The Roman Empire ended in *476 A.D. collapsed for many reasons, and it's a major mistake to think any one reason can explain it.


*Diocletian (r. 284-305 A.D.):  Reorganizes the Roman Empire's government from the principate to the autocracy (although this process had to be completed by his successors); shores up by naked governmental force the old system by eliminating the freedom of average people.


*Constantine I (r. 306-337 A.D.):  His Edict of Milan (*313 A.D.) arguably begins the medieval era by giving toleration to Christianity, begins the process of unifying state and church that was the cornerstone of medieval society.  Only baptized on his deathbed, was actually an almost lifelong pagan.



Factors in the Western Empire's collapse by 476 A.D.


1.  Increasing governmental regulation of everyday life:  the loss of freedom to change occupations, serfdom becomes routine.


2.  Dishonest, rapacious officials who took bribes and increased taxes.


3.  The growth of Christianity, by taking people's efforts and desires away from the Roman government and towards the next life and spiritual things.


4.  The barbarian invasions:  Tribes such as the Vandals, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Franks, Angles, Saxons, and Huns invaded Rome's territory, sacking Rome itself in 410 A.D.


5.  Demographic decline:  The upper class failed to reproduce itself especially.  Under Marcus Aurelius, his troops brought back a plague from the East that killed one-fourth of the Empire.


6.  The loss of discipline, willingness of average people to defend Rome.  Many thought that Barbarian lords were better than Roman tax collectors.  The problem of moral decline at the higher levels of society.


7.  Governmental instability:  Since the succession to being emperor wasn't secure, the army made and unmade emperors routinely during some periods.