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The Fall of the Western Roman Empire

The following explains how the weary Western Roman Empire struggled to maintain its borders on the Rhine and the Danube during 200 years. Unable to fight the constant incursions from the Huns, the Western Roman Empire crumbled in 476.

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What contributed to the fall of the western half of the Roman Empire?

According to Charles Freeman, in Egypt, Greece and Rome: Civilization of the Ancient Mediterranean, the western half of the empire lost its control over its territories outside of Italy around 470s. The armies of the western empire were worn-out and had to rely on German soldiers. Odoacer, a Germanic soldier, deposed the young emperor Romulus Augustulus in 480. What is more, the western empire had struggled to maintain its borders on the Rhine and the Danube for the past 200 years. The empire always had managed to strengthen its armies, build new forts and protect its borders until the Huns appeared in the 370s and forced the entrance of the Goths, whom achieved a degree of independent status by 382.

Alaric, an effective and influential leader, wanted to establish a permanent settlement within the empire. Emperor Honorious, who lived a secluded life contrary to previous Roman emperors, placed Stilicho, who was of Germanic origin, as his military commander. Stilicho confronted Alaric and his forces, which were on the move towards Italy. The Visigoths apparently went back to settle in Illyrium. In 405, Stilicho made a truce with Alaric after thinking that the Visigoths could be allies and serve as soldiers within his armies. Despite of this, Alaric moved again to attack Italy, and Stilicho convinced the senate to pay him 4,000 pounds of gold and acknowledge him as an ally. The eastern half of the Roman Empire considered Stilicho as a threat and Honorius did not intend to compromise with the ...

Solution Summary

The western Roman Empire half of the empire lost its control over its territories outside of Italy around 470s. The armies of the western empire were worn-out and had to rely on German soldiers. Odoacer, a Germanic soldier, deposed the young emperor Romulus Augustulus in 480. What is more, the western empire had struggled to maintain its borders on the Rhine and the Danube for the past 200 years.

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