Western Roman Empire

independently administered western provinces of the Roman Empire

The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire, from its division by Diocletian in 286 AD. The other half of the Roman Empire became known as the Eastern Roman Empire, later known as the Byzantine Empire.

Roman Empire
Imperium Romanum
Tremissis depicting Julius Nepos (r. 474–480), the de jure last emperor of the Western Court of Western Roman Empire
Tremissis depicting Julius Nepos (r. 474–480),
the de jure last emperor of the Western Court
The territory controlled by the Western Roman Imperial court following the nominal division of the Roman Empire after the death of Emperor Theodosius I in AD 395.
The territory controlled by the Western Roman Imperial court following the nominal division of the Roman Empire after the death of Emperor Theodosius I in AD 395.
StatusWestern division of the Roman Empire
(402–455, 473–476)
Common languagesLatin (official)
Regional / local languages
Polytheistic Roman Religion until 4th century
Nicene Christianity (state church) after 380
Notable emperors 
• 395–423
• 457–461
• 474–480
Julius Nepos
• 475–476
Romulus Augustulus
LegislatureRoman Senate
Historical eraLate antiquity
• Death of Emperor Theodosius I
17 January 395
• Deposition of Emperor Romulus Augustulus
4 September 476
• Murder of Emperor Julius Nepos
25 April 480
395[1]2,000,000 km2 (770,000 sq mi)
CurrencyRoman currency
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Dio coin3.jpg Roman Empire
Eastern Roman Empire
Kingdom of Italy
Kingdom of the Visigoths
Kingdom of the Vandals
Kingdom of the Franks
Kingdom of the Suebi
Kingdom of the Burgundians
Kingdom of the Romans
Kingdom of the Moors and Romans
Sub-Roman Britain
  1. ^ Since the Western Roman Empire was not a distinct state separate from the Eastern Roman Empire, there was no particular official term that designated the Western provinces or their government, which was simply known at the time as the "Roman Empire". Terms such as Imperium Romanum Occidentalis and Hesperium Imperium were either never in official usage or invented by later medieval or modern historians long after the Western Roman court had fallen. In the ancient era the Latin term often used was "S.P.Q.R." ("Senatus Populusque Romanus" ["Senate and People of Rome"] Latin) used in documents, on flags and banners and carved/engraved on buildings
  2. ^ Whilst the deposition of Emperor Romulus Augustulus in 476 is the most commonly cited end date for the Western Roman Empire, the last Western Roman Emperor Julius Nepos, was assassinated in 480, when the title and notion of a separate Western Empire were abolished. Another suggested end date is the reorganization of the Italian peninsula and abolition of separate Western Roman administrative institutions under Emperor Justinian during the latter half of the 6th century.
  3. ^ The Theodosian dynasty emperors Honorius and Valentinian III reigned from Ravenna. In the period between Valentinian and Glycerius (who once again reigned from northern Italy), most emperors appear to have reigned from Rome. Both emperors Petronius Maximus and Anthemius reigned from, and died in, Rome.
  4. ^ The de jure last emperor, Julius Nepos, reigned for five years in exile from Spalatum in Dalamatia.

The whole Roman Empire had been in difficulties since 190 AD when large Gothic tribes began moving into areas under Roman control. The leadership of Rome was weak and there was instability. Various power groups in the Roman armies kept trying to install their own Emperors, and murdering Emperors who belonged to other groups. This meant the invasions by the Germanic tribes were not successfully stopped.

The Emperor Diocletian tried to bring stability back into government by dividing the Empire into sections. These became the Western Empire which included Iberia, France, Southern Britain, Italy, North Africa and parts of Germany, and the Eastern Empire which included the Balkans, Turkey, the Levant and Egypt.

Rome ceased to be the capital from the time of the division. In 286, the capital of the Western Roman Empire became Mediolanum (modern Milan). In 402, the capital was again moved, this time to Ravenna.

The Fall of the EmpireEdit

Animated map of the Roman Republic and Empire between 510 BC and 530 AD
  Eastern/Byzantine Empire
  Western Empire

This division did not help the Western Empire which came under increasing invasions from the north from the Ostrogoths, Huns, Franks, Visigoths, and Burgundians. The armies were brought back towards Rome, abandoning England and France. The economy could not cope: the increased need for military spending caused inflation. The citizens were unhappy with rising taxes and rising prices.

In AD 398, Alaric and his Visigoths began making attacks closer and closer to the capital. By 410 he had sacked the city of Rome. In 455, the Vandals captured Rome. In 476 the Goths captured the capital.

The fall of the Western Roman Empire took place in 476 AD when the leader of the Goths, Odoacer, removed Emperor Romulus. He became King of Italy, and Roman control over the Empire in the west ended. By this time the Western Empire existed in name only, the Emperor no longer could use military, financial or political power.

Related pagesEdit

Other websitesEdit

  1. Taagepera, p. 24.