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An Introduction to Ancient Rome


Part 6: Empire's Rise and Fall

A succession of emperors did both great and terrible things (often at the same time). Some of the most important emperors were these:

  • Trajan, who built great structures in and around Rome, including a huge Forum and a great wall along the Rhine River, in what is now Germany;
  • Hadrian, who built great structures in Rome and elsewhere, including Hadrian's Wall, a massive stone wall that divided Roman Britain from Scotland.
  • Marcus Aurelius, who won great victories over the German tribes and also became known as a philosopher-king for his famous writings;
  • Constantine, who became known for making Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire and for moving the capital of the empire to Constantinople, in what is now Turkey. (He named this city after himself.)

Despite these successes, the Roman Empire soon grew too large to control. More and more generals lost more and more territory to Germanic tribes and other invaders. Rome itself was sacked by Alaric and the Visigoths in A.D. 410. The traditional date of the Fall of the Western Empire is 476, when Odoacer the Barbarian defeated the Roman legions defending their capital and installed himself on the throne of the empire.

(The Empire had, by this time, been divided into two parts: Eastern and Western. The Eastern part, with its capital at Constantinople, survived for hundreds of years after the "fall" of the Western part. This part of the Empire became known as the Byzantine Empire.)

Next page > Construction, Culture, Economics > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

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