Despite its autocratic nature, the Roman Empire was a prosperous period in history. While the Roman Republic experienced many civil wars and revolts, life during the Empire was generally stable for the average Roman citizen. The first two centuries of the Empire were extremely stable, with very few revolts in the provinces, apart from the Jewish-Roman wars. The economy was thriving, and trade in the Mediterranean was flourishing. The Empire’s territory stretched from Northern Europe to North Africa and the Middle East.
In the 4th century, Emperor Constantine moved the capital to Constantinople (initially named Nova Roma) and made Christianity the official religion of the Empire. Later in the Dominate, Theodosius (reign: 379-395 AD) built massive, impenetrable walls around Constantinople and divided the Empire between a Latin-speaking West and a Greek-speaking East.
The central government of the Latin West collapsed in the 5th century when barbarian forces invaded Ravenna, the then capital of the Western Empire. However, the East remained in what would be known as Eastern Roman Empire.
The Roman Empire had a profound impact on European culture and traditions as the barbarians adopted many of the Roman customs. However, the former Western Empire became highly fragmented. Multiple kingdoms emerged, commerce declined, roads were left unmaintained, and walls were erected around cities. Aqueducts fell into disrepair or were destroyed, resulting in reduced access to water (and consequently, less frequent washing). Meanwhile, the Eastern Roman Empire retained its Roman identity albeit with a significant Christian influence, even after the 5th century.
You can click on any of the links below to read about each period of the Roman Empire:
The Roman Principate (27 B.C. – 284 A.D.)
The Roman Dominate (284 - 476 A.D.)
The Eastern Roman Empire (476 - 1453 A.D.)