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Fall of Rome Emperors Timeline

The legitimate emperors in the decling period of the Roman Empire


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
161-180 Marcus Aurelius
162-165 War with the Parthians; Rome gains Ctesiphon.
166 (Antonine) Plague outbreak.
168-175, 178-180 Campaigns along the Danube frontier.
180-192 Commodus
193-211 Septimius Severus
211-217 Caracalla
217-218 Macrinus
218-222 Elagabalus
222-235 Severus Alexander
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
235-238 Maximinus Thrax
238-244 Gordian III
244-249 Philip the Arab
249-251 Decius
251-253 Gallus
253-260 Valerian and Gallienus
260-268 Gallienus
268-270 Claudius II Gothicus
270-275 Aurelian
275-276 Tacitus
276-282 Probus
282-283 Carus
283-284 Carinus and Numerian
End of the period of the Chaos Emperors
284-305 Diocletian
293 Diocletian starts the Tetrarchy.
303 Major persecution of the Christians.
306-337 Constantine
312 Constantine defeats Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge.
313 Issuance of the Edict of Milan granting freedom of belief.
337-340 Constantine II
337-350 Constans
337-361 Constantius II
361-363 Julian
363 Julian invades Persia where he is killed.
363-364 Jovian
364 Peace treaty with the Persians concedes territory to them.
364-375 Valentinian in the West.
364-378 Valens in the East.
375-383 Gratian
378 Disastrous Battle at Adrianople
379-395 Theodosius I
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.
425-455 Valentinian III
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

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