By the fourth century, Rome was invaded by
Germanic speaking tribes from north of the Italian peninsula. Rome’s many roads made
it easy prey for the Franks, the Vandals, the Lombards and the Goths, the Visigoths
and the Ostrogoths to invade the Italian countryside. Those Germanic tribes moved into the Roman
Empire because they were pushed West by the Huns, a violent band of nomadic warriors.
In 324CE, the Emperor Constantine began construction of a “New Rome” in Byzantium, a Greek
city almost 1500 miles to the east. The emperor renamed the city “Constantinople,” which
means “city of Constantine.” Roman civilization survived for centuries
in Constantine’s eastern empire, while Rome and the empire’s western provinces fell
to the Germanic invaders. Historians refer to the Eastern Roman Empire as the Byzantine
Empire. The Byzantine Empire included parts of modern Greece, Serbia and Turkey. The Byzantine
Empire lasted until 1453, when it fell to Turkish warriors. The Turks brought their
faith in Islam to Constantinople and converted many Byzantine churches to mosques. Constantinople
is now known as Istanbul, Turkey. While the empire continued in the east, the
city of Rome was under attack. Visigoth warriors overran “the Eternal City” in 410. One
of them, named Odoacer, made himself emperor of Rome in 476.
The city of Rome continued to exist, but the Western Roman Empire dissolved into many small
kingdoms. Western Europe fell into a period of war and disease known as the “Dark Ages.”
Then, after about 1000 years, the region experienced a “rebirth” known as the Renaissance.
The Renaissance was an era of invention and discovery that saw art, architecture, and
science thrive. The people of the Renaissance revered the achievements of the ancient Greeks
and the Romans. Renaissance scholars referred to the era of the Greeks and Romans as “the
classical age,” a term we still use today. Roman literature, law and language have been
studied and adopted by many cultures. Our form of government, many of our laws, and
our public architecture are based on Roman models. The Roman Empire is gone, but its
influence remains strong in many parts of the world today.