Downfall of the Western Empire
From an early period, the Empire had been assailed on its northern frontier by the German and Sclavonian races living east of the Rhine and north of the Danube. Partly by force, and partly by negotiation, the authorities of the Empire had been able to keep these barbarian populations in check; but towards the end of the fourth century, the growing decrepitude of the Empire tempted invasion, and hordes of barbarians from Scandinavia, Russia, and Tartary, rolled themselves toward the Danube. At first, it seemed as if the eastern empire would be the first to fall before them; but the tide of invasion was at length decisively diverted towards the west. Province after province was torn away by Goths, Alans, Huns, Vandals, and others: Italy itself was ravaged several times; and at length, A. D. 476, Romulus Augustus, the last sovereign, was dethroned, and Italy became a prey to the Germans. The various steps in this gradual disintegration of the Empire, the heroic deeds of the two chief agents in the dismemberment - Alaric, king of the Goths, and Attila, king of the Huns and the gradual formation of Romano-Germanic kingdoms out of fragments of the shattered Roman society, cannot here be detailed.