Europe 500 CE

The western Roman empire has fallen to German invaders, but the eastern Roman empire remains intact.

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What is happening in Europe in 500CE

This map shows the history of Europe in 500 CE. The Roman Empire survives in the east, but the western provinces have fallen to a group of German tribes.

The Roman Empire in decline

The past three centuries have seen the Roman Empire experience many changes. The great days of ancient Rome are past, and the city of Rome itself has ceased to be the seat of political power. Emperors have spent more and more time close to the frontiers, to deal with the ever increasing threats, both from beyond the frontiers and from their own armies.

During the 4th century a dramatic transformation was set in train when the emperor Constantine (reigned 311-337) converted to Christianity. Under his successors Christianity became the official religion of the empire. Constantine also founded a new imperial capital, Constantinople.

The fall of the Roman empire in the west

During the 5th century the western provinces of the empire were overrun by German tribes. A number of Germanic kingdoms were established here, and their territories expanded to cover the entire territory of the former western empire. For a time, the whole of Western Europe was threatened by the fearsome Huns, a people from the central Asia who, under their king Attila, looked as if they might take over the whole Roman empire. In the event, however, they were defeated by a coalition of Romans and Goths (451).

Finally, in 476, the last Roman emperor in the West abdicated. This left the kingdoms of the Visigoths, the Burgundians and the Franks to divide Gaul between them, while the Visigoths and Seubi shared the Iberian Peninsula. North Africa has been occupied by another German tribe, the Vandals. Southern Britain is being settled by north German peoples who came to be known to history as the Anglo-Saxons.

By this date, even Italy, the heartand of the old Roman empire, is under barbarian rule, with the king of the Ostrogoths ruling from Ravenna, formerly the seat of the western Roman emperors.

The fall and survival of Roman civilization

Graeco-Roman civilization has taken a major hit in these former Roman provinces, and society is experiencing huge changes. The city-based way of life enjoyed by the Romans is in steep decline.

The shrunken towns are now dominated by Christian bishops, who have proved to be the only figures capable of protecting the townsmen in these turbulent times.

The Roman Empire is far from extinct. It has shrunk to its eastern half, but, governed from its capital of Constantinople, it remains powerful and prosperous. Here, Roman civilization continues to thrive, though in an altered form as it morphs into Byzantine civilization. Above all, the Christian Church has a huge influence on its society and culture.

Next map, Europe 750 CE

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The Late Roman Empire

The Byzantine Empire

Medieval Europe

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The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire

Europe in the Middle Ages (a PowerPoint bird’s eye view of a thousand years of history)

Medieval Europe I: 400 CE to 1000 CE (a more in-depth coverage of the early Middle Ages)

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