<Standard 7.41 ................................................................................................................................Standard 7.43>

Explain how the inner forces (including the rise of autonomous military powers, political corruption, and economic and political instability) and the external forces (shrinking trade, attacks, and invasions) led to the disintegration of the Roman Empire

Focus Question: What forces led to the fall of the Roman Empire?

Link to dramatic event page on the **The** **Weakening and Transformation of the Roman Empire**

Peter Brown, “The World of Late Antiquity,” considers the collapse of the Western Roman Empire to be part of a larger process of transformation, not a decline and fall. Rome had become peripheral to the empire it created, whose center of political and economic life shifted to Constantinople, modern Istanbul, over the course of the 4th century A.D.

Map of the Roman Empire, 117 CE
Map of the Roman Empire, 117 CE

timeline2_rus.svg.pngRoman Empire Timeline

primary_sources.PNGexternal image OrteliusWorldMap.jpegLacus Curtius, from the University of Chicago, provides a number of maps, pictures and texts. Including the whole of J. B. Bury's 1889 book, "The History of the Later Empire."

Why did Rome Decline?

There are adherents to single factors, but more people think a combination of such factors as Christianity, decadence, monetary trouble, and military problems caused the Fall of Rome.
  • Imperial incompetence and chance could be added to the list.
  • Even the rise of Islam is proposed as the reason for Rome's fall, by some who think the Fall of Rome happened at Constantinople in A.D. 1453.

Overview of the factors that contributed to the collapse of the Roman Empire:
  • Income from taxes shrank causing inflation
  • Fall of the trade: economic power of cities declined.
  • Debased coinage increased inflation
  • Slavery became ineffective due to the inflation
  • Barbarians invaded Rome
external image 1200px-Invasions_of_the_Roman_Empire_1.pngThis map shows the different invasions that the Roman Empire faced from 100-500 CE.

The period known as Pax Romana is frequently cited to have concluded with the rise of Emperor Commodus in 180 CE, and by proxy his reign also signifies to many the start of Rome's decline.
  • Click here to read a biography of his life.

Timeline of emperors until the fall of the Western Empire in 476 CE
Timeline of emperors until the fall of the Western Empire in 476 CE


Screen Shot 2016-10-29 at 12.06.19 PM.pngThis game lets students play through the rise and fall of the Roman Empire from the perspective of the emperor.
To play a Rome strategy game where you can manipulate taxes, conquer new lands, and fight off barbarian, click here.

lesson_plan_icon.jpg Lesson Plan -- The Rise and Fall of Rome

lgbtflag.jpgOne point which is frequently cited as a cause of Rome's decline is the acceptance of homosexuality. This stems back to remarks made by a religious Italian historian, but while many people in the field of study have discredited this notion, the idea has taken on significant popularity.
  • Read this article to learn more about it.


  1. Duiker, William J. and Spielvogel, Jackson J., (2005). The essential world history. Belmonet, CA: Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc.
  2. Peden, Joseph. "Inflation and the Fall of the Roman Empire". October 27, 1984. http://ar.to/2009/08/inflation-and-the-fall-of-the-roman-empire
  3. http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/romefallarticles/a/fallofrome.htm