According to tradition and Edward Gibbon, September 4th, 476 is the date fixed for the fall of the Western Roman Empire. (The longevous Eastern Roman Empire had mostly been ruled separately since Diocletian’s reign, 284-305, and would hang on by its fingernails until the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453).
In reality the fall of the Empire was more of a gradual deterioration over time, like arthritis, or a growing tendency to misplace the car keys. It took hundreds of years of bad decisions, bad luck, and bad weather for the glories of Roman engineering and culture to crumble into temporary but lengthy obscurity. But September 4th was the day on which the Germanic chieftain Odovacar and his followers bashed their way into Rome and removed the lad Romulus Augustulus from his throne, sending him into early retirement. Officially, and poetically, Rome began and ended with a Romulus.
On this day of remembrance, I post a verse from my daughter’s Ancient Rome main lesson book, which we included in morning exercises while covering that block. Composed in the 9th or 10th century by an unknown author, it was supposedly sung by pilgrims trudging toward Rome. Perhaps pilgrims of the 25th century will chant a verse in the dead language of English as they make their way to New York or Washington DC.