8 Administrative Revolution


AFTER AURELIAN

  • Interregnum
  • 275 Aurelian dies at Caenophurium, nature of death unclear
  • No successor in places indicates this wasn’t an organised conspiracy/plan against Aurelian, but a one man attack on the emperor
    • Sources record him being killed by a low level administrator
  • No obvious factions contending for power - nobody wants the job
    • Clear that life expectancy not long for emperor
  • Sources remember an interregnum; period between rules, with no emperor
    • Degree to which there actually was an interregnum has been questioned
    • Coinage produced in this period; bust of Roman people, reverse SC with interregnum urbis?
    • Historia Augusta; world governed by collaboration of senate
      • Rosy image of a period of uncertain chaos
    • Long historical interregnum, or sources struggling to put together narrative?
  • NB from 272 narrative of Dexippus ends; historical narrative confusion
  • General choose Marcus Claudius Tacitus as emperor
    • Takes some action against the Goths
    • Possible that later sources are confused between ‘Claudius’ and Claudius Gothicus 
    • Lasts only 6 months; murdered
  • Rapid succession
  • 275 Tacitus’ brother Florianus acclaimed army in Asia
  • Probus simultaneously acclaimed
  • Florianus killed by own soldiers - reign 60-88 days
    • Literary trope? Nature of succession similar to previous emperors
  • Probus reigned for 6 years
    • Constantly on campaign/dealing with usurpations
    • Celebrates a triumph in 281
    • One of the most important emperors of the third century about whom we know hardly anything 
  • 282 Probus dies
    • Murdered by prefect, Carus?
  • Carus then declared emperor
    • NB. No evidence of senate recognition… or even asking for it 
      • Power of senate had long been diminishing
      • Absence of evidence does not mean it didn’t happen
      • Normal for emperors to be ratified by the senate, even if they didn’t go to Rome
      • One way to distinguish between emperor/usurpers is to look at who the senate recognised
  • Carus elevates two sons, Carinus and Numerianus, by splitting territory between them 
  • Carus dies; stuck by lightning, or illness
  • 283 Numerianus hailed by army; eye infection/assassination?
  • Carinus left as sole ruler

DIOCLES/DIOCLETIAN
  • Accession
    • Nov 20 284: junior military officer ends up on imperial throne, chosen by senior imperial officers who didn’t want the role for themselves
      • Gaius Valerius Diocles
      • One of the very few emperors about whom we know nothing of his earlier life; shows he was not very important
    • First actions; addresses troops, calls on sun god to avenge Numerianus
    • Then stabs prefect Aper
    • Led forced to Illyricum, confronting Carinus at Maargus
    • Carinus killed before battle by own troops
    • Makes no sense for Diocles to march against the brother of the person he just claimed to avenge
      • Narrative to cover up the reality that Diocles was the usurper; common occurrence for the 3rd century 

  • Stabilising power 
    • One of the least promising emperors of the third century manages to do what no other emperor of the century has done, and stabilises his authority; he manages to retire from politics!
    • Everything against him being a successful emperor
      • Not important, in terms of family history
      • Dynastically weak; daughter but no son
    • Takes a series of measures to try and resolve both issues; quite conventional steps
      • Latinises his name; Diocletianus 
      • Chooses a a Caesar: 285 Maximian 
        • 4 years later, promotes Maximian to position of Augustus 
    • Electing a Caesar has precedent, but electing two Augusti more unusual
      • Requires a degree of faith in co-ruler not to destabilise rule
      • Two Augusti, not of the same family (new situation), appearance of new ideology to understand this 
      • Success bound not just in his actions but the way he presents it 
    • Emergence of diarchy - rule by two
      • Two Augusti referred to as like Jupiter and Hercules; divine figures but ranked. Religious ideology to link new model of rule
      • Unified government, split between two courts; Diocletian based in Balkans, Maximian in Northern Gaul
        • Attempt to solve the problems of sole rule, and prevent further fragmentation
      • Image of unity AND superiority of one
        • Identical figures, but one emperor has a slightly more patriarchal stance than the other
      • Recognition that rule needs to be shared, but one emperor is to be superior to prevent usurpation; separate emperors working in unity
      • Through diarchy will be restoration
        • New imperial system that would enable the empire to be restored 
        • Language of restoration goes back to the res publica
    • Rules for 25 years, retires; extraordinary transition

A NEW SYSTEM?
  • The tetrarchy
    • End 290:Diocletian and Maximian meet at Milan
    • Two emperors not sufficient- Carausis, the pirate king
      • 287 fleet protecting coast of Britain
      • Allowing pillage. Maximian orders death
      • Flees to Britain where he is declared emperor
        • cf. Postumus, Odeanathus
    • 293 command vsCarausis passed to Costantius - won
      • Divores wife and married Maximian’s daughter
    • Later 293 Galerius acclaimed Caesar, also made to divorce wife and made to marry Diocletian’s daughter
    • Bound into the framework of imperial rule
    • End up with tetrarchy - by design or accident?
      • The system which stabilises the empire
      • ‘Tetrarchy’ never used in antiquity; modern term, quite misleading
        • In antiquity, referred to formal splitting of territory for rule by four
          • Cf. Herod the Great, territory split between 4 children
        • Not ruling separate territories, 4 different holders of imperial office, based in separate areas of the empire, but no formal division of territory 
        • Debated the extent to which this really was a new system of rule
          • Unusual example of what was actually fairly standard? 
    • Response to difficulty of maintaining military command on multiple frontiers

  • The Dominate
    • Move from principate to dominate; rule by princeps to dominus 
    • 2 Augustu, 2 Caesares
      • None assume central base in Rome; now impractical as a base for emperors who are involved in constant campaigning
      • New imperial capitals near frontiers, centres of military action
    • Distinctive ideology of new regime
      • Focus on collegiality and harmony
      • New military imagery; square jawed, stubbled beards, short hair 
      • Statue on corner, looking out into multiple directions, guarding entire empire
    • Suggestion that with Diocletian that treating of emperors as gods rather than equals starts to happen
    • Sacralised figure; less likely to be assassinated? Not every man could be emperor, but divine individuals had been chosen
    • Having 4 emperors produced a much more bureaucratic  administrative system
      • New provinces
      • Tetrarchy goes hand in hand with the reorganisations of the mechanisms of empire 
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