Skip Nav

Spartacus Educational

Navigation menu

❶A third, the Empire of Trebizond , was created after Georgian expedition in Chaldia , [] commanded by Alexios Komnenos a few weeks before the sack of Constantinople, who later found himself de facto emperor, and established himself in Trebizond. For the empire as a whole, the half century following the Peace of Westphalia was almost entirely shaped by the dominant political figure of the time, King Louis XIV of France.

On this page

Early life and marriage
The young king
Primary Sources

His successor, Henry Heinrich I the Fowler r. He founded the Ottonian dynasty. Heinrich designated his son Otto to be his successor, who was elected King in Aachen in A marriage alliance with the widowed queen of Italy gave Otto control over that nation as well. His later crowning as Emperor Otto I later called "the Great" in would mark an important step, since from then on the Empire — and not the West-Frankish kingdom that was the other remainder of the Frankish kingdoms — would have the blessing of the Pope.

Otto had gained much of his power earlier, when, in , the Magyars were defeated in the Battle of Lechfeld.

In contemporary and later writings, the crowning would be referred to as translatio imperii, the transfer of the Empire from the Romans to a new Empire. The German Emperors thus thought of themselves as being in direct succession of those of the Roman Empire; this is why they initially called themselves Augustus. Still, they did not call themselves "Roman" Emperors at first, probably in order not to provoke conflict with the Roman Emperor who still existed in Constantinople.

The term imperator Romanorum only became common under Conrad II later. At this time, the eastern kingdom was not "German" but a "confederation" of the old Germanic tribes of the Bavarians, Alamanns, Franks and Saxons.

The Empire as a political union probably only survived because of the strong personal influence of King Henry the Saxon and his son, Otto.

Although formally elected by the leaders of the Germanic tribes, they were actually able to designate their successors. This changed after Henry II died in without any children. Conrad II, first of the Salian Dynasty, was then elected king in only after some debate. How exactly the king was chosen thus seems to be a complicated conglomeration of personal influence, tribal quarrels, inheritance, and acclamation by those leaders that would eventually become the collegiate of Electors.

Each king preferred to spend most time in his own homelands; the Saxons, for example, spent much time in palatinates around the Harz mountains, among them Goslar.

This practice had only changed under Otto III king , Emperor — , who began to utilize bishopries all over the Empire as temporary seats of government. It is thus no coincidence that at this time, the terminology changes and the first occurrences of a regnum Teutonicum are found. Although this was taken back after the Walk to Canossa, the ban had wide-reaching consequences. Meanwhile, the German dukes had elected a second king, Rudolf of Swabia, whom Henry IV could only defeat after a three-year war in The mythical roots of the Empire were permanently damaged; the German king was humiliated.

Most importantly though, the church became an independent player in the political system of the Empire. Conrad III came to the throne in , being the first of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, which was about to restore the glory of the Empire even under the new conditions of the Concordat of Worms. It was Frederick I "Barbarossa" king , Emperor — who first called the Empire "holy," with which he intended to address mainly law and legislation.

Also, under Barbarossa, the idea of the "Romanness" of the Empire culminated again, which seemed to be an attempt to justify the Emperor's power independently of the now strengthened Pope.

An imperial assembly at the fields of Roncaglia in explicitly reclaimed imperial rights at the advice of quattuor doctores of the emerging judicial facility of the University of Bologna, citing phrases such as princeps legibus solutus "the emperor [princeps] is not bound by law" from the Digestae of the Corpus Juris Civilis.

That the Roman laws were created for an entirely different system and didn't fit the structure of the Empire was obviously secondary; the point here was that the court of the Emperor made an attempt to establish a legal constitution. Imperial rights had been referred to as regalia since the Investiture Controversy, but were enumerated for the first time at Roncaglia as well. This comprehensive list included public roads, tariffs, coining, collecting punitive fees, and the investiture, the seating and unseating of office holders.

These rights were now explicitly rooted in Roman Law, a far-reaching constitutional act; north of the Alps, the system was also now connected to feudal law, a change most visible in the withdrawal of the feuds of Henry the Lion in which led to his public banning. Barbarossa thus managed for a time to more closely bind the stubborn Germanic dukes to the Empire as a whole. Another important constitutional move at Roncaglia was the establishment of a new peace Landfrieden for all of the Empire, an attempt to on the one hand abolish private vendettas not only between the many local dukes, but on the other hand a means to tie the Emperor's subordinates to a legal system of jurisdiction and public prosecution of criminal acts — a predecessor concept of "rule of law," in modern terms, that was, at this time, not yet universally accepted.

In order to solve the problem that the emperor was after the Investiture Controversy no longer as able to use the church as a mechanism to maintain power, the Staufer increasingly lent land to ministerialia, formerly unfree service men, which Frederick hoped would be more reliable than local dukes.

Initially used mainly for war services, this new class of people would form the basis for the later knights, another basis of imperial power. Another new concept of the time was the systematic foundation of new cities, both by the emperor and the local dukes. These were partly due to the explosion in population, but also to concentrate economic power at strategic locations, while formerly cities only existed in the shape of either old Roman foundations or older bishoprics. Cities that were founded in the 12th century include Freiburg, possibly the economic model for many later cities, and Munich.

While Frederick brought the mythical idea of the Empire to a last highpoint, he was also the one to initiate the major steps that led to its disintegration.

On the one hand, he concentrated on establishing an — for the times — extraordinarily modern state in Sicily, with public services, finances, and jurisdiction. On the other hand, Frederick was the emperor who granted major powers to the German dukes in two far-reaching privileges that would never be reclaimed by the central power.

In the Confoederatio cum principibus ecclesiasticis, Frederick basically gave up a number of regalia in favor of the bishops, among them tariffs, coining, jurisdiction and fortification. The Statutum in favorem principum mostly extended these privileges to the other non-clerical territories Frederick II was forced to give those privileges by a rebellion of his son, Henry. Although many of these privileges had existed earlier, they were now granted globally, and once and for all, to allow the German dukes to maintain order north of the Alps while Frederick wanted to concentrate on his homelands in Italy.

The document marked the first time that the German dukes were called domini terrae, owners of their lands, a remarkable change in terminology as well. During the long stays of the Hohenstaufen emperors in Italy , the German princes became stronger and began a successful, mostly peaceful colonization of West Slavic lands, so that the empire's influence increased to eventually include Pomerania and Silesia. After the death of Frederick II in , none of the dynasties worthy of producing the king proved able to do so, and the leading dukes elected several competing kings.

The time from beginning with the election of Heinrich Raspe and William of Holland to , when Rudolph I of Habsburg was elected king, is commonly referred to as the Interregnum. During the Interregnum, much of what was left of imperial authority was lost, as the princes were given time to consolidate their holdings and become even more independent rulers. In , there occurred a double election which produced a situation that guaranteed a long interregnum. William of Holland had fallen the previous year, and Conrad of Swabia had died three years earlier.

First, three electors Palatinate, Cologne and Mainz being mostly of the Guelph persuasion cast their votes for Richard of Cornwall who became the successor of William of Holland as king. After a delay, a fourth elector, Bohemia , joined this choice.

However, a couple of months later, Bohemia and the three other electors Trier, Brandenburg and Saxony voted for Alfonso X of Castile, this being based on Ghibelline party. The realm now had two kings. Was the King of Bohemia entitled to change his vote, or was the election complete when four electors had chosen a king? Were the four electors together entitled to depose Richard a couple of months later, if his election had been valid?

This development probably best symbolizes the emerging duality between Kaiser und Reich , emperor and realm, which were no longer considered identical. This is also revealed in the way the post-Staufen kings attempted to sustain their power. Earlier, the Empire's strength and finances greatly relied on the Empire's own lands, the so-called Reichsgut, which always belonged to the respective king and included many Imperial Cities.

After the thirteenth century, its relevance faded even though some parts of it did remain until the Empire's end in Instead, the Reichsgut was increasingly pawned to local dukes, sometimes to raise money for the Empire but, more frequently, to reward faithful duty or as an attempt to civilize stubborn dukes.

The direct governance of the Reichsgut no longer matched the needs of either the king or the dukes. Instead, the kings, beginning with Rudolph I of Habsburg, increasingly relied on the lands of their respective dynasties to support their power. In contrast with the Reichsgut, which was mostly scattered and difficult to administer, these territories were comparably compact and thus easier to control.

In , Rudolph I thus lent Austria and Styria to his own sons. After him all kings and emperors relied on the lands of their own family Hausmacht: Interestingly, it was thus increasingly in the king's own interest to strengthen the power of the territories, since the king profited from such a benefit in his own lands as well.

The thirteenth century also saw a general structural change in how land was administered. Instead of personal duties, money increasingly became the common means to represent economic value in agriculture. Peasants were increasingly required to pay tribute for their lands. The concept of "property" more and more replaced more ancient forms of jurisdiction, although they were still very much tied together.

In the territories not at the level of the Empire , power became increasingly bundled: Whoever owned the land had jurisdiction, from which other powers derived.

It is important to note, however, that jurisdiction at this time did not include legislation, which virtually did not exist until well into the fifteenth century. Court practice heavily relied on traditional customs or rules described as customary. It is during this time that the territories began to transform themselves into predecessors of modern states.

The process varied greatly among the various lands and was most advanced in those territories that were most identical to the lands of the old Germanic tribes, e.

It was slower in those scattered territories that were founded through imperial privileges. The "constitution" of the Empire was still largely unsettled at the beginning of the 15th century.

Although some procedures and institutions had been fixed, for example by the Golden Bull of , the rules of how the king, the electors, and the other dukes should cooperate in the Empire much depended on the personality of the respective king. It therefore proved somewhat fatal that Sigismund of Luxemburg king , emperor — and Frederick III of Habsburg king , emperor — neglected the old core lands of the empire and mostly resided in their own lands.

Without the presence of the king, the old institution of the Hoftag, the assembly of the realm's leading men, deteriorated. The Reichstag as a legislative organ of the Empire did not exist yet. Even worse, dukes often went into feuds against each other that, more often than not, escalated into local wars.

At the same time, the church was in crisis too. The conflict between several competing popes was only resolved at the Council of Constance — ; after , much energy was spent on fighting the heresy of the Hussites.

The medieval idea of a unified Corpus christianum, of which the papacy and the Empire were the leading institutions, began to decline. With these drastic changes, much discussion emerged in the 15th century about the Empire itself. Rules from the past no longer adequately described the structure of the time, and a reinforcement of earlier Landfrieden was urgently called for.

During this time, the concept of "reform" emerged, in the original sense of the Latin verb re-formare, to regain an earlier shape that had been lost. When Frederick III needed the dukes to finance war against Hungary in and at the same time had his son, later Maximilian I elected king, he was presented with the dukes' united demand to participate in an Imperial Court.

As a declared 'enemy of the Emperor', Alaric was denied the legitimacy that he needed to collect taxes and hold cities without large garrisons, which he could not afford to detach. He again offered to move his men, this time to Pannonia , in exchange for a modest sum of money and the modest title of Comes , but he was refused as a supporter of Stilicho. In , there was no equivalent of the determined response to the catastrophic Battle of Cannae in BCE, when the entire Roman population, even slaves, had been mobilized to resist the enemy.

Alaric's military operations centred on the port of Rome , through which Rome's grain supply had to pass. Alaric's first siege of Rome in caused dreadful famine within the walls. It was ended by a payment that, though large, was less than one of the richest senators could have produced. With promises of freedom, Alaric also recruited many of the slaves in Rome. Alaric withdrew to Tuscany and recruited more slaves.

Sarus was an enemy of Ataulf, and on Ataulf's arrival went back into imperial service. In Olympius fell to further intrigue, having his ears cut off before he was beaten to death. Alaric tried again to negotiate with Honorius, but his demands now even more moderate, only frontier land and food [] were inflated by the messenger and Honorius responded with insults, which were reported verbatim to Alaric.

Honorius's court made overtures to the usurper Constantine III in Gaul and arranged to bring Hunnic forces into Italy, Alaric ravaged Italy outside the fortified cities which he could not garrison , and the Romans refused open battle for which they had inadequate forces.

Honorius, sensing weakness, flatly refused. Alaric moved to Rome and captured Galla Placidia , sister of Honorius. The Senate in Rome, despite its loathing for Alaric, was now desperate enough to give him almost anything he wanted.

They had no food to offer, but they tried to give him imperial legitimacy; with the Senate's acquiescence, he elevated Priscus Attalus as his puppet emperor, and he marched on Ravenna. Honorius was planning to flee to Constantinople when a reinforcing army of 4, soldiers from the East disembarked in Ravenna. He had Constantine's principal court supporter executed and Constantine abandoned plans to march to Honorius's defence.

Indeed, Attalus's claim was a marker of threat to Honorius, and Alaric dethroned him after a few months. In Alaric took Rome by starvation, sacked it for three days there was relatively little destruction, and in some Christian holy places Alaric's men even refrained from wanton wrecking and rape , and invited its remaining barbarian slaves to join him, which many did. The city of Rome was the seat of the richest senatorial noble families and the centre of their cultural patronage; to pagans it was the sacred origin of the empire, and to Christians the seat of the heir of Saint Peter , Pope Innocent I , the most authoritative bishop of the West.

Rome had not fallen to an enemy since the Battle of the Allia over eight centuries before. Refugees spread the news and their stories throughout the Empire, and the meaning of the fall was debated with religious fervour. Both Christians and pagans wrote embittered tracts, blaming paganism or Christianity respectively for the loss of Rome's supernatural protection, and blaming Stilicho's earthly failures in either case. Augustine in his book " City of God " ultimately rejected the pagan and Christian idea that religion should have worldly benefits; he developed the doctrine that the City of God in heaven, undamaged by mundane disasters, was the true objective of Christians.

Generidus did this with unusual effectiveness; his techniques were remarkable for this period, in that they included training his troops, disciplining them, and giving them appropriate supplies even if he had to use his own money.

Procopius mentions a story in which Honorius, on hearing the news that Rome had "perished", was shocked, thinking the news was in reference to his favorite chicken he had named "Roma". On hearing that Rome itself had fallen he breathed a sigh of relief:. At that time they say that the Emperor Honorius in Ravenna received the message from one of the eunuchs, evidently a keeper of the poultry, that Roma had perished.

And he cried out and said, "And yet it has just eaten from my hands! Alaric then moved south, intending to sail to Africa, but his ships were wrecked in a storm and he shortly died of fever. His successor Ataulf, still regarded as an usurper and given only occasional and short-term grants of supplies, moved north into the turmoil of Gaul, where there was some prospect of food. His supergroup of barbarians are called the Visigoths in modern works: They may have been trying to get away from the Huns, who about this time advanced to occupy the Great Hungarian Plain.

The remaining troops in Britannia elevated a succession of imperial usurpers. Constantine's power reached its peak in when he controlled Gaul and beyond, he was joint consul with Honorius [] and his magister militum Gerontius defeated the last Roman force to try to hold the borders of Hispania. It was led by relatives of Honorius; Constantine executed them. Gerontius went to Hispania where he may have settled the Sueves and the Asding Vandals.

Gerontius then fell out with his master and elevated one Maximus as his own puppet emperor. He defeated Constantine and was besieging him in Arelate when Honorius's general Constantius arrived from Italy with an army possibly, mainly of Hun mercenaries. Constantius continued the siege, defeating a relieving army.

Constantine surrendered in with a promise that his life would be spared, and was executed. In , the Roman civitates of Britannia rebelled against Constantine and evicted his officials. They asked for help from Honorius, who replied that they should look to their own defence. While the British may have regarded themselves as Roman for several generations, and British armies may at times have fought in Gaul, no central Roman government is known to have appointed officials in Britannia thereafter.

In , Jovinus rebelled and took over Constantine's remaining troops on the Rhine. He relied on the support of Burgundians and Alans to whom he offered supplies and land.

In Jovinus also recruited Sarus; Ataulf destroyed their regime in the name of Honorius and both Jovinus and Sarus were executed. The Burgundians were settled on the left bank of the Rhine. Ataulf then operated in the south of Gaul, sometimes with short-term supplies from the Romans.

The imperial government was quick to restore the Rhine frontier. The invading tribes of had passed into Spain at the end of but the Visigoths had exited Italy at the beginning of and settled themselves in Narbo. Heraclianus was still in command in the diocese of Africa, the last of the clique that overthrew Stilicho to retain power.

In he led an invasion of Italy, lost to a subordinate of Constantius, and fled back to Africa where he was murdered by Constantius's agents. The choir at the wedding included Attalus, a puppet emperor without revenues or soldiers. There his infant son by Galla Placidia was buried, and there Ataulf was assassinated by one of his household retainers, possibly a former follower of Sarus.

In Wallia reached agreement with Constantius; he sent Galla Placidia back to Honorius and received provisions, six hundred thousand modii of wheat. After retrenchment they formed another barbarian supergroup, but for the moment they were reduced in numbers and effectively cowed. In , by agreement with Constantius, Wallia's Goths accepted land to farm in Aquitania. Constantius had married the princess Galla Placidia despite her protests in This earned him the hostility of the Eastern court, which had not agreed to his elevation.

This settlement represented a real success for the Empire—a poem by Rutilius Namatianus celebrates his voyage back to Gaul in and his confidence in a restoration of prosperity. But it marked huge losses of territory and of revenue; Rutilius travelled by ship past the ruined bridges and countryside of Tuscany, and in the west the River Loire had become the effective northern boundary of Roman Gaul. The Italian areas which had been compelled to support the Goths had most of their taxes remitted for several years.

Some occasionally acknowledged a degree of Roman political control, but without the local application of Roman leadership and military power they and their individual subgroups pursued their own interests. Constantius died in , after only seven months as Augustus. He had been careful to make sure that there was no successor in waiting, and his own children were far too young to take his place.

Initially Galla Placidia sought Honorius's favour in the hope that her son might ultimately inherit. Other court interests managed to defeat her, and she fled with her children to the Eastern court in Honorius himself died, shortly before his thirty-ninth birthday, in After some months of intrigue, the patrician Castinus installed Joannes as Western Emperor, but the Eastern Roman government proclaimed the child Valentinian III instead, his mother Galla Placidia acting as regent during his minority.

Joannes had few troops of his own. He sent Aetius to raise help from the Huns. An Eastern army landed in Italy, captured Joannes, cut his hand off, abused him in public, and killed him with most of his senior officials. Aetius returned, three days after Joannes' death, at the head of a substantial Hunnic army which made him the most powerful general in Italy.

After some fighting, Placidia and Aetius came to an agreement; the Huns were paid off and sent home, while Aetius received the position of magister militum.

Galla Placidia, as Augusta, mother of the Emperor, and his guardian until , could maintain a dominant position in court, but women in Ancient Rome did not exercise military power and she could not herself become a general.

She tried for some years to avoid reliance on a single dominant military figure, maintaining a balance of power between her three senior officers, Aetius magister militum in Gaul , Count Boniface governor in the Diocese of Africa , and Flavius Felix magister militum praesentalis in Italy. Apart from the losses in the Diocese of Africa, Hispania was slipping out of central control and into the hands of local rulers and Suevic bandits. In Gaul the Rhine frontier had collapsed, the Visigoths in Aquitaine may have launched further attacks on Narbo and Arelate, and the Franks, increasingly powerful although disunited, were the major power in the north-east.

Aremorica was controlled by Bagaudae , local leaders not under the authority of the Empire. In Felix tried to recall Boniface from Africa; he refused, and overcame Felix's invading force. Boniface probably recruited some Vandal troops among others. In the Vandals and Alans were united under the able, ferocious, and long-lived king Genseric ; he moved his entire people to Tarifa near Gibraltar, divided them into 80 groups nominally of 1, people, perhaps 20, warriors in total , [] and crossed from Hispania to Mauretania without opposition.

The Straits of Gibraltar were not an important thoroughfare at the time, and there were no significant fortifications nor military presence at this end of the Mediterranean. They spent a year moving slowly to Numidia , defeating Boniface. He returned to Italy where Aetius had recently had Felix executed.

Boniface was promoted to magister militum and earned the enmity of Aetius, who may have been absent in Gaul at the time. In the two met at the Battle of Ravenna which left Aetius's forces defeated and Boniface mortally wounded.

Aetius temporarily retired to his estates, but after an attempt to murder him he raised another Hunnic army probably by conceding parts of Pannonia to them and in he returned to Italy, overcoming all rivals. He never threatened to become an Augustus himself and thus maintained the support of the Eastern court, where Valentinian's cousin Theodosius II reigned until Aetius campaigned vigorously, somewhat stabilizing the situation in Gaul and in Hispania.

He relied heavily on his forces of Huns. With a ferocity celebrated centuries later in the Nibelungenlied , the Huns slaughtered many Burgundians on the middle Rhine, re-establishing the survivors as Roman allies, the first Kingdom of the Burgundians. This may have returned some sort of Roman authority to Trier.

Aetius concentrated his limited military resources to defeat the Visigoths again, and his diplomacy restored a degree of order to Hispania. At one point Rechiar even allied with Bagaudae. These were Romans not under imperial control; some of their reasons for rebellion may be indicated by the remarks of a Roman captive under Attila who was happy in his lot, giving a lively account of.

A religious polemic of about this time complains bitterly of the oppression and extortion [83] suffered by all but the richest Romans. Many wished to flee to the Bagaudae or even to foul-smelling barbarians. Although these men differ in customs and language from those with whom they have taken refuge, and are unaccustomed too, if I may say so, to the nauseous odor of the bodies and clothing of the barbarians, yet they prefer the strange life they find there to the injustice rife among the Romans.

So you find men passing over everywhere, now to the Goths, now to the Bagaudae, or whatever other barbarians have established their power anywhere We call those men rebels and utterly abandoned, whom we ourselves have forced into crime. For by what other causes were they made Bagaudae save by our unjust acts, the wicked decisions of the magistrates, the proscription and extortion of those who have turned the public exactions to the increase of their private fortunes and made the tax indictions their opportunity for plunder?

No sooner were the ravages of the enemy checked, than the island was deluged with a most extraordinary plenty of all things, greater than was before known, and with it grew up every kind of luxury and licentiousness.

Nevertheless, effective imperial protection from barbarian ravages was eagerly sought. About this time authorities in Britannia asked Aetius for help:. The Visigoths passed another waymark on their journey to full independence; they made their own foreign policy, sending princesses to make rather unsuccessful marriage alliances with Rechiar of the Sueves and with Huneric , son of the Vandal king Genseric.

In the Vandals moved eastward temporarily abandoning Numidia and captured Carthage , where they established an independent state with a powerful navy. This brought immediate financial crisis to the Western Empire; the diocese of Africa was prosperous, normally required few troops to keep it secure, contributed large tax revenues, and exported wheat to feed Rome and many other areas.

Huns attacked the Eastern empire, [] and. The armies of the Eastern empire were vanquished in three successive engagements From the Hellespont to Thermopylae , and the suburbs of Constantinople, [Attila] ravaged, without resistance, and without mercy, the provinces of Thrace and Macedonia. Attila's invasions of the East were stopped by the walls of Constantinople , and at this heavily fortified Eastern end of the Mediterranean there were no significant barbarian invasions across the sea into the rich southerly areas of Anatolia, the Levant, and Egypt.

Genseric settled his Vandals as landowners [] and in was able to negotiate very favourable peace terms with the Western court. He kept his latest gains and his eldest son Huneric was honoured by betrothal to Princess Eudocia , who carried the legitimacy of the Theodosian dynasty. Huneric's Gothic wife was suspected of trying to poison her father-in-law Genseric; he sent her home without her nose or ears, and his Gothic alliance came to an early end.

The losses of income from the Diocese of Africa were equivalent to the costs of nearly 40, infantry or over 20, cavalry. Despite admitting that the peasantry could pay no more, and that a sufficient army could not be raised, the imperial regime protected the interests of landowners displaced from Africa and allowed wealthy individuals to avoid taxes.

In , the Huns were united under Attila. His subjects included Huns, outnumbered several times over by other groups, predominantly Germanic. Attila may not have needed any excuse to turn West, but he received one in the form of a plea for help from Honoria , the Emperor's sister, who was being forced into a marriage which she resented. Attila claimed Honoria as his wife and half of the Western Empire's territory as his dowry. Faced with refusal, he invaded Gaul in with a huge army.

In the bloody battle of the Catalaunian Plains the invasion was stopped by the combined forces of the barbarians within the Western empire, coordinated by Aetius and supported by what troops he could muster. The next year, Attila invaded Italy and proceeded to march upon Rome, but an outbreak of disease in his army, lack of supplies, reports that Eastern Roman troops were attacking his noncombatant population in Pannonia , and, possibly, Pope Leo 's plea for peace induced him to halt this campaign.

Attila unexpectedly died a year later and his empire crumbled as his followers fought for power. The life of Severinus of Noricum gives glimpses of the general insecurity, and ultimate retreat of the Romans on the Upper Danube, in the aftermath of Attila's death. The Romans were without adequate forces; the barbarians inflicted haphazard extortion, murder, kidnap, and plunder on the Romans and on each other. So long as the Roman dominion lasted, soldiers were maintained in many towns at the public expense to guard the boundary wall.

When this custom ceased, the squadrons of soldiers and the boundary wall were blotted out together. The troop at Batavis , however, held out. Some soldiers of this troop had gone to Italy to fetch the final pay to their comrades, and no one knew that the barbarians had slain them on the way.

In Aetius was personally stabbed to death by Valentinian, who was himself murdered by the dead general's supporters a year later.

Valentinian thought he had slain his master; he found that he had slain his protector: A rich senatorial aristocrat, Petronius Maximus , who had encouraged both murders, then seized the throne. He broke the engagement between Huneric , prince of the Vandals, and Princess Eudocia, and had time to send Avitus to ask for the help of the Visigoths in Gaul [] before the Vandals sailed to Italy. Petronius was unable to muster any effective response and was killed by a mob as he tried to flee the city.

The Vandals entered Rome , and plundered it for two weeks. Despite the shortage of money for the defence of the state, considerable private wealth had accumulated since the previous sack in The Vandals sailed away with large amounts of treasure and also with the Princess Eudocia, who became the wife of one Vandal king and the mother of another. The Vandals conquered Sicily, and their fleet became a constant danger to Roman sea trade and to the coasts and islands of the western Mediterranean.

Avitus , at the Visigothic court in Burdigala , declared himself Emperor. He moved on Rome with Visigothic support which gained his acceptance by Majorian and Ricimer , commanders of the remaining army of Italy. This was the first time that a barbarian kingdom had played a key role in the imperial succession. There he not only defeated the Sueves, executing his brother-in-law Rechiar, but he also plundered Roman cities.

He was forced to become Bishop of Placentia, and died possibly murdered a few weeks later. Majorian and Ricimer were now in control of Italy.

Ricimer was the son of a Suevic king and his mother was the daughter of a Gothic one, so he could not aspire to an imperial throne. After some months, allowing for negotiation with the new emperor of Constantinople and the defeat of Alamannic invaders of Italy by one of his subordinates, Majorian was acclaimed as Augustus. Majorian is described by Gibbon as "a great and heroic character". He defeated the Visigoths at the Battle of Arelate , reducing them to federate status and obliging them to give up their claims in Hispania; he moved on to subdue the Burgundians, the Gallo-Romans around Lugdunum who were granted tax concessions and whose senior officials were appointed from their own ranks and the Suevi and Bagaudae in Hispania.

Marcellinus , magister militum in Dalmatia and the pagan general of a well-equipped army, acknowledged him as emperor and recovered Sicily from the Vandals.

Aegidius may also have used the title "King of the Franks". The fleet was burned by traitors, and Majorian made peace with the Vandals and returned to Italy. Here Ricimer met him, arrested him, and executed him five days later. Marcellinus in Dalmatia, and Aegidius around Soissons in northern Gaul, rejected both Ricimer and his puppets and maintained some version of Roman rule in their areas.

Ricimer was then the effective ruler of Italy but little else for several years. From to the pious Italian aristocrat Libius Severus reigned. There is no record of anything significant that he even tried to achieve, he was never acknowledged by the East whose help Ricimer needed, and he died conveniently in After two years without a Western Emperor, the Eastern court nominated Anthemius , a successful general who had a strong claim on the Eastern throne.

He arrived in Italy with an army, supported by Marcellinus and his fleet; he married his daughter to Ricimer, and he was proclaimed Augustus in In , at vast expense, the Eastern empire assembled an enormous force to help the West retake the Diocese of Africa. Marcellinus rapidly drove the Vandals from Sardinia and Sicily, and a land invasion evicted them from Tripolitania.

The commander in chief with the main force defeated a Vandal fleet near Sicily and landed at Cape Bon. Here Genseric offered to surrender, if he could have a five-day truce to prepare the process. He used the respite to prepare a full-scale attack preceded by fireships, which destroyed most of the Roman fleet and killed many of its soldiers.

The Vandals were confirmed in their possession of the Diocese of Africa and they retook Sardinia and Sicily. Marcellinus was murdered, possibly on orders from Ricimer.

Anthemius was still in command of an army in Italy. Additionally, in northern Gaul, a British army led by one Riothamus , operated in imperial interests. This would have allowed the Empire land access to Hispania again.

The Visigoths refused, defeated the forces of both Riothamus and Anthemius, and with the Burgundians took over almost all of the remaining imperial territory in southern Gaul. Ricimer then quarreled with Anthemius, and besieged him in Rome, which surrendered in July after more months of starvation.

In August Ricimer died of a pulmonary haemorrhage. Olybrius , his new emperor, named Gundobad as his patrician, then died himself shortly thereafter.

After the death of Olybrius there was a further interregnum until March , when Gundobad proclaimed Glycerius emperor. He may have made some attempt to intervene in Gaul; if so, it was unsuccessful. In Julius Nepos , nephew and successor of the general Marcellinus, arrived in Rome with soldiers and authority from the eastern emperor Leo I.

Gundobad had already left to contest the Burgundian throne in Gaul [] and Glycerius gave up without a fight, retiring to become bishop of Salona in Dalmatia. His surname 'Augustus' was given the diminutive form 'Augustulus' by rivals because he was still a minor, and he was never recognized outside of Italy as a legitimate ruler.

In , Orestes refused to grant Odoacer and the Heruli federated status, prompting an invasion. Orestes fled to the city of Pavia on August 23, , where the city's bishop gave him sanctuary. Orestes was soon forced to flee Pavia when Odoacer's army broke through the city walls and ravaged the city.

Odoacer's army chased Orestes to Piacenza , where they captured and executed him on August 28, On September 4, , Odoacer forced then year-old Romulus Augustulus , whom his father Orestes had proclaimed to be Rome's Emperor, to abdicate. After deposing Romulus, Odoacer did not execute him. The Anonymus Valesianus wrote that Odoacer, "taking pity on his youth", spared Romulus' life and granted him an annual pension of 6, solidi before sending him to live with relatives in Campania.

By convention, the Western Roman Empire is deemed to have ended on 4 September , when Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustulus and proclaimed himself ruler of Italy, but this convention is subject to many qualifications. In Roman constitutional theory, the Empire was still simply united under one emperor, implying no abandonment of territorial claims.

In areas where the convulsions of the dying Empire had made organized self-defence legitimate, rump states continued under some form of Roman rule after Julius Nepos still claimed to be Emperor of the West and controlled Dalmatia until his murder in Syagrius son of Aegidius ruled the Domain of Soissons until his murder in They again sought Imperial recognition with the reconquests of Justinian I , and they put up effective resistance to the Muslim conquest of the Maghreb.

Zeno eventually granted Odoacer the status of patrician and accepted him as his own viceroy of Italy. Odoacer never returned any territory or real power, but he did issue coins in the name of Julius Nepos throughout Italy. The murder of Julius Nepos in Glycerius may have been among the conspirators prompted Odoacer to invade Dalmatia, annexing it to his Kingdom of Italy.

In the Eastern emperor authorized a troublesome Goth, Theoderic later known as "the Great" to take Italy. After several indecisive campaigns, in Theoderic and Odoacer agreed to rule jointly.

The Rise and Development of the Byzantine Empire

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire and Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul, which had been founded as Byzantium).It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire .

Privacy FAQs

A century ago, Roman Empire represented a success story for imperialist Britain as well as other European states with imperial ambitions. The.

About Our Ads

The Fall of the Western Roman Empire (also called Fall of the Roman Empire or Fall of Rome) was the process of decline in the Western Roman Empire in which it failed to enforce its rule, and its vast territory was divided into several successor csample.ml Roman Empire lost the strengths that had allowed it to exercise effective control over . Summary and Introduction The Emperor Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus (A.D. ) put an end to the disastrous phase of Roman history known as the "Military Anarchy" or the "Imperial Crisis" ().

Cookie Info

Essay by Dr. Jeffrey Becker The festivities of the Roman state religion were steeped in tradition and ritual symbolism. David L. Vagi's "Coinage and History of the Roman Empire" is perhaps reminiscent of the god Janus, facing in two directions at once. Volume One is squarely focused on history, Volume Two on coins.