Western Roman Empire

Western Roman Empire

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The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 after its division by Diocletian
Diocletian
Diocletian |latinized]] upon his accession to Diocletian . c. 22 December 244  – 3 December 311), was a Roman Emperor from 284 to 305....

 in 285; the other half of the Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly referred to today as the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

.

The Western Empire existed intermittently in several periods between the 3rd and 5th centuries, after Diocletian's Tetrarchy
Tetrarchy
The term Tetrarchy describes any system of government where power is divided among four individuals, but usually refers to the tetrarchy instituted by Roman Emperor Diocletian in 293, marking the end of the Crisis of the Third Century and the recovery of the Roman Empire...

 and the reunifications associated with Constantine the Great and Julian the Apostate
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

 (324–363). Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

 (379–395) was the last Roman Emperor to rule over a unified Roman Empire. After his death in 395, the Roman Empire was permanently divided. The Western Roman Empire officially ended with the abdication of Romulus Augustus
Romulus Augustus
Romulus Augustus , was the last Western Roman Emperor, reigning from 31 October 475 until 4 September 476...

 (the last de facto Emperor) under pressure from Odoacer
Odoacer
Flavius Odoacer , also known as Flavius Odovacer, was the first King of Italy. His reign is commonly seen as marking the end of the Western Roman Empire. Though the real power in Italy was in his hands, he represented himself as the client of Julius Nepos and, after Nepos' death in 480, of the...

 on 4 September 476, and unofficially with the death of Julius Nepos
Julius Nepos
Julius Nepos was Western Roman Emperor de facto from 474 to 475 and de jure until 480. Some historians consider him to be the last Western Roman Emperor, while others consider the western line to have ended with Romulus Augustulus in 476...

 (the last de jure Emperor) in 480.

Despite a brief period of reconquest by its counterpart, the Eastern Roman Empire, the Western Roman Empire would not rise again. As the Western Roman Empire fell into decline, a new era began in Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

an history: the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

. During this time, the Western Roman Empire was supposedly re-founded as the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

, though this was a primarily Germanic empire that contained little of the former territory of the Western Roman Empire.

Background


As the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 expanded, it reached a point where the central government in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 could not effectively rule the distant provinces. Communications and transportation were especially problematic - given the vast extent of the Empire. News of invasion, revolt, natural disaster, or epidemic outbreak was carried by ship or mounted postal service
Cursus publicus
The cursus publicus was the state-run courier and transportation service of the Roman Empire, later inherited by the Byzantine Empire. It was created by Emperor Augustus to transport messages, officials, and tax revenues from one province to another...

, often requiring much time to reach Rome and for Rome's orders to be realized in the province of origin. For this reason, provincial governors
Roman governor
A Roman governor was an official either elected or appointed to be the chief administrator of Roman law throughout one or more of the many provinces constituting the Roman Empire...

 had de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

 rule in the name of the Roman Republic.

Prior to the establishment of the Empire, the territories of the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 had been divided among the members of the Second Triumvirate
Second Triumvirate
The Second Triumvirate is the name historians give to the official political alliance of Octavius , Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, and Mark Antony, formed on 26 November 43 BC with the enactment of the Lex Titia, the adoption of which marked the end of the Roman Republic...

: Mark Antony
Mark Antony
Marcus Antonius , known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman politician and general. As a military commander and administrator, he was an important supporter and loyal friend of his mother's cousin Julius Caesar...

, Octavian
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

  and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus
Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (triumvir)
Marcus Aemilius Lepidus , was a Roman patrician who rose to become a member of the Second Triumvirate and Pontifex Maximus. His father, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, had been involved in a rebellion against the Roman Republic.Lepidus was among Julius Caesar's greatest supporters...

. Antony received the provinces in the East: Achaea, Macedonia and Epirus
Epirus
The name Epirus, from the Greek "Ήπειρος" meaning continent may refer to:-Geographical:* Epirus - a historical and geographical region of the southwestern Balkans, straddling modern Greece and Albania...

 (roughly modern Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, the Republic of Macedonia
Republic of Macedonia
Macedonia , officially the Republic of Macedonia , is a country located in the central Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991...

, Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

 and the coast of Croatia
Croatia
Croatia , officially the Republic of Croatia , is a unitary democratic parliamentary republic in Europe at the crossroads of the Mitteleuropa, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean. Its capital and largest city is Zagreb. The country is divided into 20 counties and the city of Zagreb. Croatia covers ...

), Bithynia
Bithynia
Bithynia was an ancient region, kingdom and Roman province in the northwest of Asia Minor, adjoining the Propontis, the Thracian Bosporus and the Euxine .-Description:...

, Pontus
Pontus
Pontus or Pontos is a historical Greek designation for a region on the southern coast of the Black Sea, located in modern-day northeastern Turkey. The name was applied to the coastal region in antiquity by the Greeks who colonized the area, and derived from the Greek name of the Black Sea: Πόντος...

 and Asia (roughly modern Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

), Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

, and Cyrenaica
Cyrenaica
Cyrenaica is the eastern coastal region of Libya.Also known as Pentapolis in antiquity, it was part of the Creta et Cyrenaica province during the Roman period, later divided in Libia Pentapolis and Libia Sicca...

. These lands had previously been conquered by Alexander the Great; thus, much of the aristocracy
Aristocracy
Aristocracy , is a form of government in which a few elite citizens rule. The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning "rule of the best". In origin in Ancient Greece, it was conceived of as rule by the best qualified citizens, and contrasted with monarchy...

 was of Greek origin. The whole region, especially the major cities, had been largely assimilated into Greek culture, Greek
Koine Greek
Koine Greek is the universal dialect of the Greek language spoken throughout post-Classical antiquity , developing from the Attic dialect, with admixture of elements especially from Ionic....

 often serving as the lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

.
Octavian obtained the Roman provinces of the West: Italia
Italia (Roman province)
Italia was the name of the Italian peninsula of the Roman Empire.-Under the Republic and Augustan organization:During the Republic and the first centuries of the empire, Italia was not a province, but rather the territory of the city of Rome, thus having a special status: for example, military...

 (modern Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

), Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 (modern France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

), Gallia Belgica
Gallia Belgica
Gallia Belgica was a Roman province located in what is now the southern part of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, northeastern France, and western Germany. The indigenous population of Gallia Belgica, the Belgae, consisted of a mixture of Celtic and Germanic tribes...

 (parts of modern Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 and Luxembourg
Luxembourg
Luxembourg , officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg , is a landlocked country in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany. It has two principal regions: the Oesling in the North as part of the Ardennes massif, and the Gutland in the south...

), and Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

 (modern Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

). These lands also included Greek and Carthaginian colonies in the coastal areas, though Celt
Celt
The Celts were a diverse group of tribal societies in Iron Age and Roman-era Europe who spoke Celtic languages.The earliest archaeological culture commonly accepted as Celtic, or rather Proto-Celtic, was the central European Hallstatt culture , named for the rich grave finds in Hallstatt, Austria....

ic tribes such as Gauls
Gauls
The Gauls were a Celtic people living in Gaul, the region roughly corresponding to what is now France, Belgium, Switzerland and Northern Italy, from the Iron Age through the Roman period. They mostly spoke the Continental Celtic language called Gaulish....

 and Celtiberians
Celtiberians
The Celtiberians were Celtic-speaking people of the Iberian Peninsula in the final centuries BC. The group used the Celtic Celtiberian language.Archaeologically, the Celtiberians participated in the Hallstatt culture in what is now north-central Spain...

 were culturally dominant. Lepidus received the minor province of Africa
Africa Province
The Roman province of Africa was established after the Romans defeated Carthage in the Third Punic War. It roughly comprised the territory of present-day northern Tunisia, and the small Mediterranean coast of modern-day western Libya along the Syrtis Minor...

 (roughly modern Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

). Octavian soon took Africa from Lepidus, while adding Sicilia (modern Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

) to his holdings.

Upon the defeat of Mark Antony, a victorious Octavian controlled a united Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

. While the Roman Empire featured many distinct cultures, all were often said to experience gradual Romanization
Romanization (cultural)
Romanization or latinization indicate different historical processes, such as acculturation, integration and assimilation of newly incorporated and peripheral populations by the Roman Republic and the later Roman Empire...

. While the predominantly Greek culture of the East and the predominantly Latin culture of the West functioned effectively as an integrated whole, political and military developments would ultimately realign the Empire along those cultural and linguistic lines.

Rebellions, uprisings, and political developments


Minor rebellions and uprisings were fairly common events throughout the Empire. Conquered tribes or cities would revolt, and the legions would be detached to crush the rebellion. While this process was simple in peacetime, it could be considerably more complicated in wartime, as for example in the Great Jewish Revolt
First Jewish-Roman War
The First Jewish–Roman War , sometimes called The Great Revolt , was the first of three major rebellions by the Jews of Judaea Province , against the Roman Empire...

.

In a full-blown military campaign
Military campaign
In the military sciences, the term military campaign applies to large scale, long duration, significant military strategy plan incorporating a series of inter-related military operations or battles forming a distinct part of a larger conflict often called a war...

, the legions, under generals such as Vespasian
Vespasian
Vespasian , was Roman Emperor from 69 AD to 79 AD. Vespasian was the founder of the Flavian dynasty, which ruled the Empire for a quarter century. Vespasian was descended from a family of equestrians, who rose into the senatorial rank under the Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

, were far more numerous. To ensure a commander's loyalty, a pragmatic emperor might hold some members of the general's family hostage
Hostage
A hostage is a person or entity which is held by a captor. The original definition meant that this was handed over by one of two belligerent parties to the other or seized as security for the carrying out of an agreement, or as a preventive measure against certain acts of war...

. To this end, Nero
Nero
Nero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....

 effectively held Domitian
Domitian
Domitian was Roman Emperor from 81 to 96. Domitian was the third and last emperor of the Flavian dynasty.Domitian's youth and early career were largely spent in the shadow of his brother Titus, who gained military renown during the First Jewish-Roman War...

 and Quintus Petillius Cerialis
Quintus Petillius Cerialis
Quintus Petilius Cerialis Caesius Rufus was a Roman general and administrator who served in Britain during Boudica's rebellion and who went on to participate in the civil wars after the death of Nero. He later defeated the rebellion of Julius Civilis and returned to Britain as its governor.His...

, governor of Ostia, who were respectively the younger son and brother-in-law of Vespasian. The rule of Nero ended only with the revolt of the Praetorian Guard
Praetorian Guard
The Praetorian Guard was a force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors. The title was already used during the Roman Republic for the guards of Roman generals, at least since the rise to prominence of the Scipio family around 275 BC...

, who had been bribed in the name of Galba
Galba
Galba , was Roman Emperor for seven months from 68 to 69. Galba was the governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, and made a bid for the throne during the rebellion of Julius Vindex...

. The Praetorian Guard
Praetorian Guard
The Praetorian Guard was a force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors. The title was already used during the Roman Republic for the guards of Roman generals, at least since the rise to prominence of the Scipio family around 275 BC...

, a figurative "sword of Damocles
Damocles
Damocles is a figure featured in a single moral anecdote commonly referred to as "the Sword of Damocles," which was a late addition to classical Greek culture. The figure belongs properly to legend rather than Greek myth. The anecdote apparently figured in the lost history of Sicily by Timaeus of...

", were often perceived as being of dubious loyalty. Following their example, the legions at the borders increased participation in the civil war
Civil war
A civil war is a war between organized groups within the same nation state or republic, or, less commonly, between two countries created from a formerly-united nation state....

s.

The main enemy in the West was arguably the Germanic tribes
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

 behind the rivers Rhine and Danube
Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

. Augustus had tried to conquer them but ultimately pulled back after the Teutoburg
Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest took place in 9 CE, when an alliance of Germanic tribes led by Arminius of the Cherusci ambushed and decisively destroyed three Roman legions, along with their auxiliaries, led by Publius Quinctilius Varus.Despite numerous successful campaigns and raids by the...

 reversal.

The Parthian Empire
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

, in the East, on the other hand, was too remote and powerful to be conquered. Any Parthian invasion was confronted and usually defeated, similarly, Parthians repelled some attempts of Roman invasion, however, even after successful wars of conquest - such as those implemented by Trajan and Septimius Severus - those distant territories were forsaken to prevent unrest and also to ensure a more healthy and lasting peace with the Persians.

Controlling the western border of Rome was reasonably easy because it was relatively close and also because of the disunity between the Germanic foes, however, controlling both frontiers altogether during wartime was difficult. If the emperor was near the border in the East, chances were high that an ambitious general would rebel in the West and vice-versa. This wartime opportunism plagued many ruling emperors and indeed paved the road to power for several future emperors.

Economic stagnation in the West


Rome and the Italian peninsula
Italian Peninsula
The Italian Peninsula or Apennine Peninsula is one of the three large peninsulas of Southern Europe , spanning from the Po Valley in the north to the central Mediterranean Sea in the south. The peninsula's shape gives it the nickname Lo Stivale...

 began to experience an economic slowdown as industries and money began to move outward. By the beginning of the 2nd century AD, the economic stagnation of Italia
Italia (Roman province)
Italia was the name of the Italian peninsula of the Roman Empire.-Under the Republic and Augustan organization:During the Republic and the first centuries of the empire, Italia was not a province, but rather the territory of the city of Rome, thus having a special status: for example, military...

 was seen in the provincial-born
Province
A province is a territorial unit, almost always an administrative division, within a country or state.-Etymology:The English word "province" is attested since about 1330 and derives from the 13th-century Old French "province," which itself comes from the Latin word "provincia," which referred to...

 Emperors, such as Trajan
Trajan
Trajan , was Roman Emperor from 98 to 117 AD. Born into a non-patrician family in the province of Hispania Baetica, in Spain Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of emperor Domitian. Serving as a legatus legionis in Hispania Tarraconensis, in Spain, in 89 Trajan supported the emperor against...

 and Hadrian
Hadrian
Hadrian , was Roman Emperor from 117 to 138. He is best known for building Hadrian's Wall, which marked the northern limit of Roman Britain. In Rome, he re-built the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma. In addition to being emperor, Hadrian was a humanist and was philhellene in...

. Economic problems increased in strength and frequency.

Crisis of the 3rd century


Starting on 18 March 235, with the assassination of the Emperor Alexander Severus
Alexander Severus
Severus Alexander was Roman Emperor from 222 to 235. Alexander was the last emperor of the Severan dynasty. He succeeded his cousin Elagabalus upon the latter's assassination in 222, and was ultimately assassinated himself, marking the epoch event for the Crisis of the Third Century — nearly fifty...

, the Roman Empire sank into a 50-year civil war, known today as the Crisis of the Third Century
Crisis of the Third Century
The Crisis of the Third Century was a period in which the Roman Empire nearly collapsed under the combined pressures of invasion, civil war, plague, and economic depression...

. The rise of the bellicose Sassanid dynasty in Parthia
Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

 posed a major threat to Rome in the east. Demonstrating the increased danger, Emperor Valerian
Valerian (emperor)
Valerian , also known as Valerian the Elder, was Roman Emperor from 253 to 260. He was taken captive by Persian king Shapur I after the Battle of Edessa, becoming the only Roman Emperor who was captured as a prisoner of war, resulting in wide-ranging instability across the Empire.-Origins and rise...

 was captured by Shapur I in 259. His eldest son and heir-apparent, Gallienus
Gallienus
Gallienus was Roman Emperor with his father Valerian from 253 to 260, and alone from 260 to 268. He took control of the Empire at a time when it was undergoing great crisis...

, succeeded and took up the fight on the eastern frontier. Gallienus' son, Saloninus
Saloninus
Publius Licinius Cornelius Saloninus Valerianus was Roman Emperor in 259 or 260.-Early life:Saloninus was born around the year 242. His father was the later emperor Gallienus, his mother Cornelia Salonina, a Greek from Bithynia...

, and the Praetorian Prefect
Praetorian prefect
Praetorian prefect was the title of a high office in the Roman Empire. Originating as the commander of the Praetorian Guard, the office gradually acquired extensive legal and administrative functions, with its holders becoming the Emperor's chief aides...

 Silvanus were residing in Colonia Agrippina (modern Cologne
Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

) to solidify the loyalty of the local legions. Nevertheless, Marcus Cassianius Latinius Postumus - the local governor of the German provinces - rebelled; his assault on Colonia Agrippina resulted in the deaths of Saloninus and the prefect. In the confusion that followed, an independent state known as the Gallic Empire
Gallic Empire
The Gallic Empire is the modern name for a breakaway realm that existed from 260 to 274. It originated during the Roman Empire's Crisis of the Third Century....

 emerged.

Its capital was Augusta Treverorum (modern Trier
Trier
Trier, historically called in English Treves is a city in Germany on the banks of the Moselle. It is the oldest city in Germany, founded in or before 16 BC....

), and it quickly expanded its control over the German and Gaulish provinces and over all of Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

 and Britannia
Roman Britain
Roman Britain was the part of the island of Great Britain controlled by the Roman Empire from AD 43 until ca. AD 410.The Romans referred to the imperial province as Britannia, which eventually comprised all of the island of Great Britain south of the fluid frontier with Caledonia...

. It had its own senate
Senate
A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or chamber of a legislature or parliament. There have been many such bodies in history, since senate means the assembly of the eldest and wiser members of the society and ruling class...

, and a partial list of its consul
Consul
Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...

s still survives. It maintained Roman religion, language, and culture, and was far more concerned with fighting the Germanic tribes than other Romans. However, in the reign of Claudius Gothicus (268 to 270), large expanses of the Gallic Empire were restored to Roman rule. At roughly the same time, several eastern provinces seceded under the Palmyrene Empire
Palmyrene Empire
The Palmyrene Empire was a splinter empire, that broke off of the Roman Empire during the Crisis of the Third Century. It encompassed the Roman provinces of Syria Palaestina, Egypt and large parts of Asia Minor....

, under the rule of Queen Zenobia
Zenobia
Zenobia was a 3rd-century Queen of the Palmyrene Empire in Roman Syria. She led a famous revolt against the Roman Empire. The second wife of King Septimius Odaenathus, Zenobia became queen of the Palmyrene Empire following Odaenathus' death in 267...

.

In 272, Emperor Aurelian
Aurelian
Aurelian , was Roman Emperor from 270 to 275. During his reign, he defeated the Alamanni after a devastating war. He also defeated the Goths, Vandals, Juthungi, Sarmatians, and Carpi. Aurelian restored the Empire's eastern provinces after his conquest of the Palmyrene Empire in 273. The following...

 finally managed to reclaim Palmyra and its territory for the empire. With the East secure, his attention was turned to the West, taking the Gallic Empire a year later. Because of a secret deal between Aurelian and Gallic Emperor Tetricus I
Tetricus I
Gaius Pius Esuvius Tetricus was Emperor of the Gallic Empire from 271 to 274, following the murder of Victorinus. Tetricus, who ruled with his son, Tetricus II, was the last of the Gallic emperors following his surrender to the Roman emperor Aurelian.-Reign:Tetricus was a senator born to a noble...

 and his son Tetricus II
Tetricus II
Caius Pius Esuvius Tetricus was the son of Tetricus I, Emperor of the Gallic Empire ....

, the Gallic army was swiftly defeated. In exchange, Aurelian spared their lives and gave the two former rebels important positions in Italy.

Tetrarchy



The external borders were mostly stable for the remainder of the Crisis of the Third Century, although, between the death of Aurelian in 275 and the accession of Diocletian ten years later, at least eight emperors or would-be emperors were killed, many assassinated by their own troops.

Under Diocletian, the political division of the Roman Empire began. In 285, he promoted Maximian
Maximian
Maximian was Roman Emperor from 286 to 305. He was Caesar from 285 to 286, then Augustus from 286 to 305. He shared the latter title with his co-emperor and superior, Diocletian, whose political brain complemented Maximian's military brawn. Maximian established his residence at Trier but spent...

 to the rank of Augustus (Emperor) and gave him control of the Western regions of the Empire. In 293, Galerius
Galerius
Galerius , was Roman Emperor from 305 to 311. During his reign he campaigned, aided by Diocletian, against the Sassanid Empire, sacking their capital Ctesiphon in 299. He also campaigned across the Danube against the Carpi, defeating them in 297 and 300...

 and Constantius Chlorus
Constantius Chlorus
Constantius I , commonly known as Constantius Chlorus, was Roman Emperor from 293 to 306. He was the father of Constantine the Great and founder of the Constantinian dynasty. As Caesar he defeated the usurper Allectus in Britain and campaigned extensively along the Rhine frontier, defeating the...

 were appointed as their subordinates (Caesars
Caesar (title)
Caesar is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator...

), creating the First Tetrarchy
Tetrarchy
The term Tetrarchy describes any system of government where power is divided among four individuals, but usually refers to the tetrarchy instituted by Roman Emperor Diocletian in 293, marking the end of the Crisis of the Third Century and the recovery of the Roman Empire...

. This system effectively divided the Empire into four major regions and created separate capitals besides Rome as a way to avoid the civil unrest that had marked the 3rd century. In the West, the capitals were Maximian's Mediolanum
Mediolanum
Mediolanum, the ancient Milan, was an important Celtic and then Roman centre of northern Italy. This article charts the history of the city from its settlement by the Insubres around 600 BC, through its conquest by the Romans and its development into a key centre of Western Christianity and capital...

 (now Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

) and Constantius' Trier
Trier
Trier, historically called in English Treves is a city in Germany on the banks of the Moselle. It is the oldest city in Germany, founded in or before 16 BC....

. In the East, the capitals were Sirmium and Nicomedia. On 1 May 305, the two senior Augusti stepped down, and their respective Caesars were promoted to Augusti and appointed two new Caesars, thus creating the Second Tetrarchy.

Constantine the Great



The system of the Tetrarchy quickly ran aground when the Western Empire's Constantius died unexpectedly in 306, and his son Constantine the Great was proclaimed Augustus of the West by the legions in Britain. A crisis followed as several claimants attempted to rule the Western half. In 308, the Augustus of the East, Galerius
Galerius
Galerius , was Roman Emperor from 305 to 311. During his reign he campaigned, aided by Diocletian, against the Sassanid Empire, sacking their capital Ctesiphon in 299. He also campaigned across the Danube against the Carpi, defeating them in 297 and 300...

, arranged a conference at Carnuntum
Carnuntum
Carnuntum was a Roman army camp on the Danube in the Noricum province and after the 1st century the capital of the Upper Pannonia province...

 which revived the Tetrarchy by dividing the West between Constantine and a newcomer named Licinius
Licinius
Licinius I , was Roman Emperor from 308 to 324. Co-author of the Edict of Milan that granted official toleration to Christians in the Roman Empire, for the majority of his reign he was the rival of Constantine I...

. Constantine was far more interested in conquering the whole empire. Through a series of battles in the East and the West, Licinius and Constantine stabilized their respective parts of the Roman Empire by 314, and began to compete for sole control of a reunified state. Constantine emerged victorious in 324 after the surrender and murder of Licinius following the Battle of Chrysopolis
Battle of Chrysopolis
The Battle of Chrysopolis was fought on 18 September 324 at Chrysopolis , near Chalcedon , between the two Roman emperors Constantine I and Licinius. The battle was the final encounter between the two emperors. After his navy's defeat in the Battle of the Hellespont, Licinius withdrew his forces...

.

The Tetrarchy ended, but the idea of dividing the Roman Empire between two emperors had been validated. Very strong emperors would reunite it under their single rule, but with their death the Roman Empire would be divided again and again between the East and the West.

Second division


The Roman Empire was under the rule of a single Emperor, but, with the death of Constantine in 337, civil war erupted among his three sons, dividing the Empire into three parts. The West was unified in 340 under Constans, who was assassinated in 350 under the order of the usurper Magnentius; after Magnentius lost the Battle of Mursa Major and committed suicide, a complete reunification of the whole Empire occurred in 353, with Constantius II
Constantius II
Constantius II , was Roman Emperor from 337 to 361. The second son of Constantine I and Fausta, he ascended to the throne with his brothers Constantine II and Constans upon their father's death....

.

Constantius II focused most of his power in the East and is regarded as the first emperor of the Byzantine Empire. Under his rule, the city of Byzantium
Byzantium
Byzantium was an ancient Greek city, founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas . The name Byzantium is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion...

 - only recently re-founded as Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 - was fully developed as a capital. In 361, Constantius II became ill and died, and Constantius Chlorus' grandson Julian
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

, who had served as Constantius II's Caesar, assumed power. Julian was killed in 363 in the Battle of Samarra
Battle of Samarra
The Battle of Samarra took place 26 June 363, after the invasion of Sassanid Persia by the Roman Emperor Julian. A major skirmish, the fighting was indecisive but Julian was killed in the battle...

 against the Persian Empire and was succeeded by Jovian, who ruled only until 364.

Final division


Following the death of Jovian, Valentinian I
Valentinian I
Valentinian I , also known as Valentinian the Great, was Roman emperor from 364 to 375. Upon becoming emperor he made his brother Valens his co-emperor, giving him rule of the eastern provinces while Valentinian retained the west....

 emerged as Emperor in 364. He immediately divided the Empire once again, giving the eastern half to his brother Valens
Valens
Valens was the Eastern Roman Emperor from 364 to 378. He was given the eastern half of the empire by his brother Valentinian I after the latter's accession to the throne...

. Stability was not achieved for long in either half, as the conflicts with outside forces intensified. In 376, the Visigoths, fleeing before the Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

, were allowed to cross the river Danube and settle into the Balkans by the Eastern government. Mistreatment caused a full-scale rebellion, and in 378 they inflicted a crippling defeat on the Eastern Roman field army in the Battle of Adrianople
Battle of Adrianople
The Battle of Adrianople , sometimes known as the Battle of Hadrianopolis, was fought between a Roman army led by the Roman Emperor Valens and Gothic rebels led by Fritigern...

, in which Valens also died. After plundering the countryside, they officially became foederati
Foederati
Foederatus is a Latin term whose definition and usage drifted in the time between the early Roman Republic and the end of the Western Roman Empire...

, thus remaining a foreign and destabilizing element within the Empire.

More than in the East, there was also opposition to the Christianizing policy of the Emperors in the western half of the Empire. In 379, Valentinian I
Valentinian I
Valentinian I , also known as Valentinian the Great, was Roman emperor from 364 to 375. Upon becoming emperor he made his brother Valens his co-emperor, giving him rule of the eastern provinces while Valentinian retained the west....

's son and successor Gratian
Gratian
Gratian was Roman Emperor from 375 to 383.The eldest son of Valentinian I, during his youth Gratian accompanied his father on several campaigns along the Rhine and Danube frontiers. Upon the death of Valentinian in 375, Gratian's brother Valentinian II was declared emperor by his father's soldiers...

 declined to wear the mantle of Pontifex Maximus
Pontifex Maximus
The Pontifex Maximus was the high priest of the College of Pontiffs in ancient Rome. This was the most important position in the ancient Roman religion, open only to patricians until 254 BC, when a plebeian first occupied this post...

, and in 382 he rescinded the rights of pagan priests and removed the pagan altar from the Roman Curia
Curia
A curia in early Roman times was a subdivision of the people, i.e. more or less a tribe, and with a metonymy it came to mean also the meeting place where the tribe discussed its affairs...

, a decision which caused dissatisfaction among the traditionally pagan aristocracy of Rome. Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

 later decreed a ban on the native paganism, further enforcing Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 as the official state religion.

The political situation was unstable. In 383, a powerful and popular general named Magnus Maximus
Magnus Maximus
Magnus Maximus , also known as Maximianus and Macsen Wledig in Welsh, was Western Roman Emperor from 383 to 388. As commander of Britain, he usurped the throne against Emperor Gratian in 383...

 seized power in the West and forced Gratian's son Valentinian II
Valentinian II
Flavius Valentinianus , commonly known as Valentinian II, was Roman Emperor from 375 to 392.-Early Life and Accession :...

 to flee to the East for aid; the Eastern Emperor Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

 promptly restored him to power. In 392, the Frankish
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 and pagan magister militum
Magister militum
Magister militum was a top-level military command used in the later Roman Empire, dating from the reign of Constantine. Used alone, the term referred to the senior military officer of the Empire...

Arbogast
Arbogast (general)
Flavius Arbogastes , or Arbogast was a Frankish general in the Roman Empire. It has been stated by some ancient historians that he was the son of Flavius Bauto, Valentinian II's former magister militum and protector before Arbogast, but modern scholars largely discount this claim...

 assassinated Valentinian II and proclaimed an obscure senator named Eugenius
Eugenius
Flavius Eugenius was an usurper in the Western Roman Empire against Emperor Theodosius I. Though himself a Christian, he was the last Emperor to support Roman polytheism.-Life:...

 as Emperor.

The rebellion was overcome in 394 by Theodosius I, who then briefly ruled a united Empire until his death in 395. He was the last Emperor to rule both parts of the Roman Empire; his older son Arcadius
Arcadius
Arcadius was the Byzantine Emperor from 395 to his death. He was the eldest son of Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the Western Emperor Honorius...

 inherited the eastern half while the younger Honorius
Honorius (emperor)
Honorius , was Western Roman Emperor from 395 to 423. He was the younger son of emperor Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the eastern emperor Arcadius....

 got the western half. Both were still minors. Honorius was placed under the tutelage of the semi-barbaric magister militum
Magister militum
Magister militum was a top-level military command used in the later Roman Empire, dating from the reign of Constantine. Used alone, the term referred to the senior military officer of the Empire...

Flavius Stilicho while Rufinus
Rufinus (Byzantine official)
Flavius Rufinus was a 4th century Eastern Roman Empire statesman of Gaulish extraction who served as Praetorian prefect of the East for the emperor Theodosius I, as well as his son Arcadius, under whom Rufinus was the actual power behind the throne.He was the subject of the verse invective In...

 became the power behind the throne in the east. Rufinus and Stilicho were rivals, and disagreements between the eastern and western courts regarding ownership of Illyricum
Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum
The praetorian prefecture of Illyricum was one of four praetorian prefectures into which the Late Roman Empire was divided.The administrative centre of the prefecture was Sirmium , and, after 379, Thessalonica...

 were skillfully exploited by the Gothic king Alaric I
Alaric I
Alaric I was the King of the Visigoths from 395–410. Alaric is most famous for his sack of Rome in 410, which marked a decisive event in the decline of the Roman Empire....

 who again rebelled following the death of Theodosius I.

Stilicho ably defended Italy against the invading Goths, but failed to control the Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

, Alans
Alans
The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani, were a group of Sarmatian tribes, nomadic pastoralists of the 1st millennium AD who spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.-Name:The various forms of Alan —...

, and Suevi who invaded Gaul
Crossing of the Rhine
31 December 406, is the often-repeated date of the crossing of the Rhine by a mixed group of barbarians that included Vandals, Alans and Suebi...

 in massive numbers. Stilicho became a victim of court intrigues in Ravenna
Ravenna
Ravenna is the capital city of the Province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and the second largest comune in Italy by land area, although, at , it is little more than half the size of the largest comune, Rome...

 - where the Western Imperial court resided since 402 - and was subsequently executed for high treason in 408. While the East began a slow recovery and consolidation, the West began to collapse entirely.

Economic factors


The West, less urbanized with a spread-out populace, may have experienced an economic decline throughout the Late Empire in some provinces. Southern Italy, northern Gaul (except for large towns and cities) to some extent Spain and the Danubian areas may have suffered. The East, always wealthier, was not so destitute, especially as Emperors like Constantine the Great and Constantius II
Constantius II
Constantius II , was Roman Emperor from 337 to 361. The second son of Constantine I and Fausta, he ascended to the throne with his brothers Constantine II and Constans upon their father's death....

 had invested heavily in the eastern economy. As a result, the Eastern Empire could afford large numbers of professional soldiers and augment them with mercenaries, while the Western Roman Empire could not afford this to the same extent. Even in major defeats, the East could, certainly not without difficulties, buy off its enemies with a ransom.

The political, economic and military control of the Eastern Empire's resources remained safe in Constantinople, which was brilliantly fortified and located at the crossroads of several major trade and military routes. In contrast, the Western Empire was more fragmented. Its capital was transferred to Ravenna
Ravenna
Ravenna is the capital city of the Province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and the second largest comune in Italy by land area, although, at , it is little more than half the size of the largest comune, Rome...

 in 402 largely for defensive reasons: it had ease of access to the imperial fleet of the Eastern Empire but was isolated in other aspects as it was surrounded by swamps and marshes. The economic power remained focused on Rome and its hyper-rich senatorial aristocracy which dominated much of Italy and Africa in particular. After Gallienus
Gallienus
Gallienus was Roman Emperor with his father Valerian from 253 to 260, and alone from 260 to 268. He took control of the Empire at a time when it was undergoing great crisis...

 banned senators from army commands in the mid-3rd century, the senatorial elite lost all experience of—and interest in—military life. In the early 5th century the wealthy landowning elite of the Roman Senate largely barred its tenants from military service, but it also refused to approve sufficient funding for maintaining a sufficiently powerful mercenary army to defend the entire Western Empire. The West's most important military area had been northern Gaul and the Rhine frontier in the 4th century, when Trier
Trier
Trier, historically called in English Treves is a city in Germany on the banks of the Moselle. It is the oldest city in Germany, founded in or before 16 BC....

 frequently served as the capital of the Empire and many leading Western generals were Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

. After the civil war in 394 between Theodosius I
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

 and Eugenius
Eugenius
Flavius Eugenius was an usurper in the Western Roman Empire against Emperor Theodosius I. Though himself a Christian, he was the last Emperor to support Roman polytheism.-Life:...

, the new Western government installed by Theodosius I increasingly had to divert military resources from Britain and the Rhine to protect Italy. This, in turn, led to further rebellions and civil wars because the Western imperial government was not providing the military protection the northern provinces expected and needed against the barbarians.

The Western Empire's resources were much limited, and the lack of available manpower forced the government to rely ever more on confederate barbarian troops operating under their own commanders, where the Western Empire would often have difficulties paying. In certain cases deals were struck with the leaders of barbaric mercenaries rewarding them with land, which led to the Empire's decline as less land meant there would be even less taxes to support the military.

As the central power weakened, the State gradually lost control of its borders and provinces, as well as control over the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

. Roman Emperors tried to maintain control of the sea, but, once the Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

 conquered North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

, imperial authorities had to cover too much ground with too few resources. The loss of the African provinces might have been the worse reversal on the West's fortunes, since they were among its wealthiest territories and supplied the essential grain imports to Italy. In many places, the Roman institutions collapsed along with the economic stability. In some regions, such as Gaul and Italy, the settlement of barbarians on former Roman lands seems to have caused relatively little disruption, whereas elsewhere, notably in certain parts of North Africa, the Roman landowners were expelled and their lands confiscated.

Sack of Rome and fall of the Western Roman Empire



Remaining as emperor after the death of Stilicho in 408, Honorius
Honorius (emperor)
Honorius , was Western Roman Emperor from 395 to 423. He was the younger son of emperor Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the eastern emperor Arcadius....

 reigned until his own death in 423. His reign was filled with usurpations and invasions. In 410, Rome was sacked by Alaric
Alaric I
Alaric I was the King of the Visigoths from 395–410. Alaric is most famous for his sack of Rome in 410, which marked a decisive event in the decline of the Roman Empire....

's forces. This event made a great impression on contemporaries, as this was the first time since the Gallic invasions of the 4th century BC that the city had fallen to a foreign enemy. Under Alaric's successors, the Goths then settled in Gaul (412–418), from where they operated as Roman allies against the Vandals, Alans, and Suevi in Spain, and against the usurper Jovinus
Jovinus
Jovinus was a Gallo-Roman senator and claimed to be Roman Emperor .Following the defeat of the usurper known with the name of Constantine III, Jovinus was proclaimed emperor at Mainz in 411, a puppet supported by Gundahar, king of the Burgundians, and Goar, king of the Alans...

 (413). Meanwhile, another usurper, Constantine (406–411), had stripped Roman Britain of its defenses when he crossed over to Gaul in 407, leaving the Romanized population subject to invasions, first by the Picts
Picts
The Picts were a group of Late Iron Age and Early Mediaeval people living in what is now eastern and northern Scotland. There is an association with the distribution of brochs, place names beginning 'Pit-', for instance Pitlochry, and Pictish stones. They are recorded from before the Roman conquest...

 and then by the Saxons
Saxons
The Saxons were a confederation of Germanic tribes originating on the North German plain. The Saxons earliest known area of settlement is Northern Albingia, an area approximately that of modern Holstein...

 and Angli, who began to settle permanently from about 440 onwards.

Honorius' death in 423 was followed by turmoil until the Eastern Roman government with the force of arms installed Valentinian III
Valentinian III
-Family:Valentinian was born in the western capital of Ravenna, the only son of Galla Placidia and Flavius Constantius. The former was the younger half-sister of the western emperor Honorius, and the latter was at the time Patrician and the power behind the throne....

 as Western Emperor in Ravenna, with Galla Placidia
Galla Placidia
Aelia Galla Placidia , daughter of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, was the Regent for Emperor Valentinian III from 423 until his majority in 437, and a major force in Roman politics for most of her life...

 acting as regent during her son's minority. After a violent struggle with several rivals, and against Placidia's wish, Aetius
Flavius Aëtius
Flavius Aëtius , dux et patricius, was a Roman general of the closing period of the Western Roman Empire. He was an able military commander and the most influential man in the Western Roman Empire for two decades . He managed policy in regard to the attacks of barbarian peoples pressing on the Empire...

 rose to the rank of magister militum. Aetius was able to stabilize the Western Empire's military situation somewhat, relying heavily on his Hunnic allies. With their help, he defeated the Burgundians
Burgundians
The Burgundians were an East Germanic tribe which may have emigrated from mainland Scandinavia to the island of Bornholm, whose old form in Old Norse still was Burgundarholmr , and from there to mainland Europe...

, who had occupied part of southern Gaul after 407, and settled them in Savoy
Savoy
Savoy is a region of France. It comprises roughly the territory of the Western Alps situated between Lake Geneva in the north and Monaco and the Mediterranean coast in the south....

 as Roman allies (433). Later that century, as Roman power faded away, the Burgundians extended their rule to the Rhone valley.

Meanwhile, pressure from the Visigoths and a rebellion by Bonifacius
Bonifacius
Comes Bonifacius was a Roman general and governor of the Diocese of Africa. Along with his rival, Flavius Aëtius, he is sometimes termed "the last of the Romans."...

, the governor of Africa, induced the Vandals under their king Gaiseric to cross over from Spain in 429. They temporarily halted in Numidia (435) before moving eastward and capturing Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

, from where they established an independent state with a powerful navy (439). The Vandal fleet became a constant danger to Roman sea trade and the coasts and islands of the western and central Mediterranean.

In 444, the Huns, who had been employed as Roman allies by Aetius, were united under their ambitious king Attila. Turning against their former ally, the Huns became a formidable threat to the Empire. Attila then received a plea for help and the ring of Honoria, the Emperor's sister. Threatening war, he claimed half of the Western Empire's territory as his dowry.

Faced with refusal, he invaded Gaul and was only stopped in the battle of the Catalaunian Plains by a combined Roman-Germanic army led by Aetius. The next year, Attila invaded Italy and proceeded to march upon Rome, but an outbreak of disease in his army, Pope Leo's plea for peace, and reports of a campaign of Marcianus directed at his headquarters in Pannonia
Pannonia
Pannonia was an ancient province of the Roman Empire bounded north and east by the Danube, coterminous westward with Noricum and upper Italy, and southward with Dalmatia and upper Moesia....

 induced him to halt this campaign. Attila unexpectedly died a year later (453).

Aetius was slain in 454 by Valentinian, who was then himself murdered by the dead general's supporters a year later. With the end of the Theodosian dynasty, a new period of dynastic struggle ensued. The Vandals took advantage of the unrest and sailed up to Rome, which they plundered in 455.

The instability caused by usurpers throughout the Western Empire helped these tribes in their conquests, and by the 450s the Germanic tribes had become usurpers themselves. During the next twenty years, several Western Emperors were installed by Constantinople, but their authority relied upon barbarian commanders (Ricimer
Ricimer
Flavius Ricimer was a Germanic general who achieved effective control of the remaining parts of the Western Roman Empire, during the middle of the 5th century...

 (456–472), Gundobad
Gundobad
Gundobad was King of the Burgundians , succeeding his father Gundioc of Burgundy. Previous to this, he had been a Patrician of the Western Roman Empire in 472–473, succeeding his uncle Ricimer.- Early life :...

 (473–475)). In 475, Orestes, a former secretary of Attila, drove Emperor Julius Nepos
Julius Nepos
Julius Nepos was Western Roman Emperor de facto from 474 to 475 and de jure until 480. Some historians consider him to be the last Western Roman Emperor, while others consider the western line to have ended with Romulus Augustulus in 476...

 out of Ravenna
Ravenna
Ravenna is the capital city of the Province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and the second largest comune in Italy by land area, although, at , it is little more than half the size of the largest comune, Rome...

 and proclaimed his own son Romulus Augustus
Romulus Augustus
Romulus Augustus , was the last Western Roman Emperor, reigning from 31 October 475 until 4 September 476...

 as emperor.

In 476, Orestes refused to grant Odoacer
Odoacer
Flavius Odoacer , also known as Flavius Odovacer, was the first King of Italy. His reign is commonly seen as marking the end of the Western Roman Empire. Though the real power in Italy was in his hands, he represented himself as the client of Julius Nepos and, after Nepos' death in 480, of the...

 and the Heruli
Heruli
The Heruli were an East Germanic tribe who are famous for their naval exploits. Migrating from Northern Europe to the Black Sea in the third century They were part of the...

 federated status, prompting a invasion. Orestes was killed and Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustus, installed himself as ruler over Italy and sent the Imperial insignia to Constantinople. Although isolated pockets of Roman rule continued even after 476, the city of Rome itself was under the rule of the barbarians, and the control of Rome over the West had effectively ended.

Three rump state
Rump state
A rump state is the remnant of a once-larger government, left with limited powers or authority after a disaster, invasion, military occupation, secession or partial overthrowing of a government. In the last case, a government stops short of going in exile because it still controls part of its...

s continued under Roman rule in some form or another after 476: Julius Nepos controlled Dalmatia
Dalmatia
Dalmatia is a historical region on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. It stretches from the island of Rab in the northwest to the Bay of Kotor in the southeast. The hinterland, the Dalmatian Zagora, ranges from fifty kilometers in width in the north to just a few kilometers in the south....

 until his murder in 480. Syagrius
Syagrius
Syagrius was the last Roman official in Gaul, whose defeat by king Clovis I of the Franks is considered the end of Roman rule outside of Italy. He came to this position through inheritance, for his father was Aegidius, the last Roman magister militum per Gallias...

 ruled the Domain of Soissons
Domain of Soissons
The Domain of Soissons, by later writers called the Kingdom of Soissons, Kingdom of Aegidius or the Kingdom of Syagrius, was a rump state of the Western Roman Empire in northern Gaul for some 25 years during Late Antiquity....

 until his murder in 487. Lastly, a Roman-Moor realm survived in north Africa, resisting Vandal incursions, and becoming a part of the Eastern Roman Empire c.533 when Belisarius
Belisarius
Flavius Belisarius was a general of the Byzantine Empire. He was instrumental to Emperor Justinian's ambitious project of reconquering much of the Mediterranean territory of the former Western Roman Empire, which had been lost less than a century previously....

 defeated the Vandals.

Last Emperor


By convention, the Western Roman Empire is deemed to have ended on 4 September 476, when Odoacer
Odoacer
Flavius Odoacer , also known as Flavius Odovacer, was the first King of Italy. His reign is commonly seen as marking the end of the Western Roman Empire. Though the real power in Italy was in his hands, he represented himself as the client of Julius Nepos and, after Nepos' death in 480, of the...

 deposed Romulus Augustulus, but the historical record calls this determination into question.

Julius Nepos
Julius Nepos
Julius Nepos was Western Roman Emperor de facto from 474 to 475 and de jure until 480. Some historians consider him to be the last Western Roman Emperor, while others consider the western line to have ended with Romulus Augustulus in 476...

 still claimed to be Emperor of the West, and ruled a rump state in Dalmatia. He was recognized as such by Eastern Roman Emperor Zeno
Zeno (emperor)
Zeno , originally named Tarasis, was Byzantine Emperor from 474 to 475 and again from 476 to 491. Domestic revolts and religious dissension plagued his reign, which nevertheless succeeded to some extent in foreign issues...

 and by Syagrius
Syagrius
Syagrius was the last Roman official in Gaul, whose defeat by king Clovis I of the Franks is considered the end of Roman rule outside of Italy. He came to this position through inheritance, for his father was Aegidius, the last Roman magister militum per Gallias...

, who had managed to preserve Roman sovereignty in an exclave
Enclave and exclave
In political geography, an enclave is a territory whose geographical boundaries lie entirely within the boundaries of another territory.An exclave, on the other hand, is a territory legally or politically attached to another territory with which it is not physically contiguous.These are two...

 in northern Gaul, known today as the Domain of Soissons
Domain of Soissons
The Domain of Soissons, by later writers called the Kingdom of Soissons, Kingdom of Aegidius or the Kingdom of Syagrius, was a rump state of the Western Roman Empire in northern Gaul for some 25 years during Late Antiquity....

.

Odoacer proclaimed himself ruler of Italy and began to negotiate with Zeno. Zeno eventually granted Odoacer patrician status as recognition of his authority and accepted him as his own viceroy of Italy. Zeno, however, insisted that Odoacer had to pay homage to Julius Nepos as the Emperor of the Western Empire. Odoacer accepted this condition and issued coins in the name of Julius Nepos throughout Italy. This, however, was mainly an empty political gesture, as Odoacer never returned any real power or territories to Julius Nepos. The murder of Julius Nepos in 480 prompted Odoacer to invade Dalmatia, annexing it to his Kingdom of Italy.


Theodoric


The last hope for a reunited Empire came in 493, as Odoacer was replaced by Theodoric the Great
Theodoric the Great
Theodoric the Great was king of the Ostrogoths , ruler of Italy , regent of the Visigoths , and a viceroy of the Eastern Roman Empire...

, king of the Ostrogoth
Ostrogoth
The Ostrogoths were a branch of the Goths , a Germanic tribe who developed a vast empire north of the Black Sea in the 3rd century AD and, in the late 5th century, under Theodoric the Great, established a Kingdom in Italy....

s. Theodoric had been forced to appear subservient to Zeno in order to deal with a dangerous Odoacer. While in principle Theodoric was a subordinate, a viceroy
Viceroy
A viceroy is a royal official who runs a country, colony, or province in the name of and as representative of the monarch. The term derives from the Latin prefix vice-, meaning "in the place of" and the French word roi, meaning king. A viceroy's province or larger territory is called a viceroyalty...

 of the Emperor of the East, in fact he was his equal.

Following Theodoric's death in 526, the Western half of the Empire was now fully controlled by Germanic tribes (though many of them continued to recognize Roman law and made claims to continuity), while the Eastern half had established itself under the Justinian dynasty
Justinian Dynasty
The Justinian Dynasty is a family who ruled over the Byzantine Empire from 518 to 602. It originated with Justin I and ended with Maurice. Patriarch Germanus I of Constantinople , whose father was named Justinian, might have been a descendant of the dynasty...

. While the East would make some attempts to recapture the West, the Roman Empire was never reunited.

Byzantine Reconquest


Throughout Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

 and the early Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, the Eastern Roman Empire, or the Byzantine Empire, laid claims on areas of the West which had been occupied by several tribes. In the 6th century, the Eastern Roman Empire managed to reconquer large areas of the former Western Roman Empire. The most successful were the campaigns of the generals Belisarius
Belisarius
Flavius Belisarius was a general of the Byzantine Empire. He was instrumental to Emperor Justinian's ambitious project of reconquering much of the Mediterranean territory of the former Western Roman Empire, which had been lost less than a century previously....

 and Narses
Narses
Narses was, with Belisarius, one of the great generals in the service of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I during the "Reconquest" that took place during Justinian's reign....

 on behalf of the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

 from 533 to 554). The Vandal-occupied former Roman territory in North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

 was regained, particularly the territory centered around the city of Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

. The campaign eventually moved into Italy and the Byzantines reconquered it completely. Minor territories were taken as far west as the southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

. But already in 568, three years after Justinian had died, the Lombards
Lombards
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

 had invaded Italy.

Although some eastern emperors occasionally attempted to reconquer some parts of the West, none were as successful as Justinian. The division between the two areas grew, resulting in a growing rivalry. While the Eastern Roman Empire continued after Justinian, the later Eastern Emperors focused mainly on defending its traditional territory. From the 7th century onwards, the East no longer had the necessary military strength to do anything else, spelling the end of any hope for reunification.

Legacy



As the Western Roman Empire crumbled, the new Germanic rulers who conquered the provinces upheld many Roman laws and traditions. Many of the invading Germanic tribes were already Christianized, although most were followers of Arianism
Arianism
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

. They quickly converted to Catholicism
Catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

, gaining more loyalty from the local Roman populations, as well as the recognition and support of the powerful Catholic Church. Although they initially continued to recognize indigenous tribal laws, they were more influenced by Roman Law
Roman law
Roman law is the legal system of ancient Rome, and the legal developments which occurred before the 7th century AD — when the Roman–Byzantine state adopted Greek as the language of government. The development of Roman law comprises more than a thousand years of jurisprudence — from the Twelve...

 and gradually incorporated it as well.

Roman Law, particularly the Corpus Juris Civilis
Corpus Juris Civilis
The Corpus Juris Civilis is the modern name for a collection of fundamental works in jurisprudence, issued from 529 to 534 by order of Justinian I, Eastern Roman Emperor...

 collected by order of Justinian I, is the ancient basis on which the modern Civil law
Civil law (legal system)
Civil law is a legal system inspired by Roman law and whose primary feature is that laws are codified into collections, as compared to common law systems that gives great precedential weight to common law on the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different...

 stands. In contrast, Common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

 is based on the Germanic Anglo-Saxon law
Anglo-Saxon law
Anglo-Saxon law is a body of written rules and customs that were in place during the Anglo-Saxon period in England, before the Norman conquest. This body of law, along with early Scandinavian law and continental Germanic law, descended from a family of ancient Germanic custom and legal thought...

.

Latin as a language never really disappeared. It combined with neighboring Germanic and Celtic languages
Celtic languages
The Celtic languages are descended from Proto-Celtic, or "Common Celtic"; a branch of the greater Indo-European language family...

, giving rise to many modern Romance languages
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

 such as Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, Catalan
Catalan language
Catalan is a Romance language, the national and only official language of Andorra and a co-official language in the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencian Community, where it is known as Valencian , as well as in the city of Alghero, on the Italian island...

, Occitan, and Romansh.

Latin also influenced Germanic languages such as English, German, and Dutch; all surviving Celtic languages
Celtic languages
The Celtic languages are descended from Proto-Celtic, or "Common Celtic"; a branch of the greater Indo-European language family...

, Albanian, and such Slavic languages as Polish and Czech, and even the non-Indo-European Hungarian. It survives in its "purer" form as the language of the Catholic Church (the Mass
Mass (liturgy)
"Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

 was spoken exclusively in Latin until 1969
Ecclesiastical Latin
Ecclesiastical Latin is the Latin used by the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church in all periods for ecclesiastical purposes...

), and was used as a lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

 between many nations. It remained the language of medicine, law, diplomacy (most treaties were written in Latin), of intellectuals and scholarship.

The Latin alphabet
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

 was expanded due to the splits of I into I and J and of U into U, V, and in places (especially Germanic languages and Polish) W; it is the most widely used alphabetic writing system in the world today. Roman numerals
Roman numerals
The numeral system of ancient Rome, or Roman numerals, uses combinations of letters from the Latin alphabet to signify values. The numbers 1 to 10 can be expressed in Roman numerals as:...

 continue to be used, but were mostly replaced by Arabic numerals
Arabic numerals
Arabic numerals or Hindu numerals or Hindu-Arabic numerals or Indo-Arabic numerals are the ten digits . They are descended from the Hindu-Arabic numeral system developed by Indian mathematicians, in which a sequence of digits such as "975" is read as a numeral...

.

The ideal of the Roman Empire as a mighty Christian Empire with a single ruler continued to seduce many powerful rulers. Under the principle of translatio imperii
Translatio imperii
Translatio imperii, Latin for "transfer of rule", is a concept invented in the Middle Ages for describing history as a linear succession of transfers of imperium, that is of supreme power concentrated with a series of single rulers .-Origin:...

, the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 explicitly proclaimed itself as the continuation of the Western Roman Empire. The title of the Western Roman Emperor was revived when Charlemagne
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

, King of the Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 and Lombards
Lombards
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

, was crowned as Emperor of the Romans
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

 of the West by Pope Leo III
Pope Leo III
Pope Saint Leo III was Pope from 795 to his death in 816. Protected by Charlemagne from his enemies in Rome, he subsequently strengthened Charlemagne's position by crowning him as Roman Emperor....

 in 800. The status of the Holy Roman Emperor as the rightful Western Roman Emperor in the medieval era was further legitimated by the recognition as "co-emperor" from the Eastern Roman Emperor, who was in direct succession to the ancient Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

s. The Holy Roman Empire continued to regard itself as the successor state of the Western Roman Empire until its downfall in 1806. The French King Louis XIV, as well as French Emperor
First French Empire
The First French Empire , also known as the Greater French Empire or Napoleonic Empire, was the empire of Napoleon I of France...

 Napoleon I
Napoleon I
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

, among others, also tried to resurrect the Empire, albeit unsuccessfully.

A very visible legacy of the Western Roman Empire is the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

. The Church slowly began to replace Roman institutions in the West, even helping to negotiate the safety of Rome during the late 5th century. In many cases the only source of law and civil administration was the local bishop, often himself a former governor like St. Ambrose of Milan and St. Germanus of Auxerre. As Rome was invaded by Germanic tribes, many assimilated, and by the middle of the medieval period (c.9th and 10th centuries) the central, western, and northern parts of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 had been largely converted by the Roman Catholicism
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 and acknowledged the Pope as the Vicar of Christ
Vicar of Christ
Vicar of Christ is a term used in different ways, with different theological connotations throughout history...

.

Gallic Emperors (259 to 273)

  • Postumus
    Postumus
    Marcus Cassianius Latinius Postumus was a Roman emperor of Batavian origin. He usurped power from Gallienus in 260 and formed the so-called Gallic Empire...

    : 259 to 268
  • Laelianus
    Laelianus
    Ulpius Cornelius Laelianus was a usurper against Postumus, the emperor of the Gallic Empire. His revolt lasted from approximately late February to early June 269.-Origins:...

    : 268 Usurper
  • Marcus Aurelius Marius
    Marcus Aurelius Marius
    Marcus Aurelius Marius was emperor of the Gallic Empire in 269 following the assassination of Postumus.-Reign:According to later tradition, he was a blacksmith by trade who rose through the ranks of the Roman army to become an officer. He was present with the army that revolted at Moguntiacum...

    : 268
  • Victorinus
    Victorinus
    Marcus Piavonius Victorinus was emperor of the secessionist Gallic Empire from 269 to 271, following the brief reign of Marius. He was murdered by a jealous husband whose wife he tried to seduce.-Reign:...

    : 268 to 271
  • Domitianus
    Domitianus
    -Introduction:Domitianus was probably a Roman soldier of the mid-third century AD who was acclaimed Emperor, probably in northern Gaul, in late 270 or early 271 AD and struck coins to advertise his elevation...

    : 271 Usurper
  • Tetricus I
    Tetricus I
    Gaius Pius Esuvius Tetricus was Emperor of the Gallic Empire from 271 to 274, following the murder of Victorinus. Tetricus, who ruled with his son, Tetricus II, was the last of the Gallic emperors following his surrender to the Roman emperor Aurelian.-Reign:Tetricus was a senator born to a noble...

    : 271 to 273
    • Tetricus II
      Tetricus II
      Caius Pius Esuvius Tetricus was the son of Tetricus I, Emperor of the Gallic Empire ....

      : 271 to 273 Son and co-emperor of Tetricus I

Tetrarchy (293 to 313)


Augusti are shown with their Caesares and regents further indented
  • Maximian
    Maximian
    Maximian was Roman Emperor from 286 to 305. He was Caesar from 285 to 286, then Augustus from 286 to 305. He shared the latter title with his co-emperor and superior, Diocletian, whose political brain complemented Maximian's military brawn. Maximian established his residence at Trier but spent...

    : 293 to 305
    • Constantius Chlorus
      Constantius Chlorus
      Constantius I , commonly known as Constantius Chlorus, was Roman Emperor from 293 to 306. He was the father of Constantine the Great and founder of the Constantinian dynasty. As Caesar he defeated the usurper Allectus in Britain and campaigned extensively along the Rhine frontier, defeating the...

      : 293 to 305
  • Constantius Chlorus
    Constantius Chlorus
    Constantius I , commonly known as Constantius Chlorus, was Roman Emperor from 293 to 306. He was the father of Constantine the Great and founder of the Constantinian dynasty. As Caesar he defeated the usurper Allectus in Britain and campaigned extensively along the Rhine frontier, defeating the...

    : 305 to 306
    • Flavius Valerius Severus
      Flavius Valerius Severus
      Severus , sometimes known as Severus II, was a Western Roman Emperor from 306 to 307.- Officer in the Roman army :Severus was of humble birth, born in the Illyrian provinces around the middle of the third century AD...

      : 305 to 306
  • Flavius Valerius Severus
    Flavius Valerius Severus
    Severus , sometimes known as Severus II, was a Western Roman Emperor from 306 to 307.- Officer in the Roman army :Severus was of humble birth, born in the Illyrian provinces around the middle of the third century AD...

    : 306 to 307
    • Constantine I
      Constantine I
      Constantine the Great , also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine and co-Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all...

      : 306 to 313
  • Maxentius
    Maxentius
    Maxentius was a Roman Emperor from 306 to 312. He was the son of former Emperor Maximian, and the son-in-law of Emperor Galerius.-Birth and early life:Maxentius' exact date of birth is unknown; it was probably around 278...

    /Maximian
    Maximian
    Maximian was Roman Emperor from 286 to 305. He was Caesar from 285 to 286, then Augustus from 286 to 305. He shared the latter title with his co-emperor and superior, Diocletian, whose political brain complemented Maximian's military brawn. Maximian established his residence at Trier but spent...

    : 307 to 308
  • Licinius
    Licinius
    Licinius I , was Roman Emperor from 308 to 324. Co-author of the Edict of Milan that granted official toleration to Christians in the Roman Empire, for the majority of his reign he was the rival of Constantine I...

    : 308 to 313
  • Maxentius
    Maxentius
    Maxentius was a Roman Emperor from 306 to 312. He was the son of former Emperor Maximian, and the son-in-law of Emperor Galerius.-Birth and early life:Maxentius' exact date of birth is unknown; it was probably around 278...

    : 308 to 312 Usurper
  • Domitius Alexander
    Domitius Alexander
    Lucius Domitius Alexander , probably born in Phrygia, was vicarius of Africa when Emperor Maxentius ordered him to send his son as hostage to Rome. Alexander refused and proclaimed himself emperor in 308....

    : 308 to 309 African usurper

Constantinian dynasty (313 to 363)

  • Constantine the Great: 306 to 337 Sole emperor of the empire from 324 to 337
  • Constantine II
    Constantine II (emperor)
    Constantine II , was Roman Emperor from 337 to 340. Co-emperor alongside his brothers, his short reign saw the beginnings of conflict emerge between the sons of Constantine the Great, and his attempt to exert his perceived rights of primogeniture ended up causing his death in a failed invasion of...

    : 337 to 340 Emperor of Gaul, Britannia, and Hispania
  • Constantius II
    Constantius II
    Constantius II , was Roman Emperor from 337 to 361. The second son of Constantine I and Fausta, he ascended to the throne with his brothers Constantine II and Constans upon their father's death....

    : 337 to 361 Emperor of the east from 337 to 353, Sole emperor of the empire from 353 to 360
  • Constans I: 337 to 350 Emperor of Italy and Africa 337-340, emperor of the west from 340 to 350
  • Magnentius
    Magnentius
    Flavius Magnus Magnentius was a usurper of the Roman Empire .-Early life and career:...

    : 350 to 353 Usurper
  • Julian
    Julian the Apostate
    Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

    : 355 to 363 Emperor of the west from 355 to 361, Sole emperor of the empire from 361 to 363

Valentinian dynasty (364 to 392)

  • Valentinian I
    Valentinian I
    Valentinian I , also known as Valentinian the Great, was Roman emperor from 364 to 375. Upon becoming emperor he made his brother Valens his co-emperor, giving him rule of the eastern provinces while Valentinian retained the west....

    : 364 to 375
    • Gratian
      Gratian
      Gratian was Roman Emperor from 375 to 383.The eldest son of Valentinian I, during his youth Gratian accompanied his father on several campaigns along the Rhine and Danube frontiers. Upon the death of Valentinian in 375, Gratian's brother Valentinian II was declared emperor by his father's soldiers...

      : 367 to 375
  • Gratian
    Gratian
    Gratian was Roman Emperor from 375 to 383.The eldest son of Valentinian I, during his youth Gratian accompanied his father on several campaigns along the Rhine and Danube frontiers. Upon the death of Valentinian in 375, Gratian's brother Valentinian II was declared emperor by his father's soldiers...

    : 375 to 383
    • Valentinian II
      Valentinian II
      Flavius Valentinianus , commonly known as Valentinian II, was Roman Emperor from 375 to 392.-Early Life and Accession :...

      : 375 to 383
  • Magnus Maximus
    Magnus Maximus
    Magnus Maximus , also known as Maximianus and Macsen Wledig in Welsh, was Western Roman Emperor from 383 to 388. As commander of Britain, he usurped the throne against Emperor Gratian in 383...

    : 383 to 388 Usurper
  • Valentinian II
    Valentinian II
    Flavius Valentinianus , commonly known as Valentinian II, was Roman Emperor from 375 to 392.-Early Life and Accession :...

    : 383 to 392

Theodosian dynasty (394 to 455)

  • Theodosius I
    Theodosius I
    Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

    : 394 to 395 Sole emperor
  • Honorius
    Honorius (emperor)
    Honorius , was Western Roman Emperor from 395 to 423. He was the younger son of emperor Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the eastern emperor Arcadius....

    : 395 to 423
    • Flavius Stilicho: 395 to 408 Power behind the throne
      Power behind the throne
      The phrase power behind the throne refers to a person or group that informally exercises the real power of an office. In politics, it most commonly refers to a spouse, aide, or advisor of a political leader who serves as de facto leader, setting policy through influence or manipulation.The...

    • Constantius III
      Constantius III
      Flavius Constantius , commonly known as Constantius III, was Western Roman Emperor for seven months in 421. A prominent general and politician, he was the power behind the throne for much of the 410s, and in 421 briefly became co-emperor of the Western Empire with Honorius.- Early life and rise to...

      : 421
  • Constantine III: 407 to 411 Usurper
  • Priscus Attalus
    Priscus Attalus
    Priscus Attalus was twice Roman usurper , against Emperor Honorius, with Visigothic support.Priscus Attalus was a Greek from Asia whose father had moved to Italy under Valentinian I. Attalus was an important senator in Rome, who served as praefectus urbi in 409...

    : 409 to 410/414 to 415 Usurper
  • Jovinus
    Jovinus
    Jovinus was a Gallo-Roman senator and claimed to be Roman Emperor .Following the defeat of the usurper known with the name of Constantine III, Jovinus was proclaimed emperor at Mainz in 411, a puppet supported by Gundahar, king of the Burgundians, and Goar, king of the Alans...

    : 411 to 412 Usurper
  • Valentinian III
    Valentinian III
    -Family:Valentinian was born in the western capital of Ravenna, the only son of Galla Placidia and Flavius Constantius. The former was the younger half-sister of the western emperor Honorius, and the latter was at the time Patrician and the power behind the throne....

    : 423 to 455
    • Galla Placidia
      Galla Placidia
      Aelia Galla Placidia , daughter of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, was the Regent for Emperor Valentinian III from 423 until his majority in 437, and a major force in Roman politics for most of her life...

      : 423 to 433 Regent
    • Aëtius
      Flavius Aëtius
      Flavius Aëtius , dux et patricius, was a Roman general of the closing period of the Western Roman Empire. He was an able military commander and the most influential man in the Western Roman Empire for two decades . He managed policy in regard to the attacks of barbarian peoples pressing on the Empire...

      : 433 to 454 Regent
  • Joannes
    Joannes
    Ioannes, known in English as Joannes, was a Roman usurper against Valentinian III.On the death of the Emperor Honorius , Theodosius II, the remaining ruler of the House of Theodosius hesitated in announcing his uncle's death...

    : 423 to 425 Usurper

Non-dynastic (455 to 480)

  • Petronius Maximus
    Petronius Maximus
    Flavius Petronius Maximus was Western Roman Emperor for two and a half months in 455. A wealthy senator and a prominent aristocrat, he was instrumental in the murders of the Western Roman magister militum, Flavius Aëtius, and the Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III...

    : 455
  • Avitus
    Avitus
    Eparchius Avitus was Western Roman Emperor from July 8 or July 9, 455 to October 17, 456. A Gallic-Roman aristocrat, he was a senator and a high-ranking officer both in the civil and military administration, as well as Bishop of Piacenza.A representative of the Gallic-Roman aristocracy, he...

    : 455 to 456
    • Ricimer
      Ricimer
      Flavius Ricimer was a Germanic general who achieved effective control of the remaining parts of the Western Roman Empire, during the middle of the 5th century...

      : 456 to 472 Power behind the throne
  • Majorian
    Majorian
    Majorian , was the Western Roman Emperor from 457 to 461.A prominent general of the Late Roman army, Majorian deposed Emperor Avitus in 457 and succeeded him. Majorian was one of the last emperors to make a concerted effort to restore the Western Roman Empire...

    : 457 to 461
  • Libius Severus
    Libius Severus
    Flavius Libius Severus Serpentius was Western Roman Emperor from November 19, 461 to his death.A Roman senator from Lucania Severus was one of the last Western Emperors, emptied of any effective power , and unable to solve the many problems affecting the Empire; the sources...

    : 461 to 465
  • Anthemius
    Anthemius
    Procopius Anthemius was Western Roman Emperor from 467 to 472. Perhaps the last capable Western Roman Emperor, Anthemius attempted to solve the two primary military challenges facing the remains of the Western Roman Empire: the resurgent Visigoths, under Euric, whose domain straddled the Pyrenees;...

    : 467 to 472
  • Olybrius
    Olybrius
    Anicius Olybrius was Western Roman Emperor from April or May 472 to his death. He was in reality a puppet ruler, put on the throne by the Roman general of Germanic descent Ricimer, and was mainly interested in religion, while the actual power was held by Ricimer and his nephew Gundobad.-Family and...

    : 472
  • Glycerius
    Glycerius
    Glycerius was a Western Roman Emperor from 473 to 474. Elevated by his Magister militum, Gundobad, Glycerius’ elevation was rejected by the court at Constantinople, and he was ousted by Julius Nepos. He later served as the bishop of Salona in the early Catholic Church.-Rise to power:Sources on...

    : 473 to 474
  • Julius Nepos
    Julius Nepos
    Julius Nepos was Western Roman Emperor de facto from 474 to 475 and de jure until 480. Some historians consider him to be the last Western Roman Emperor, while others consider the western line to have ended with Romulus Augustulus in 476...

    : 474 to 480 In exile 475 to 480
  • Romulus Augustus
    Romulus Augustus
    Romulus Augustus , was the last Western Roman Emperor, reigning from 31 October 475 until 4 September 476...

    : 475 to 476
    • Flavius Orestes
      Flavius Orestes
      Orestes was a Roman general and politician of Germanic ancestry, who was briefly in control of the Western Roman Empire in 475–6.-Early life:...

      : 475 to 476 Power behind the throne


Flavius Orestes was killed by revolting Germanic mercenaries
Mercenary
A mercenary, is a person who takes part in an armed conflict based on the promise of material compensation rather than having a direct interest in, or a legal obligation to, the conflict itself. A non-conscript professional member of a regular army is not considered to be a mercenary although he...

. Their chieftain, Odoacer
Odoacer
Flavius Odoacer , also known as Flavius Odovacer, was the first King of Italy. His reign is commonly seen as marking the end of the Western Roman Empire. Though the real power in Italy was in his hands, he represented himself as the client of Julius Nepos and, after Nepos' death in 480, of the...

, assumed control of Italy as a de jure
De jure
De jure is an expression that means "concerning law", as contrasted with de facto, which means "concerning fact".De jure = 'Legally', De facto = 'In fact'....

 representative of Julius Nepos and Eastern Roman Emperor Zeno
Zeno (emperor)
Zeno , originally named Tarasis, was Byzantine Emperor from 474 to 475 and again from 476 to 491. Domestic revolts and religious dissension plagued his reign, which nevertheless succeeded to some extent in foreign issues...

.

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