Efficient government enabled Rome to maintain her supremacy for nearly five hundred years. In time, however, her government degenerated because a small group monopolized the offices and this small body became corrupt and inefficient, and imposed heavy taxes on the people. Some reforms were attempted, but in the main the people were denied the right of self-government. This autocratic rule – under monarchs called emperors – failed in time.
The Barbarian Invasions.
The Roman Empire was thus weakened by dishonesty and corruption of public officials. Heavy taxes brought ruin and poverty to many people. The empire became so weak that it could no longer defend its frontiers against foreign invasions. Europe was approaching the Dark Ages. From about 400 A.D. to 1000 AD the Roman Empire was being overrun by barbarians from the north and from the east. Among these groups of invaders were the Visigoths, who settled in Spain; the Franks and Burgundians, who came to France (Gaul) ; and the Angles and the Saxons who conquered Britain. The Lombards came to Italy, and the Vandals occupied southern Spain and northern Africa.