Decline- After the year 180, political, geographic, and cultural factors made the Roman Empire weaker. Finally, it fell into decline. Diocletian and Constantine- Diocletian returned order and organization to the empire. Constantine totally changed the way the empire was run. Fall- Germanic tribes attacked Rome several times, and the empire broke apart.
How do you think people in the United States would react if Washington, DC, were sacked and looted? ( 5 minutes)
Work with a neighbor and compare your answer with theirs. What things are the same and what things are different? (3 minutes)
For nearly a century, Rome had no orderly transfer of power. Emperors gained power by using force, bribery, and murder. Leaders gave no thought to the good of the state. Instead, they looked for power only to make themselves rich. High taxes to pay for the army and for bribes to enemy leaders drove Romans into poverty. They also made trade difficult.
The decline and fall of the Roman Empire stands as one of history’s greatest lessons for future civilizations.
Seemingly invincible for a thousand years, the mighty Roman Empire was, in reality, self-destructive and weak for a long period of time before its collapse under the weight of the greed, corruption, and conflict that characterized the final phase of the empire.
Few people at the time could have foreseen that Rome’s internal problems would lead to its demise.
In the aftermath of the collapse, the absence of Roman political, economic, and cultural power left such a vacuum in the social order that it took some parts of the remaining empire several centuries before new and stable institutions could become established. This period of time in Europe came to be known as the “Dark Ages.”
The Roman Empire had always depended on military conquest to fuel expansion, which in turn fueled the trade and the tax system that made Rome rich and powerful.
But the leaders of these powerful armies began to use their position to seize power. Disaffected soldiers, far from home and not always receiving their pay, marched on Rome to unseat the emperor and put their own generals in his place.
Approximately 30 emperors would rule over a span of just 40 years, from 235 to 284. Many of these emperors were corrupt, using bribery to stave off barbarian attacks.
Adding to the empire’s growing economic woes by enforcing unfair taxation on the Roman people and contributing to the devaluation of the empire’s currency.
As a result, the vital trade industry that had made Rome great nearly came to a halt, and many Romans fell into poverty.
Diocletian returned order to the empire and reorganized the government. Diocletian gave up his throne, and his new government fell. Constantine won the struggle for power that followed Diocletian’s rule. He named himself emperor. Constantine saw that the city of Rome was no longer important to the life of the empire. Constantine moved the capital of the empire from Rome to a different city. He renamed the city after himself.
Emperor Diocletian, who ruled from 284 to 305, to restore order and power within the empire by dividing its administration into two factions: the Eastern and Western Empires.
After Diocletian voluntarily gave up his throne, one of his generals rose to power. This new emperor, whose name was Constantine.
Key Term Diocletian- Known for having reorganized the empire after a period of disarray.
Key Term Throne- The special chair for a king, queen, or other powerful person.
Constantine was the first Roman emperor to proclaim himself a Christian and to legalize Christianity. By the end of the fourth century, the practice of Christianity was the only legal form of public worship. The old polytheistic traditions of Rome had been replaced mostly with Christian monotheism.
Key Term Constantine- The first Roman emperor to proclaim himself a Christian and to legalize Christianity.
Key Term Constantinople- Constantinople is the former name of Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey. Constantinople was once the capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.
Constantine, neglected the poorer western half of his realm to strengthen the eastern half, abandoning the city of Rome itself for a new capital at Constantinople, which literally means “Constantine City.”
The Western Empire grew even weaker under the rule of Constantine and his successors. They imposed harsh rules and regulations on the Roman people, stripping them of their independence.
While the people never lost their right to citizenship, they were essentially slaves to the state. This led many Romans to abandon concern for their traditional virtues, culture, and religion.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Europe was broken into separate kingdoms. Germanic tribes ruled most of them. Roman cultural traditions were lost as western Europe sank into its “Dark Ages.” The Eastern Roman Empire lived on as the Byzantine Empire until 1453.
The final stages of the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. In 410, Germanic “barbaric” tribes overran the city of Rome, proceeding to claim other Roman territories in the years that followed.
While the city of Rome survived and some aspects of Roman culture prevailed for a period of time, the Western Roman Empire ceased to exist toward the end of the 400s.
The decline and ultimate collapse of a significant portion of the Roman Empire led to an extended period of decentralized rule in Europe during the Middle Ages.
The Middle Ages was dominated by power struggles between the small kingdoms that had once been under Roman rule or kept at bay by the Romans.
The Eastern Roman Empire survived well into the 1400s (though historians often refer to this civilization as the Byzantine Empire rather than the Roman Empire). Still, the people of the Byzantine Empire thought of themselves as Romans, and the emperors claimed the title of Emperor of Rome.
Gradually, Roman culture began to disappear in the eastern part of the empire, too, and a new one centered on Christianity took its place.
Key Term Christianity- The world’s largest and most widely dispersed religion. More than 2 billion people are followers. It is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.
Key Term Convert- To persuade or induce to adopt a particular religion, faith, or belief.