Comparison Chart







Outside Forces

Dictatorial government was frequently inefficient and corrupt


Difficult to govern massive empire from one central location (primitive transportation and communication)


Division of Roman Empire into 4 sections under Diocletian (tetrarchy)


Capital moved to Constantinople in East by Constantine


Rivalry over succession to the throne often resulted in destructive civil wars

People were not loyal to a frequently inefficient and corrupt government


During Pax Romana there were sharp divisions in social classes –very rich or very poor


People's values changed from patriotism, service and morality to luxury and survival


Cities declined as people fled to rural regions "when the goin' gets tough, the tough get out of town"


Practice of using slaves was harmful to the small business


Hard labor was really only for slaves


Emperor provided (sometimes) for the unemployed or else riots broke out


Slaves for the most part were treated unfairly


Slaves worked until they were too weak or too old and then abandoned with nothing

Small farmers abandon their lands and went to work on large estates


Large farms were self-sufficient causing decline in trade, and industry


Large farms with lots of workers had little incentive to improve farming methods or increase production


Widespread use of slaves caused great unemployment


Heavy tax burden limited people's ambition


Devalued coins causing inflation


Diocletian tried to slow inflation by setting limits on prices and wages


Constantinople closer to great commercial centers


No hope of getting ahead (changing profession) people were not happy to work hard

After conquests were finished paying the soldiers was expensive


After conquests stolen goods or slaves were no longer great sources of income


Warlike spirit of early Pagan Rome (many Gods) was weakened by Christian teachings of peace and universal love


Roman armies included may Germanic mercenaries of questionable loyalty


Army did not act based on the governments orders it thought it ran the government choosing emperors and determining policy


Jews tried to break from Roman rule (66AD) but Jerusalem was destroyed and Jews were enslaved and sold throughout Europe (diaspora)


Christian teachings were simple and direct message appealed to the poor and oppressed


Equality, human dignity and  the promise of eternal life was a message many people liked


The persecution worked in the opposite direction – devotees who died for their beliefs were honored (martyrs) many were inspired to convert


Christianity became official religion of Empire in 395AD

1st - 4th Centuries

Germanic tribes attracted to Roman Empire by its fertile land great wealth and advanced civilization tried to invade but were stopped by the Roman Army


4th -5th Centuries

Huns try to invade but combined Roman & German forces finally defeat Huns at Battle of Chalons (helped also that Attila died) Greatly weakened the Roman army


4th - 5th Centuries

Germanic tribes migrate into the Roman territory (to escape the Huns) and the Roman government could not stop it, eventually Germanic tribes established kingdoms in the following regions:

Visigoths - Spain

Ostrogoths - Italy

Vandals - North Africa

Franks - Gaul (France)

Angles & Saxons - Britain


476AD - Odoacer captures city of Rome