The Decline of Rome and the Empire: A Three Part Course with Dr. Darius Arya - Context Travel

The Decline of Rome and the Empire: A Three Part Course with Dr. Darius Arya

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In three lectures, Dr. Darius Arya, renowned archaeologist, public historian, social media influencer, and TV host based in Rome, Italy, will explore the multiple factors that led to the decline of the mighty Roman Empire.

The expansive Roman Empire, which peaked in the second century AD under Trajan, was a massive enterprise spanning three continents and included up to 60 million inhabitants, linked by road and shipping networks, free trade, a stable political system, and dynamic urban hubs. Despite the turmoil of the third century, including invasions and breakaway kingdoms, Rome was by no means down for the count. Rather, the Empire proved to be resilient and resourceful, responding to new problems and enemies from within and beyond the borders.

Still, with the onset of the “barbarian” peoples, change was coming, as they settled within the Empire and became more enmeshed in Roman culture. The Western half bore the brunt of the migrations and invasions, but the Eastern half survived and at times flourished for another 1000 years.

How do we reconcile this split legacy of the Roman Empire? Join renowned archeologist and TV presenter Dr. Darius Arya to examine the multiple factors that led to the decline of Rome and the Empire and look at how the “barbarian” populations become a game-changer in the West. New studies in archaeology, DNA analysis, climate change, and an analysis on a regional level shed light on the varied realities that existed throughout the Empire in this period of change and transformation.

Lecture 1: Barbarians at the Gates: The Enemy Within
The barbarian populations and armies were crucial protagonists in the transformation of the Roman Empire. As invaders, immigrants, and military allies enrolled into the Roman army, distinct “barbarian” peoples were considered marginalized outsiders, all the while becoming an intricate component of Roman society in the fourth and fifth centuries. The sacking of Rome in 410 (Goths) and 455 (Vandals) were watershed moments in Roman history, but not the only moments that the “barbarians” transformed Rome and Empire.

Lecture 2: The Empire Strikes Back: The Concept of Decline in the Roman Empire
Just who was to blame for Rome’s demise is a tricky subject. Imperial overreach, weak leadership, systemic inflation, wars on multiple fronts and breakaway kingdoms loom large as important culprits. Rome did manage to resist and remain malleable enough to take on the challenges of having an Empire, with varying degrees of success for centuries. Though the Empire continued to strike back at its foes and even restart the imperial engine, the long term trends overshadowed its greatest efforts.

Lecture 3: Game of Thrones: New Romes, Rival Empires. Heirs to the Throne.
The story of Rome and Empire is one of multiple Romes, from the capital itself, to the concept of Rome, to new capitals of the Empire, from Trier to Nicomedia to Constantinople. During the Empire’s slow decline, many different forces vied to succeed it as the new superpower of the Mediterranean. Rome itself was progressively marginalized, but it was the idea of Rome that remained the greatest prize. That same idea would remain alive in the Western and Eastern halves of the Empire for the next millennium. 

Darius Arya is a Ph.D. archaeologist, public historian, social media influencer, and TV host based in Rome, Italy. He works around the globe, with focus on Rome and the Roman Empire. He directs educational programs, leads lecture series and heritage preservation initiatives, specialized tours, and features in or hosts TV shows for US, Italy, and other European programs.


  • D. Potter, Ancient Rome, A New History, Thames & Hudson, 2009.
  • M. Le Glay, J-L. Voisin, Y. Le Bohec, A History of Rome, Blackwell, 2006.
  • Heather, Peter. The Fall of the Roman Empire. A New history. Pan Books, 2006


  • Brown, Peter. The Making of Late Antiquity, Harvard University Press, 1978.
  • Harper, Kyle. The fate of Rome. Climate, disease, and the end of an empire, Princeton University press, 2017
  • Ward-Perkins Bryan. The fall of Rome and the end of civilization. Oxford University Press 2005
  • Doug Boin, Alaric the Goth: an outsider’s history of the fall of Rome, Norton and Company, 2020.

How does it work?
This is a three-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

Is there a reading list in advance?
Please see the above-recommended titles.

How long are the lectures?
Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.

How much is the course?
The course is $105 for 3 lectures.

Is a recording available?
In general, our courses are not recorded. However, if you need to miss a lecture please let us know in advance and we can arrange for a recording for that session on an individual basis.

This course is suitable for all ages

Each lecture is 90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.