Fall of Rome Emperors Timeline

The legitimate emperors in the decling period of the Roman Empire

Pertinax
Pertinax. © Trustees of the British Museum, produced by Natalia Bauer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme

476 As the End Point for 'The Fall of Rome'

There is debate over the starting and ending dates for the period in Roman history when the empire was in decline and headed for a fall. There is also debate over what constitutes the Fall of Rome, although Gibbon's popularization of the expulsion of the last Roman emperor in the West, Romulus Augustulus, makes that the most useful contender.

What Was the Starting Point?

The conventional start is the mid-third century period known as the Age of Chaos, the Imperial Crisis, or Crisis of the Third century.

Even if one starts the declining period a bit earlier -- for instance, at the start of the declining physical extent of the Empire under Marcus Aurelius and his son -- the time period is fairly straightforward.

Which Emperors Can We Blame?

What isn't so straightforward is the decision about whose names to put on a list of the emperors. Especially during the Crisis of the Third Century, there were too many contenders to organize and order them all in a clear list. This timeline uses the chronology of Adrian Goldsworthy in his How Rome Fell to select those emperors who were legitimate, so some of your favorites may not appear on this list. Besides the emperors, a sample of the major themes and events leading to Rome's fall are included. Also see Emperors after the division in 395.

DatesEmperor / Event
161-180Marcus Aurelius
162-165War with the Parthians; Rome gains Ctesiphon.
166(Antonine) Plague outbreak.
168-175, 178-180Campaigns along the Danube frontier.
180-192Commodus
193-211Septimius Severus
211-217Caracalla
217-218Macrinus
218-222Elagabalus
222-235Severus Alexander
224Creation of the Sassanid dynasty in Persia, which lasts until the seventh century.
230Sassanid invasion of the Roman province of Mesopotamia.
Chaos Emperors - Start of the Crisis of the Third Century
235-238Maximinus Thrax
238-244Gordian III
244-249Philip the Arab
249-251Decius
251-253Gallus
253-260Valerian and Gallienus
260-268Gallienus
268-270Claudius II Gothicus
270-275Aurelian
275-276Tacitus
276-282Probus
282-283Carus
283-284Carinus and Numerian
End of the period of the Chaos Emperors
284-305Diocletian
293Diocletian starts the Tetrarchy.
303Major persecution of the Christians.
306-337Constantine
312Constantine defeats Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge.
313Issuance of the Edict of Milan granting freedom of belief.
337-340Constantine II
337-350Constans
337-361Constantius II
361-363Julian
363Julian invades Persia where he is killed.
363-364Jovian
364Peace treaty with the Persians concedes territory to them.
364-375Valentinian in the West.
364-378Valens in the East.
375-383Gratian
378Disastrous Battle at Adrianople
379-395Theodosius I
382End of Gothic War with the Goths settled in Roman territory.
391Trouble for pagans: destruction of the Serapaeum in Alexandria and Theodosius restricts pagan practices.
395-407Arcadius in the East
395-423Honorius in the West
408-450Theodosius II in the East
410Alaric sacks Rome
418Goths settle in Aquitania.
425-455Valentinian III
431Vandals sack Hippio Regius
438The issuance of the Theodosian Code
439Vandals take Carthage
442Treaty with the Vandals letting them control much of North Africa.
450-457Marcian in the East
452Attila attacks Italy.
457-474Leo in the East
457-461Majorian in the West
461-465Libius Severus in the West
467-472Anthemius in the West
468Expedition against the Vandals. Rome fails to retake the area of African the Vandals took.
474-491Zeno in the East
475-476Romulus Augustulus in the West
476Odoacer deposes Romulus Augustulus, sends imperial regalia to Zeno
The Fall of the Roman Empire