Last modified on 16 September 2019, at 02:17

Western Roman Empire

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Ancient Rome
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Regal period (753 – 509 B.C.)
Republic (509 – 27 B.C.)
Empire (27 B.C. – 395 A.D.)
Western Empire (395 – 476)
Eastern Empire (395 – 500)

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Marius, Cato the Younger, Cicero,
Julius Caesar, Pompey, Augustus,
Trajan, Diocletian, Constantine,
Augustine, Justinian I

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Related Articles

Pax Romana
Five Good Emperors
Third-century crisis
Edict of Milan
Edict of Thessalonica

The Roman Empire in AD 400, during the reigns of Honorius and Arcadius.
Map of the Final Administrative Division of the Roman Empire in AD 395.

The Western Roman Empire was the Western Provinces of the Roman Empire primarily known as it's final form that resulted from the death of Theodosius I in AD 395. His death led to the final division of the Roman Empire. The West would be ruled by his younger son, Honorius and the East would be ruled by his older son, Arcadius. Honorius's youth, civil wars, barbarian migrations and scheming politicians in both parts of the Empire would lead to the Western Empire's disintegration and fall in AD 476 with the deposition of Romulus Augustus in Ravenna. The death of Julius Nepos in Dalmatia led to the final collapse of the Western Empire in AD 480.

Origins

The Roman Empire was ruled by multiple Imperial Courts after the Roman Emperor Diocletian and Maximian split the Empire into two in AD 286 and eventually four administrative divisions ruled by four separate Imperial Courts led by two Caesares and two Augusti. The reason for this was that after the crisis of the third century, Diocletian felt that the Empire was too large for one man to govern. The Roman Emperor Constantine united the Empire after defeating his eastern counterpart Licinius in battle in AD 324. After his death in AD 337, Constantine's sons divided the Empire into three parts. But their inability to co-exist would lead into all but one of the brothers dying as a result of civil war and usurpation.

Constantius II who was originally the ruler of Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Asia Minor became the sole Augustus of the Roman Empire. Constantius would defeat in battle, the usurper Magnentius who had been proclaimed Emperor by the legions in the West since Constans, the former Emperor in the West was unpopular for seizing as much money as he could from his citizens and for being homosexual. Constans was murdered by supporters of Magnentius. Constantius made his cousin, Julian the Apostate Caesar and sent him to Gaul to be his representative. Julian became popular by winning battles and defending Gaul from barbarian invasions.

The troops would proclaim Julian, Augustus in Roman Paris after Constantius ordered for some of the Gallic Army to be sent East, to help fight the Persians and to weaken his cousin's position. Constantius died prematurely in AD 361 before his forces were able to meet in battle with Julian's. Julian became Emperor and ruled for a few years. He launched his fateful invasion of Persia in which he would die of mortal injury in AD 364. An Officer by the name of Jovian was elected as Emperor and he led the retreat initiated by Julian. However, he was compelled to relinquish key Roman territories to the Persians in Mesopotamia that would weaken the Roman East by taking away it's key defensive cities such as Nisibis.

Jovian died in Asia Minor before reaching Constantinople. The Roman Army chose Valentinian I as Roman Emperor. He was an experienced commander who had been sent to premature retirement and exile after being blamed for a serious loss in Gaul and for offending Julian by striking a Pagan who sprinkled water on him. After being made Emperor, he made his Arian brother Valens Emperor of the East. Valentinian, unlike his brother, was a supporter of Nicene Christianity.

State Religion

The official state religion of the Western Roman Empire until AD 380 was Roman Polytheism. It would lose its status in the reign of Constantine as the state-preferred religion of the Empire. During the reign of Julian, Roman Paganism was restored as the state preferred religion until he died. Jovian who succeeded him was a Christian who restored Christianity's position as the state preferred religion. In AD 380, Roman Emperors Valentinian II, Gratian, Theodosius I issued the Edict of Thessalonica, which effectively made Nicene Christianity the State Religion and Church of the Roman Empire.

The Western Roman Empire led by the pagan influenced Eugenius restored Roman Paganism as the state preferred religion for the final time. Theodosius I led the Eastern Army to defeat the Western Army at the battle of Frigidus in AD 394 which ended the pagan revival and led to the triumph of Christianity. Heresies occurred throughout both halves of the Empire in the fourth and fifth centuries such as Pelagianism, Donatism and Arianism to list a few. These heresies weakened the Empire and these controversies proved to be very divisive.

Further reading

References

  • Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae
  • Zosimus, Historia Nova