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Dark Ages » 400 AD/CE » 476 AD/CE

Fall of the Roman Empire

When: 455 - 476 AD/CE
Where: Rome, Roman Empire, Europe

After the death of Maximus in 455 AD, the empire was controlled not by an emperor, but by patrician Ricimer, who was of barbarian descent. The designated emperors of this time held the title only - they had little or no power.

During this period Patrician Ricimer protected Italy, and made and deposed several emperors before his death in 472 AD.

In 472 AD Orestes, a former secretary of Attila the Hun, secured power. He had married the daughter of Romulus, a Roman noble. In 475 AD he made his son, also named Romulus, emperor.

Less than a year later, the soldiers of Orestes revolted against the "little emperor", and demanded a third of the land in Italy. Orestes refused, and was slain by shield-bearer Odavacar.

Odavacar's desired to have the entire empire of Rome, including Constantinople, under his rule. Romulus, the Little Emperor, was sent with an embassy to Constantinople to have the decision ratified.

The empire at this time was in a precarious position: Britain, Gaul, Africa, Italy, and Spain were all under the control of barbarian kings. The emperor thought it best that these kings be brought under his control - thus giving him control of the entire empire.

As Emperor Romulus was not strong enough to defeat Odovacar, he came to terms with the king of the Ostragoths, Theodoric. Theodoric had become the leader for many of the Huns after the death of Attila; he was a valuable ally.

Theodoric in turn gathered the Goths together in massive army and marched towards Italy. The goal was to extract Odovacar from Rome, thus eliminating the emperor's largest enemy.

Fall of the Empire
There was no hard and fast event which led to the fall of the Roman Empire, the empire had been ruled by a collection of barbarian kings well before 450 AD. The march of Theodoric and the Ostrogoths upon Italy was the beginning of a new era in Roman history.

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History Fact of the Month
Did you know ...

The Origin of Valentine's Day?

Valentines day dates back to Roman times, when a holiday called The Feast of Lubercus was celebrated to protect shepherds and their flocks from wolves. During this time of year, goddess Juno Februata was honored by pairing boys and girls and denoting them 'partners' for a year.

Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 497 AD, in an effort to replace pagan holidays with Christian tradition. Although the pairing ritual was banished, romance remains the distinctive attribute of this holiday.

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