Mary Beard’s Ultimate Rome: Empire Without Limit episode 4: In the fourth and final episode, Mary tackles the biggest puzzle of all: why, and how, did the Roman Empire fall? Surveying the massive walls and fortifications of Britain and Germany, she discovers an empire under pressure, struggling to control its borders.
Mary seeks to redefine our understanding of the so-called ‘Barbarian Invasions’, but also shows that the Roman Empire was facing even greater challenges from within. Maverick emperors upset all the assumptions of right-thinking Romans, while the traditional religion and beliefs of the Roman state came head to head with the absolute conviction of Jews and Christians. Ultimately, Mary asks whether the Roman Empire was transformed rather than destroyed, and indeed lives on in the world we still see all around us – in our institutions and infrastructure, in the aspirations, methodology and symbolism of many empires since.
Mary Beard’s Ultimate Rome: Empire Without Limit episode 4
Fall of the Western Roman Empire
The Fall of the Western Roman Empire (also called Fall of the Roman Empire or Fall of Rome) was the process of decline in the Western Roman Empire in which the Empire failed to enforce its rule, and its vast territory was divided into several successor polities.
The Roman Empire lost the strengths that had allowed it to exercise effective control over its Western provinces; modern historians posit factors including the effectiveness and numbers of the army, the health and numbers of the Roman population compared to its less urbanized and more epidemic-resistant neighbors, the strength of the economy, the competence of the Emperors, the internal struggles for power, the religious changes of the period, and the efficiency of the civil administration. Increasing pressure from invading barbarians outside Roman culture also contributed greatly to the collapse.
Climate change has been suggested as a driver of the changes in some of these factors. The reasons for the collapse are major subjects of the historiography of the ancient world and they inform much modern discourse on state failure.
In 376, unmanageable numbers of Goths and other non-Roman people, fleeing from the Huns, entered the Empire. In 395, after winning two destructive civil wars, Theodosius I died, leaving a collapsing field army and the Empire, still plagued by Goths, divided between the warring ministers of his two incapable sons. Further barbarian groups crossed the Rhine and other frontiers and, like the Goths, were not exterminated, expelled or subjugated. The armed forces of the Western Empire became few and ineffective, and despite brief recoveries under able leaders, central rule was never effectively consolidated.