We have seen that in the days of Augustus, few, outside Italy, possessed citizenship. But a nation of Romans was gradually formed in the provinces by introducing colonies and by the expedient of admitting the most deserving of the provincials to the rights of Roman citizenship.
In the reign of Caracalla, 211-217, the old distinction between Romans and provincials was abolished and citizenship was given to all free men of the empire. The city of Rome gradually lost a measure of its prestige when it ceased to have a monopoly of citizenship.
Another cause which led to the loss of her proud position, was the fact that in later times many of the emperors found it better to live near the frontier, where they could keep watch out of outside foes.
In the reign of Diocletian (283-305), another important step was taken. He found the empire too great for one man to govern successfully, and so elevated one of his generals, Maximian, to equal rank with himself and gave him the dominion over the western part of the empire, while he retained the eastern portion. In addition to this, each took a sub-ruler, who was designed as his successor. Constantine was one of these sub-rulers and he proved strong enough to govern the whole empire. He was not only sole ruler, but he made important change, entirely abandoning Rome as a capital and establishing the seat of government at the old Greek city of Byzantium on the Bosphorus. He called the city New Rome, but the name Constantinople (the city of Constantine) soon attached to it and continues to this day.
Theodosius (392-395) was the last emperor to hold together the old Roman dominion. At his death the empire was divided between his sons. From this time the East is lost to Rome, there are two distinct empires instead of one.
The West was already in a state of decay, and fell prey to the new and vigorous Teutonic or German tribes which lived in the forests of the north. Some twenty years before the division of the empire, the Goths, who lived across the Danube, found themselves hard pressed by the fierce Huns, who had swarmed in from Asia, and they asked permission to cross the river and settle on Roman territory. They were told that this would be granted on the condition that they gave up their arms and their children. So great was their fear of the invaders that they readily consented to the conditions, and crossed the river in boats provided by the Romans. There were said to have been a million of them. They agreed to guard the frontier for Rome, and to this end they must have weapons. These were given them, but were soon used against the Romans. They received a check under Theodosius the Great, and many of them entered the Roman army. But this was a downward step, as the result proved.
When Theodosius died, and the empire was divided between his two sons, the Western Goths or Visigoths revolted, elected their chief as king, and swept down Italy. They captured and sacked Rome in 410. This, however, is not counted the fall of Rome. Pieces of the empire began to break off. Britain was lost to them. Roma troops were withdrawn, and Germanic tribes (Angles and Saxons) came in. These tribes pushed down into Gaul and Spain, and even across into the Roman possessions in Africa. One of these tribes was the Vandals, whose deeds of destruction have given the world vandalism.
These Vandals crossed over from Africa, captured Rome, and for many days plundered and wracked the stately buildings and art treasures of the once imperial city (455). The poor fragment of the empire continued under feeble rulers for another score of years, when the city was again captured, and Odoacer, a chief of the Germans, became ruler. Then, “when Odoacer was proclaimed King of Italy, the phantom assembly that still called itself the Roman Senate sent back to Constantinople the tiara and purple robe, in sign that the Western Empire had passed away.”
During the time when the Roman Empire was declining from a territory one thousand miles y three thousand miles, to the little province of Italy; and from the glory of the golden age of Augustus to the barbaric brass of Teutonic rule, there was another power steadily rising, which was designed by its Founder to be world wide as its sweep, yet not of this world. And that Founder, and that empire, emancipated woman. We refer to Jesus Christ and His religion.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.