WK 7:

What reforms did Diocletian (r. 284-305 CE) and Constantine (r. 306-337) institute to reserve the power of the Roman Empire, why were reforms necessary, and what impact did these have on Roman life?

Problems—danger of economic collapse (remember last week’s discussion?), cycle of civil wars, growing threat of invasion from frontiers.  Real need to stabilize economy and state administration, shore up border defenses.

Diocletian (r. 284-305), soldier from farmer’s family in Dalmatia (Croatia), member of imperial guards, made Emperor by guards in 284.

Reforms—Divided empire in half.  He took East (richest ½), set up capital in Nicomedia.  Picked a “jr. emperor” for western ½.  Then they each picked 1 man to be their successor.  Point was to prevent Civil War by having orderly succession laid out.  "Rule of 4" called Tetrarchy.  But REAL ruler was Diocleatian, who gave up the “disguised” republic and took the title DOMINUS (lord and master), making the state a DOMINATE (no longer “Principate) (explain difference!)

Another goal of these reforms was to improve administration.  The 2 halves of empire subdivided into 4 prefectures, each subdivided into 12 dioceses.   Each prefecture had its own Prefect who ran both government and military administration.  Idea was to INCREASE the size and penetration of the imperial bureaucracy (from a few 100 to 40,000!), increase governance of empire.  Bureaucrats to be trained officials instead of corrupt social elites (completely eliminated role of the Senate!).  PT--improve tax collection, military recruitment, enforcement of law, etc.

To defend the Empire, Diocletian also increased size of Army (to 450,000), built up border defenses, AND increased recruitment of BARBARIANS into the Army (who saw it as chance for citizenship!)  (Eventually, the Barbarians outnumbered Romans in the Army!)

To pay for this, he had to increase tax collections—the administrative reforms helped with that—and end the inflation of the late 200s (“law of maximum” of 302).  The result of improved tax collection actually HURT small farming families more! Because the government was now better at collecting taxes (also backfired in that local tax collectors were often corrupt!)

3 BIG results:  a) no more pretense that Emperor was “first citizen”:  now he was a mnarch—that broke old bonds of loyalty to emperor based upon Roman tradition and values.

b) increased power of “new” bureaucrats over senators and local elites, but also increased their power over the cities, which had result of stifling urban economy and urban culture

c) rather that solve the economic crisis, over time increased tax collection actually worsened the crisis

CONSTATINE (r. 306-337):  son of emperor of the West under Diocletian (Constantinus I), declared Emporor by soldiers in England (in York!) in 306, then fought long Civil War vs other claimants to power (Tetrarchy did NOT work!).  313-324, co-ruled with one other; then ruled alone as SOLE emperor (so much for Diocletian’s reforms!)

Reforms:  A. Moved capital in east to Byzantium, re-named it Constantinople.  B. Abandoned Diocleatian’s method of division of power—although after his death the practice of dividing empire up between Eastern Emperor and Western Emperor was revived.  C.  Continued economic reforms by introducing GOLD coins (solidus), which helped tame inflation.  D. Separated military and government admin tasks—Prefects ran government, “Masters of Soldiers” ran armies= no one could use control over both posts to make bid for power.  Also = more efficient and better administration.

ALSO, reversed Diocletian’s persecution of Christianity; LEGALIZED Christianity in 313 (Edict of Milan), made it ONE of the official state religions of Roman Empire.  Gave CHURCH tax immunity, priests exempt from army (etc), used STATE funds to build and repair churches (he and mom—a Christian—both personally funded and built churches, too).

Results of Constantine’s reforms:  a) MILITARIZATION of Roman society—turned empire into “vast armed camp”; b) greatly increased tax burden to pay for army; c) actually made army MORE dangerous, since it was increasingly filled with “barbarians”; d) promotion of Christianity turned off a lot of traditional Romans; d 2) reforms did NOT prevent more conflicts over succession--e) DID reorganize the Empire in way that set basic structure of DOMINATE for more than a hundred years; f)  DID promote greater ORDER (but at COST of last vestiges of Republic/liberty); g) DID lead to dominance of Christianity.


What factors led to the emergence of Rome as the center of the Christian religious hierarchy (the Catholic Church), and how did the Church determine what was "proper" Christian practice and what was heresy?

Support of Constantine, then Theodosius (who in 380s outlawed other cults = only legal religions were Christianity and Judaism).  Christianity had legal authority and increasingly fashionable among Romans, by late 400s majority religion.   Had begun with urban poor, then spread. 

As # of followers grew in 200s-300s, clearer Hierarchy developed—deacons arranged meetings, community charity (imp to popularity with poor), Priests did rituals.  Bishops = “over-priests” who supervised several churches, in big cities metropolitans/arch-bishops oversaw and supervised churches in and around cities (dioceses)—so structure of Church administration echoed the bureaucratic government structure set up by Diocletian and Constantine.  Principle of APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION = idea that Bishop of Rome was “first bishop” of Church (Matt 16)= idea by the 400s that “Pope” was head bishop of entire church…

Constantine and other emperors took direct role in promoting “orthodoxy” by calling church councils (of Bishops) that defined what was DOGMA and what was Heresy. 325 Council of Nicaea declared Arianism a heresy, said ONLY true belief was Trinity (son co-equal and co-eternal with father and holy spirit).  451 Council at Chalcedon (called by emperor Marcian) declared Monophysitism a heresy, said Jesus was both God and Man (not that he was a god who only took form of a man).

At first, Emperors were key players in these debates, but by the mid-400s (Pope Leo I), Popes had begun to argue that the Emperor ruled over the state but did NOT rule over the church---the emperor had worldly power but papacy and church had spiritual authority.

By end of 500s (Pope Gregory I), Pope clearly the head of the Catholic Church, Church clearly a central institution of former Roman world…


Who were the "barbarians," what was their relationship to the Roman Empire, and what factors allowed various Germanic tribes to overthrow Roman rule in the west and establish their own kingdoms?

“Barbarians” = Germanic tribes (not Celts or Slavs) on northern borders—Franks, Saxons, Vandals, Visgoths, Ostrogoths, Lombards, Burgundians.  Romans considered the Germans to be “barbarians” and inferiors.  Relations always complicated—traded together, recruited barbarians into empire, made treaties with them.

Big change came with migration of Huns from central Asia.  370s pushed into land of Ostrogoths and Visgoths near Black Sea; Romans let Visgoths resettle near Danube for protection but Romans abused them—rebellion vs emperor Valens (killed him in 378).  After that Emp. Theodosius let them settle on Roman land and promised to recognize their independence/king, but did not….  Relations uneasy, 395 Visgoths under King Aleric attacked Italy; 410 sacked Rome, demanded new treaty with Romans.  New treaty in 418 recognized Visgoth kingdom in Gaul (France)—process of “blending” Visgoth ruling elite with Roman ruling elite. 

Events that led to invasions by other Germanic peoples also related to drive to the west (invasions) of the Huns, esp. under Attila.  (Romans actually paid him off to stay out or Roman territory in 430s, then paid him not to sack Rome when he did attack Italy in 450s).  Fighting on borders weakened Rome’s ability to defend self, esp. in West.  Series of weak emperors in west in 400s made problem worse—in 476 Rome under rule of a German general (Odoacer), who declared that the western territories were no longer under rule of the Roman Emperor.

BIG DEAL was that the East was more important to the Roman emperors, who devoted less attention and resources to the west.  Also, most of army in west made up of Germans, provincial elites had become blend of Germans and Romans even before Rome “fell” in 476.

What replaced Rome in the West was a patchwork of Germanic kingdoms (Anglo-Saxons, Visgoths, Burgundians, Vandals, Ostrogoths), the most important of which was the Frankish kingdom of king Clovis in France.  NOTE that the Frankish kingdom (Clovis, late 400s-early 500s) involved blending of Roman and Germanic elites (Franks and Gallo-Romans) and cultures, including adoption of Catholic Christianity as state religion.  Merovingian Dynasty would adopt many aspects of Roman methods of rule.  Other kingdoms, too, clearly influenced by Roman culture and institutions, adapted Roman law, Roman tax system, etc.  So really, they should be viewed as successor states to Rome in the west…


When the Germanic tribes conquered the Roman west, was that the end of the Roman Empire?  How did Theodosius II (r. 408-450) and Justinian (r. 527-565) reform the Roman system in the East and what were the results?

Roman Empire lived on in East—more urban, more heavily populated, richer than west.  Most able rulers were in the East—eg., Theodosius II and Justinian. 

Besides his support of Christianity and his successful defense of the Eastern Empire vs invasions, key thing to remember about Theo II was his LAW CODE, which collected and systematized previous 100 years of Roman law and served as model for Germanic law codes.

After Theo II’s death (450) long period of unstable rule by emperors from the military, until Justinian (another Croatian who rose to power through military service). 

Justinian made administrative and legal reform the cornerstones of his rule.    Goal of admin reform was to increase CENTRALIZED control over bureaucracy.  Legal reform (Justinian Code of 529-533) gathered all of Roman law and commentaries on Roman law, plus texts for teaching law = basis of Roman law in East until Ottoman rule in late 1400s.

Justinian tried but failed to restore rule over the West, too, but was tied down by threat of Persians, Bulgars, and Slavs.  Also limited by internal unrest in reaction to higher taxes and  by terrible plagues. 


Did the lives of ordinary people and the lives of elites change in any major ways as a result of the decline of Roman imperial rule in the West?

Not much, in that it remained very hierarchical…  for centuries low birth rates diminished the old (hereditary) elite families, but new families steadily entered into the elite to replace them.  In the 400s the filtering into the elite of “barbarians” was a similar process, and the “new” elites went out of way to present themselves as part of traditional Roman aristocracy, with “traditional” Roman values.  Continued to use wealth for patronage, etc. 

Positions of urban non-elites did not change that much either.  Because they did not have power (means of coercion), the “middle” groups like merchants always depended upon powerful patrons for protection and security. 

The biggest changes were in the countryside, where divisions between wealthy elite landowners and poor farmers and peasants grew even more extreme.  Clients increasingly had to give over their land to their patrons, and so became “coloni” (tenants) in return for the promise of protection—this was a step towards SERFDOM.  As coloni became more and more indebted to/servile under landlords, slavery actually declined (!), because it was cheaper to have coloni than slaves..

Christianity brought some changes in family patterns and status of women… e.g., status of virgin  Mary, emphasis on celibacy as form of devotion, emphasis on fidelity in marriage gave some women a bit more independence… 


What were the major developments in Christian theology in the period 284-600 CE, and in particular what were the most influential ideas of St. Augustine (354-430 CE)?

Remember discussion of Nicean Creed (325) and idea of dogma as defining Catholic (universal) creed. 

Keep in mind that several strains of belief claimed to be universal and ORTHODOX (right believing)—e.g., “Orthodox” Church in Eastern Empire (Greek liturgy, etc); Coptic Church in Egypt (Coptic language, Monophysite beliefs).

Core of Christian belief based on “holy books”—collections of writings eventually systematized into the Christian Bible.  But LOTS of texts, and no accepted cannon in the 100s-200s.  BIG DEAL, because no authoritative text = no orthodox doctrine (heterodox—many different versions of the faith).  No final cannon version of Bible until mid-400s.  Different texts in East (Greek) and West (Latin)—e.g., St. Jerome’s Latin translation from Hebrew old testament and Greek new testament = “Vulgate” Bible in early 400s.

JEROME (331-420) was one of key “Church fathers” who elaborated on statements of Dogma set by councils (Nicaea and Constantinople on TRINITY; Chalcedon on dual nature of Christ).  AMBROSE (339-397) sought to blend Christian teaching with Roman civic tradition of service and duty (in this case, service to Christ and Christian community).

AUGUSTINE (354-430)—Key idea in his Confessions = Man born with original sin, has free will, can only be saved through Grace and only can have Grace by believing.  Key idea in The City of God (written after Visgoth sack of Rome in 410) = all history as unfolding of God’s plan to bring man to the end-time and reveal the city of god.  City of God  was not tied to the Roman empire---God’s kingdom is eternal (Rome’s kingdom is profane—will crumble).