Why The Fall Of Rome Was A Turning Point In Western History

Further ReadingEastern And Western: 3 Reasons Why The Roman Empire Split

The Fall of Rome was a major turning point in western history. For nearly 800 years the city of Rome had successfully prevented any major invasion and grown an Empire which came to dominate the Mediterranean Sea. In 410 AD however the city of Rome fell for the first time in 800 years to an outside force. This fall of Rome marks a significant turning point in western history.

When people refer to the “fall of Rome” they are typically referring to the sack of Rome by King Alaric of the Visigoths in 410 AD. The fall of Rome resulted in a power vacuum in the western provinces and the rise of a provincial culture that led to the creation of the middle ages.

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Without further ado, here is why the fall of Rome is considered a turning point in Western history.

It Caused A Decline In Urban Population Across The West That Would Not Recover Until The Modern Era

One of the main reasons why the fall of Rome was a turning point in western history is because it would take nearly 1,300 years for the urban population of the west to recover.

In 410 AD the city of Rome was besieged. During this time the urban population of Rome was in the range of 800,000. This made the city of Rome the largest in the world during this time.

This massive population relied upon grain imports and imperial subsidized bread to support itself. Daily shipments would make their way up the Tiber River to the Roman port to be offloaded and then distributed out across the Roman people.

In 408 AD the first Visigoth king, Alaric, laid siege to the city of Rome. Alaric’s army only numbered in the range of 30,000-40,000 troops. The population of the city of Rome however was nearly 20 times that number.

However, most of the Roman population was not trained. Instead they relied upon their defenses. For about 2 years this worked until King Alaric decided to cut off the grain shipments by capturing the Tiber River sometime around 410 AD.

Once King Alaric captured the Tiber it was over for Rome. Without food the population of Rome quickly began to starve. Eventually the Romans would agree to the demands of King Alaric and hand over the city for plunder.

As a result of this siege and sacking of the city of Rome the urban population of Rome fell from 800,000 to around 500,000 within 8 years. It would take nearly 1,300 years for urban populations to reach this size again in the west.

As such the fall of Rome in 410 AD marks a turning point in western history because it resulted in a decline in urban population that would not return until the modern era.

The Fall of Rome Resulted In A Power Vacuum That Allowed Provincial ‘Nations’ To Form Creating The Middle Ages

Casmiki - Own work
Western Roman Empire in 410 after fall of Rome.CC BY-SA 3.0

Another reason the fall of Rome was a turning point in western history is because it created a massive power vacuum.

This power vacuum would be filled with warring ‘barbarian’ groups such as the Visigoths, Franks, Alemanni, Burgundians, Vandals, and Suebi. Once Rome fell in 410 AD it was nearly impossible to prevent these groups of people from seizing their own territory.

This was not an overnight occurrence. For nearly 100 years the Western Roman Empire had begun to crack under famine, economic collapse, and invading/settling Germanic tribes.

However, up until 410 AD the Western Roman Empire largely still held control over the entirety of their territory. They did this either directly or through alliances which helped to solidify the Emperor’s hold.

However, after the fall of Rome in 410 AD much of the power that the Western Roman Empire had over their domain began to falter. From 410-476 AD a series of Roman emperors attempted to retake control over Hispania, Gaul, and Germania.

This did not work because of the diminishing power of the Western Roman Empire. In 476 AD the Western Roman Empire would officially fall with the forced abdication of Emperor Romulus Augustulus.

During this time however several independent states would emerge across the former Roman Empire. After a couple centuries of fighting these states would go on to become the medieval European kingdoms.

As such the fall of Rome in 410 AD marks a shift in provincial power across the Western Roman Empire. After 410 smaller independent states would emerge out of former Roman territory which after centuries of fighting resulted in the medieval kingdoms.

Conclusion

There you have it; an entire article going over how the fall of Rome was a turning point in western history.

Rome never really ‘fell.’ Instead it slowly decayed back into a city which was conquered in 410 AD. After this event the Western Roman Empire began to fracture into several smaller independent kingdoms which marked a major turning point in western history.

Here at The History Ace I strive to publish the best history articles on the internet. If you enjoyed this article consider subscribing to the free newsletter and sharing around the internet.

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Sincerely,

Nick