How long did the Roman Empire last?
At its height, the Roman Empire lasted from 27 BCE to 1453 CE. This is about 1,500 years ago.
The empire began in 27 BC with the reign of Augustus and was one of the longest lasting empires in history – even if other successors have used the same name, they were never able to conquer Rome on a scale as wide-reaching as this ancient empire. It began to fall gradually after 400 AD yet managed to maintain control until 476 AD when it was finally overthrown by an outside invasion led by Odoacer (not long afterwards Justinian’s reconquest helped bring back some stability). Roughly two centuries later (the first being characterized by gradual decline), the empire finally collapsed fully under its own weight, leaving only Italy behind as a continuation of sorts.
The Roman Empire was known for its long period of stability, yet the first years of the 1st millennium brought great turmoil to almost all people living in Europe. Only 300 years after Augustus, Rome came under siege by the Barbarians – Germanic tribes from outside the empire’s borders that wanted to find new homes in Rome’s provinces. These tribes were perhaps the key factor in Rome’s downfall, being an important part of the empire’s strategic military defenses while also throwing off their entire economy by raiding towns and disrupting trade routes.
The Empire was eventually divided between Western and Eastern powers during the 5th century AD while gaining ground against invaders (the Byzantine Empire) and slowly putting the pieces back together. The last emperor of Rome was deposed in 476 AD by an Odoacer, a Germanic barbarian who had been declared as a magister militum for the Western Roman Emperor Julius Nepos but turned against him instead. For about two centuries after that, Italy remained a kingdom ruled by Germanic tribes, with the Eastern Roman Empire being its successor.
In 476 AD when Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustus – the last Emperor of Rome in the west with his death marking the official fall of Rome and crowning himself King of Italy with its capital in Ravenna – he was not recognized as a legitimate ruler but was regarded by Romans as an usurper. Romulus Augustus was the second emperor in 6 months, after the fall of the previous one, Julius Nepos – which marked a period marked by turmoil and instability that played a big part in the collapse of Rome’s power. Despite this claim to legitimacy still being held centuries later, Italy had already been under the control of Germanic tribes for a few years. In the following year, the Eastern Roman Empire saw an opportunity to recapture some of its former lands and invaded Italy – while Odoacer was aided by some troops left behind after the deposal of Nepos, his army was outnumbered and fell quickly in defeat.