Empire Falls, City is Abandoned
Many talk about the sack of Rome in 410 AD as the cause of the decline of the Empire of Rome, but the city was in serious decline much before this point. It basically collapsed under its own weight:
1. The economic engine of the empire halted as the edges of empire were eventually reached. The Romans ran up to others empires of middle east and the Germanic tribes in north. Without the military economic engine in motion, the empire no longer had an economy.
2. Excessive consumption within Rome lead to high taxes on Roman subjects. They held expensive games to appease the public, imported luxury goods, allowed a growing bureaucracy. (Scheidel, 2007)
3. Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the empire to Byzantine (Istanbul). When political power left, the lobby and wealthy followed, and trade dropped off almost completely.
4. Rome is sacked in 410 AD by the Visigoths. Most equate this act with the fall of the empire, but by the time the Goths showed up, Rome was in serious decline and many residents were starving. The invaders destroyed the aqueducts outside of walls and just waited for people to starve before entering. Romans all but welcomed them in in exchange for food. The Goths plundered the city then moved on, specifically because there was no food.
Rome in its weakenend state was subject to multiple attacks over the coming years. Roman monuments were plundered, used for building other structures, disease ravaged the city as the sewer and water systems had been destroyed.
Population in Rome dropped from over a million to as few as 50,000. Rome was basically abandoned. The Coliseum was at one point was even used as a landfill. (Dark Ages, 2009)
Order was restored in Rome by the Church after the fall of the empire.
When the wealthy Romans left to follow Constantine, much of their lands were left to the church, as it had little value. Owning much of Rome and without other leadership present, the Church assumed power in a vacuum and became a powerful institution thoughout the dark ages. (The Story of All of Us, 2012)
When the Empire fell, all of Europe shattered into fragments and stayed divided for the next 1,500 years.
Sketches By: Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) Field Etchings of Rome Collection.