The Decline and Fall of Rome

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THE DECLINE AND FALL OF
ROME
THE DECLINE
 AD 180-Marcus Aurelius, last of the 5 good emperors, dies
 Period of conflict, confusion, and civil wars follow
 Problems and Upheavals
1. Political upheavals and civil wars
 After a series of civil wars, a military govt. under the Severan rulers restored order until 235 A.D.
 “Pay the soldiers, and ignore everyone else.”
 235-284 A.D.: Roman throne occupied by whoever had military strength to seize it
 22 emperors during this period, all who died violently
2. Empire also troubled by series of invasions
 In east: Sassanid Persians attacked Roman territory
 Germanic tribes poured into Balkans, Gaul, and Spain
3. Plague: epidemic disease
 Caused labor shortage that affected military recruiting and economy
 Decline in trade, industry, farm production
 By mid-third century, state had to hire Germans to fight
 Had no loyalty to empire or emperors
ATTEMPTS AT REFORM
 At end of third and beginning of fourth centuries,
Roman Empire gained new lease on life through efforts
of two emperors: Diocletian and Constantine
 Empire changed into new state-The Late Roman
Empire
 Included new government structure, rigid economic
and social system, new state religion-Christianity
DIOCLETIAN
 Ruled from 284-305 A.D.
 Believed empire had
grown too large for single
ruler
 Divided Rome into 4
units, each with its own
ruler
 Diocletian’s military
power allowed him to
hold ultimate authority
CONSTANTINE
 Ruled from 306-337
 Continued and expanded the policies of
Diocletian
 Biggest project was construction of new
capital city in east, on site of Greek city
Byzantium.
 Eventually renamed Constantinople
(modern-day Istanbul, Turkey)
 Developed for defensive reasons
 Strategic location provided protection of the
eastern frontier
PROBLEMS WITH DIOCLETIAN AND
CONSTANTINE’S REFORMS
 Political and military reforms enlarged 2 institutions-the army and the civil
service-which drained public funds
 Population not growing so taxes could not pay for everything
 Roman money began losing value
 Caused inflation: rapid increase in prices
 Overall, economic and social policies of Diocletian and Constantine were based on
control and coercion
 Had temporary success but failed in the long run
THE FALL
 Restored empire of Diocletian and
Constantine managed to survive for
more than a century
 Empire continued to be divided into
western and eastern parts
 Capital of Western Roman Empire
remained in Rome
 Capital of Eastern Roman Empire was
Constantinople
 The Western Roman Empire came under
increasing pressure from migrating
Germanic tribes
GERMANIC TRIBES
 Major breakthrough of Germanic tribes into the west came in the second
half of the fourth century
 The Huns, who came from Asia, moved into eastern Europe and put pressure on
Germanic Visigoths
 Visigoths moved south and west to avoid the Huns, crossing the Danube River into
Roman territory, and settling down as Roman allies, until they revolted.
 Romans attempted to stop revolt in 378, but were defeated by the Visigoths.
 Increasing numbers of Germans now crossed frontiers
 410: Visigoths sacked Rome
 Another group, the Vandals, poured into southern Spain and Africa
 Crossed into Italy from northern Africa and in 455 also sacked Rome
 Words vandal and vandalize come from this ruthless tribe
 476: western emperor Romulus Augustulus is deposed by Germanic head of
army, this marks fall of Western Roman Empire
 A series of German kingdoms replace the Western Roman Empire
 The Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantine Empire, continued to thrive with its
center at Constantinople
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