Rome, History Of, V - The Principate, 27 Bc-284 Ad
ROME, HISTORY OF, V - THE PRINCIPATE, 27 BC-284 AD (a) The Constitution of the Principate. The conqueror of Antonius at Actium, the great-nephew and heir of the dictator Caesar, was now summoned, by the general consent of a world wearied out with twenty years of war and anarchy, 2 to the task of establishing a government which should as far as possible respect the forms and traditions of the Republic, without sacrificing that centralization of authority which experience had shown to be necessary for the integrity and stability of the Empire. It was a task for which Octavian was admirably fitted. To great administrative capacity and a quiet tenacity of purpose he united deliberate caution and unfailing tact; while his bourgeois birth 3 and genuinely Italian sympathies enabled him to win the confidence of the Roman community to an extent impossible for Caesar, with his dazzling pre-eminence of patrician descent, his daring disregard of forms and his cosmopolitan tastes.
The new system which was formally inaugurated by Octavian in 28-27 B - c -' 1 assumed the shape of a restoration of the republic The under the leadership of a princeps. & Octavian volun- Augustan tarily resigned the extraordinary powers which he had system, held since 43, and, to quote his own words, " handed 28-27= over the republic to the control of the senate and 726 ~ 27 - people of Rome." 6 The old constitutional machinery was once more set in motion; the senate, assembly and magistrates resumed their functions; 7 and Octavian himself was hailed as the " restorer of the commonwealth and the champion of freedom." 8 It was not so easy to determine what relation he himself, the actual master of the Roman world, should occupy towards this revived republic. His abdication, in any real sense of the word, would have simply thrown everything back into confusion. The interests of peace and order required that he should retain at least the substantial part of his authority;* and this object was in fact accomplished, and the rule of the emperors founded, in a manner which has no parallel in history. Any revival of the kingly title was out of the question, and Octavian himself expressly refused the dictatorship. 10 Nor was any new office created or any new official title invented for his benefit. But by senate and people he was invested according to the old constitutional forms with certain powers, as many citizens had been before him, and so took his place by the side of the lawfully appointed magistrates of the republic; only, to mark his pre-eminent dignity, as the first of them all, the senate decreed that he should take as an additional cognomen that of " Augustus," 11 while in common parlance he was henceforth styled princeps, a simple title of courtesy, familiar to republican usage, and conveying no other idea than that of a I He celebrated his triumph on the 13th, 14th and 15th of August; Dio li. 21 ; Livy, Epit. cxxxiii. For the closing of the temple of Janus, see Livy i. 19; Veil. ii. 38; Suet. Aug. 22.
- Tac. Ann. i. 2, " cunctos dulcedine otii pellexit."
3 Suet. Aug. i. His grandfather was a citizen of Velitrae; " municipalibus magisteriis contentus."
4 Mommsen, Staatsrecht, ii. 745 ff . ; Man. Ancyranum (ed. Mommsen, Berlin, 1883), vi. 13-23, pp. 144-53; Herzog, Gesch. u. System d. rom. Verfassung, ii. p. 126 sqq.
'Tac. Ann. iii. 28, " sexto demum consulatu . . . quae Illviratu jusserat abolevit, deditque jura quis pace et principe uteremur"; Ibid. i. 9, " non regno neque dictatura sed principis nomine constitutam rempublicam."
6 Man. Anc. vi. 13.
7 Veil. ii. 89, " pnsca et antiqua reipublicae forma revocata."
8 Ovid, Fasti, i. 589. On a coin of Asia Minor Augustus is styled " libertatis P. R. vindex." The 13th of January, 27 B.C., was marked in the calendar as the day on which the republic was restored (C.I.L. i. p. 384).
9 Dio Cassius describes Augustus as seriously contemplating abdication (Iii. i; liii. I-Il); cf. Suet. Aug. 28.
10 Suet. Aug. 52; Man. Anc. i. 31.
II Man. Anc. vi. 16, 21-23.
recognized primacy and precedence over his fellow-citizens. 12 The ideal sketched by Cicero in his De ReptMica, of a constitutional president of a free republic, was apparently realized; but it was only in appearance. For in fact the special prerogatives conferred upon Octavian gave him back in substance the autocratic authority he had resigned, and as between the restored republic and its new princeps the balance of power was overwhelmingly on the side of the latter.
Octavian had held the imperium since 43; in 33, it '" al - is true, the powers of the triumvirate had legally Jjjfc. expired, but he had continued to wield his authority, meat / as he himself puts it," " by universal consent." In 27 2T-T27. he received a formal grant of the imperium from the T27 - senate and people for the term of ten years, and his provincia was denned as including all the provinces in which military authority was required and legions were stationed. 14 He was declared commander-in-chief of the Roman army, and granted the exclusive right of levying troops, of making war and peace, and of concluding treaties. 16 As consul, moreover, he not only continued !o be the chief magistrate of the state at home, but took precedence, in virtue of his majus imperium, over the governors of the " unarmed provinces," which were still nominally under the control of the senate. Thus the so-called " restoration of the republic " was in essence the recognition by law of the personal supremacy of Octavian, or Augustus, as he must henceforth be called.
In 23 an important change was made in the formal basis of Augustus's authority. In that year he laid down the consulship which he had held each year since 31, and could The therefore only exert his imperium pro console, like n-* ettiethe ordinary governor of a province. He lost his meat at authority as chief magistrate in Rome and his 23=731. precedence over the governors of senatorial provinces. To remedy these defects a series of extraordinary offices were pressed upon his acceptance; but he refused them all, 16 and caused a number of enactments to be passed which determined the character of the principate for the next three centuries. 17 Firstly, he was exempted from the disability attaching to the tenure of the imperium by one who was not an actual magistrate, and permitted to retain and exercise it in Rome. Secondly, his imperium was declared to be equal with that of the consuls, and therefore superior to that of all other holders of that power. Thirdly, he was granted equal rights with the consuls of convening the senate and introducing business, of nominating candidates at elections, 1 * and of issuing edicts. 19 Lastly, he was placed on a level with the consuls in outward rank. Twelve lictors were assigned to him and an official seat between those of the consuls themselves (Dio liv. 10).
Thus the proconsular authority 20 was for the first time admitted within the walls of Rome; but Augustus was too cautious a statesman to proclaim openly the fact that Tribaathe power which he wielded in the city was the same kt ' as that exercised in camps and provinces by a Roman P te * ta *- military commander. Hence he sought for a title which should disguise the nature of his authority, and found it in the 12 The explanation of princeps as an abbreviated form of princeps senatus is quite untenable. For its real significance, see Mommsen, Staatsrecht, ii. 774; Pelham, Journ. of Phu. vol. viii. It is not an official title.
13 Man. Anc. 6, 14, " per consensum universorum."
14 Dio liii. 12; Suet. Aug. 47. " Dio, l.c.
16 He was offered the dictatorship, a life-consulship, a " cura legum et morum." It is stated by Suetonius (Aug. 53) and Dio (liv. 10) that he accepted the last named; but this is disproved by his own language in the Man. Anc. (i. 31); cf. Pelham, Journ. of Philol. xvii. 47.
17 Dio liii. 32. Part of the law by which the rights essential to the principate were conferred upon Vespasian is extant; see Rushforth, Latin Historical Inscriptions, No. 70 (the Lex de imperio Vespasiani).
18 Tac. Ann. i. 81. " Lex de imperio, 11. 17-21.
20 The term proconsulate imperium, which we find used, e.g., by Tacitus, was not employed in republican times, and Augustus himself speaks of his considare impsrium (Man. Anc. 2, 5, 8).
: 27 B.C.-A.D. 284 710. 731.
" tribunician power," which had been conferred upon him for life in 36, and was well suited, from its urban and democratic traditions, to serve in Rome as " a term to express his supreme position." ' From 23 onwards the tribunicia potestas appears after his name in official inscriptions, together with the number indicating the period during which it had been held (also reckoned from 23) ; it was in virtue of this power that Augustus introduced the social reforms which the times demanded; 2 and, though far inferior to the imperium in actual importance, it ranked with or even above it as a distinctive prerogative of the emperor or his chosen colleague. 3 The .imperium and the tribunicia potestas were the two pillars upon which the authority of Augustus rested, and the other offices and privileges conferred upon him were 749 752. ^ secondary importance. After 23 he never held the consulship save in 5 and 2 B.C., when he became the colleague of his grandsons on their introduction to public life. He permitted the triumvir Lepidus to retain the chief pontificate until his death, when Augustus naturally became pontifex maximus (12 B.C.). 4 He proceeded wifh the like caution in reorganizing the chief departments of the public service in Rome and Italy. The cura annonae, i.e. the supervision of the corn supply of Rome, was entrusted to him in 22 B.C., 6 and this important branch of administration thus came under his personal control; but the other boards (curae), created during his reign to take charge of the roads, the water-supply, the regulation of the Tiber and the public buildings, were composed of senators of high rank, and regarded in theory as deriving their authority from the senate. 6 Such was the ingenious compromise by which room was found for the master of the legions within the narrow limits of the old Roman constitution. Augustus could say with truth that he had accepted no office which was " contrary to the usage of our ancestors," and that it was only in dignity that he took precedence of his colleagues. Nevertheless, as every thinking man must have realized, the compromise was unreal, and its significance was ambiguous. It was an arrangement avowedly of an exceptional and temporary character, yet no one could suppose that it would in effect be otherwise than permanent. The powers voted to Augustus were (like those conferred upon ^ Pompey in 67 B.C.) voted only to him, and (save the 727 \ tribunicia potestas) voted only for a limited time; in 27 he received the imperium for ten years, and it was afterwards renewed for successive periods of five, five, ten and ten years. 7 In this way the powers of the principate were made coextensive in time with the life of Augustus, but there was absolutely no provision for hereditary or any other form of succession, and various expedients were devised in order to indicate the destined successor of the princeps and to bridge the gap created by his death. Ultimately Augustus associated his stepson Tiberius with himself as co-regent. The imperium and the tribunicia potestas were conferred upon him, and he was thus marked out as the person upon whom the remaining powers of the principate would naturally be bestowed after the death of his stepfather. But succeeding emperors did not always indicate their successors so clearly, and, in direct contrast to the maxim that " the king never dies," it has been well said that the Roman principate died with the death of the princeps? In theory, at least, the Roman world was governed according to the " maxims of Augustus" (Suet. Ner. 10), down to the Change* time of Diocletian. Even in the 3rd century there is wnsfttu- sti11 in name at least > a republic, of which the emperor tionofthe * s ' n strictness only the chief magistrate, deriving princi- his authority from the senate and people, and with pate. prerogatives limited and defined by law. The case is quite different when we turn from theory to practice. The *Tac. Ann. iii. 56; " summi fastigii vocabulum."
2 Mon. Anc. Grace. 3, 19.
3 Tac. Ann. i. 3 (of Tiberius), "collega imperii, consors tribuniciae potestatis "; cf. Mommsen, Staatsr. ii. 1160.
4 Suet. Aug. 31. 6 Mon. Anc. I, 32; Dio liv. i. 'See Hirschfeld, Verwaltungsgesch. i. 173.
7 Dio liii. 13, 16. * Mommsen, Staatsr. ii. 1143.
division of authority between the republic and its chief magistrate became increasingly unequal. Over the provinces the princeps from the first ruled autocratically; and this autocracy reacted upon his position in Rome, so that it became every year more difficult for a ruler so absolute abroad to maintain even the fiction of republican government at home. The republican institutions, with the partial exception of the senate, lose all semblance of authority outside Rome, and even as the municipal institutions of the chief city of the empire they retain but little actual power. The real government even of Rome passes gradually into the hands of imperial prefects and commissioners, and the old magistracies become merely decorations which the emperor bestows at his pleasure. At the same time the rule of the princeps assumes an increasingly personal character, and the whole work of government is silently concentrated in his hands and in those of his own subordinates. Closely connected with this change is the different aspect presented by the history of the empire in Rome and Italy on the one hand and in the provinces on the other. Rome and Italy share in the decline of the republic. Political independence and activity die out; their old pre-eminence and exclusive privileges gradually disappear; and at the same time the weight of the overwhelming power of the princeps, and the abuses of their power by individual principes, press most heavily upon them. On the other hand, in the provinces and on the frontiers, where the imperial system was most needed, and where from the first it had full play, it is seen at its best as developing or protecting an orderly civilization and maintaining the peace of the world.
The decay of the republican institutions had commenced before the revolutionary crisis of 49. It was accelerated by the virtual suspension of regular government between Decay 49 and 28; and not even the diplomatic deference towards ancient forms which Augustus displayed availed to conceal the unreality of his work of tioas. restoration. The comitia received back from him 70S > 726 - " their ancient rights " (Suet. Aug. 40), and during his lifetime they continued to pass laws and to elect magistrates. But after the end of the reign of Tiberius we have only two instances of legislation by the assembly in the ordinary way, 9 and the law-making of the empire is performed either by decrees of the senate or by imperial edicts and constitutions. Their prerogative- of electing magistrates was, even under Augustus, robbed of most of its importance by the control which the princeps exercised over their choice by means of his rights of nomination and commendation, which effectually secured the election of his own nominees. 10 By Tiberius this restricted prerogative was still further curtailed. The candidates for all magistracies except the consulship were thenceforward nominated and voted for in the senate-house and by the senators, 11 and only the formal return of the result (renuntiatio) took place in the assembly (Dio Iviii. 20). And, though the election of consuls was never thus transferred to the senate, the process of voting seems to have been silently abandoned. In the time of the younger Pliny we hear only of the nomination of the candidates and of their formal renuntiatio in the Campus Martius. 12 The princeps himself as long as the Principate lasted, continued to receive the tribunicia potestas by a vote of the assembly, and was thus held to derive his authority from the people. 13 'The plebiscita of Claudius, Tac. Ann. xi. 13, 14, and the lex agraria of Nerva; Digest, xlvii. 21, 3; Dio Ixviii. 2; Plin. Epp. vii. 31.
10 On these rights, the latter of which was not exercised in the case of the consulship until the close of Nero's reign, see Mommsen, Staatsr. ii. 916-28; -Tac. Ann. i. 14, 15, 81 ; Suet. Aug. 56; Dio Iviii. 20.
u Tac. Ann. i. 15, "comitia e campo ad patres translata sunt "; compare Ann. xiv. 28. The magistracy directly referred to is the praetprship, but that the change affected the lower magistracies also is certain; see, e.g., Pliny's Letters, passim, especially iii. 20, vi. 19.
u Plin. Paneg. 92.
11 Gaius i. 5, " cum ipse imperator per legem imperium accipiat."
This almost complete effacement of the comitia was largely due to the fact that they had ceased to represent anything but The the populace of Rome, and the comparatively greater magis- vitality shown by the old magistracies is mainly trade*. attributable to the value they continued to possess in the eyes of the Roman upper class. But, though they were eagerly sought (Plin. Epp. ii. 9, vi. 6), and conferred on their holders considerable social distinction, the magistrates ceased, except in name, to be the popularly chosen executive officers of the Roman state. In the administration of the empire at large they had no share, if we except the subordinate duties still assigned to the quaestor in a province. In Rome, to which their Sphere of work was limited, they were overshadowed by the dominant authority of the princeps, while their range of duties was increasingly circumscribed by the gradual transference of administrative authority, even within the city, to the emperor and his subordinate officials. And their dependence on the princeps was confirmed by the control he exercised over their appointment. For all candidates the approval, if not the commendation, of the princeps became the indispensable condition of success, and the princeps on his side treated these ancient offices as pieces of preferment with which to reward his adherents or gratify the ambition of Roman nobles. The dignity of the office, too, was impaired by the practice, begun by Caesar and continued by Augustus and his Consul- successors, of granting the insignia to men who had not ship. held the actual magistracy itself. 1 The consulship was still the highest post open to the private citizen, and consular rank a necessary qualification for high office in the provinces; 2 but the actual consuls have scarcely any other duties than those of presiding in the senate and occasionally executing its decrees, while their term of office dwindles from a year to six and finally to two months. 3 In the age of Tacitus and the younger Pliny, the contrast is striking between the high estimate set on the dignity of the office and the frankness with which its limited powers and its dependence on the emperor are ship."' acknowledged. 4 The praetors continued to exercise their old jurisdiction with little formal change down at least to the latter half of the second century, but only as subordinate to the higher judicial authority of the ship."' emperor. 6 The aediles retained only such petty police duties as did not pass to one or another of the imperial prefects and commissioners. The tribunate fared still worse, for, by the side of the tribunicia poteslas wielded by the princeps, it sank into insignificance. 6 The quaestorship suffered less change than any other of the old offices. It kept its place as the first step on the ladder f promotion, and there was still a quaestor attached to each governor of a senatorial province, to the consuls in Rome, and to the princeps himself. 7 The senate alone among republican institutions retained some importance and influence, and it thus came to be regarded The as sharing the government of the Empire with the Senate. princeps himself. It nominally controlled the administration of Italy and of the " public provinces," whose governors 1 On the permission to use the ornamenta consularia, praetoria, etc., see Mommsen, Staatsr. i. 455 sqq.; Suet. Jul. 76; Claud, y. 24; Tac. Ann. xii. 21, xv. 72 ; Dio Cass. Ix. 8. Cf. also Friedlander, i. 691.
2 For a consular senatorial province and for the more important of the imperial legateships.
* Mommsen, Staatsr. ii. 82 sqq. Six months was the usual term down to the death of Nero; we have then four or two months; in the 3rd century two is the rule. The consuls who entered on office on the 1st of January were styled consules ordinarii, and gave their name to the year, whilst the others were distinguished as consules suffecti or minores; Dio Cass. xlviii. 35.
4 Plin. Paneg. 92; Tac. Hist. i. i, Agric. 44.
6 Mommsen, Staatsr. ii. 225.
Plin. Epp. i. 23, " inanem umbram et sine honore nomen." There are a few instances of the exercise by the tribunes of their power of interference within the senate; Tac. Ann. i. 77, vi. 47, xvi. 26; Plin. Epp. ix. 13.
7 Mommsen, Staatsrecht, ii. 567-69. Pliny was himself " quaestor Caesaris," Epp. vii. 16.
it appointed. It is to the senate, in theory, that the supreme power reverts in the absence of a princeps. It is by decree of the senate that the new princeps immediately receives his powers and privileges, 8 though he is still supposed to derive them ultimately from the people. ^After the cessation of all legislation by the comitia, the only law-maku:g authority, other than that of the princeps by his edicts, was that of the senate by its decrees.' Its judicial authority was co-ordinate with that of the emperor, and at the close of the 1st century we find the senators claiming, as the emperor's " peers," to be exempt from his jurisdiction. 10 But in spite of the outward dignity of its position, and of the deference with which it was frequently treated, the senate became gradually almost as powerless in reality as the comitia and the magistracies. The senators continued indeed to be taken as a rule from the ranks of the wealthy, and a high property qualification was established by Augustus as a condition of membership; but this merely enabled the emperors to secure their own ascendancy by subsidizing those whose property fell short of the required standard, and who thus became simply the paid creatures of their imperial patrons. 11 Admission to the senate was possible only by favour of the emperor, both as controlling the elections to the magistracies, which still gave entrance to the curia, and as invested with the power of directly creating senators by adleclio, a power which from the time of Vespasian onwards was freely used. 12 As the result, the composition of the senate rapidly altered. Under Augustus and Tiberius it still contained many representatives of the old republican families, whose prestige and ancestral traditions were some guarantee for their independence. But this element soon disappeared. The ranks of the old nobility were thinned by natural decay and by the jealous fears of the last three Claudian emperors. Vespasian u flooded the senate with new men from the municipal towns of Italy and the Latinized provinces of the West. Trajan and Hadrian, both provincials themselves, carried on the same policy, and by the close of the 2nd century even the Greek provinces of the East had their representatives in the senate. Some, no doubt, of these provincials, who constituted the great majority of the senate in the 3rd century, were men of wealth and mark, but many more were of low birth, on some rested the stain of a servile descent, and all owed alike their present position and their chances of further promotion to the emperor. 14 The procedure of the senate was as completely at the mercy of the princeps as its composition. He was himself a senator and the first of senators; 15 he possessed the magisterial prerogatives of convening the senate, of laying business before it, and of carrying senatus consulta;" above all, his tribunician power enabled him to interfere at any stage, and to modify or reverse its decisions. The share of the senate in the government was in fact determined by the amount of administrative activity which each princeps saw fit to allow it to exercise, and this share became steadily smaller. The jurisdiction assigned it by Augustus and Tiberius was in the 3rd century limited to the hearing of such cases as the emperor thought fit to send for trial, and these became steadily fewer in number. Its control of the state treasury, as distinct from the imperial fiscus, was in fact little more than nominal, and became increasingly unimportant as the great bulk of the revenue passed 8 Mommsen, Staatsrecht, ii. 842; Tac. Ann. xii. 69, Hist. i. 47. In the 3rd century the honours, titles and powers were conferred en bloc by a single decree; Vit. Sev. Alex. i.
' Gaius i. 4; Ulrjian, Dig. i. 3, 9.
10 Under Domitian ; Dio Cass. Ixvii. 2. Even Septimius Severus caused a decree to be passed " ne liceret imperatori inconsulto senatu occidere senatorem "; Vita Severi, 7.
11 Suet. Nero, 10, Vesp. 17.
12 Mommsen, Staatsrecht, ii. 939 sqq. The power was derived from the censorial authority. Domitian was censor for life ; Suet. Dom. 8. After Nerva it was exercised as falling within the general authority vested in the princeps; Dio liii. 17.
18 Suet. Vesf. 90; Tac. Ann. iii. 55.
14 See on this point Friedlander, Sittengeschichte Roms, i. 237 sqq. l * Man. Ancyr. Gr. iv. 3, Tcpurrov &ta>piarot rbieoi>. " Lex de imp. Vesp., C.I.L. vi. 930: " Senatum habere, relationem facere, remittere; Seta, per relationem discessionemque facere."
into the hands of the emperor. Even in Rome and Italy its control of the administration was gradually transferred to the prefect of the city, and after the reign of Hadrian to imperial officers (juridici) charged with the civil administration. 1 The part still played by its decrees in the modification of Roman law has been dealt with elsewhere (see SENATE), but it is clear that these decrees did little else than register the expressed wishes of the emperor and his personal advisers.
The process by which all authority became centralized in the hands of the princeps and in practice exercised by an organCeatrai- ized bureaucracy 2 was of necessity gradual; but it 'author-" 1 ^ & ^ ' ts Beginnings under Augustus, who formed the "ty: the equestrian order (admission to which was henceforth imperial granted only by him) into an imperial service, partly iervice. civil and partly military, whose members, being immediately dependent on the emperor, could be employed on tasks which it would have been impossible to assign to senators (see EQUITES). From this order were drawn the armies of " procurators " the term was derived from the practice of the great business houses of Rome who administered the imperial revenues and properties in all parts of the empire. Merit was rewarded by independent governorships such as those of Raetia and Noricum, or the command of the naval squadrons at Misenum and Ravenna; and the prizes of the knight's career were the prefectures of the praetorian guard, the corn-supply and the city police, and the governorship of Egypt. The household offices and imperial secretaryships were held by freedmen, almost always of Greek origin, whose influence became all-powerful under such emperors as Claudius. 3 The financial secretary (a rationibus) and those who dealt with the emperor's correspondence (ab epislulis) and with petitions (a libellis) were the most important of these.
This increase of power was accompanied by a corresponding elevation of the princeps himself above the level of all other Outward citizens. The comparatively modest household and splea- simple life of Augustus were replaced by a more than dour. regal splendour, and under Nero we find all the outward accessories of monarchy present, the palace, the palace guards, the crowds of courtiers, and a court ceremonial. In direct opposition to the republican theory of the principate, members of the family of the princeps share the dignities of his position. The males bear the cognomen of Caesar, and are invested, as youths, with high office; their names and even those of the females are included in the yearly prayers for the safety of the princeps; 4 their birthdays are kept as festivals; the praetorian guards take the oath to them as well as to the princeps himself. The logical conclusion was reached in the practice of Caesarworship, 5 which was in origin the natural expression of a widespread sentiment of homage, which varied in form in different parts of the empire and in different classes of society, but was turned to account by the statecraft of Augustus to develop something like an imperial patriotism. The official worship of the deified Caesar, starting from that of the " divine Julius," gave a certain sanctity and continuity to the regular succession of the emperors, but it was of less importance politically than the worship of " Rome and Augustus," first instituted in Asia Minor in 29 B.C., and gradually diffused throughout the provinces, as a symbol of imperial unity. It must be observed that living emperors were not officially worshipped by Roman citizens; yet we find that even in Italy an unauthorized worship of Augustus sprang up during his lifetime in the country towns. 6 1 Vit. Hadr. 22; " Juridici " were appointed by Marcus Aurelius, Vit. Ant. ii ; Marquardt i. 224.
1 On the growth of the imperial bureaucracy see Hirschfeld, Die kaiserlichen Verwaltungsbeamten bis auf Diocletian (1905).
3 For the position of the imperial freedmen under Claudius, see Friedlander i. 88 sqq.; Tac. Ann. xii. 60, xiv. 39, Hist. ii. 57, 95.
* Acta Fr. Arval. (ed. Henzen), 33, 98, 99.
' For Caesar-worship, see Mommsen, Staatsr. ii. 755 sqq. ; Wissowa, Religion und Kultus der Romer, p. 283 sqq., and Kornemann in Beitrdge zur alien Geschichte, i.
See Rushforth, Roman Historical Inscriptions, Nos. 38 sqq. and notes.
On the accession of Augustus, there could be little doubt as to the nature of the work that was necessary, if peace and prosperity were to be secured for the Roman world. He was called upon to justify his position by rectifying the frontiers and strengthening their defences, by reforming the system of provincial government, and by reorganizing the finance; and his success in dealing with these three difficult problems is sufficiently proved by the prosperous condition of the empire for a century and a half after his death. To secure peace it was necessary to establish on all sides of the empire really defensible frontiers; and this became possible now that for the first time the direction of the foreign policy of the state and of its military forces was concentrated in the hands of a single magistrate. To the south and west the generals of the republic, and Caesar himself, had extended the authority of Rome to the natural boundaries formed by the African deserts and the Atlantic Ocean, and in these two directions Augustus's task was in the main confined to the organization of a settled Roman government within these limits. In Africa the client state of Egypt was ruled by Augustus as the successor of the Ptolemies, and administered by his deputies (praefecti), and the kingdom of Numidia (25 B.C.) was incorporated with the old province of Africa. In Spain the hill-tribes of the north-west were finally subdued and a third province, Lusitania, established. 7 In Gaul Augustus (27 B.C.) established in addition to the " old province " the three new ones of Aquitania, Lugdunensis and Belgica, 8 which included the territories conquered by Julius Caesar. Towards the north the republic had left the civilized countries bordering on the Mediterranean with only a North very imperfect defence against the threatening mass of barbarian tribes beyond them. The result 9 of Augustus's policy was to establish a protecting line of provinces running from the Euxine to the North Sea, and covering the peaceful districts to the south, Moesia (A.D. 6), Pannonia (A.D. 9), Noricum (15 B.C.), Raetia (15 B.C.) and Gallia Belgica. Roman rule was thus carried up to the natural frontier lines of the Rhine and the Danube. It was originally intended to make the Elbe the frontier of the empire; but after the defeat of P. Quintilius Varus (A.D. 9) the forward policy was abandoned. Tiberius recalled Germanicus as soon as Varus had been avenged; and after the peace with Maroboduus, the chief of the Marcomanni on the upper Danube, in the next year (A.D. 17), the defensive policy recommended by Augustus was adopted along the whole of the northern frontier. The line of the great rivers was held by an imposing mass of troops. Along the Rhine lay the armies of Upper and Lower Germany, consisting of four legions each; eight more guarded the Danube and the frontiers of Pannonia and Moesia. At frequent intervals along the frontier were the military colonies, the permanent camps and the smaller intervening castella. Flotillas of galleys cruised up and down the rivers, and Roman roads opened communication both along the frontiers and with the seat of government in Italy.
In the East, Rome was confronted with a well-organized and powerful state whose claims to empire were second only to her own. The victory of Carrhae (53 B.C.) had encouraged among the Parthians the idea of an invasion of Syria and ^ st Asia Minor, while it had awakened in Rome a genuine fear of the formidable power which had so suddenly arisen in the East. Caesar was at the moment of his death preparing to avenge the death of Crassus by an invasion of Parthia, and Antony's schemes of founding an Eastern empire which should rival that of Alexander included the conquest of the kingdom beyond the Euphrates. Augustus, however, adhered to the policy which he recommended to his successors of " keeping the empire within its bounds"; and the Parthians, weakened by internal feuds and dynastic quarrels, were in no mood for vigorous action. Roman pride was satisfied by the restoration of the standards taken at Carrhae. Four legions guarded the line of the Euphrates, and, beyond the frontiers of Pontus and 7 Marquardt i. 257 ; Mommsen, Provinces, i. 64.
8 Marquardt i. 264; Mommsen, Provinces, \. 84 seq.
9 See especially Mommsen, Provinces, i. caps. 4 and 6.
Cappadocia, Armenia was established as a " friendly and independent ally." 1 Next in importance to the rectification and defence of the frontiers was the reformation of the administration, and the Admiais- restorat ion of prosperity to the distracted and exhausted trattve provinces. The most serious defect of the republican reforms system had been the absence of any effective control over the Roman officials outside Italy. This was vtoces. now supplied by the general proconsular authority vested in the emperor. The provinces were for the first time treated as departments of a single state, while their governors, from being independent and virtually irresponsible rulers, became the subordinate official? of a higher authority. 2 Over the legali of the imperial provinces the control of the emperor was as complete as that of the republican proconsul over his staff in his own province. They were appointed by him, held office at his good pleasure, and were directly responsible to him for their conduct. The proconsuls of the senatorial provinces were in law magistrates equally with the princeps, though inferior to him in rank; it was to the senate that they were as of old responsible; they were still selected by lot from among the senators of consular and praetorian rank. But the distinction did not seriously interfere with the paramount authority of the emperor. The provinces left nominally to the senate were the more peaceful and settled districts in the heart of the empire, where only the routine work of civil administration was needed, and where the local municipal governments were as yet comparatively vigorous. The senatorial proconsuls themselves were indirectly nominated by the emperor through his control of the praetorship and consulship. They wielded no military and only a strictly subordinate financial authority, and, though Augustus and Tiberius, at any rate, encouraged the fiction of the responsibility of the senatorial governors to the senate, it was in reality to the emperor that they looked for direction and advice, and to him that they were held accountable. Moreover, in the case of all governors this accountability became under the empire a reality. Prosecutions for extortion (de pecuniis repetundis), which were now transferred to the hearing of the senate, are tolerably frequent during the first century of the empire; but a more effective check on maladministration lay in the appeal to Caesar from the decisions of any governor, which was open to every provincial, and in the right of petition. Finally, the authority both of the legate and the proconsul was weakened by the presence of the imperial procurator, to whom was entrusted the administration of the fiscal revenues; while both legate and proconsul were deprived of that right of requisitioning supplies which, in spite of a long series of restrictive laws, had been the most powerful instrument of oppression in the hands of republican governors.
The financial reforms of Augustus 3 are marked by reforms the same desire to establish an equitable, orderly and economical system, and by the same centralization of authority in the emperor's hands. The institution of an imperial census, or valuation of all land throughout the empire, and the assessment upon this basis of a uniform land tax, in place of the heterogeneous and irregular payments made under the republic, were the work of Augustus, though the system was developed and perfected by the emperors of the 2nd century and by Diocletian. The land tax itself was directly collected, either by imperial officials or by local authorities responsible to them, and the old wasteful plan of selling the privilege of collection to publicani was henceforward applied only to such indirect taxes as the customs duties. The rate of the land tax was fixed by the emperor, and with him rested the power of remission even in senatorial provinces. 4 The effect of these reforms is clearly visible in the improved financial condition of 1 Mommsen, Provinces, cap. 9. Armenia, however, long continued to be a debatable ground between Rome and Parthia passing alternately under the influence of one or the other.
2 For 'the provincial reforms of Augustus, see Marquardt, Staatsverw., i. 544 sqq.
" Marquardt, ii. 204 sqq.; Hirschfeld, Verwaltungsbeamten, 55 sqq. 4 Tac. Ann. ii. 47.
the empire. Under the republic the treasury had been nearly always in difficulties, and the provinces exhausted and impoverished. Under the emperors, at least throughout the 1st century, in spite of a largely increased expenditure on the army, on public works, on shows and largesses, and on the machinery of government itself, the better emperors, such as Tiberius and Vespasian, were able to accumulate large sums, while the provinces show but few signs of distress. Moreover, while the republic had almost entirely neglected to Ltbtral develop the internal resources of the provinces, policy Augustus set the example of a liberal expenditure toward* on public works, in the construction of harbours, roads and bridges, the reclamation of waste lands, and the erection of public buildings.* The crippling restrictions which the republic had placed on freedom of intercourse and trade, even between the separate districts of a single province, disappeared under the empire. In the eyes of the republican statesmen the provinces were merely the ltaly aad estates of the Roman people, but from the reign of (Ac proAugustus dates the gradual disappearance of the old vioce* pre-eminence of Rome and Italy. It was from the " e ^ e [ r g he provinces that the legions were increasingly recruited; provincials rose to high rank as soldiers, statesmen and men of letters; 6 and the methods of administration, formerly distinctive of the provinces, were adopted even in Rome and Italy. From Augustus himself, jealous as he was of the traditions and privileges of the ruling Roman people, date the rule of an imperial prefect 7 in the city of Rome, the division of Italy into regiones in the provincial fashion, 'and the permanent quartering there of armed troops. 8 Augustus founded a dynasty which occupied the throne for more than half a century after his death. The first and by far the ablest of its members was Tiberius (A.D. 14-37). The JulioHe was undoubtedly a capable and vigorous ruler, Ciaudiaa who enforced justice in the government of the pro- ""' vinces, maintained the integrity of the frontiers and husbanded the finances of the empire, but he became intensely unpopular in Roman society, and was painted as a cruel and odious tyrant. His successor, Gaius (A.D. 37-41), generally known as Caligula, was the slave of his wild caprices and uncontrolled passions, which issued in manifest insanity. He was followed by his uncle, Claudius (A.D. 41-54), whose personal uncouthness made him an object of derision to his contemporaries, but who was by no means devoid of statesmanlike faculties. His reign left an abiding mark on the history of the empire, for he carried forward its development on the lines intended by Augustus. Client-states were absorbed, southern Britain was conquered, the Romanization of the West received a powerful impulse, public works were executed in Rome and Italy, and the organization of the imperial bureaucracy made rapid strides. Nero (A.D. 54-68), the last of the Julio-Claudian line, has been handed down to posterity as the incarnation of monstrous vice and fantastic luxury. But his wild excesses scarcely affected the prosperity of the empire at large; the provinces were well governed, and the war with Parthia led to a compromise in the matter of Armenia which secured peace for half a century. 9 5 Suet. Aug. 18, 47.
6 Jung, Die romanischen Landschaften (Innsbruck, 1881); Budinsky, Die Ausbreitung d. lateinischen Sprache (Berlin, 1881).
7 The praefectus urbi, unlike the other imperial prefects, was always a senator. He commanded the three cohortes urbanae, which preserved order in the city, and possessed a power of jurisdiction which tended to increase in importance. The office, which was only temporary under Augustus, became a permanent one under his successor.
8 Besides the cohortes urbanae mentioned above, the nine regiments of the imperial guard (cohortes praetorianae) were quartered in Rome. The guards were not at first concentrated but billeted in Rome and the neighbouring towns; the praetorian barracks on the Esquiline were built under Tiberius (Tac. Ann. iv. 2). Augustus also formed the quasi-military police force of the vigiles (in seven cohorts), which performed the duties of a fire brigade and night watch. Police duties in those parts of Italy which were subject to brigandage were performed by stationes militum (Suet. Aug. 32).
9 For an estimate of the Julio-Claudian Caesars, based on the results of recent research, see Pelham in Quarterly Review (April
27 B.C.-A.D. 284
The fall of Nero and the extinction of the " progeny of the Caesars " was followed by a war of succession which revealed the military basis of the Principate and the weakness of the tie connecting the emperor with Rome. Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian represented in turn the legions of Spain, the household troops, the army of the Rhine, and a coalition of the armies of the Danube and the Euphrates; and all except Otho were already de facto emperors when they entered Rome. The final survivor in the struggle, Vespasian (A.D. 69-79), was a man f comparatively humble origin, and as the Principate ceased to possess the prestige of high descent it became imperatively rfle necessary to remove, as far as possible, the anomalies Flavian of the office and to give it a legitimate and permanent a " a form. Thus we find an elaborate and formal system of titles substituted for the personal names of the Julio-Claudian emperors, an increasing tendency to insist on the inherent prerogatives of the Principate (such as the censorial power), and an attempt to invest Caesarism with an hereditary character, either by natural descent or by adoption, while the worship of the Divi, or deified Caesars, was made the symbol of its continuity and legitimacy. The dynasty of Vespasian and his sons (Titus, A. D. 79-81, Domitian, A.D. 81-96) became extinct on the murder of the last named, whose highhanded treatment of the senate earned him the name of a tyrant; his successor, Nerva.(A.D. 96-98), opened the series of " adoptive " emperors (Trajan, A.D. 98-117, Hadrian, 117-38, Antoninus Pius, 138-61, Marcus Aurelius, 161-80) under whose rule the empire enjoyed a period of internal tranquillity and good government. Its boundaries were extended by the subjugation of northern Britain (by Agricola, A.D. 78-84; see BRITAIN, Roman), by the annexation of the districts included in the angle of the Rhine and Danube under the Flavian emperors, and by the conquest of Dacia (the modern Transylvania) under Trajan (completed in A.D. 106). Trajan also annexed Arabia Petraea and in his closing years invaded Parthia and formed provinces of Armenia, Mesopotamia and Assyria; but these conquests were surrendered by his successor, Hadrian, who set himself to the task of consolidating the empire and perfecting its defences. To him is due the system of permanent limites or frontier fortifications, such as the wall which protected northern Britain and the palisade which replaced the chain of forts established by the Flavian emperors from the Rhine to the Danube. 1 The construction of these defences showed that the limit of expansion had been reached, and under M. Aurelius the tide began to turn. A great part of his reign was occupied with wars against the Marcomanni, Quadi, Sarmatians, etc., whose irruptions seriously threatened the security of Italy. Henceforth Rome never ceased to be on the defensive. Coam Within the frontiers the levelling and unifying ditioa of process commenced by Augustus had steadily prothepro- ceeded. A tolerably uniform provincial system viaces. covered the whole area of the empire. The client states had one by one been reconstituted as provinces, and even the government of Italy had been in many respects assimilated to the provincial type. The municipal system had of the spread widely; the period from Vespasian to Aurelius muni- witnessed the elevation to municipal rank of an immense number of communities, not only in the old provinces of the West, in Africa, Spain and Gaul, but in the newer provinces of the North, and along the line of the northern frontier; and everywhere under the influence of the central imperial authority there was an increasing uniformity 1905). It is now generally admitted that Tacitus's picture is overdrawn.
1 On the limes imperil, see Pelham, " A Problem of Roman Frontier Policy " (Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 1906), and Kornemann, " Die neueste Limesforschung " (Klio, 1907, pp. 73 ff.). The limes connecting the Rhine with the Danube has been systematically excavated in recent years; for the results see Der obergermanisch-ratische Limes (Heidelberg, 1894- ), and Der rdmische Limes in Osterreich (Vienna, 1900- ).
in the form of the local constitutions, framed and granted as they all were by imperial edict. 2 Throughout the Bxteasloa empire again the extension of the Roman franchise of the was preparing the way for the final act by which Roman Caracalla assimilated the legal status of all free-born traachlsf - inhabitants of the empire, 3 and in the west and north this was preceded and accompanied by the complete Romanizing of the people in language and civilization. Yet, in spite of the internal tranquillity and the good government which have made the age of the Antonines famous, we can detect signs of weakness. It was in this period that the centralization of authority in the hands of the princeps was completed; the " dual control " established by Augustus, which had been unreal enough in the 1st century, was now, though not formally abolished, systematically ignored in practice. The senate ceased to be an instrument of government, and became an imperial peerage, largely composed of men not qualified by election to the quaestorship but directly ennobled by the emperor. 4 The restricted Sphere of administration left by Augustus to the old magistracies was still further narrowed; their jurisdiction, for example, tended to pass into the hands of the Greek officers appointed by Caesar the prefect of the city and the prefect of the guards. The complete organization of Caesar's own administrative service, and its recognition as a state bureaucracy, was chiefly the work of Hadrian, who took the secretaryships out of the hands of freedmen and entrusted them to procurators of equestrian rank. 5 All these changes, inevitable, and in some degree beneficial, as they were, brought with them the attendant evils of excessive centralization. Though these were hardly felt while the central authority was wielded by vigorous rulers, yet even under Trajan, Hadrian and the Antonines we notice a failure of strength in the empire as a whole, and a corresponding increase of pressure on the imperial government itself. The reforms of Augustus had given free play to powers still fresh and vigorous. The ceaseless labours of Hadrian were directed mainly to the careful husbanding of such strength as still remained, or to attempts at reviving it by the sheer force of imperial authority. Among the symptoms of incipient decline were the growing depopulation, especially of the central districts of the empire, the constant financial difficulties, the deterioration in character of the local governments in the provincial communities, 6 and the increasing reluctance exhibited by all classes to undertake the now onerous burden of municipal office.
It is to such facts as these that we must look in passing a final judgment on the imperial government, which is admittedly seen in its best and most perfect form in the Antonine period. In our review of the conditions which brought about the fall of the Roman Republic, we saw that the collapse of the citystate made Caesarism inevitable, since the extension of federal and representative institutions to a world-empire lay beyond the horizon of ancient thought. The benefits which Caesarism conferred upon mankind are plain. In the first place, the Roman world, which had hitherto not been governed in the true sense of the word, but exploited in the interests of a dominant clique, now received an orderly and efficient government, under which the frightful ravages of misrule and civil strife were repaired. The financial resources of the empire were husbanded by skilled and, above all, trained administrators, to whom the imperial service offered a carriere ouverte aux talents; many of these were Greeks, or half -Greek Orientals, whose business capacity formed an invaluable asset hitherto 2 Marquardt, i. 132 ff . ; cf. especially the leges Salpensanae et Malacitanae] Bruns, Fontes Juris Romani (ed. 6, p. 142).
3 Dio Ixxvii. 9 (A.D. 212).
* For the use of adlectio see Mommsen, Staatsr. ii. 877.
' Vit. Hadr. 21. Besides Hirschfeld's Verwaltungsbeamten reference may be made to Liebenam, Die Laufbahn der Procuratoren (Jena, 1886), and Schurz, De mutationibus in imperio Romano ordinando ab imperatore Hadriano factis (Bonn, 1883).
6 This led to the appointment of the curatores and correctores in the 2nd century. The younger Pliny was one of these imperial commissioners, and his correspondence with Trajan throws much light on the condition of the provinces.
neglected. Augustus caused an official survey of the empire to be made, and a scientific census of its resources was gradually carried out and from -time to time revised; thus the balance of revenue and expenditure could be accurately estimated and adjusted, and financial stability was established. The system of tax-farming was gradually abolished and direct collection substituted; commerce was freed from vexatious restrictions, and large customs-districts were formed, on whose borders duties were levied for revenue only. The government took even more direct measures for the encouragement of industry and especially of agriculture. The most remarkable of these were the " alimentary " institutions, originally due to Nerva and developed by succeeding emperors. Capital was advanced at moderate rates of interest to Italian landowners on the security of their estates, and the profits of this system of landbanks were devoted to the maintenance and education of poor children. The foundation of colonies for time-expired soldiers, who received grants of land on their discharge, contributed something to the formation of a well-to-do agricultural class; and although the system was not successful in lower Italy, where economic decline could not be arrested, there can be no doubt that central and northern Italy, where the vine and olive were largely cultivated, and manufacturing industries sprang up, enjoyed a considerable measure of prosperity. The extension of the Roman municipal system to the provinces, and the watchful care exercised by the imperial government over the communities, together with the profuse liberality of the emperors, which was imitated by the wealthier citizens of the towns, led to the creation of a flourishing municipal life still evidenced by the remains which in districts such as Asia Minor or Tunis stand in significant contrast with the desolation brought about by centuries of barbaric rule. Mommsen 1 has, indeed, expressed the opinion that " if an angel of the Lord were to strike the balance whether the domain ruled by Severus Antoninus were governed with the greater intelligence and the greater humanity at that time or in the present day, whether civilization and national prosperity generally had since that time advanced or retrograded, it is very doubtful whether the decision would prove in favour of the present."
But there is another side to the picture. The empire brought into being a new society and a new nationality, due to the fusion of Roman ideas with Hellenic culture, beside which other elements, saving only, as we shall see, those contributed by the Oriental religions, were insignificant. This new nationality grew in definition through the gradual disappearance of distinctions of language and manners, the assimilating influence of commercial and social intercourse, and the extinction of national jealousies and aspirations. But the cosmopolitan society thus formed was compacted of so many disparate elements that a common patriotism was hard to foster, and doubly hard when the autocratic system of government prevented men from aspiring to that true political distinction which is attainable only in a self-governing community. It is true that there was much good work to be done, and that much good work was done, in the service of the emperors; true, also, that the carrilre ouverte aux talents was in large measure realized. Distinctions of race were slowly but steadily effaced by the grant of citizen rights to provincials and by the manumission of slaves; and the career open to the Romanized provincial or the liberated slave might culminate in the highest distinctions which the emperor could bestow. In the hierarchy of social orders senate, eguites and plebs ascent was easy and regular from the lower grade to the higher ; and the more enlightened of the emperors especially Hadrian made a genuine endeavour to give a due share in the work of government to the various subject races. But nothing could compensate for the lack of self-determination, and although during the first century and a half of imperial rule a flourishing local patriotism in some degree filled the place of the wider sentiment, this gradually sank into decay and became a pretext under cover of which the lower classes in the several communities 1 Provinces, \. p. 5.
took toll of their wealthier fellow-citizens in the shape of public works, largesses, amusements, etc., until the resources at the disposal of the rich ran dry, the communities themselves in many cases became insolvent, and the inexorable claims of the central government were satisfied only by the surrender of financial control to an imperial commissioner. Then the organs of civic life became atrophied, political interest died out, and the whole burden of administration, as well as that of defence, fell upon the shoulders of the bureaucracy, which proved unequal to the task.
In a world thus governed the individual was thrown more and more upon his own resources the pursuit of wealth* and pleasure, or the satisfaction of intellectual interests. Under the rule of the Caesars much was done for education. Julius Caesar bestowed Roman citizenship on " teachers of the liberal arts"; Vespasian endowed professorships of Greek and Latin oratory at Rome; 3 and later emperors, especially Antoninus Pius, extended the same benefits to the provinces. Local enterprise and munificence were also devoted to the cause of education; we learn from the correspondence of the younger Pliny that public schools were founded in the towns of northern Italy. But though there was a wide diffusion of knowledge under the empire, there was no true intellectual progress. Augustus, it is true, gathered about him the most brilliant writers of his time, and the debut of the new monarchy coincided with the Golden Age of Roman literature; but this was of brief duration, and the beginning of the Christian era saw the triumph of classicism and the first steps in the decline which awaits all literary movements which look to the pasj. rather than the future. Political oratory could not exist under an absolute ruler; public life furnished no inspiring theme to poet or historian; and literature became didactic or imitative, while rhetoric degenerated into declamation. It is true that for some time both literature and philosophy maintained an alliance with the old republican aristocracy and voiced the undercurrent of opposition to the empire; but both had ceased to be irreconcilable before the time of Hadrian. Under his rule classicism gave way to the archaism of which Fronto and Apuleius furnish the most notable examples, and which preferred Cato and Ennius to Cicero and Virgil. But this return to the past was not followed by any renewed creative energy. It was a confession of weakness and little more; and the widely diffused culture of the Antonine period, though outwardly brilliant, had no progressive energy and presented but a feeble resistance to the dissolving forces of barbarism.
To strike the balance of loss and gain in the field of morals is an exceedingly difficult task. The denunciations of the satirists, especially of Juvenal, might lead us to believe that an appalling state of depravity existed in the society of the early empire; but satirists notoriously paint in glaring colours for literary effect, and whatever may be said of the morality of Rome which was probably no better and no worse than that of any cosmopolitan capital there were sound and healthy elements in plenty amongst the population of Italy and the provinces. Doubtless the craving for amusement especially for the shows of the amphitheatre and the chariotraces of the circus infected the idle masses of the populace in Rome and the larger towns, and was fostered by the policy of despotism, which always aims at securing cheap popularity with the proletariat; but the tendency of the time, not only in the higher ranks, but also amongst humbler folk, was towards a broader humanity and a more serious view of life and its problems. Greek philosophy, especially the Stoic system, in order to appeal to the practical Roman intelligence, found itself obliged to elaborate a rule of conduct, and in many 1 Immense fortunes were accumulated under the early empire, especially by imperial freedmen, such as Pallas, who is said to have possessed the equivalent of 3,000,000 sterling; and there were instances of extravagant luxury, which was encouraged by Nero. But we are told that there was a return to simpler habits of life under the Flavian dynasty.
1 Quintilian occupied the chair of Latin rhetoric, and received the ornamenta consular-la.
households the philosopher, generally a Greek, played the part of a director of consciences. The influence of these doctrines is shown in the humane provisions of the civil law as elaborated in the Antonine period, which did much to mitigate the lot of the slave and to smooth the process by which freedom might be attained. 1 Above all, a religious movement which drew its motive power not from Greek philosophy, but from Oriental mysticism, carried the human race far from its old moorings, and culminated in the triumph of Christianity. All the Eastern cults whether of Cybele, of Isis, of the Syrian Baalim or of the Persian Mithras had this in common, that they promised to their adherents redemption from the curse of the flesh and a glorious immortality after death; and this fact gave them an irresistible attraction for the disillusioned and overburdened subjects of the emperors. The religion of Mithras, whose doctrines were specially suited to the military temperament, made its way wherever the armies of the empire were stationed, and seemed likely at one moment to become universal; but it was forced to yield to Christianity, which refused to tolerate any rival, faced the empire with a claim to absolute dominion in the spiritual sphere, and at length made that claim good (see ROMAN RELIGION; MITHRAS; GREAT MOTHER or THE GODS).
Marcus Aurelius died in 180, and the reign of his worthless son, Commodus (A.D. 180-93), was followed by a century of war The and disorder, during which nothing but the stern rule empire of soldier emperors saved the empire from dissolution. from The first and ablest of these was Septimius Severus 180-284. (153-211), whose claims were disputed by Clodius Albinus in the West, and by Pescennius Niger in the East; in these struggles rival Roman forces, for the first time since the accession of Vespasian, exhausted each other in civil war. 2 Severus emphasized strongly the military character of the Principate; he abstained from seeking confirmation for his authority from the senate, and deprived that body of most of the share in the government which it still retained; he assumed the title of proconsul in Rome itself, made the prefect of the guard the vicegerent of his authority, and heaped privileges upon the army, which, although they secured its entire devotion to his family, impaired its efficiency as a fighting force and thus weakened Rome in face of the barbarian invader. 3 He succeeded in founding a short-lived dynasty, which ended with the attempt of the virtuous but weak Alexander (222-35) to restore the independence of the senate. This led to a military reaction, and the elevation of the brutal Maximinus, a Thracian peasant, to the throne. The disintegration of the empire was the natural result; for the various provincial armies put forward their commanders as claimants to the purple. A hundred ties bound them closely to the districts in which they were stationed; their permanent camps had grown into towns, they had families and farms; the unarmed provincials looked to them as their natural protectors, and were attached to them by bonds of intermarriage and by long intercourse. Now that they found themselves left to repel by their own efforts the invaders from without, they reasonably enough claimed the right to ignore the central authority which was powerless to aid them, and to choose for themselves imperatores whom they knew and trusted. These " tyrants, " as they were called when unsuccessful, sprang up in ever-increasing numbers, and weakened Rome's power of resistance to the new enemies who were threatening her frontiers the Alamanni and Franks, who broke through the German limes in 236; the Goths, who crossed the Danube in 247, raided the Balkan provinces, and defeated and slew the emperor, Decius, in 251, and the restored Persian kingdom of 1 The massacre of the slaves of Pedanius Secundus, who had been murdered by some person unknown (Tac. Ann. xiv. 42), was, it is true, decreed by the senate; but it was a highly unpopular act, and is chiefly significant as showing that the senatorial aristocracy was out of harmony with the spirit of the time.
Gibbon (ed. Bury), i. chap. v. ; Schiller, Gesch. d. Kaiserzeit, \. (2) 660.
1 The common soldier was now permitted to marry, and ceased to live in camp (Herodian iii. 8. 5).
the Sassanidae (see PERSIA), whose rulers laid claim to all the Asiatic possessions of Rome and in 260 captured Antioch and made the emperor, Valerian, a prisoner. During the reign of Gallienus, the son of Valerian (260-68), the evil reached its height. The central authority was para- Reign nt lysed; the Romanized districts beyond the Rhine Oaliienu*, were irrevocably lost; the Persians were threatening 260 ~ 268 - to overrun the Eastern provinces; the Goths had iormed a fleet of 500 sail which harried Asia Minor and even Greece itself, where Athens, Corinth, Sparta and Argos were sacked; and the legions on the frontiers were left to repel the enemies of Rome as best they could. A provincial empire was established by M. Cassianius Latinius Postumus in Gaul and maintained by his successors, M. Piavonius Victorinus and C. Pius Esuvius Tetricus. 4 Their authority was acknowledged, not only in Gaul and by the troops on the Rhine, but by the legions of Britain and Spain; and under Postumus at any rate (259-69) the existence of the Gallic Empire was justified by the repulse of the barbarians and by the restoration of peace and security to the provinces of Gaul. On the Danube, in Greece and in Asia Minor none of the " pretenders " enjoyed more than a passing success. In the Far East, the Syrian Odaenathus, prince of Palmyra 5 (<?..), though officially only the governor of the East (dux Orientis) under Gallienus, Odaena drove the Persians out of Asia Minor and Syria, t i, us aatf recovered Mesopotamia, and ruled Syria, Arabia, Zenobia Armenia, Cappadocia and Cilicia with all the inde- at pendence of a sovereign. Odaenathus was murdered in 266. His young son Vaballathus (Wahab-allath) succeeded him in his titles, but the real power was vested in his widow Zenobia, under whom not only the greater part of Asia Minor but even the province of Egypt was forcibly added to the dominions governed by the Palmyrene prince, who ceased to acknowledge the supremacy of Rome.
Gallienus was murdered at Milan in 268, and after the brief reign of Claudius II. (A.D. 268-70), who checked the advance of the Goths, Aurelian (270-75) restored unity to Wes/ora . the distracted empire. Palmyra was destroyed and ,/ on of Zenobia led a prisoner to Rome (in 273) and in the next unity by year the Gallic empire came to an end by the surrender Aurelian, of Tetricus. Aurelian, it is true, abandoned the province of Dacia, but the defences of the Danube were strengthened, and in 276 Probus repulsed the Franks and Alamanni, who had been pressing on the Rhine frontier for some forty years. Finally, Carus (282) recovered Armenia and Mesopotamia from the Persians and restored the frontier fixed by Septimius Severus.
Although any serious loss of territory had been avoided, the storms of the 3rd century had told with fatal effect upon the general condition of the empire. The " Roman State peace " had vanished; not only the frontier territories, but the central districts of Greece, Asia Minor, (tose' and even Italy itself, had suffered from the ravages of the 3rd of war, and the fortification of Rome by Aurelian century. was a significant testimony to the altered condition of affairs. War, plague and famine had thinned the population and crippled the resources of the provinces. On all sides, land was running waste, cities and towns were decaying, and commerce was paralysed. Only with the greatest difficulty were sufficient funds squeezed from the exhausted taxpayers to meet the increasing cost of the defence of the frontiers. The old established culture and civilization of the Mediterranean world rapidly declined, and the mixture of barbaric rudeness, with Oriental pomp and luxury which marked the court, even of the better emperors, such as Aurelian, was typical of the general deterioration, which was accelerated by the growing: practice of settling barbarians on lands within the empire, and of admitting them freely to service in the Roman army.
4 Gibbon, i. chap. x. ; Mommsen, Provinces, i. 164; Schiller, L (2) 827.
5 Gibbon, i. chap. x. ; Mommsen, Provinces, ii. 103; cf. PALMYRA.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)