The Roman Empire is not just one of the most famous in history; it's also the longest-lasting. It spanned several different eras, but essentially lasted from 27 B.C. to 1453 A.D. -- a grand total of 1,480 years [source: Daniels]. The republic that preceded it was brought down by civil wars, which led to the appointment of Julius Caesar as dictator. The empire expanded across modern day Italy and much of the Mediterranean region. It had much strength, but Emperor Diocletian introduced one key factor insuring long-lasting success in the third century. He determined that two co-emperors could handle authority and alleviate the stress of massive expansion, laying the foundation for the eventual Eastern and Western Roman Empires [source: Williams].
The Western Roman Empire dissolved in 476 A.D., when Germanic forces revolted and removed Romulus Augustus from the seat of emperor. The Eastern Roman Empire continued to prosper after 476 A.D., coming to be known more commonly by present day historians as the Byzantine Empire.
Class conflicts led to the Byzantine civil war of 1341-1347 A.D., which not only decreased the empires numbers, but also allowed the short-lived Serbian Empire to make territorial gains on Byzantine-ruled lands. Social turmoil and plague further weakened the kingdom. Combined with growing unrest within the empire, the plague and social turmoil, the empire finally fell when the Ottoman Empire took Constantinople in 1453 A.D. [source: Daniels].
Despite Diocletian's co-emperor strategy that undoubtedly extended the life span of the Roman Empire, it met the same fate as other ruling powers whose massive expansion and varying ethnicities eventually demanded sovereignty.
These empires were the longest-lasting in history, yet each of them had weak points. Whether it was the exploitation of land or people, no empire has been able to restrain social unrest caused by class, unemployment or lack of resources.
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The 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I offers up a second chance to learn from our mistakes. HowStuffWorks looks at what we need to know.