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The Crisis of the Third Century and Rebound of the 300s.

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Presentation on theme: "The Crisis of the Third Century and Rebound of the 300s."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Crisis of the Third Century and Rebound of the 300s

2 Circus Maximus

3 Arc of Titus, Rome

4 Tacitus c. 56 – c.117


6 How would you characterize the gist of Tacitus’s writing in both Agricola and Germania? How would you characterize his approach, perspective, and biases? What value do we receive from his writings? What conditions during his lifetime influenced his perspective?

7 What were Tacitus’s biases? A.He thought Romans were better than barbarians B.He thought civilization was a source of freedom C.He thought that the Emperors were infalliable D.All of the above E.None of the above

8 What aspect of German culture did Tacitus conspicuously praise? A.Their constant activity and work ethic B.Their faithfulness in marriage C.Their desire to make money D.Their literacy and eloquence in speech

9 Five Good Emperors

10 Emperor Trajan, 98-117

11 The Empire During the Pax Romana

12 Marcus Aurelius Emperor (161-180 CE) and Stoic Philosopher

13 Emperor Commodus 180-192 Imperial Instability


15 Emperor Valerian 253-260

16 Diocletian 284-305 CE

17 Tetrarchy



20 Coins from Diocletian’s Reign

21 Constantine the Great ruled 306-337

22 Imperial Coins from 4 th Century CE

23 The Empire c.400

24 Overview Causation for the decline of the Empire –Over-extension of imperial boundaries –Systemic Economic Weaknesses –Weaknesses in the Political Structure –Decline of the Imperial cult and traditional Roman Religion Rebound: the reforms of Diocletian and Constantine

25 Attempts to Ascertain the Causation for the Decline of Rome Some of the “causes” identified (210 at last count) –climatic changes –over-reliance on slavery –otherworldliness of Christianity –sexual orgies –ecological habits –lead poisoning –homosexuality None of these attracts consensus of serious historians

26 Systemic Economic Weaknesses Huge military budget: 500,000 troops High taxation Absence of public debt Structural trade deficit with the Far East Debasement of coinage Rampant inflation Economy of plunder (booty) –slaves –gold, silver –feeding the war machine

27 Demographic Collapse Constant Civil War during the early 200s –Famine - crops destroyed or taken –Plague - weakened immune systems –decline of trade Depopulation –especially in the western empire –undermines urban basis of imperial rule –weakened trade networks Downward Spiral –despair

28 Weakening Political Structure ambiguous succession procedures political influence of the army –the barracks emperors murder as a form of political advancement weakening of the imperial cult –shorter reigns –worthless coinage –competing claims –civil war

29 A Shift in Attitudes c. 250 CE Challenges to Perception of Roman Invincibility and Destiny Incursions by –Franks –Alemani –Goths –Parthians Declining interest in Roman gods Declining prestige of Roman legions

30 Political Reforms of Diocletian (285-305) Division of Empire into East and West –tetrarchy: planned succession –paves the way for the Byzantine Empire –temporarily restores order to the West –smaller administrative units to reduce power of governors and army commanders Restoration and elevation of imperial cult –imperial title of dominus (lord) –emperor treated as divine –genuflection & prostration –imperial costume: purple robes, diadems –seclusion of the emperor

31 Economic “Reforms” of Diocletian (285-305) taxes paid in kind to diminish effects of inflation on imperial coffers –the wealthy evaded taxes altogether through loopholes to garner their support currency stabilization wage and price controls –creation of black market economy hereditary occupations –tax farmers and others necessarily passed their occupation on to their sons

32 Constantine (306-337) Mother was Christian Grew up in the court of Diocletian and experienced the persecution of Christians firsthand The “conversion” of Constantine c. 311 –the battle of Milvian Bridge “By this sign, you shall conquer” –Edict of Milan (313): Christianity becomes legal in the Empire –only received baptism by Arian priest on his deathbed in 337 Gains control of western Empire 313 and Eastern half by 324

33 Reforms of Constantine (306-337) Encourages Christianity –the emperor becomes God’s best friend –official persecution of Christians ends –Church authorized to enforce morality –Church exempt from taxation and the recipient of imperial favors Imperial court relocated to Constantinople (325) Council of Nicaea (325) –orthodoxy defined - Nicaean Creed –rejection of Arianism –affirmation of Church and episcopal hierarchy

34 Christianity in the Fourth Century From persecution to state religion –Constantine initiates the transformation –Church adopts Roman judicial and administrative structure; a state within the state –325 the Council of Nicaea The Nicean Crede Persecuton of Heresy –Gradual elimination of pagan temples –Rome becomes more of a religious than political focal point –Theodosious adopts Christianity as the imperial religion c. 390 –by late 300s, persecution of pagans

35 Summary The Roman Empire operated on an economy of plunder; it required plunder in order to generate wealth for the elite Consequently the Romans continued to expand the Empire, despite the warning from Augustus By the Late 2 nd century the cost of maintaining the imperial borders had exceeded the Romans’ ability to support such a massive military Increasingly the Romans relied on barbarian mercenaries and others to defend the empire

36 Summary A series of violent and incompetent Emperors in the late second century triggered a downward spiral of civil war that lasted for approximately 70 years These civil wars disrupted the economic, demographic, and cultural foundations of the Empire Shaken by the increasing instability, many Romans found comfort in the teachings of the Christians Diocletian restored imperial order and persecuted Christians Constantine continued the consolidation of power and embraced Christianity

37 How did Tacitus connect the land and climate to the culture of the Germans? What values did Tacitus admire among the Germans? How did Tacitus collect information about the Germans?

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