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5th century: Map


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Eastern Hemisphere at the beginning of the 5th century AD.
Eastern Hemisphere at the end of the 5th century AD.

The 5th century is the period from 401 to 500 in accordance with the Julian calendar in Anno Domini/Common Era.


This century is noted for being a time of repeated disaster and instability both internally and externally for the Western Roman Empire, which finally unravelled, and came to an end in AD 476. The west was ruled by a succession of weak emperors, and true power began to fall increasingly into the hands of powerful generals. Internal instability and pressing military problems caused by foreign invaders finally resulted in the sacking of Rome by a Visigoth army in 410. Some recovery was made in the following decades, but the Western Empire received a serious blow when another barbarian group, the Vandals occupied Carthagemarker, capital of the extremely important province of Africa, a major supplier of wealth and grain. Attempts to retake the province were interrupted by the invasions of the Huns under Attila. After Attila's final defeat and death both Eastern and Western empires joined forces for a final assault on Vandal North Africa, but their campaign was a spectacular failure.

The Fall of the Western Roman Empire

The year 476 is widely understood as the point at which the Western Roman Empire came to an end. In 476 the last Western Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustus (nicknamed Augustulus "Little Augustus") was deposed by a Germanic foederati general named Odoacer. The Eastern Roman Empire finally ceased trying to prop up its Western twin, whose former lands were then divided into numerous barbarian kingdoms. The last de jure Western Roman Emperor, Julius Nepos was murdered in Dalmatia in 480 AD. The last fragment of the Western Empire, the Domain of Soissons ruled by Duke Syagrius, was conquered by the Frankish King Clovis in 486. Roman power continued in the east however, under the rulers of Constantinople. Scholars normally refer to their empire as the Byzantine Empire, however its inhabitants considered themselves Roman throughout. Recognizable Roman culture continued to exist in the east for another 200 years before the Arab invasions of the 7th Century set off a chain of events that forever changed the face of the Eastern Roman Empire, and the entity that emerged in the next few centuries is what one might refer to as the true Medieval Byzantine Empire.


Romulus Augustus, Last Western Roman Emperor

Significant persons

Inventions, discoveries, introductions


The gomphothere, an elephant-like species, becomes extinct.


Decades and years

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