End of the 5th Century
The fifth century started out promising for the western empire but sadly it ended in sheer terror for the roman people, the empire at the end of the fifth century was merely a shadow of its former glory. By the end of the fifth century the empire only held on to the city of Rome and the surrounding territories near the city. It also had control of Neapolis.
In 472, Ricimer and Anthemius have open declared war against each other, while Ricimer is besieging Rome he has a heart attack and dies, leaving his army in disarray. Anthemius takes this opportunity to show his dominance of the Roman military. Anthemius appoints himself as the magister militum of the west.
Throughout 473-475, he quells rebellions and maintains his status as the emperor. He also calls his son Marcian into his court.
In 479, Anthemius dies of natural causes he is succeeded by his son Marcian. Anthemi
us did everything he could to make his son as his heir.
In 480, Gundobad unites the Burgundians and declares war against the Romans. Gundobad thinks that a new emperor will be weak to invasion
The war lasts from 480-485, with the Burgundians taking north Italy
The fall of Ravenna urges Marcian to move his capital to Rome.
In September of 486, the Vandals declare war on the West Romans and they take most of South Italy.
The Vandal-West Roman war lasts from 486-488.
By the year 500 the West Roman Empire is a small shell of its former glory.
The sixth century was a century that had mixed feelings towards the western empire, the empire continued its decline and near collapse well into the century, only towards the end of the century did things get better for the west.
In the first decade, Clovis I united the Franks and converted to Nicene Christianity.
Clovis declared war against the Burgundians in 510 and he dismantled the Burgundians. The Burgundians in Italy were split into a mix of small states that were vying for power, thus evening the playing field for the Western Empire.
In 514 Marcian died and his son, Aurelian II succeeded him.
In 519 Clovis I took huge amounts of Visigothic land in Spain, he also maintained friendly relations with the Western Empire.
The next year in 520, Aurelian gets the news from the east, that Constantinople had fallen to invaders. He was very alarmed by this recent turn of events and he bolstered the defences in the city and planed an invasion to the Burgundian states to the North.
The emperor Aurelian II was of the senatorial class, he favoured what was left of the senate and he felt that the current size of Rome would need a senate. He had the senate in his pocket, he was very popular with them and he was also very popular with the army or rather what ever was left of the army.
In 521, Aurelian got news from the east, that Justin I was killed and his son Justinian I succeeded him. The next year he finds out that Belisarius was making gains against the Sassanids
In 523, Aurelian declared war against the Burgundian states to the north with his locally trained roman army. He understood that Rome might be destroyed in the second war against the Burgundians but he knew it was a risk he had to take.
In 527, after long years of fighting and long years of smart generalship by the Romans they won the war and destroyed the Burgundians in Italy. North Italy was in ruins, every major city had been sacked and most of them had suffered huge fires and building destruction.
In 528, Aurelian II fell sick and delegated more power to the senate to rule as his regent. He was having trouble keeping a firm hold over North Italy, most of the population resented Roman rule due to the terrible war.
Now we are starting to see the west regressing back to pre-empire days in a way, the senate has the most power it ever had since the days of the republic. But thankfully for the Western Romans, the senate during the rule of Aurelian and his successor are not filled with greedy, selfish aristocrats seeking to further their own goals. This senate has senators that care about Rome and Roman legacy and they want to restore Rome to its former glory. Unfortunately the senate will not always be so good for Rome, as the generations move on some senators will not be good for the empire.
In 529, Aurelian II died without an heir, so the senate declared Maximian II the new emperor of the west. Maximian II was a young general that was very popular with the military and he wished to reclaim more land.In 533, Maximian declared war against the Vandals to the south, in a war lasting 5 years Maximian managed to reclaim most of south Italy.
Maximian got married in 534 to a Burgundian woman from north Italy. This caused controversy in Rome and the senate was greatly displeased by Maximian's actions. They don't like that he married a barbarian, whose people once threatened Rome itself.
In 540 the Western Empire heeded the Eastern Empire's call for aid and sent them around 1000 infantry men.
After a few years of ruling as a tyrant, even executing his own cousin, in 542 the senate demanded that he abdicates the throne. He naturally refused so the senate, which had support of most of the army raised a flag in rebellion. They wanted to place Gordian IV on the throne.
The West Roman civil war between the senate and a tyrant ruler ended in 548, when the senatorial army besieged Neapolis, and Maximian's own soldiers killed him in his tent.
In the very same year Gordian IV ascended to the throne. Also in this year the West learned that the Eastern emperor Justinian I was murdered.
For most of 549 Gordian IV consolidated his rule in Italy and he made plans against the Vandals to the south.
In 552 Gordian started the naval reforms that helped the western empire long after his reign.
For most of the 550s Gordian payed very little attention to the east and focused on his empire, which isolated the west even more from the east.
When Julian IV was defeated at Arsamosata, Julian sent envoys to the west requesting help but neither he or his successor received help from the west.
In 557 Gordian completed his navy.
In 558, Gordian declared war against the Vandals. From 558-562 he had great success against the Vandals at sea. He was a great admiral, he won many major victories at sea and he utterly shattered the Vandal navy, in turn making his navy one of the strongest in the western Mediterranean Sea. Gordian's navy blockaded Carthage itself in 561. Gordian also won some pivotal battles on land too, he expelled the Vandals from Italy and Corsica and Sardinia. He won a major victory at Tarentum, crushing Vandal armies in Italy and he used his navy to stop the Vandals from replenishing their armies with his superior seamanship. He was named by the senate, "Master of the Sea" and "Father of the Navy". The only thing stopping Gordian IV from taking Africa, was a lack of manpower, most of his troops were exhausted by the fighting in Italy.
In 564 after celebrating his triumphs, Gordian IV died in his sleep, being 50 at the time he was considered old and his death didn't surprise the public.
In 564 his son Gordian V was crowned the Emperor of the West by the senate.
Gordian V was a skilled admiral and a competent general but he was mentally unstable, he was rash and reckless and completely insane. As the responsibility of being emperor dawned on him it only drove him further into madness. Nevertheless the early part of Gordian V's reign was peaceful and he constructed many public works projects in Rome and he commissioned building of new aqueduct in Rome.
In 567, Gordian V planned a new campaign against the Vandals, with plans to strike deep into Africa.
In 569, Gordian V had his brother executed due to a petty argument over the Vandals, Gordian V accused his brother of treason and executed him.
In 570, Gordian V over taxes the clergy, causing a rift between him and the Pope. This rift turned into a huge conflict, in which Gordian V expelled the Pope from Rome and sent him to Ravenna.
In 571, the people in Rome revolted due to the Pope being expelled from Rome and Gordian V sent his Frankish mercenaries to clean up the revolts. Gordian V ordered to "leave no rebel alive" and the mercenaries killed about 10,000 Roman rebels in Rome.
Around the time of Gordian V the population in Rome recovered back to 100,000 due to competent emperors guiding the empire and the fall and burning of north Italy after the Burgundian Wars caused Rome to be flooded with migrants, most of which were sent to other cities in Italy.In 573, Gordian V declared war on the Vandals. With his superior navy and his replenished manpower reserves he sailed to Hadrumetum and besieged the city with great force. After a few weeks his troops stormed the city and looted what ever they could. He ordered the Vandal elite in the city to be executed and he also ordered all of the Vandal supporters to be executed too, which resulted in a high civilian death count. He moved north to Carthage with his land army, he also ordered his navy to blockade Carthage. Most of the cities surrounding Carthage fell easily and he repeated this pattern of executions in Africa. He held a deep grudge against the Vandals and he wished to completely eradicate them. In 575, he surrounded Carthage itself and he besieged it. He took it in July of 575, thus avenging the sack of Rome by the Vandals. Gordian V razed Carthage to the ground and killed most of the population, the rest were sent into slavery.
His campaign devastated North Africa and it could be viewed as a genocide because almost all of the Vandal population was killed and the survivors were sent into slavery.
In 578, the senate planned to kill Gordian V. They were worried that his reckless rule would bring Rome to destruction.
The senate carried out their plan in June of 579, Gordian V was killed when attending Neapolis, during a tour of the city.
With the death of Gordian V, the senate took more power into their hands, electing the next emperor, another man of the gens Aurelia. Aurelian III was crowned emperor in 579.
The young emperor Aurelian III was wise for his youthful age, only 20 when he ascended to the throne, he had a whole lifetime to prove his ability.
The first thing Aurelian III did was start the reconstruction of North Africa. He rebuilt the walls that surrounded Carthage and he rebuilt the port at Carthage. He also gave land in North Africa to his veterans, allowing them to settle and slowly repair the land.
Aurelian III disbanded some of his levied troops in Africa. In 581, Aurelian reformed the armies, he organized the army back into legions, made up of trained troops from Italy. In 583, Aurelian III expanded the old wall in Rome, to include more of the outlying farmland and outlying fields in the city walls, so they could construct more buildings and increase the population. Aurelian III commissioned the building of a huge library in Rome. Aurelian III also collected the histories of Rome from the many estates of Roman historians and he set them to be placed in the library when it was completed.
Aurelian also tried to heal the relationship with the pope in Ravenna, he did a good job bringing the pope back under the emperor's sway but he refused to let the pope in Rome. Aurelian III also reached out to the Eastern Empire and tried to repair the defunct relationship.
In 586, the huge library was completed and he compiled all of the histories and great books in the library and he stated that all future histories should be placed in the library.
Eager to get more land for his veterans and pressured by his political enemies in Rome, in 587 Aurelian III declared war on the neighbouring post-Vandal states to the east.
Aurelian built upon the military success of Gordian V, by taking back more of Africa using the troops that Gordian V levied and the navy he got from Gordian IV.
In 589, Aurelian annexed Tripolitana and Mauretania back to Roman control.
In 590, the Frankish kingdoms declared war and started to invade North Italy. Aurelian III levied more legions in Rome and Neapolis and marched them up to meet the Franks in battle. He met the Franks at Placentia where he defeated them in a crushing blow. Aurelian took back more of North Italy and the Alps after this war in 594.
In 595, Aurelian III built a great harbour at Neapolis.
This century ended well for the West Romans, they took back land and they stabilized, they fared better than their eastern counterparts.
In 600, Aurelian III, made a series of tax reforms and he attempted to root out the corruption in the senate and other parts of the government. He also made a new tax system,
In 602, Aurelian III completed his histories, detailing his reign and the reigns of Gordian V & IV, he placed those histories in the library in Rome.
In 603, Aurelian instituted the new tax system in North Africa, he was successful.
In 611, Aurelian III died in his sleep. His son Marcian II succeeded him.