6. 4 The Fall of the Roman Empire primary source a st. Jerome

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6.4 The Fall of the Roman Empire


St. Jerome

This early Church leader did not live to see the empire’s end, but he vividly describes his feelings after a major event in Rome’s decline—the attack and plunder of the city by Visigoths in 410.


“It is the end of the world . . . Words fail me. My sobs break in . . . The city which took captive the whole world has itself been captured.”


Finley Hooper

In this passage from his Roman

Realities (1967), Hooper argues

against the idea of a “fall.”


The year was 476. For those who demand to know the date Rome fell, that is it. Others will realize that the fall of Rome was not an event but a process. Or, to put it another way, there was no fall at all—ancient Roman civilization simply became something else, which is called medieval. [It evolved into another civilization, the civilization of the Middle Ages.]


Edward Gibbon

In the 1780s Gibbon published The

History of the Decline and Fall of the

Roman Empire. In this passage,

Gibbon explains that a major cause of

the collapse was that the empire was

simply just too large.


“The decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the causes of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and, as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight. The story of its ruin is simple and obvious; and instead of inquiring why the Roman Empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted so long.”


Arther Ferrill

In his book The Fall of the Roman

Empire (1986), Arther Ferrill argues

that the fall of Rome was a military



“In fact the Roman Empire of the West did fall. Not every aspect of the life of Roman subjects was changed by that, but the fall of Rome as a political entity was one of the major events of the history of Western man. It will simply not do to call that fall a myth or to ignore its historical significance merely by focusing on those aspects of Roman life that survived the fall in one form or another. At the opening of the fifth century a massive army, perhaps more than 200,000 strong, stood at the service of the Western emperor and his generals. The destruction of Roman military power in the fifth century was the obvious cause of the collapse of Roman government in the West.”
A comparison of Secondary and Primary Sources on the Fall of Rome

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