The Fall of Constantinople and the subsequent collapse of the Eastern Roman Empire was one of world history’s most significant turning points. The most well-known empire in the world had ceased to exist, and a new power, the Ottomans, had emerged in their place.

When the Fall of Constantinople is mentioned, many think it was just an Ottoman conquest; in truth, the Roman Empire already had one foot in the coffin and collapsed for hundreds of years. Many decisive factors led to the fall of the Roman Empire, attributed to the weakened Roman state that made an Ottoman conquest much more accessible.


At times of tranquility and peaceful borders in the empire, generals, aristocrats, and provincial governors would become greedy and corrupt enough to aspire to overthrow the emperor to take control of the realm for themselves. The Romans suffered several catastrophes from usurpations due to the ambitious and corrupt aristocracy.

The first disastrous usurpation came from Phocas, who overthrew Emperor Maurice in 602 AD. Emperor Maurice was a stern and great leader, keeping the Sassanid Empire in check and the borders along the Balkans and Italian Peninsula stable. The emperor personally had a peace treaty with the Persians, who used the assassination of the empire as a pretext to invade.

Now that the empire was unstable, Khosrow II, Emperor of the Sassanids, used his experience to take much of the Eastern borders, including Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and much of Asia Minor. The Avars and Slavs also officially invaded and later settled in the Balkans due to the collapsing borders.

Eventually, the more competent Heraclius, the governor of North Africa with Armenian origins, overthrew and killed the tyrant Phocas. He would lead a spectacular counterattack with Turkic allies to defeat the Persians. This long and exhausting war would be a Pyrrhic victory as a new power, the Rashidun Caliphate, emerged in Arabia. The Muslims of Arabia would take advantage of the war-weary empire and capture Syria, Palestine, North Africa, Armenia, and lower Asia Minor in the next 50 years.

Roman Emperor Heraclius via Byzantium History

Unworthy Successors to Departing Emperors

The Roman Empire frequently had periods of great emperors who stabilized the borders and had their renaissance that swelled the economy. Examples include the Macedonian Dynasty and the first three Komnenoi emperors.