1 Introduction


The Fall of the Roman Empire


I.               INTRODUCTION


·      Looking at the third century AD

·      Caracalla and Geta (211 AD) to Constantine (D. 337 AD)

·      Why start and finish point?

§  ‘Cleanest’ way of doing the third century

§  Encompasses the third century crisis


·      Period of political instability

·      Rapid changeover of imperial power – difficult to hold onto power for very long

·      No continued dynasties similar to those in 1st and 2nd century


·      What counts as being emperor?

·      Previously those recognised/ratified by senate as emperor

·      Vespasian first emperor to be declared outside of Rome

·      Starts to raise question of who gets on emperor list

·      Unrecognised authority but in practise acting as emperor

·      Lines between legitimate and illegitimate authority become blurred within the third century


·      Even author of Historia Augusta challenged with who to include as emperor


II.             DECLINE AND FALL


·      Gibbon saw the 2nd century as the highpoint of empire

·      Myth of Golden Age questioned


·      Period of crisis

·      Political instability

·      Diminution of office

·      Military weakness and invasion

·      Climate – poor harvests

·      Plague

·      Economic failure

·      Religious corruption

·      Gibbon’s narrative took two main aspects:

·      Barbarism – influx of barbarians from outside the empire instilling a lack of discipline and virtues

·      Spread of Christianity which changed Roman values and doctrinal disputes

·      Traditional calibre of man who made it to office was no longer making it to the imperial throne

·      Change in type of person who makes it to imperial office

·      Diminution in office




·      Gibbon established an influential model for third century crisis

·      Scholars who still buy into the idea of a crisis in the third century

·      Geza Alfoldy

·      But could also be a later scholarly construct which doesn’t reflect the reality of the third century

·      Much less material for the 3rd century

·      Has it not survived because less literature was written

·      More material from the viewpoint of Christians

·      Does the 3rd c. look so bad because we have so many Christian sources looking at it through a rhetorical lens?

·      Are these scholars just missing things? – intellectual culture blossoms in the third century – Longinus

§  Crisis in terms of mining production but does it really class as a crisis if it produces some of the finest philosophical minds?

·      On the basis of methodology

·      Are we using anachronistic standards?