the crisis of the third century and rebound of the 300s n.
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The Crisis of the Third Century and Rebound of the 300s . Overview. Causation for the decline of the Empire Over-extension of imperial boundaries Systemic Economic Weaknesses Weaknesses in the Political Structure Decline of the Imperial cult and traditional Roman Religion

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overview
Overview
  • Causation for the decline of the Empire
    • Over-extension of imperial boundaries
    • Systemic Economic Weaknesses
    • Weaknesses in the Political Structure
    • Decline of the Imperial cult and traditional Roman Religion
  • Rebound: the reforms of Diocletian and Constantine
attempts to ascertain the causation for the decline of rome
Attempts to Ascertain the Causation for the Decline of Rome
  • Some of the “causes” identified (210 at last count)
    • climatic changes
    • over-reliance on slavery
    • otherworldliness of Christianity
    • sexual orgies
    • ecological habits
    • lead poisoning
    • homosexuality
  • None of these attracts consensus of serious historians
systemic economic weaknesses
Systemic Economic Weaknesses
  • Huge military budget: 500,000 troops
  • High taxation
  • Absence of public debt
  • Structural trade deficit with the Far East
  • Debasement of coinage
  • Rampant inflation
  • Economy of plunder (booty)
    • slaves
    • gold, silver
    • feeding the war machine
demographic collapse
Demographic Collapse
  • Constant Civil War during the early 200s
    • Famine - crops destroyed or taken
    • Plague - weakened immune systems
    • decline of trade
  • Depopulation
    • especially in the western empire
    • undermines urban basis of imperial rule
    • weakened trade networks
  • Downward Spiral
    • despair
weakening political structure
Weakening Political Structure
  • ambiguous succession procedures
  • political influence of the army
    • the barracks emperors
  • murder as a form of political advancement
  • weakening of the imperial cult
    • shorter reigns
    • worthless coinage
    • competing claims
    • civil war
a shift in attitudes c 250 ce
A Shift in Attitudes c. 250 CE
  • Challenges to Perception of Roman Invincibility and Destiny
  • Incursions by
    • Franks
    • Alemani
    • Goths
    • Parthians
  • Declining interest in Roman gods
  • Declining prestige of Roman legions
political reforms of diocletian 285 305
Political Reforms of Diocletian (285-305)
  • Division of Empire into East and West
    • tetrarchy: planned succession
    • paves the way for the Byzantine Empire
    • temporarily restores order to the West
    • smaller administrative units to reduce power of governors and army commanders
  • Restoration and elevation of imperial cult
    • imperial title of dominus (lord)
    • emperor treated as divine
    • genuflection & prostration
    • imperial costume: purple robes, diadems
    • seclusion of the emperor
economic reforms of diocletian 285 305
Economic “Reforms” of Diocletian(285-305)
  • taxes paid in kind to diminish effects of inflation on imperial coffers
    • the wealthy evaded taxes altogether through loopholes to garner their support
  • currency stabilization
  • wage and price controls
    • creation of black market economy
  • hereditary occupations
    • tax farmers and others necessarily passed their occupation on to their sons
constantine 306 337
Constantine (306-337)
  • Mother was Christian
  • Grew up in the court of Diocletian and experienced the persecution of Christians firsthand
  • The “conversion” of Constantine c. 311
    • the battle of Milvian Bridge
      • “By this sign, you shall conquer”
    • Edict of Milan (313): Christianity becomes legal in the Empire
    • only received baptism by Arian priest on his deathbed in 337
  • Gains control of western Empire 313 and Eastern half by 324
reforms of constantine 306 337
Reforms of Constantine (306-337)
  • Encourages Christianity
    • the emperor becomes God’s best friend
    • official persecution of Christians ends
    • Church authorized to enforce morality
    • Church exempt from taxation and the recipient of imperial favors
  • Imperial court relocated to Constantinople (325)
  • Council of Nicaea (325)
    • orthodoxy defined - Nicaean Creed
    • rejection of Arianism
    • affirmation of Church and episcopal hierarchy
christianity in the fourth century
Christianity in the Fourth Century
  • From persecution to state religion
    • Constantine initiates the transformation
    • Church adopts Roman judicial and administrative structure; a state within the state
    • 325 the Council of Nicaea
      • The Nicean Crede
      • Persecuton of Heresy
    • Gradual elimination of pagan temples
    • Rome becomes more of a religious than political focal point
    • Theodosious adopts Christianity as the imperial religion c. 390
    • by late 300s, persecution of pagans
summary
Summary
  • The Roman Empire operated on an economy of plunder; it required plunder in order to generate wealth for the elite
  • Consequently the Romans continued to expand the Empire, despite the warning from Augustus
  • By the Late 2nd century the cost of maintaining the imperial borders had exceeded the Romans’ ability to support such a massive military
  • Increasingly the Romans relied on barbarian mercenaries and others to defend the empire
summary1
Summary
  • A series of violent and incompetent Emperors in the late second century triggered a downward spiral of civil war that lasted for approximately 70 years
  • These civil wars disrupted the economic, demographic, and cultural foundations of the Empire
  • Shaken by the increasing instability, many Romans found comfort in the teachings of the Christians
  • Diocletian restored imperial order and persecuted Christians
  • Constantine continued the consolidation of power and embraced Christianity