First division of the Roman Empire took place in 285 AD when Maximian became the ruler of western part of the Empire under the Tetrarchy system. After this division, several efforts were made by different emperors to reunite the empire but the efforts could only get limited success. Theodosius I was the last Roman Emperor to rule (392 to 395 AD) the whole of Roman Empire. In 395 AD, the Roman Empire divided finally and Honorius became the sole ruler of Western Roman Empire. In 476 AD, the Western Roman Empire collapsed after the Fall of Ravenna on the hands of Germanic leader Odoacer and he became the first King of Italy.
Events Leading to the Fall of the Western Roman Empire
The first battle between Goths and Eastern Roman Empire was fought in 376 after the Goths migrated over the Danube. The Goths remained successful in the Battle of Marcianople (376).
Battle of Adrianople is known as the first major event for the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The battle was fought between Gothic rebels and the Eastern Roman Empire on 9th August 378 at a location close to Adrianople (now in European Turkey). The battle ended with victory for the Gothic tribes and murder of Roman Emperor Valens.
In 380 AD, the Goths again defeated the Eastern Roman Empire in the Battle of Thessalonica near Macedonia.
On 31st December 406 (or 405), the Germanic tribes of Vandals, Suebi and Alans crossed Rhine. This event is marked as an important event of the decline of the Western Roman Empire as these barbaric tribes started to destroy and plunder the Roman cities of Gaul soon after their migration. During crossing of the Rhine, the Vandals also defeated Franks in the Battle of Mainz (406).
On 24th August 410 AD, Rome was sacked by the Visigoths. Sack of Rome is also known as a major landmark in the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
After few victories between 419 and 451 AD, the Western Roman Empire suffered another humiliating defeat in 452 against Hun Confederation which resulted in the sack of Aquileia.
Rome was once again sacked in 455 AD, this time by Vandals.
In 468 AD, the combined forces of Eastern and Western Roman Empire invaded the Vanda’s capital Carthage (now in Tunisia) with more than 1,00,000 men and 1,000 ships in order to take revenge of the Sack of Rome (455). But the Romans were completely defeated in the Battle of Cap Bon during which they lost around 70,000 men and 700 ships.
Battle of Ravenna was fought on 2nd September 476 AD between the Western Roman Empire and their mercenary army of Heruli (an eastern Germanic tribe). The battle proved to be a decisive one as the Heruli captured the Western Roman Empire’s capital Ravenna and their leader Odoacer became the King of Italy. This battle marked the end of the Western Roman Empire.