Angel Portillo

Why Today Matters

Why Today Matters is written by Berryville resident Angel Portillo. Portillo is an undergrad at University of Arkansas, seeking his bachelor's degree in History. His column appears in the Tuesday Midweek edition of Carroll County News. He can be reached at aporae@gmail.com.


Sept. 4, 476 AD: The start of the difficult Dark Ages

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The date of September 4, 476 AD is another one of those dates that is in the group of "most important dates in world history."

It is generally agreed that this was the last day of the legendary Western Roman Empire. This was when the last Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustus was deposed as emperor.

The consequences of such action were cataclysmic for the entire world. The centralized government and rich culture would come to an abrupt end, paving the way for one thousand years of complete "darkness".

The Roman Empire was one of the largest empires in history. At its peak it extended from Spain to parts of the Middle East, and from parts of England to the northern part of Africa. Rome had existed since 700 BC, but it became an empire in 44 BC, when Julius Caesar became its dictator.

This was when Rome would reach its zenith in politics and culture. After Caesar died, Rome prospered for about two hundred years, and it would seem that this empire was going to last forever, but as we know it, that did not happen.

By around 300 AD it could be seen that the Roman Empire was deteriorating. Although Christianity was throughout the large kingdom, it was certainly divided.

Another capital was created on the east (Constantinople, which remained until 1453, and its fall is another important date to remember, which I also talked about in an earlier article). However, other than being divided, it started getting invaded by outsiders known as Barbarians.

The first warning came in the year 410 when Rome was sacked by the Visigoths. Later again this would happen in 455, but this time by the Vandals. By 476, things got serious and the final blow came when Romulus Augustus gave his throne to a Germanic warlord by the name of Odoacer. This was the end of the Western Roman Empire.

Why should we care about something that happened more than 1500 years ago? The fall of the Western Roman Empire on Sept. 4, 476, signified the beginning of an era many call the "Dark Ages." This was a time of decline in every aspect: economically, technologically, politically, and socially. Basically people had a much harder time simply surviving during this period.

This is just an opinion, but maybe many advances would have been made sooner if this empire hadn't fallen, like the discovery of America, or other inventions that the era of the Renaissance brought us.

That is something that we will never know, but it's good to ponder about though. Again, the Roman Empire proves that nothing lasts forever, but still it left us with an everlasting influence of religion, language, government, and law, just to name a few.