Fall of Rome




  1. Students should know that the capital of the Western Empire was the city of Rome.
  2. Students should know the story of St. Leo, bishop of Rome, and Attila the Hun.
  3. Students should know the name of the new capital of the Roman Empire, Constantinople.
  4. Students should be able to name the original 5 Patriarchates.


Possible Lesson Plan:

  1. Open with prayer.
  2. Tell the story of the fall of Rome; follow the movements of the tribes on your maps:

Do you remember the Emperor Constantine? He founded a new city, named for himself, Constantinople and moved the capital of the Roman Empire to his new city, far to the east of Rome. The new city was Christian from the start, full of churches. Councils were held there.

Far to the west, in Rome, things were not going so well. Many wild tribes lived to thenorth. They were fierce warriors and knew nothing of Christianity or the great Roman cities and culture. They were called “barbarians” by the Romans because they didn’t even speak Latin or Greek. They lived in little villages and tribes. But, they wanted more and more land. First came the Visigoths out of Germany under King Alaric; they marched into Rome, looted everything in sight, and left. Another of these tribes was called the Huns; their chief was Attila the Hun. They were wild and fierce and rode little, hairy ponies. Attila moved his army down Italy toward Rome itself. They burned and destroyed everything in their way. Finally they were at the gates of Rome. The bishop of Rome in that day was named Leo I (the first). Leo means “lion” but this Leo was not a soldier or a fighting man. But he wanted to save his city and his people. He went out the gates of the city, dressed in his gorgeous robes, with all the bishops and priests. He carried no shield or sword or spear. Would Attila and his men slaughter them like lambs before the wolves? Attila and Leo met outside the walls of Rome. Then, Attila and his army turned around and left Italy – marched away without even entering the city or killing anyone. Leo may not have been a fighting man, but he had the courage of a lion!

Soon after, the Vandals, another wild tribe, captured northern Africa. A man named Augustine was Bishop of the city of Hippo at this time. Augustine had been a great teacher and writer of the western Church. But, Augustine was old and ill and died while the Vandals were attacking the city. They sailed up the Tiber River to Rome. They captured the city and stole all its treasures! The Angles and Saxons took Britain; it is “Angle-land” to this day. Then another tribe called the Teutons divided up the empire. Just like Humpty Dumpty, Rome had a great fall – broken into many pieces by the barbarian tribes and never to be put back together again. Each tribe had its different customs and wanted to rule its land in its own way. The last Emperor was named Romulus Augustulus. Old Rome was beaten. It was the year 476 AD. The common language, coinage, communications, mail service – all disappeared in the West. Each small area became a tribal state. A new culture developed, with each lord ruling his own fiefdom from his own castle, protected by knights on horseback. Only in the Church was the Roman culture preserved; the monks wrote the Scriptures in Latin and taught in monasteries. The Bishop of Rome, the only Patriarch in the West, became the only central figure in a sea of small lordships. Under Leo the Great and Gregory I, the Bishops of Rome became known in the west as Pope, or Father. Small kings and lords turned to Rome for decisions.

 Meanwhile, The great Patriarchiates of the East – Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria – were little affected by the fall of the Western Empire. The Empire in the East, with its capital in the great city of Constantinople, would continue for another thousand years.


  1. Look a bit at medieval life in Western Europe after the fall of Rome: Show here some pictures of medieval culture – knights, King Arthur, castles, etc. Movies and books make this life in the “Middle Ages” seem very romantic. But, castles are cold and drafty. People were dirty and unwashed. Food was often scarce; the serfs who grew the food were little more than slaves. Most people could not read or write. These were truly the “Dark Ages” after the glory of Rome.


  1. Play a learning game: Musical Bridge. While singing “Roman law is falling down…”, students go under the bridge one by one. The one caught has to answer a question about today’s lesson or he is “out”. Sample questions:

Who was King of the Visigoths?

To what city did Constantine move his capital?

Who was leader of the Huns?

Which bishop saved Rome from Attila the Hun?

Which tribes captured Britain?

Who was last Emperor of Rome?

When did Rome fall?

The Bishop of Rome became known as the what?

Name the 5 great patriarchiates of the early Church.


  1. Make a Flannel Board pizza box: Take a pizza box; most stores will give these to you. Glue light blue felt on the inside back; add cotton ball clouds in the sky and green felt grass along the bottom. Make a gray felt wall and draw stones with a marker; this can sit above the grass. Have students draw Leo in his bishop’s robes, Attila the Hun, and Attila’s horse of construction paper. Color and cut out. Glue strips of felt on the back of each figure. Can you tell the story?

Too complex? Print the figures on cardstock, color, cut out, mount on popsicle sticks and print the Roman Gate background for a "puppet show".