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Instruction 1-3


The Roman Republic | The Roman Empire | Roman Decline

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Roman Decline
CA GR  7 7.1.3.

Roman Decline 

During the A.D. 200s, the Roman Empire began to crack and weaken. Germanic tribes, called barbarians,  began to invade and overrun the western half of the empire. They destroyed homes and villages, and chaos and fear followed in their wake. How was this allowed to happen? Rome had kept invaders out for hundreds of years in the past. So what changed? []


The problems began when some bad emperors ruled Rome. They spent money on whatever they wanted and ruled as tyrants. They were so evil that their own troops would plot to kill them. Over the course of about 90 years, Rome went through 28 emperors like this—installing them and then killing most of them off. In all this disorder, Roman armies were so busy fighting each other that the invaders were allowed to gain strength and win attacks against the empire. []

Rome also ran out of money. The uncontrolled spending of the emperors bankrupted the treasury. All the warfare made trade and production break down. Many artisans and merchants went out of business. Farmlands became battlegrounds, and crops were destroyed. Food prices soared.

The government tried to solve the problem by minting more coins. The coins didn’t have much gold or silver in them, and were worth less and less. This led to heavy inflation, as prices soared and money lost value.

A few emperors tried to stop the slide of the empire. Diocletian (A.D. 284) spent a lot of time traveling throughout the empire building up defenses. He made laws to try to stop inflation, but the laws didn’t work.

Another important emperor was Constantine (A.D. 305). He moved the capital of the empire to a Greek town that was well protected and good for trade. He named the capital Constantinople Constantinople after himself.

Theodosius was the next emperor after Constantine. He tried to solve the problems by dividing the empire into two separate empires. The eastern empire eventually came to be known as the Byzantine Empire. The western half remained the Roman Empire.

During the late A.D. 300s into the A.D. 400s, several Germanic groups strengthened their grip on Roman territory. One of the most important of these was the Visigoths. The Visigoths managed to defeat a large Roman army and kill the eastern Roman emperor. Then they traveled into Italy and captured Rome. After the Visigoths, the Huns raided the eastern empire. The Romans and Visigoths combined forces to fight the Huns in A.D. 451. The Huns were turned aside to Italy and began to plunder and destroy the cities there. Finally, plague and famine weakened the Huns and they retreated to eastern Europe.
By the time the Huns were gone, Rome was completely weakened. During the chaos and disorder, the Germanic tribes closed in. The Roman Empire official fell in A.D. 476. []


The fall of the empire didn’t mean the end of Rome. The Byzantines established the Justinian Code  to preserve Roman legal principles and practices. They also accepted the Christian Church. Because of the Byzantines, Orthodox Christianity  spread to as far as Russia. The Byzantines worked hard to preserve both Roman and Greek culture, and to this day, the world is still very influenced by these two ancient civilizations.

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