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Lecture 12

Lecture 12: The Death and Afterlife of Roman Culture

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University of Toronto St. George
Rob Mc Cutcheon

Roman Culture November 27, 2013 Romanization  Process of turning conquered provinces’ subjects into more Roman-like subjects  Not unidirectional; such interactions b/w cultures is always bidirectional  The conquered societies didn’t just become Roman, they rather negotiated their cultural identity in the shadow of Rome How do we measure Romanization  Use of Roman names? Use of Latin as dominant language? Appearance of Roman architecture? Synchronization of local deities with Roman ones? The Third Century Crisis  After collapse of the Severan dynasty, the Roman Empire entered into of extreme stress under the combined pressures of invasion, civil war, plagues, and economic depression  Begins with the assassination of the Emperor Alexander Severus in 235 CE and ends with the rise of Emperor Diocletian in 285 CE o Diocletian created a new system of governance – the Tetrarchy  Invasion of Germanic Tribes (mainly Goths and Vandals) and war with the Parthian Empire in the east o Many of the western states have been destroyed o Security of Rome fades o First walls built around Rome since 380 BC  Antonine Plague (165-180 CE) and the Plague of Cyprian (250-270 CE) o First outbreak of small pox in Mediterranean world o Outbreaks kill 50 million together (population at this time was 55 mil) o Army is worst affected because of their close-quarters living arrangements  Hyperinflation and the beginnings of serfdom o Increasing inflation throughout the century o Economy shrank o Cyclical nature; inflation means less buying power, less bought less money, less money less bought, economy continues to shrink The Tetrarchy  Means “rule by four” in Greek  Split governance into 2; essentially between the east and west  The Emperor of each sphere is known as an Augustus and has a Caesar as a deputy/heir; alleviates problems with succession  The four tetrarchs based themselves not in Rome, but in other cities closer to frontiers o Re-emergence of local cultures  The Tetrarchy breaks down because the tetrarchs fight for supreme rule o Civil war breaks out o Diocletian abdicates and Constantine takes over Constantine’s Vision(s)  At the battle of the Milvian bridge (312 CE), Constantine supposedly had a vision prior to the battle which prompter a “conversion” to Christianity o WAY more complex than this traditional narrative implies  Constantine’s famous vision came in 310 CE while dealing with a separate military crisis. Saw a symbol in the sun and the words, “conquer by this sign” o Originally thought this vision was from Apollo/Sol Invictus o Likely just a solar halo  Only later did Constantine reinterpret this vision to be from a Christian God o He then ordered his soldiers to paint a symbol on their shields, which look like a Chi and Rho, the first letters of Christ in Greek  Was not an instant conversion, it was a gradual acceptance of Christians The Decline of the Roman Empire  After Constantine, the Empire went back and forth between being divided b/w east and west o One thing that did not change, however, was a policy of increasing hostilities towards pagans (with the brief exception of Julian the Apostate’s reign)  The reign of Theodosius the Great (379 CE-395 CE) is a turning point for two reasons: o He makes Christianity official religion of the Empire and enacts severe punishments for pagans o He is the last emperor to rule both east and west halves of the Empire  Rome is sacked by the Visigoths in 420 CE; first time a foreign army had taken Rome in 800 years o In 455 CE, the Vandals sacked Rome, again in 476 CE The End of the Roman Empire  In 476 CE, after removing the Emperor Augustulus from the throne, the Gothic King Odoacer let it be known that there was no for a replacement o The Western Roman Empire was now officially dead and its territory broke up into a series of smaller “barbarian” kingdoms  In the east, Constantine had established a new capital at Constantinople (modern day Istanbul). From there the eastern Roman Empire (which became known as Byzantine Empire) continued on
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