476 As the End Point for 'The Fall of Rome'
There is debate over the starting and ending dates for the period in Roman history when the empire was in decline and headed for a fall. There is also debate over what constitutes the Fall of Rome, although Gibbon's popularization of the expulsion of the last Roman emperor in the West, Romulus Augustulus, makes that the most useful contender.
What Was the Starting Point?
The conventional start is the mid-third century period known as the Age of Chaos, the Imperial Crisis, or Crisis of the Third century. Even if one starts the declining period a bit earlier -- for instance, at the start of the declining physical extent of the Empire under Marcus Aurelius and his son -- the time period is fairly straightforward.
Which Emperors Can We Blame?
What isn't so straightforward is the decision about whose names to put on a list of the emperors. Especially during the Crisis of the Third Century, there were too many contenders to organize and order them all in a clear list. This timeline uses the chronology of Adrian Goldsworthy in his How Rome Fell to select those emperors who were legitimate, so some of your favorites may not appear on this list. Besides the emperors, a sample of the major themes and events leading to Rome's fall are included. Also see Emperors after the division in 395.
|Dates||Emperor / Event|
|162-165||War with the Parthians; Rome gains Ctesiphon.|
|166||(Antonine) Plague outbreak.|
|168-175, 178-180||Campaigns along the Danube frontier.|
|224||Creation of the Sassanid dynasty in Persia, which lasts until the seventh century.|
|230||Sassanid invasion of the Roman province of Mesopotamia.|
|Chaos Emperors - Start of the Crisis of the Third Century|
|244-249||Philip the Arab|
|253-260||Valerian and Gallienus|
|268-270||Claudius II Gothicus|
|283-284||Carinus and Numerian|
|End of the period of the Chaos Emperors|
|293||Diocletian starts the Tetrarchy.|
|303||Major persecution of the Christians.|
|312||Constantine defeats Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge.|
|313||Issuance of the Edict of Milan granting freedom of belief.|
|363||Julian invades Persia where he is killed.|
|364||Peace treaty with the Persians concedes territory to them.|
|364-375||Valentinian in the West.|
|364-378||Valens in the East.|
|378||Disastrous Battle at Adrianople|
|382||End of Gothic War with the Goths settled in Roman territory.|
|391||Trouble for pagans: destruction of the Serapaeum in Alexandria and Theodosius restricts pagan practices.|
|395-407||Arcadius in the East|
|395-423||Honorius in the West|
|408-450||Theodosius II in the East|
|410||Alaric sacks Rome|
|418||Goths settle in Aquitania.|
|431||Vandals sack Hippio Regius|
|438||The issuance of the Theodosian Code|
|439||Vandals take Carthage|
|442||Treaty with the Vandals letting them control much of North Africa.|
|450-457||Marcian in the East|
|452||Attila attacks Italy.|
|457-474||Leo in the East|
|457-461||Majorian in the West|
|461-465||Libius Severus in the West|
|467-472||Anthemius in the West|
|468||Expedition against the Vandals. Rome fails to retake the area of African the Vandals took.|
|474-491||Zeno in the East|
|475-476||Romulus Augustulus in the West|
|476||Odoacer deposes Romulus Augustulus, sends imperial regalia to Zeno|
|The Fall of the Roman Empire|