9th Grade New York

Fall of Roman Empire

This inquiry leads students through an investigation of the fall of the Roman Empire. More specifically students examine whether the events that occurred in 476 CE constituted the fall of the Roman Empire or a transformation of the empire. By investigating the compelling question about whether or not the Roman Empire fell, students consider the ways in which the Roman Empire provides a unique lens on what it means when an empire falls. Through investigating historical and geographic evidence as well as secondary sources about the Roman Empire, students develop a complex interpretation of the demise of the Roman Empire and, more importantly, begin to evaluate the extent to which the empire “fell.”

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Compelling Question:

Did the Roman Empire Fall?

Staging the Question:


Debate the extent to which mathematicians* can predict the rise and fall of empires.
1

Supporting Question What made the Roman conquests an empire?

Formative Task List and describe the characteristics and attributes of the Roman Empire.

Sources Source A: Map of the Roman Empire at the height of its power
Source B: Synopsis of Rome: An Empire’s Story
Source C: Digital atlas of Roman and Medieval civilization

2

Supporting Question Why did the Roman Empire fall?

Formative Task Write a summary explaining accepted reasons for why Roman Empire fell.

Sources Source A: Excerpt from The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Source B: “The Fall of Rome Reconsidered”
Source C: “What Led to the Fall of the Roman Empire”

3

Supporting Question Was the Roman Empire’s fall an abrupt change?

Formative Task Develop a claim supported by evidence about the extent to which the fall of Rome reflected swift and abrupt changes.

Sources Source A: Excerpt from The Fall of the Roman Empire
Source B: Excerpt from The Historical Problem of the Fall of Rome
Source C: Excerpt from “The End of the Roman Empire”

4

Supporting Question To what extent did the Roman Empire transform?

Formative Task Develop a claim supported by evidence about the extent to which Rome slowly transformed rather than fell.

Sources Source A: Excerpt from Roman Realities
Source B: Excerpt from “The Myth of ‘Decline and Fall’”
Source C: Excerpt from “The Vanishing Paradigm of the Fall of Rome”

Summative Performance Task

Argument: Did the Roman Empire fall? Construct an argument (e.g., detailed outline, poster, essay) that addresses the compelling question using specific claims and relevant evidence from contemporary and historical sources while acknowledging competing views.
Extension: Examine a textbook description of the fall of the Roman Empire and either write a revision or explain why it is wholly accurate.

Taking Informed Action

Understand: Research and discuss the ways in which the United States is an empire.
Assess: Determine the state of the United States’ empire and whether it is rising or falling.
Act: Invite a local expert (e.g., scholar, political scientist, anthropologist, politician) to lead a panel discussion by students on the international status of the United States.