A Short Timeline of the Fall of the Roman Empire

Some of the Main Events Leading to the End of the Western Roman Empire

Europe in the time of Odoacer 476-493 A.D.
Europe in the time of Odoacer 476-493 A.D. Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection The Public Schools Historical Atlas by Charles Colbeck. 1905.

Rome, according to tradition, was founded in 753 BCE. It wasn't until 509 BCE, however, that the Roman Republic was founded. The Republic functioned effectively until civil war during the first century BCE led to the fall of the Republic and the creation of the Roman Empire in 27 CE.While the Roman Republic was a time of great advances in science, art, and architecture, the "fall of Rome" refers to the end of the Roman Empire in 476 CE.

Fall of Rome Events Short Timeline

The date at which you start or end a Fall of Rome timeline is subject to debate and interpretation. One could, for example, start the decline with the reign of Marcus Aurelius' successor, his son, Commodus. This period of imperial crisis is a compelling choice and easy to understand as a starting point.

This Fall of Rome timeline, however, uses standard events and marks the end with Gibbon's conventionally accepted date for the fall of Rome in A.D. 476 (from his famous histories entitled The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire). So this timeline begins just before the east-west splitting of the Roman Empire, a time described as chaotic, and ends when the last Roman emperor was deposed but allowed to live out his life in retirement.

CE 235-284Crisis of the Third Century (Age of Chaos)Military leaders usurped power, rulers died of unnatural causes, revolts, plagues, fires, Christian persecutions.
285-305TetrarchyDiocletian and the Tetrarchy: Diocletian splits the Roman Empire in 2, and adds junior emperors, so there are 4 caesars. When Diocletian and Maximian abdicate, there is civil war.
306-337Acceptance of Christianity (Milvian Bridge)Constantine: In 312, Constantine defeats his co-emperor at the Milvian Bridge, and becomes sole ruler in the West. Later Constantine defeats the Eastern ruler and becomes sole ruler of the Roman Empire. Constantine establishes Christianity and creates a capital for the Roman Empire in the East, in Constantinople.
360-363Fall of Official PaganismJulian the Apostate attempts to reverse the religious trend to Christianity. He fails and dies in the East fighting the Parthians.
August 9, 378Battle of AdrianopleEastern Roman Emperor Valens is defeated by the Visigoths. [See Visigoths Timeline.]
379-395East - West SplitTheodosius reunites the Empire, but it doesn't last beyond his reign. At his death, the empire is divided by his sons, Arcadius, in the East, and Honorius, in the West.
401-410Sack of RomeVisigoths make incursions into Italy and in the end, under Alaric, sack Rome. This is one date given for the Fall of Rome. [See Stilicho, Alaric, and the Visigoths.]
429-435Vandals Sack North AfricaVandals, under Gaiseric, attack northern Africa, cutting off Roman grain supply.
440-454Huns AttackHuns threaten Rome, are paid off, and then attack.
455Vandals Sack RomeVandals plunder Rome but, by agreement, injure few people or buildings.
476Fall of the Emperor of RomeLast western emperor, Romulus Augustulus, is deposed by the barbarian general Odoacer who then rules Italy.