupniewicz.
Wydawnictwo NapoleonV ISBN 978-83-61324-93-5. Oświęcim 2012.
Macgeorge, Penny. Late Roman Warlords. Oxford University Press 2002.
MacMullen, Ramsay. Corruption and the decline of Rome. Yale University
Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-04799-1.
Martindale, J.R. The Prosopography of the Later
Roman Empire volume
II, A.D. 395–527. Cambridge University Press 1980.
Matthews, John. The Roman empire of Ammianus. Michigan Classical
Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9799713-2-7.
Matthews, John. Western aristocracies and Imperial court AD 364–425.
Oxford University Press 1975. ISBN 0-19-814817-8.
Momigliano, Arnaldo. 1973. "La caduta senza rumore di un impero nel
476 d.C." ("The noiseless fall of an empire in 476 AD"). Rivista
storica italiana, 85 (1973), 5–21.
Nicasie, M. J. Twilight of Empire. The Roman Army from the reign of
Diocletian to the Battle of Adrianople. J. C. Gieben, 1998.
Randsborg, Klavs. The First Millennium AD in Europe and the
Mediterranean: an archaeological essay. Cambridge University Press
1991. ISBN 0 521 38401 X.
Rathbone, Dominic. "Earnings and Costs. Part IV, chapter 15", pages
299–326. In: Quantifying the Roman Economy. Methods and Problems.
Alan Bowman and Andrew Wilson eds. Oxford University Press 2009,
paperback edition 2013, ISBN 978-0-19-967929-4.
Ward-Perkins Bryan. The fall of
Rome and the end of civilization.
Oxford University Press 2005 (hardback edition).
“The Roman Empire's Collapse in the 5th Century” BBC Radio 4
discussion with Charlotte Roueché, David Womersley and Richard Alston
(In Our Time, Mar. 18, 2004)
historiography of the fall
Tribune of the Plebs
Frontiers and fortifications
Decorations and punishments
Conflict of the Orders
Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Younger
Quintus Curtius Rufus
Seneca the Elder
Seneca the Younger
Dionysius of Halicarnassus
Eusebius of Caesaria
Phlegon of Tralles
Lists and other
Cities and towns
Wars and battles
History of Europe
Bronze Age Europe
Iron Age Europe
Crisis of the Third Century
Fall of the Western Roman Empire
Early Middle Ages
Holy Roman Empire
High Middle Ages
Late Middle Ages
Hundred Years' War
Age of Discovery
Thirty Years' War
Early modern France
Age of Enlightenment
Revolutions of 1848
World War I
World War II
Art of Europe
Genetic history of Europe
History of the
History of the European Union
History of Western civilization
Maritime history of Europe