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Diocletian and Constantine
Diocletian attempted to save the Roman empire through his reforms. He saw the need for a new system for ruling and resorted to a system called the tetrarchy. This system was the rule of four. The empire was divided into several provinces that were grouped into twelve dioceses headed by a vicar. The dioceses were grouped into four prefectures and the entire Roman Empire was divided into east and west with two prefectures. Already, this division in the empire is setting in motion the ultimate divide into two separate civilizations. Each division had two rulers, the Augustus and the Caesar. Thus, there were four rulers, each in a different prefecture. Furthermore, Diocletian issued an edict to fight inflation that established maximum wages and prices for the entire empire. This ultimately failed and resorted to his collecting taxes and making payments in produce. A defining moment in Diocletian’s reign was also the establishment of term limits. He decided he would rule for twenty years and then resign, during which time he would train a successor. After his retirement, a new struggle for power, including Constantine led to his control of the entire west after his victory at the Battle of the milvian Bridge. Although Constantine shared power with Licinius in the west, he eventually defeated him in 324 and became sole ruler.
These two rulers transformed the empire into a system with more emperor power than other emperors. Furthermore, the Roman senate had no power. They also strengthened and enlarged the administrative bureaucracies of the empire, dividing and creating separate hierarchies of the civil and military bureaucracies. Titles of nobility, such as ilustres and illustrissimi were instituded. As for their military reforms, they enlarged the empire and created garrison troops, which were located on the frontier and mobile units, which were able to support frontier troops by moving when threatened. The enlargement of the army and civil service drained funds and caused the two rulers to have to use coercion and loss of freedom to improve conditions. For example, curiales, through an edict, were forced to maintain in their position, even though they ran the risk of losing their fortune. Also, due to declining labor, people were bound to certain vocations, which also became hereditary. Furthermore, coloni, free tenant farmers, were bound to the land. Taxes were also heavily instituted upon the poor because of the rich’s ability to evade them. In the end, although temporarily successful, these depressing conditions contributed to the demise of the Roman empire.
Another contribution to the transitional era was Constantine’s building of a new capital, Constantinople. This capital would eventually become the capital of the Byzantine empire. This city had a strategic location and consisted of several Christian churches built under Constantine, who caused Christianity to develop through his support after seeing a vision of the words “In this sign, you will conquer.” The sign was a cross that he later placed on his troops before bthe Battle at the Milvian Bridge, which he won. It resulted in the Edict of Milan, which officially tolerated Christianity.
Christianity was an important aspect of the transition. It’s tolerance in the empire caused the surfacing of heresy, contradictory beliefs of the church, and religious disputes. One such dispute was raised by Arius, who said that Jesus was human and not truly God. This led to the Council of Nicaea in 325, where it was confirmed that Jesus was of the same substance as God. This council, and the Nicene Creed, did not end the dispute; Arianism continued to persist and became the main religion of many of the Germanic Goths, which further caused the transition.
After's Constantine' death
After Constantine’s death, although the empire was restored, the empire continued to divide into western and eastern parts as fighting erupted between Roman armies backing the claims of rival emperors. By 395, the two parts of the empire had become two independent states that took completely different paths. While the east remained intact with its capital at Constantinople under the Roman emperor, the western part of the empire experienced invasions from Germanic kingdoms and eventually collapsed.
The western empire fell to Germanic tribes due to the pressure of the Huns, which caused the Germanic tribes to flee. Before this, however, the Romans had come into contact with the Germans and hired them to fight off other Germanic tribes. Although the empire was capable of absorbing these people without harm, the second half of the fourth century caused a change in this. One Germanic group displaced by the Huns was the Visigoths. Although they asked the Roman emperor to cross the Danube and farm in the Balkans in return for providing troops for the Roman military, the Romans’ mistreatment of them led to a Visigothic revolt. The Battle of Adrianople in 378 was fought by Emperor Valens and 40,000 troops. The death of Emperor Valens and 2/3 of his troops was a defining moemnet because it was the first time Germanic tribes break through the frontier and wipe out Roman legions killing the emperor as well. After this, the emperor Theodosius I resettled and incorporated the Visigoths into the Roman army, allowing some units to become entirely of Germanic tribes, called federates.
The creation of the federates was dangerous because it enabled the uprising of these Germanic tribes to occur. The first tribe to move into the frontier was the Visigoths. For example, Alaric, the leader of the Visigoths, moved through the Balkans and into Italy, seeking food and money from Roman officials between 395-401. Their refusal led to Alaric besieging the city, causing the sentate to pay 5000 pounds of gold and 30,000 pounds of silver for his withdrawal. Two years later, Alaric, after being refused land of northern Italy, sacked Rome for three days. This sacking of Rome was yet another defining moment in the transition because the symbolic capital of the empire was sacked for the first time in 800 years. This makes the Rhine a porous boundary and results in the beginning of the end.
Settlement of Germanic tribes
Eventually, with the settlement of Germanic tribes, Roman forces were withdrawn from the provinces, reducing the central authority of the emperor. The withdrawal of the last Roman legions from Britain by emperor Honorius in 410 was another defining moment that showed the freedom from imperial authority and a new era coming through from the collapsing Roman empire.
Master of the Soldiers
By the middle of the fifth century, the western provinces of the Roman Empire had been taken over by Germanic peoples. Although a semblance of imperial authority remained in Rome, real power rested in the hands of people called Masters of the Soldiers., who controlled the government and dominated the imperial court. Still, even these people were not safe from the violence of the empire. For example, two Master of the Soldiers, Stilicho (German) and Aetius (Roman) were killed by Emperor Honroius and Emperor Valentinan III respectively. Another Master of the Soldiers, Ricimer (German) died naturally. This constant internal fighting led to the collapse of imperial rule. In fact, by the mid-fifth century, only Italy and some of Gaul contained imperial authority. In 455, after Rome broke a treaty with the leader of the Vandals, Gaiseric, he sent a Vandal fleet to Italy and sacked the undefended city of Rome. Twenty one years later, the most defining moment of the transition to a new era occurred when Odoacer, a new Master of the Soldiers, deposed the Roman emperor Romulus, which was a symbolic end to the Roman empire. Odoacer established himself as a German king on the same level as the Roman emperor Zeno in Constantinople. From here, the west goes their own way, independent from the East.
By 500, the Western Roman Empire was being replaced by a series of kingdoms ruled by German kings. Still, there was a blend of three cultures: __carriers of cluture, __cultures, and __. These three cultures created a new chapter in European history: __. It was this new development that arose during the transitional era.
- Roman, Germanic, Christians
- medieval Europe
In Italy, the Ostrogothic Kingdom was established. Initially, Zeno hired the Ostrogoths to defeat Odoacer and bring Italy back into the empire. His plan to hire Theodoric backfired as Theodoric killed Odoacer, but established himself as ruler of Italy in 493. The Ostrogothic Kingdom maintained the Roman tradition of government, while separating the rule of the Ostrogoths and the Romans. The Romans, although excluded from control of the army, were ruled by Roman officials under Roman law, while the Ostrogoths were governed by their own officials. Still, trouble occurred due to Christianity and this division between Ostrogothic Arian Christianity and western Christians caused Theodoric’s rule to grow harsh. After his death, instability arose as the Eastern Roman Empire, under Emperor Justinian reconquered Italy (535-552) for a short time before being conquered by the Lombards. Even after this, however, the Byzantine empire retained some control of Italy.
In Spain, the Visigoth kingdom was similar to the Ostrogothic kingdom in that they favored coexistence between theRoman and German populations, both featured a warrior caste dominating a larger native population, and both continued to maintain the governmental Roman structure while excluding Romans from power. The only difference between the Visigoths was that they converted to Catholic Christianity, seeing the disruption of Arianism Christianity. Their kingdom came to an end due to the fighting over kingships. This resulted in the Muslim invaders in 711 taking over.
The Frankish kingdom was a long-lasting kingdom ruled by Clovis around 500, a Catholic Christian. Clovis converted to Christianity, not to pose as a defender of the orthodox Catholic faith, but to justify his expanision and defeat of the Alemanni and Visigoth. By 510, he had established a powerful new Frankish kingdom under the Merovingian dynasty. His reliance on Frankish followers to rule with Gallo-Roman Catholic bishops created a defining aspect of the new transitional era as it caused a fusion of Latin and German cultures.
After his death, his sons divided the kingdom into Austrasia, Neustria, and the former kingdom of Burgundy. Each dynasty was ruled by powerful nobles and consisted of a ruling class that intermarried with the old Gallo-Roman senatorial class to form a new nobility, which expanded their land and wealth at the expencse of the monarchy. For example, the major domus began to overshadow the king; and one major domus, Charles Martel, eventually became the virtual ruler of all three kingdoms, setting his family up to eventually create the Carolingian dynasty. This was another defining moment. In fact, Charles Martel was the most important political development in the Frankish kingdom. He defeated the Muslims near Poitiers in 732, allowing himself to gain power. By the sixth and seventh centuries, a fusion of between Gallo-Roman and Franksih cultures took place. These Germanic concepts of kingship and customary law replaced the Roman governmental structure.
One more Gernamic kingdom established was that of the Anglo Saxons in England. Their settlement instead of raids met with resistence form the Celtic Britons, who controlled regions of Cornwall, Wales, and Cumberland. The German invaders eventually carved out small kingdoms and would eventually be converted to Christianity by new groups of Christian missionaries.
Gallo-Roman and Frankish culture
Another important aspect related to this era was the fusion of the Gallo-Roman and Frankish, as well as Germanic, culture. The Germanic law transformed the Roman ideal of murder as a defense against society into a personal crime that resulted in feuds and savage acts of revenge. This caused the need for the wergeld, which set a price on the person injured or killed based on social status. Furthermore, the extended family was the center of social organization. Marriage was made by the uncle or father; the groom paid for the father’s control over the bride; virginity was emphasized adulterous wives were punished; and divorces were established by husbands. This was a new society that occurred in the transitional era to medieval Europe.
Church Fathers + Petrine Supremacy
- An important development related to the transitional era included the Christian Church; it was the church fathers, who influenced the development of Christian thought in the west. St. Augustine was a very important Church father who bridged the gap between the past classical pagan and Christian medieval beliefs. His work, The City of God, expressed the need for coexistence between the secular government and the Christian life to curb the instincts of sinful humans. He also developed the idea of celibacy and, for those who were unable, sex for procreation. The idea of celibacy led to a new path of holiness. The body was now viewed as a hindrance to a spiritual connection with God. St. Jerome was another important church father who found a compromise by purifying the literature of the pagan world and using it to further the Christian faith. He translated the Old nad New Testaments into Latin,creating the Latin Vulgate of the Scriptures.
- Aside from the Church fathers, the doctrine of Petrine supremacy, which exalted the view of the bishops of Rome and led to the use of ‘pope’ was an extremely important development related to the transitional era.
Emperor's role in Church
Although the pope was head of the church, it is important to note the significance of the emperor’s role in the affairs of the church. Emperors were involved in church government and doctrinal controversies, while bishops were active in imperial government, eventually gaining an increased political role. One image of the ideal bishop was a defender of the independence of the church against the tendency of imperial officials to oversee church policy. This was an important development because it established the bishop as a more important figure in comparison to the emperor. It also led to the idea that spiritual authority should take precedence over temporal power. The church also gained considerable independence on the Italian peninsula, as opposed to the Germanic kingdoms, where the king controlled both church and bishops.
Pope Greg I
Pope Gregory I played an important role during the transitional era through his ability to extend the new medieval European civilization to England. He aided the emergence of the new European civilization by creating the Papal states of Rome and its surrounding territories, in which he provided food, defense against the Lombards, and established a government. He also tried to extend his papal authority to the Christian church in the west by intervening in ecclesiastical conflicts and corresponding with Frankish rulers. Through the use of missionaries, he successfully converted England to Christianity. His primary instrument was the monastic movement, which was yet another important development of the new era.
Monasticism was formed based on solitude, but resulted in communal life due to the massive attraction of the disciplined life of the monk. Benedict of Nursia (480-543) founded a monastic house where he wrote rules establishing monastic life in the western Church. He emphasized moderation and divided the day into prayer and labor. Each Benedictine monastery was under an abbot, who had authority of the monks. This lifestyle led to the female version of monasticism, in which females cloistered themselves, known as nuns. Later, they would live close to the monks and live in double monasteries. This development of monasticism was a transition from the previous Christianity view in which martyrs were held in high esteem. The monks, due to their moderation, were slowly replacing the martyr as the most attractive figure in Christianity.
Irish monasticism was completely different due to its separation from Rome. Converted to Christianity by St. Patrick, they were strongly ascetic and relied on monasteries and abbots instead of bishops and bishoprics. Irish monasticism gave rise to penitentials and led to the preservation of Classical Latin. The preservation was a result of the Irish monks’ love of learning. They produced manuscripts that preserved the culture and illustrated with abstract geometric patterns.
- Irish monks became missionaries and began the process of converting the Angles and Saxons. This led to a clashing of missionaries of Roman Christianity, who were employed by Gregory the Great to convert England. In fact, St. Augustine was the instrument in converting England. Their conversion led to the transformation of temples to churches and pagan feast days to Christian feast days. It also led to a temporary clashing of Irish and Roman missionaries, but, after being solved, a fusion of Celtic and Roman Christianity occurred.
- Women were also involved in the monastic movement as the monks and nuns lived in separate houses, but attended church services together. They were under the rule of the abbess. Nuns were greatly relied on for books and money and the establishment of convents.
Aside from the monks themselves, several Christian intellectuals were also great contributors to the transformation. For example, Cassiodorus wrote a compendium of both Christian and pagan literature to show the ability of making use of Classical works while also treasuring the Scripture. He also established the seven liberal arts, which were divided into the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, logic) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, astronomy, geometry, music). Bede was another great contributor to this time period. He wrote of the history of England beginning with the coming of Christianity to Britain. His work reflects the high degree of intellectual achievement in England in the 8th century.
Eastern Roman Empire
- Under Justinian, the empire prospered as Justinian, who set out to reconquer the west through Balisarius, restored the imperial Mediterranean world. He defeated the Ostrogoths in 552; but, three years after his death, Lombards entered Italy, limiting his power.
- Although he was set on reconquering the west, he made great strides elsewhere. A defining moment in the Eastern Roman empire was the codification of Roman law. Because the east contained all of the materials of the development of Roman law, Justinian utilized Trebonian to make a compilation of the imperial edicts. This resulted in the Code of Law, which contained the Corpus Iurus Civilis, the Digest (writings of Roman jurists), the Institutes (brief summary of principles of Roman law that could be used as a textbook) and Novels (Justinian’s most important edicts during his reign.). This not only became the basis of law for the Byzantine empire, but it also was used in the west and became the basis of legal system of all of continental Europe.
Justinian's building project
Another defining moment of the Eastern empire was the emperor’s building project. After the destruction caused by the Nika revolt, which was suppressed after Justinian’s wife Theodora urged him to remain, he rebuilt Constantinople, giving it a lasting appearce for a thousand years. He constructed a defensive wall, an immense palace complex, the Hippodrome, the Hagia Sofia, and a huge amphitheater, as well as public baths, roads, hospitals, etc. Although these accomplishments were amazing, Justinian’s death led to several problems, such as too much distant territory, an empty treasury, a smaller population, and new threats, that eventually led to external attacks from the Persians and Slavs.
These attacks led to a new development known as the theme, which combined civilian and military offices in the hands of the same person. This not only enabled the empire to persist, but also increased militarization. Still, with threats from externals, especially the Muslims, who defeated Romans at Yarmuk in 636 and continued to conquer territories until their failure to besiege Constantinople, resulted in a decreased Eastern Roman Empire, and the transformation into the Byzantine empire, which was a Greek and Christian state.
Christianity in the Byzantine Empire
Christianity played a major role in the Byzantine empire, which was evident in the attention to the construction of churches, ceremonies, and decoration of the church. Because Christianity was highly regarded in the Byzantine empire, a simple controversy erupted into a very threatening dispute, which was that of the icons, which led to iconoclasm, and the Byzantine emperor Leo III to outlaw them. This caused resistance and dissension between the popes nad Byzantine emperors. Although the rulers eventually reversed their stand against images, it was too late; damage was done. This controversy contributed to the split between Roman Catholicism and Greek orthodoxy.
Emperor View and Constantinople
- Important aspects of the Byzantine Empire were the emperor and their views. The emperor was considered absolute in power and appointed the patriarch, giving him control of the church and state. They spent much energy on war, including in their literature, although they preferred diplomacy to warfare. Still, the Byzantine Empire impacted the west through their law and their protection of the western Roman state.
- The fact that Constantinopel was the greatest commercial center is also an important aspect of the transition. Trade formed the basis for its prosperity. Many goods were traded and raw materials used in local industries.
One more important aspect of the transitional era was the rise of Islam. Established by Muhammad, the Muslims were a formidable force, especially due to the belief that soldiers that die in war will be rewarded with heaven. This resulted in the Muslim victory over the Byzantines and the Persians. Their expansion led to the conquering of several areas and establishment of provinces. They also created the collapse of the Visigothic kingdom. Although their attempt to destroy the Byzantine Empire failed, this failure was a defining moment in the transition because it saved Christian Europe and the Byzantine Empire because, if Muslims succeeded, their culture would have probably resulted in a Muslim Medieval Europe.
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