Rome’s Retreat in the West 400–475 CE

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Map Code: Ax01743

The Western Roman Empire declined after the Gothic War (376–82 CE). In 406 CE, Asiatic horse warriors (the Huns) forced Germanic tribes, which included Vandali, Alans, Franks, Angles, Suevi and Saxons to cross the Rhine defences. The Vandali, Alans and Suevi moved southwards, where they fought with the Romano-Iberians and Romano-Visigoths. The remaining tribes moved northwards and eastwards. These Germanic tribes settled and paid token fealty to the Roman overlords, but continued their wars of attrition, substantively draining the western Empire of resources, both military and economic. When Roman forces left Britain to fight the Germanic ‘barbarians’ in 410 CE, this triggered a series of Angle and Saxon invasions. The western Empire was in a state of disintegration, further compounded by weak leadership and the need to protect itself against the Hunnic tribes on its borders. The western Empire was dissolved when the German barbarian, Flavius Odoacer, became king of Italy in 476.

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