The Roman Empire lasted a long time. The Romans were powerful, successful and very intelligent rulers. They had impressive legal systems and ways of ruling. They knew they had to keep local upper classes on their side to avoid too many threats to their power. They also had professional and loyal armies.
Romans kept people happy by building nice public spaces. Life was always difficult if you were poor. However, the Romans did offer poor people food and support when they could. They also kept the peace in the Empire by blending local laws and customs with a Roman way of life. They made improvements to town planning and roads that can still be seen to this day.
However, this Roman rule did not last forever. The Empire started to become weaker and weaker until it collapsed in 476 AD. Historians of Ancient Rome generally do not agree about why the Empire collapsed. Was it because the Romans became Christians? Or because of attacks from ‘the barbarians’?
Some say it was because of increasing poverty and problems with money and finances. These types of money-related problems are called economic problems.
All the way through the 400s, Germanic tribes had been fighting back against the Romans. The Visigoths, or Goths, were a huge threat to Rome. Eventually, in 410 AD, the Visigoth King Alaric actually got into the capital of the Empire itself, Rome.
Rome managed to hold on to power for the next 60 or so years before the Vandals raided in 455 AD. 476 AD is seen as the date the Empire fell. No Roman ruler would ever again rule after Rome was attacked by the Germanic ruler Odoacer. He deposed Romulus Augustus.
The Romans also began to lose their financial control of Europe. The Vandals had taken over North Africa, where the Romans had lots of land and resources.
The Romans had spent a lot of money on building and development but also on wars. Wars are very expensive and Rome began to suffer. It cost a lot of money for the up-keep of all of its fancy buildings and roads. Rome started to lose control and was unable to fight back in the same way as they did earlier in the Empire.
A large unruly empire
The area they ruled was so large, it was difficult to deal with local problems from so far away. Also, at this time, it took days or even weeks to communicate. This meant that when issues came up with local people, the ruling classes and the Emperor back in Rome could not deal with it in time.
The Empire had been divided into two halves: the East and West. This was to make the Empire easier to manage as it had become so large. Things did not quite go to plan. The two sides did not work together to fend off enemies.
In the end, the East became more powerful and rich. The West fell, but the East would last for another thousand years, until the emergence of the Ottoman Empire in the 1400s.
A change in religion
Instead of worshipping many gods, Romans became Christians. Some historians back in the 1700s said this took away from traditional Roman ways of doing things. Also, in the old religious system, the Emperor himself was seen as a sort of God. Under Christianity, it is possible that focus moved away from the Roman emperor himself.
Most historians now agree that the problems relating to money, the weaknesses in the army (the military) and the issues with ruling such a large territory were the main reasons for the collapse of the Empire.