The Roman Empire did not fall in AD 476

History teaches us that the Roman Empire fell in AD 476, but that 'fact' is not based on historical evidence. The Roman Empire had been intermittently split into two halves ever since the later third century and that the eastern half—based at Constantinople—continued in existence for nearly another 1000 years up to its final destruction in 1453.
Although this 'Eastern Roman Empire' is known to most modern scholarship as the 'Byzantine Empire', this name was first coined in the mid-sixteenth century: in the medieval period it was usually known as the Imperium Romanorum, 'the Empire of the Romans', or Rhomania, 'the land of the Romans'.

Indeed, in the Middle Ages the 'Byzantines' were usually considered by both themselves and outsiders to be quite simply Rhomaioi, 'Romans', living in Rhomania under an emperor whose official title was the Basileus ton Rhomaion, 'Emperor of the Romans'. In consequence, any claim that the Roman Empire as a whole ended in 476 is completely without foundation in face of the continuing imperial presence in Constantinople.

So, can we argue that the western Roman Empire collapsed in 476? Although political power had passed to the Ostrogoths under Theodoric, the 'former' western empire continued to be run largely by Romans in the Roman manner. As if nothing had changed. The 'barbarian' Goths actually became Romanised themselves over time, adopting Roman customs, language and religion.

The Catholic church also copied much of the Roman culture and style of decoration, turning itself into an pendant from its opulent Roman predecessor.

So, the Roman Empire certainly didn't cease to exist in 476. What did happen was that the power, might and splendor of that region gradually diminished and 476 is just an arbitrary date. All that seems to have actually ended in 476 was the fiction that the Western Roman Empire still existed in any meaningful form.


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