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Originally appearing in Volume V23, Page 658 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PERIOD II.: THE DOMINATE, A.D. 284-476.—(a) From the Accession of Diocletian to the Death of Theodosius (A.D. 284-395). The The work of fortifying the empire alike against internal reforms of sedition and foreign invasion, begun by Aurelian and Diocletian Probus, was completed by Diocletian and Constantine and Con- the Great, whose system of government, novel as it Augusts and Caesarea. Altered character of the Imperial authority. Degradation of Italy and Rome. empire, and the building of the new capital at Byzantium. Recogni. The alliance which Constantine inaugurated between tion of the Christian church and the imperial government, Christi- while it enlisted on the side of the state one of the most 8°lty' powerful of the new forces with which it had to reckon, imposed a check, which was in time to become a powerful one, on the imperial authority. The establishment of the new " City of Constantine " as a second Rome paved the tlnople. providing the former for the first time with a suitable seat of government on the Bosphorus. The death of Constantine in 337 was followed, as the abdication of Diocletian had been, by the outbreak of quarrels among rival Caesars. Of the three sons of Constantine who in 337 divided the empire between them, Constantine the eldest fell in civil war against his brother Constans ; Constans himself was, ten years afterwards, defeated and slain by Magnentius; and the latter in his turn was in 353 vanquished by Constantine's only surviving son Constantius. constan- Thus for the second time the whole empire was united this II., under the rule of a member of the house of Constantine. 351-63. But in 355 Constantius granted the title of Caesar to his cousin Julian and placed him in charge of Gaul, where the momentary elevation of a tyrant, Silvanus, and still more the inroads of Franks and Alamanni, had excited alarm. But Julian's successes during the next five years were such as to arouse the jealous fears of Constantius. In order to weaken his suspected rival the legions under Julian in Gaul were suddenly ordered to march eastward against the Persians (36o). They refused; and when the order was repeated, replied by proclaiming Julian himself emperor and Augustus. Julian, with probably sincere reluc- tance, accepted the position, but the death of Constantius in 361 saved the empire from the threatened civil war. Julian's attempted restoration of pagan and in especial of Hellenic worships had no more permanent effect than the war which he courageously waged against the multitudinous abuses which had grown up in the luxurious court of Constantius.' But his vigorous administration in Gaul undoubtedly checked the barbarian advance across the Rhine, and postponed the loss of the Western provinces; on the contrary, his campaign in Persia, brilliantly successful at first, ended in his own death (363), and his successor, Jovian, immediately sur- Division of the empire, 364. until his Valens, 364-78. years of Theodosius's reign (382–95) were mainly engrossed by the duty of upholding the increasingly feeble authority of his western colleague against the attacks of pretenders. Maximus, the murderer of Gratian (383), was at first recognized by Theodosius as Caesar, and left in undisturbed command of Gaul, Spain and Britain; but, when in 386 he proceeded to oust Valentinian II.' from Italy and Africa, Theodosius marched westward, crushed him, and installed Valentinian as emperor of the West. In the very next year, however, the murder of Valentinian (392) by Arbogast, a Frank, was followed by the appearance of a fresh tyrant in the person of Eugenius, a domestic officer and nominee of Arbogast himself. Division Once more Theodosius marched westward, and near of the Aquileia decisively defeated his opponents. But empire between his victory was quickly followed by his own illness A, dlus and death (395), and the fortunes of East and West and passed into the care of his two sons Arcadius and ffonorius. Honorius. (b) From the Death of Theodosius to the Extinction of the Western Empire (395-476).—Through more than a century from the accession of Diocletian the Roman Empire Fall of the had succeeded in holding at bay the swarming hordes western of barbarians. But, though no province had yet Empire. been lost, as Dacia had been lost in the century before, and though the frontier lines of the Rhine and the Danube were still guarded by Roman forts and troops, there were signs in plenty that a catastrophe was at hand. From all the writers who deal with the 4th century we have one long series of laments over the depression and misery of the provinces.3 To meet the increased expenditure Distress necessary to maintain the legions, to pay the hosts of of the officials, and to keep up the luxurious splendour of provinces the imperial courts, not only were the taxes raised in the 4th in amount, but the most oppressive and inquisitorial century. methods were adopted in order to secure for the imperial treasury every penny that could be wrung from the wretched taxpayer. The results are seen in such pictures as that which the panegyrist Eumenius' draws of the state of Gaul (306—12) under Constantine, in the accounts of the same province under Julian fifty years later, in those given by Zosimus early in the 5th century, and in the stringent regulations of the Theodosian code, dealing with the assessment and collection of the taxes. Among the graver symptoms of economic ruin were the decrease of population, which seriously diminished not only the number of taxpayers, but the supply of soldiers for the legions; 5 the spread of infanticide; the increase of waste lands whose owners and cultivators had fled to escape the tax collector; the declining prosperity of the towns; and the constantly recurring riots and insurrections, both among starving peasants, as in Gaul,6 and in populous cities like Antioch.? The distress was aggravated by the civil wars, by the rapacity of tyrants, such as Maxentius and Maximus, but above all by the raids of the barbarians, who seized every opportunity afforded by the dissensions or incapacity of the emperors to cross the frontiers - and harry the lands of the provincials. Constantine (306–12), Julian (356–60) and Valentinian I. (364–75) had each to give a temporary breathing-space to Gaul by repelling the Franks and Alamanni. Britain was harassed by Picts and Scots from the north (367–70), while the Saxon pirates swept the northern seas and the coasts both of Britain and Gaul. On the Danube the Quadi, Sarmatae, and above all the Goths, poured at intervals into the provinces of Pannonia and Moesia, and penetrated to Macedon and Thrace. In the East, in addition to the constant border feud with Persia, we hear of ravages by the Isaurian mountaineers, and by a new enemy, the Saracens.8 3 F. Dill, Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire (2nd ed., 1899). ' Eumenius, Paneg. Vet. vii. 6 Gibbon ii. 179. 8 For the Bagaudae, see Jung, Die romanischen Landschaf ten, p. 264. where the authorities are given. 7 In 387; Hodgkin i. 483. 8 Amm. Marc. xiv. 4. Constar'. way for the final separation of East and West by Julian, 361-63. /ovian, rendered the territories beyond the Tigris won by 363-64. Diocletian seventy years before. Jovian died on the 17th of February 364; and on the 26th of February Valentinian Valen- was acknowledged as emperor of the army at Nicaea. In obedience to the wish of the soldiers that he should associate a colleague with himself, he conferred the title of Augustus upon his brother Valens, and the division of the empire was at last effected,—Valentinian became emperor of the West, Valens of the East. Valentinian maintained the integrity of the empire death (in 395), which deprived the weaker Valens of a trusted counsellor and ally, and was followed by a serious crisis on the Danube. In 376 the Goths, Revolt of hard pressed by their new foes from the eastward, the Huns, sought and obtained the protection of the Roman Empire. They were transported across the Danube and settled in Moesia, but, indignant at the treatment they received, they rose in arms against their protectors. In 378 at Adrianople Valens was defeated and killed, and the victorious Goths advanced eastward to the very walls of Constantinople. Once more, however, the danger passed away. The skill and tact Theo- of Theodosius, who had been proclaimed emperor of dostusi, the East by Gratian,2 conciliated the Goths; they 378-95. were granted an allowance, and in large numbers entered the service of the Roman emperor. The remaining ' In especial against the overweening influence of the eunuchs, an influence at once greater and more pernicious than even that of the imperial freedmen in the days of Claudius. 2 The son of Valentinian and ruler of the West. Galan 1., 364-75. the Goths. Even more ominous of coming danger was the extent to which the European half of the empire was becoming barbarized. The policy which had been inaugurated by Augustus barians Bar- himself of settling barbarians within the frontiers within had been taken up on a larger scale and in a more empire. systematic way by the Illyrian emperors of the 3rd century, and was continued by their successors in the 4th. In Gaul, in the provinces south of the Danube, even in Macedon and Italy, large barbarian settlements had been made —Theodosius in particular distinguishing himself by his liber, ality in this respect. Nor did the barbarians admitted during the 4th century merely swell the class of half-servile coloni. On the contrary, they not only constituted to an increasing extent the strength of the imperial forces, but won their way in ever-growing numbers to posts of dignity and importance in the imperial service. Under Constantine the palace was crowded with Franks.' Julian led Gothic troops against Persia, and the army with which Theodosius defeated the tyrant Maximus (388) contained large numbers of Huns, and Alans, as well as of Goths. The names of Arbogast, Stilicho and Rufinus are sufficient proof of the place held by barbarians near the emperor's person and in the control of the provinces and legions of Rome; and the relations of Arbogast to his nominee for the purple, Eugenius, were an anticipation of those which existed between Ricimer and the emperors of the latter half of the 5th century. It was by barbarians already settled within the empire that the first of the series of attacks which finally separated the western provinces from the empire and set up a bar-Barbaric baric ruler in Ital} were made, and it was in men of invasions. barbarian birth that Rome found her ablest and most successful defenders. The Visigoths whom Alaric led into Aiaric Italy had been settled south of the Danube as the and the allies of the empire since the accession of Theodosius. Visigoths. But, like the Germans of the days of Caesar, they wanted land for their own, and Alaric himself aspired to raise himself to the heights which had been reached before him by the Vandal Stilicho at Ravenna and the Goth Rufinus at Constantinople. The jealousy which existed between the rulers of the western and eastern empires furthered his plans. In the name of Arcadius, the emperor of the east, or at least with the connivance of Arcadius's minister Rufinus, he occupied the province of Illyricum, and from thence ravaged Greece, which, according to the existing division of provinces, belonged to the western empire. Thence in 396 he retreated before Stilicho to Illyricum, with the command of which he was now formally invested by Arcadius; he thus gained a base of operations against Italy.2 In 400 he led his people, with their wives and families, their wagons and treasure, to seek lands for themselves south of the Alps. But in this first invasion he penetrated no farther than the plains of Lombardy, and after the desperate battle of Pollentia (402 or 403) he slowly with-drew from Italy, his retreat being hastened by the promises of gold freely made to him by the imperial government. Not until the autumn of 408 did Alaric again cross the Alps. Stilicho was dead; the barbarian troops in Honorius's service had been provoked into joining Alaric by the anti-Teutonic policy of Honorius and his ministers, and Alaric marched unopposed to Rome. The payment of a heavy ransom, however, saved the city. Negotiations followed between Alaric and the court of Ravenna. Alaric's demands were moderate, but Honorius would grant neither lands for his people nor the honourable post in the imperial service which he asked for him-self. Once more Alaric sat down before Rome, and the citizens were forced to agree to his terms. Attalus, a Greek, the prefect of the city, was declared Augustus, and Alaric accepted the post of commander-in-chief. But after a few months Alaric formally deposed Attalus, on account of his incapacity, and renewed his offers to Honorius. Again they were declined, ' Amm. Marc. xv. 5. 2 Hodgkin op. cit. i. 661.and Alaric marched to the siege and sack of Rome (410).3 His death followed hard on his capture of Rome. Two years later (412) his successor Ataulf led the Visi- The goths to find in Gaul the lands which Alaric had Visigoths sought in Italy. It is characteristic of the anarchical in Gaul. condition of the west that Ataulf and his Goths should have fought for Honorius in Gaul against the tyrants,' and in Spain against the Vandals, Suebi and Alani; and it was with the consent of Honorius that in 419 Wallia, who had followed Ataulf as king of the Visigoths, finally settled with his people in south-western Gaul and founded the Visigothic monarchy., It was about the same period that the accomplished fact of the division of Spain between the three barbarian tribes of Vandals, Suebi and Alani was in a similar manner Vandals, recognized by the paramount authority of the emperor suebi of the west.6 These peoples had crossed the Rhine and Alan! at the time when Alaric was making his first attempt !n Spain. on Italy. A portion of the host led by Radagaisus ° actually invaded Italy, but was cut to pieces by Stilicho near Florence (405); the rest pressed on through Gaul, crossed the Pyrenees, and entered the as yet untouched province of Spain. Honorius died in 423. With the single exception of Britain,8 no province had yet formally broken loose from the empire. But over a great part of the west the authority of the Death of emperors was now little more than nominal; through- Honorlus, out the major part of Gaul and in Spain the barbarians 423. had settled, and barbarian states were growing up which recognized the supremacy of the emperor, but were in all essentials independent of his control. The long reign of Valentinian III. (423–55) is marked by two events of first-rate importance—the conquest of Africa by the Vandals 9 and the invasion of Gaul and Italy by Valen Attila. The Vandal settlement in Africa was closely tinian ILL, akin in its origin and results to those of the Visi- 423-55. goths and of the Vandals themselves in Gaul and Vandal Spain. Here, as there, the occasion was given by conquest the jealous quarrels of powerful imperial ministers. of Africa. The feud between Boniface, count of Africa, and Aetius, the " master-general " or " count of Italy," opened the way to Africa for the Vandal king Gaiseric (Genseric), as that between Stilicho and Rufinus had before set Alaric in motion west-ward, and as the quarrel between the tyrant Constantine and the ministers of Honorius had paved the way for the Vandals, Suebes and Alans into Spain. In this case, too, land-hunger was the impelling motive with the barbarian invader, and in Africa, as in Gaul and Spain, the invaders' acquisitions were confirmed by the imperial authority which they still professed to recognize. In 429 Gaiseric, king of the Vandals, crossed with his warriors, their families and goods, to the province of Africa, hitherto almost untouched by the ravages of war. Thanks to the quarrels of Boniface and Aetius, their task was an easy one. The province was quickly overrun. In 43510 a formal treaty secured them in the possession of a large portion of the rich lands which were the granary of Rome, in exchange for a payment probably of corn and oil. Carthage was taken in 439, and by 440 the Vandal kingdom was firmly established. 2 For the treatment of Rome by Alaric, see Hodgkin i. 798; Gibbon iii. 321 sqq. ; Ranke iv. 246. Allowance must be made for the exaggerations of the ecclesiastical writers. ' For these tyrants, see Freeman in the Eng. Hist. Rev. i. 53-86. The capital of the new state was Tolosa (Toulouse). 6 Jung, Die Romanischen Landschaften, 73 seq. For the connexion between his movement and those of Alaric and of the Vandals, see Hodgkin i. 711; Gibbon iii. 262 seq. 6 The Roman troops were withdrawn from Britain by Constantine in 407; Mommsen, Chron. min. i. 465. 9 Hodgkin vol. ii. bk. iii. chap. ii.; Gibbon ii. 400 sqq.; Jung, 183. The leading ancient authority is Procopius. See Ranke iv. (2) 285; Papencordt, Gesch. d. Vandal. Herrschaft in Africa. 10 Prosper 659; Ranke iv. (1) 282. Eleven years later (451) Attila invaded Gaul, but this Hunnish movement was in a variety of ways different from those of the Visigoths and Vandals. Nearly a century had passed since the Huns first appeared in Europe, and drove the Goths to seek shelter within the Roman lines. Attila was now the ruler of a great empire in central and northern Europe and, in addition to his own Huns, the German tribes along the Rhine and Danube and far away to the north owned him as king. He confronted the Roman power as an equal; and, unlike the Gothic and Vandal chieftains, he treated with the emperors of east and west as an independent sovereign. His advance on Gaul and Italy threatened, not the establishment of one more barbaric chieftain on Roman soil, but the sub- jugation of the civilized and Christian West to the rule of a heathen and semi-barbarous conqueror. But the Visigoths in Gaul, Christian and already half Romanized, rallied to the aid of the empire against a common foe. Attila, Battle defeated at Chalons' by Aetius,withdreW into Pannonia Chalons. s. (451). In the next year he overran Lombardy, but penetrated no farther south, and in 453 he died. With the murder of Valentinian III. (455) the western branch of the house of Theodosius came to an end, and the next twenty years witnessed the accession and deposition of nine emperors. Under the three-months' rule of Maximus, the Vandals under Gaiseric invaded Italy and sacked Rome. From 456-72 the actual ruler of Italy was Ricimer, the Suebe. Of the four emperors whom he placed on the throne, Majorian (457-61) alone played any imperial part outside Italy.2 Ricimer died in 472, and two years later a Pannonian, Orestes, attempted to fill his place. He deposed Julius Nepos and proclaimed as Augustus his own son Romulus. But the barbarian mercenaries in Italy determined to secure for themselves a position there such as that which their kinsfolk had won in Gaul and Spain and Africa. Their demand for a third of the lands of Italy was refused by Orestes,3 and they instantly rose in revolt. On the defeat and death of Orestes they pro- claimed their leader, Odoacer the Rugian,4 king of Italy. Rom- Romulus ulus Augustulus laid down his imperial dignity, and Augus- the court at Constantinople was informed that there tutus. was no longer an emperor of the West .5 The installation of a barbarian king in Italy was the natural climax of the changes which had been taking place in the West throughout the 5th century. In Spain, Gaul and Africa barbarian chieftains were already established as kings. In Italy, for the last twenty years, the real power had been wielded by a barbarian officer. Odoacer, when he decided to dispense with the nominal authority of an emperor of the West, placed Italy on the same level of independence with the neighbouring provinces. But the old ties with Rome were not severed. The new king of Italy formally recognized the supremacy of the one Roman emperor at Constantinople, and was invested in return with the rank of " patrician," which had been held before him by Aetius and Ricimer. In Italy too, as in Spain and Gaul, the laws, the administrative system and the language remained Roman.6 But the emancipation of Italy and the Western provinces from direct imperial control, which is signalized by Odoacer's acces- sion, has rightly been regarded as marking the opening of a new epoch. It made possible in the West the development of a Romano-German civilization; it facilitated the growth of new and distinct states and nationalities; it gave a new impulse ' For the battle of Chalons, see Gibbon iv. 464; Hodgkin ii. 124 n. 6, 143, where the topography is discussed. s Majorian was the last Roman emperor who appeared in person in Spain and Gaul. 3 Hodgkin ii. 520. ' The nationality of Odoacer is a disputed point. Hodgkin ii. 5,6; Ranke iv. (I) 372. ' Gibbon iv. 5o seq. The authority for the embassy to Zeno is Maichus (Muller, Fragm. Hist. Gr. iv. 119). ' Gibbon iv. 54 seq.; Jung 66 seq.; Bryce, Holy Roman Empire, 24-33. See also ROMAN the influence of the Christian church, and laid the foundations of the power of the bishops of Rome.
End of Article: PERIOD II

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