Unit03: New Ideas of Organizing Society & Government


Timeline: 4th - 5th C.
FQ: To what extent was Rome’s collapse of her own making?
Main Idea: The decline and fall of great civilizations is a repeating pattern in world history. In
Rome’s case, internal problems and invasions spurred the division and decline of the Roman
I. Crisis Pervades The Empire
A. Economic Weakness
1. Inflation: Value of specie-containing coinage falls as amount of specie falls.
2. Shrinking Harvests: Poor soils reduce harvests.
B. Military & Political Turmoil
1. Questionable Troop Loyalty: Soldiers served their commanders, not their state.
2. Increased dependence on mercenaries with minimal ties to the Roman state.
Mercenaries would accept lower wages than Roman soldiers. (Outsourcing the
II. ‘Reforms’ or Aggravating Existing Problems?
A. Diocletian's Reforms
1. Short term: It’s administrative changes (Tetrarchy) and economic policies may
have extended the life of the empire.
2. Long term: The reforms were abandoned by later rulers who further fractured
the empire.
B. Constantine's New (Eastern) Capital: Choosing the Greek port city of Byazantium as
the Eastern Capital of the Empire further minimized Rome’s (the city) importance overall.
The Western portion of the Empire similarly was shrinking in importance vs. the richer
Eastern half.
III. The (Western) Roman Empire Cracks Under Pressure
A. Germanic ("Barbarian") Invaders
1. The Goths: Ostrogoths and Visigoths
2. Lombards
3. Vandals
4. Franks
B. The Huns: A central-Asian nomadic group led by a chieftain, Attila, with an intent to
extract as much wealth from the weak Roman West as possible.
C. The Western Roman government collapses in 476, never to be resuscitated in the
form once known.
Materials/Sources: Refer to the course calendar for additional materials, assignments and
pertinent due dates.
! World History: Patterns of Interaction
! Varied Digital Materials (Course Website:

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful