An Animated Look at the Rise and Fall of Roman Territory: 510 BC – 530 AD

According to a mix of legend and historical record, the Ancient Roman civilisation spanned from the mythical foundation of Rome as a town in 753 BC by the twin brothers Romulus and Remus, to the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 AD at the hands of Germanic tribes, led by Odoacer/Odovacer.

In between its birth and demise, the Republic and then Empire covered a vast territory, controlling the Mediterranean region and incorporating much of Europe as well as parts of Western Asia and North Africa. Roman expansion spread a common tongue and culture, a vast transport and trade network, technological innovation and Roman law. Though gone as a power, much of Rome’s legacy continued after the fall of the Empire.

This animated GIF shows the growth of Ancient Rome from the establishment of the Roman Republic as a city-state in 509 BC to its fullest extent as an Empire and subsequent decline. The timescale of the map ends at the start of the reign of the Byzantine or East Roman Emperor Justinian, who ruled from 527 to 565 AD.

rise and fall of rome

This GIF was created by Wikimedia commons user Roke

The Republican period is shown as maroon, while the united Empire is purple. The Eastern and Western Roman Empires are represented as wholly distinct from 405 AD onwards, with the West as blue and the East as green. At the final phase there is no blue on the map at all.

Graham is an editor and contributor at Made From History. A London-based writer originally from Washington, DC, he holds a master's degree in Cultural History from Malmö University in Sweden. Graham also contributes environmental news articles to asiancorrespondent.com and latincorrespondent.com.

  • jmarin

    Romulus Augustus, the last emperor of Rome, was a target of much mockery, already in his own day. For his name alone invited ridicule. Romulus being the legendary first king of Rome, and Augustus its glorious first emperor.
    Hence both his names were at times transformed to reflect the public’s disrespect for him. ‘Romulus’ was changed to Momyllus, which means ‘little disgrace’. And ‘Augustus’ was turned into ‘Augustulus’, meaning ‘little Augustus’ or ‘little emperor’.
    It was the latter version which stuck with him throughout history, with many historians today still referring to him as Romulus Augustulus.

    But only ten months after Romulus’ accession to the throne, a serious mutiny of the troops arose.
    The reason for the troubles was that in other parts of the western empire landowners had been obliged to hand over possession of up to two thirds of their estates to allied Germans within the empire.
    But this policy had never been applied to Italy. Orestes had at first made promises of such land grants to the German soldiery if they would help him depose Julius Nepos. But once this had been done he had chosen to forget such concessions.
    But the German troops were not willing to let the issue be forgotten and demanded ‘their’ third of the land.
    The man who led their protest was one of Orestes’ own senior officers, Flavius Odoacer (Odovacar).

    Faced with such a wide scale mutiny, Orestes withdrew behind the well fortified walls of the city of Ticinum (Pavia). But the mutiny was not to be a short lived affair.
    Ticinum was besieged, captured and sacked. Orestes was taken to Placentia (Piacenza) where he was executed in August AD 476.
    Orestes’ brother (Paul) was soon after killed during fighting near Ravenna.

    Odoacer thereafter captured the city of Ravenna and forced Romulus to abdicate on 4 September AD 476.
    The deposed emperor was retired to a palace at Misenum in Campania with an annual pension of six thousand solidi.
    The date of his death is unknown. Though some accounts indicate that he may still have been alive in AD 507-11.