Europe and the Mediterranean 476 CE

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Map Code: Ax02320

The decline of the Roman Empire can be thought to have begun when an influx of Goths from central Europe crossed the River Danube and decisively defeated and greatly weakened the Romans’ eastern army at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. In 402 the western empire’s administration was moved from Rome to Ravenna, but was beset by internal military feuds, food shortages, economic decline, and the predations of various rebellious tribes. In 410, the fracturing Roman army left Britain, and Rome itself was sacked by the Visigoths under Alaric I, who went on to control much of Gaul and Spain from their capital at Toulouse. In 447 the Huns from eastern Europe and central Asia won a major battle at the River Utus and began an invasion of Italy, abandoned by their leader Attila in 452. And three years later Rome was again sacked, this time by the Vandals from North Africa, who were subsequently defeated in a naval battle at Cap Bon. In 476, the date often taken as marking the final collapse of the Roman Empire, a Germanic rebel leader Flavius Odoacer led a military revolt, captured Ravenna and, supported by the Roman Senate, declared himself King of Italy. He in turn was ousted in 493 by Theodoric, who by 500 established Ostrogothic rule throughout Italy and the Balkans. The eastern empire, meanwhile, was also beginning to weaken, and in 475 its emperor Zeno was forced by a popular uprising briefly to flee his capital Constantinople, although he did manage to regain control and prevent the east’s disintegration.

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