The Info List - Fall Of The Western Roman Empire

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The FALL OF THE WESTERN ROMAN EMPIRE (also called FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE or FALL OF ROME) was the process of decline in the Western Roman Empire
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; 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 Emperor, 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
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 Western Roman Emperor
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 described as Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity
emphasizes the cultural continuities throughout and beyond the political collapse.


* 1 Historical approaches

* 1.1 Timespan * 1.2 Reasons * 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
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 Christianity

* 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 failure

* 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 Italia, sack of Rome

* 7.1 Stilicho\'s fall and Alaric\'s reaction * 7.2 Alaric besieges Rome
* 7.3 The Goths
move out of Italia

* 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 Ricimer
* 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 * 16 Legacy * 17 See also * 18 Notes * 19 References


Main article: Historiography
of the fall of the Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire

Since 1776, when Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon
published the first volume of his _The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
_, Decline and Fall has been the theme around which much of the history of the Roman Empire has been structured. "From the eighteenth century onward," historian Glen Bowersockwrote, "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 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 Fall is not the only unifying concept for these events; the period described as Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity
emphasizes the cultural continuities throughout and beyond the political collapse. 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
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 of Rome in 410 , the death of Julius Nepos
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", Chapter 38

Alexander Demandtenumerated 210 different theories on why Rome
fell, 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 the Eastern Roman Empire
Roman Empire
). Comparison has also been made with China after the end of the Han dynasty , which re-established unity under the Sui dynasty while the Mediterranean
world remained politically disunited.


Main article: Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity

At least from the time of Henri Pirenne
Henri Pirenne
, scholars have described continuity of culture and of 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 Italia. 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
Muslim conquests
represented a decisive break with antiquity. The more recent formulation of a historical period characterized as " Late Antiquity
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.



The Roman Empire
Roman Empire
reached its greatest geographical extent under Trajan
(emperor 98–117), who ruled a prosperous state that stretched from Mesopotamia
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 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 devastated Judaea
ceased to be a major centre for Jewish unrest). Heavy mortality in 165-180 from the Antonine Plague
Antonine Plague
seriously impaired attempts to repel Germanic invaders, but the legions generally held or at least speedily re-instated the borders of the Empire. Map of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
in the early second century


Main article: Crisis of the Third Century
Crisis of the Third Century

The Empire suffered from multiple, serious crises during the third century, including the rise of the Sassanid Empire
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 Dacia
on the north of the Danube (271), and for a short period the Empire split into a Gallic Empire
Gallic Empire
in the West (260–274), a Palmyrene Empire
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


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 (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


The new supreme rulers disposed of the legal fiction of the early Empire (seeing the emperor as but the first among equals ); emperors from Aurelian
(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 the army.


Further information: History of late ancient Christianity

In 313 Constantine I
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
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.

Constantine settled Franks
on the lower left bank of the Rhine
; their settlements required a line of fortifications to keep them in check, indicating that Rome
had lost almost all local control. Under Constantius, bandits came to dominate areas such as Isauria
well 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 Mediterranean
regions did.

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 century. _ Solidus of Julianus, c._ 361. Obverse: Julianus with the beard appropriate to a Neoplatonic
philosopher. Inscription: FL(AVIVS) CL(AVDIVS) IVLIANVS PP(= Pater Patriae
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

Julianus (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 Julianus was notable for his pro-pagan policies. All Christian sects were officially tolerated by Julianus, 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.

Julianus 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 Jovianus, 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.

The brothers Valens
(r. 364–378) and Valentinian I
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; Valens
in the East reduced the tax demand by half in his fourth year.

Both were Christians and confiscated the temple lands that Julianus 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
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
Valentinian II
(r. 375–392). Gratian, "alien from the art of government both by temperament and by training" removed the Altar of Victory
Altar of Victory
from the Senate House , and he rejected the pagan title of Pontifex Maximus.



In 376 the East faced an enormous barbarian influx across the Danube, mostly Goths
who were refugees from the Huns
. They were exploited by corrupt officials rather than effectively resettled, and they took up arms, joined by more Goths
and by some Alans
and Huns. Valens
was in Asia with his main field army, preparing for an assault on the Persians, and redirecting the army and its logistic support would have required time. Gratian's armies were distracted by Germanic invasions across the Rhine. In 378 Valens
attacked the invaders with the Eastern field army, perhaps some 20,000 men – possibly only 10% of the soldiers nominally available in the Danube provinces – 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 suffered.


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
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. Theodosius's partial failure may have stimulated Vegetiusto 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 over.

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 regions of Britannia
(probably replacing some with federate chieftains and their war-bands) and invaded Gaul. His troops killed Gratian
and he was accepted as Augustus in the Gallic provinces, where he was responsible for the first official executions of Christian heretics . 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 Italia, forcing Valentinian II
Valentinian II
to flee to the East, where he accepted Nicene Christianity. Maximus boasted to Ambrose
of the numbers of barbarians in his forces, and hordes of Goths, Huns, and Alans
followed Theodosius. 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 Bagaudaerather 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. Eugeniusmade 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 Italia were never effectively garrisoned again. The Eastern and Western Roman Empire at the death of Theodosius I
Theodosius I
in 395

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 Arcadius
in Constantinople, but Rufinus , _magister officiorum _ on the spot, had already established his own power there. Henceforward the Empire was not under the control of one man, until much of the West had been permanently lost. 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.


The ineffectiveness of Roman military responses from Stilicho
onwards 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 " Bagaudae".

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.

395–406; STILICHO

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* Pliny the Elder * Pliny the Younger * Propertius * Quintilian
* Quintus Curtius Rufus
Quintus Curtius Rufus
* Sallust * Seneca * Statius
* Suetonius
* Tacitus
* Terence
* Tibullus
* Marcus Terentius Varro
Marcus Terentius Varro
* Virgil
* Vitruvius


* Alexandria
* Antioch
* Aquileia
* Berytus
* Bononia * Carthage
* Constantinopolis * Eboracum
* Leptis Magna
Leptis Magna
* Londinium
* Lutetia
* Mediolanum
* Pompeii
* Ravenna
* Roma * Smyrna
* Vindobona
* Volubilis

Lists and other topics

* Wars and battles * Generals * Legions * Emperors * Geographers * Cities and towns * Institutions * Laws * Consuls * Tribunes * Distinguished women * Nomina * Gentes * Climate * Legacy

* Fiction / Films


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