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Dominat and the fall of the Empire III-V AD

The reign of Diocletian and Constantine

Swimming pool at the Villa Adriana in Tivoli. 130-138.

Swimming pool at the Villa Adriana in Tivoli. 130-138.

The Reign of Diocletian

Some temporary successes in preserving the unity of the empire were achieved by the Emperors Diocletian and Constantine.

Diocletian (284-305) was the son of a freedman and from ordinary soldiers rose to the head of the imperial guard. After killing the sons of Emperor Kar, he was proclaimed emperor. He carried out a number of important reforms: he divided the empire into four parts, took his comrade Maximian as co-ruler (with the title of Augustus). The titles of Caesars were given to Galerius and Constantius Chlorus.

Diocletian finally transformed from a princeps to a “master” (hence the name of the late empire “dominat”), a direct descendant of Jupiter. Christians were subjected to harsher persecution than before. Senators, regardless of whether they were present in the senate or lived in their estates, remained the highest class, but all matters were decided by the emperor himself and the council that was with him. However, the nobility was satisfied with the successful wars of Diocletian with the Germans, Persians, Moors, and most importantly — that he managed to suppress the uprisings. In lavish panegyrics, Diocletian and Maximian were celebrated as the new Olympians, the conquerors of the giants, the rebellious ” sons of the earth.”

The reign of Constantine

Porta Nigra in the Roman colony of Trier. II century AD.

Porta Nigra in the Roman colony of Trier. II century AD.

In 305, Diocletian gave up power and retired to his native Dalmatia. After a brief struggle between the pretenders to the throne, Constantine, son of Constantius Chlorus (306-337), became emperor. He became the sole ruler, but retained the division of the empire into prefectures, subordinate to the praetorian prefects, and divided into provinces, united into dioceses. Constantine stopped the persecution of Christians and even called a council in Nicaea (325) to develop a single creed (symbol of faith), turning Christianity into the state religion. He himself was baptized before his death, hoping, according to detractors, that baptism would wash away his sins, in particular the execution of almost all of his relatives.

The growing influence of the Christian Church

Now the church has become an ally of the state. Even at the end of the second century, a prominent figure of the Christian Church, Tertullian, wrote about the universal happiness, peace and brotherhood that would come in the empire if Caesar himself became a Christian. Now this seemingly utopian dream has been fulfilled, without, however, improving the situation of either the empire or the Christian Church. Having become dominant, it turned into an arena of struggle between various trends: Nicaeans, Arians, Donatists, etc. Those who took the upper hand accused their opponents of heresy and used the power of the state apparatus against them. Rejecting the imperial cult, the church recognized the emperor as the vicar of God on earth. Everything related to it, even indirectly, was declared sacred. Discontent was equated with sacrilege. The church grew rich due to donations from emperors and private individuals, owned lands and colonies.

The stage of the theater in Bosra. 2nd century AD 

The stage of the theater in Bosra. 2nd century AD

Elections for the post of bishop, which gave power, influence and wealth, were accompanied by intrigue, and even carnage. Dissatisfied with the rebirth of the church, they formed their own” heretical ” sects, went to the deserts, and laid the foundation for monasticism. At the same time, Christian doctrine, theology, and Christian philosophy developed, which, borrowing a lot from ancient philosophy, gave its own interpretation of the same problems, and offered its own ways to solve them. In the IV-V centuries. There lived the most prominent representatives of Christian philosophy, the so — called fathers of the Church-Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, Ambrose of Mediolana, Augustine, bishop of the African city of Hippo, the creator of the Christian philosophy of history.

The struggle of paganism and Christianity

The idea of the eternity of the empire, the worship of the “ancestors” who created it, is replaced by the concept of the inevitable destruction of all earthly kingdoms (only the kingdom of God is eternal) and the movement from the old to the new. It would seem that abstract theological questions, according to the historian Ammianus Marcellinus, became the subjects of general discussion even in the markets and in barbers ‘ shops. Adherents of ancient values remained less and less. The attempt of the Emperor Julian, called the Apostate, to return from Christianity to the ancient religion, failed. The failure of Julian showed all the weakness of the “last pagans”, their isolation from the demands of life.

The head of a man. Marble. Beginning of the third century AD.

head of a man. Marble. Beginning of the third century AD.

However, in the works of the then “secular” authors — the poet Ausonius, the author of the collection of letters of Apollinarius Sidonius, the historian Ammianus Marcellinus, and others— the reminiscences of ancient culture were so numerous that it is not always possible to determine whether this or that writer was a Christian or a follower of the “ancestral faith”. The old cults continued to persist among the rural population. The church historian and biographer of the canonized Bishop G. Thur Martin described how the peasants resisted Martin’s Christianization, the destruction of their sanctuaries, and the destruction of sacred trees. At the end of the IV century AD. The Emperor of Theodosia strictly forbade the practice of pagan cults. But the rural gods persisted in living as forest, water, and domestic spirits, merging with the images of the holy martyrs who died during the persecution, the hermits who became famous for their asceticism, of whom there were especially many in Egypt and Syria, and whose “lives” became one of the most common types of literature.

New trends in art

New trends have also affected art. Plotinus also formulated a theory of aesthetics that was fundamentally different from the concepts of Cicero and Horace. From his point of view. the artist had to reflect not the real, but only something internal, a soul, a certain general idea. The art of the dominatrix consciously or unconsciously followed this theory. In the East, in the Fayum portraits of Egypt, in the frescoes of the Syrian city of Dura-Evropos, figures were depicted, devoid of portrait likeness, real features. Only the intense inner life of the soul was emphasized. In the West, the cult of imperial power contributed to the creation of colossal, majestic structures. Huge were the baths built under Caracalla and Diocletian, the triumphal arches, the statues of the emperors, as if frozen in unattainable grandeur.

However, despite the apparent strengthening of the imperial power, the actual situation in the empire was precarious. The population was in an even more difficult situation than before.

Julia Domna, wife of Septimius Severus. III century AD.

Julia Domna, wife of Septimius Severus. III century AD.

Transfer of the capital and “barbarization” of the army

Breaking with all Roman traditions, Constantine moved his capital to Constantinople, which he had founded on the site of Byzantium, and which was rebuilt with extraordinary luxury. The transfer of the capital to the east was a symbol of the process often referred to in the literature as the” orientalization ” of the empire. Usually this term is understood as the theocratization of imperial power, the establishment of a ritual similar to that of the Eastern kings. But these were only external signs of internal processes. Rome, having passed through the stage of a civil community, came to a system close to the structure of the eastern states with their huge royal lands, with different categories of dependent population, standing between slaves and free, with undeveloped economic ties. And the similarity in the socio-economic structure gave rise to a similarity in the design of state power. However, while displaying all the external attributes of power, this power did not actually possess it. This was especially evident under the successors of Constantine.

His reforms, which continued those of Diocletian, only briefly strengthened the empire. The army, consisting of enslaved colonies and ruined peasants, was losing its fighting capacity. Increasingly, the barbarian soldiers had to be resorted to. Their commanders gained more and more influence at the court of the emperors, and the army sometimes did not provide effective resistance to their tribesmen, who again began to advance on the borders of the empire. Not yet able to take fortified cities, the barbarians ravaged the countryside. They were often joined by peasants who rose to fight. They took over the villas, destroyed the ious, turned the masters into slaves.

The collapse of the empire into eastern and Western

In 378, the Goths settled on the Danube rebelled and together with the colonists and workers from the gold mines defeated the army of the Emperor Valens (364-378). Theodosius (379-395), who replaced him, united the Eastern and Western Empires under his rule for the last time and acted with repression and compromises, coped with the uprising, but the empire could not recover. After the death of Theodosius, it finally broke up into eastern and western parts.

Constantine the Great. Bronze. IV century AD

Constantine the Great. Bronze. IV century AD

The Fall of Rome

In the western provinces, the discontent of the nobles grew. Strengthened, with its own squads able to subdue the colonists and defend its fortified villas (burgs), the nobles looked upon the central government, unable to repel the barbarian invasions and suppress peasant uprisings, as a devourer of its huge revenues. Again and again in the western provinces there are pretenders to the throne, often in alliance with the leaders of the barbarians. Along with this, all those who suffered from enslavement, heavy taxes, and abuses of the bureaucratic apparatus also hoped for the barbarians and fled to them in droves. A weakened empire becomes easy prey for the barbarians. On August 24, 410, the Gothic leader Alaric took and sacked Rome. Then the Goths left, but the impression of the fall of Rome was amazing.

In the following decades, one western province after another passed into the hands of the Goths, Burgundians, Lombards, Vandals, Franks, who founded their kingdoms there. The Roman emperors, who no longer had any power, were installed and deposed by the leaders of the German squads. In 476 AD. Odoacer of the Scyrians deposed the last emperor, Romulus, called Augustulus, and, not even considering it necessary to appoint a new one, sent the insignia of the imperial power to Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, which under the name of Byzantium lasted for another thousand years.

The end of the ancient world

Thus ended the history of the ancient world and began the era of the formation of the feudal system. The question of the nature of the transition from the ancient slave-owning society to the feudal one has been and continues to be the subject of many discussions. But no matter how these problems are solved, there is no doubt that the ancient world and its civilization had a huge impact on the material and spiritual culture of subsequent epochs, extending not only to the peoples who were part of the Roman Empire, but also to the Germans, Arabs, and Slavs. The study of the influence, assimilation and transformation of the ancient heritage in societies with different socio-economic and political systems is of paramount importance for the study of the general problem of the transition from antiquity to the Middle Ages, the interaction of different cultures, the possibilities and boundaries of cultural borrowing, the problem directly related to the general concepts of historical and cultural development. From a theoretical point of view, the ancient world is also significant as a social formation, without studying which it is impossible to understand the course of the world-historical process. The study of the ancient world opens up great opportunities for analyzing the interaction of various socio-economic, political and cultural processes. With all the uniqueness of such mutual influence in concrete historical conditions, it makes it possible to better understand the general sociological and historical-cultural patterns of the development of social organisms.

The legacy of ancient civilization

Adam and Eve. Roman catacombs. III century AD.

Adam and Eve. Roman catacombs. III century AD.

The Western Roman Empire fell, and it seems to some researchers that almost everything created by Rome died with it, and further development began almost from scratch. But if even in the early period of the history of the Western “barbarian kingdoms” a significant number of achievements of the material and spiritual culture of antiquity were forgotten, much of what it created continued to live in the West. In the East, in Byzantium, the ancient tradition, being reinterpreted, was essentially never interrupted. Both in the west and in the east of Europe, Christianity prevailed, absorbing the values of ancient culture. Thanks to the works of the “fathers of the church”, literate people got acquainted with some of the provisions of ancient philosophy, history, and myths.

The penetration of ancient philosophy into Russia

When the Slavic countries, including Russia, adopted Christianity, these works, delivered from Byzantium, as well as other Christian works, historical chronicles, novels about Alexander the Great, became known here. In the West, Latin remained the language of the church and of science for many centuries after the fall of Rome. In the monasteries, the manuscripts of ancient authors were copied, thanks to which they have come down to us. The architecture of the churches reproduced Roman architecture (in particular, Roman basilicas), although with significant variations in different countries and areas.

There was also the idea of Rome as a political and spiritual center uniting the peoples, Constantinople was called “the second Rome”, the Byzantines called themselves the Romans – “the Romans”, and their emperor — “the Roman Caesar”. In the West, Charlemagne and then the sovereigns of the “Holy Roman Empire” considered themselves the successors and heirs of Rome. After the fall of Constantinople, the idea of Moscow as the “third Rome”, the successor of Orthodox Rome — Constantinople, was strengthened in Russia, and this played a significant role in the ideology of the XV-XVI centuries, in the study of the history and literature of Rome, from which the material was drawn to justify political concepts (as, for example, in the correspondence between Grozny and Kurbsky).

The Mother of God with the baby. Roman catacombs. III century AD.

The Mother of God with the baby. Roman catacombs. III century AD.

Adaptability to Christian philosophy

Both in the East and in the West, the focus was on the philosophy of Aristotle, adapted to Christian philosophy. His works, as well as other ancient works, were translated, for example,into Arabic. Based on the legacy of the Alexandrian mathematicians, the Arabs created algebra, they knew both Galen and the Greek astronomers. It was from Arabic that the works of Aristotle were translated into Latin. Ptolemy and Galen remained unquestionable authorities until Modern times, and when the opportunity came to reject their church-sanctioned infallibility, Copernicus, creating his heliocentric system, relied on Aristarchus of Samos and his theory of the rotation of the Earth and the planets around the Sun. Roman law was constantly studied by lawyers of medieval Europe, adapted to the needs of feudal society.

Renaissance culture and Roman lore

If the Eastern European Slavic countries got acquainted with the ancient heritage through Byzantium, then in Western Europe they knew only what was left of Rome. It was only when the Turks invaded Byzantium that many Byzantine scholars began to move to Italy, where they became acquainted with the ancient heritage in its entirety, which stimulated the flourishing of the Renaissance culture. Now the works of both Roman and Greek authors were extracted from the monastic vaults, copied, studied, commented on, and became weapons in the struggle against the power of church dogma over the minds of people, in the propaganda of new ideas of humanism, enlightenment, freedom of thought, harmonious development of the individual, and the greatness of science. The influence of ancient art was great at that time. The excavated statues served as a model for the great creators of the Renaissance, embodying the ideal of a beautiful but earthly person in contrast to the medieval images of saints. Roman architecture was also taken as a model, and its foundations were mastered and developed further. The then famous author of the work on architecture, Palladius, was largely based on Vitruvius. In the appeal to antiquity, the contemporaries of the Renaissance saw a path to spiritual liberation from the dominance of dogma, to the establishment of science, creativity, and search in all spheres of life.

The good Shepherd. A fresco from the Roman catacombs

The good Shepherd. A fresco from the Roman catacombs

Antiquity and New Times

Over time, the influence of the ancient heritage grew stronger and stronger. Latin continued to be the language of scholars throughout the European world, and the acquaintance with the Greek language and Greek thinkers deepened. In the 18th century, the theory of the “Greek miracle” developed — the absolute perfection of the art of classical Greece, in comparison with which the art of Hellenism and Rome was a decline and epigony. The development of printing stimulated the publication of Greek and Latin authors and their acquaintance. The Pythagorean theorem, the geometry of Euclid, and the law of Archimedes became the basis of education in schools. The works of Eudoxus of Cnidus. Diophantus contributed to the development of trigonometry. The works of ancient geographers, who proceeded from the spherical shape of the Earth and calculated its volume, played a significant role in the Great Geographical Discoveries. The philosophical systems of ancient thinkers inspired the philosophers of Modern times. In the eighteenth century, on the eve of the French Revolution, materialist philosophers turned to Lucretius. His teaching about the origin of the world from atoms, about the evolution of nature and human society without divine providence, about the natural contract that unites people for a common benefit, about the law that is not God, but people establish for the same benefit and cancel it when it ceases to satisfy this benefit, was in tune with the advanced theories of that time. And the ideas of democracy, equality, freedom, and justice were equally in tune, although, having become revolutionary slogans of the XVIII century, they were understood much more widely than in antiquity.

European theater and literature constantly turned to antiquity, and their connections with it became more and more diverse. Ancient subjects were processed: “Antony and Cleopatra” and “Julius Caesar” in Shakespeare, “Andromache”, “Phaedra”, “Britannicus” in Racine, “Medea”, “Horace”, “Cinna”, “Pompey” in Corneille. Whole plays were reproduced: for example, Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors” repeated Plautus ‘ “Menechmov”, and Moliere’s “Miser” repeated Plautus ‘ “Casket”. The servants of the comedies of Moliere, Lope de Vega, and Goldoni are inspired by the images of the clever, clever slaves of Plautus, who help their masters arrange their love affairs. Ancient novels were translated and new ones were written in imitation of them. Many ancient images and subjects — gods, goddesses, heroes, battles and festivals-served as themes for artists and sculptors, who interpreted them in accordance with the tastes of their time.

A woman with a jewelry box. A fragment of a mural. Beginning of the IV century AD.

A woman with a jewelry box. A fragment of a mural. Beginning of the IV century AD.

Thus, an active participant in the Great French Revolution, the artist David, in contrast to the artists who catered to the tastes of the pampered nobility, wrote ancient heroes filled with patriotic and civic feelings: “The Oath of the Horatians”, “The Death of Socrates”, “Leonidas at Thermopylae”. Roman law formed the basis of the law of other Western states.

Antiquity and Newest Times

In Modern and modern times, the ancient world has retained its significance in various spheres of spiritual and mental activity. Historians, sociologists, and cultural scientists turn to him. The ancient world as a kind of closed cycle, known from its origin to its demise, constantly serves as a standard for cultural scientists, both those who adhere to the concept of the cyclicity of human history, and many others who seek to see certain general laws of the development of society, the correlation in its history of certain factors, processes, and conditions.

Without an acquaintance with ancient culture, it is impossible to understand the numerous Greek and Roman reminiscences of the classics of Russian literature. In Russia, even in the XVIII century. translated ancient authors, and already Derzhavin wrote his “Monument” in imitation of the” Monument ” of Horace. A. S. Pushkin knew Roman literature very well. His translations of Horace are second to none in their adequacy to the original. D. S. Merezhkovsky (“Julian the Apostate”), B. Ya.Bryusov (“The Altar of Victory”), L. Andreev (the plays “The Abduction of the Sabine Women” and “The Horse in the Senate”) turned to ancient subjects.

Thus, thousands of threads connect the culture of Europe with the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome. Without the foundation laid by Greece and Rome, there would be no modern Europe.

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