A statue of Aelia Facila

Seminar I: Introduction What Happened to the Roman Empire?

This seminar session comprises an introduction to the course. The tutors will go over the contents of the present study guide with you, but most of this session will be taken will be taken up with an outline discussion of the main events in the history of the later Roman Empire.

Set Text

Suggested Preparation

You should read Michael Grant’s summary account of the events surrounding the ‘decline and fall of the Roman Empire’ and whatever other narrative sources you have to hand. You should then attempt to identify the crucial turning points in this long drawn out event.

  • Why are these the significant turning points?
  • When did Rome’s decline begin?
  • When did its ‘fall’ occur?
  • What significance should we attach to the survival of the eastern half of the Empire?

Events which you might like to consider include:

  • the so-called Crisis of the Third Century,
  • the rise of Christianity (AD c. 200–400) and the Conversion of the Emperor Constantine (c. 312),
  • the establishment of Constantinople as the new capital of the Roman Empire (c. 325),
  • the arrival of the Huns in the Ukraine (c. 375) and then later in what is now Hungary (c. 405),
  • the division of the Roman Empire into two halves, the Greek-speaking East and the Latin-speaking West, by the Emperor Valentinian I, who takes the West, giving the East to his brother Valens (364),
  • the Battle of Adrianople at which the Goths defeated and killed the Emperor Valens (378),
  • the settlement of the Goths in the Balkans (382),
  • the renewal of division of the Roman Empire into two halves, the Greek-speaking East and the Latin-speaking West, at the death of Theodosius the Great (d. 395).
  • the sack of Rome by Alaric and his Goths (410),
  • the conquest of Africa by the Vandals (429–39),
  • the murder of the Roman general Aetius by the Emperor Valentinian III (454),
  • the second sack of Rome by the Vandals (455),
  • the failure of the first Eastern Roman attempt to take Africa back from the Vandals (469),
  • the deposition of the last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire, Romulus Augustulus (476), and
  • the reign of Emperor Justinian I (527–65), who attempted to reconquer the Western Empire, retaking Africa relatively quickly (533–4), bur devastating Italy in a long war against the Ostrogoths (535–62).

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