Reasons for the Fall of Rome for Kids and Teachers Illustration

The Fall of Rome 476 AD

Rome had quite a run. First a monarchy, then a republic, then an empire all roads led to Rome for over 1200 years. In the Mediterranean, Rome was in charge. During the Imperial period, the period of the Roman Empire, Rome had some wonderful emperors. Rome also suffered from a series of bad, corrupt and just plain crazy emperors. There were lots of reasons why Rome fell.

Problems towards the end of the Empire included

  1. The empire was too large to govern effectively.
  2. The army was not what it used to be. There was corruption in the military - dishonest generals and non-Roman soldiers.  
  3. Civil wars broke out between different political groups.
  4. Emperors were often selected by violence, or by birth, so the head of government was not always a capable leader.
  5. The rich grew disinterested in helping to solve Rome's problems, and only wanted more for themselves and their families
  6. The poor were overtaxed.
  7. The increased use of slaves put many Romans out of work
  8. Trade decreased, while taxes and prices increased.
  9. The population was shrinking due to starvation and disease. That made it difficult to manage farms and government effectively.
  10. The roads fell into disrepair.
  11. The Empire starting shrinking. The Huns, Visigoths, Franks, Vandals, Saxons and other barbarian tribes overran the empire.   

The Romans were aware of these problems and sometimes, under a good emperor, they would work on them for a while. In time, the good emperor would be gone and a bad one would take his place. They tried to solve some of their problems by splitting the Roman Empire in half, hoping that would make the empire easier to manage. Each side had an emperor, but the emperor in charge was the emperor of the western half, the half that included the city of Rome.

The Western Roman Empire did not do well. Instead of getting stronger, they became weaker. By 400 AD, it was pretty much over. The Huns, Franks, Vandals, Saxons, Visigoths any of these barbarian tribes might have been the group that finally brought Rome down. They were all attacking various pieces of the Western Roman Empire (in dark gold in the map below.)

In 476 AD, the Visigoths sacked Rome. The Western Roman Empire fell. Europe entered the dark ages.

The barbarians did not sack the eastern half of the Roman Empire. The eastern half (in green on the map above) renamed itself the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine Empire lasted for another 1000 years after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Two Empires - Western and Eastern Roman Empire

The Barbarians

Rise and Fall of the Byzantine Empire (animated, video)