The Disintegration of the Roman Empire

Norman F. Cantor, Western Civilization: Its Genesis and Destiny, Vol. One, Chapter 5. Section IV.

"The first great victory against the Romans was achieved by the Visigoths at Adrianople in 378." p. 243.
"In 395 the Visigoths came under the leadership of Alaric. . . . In 408 he attacked Rome itself, retreating only after he had extorted a rich tribute. The next year he set up his own puppet emperor. In 410, when the legitimate emperor refused to meet Alaric's demands, the Visigoths invaded Italy and even held Rome for a few days." p. 245.

"In 429 the Vandals crossed from southern Spain to Africa and fought the imperial armies there. After some success they were settled peacefully on outlying provinces. Ten years later, however, in 439, they confronted the Roman forces again and this time took Carthage itself. . . . The Vandals advanced against Sicily in 440. Finally the treaty with Rome was renegotiated, and this time the Vandals received Carthage and the choicest of the African provinces. . . . The Vandals took to the sea, organized pirate fleets, and cut Rome off from maritime communication with Gaul and Spain." p. 246.

"The greatest threat of invasion of the Roman Empire came not from the German tribes but from the Huns, Mongolian peoples who had turned westward after being repulsed by the Chinese. . . . In the middle of the fifth century . . . the famous Attila was able to organize a huge empire. Germans and Romans alike lived in terror of the invasion of this vast, primitive fighting machine. Until 448 Attila, the Hunnish king, was content to pillage the eastern parts of the Empire, exacting tribute in addition to the plunder gained by less formal means, but in that year his attention was directed toward the western part of the Empire. . . . He was defeated by a Roman and Visigothic army at Chalons in Gaul in 451 and retreated. He then turned against Italy, where, for mysterious reasons, he was suddenly forced to withdraw. Western Europe was saved from its greatest threat." pp. 246, 247.

"The final point of decay in the position of the Western emperor came in 476, when the German general Odovacar became the ruler of Italy. Odovacar was from a small German tribe on the borders of the Empire and, like many such Germans, was an officer in the Roman army. He rose to a position of leadership when his soldiers made demands on the illegal but de facto emperor in Rome. When the emperor refused to meet them, Odovacar deposed him, with the blessing of the Eastern emperor." p. 247.
"Odovacar established his kingdom in Italy and Rome, forcibly settling his people on the land. It had long been imperial practice to force the landowners of estates upon which troops were garrisoned to grant the use of one third of the land to the soldiers assigned to them. Now this system was made permanent, and the German followers of Odovacar settled down as permanent residents among the Roman inhabitants of Italy. . . . The city of Rome itself became no more than one of the many German kingdoms in western Europe." p. 248.