The Importance Of The Roman Empire

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The Roman Empire of the third century saw a period of great instability due to the short reigns of its many emperors. It was dangerous to be the emperor in an era that was filled with rebellions and multiple men vying for the throne. In response to their precarious position at the head of the empire, many third century emperors tried to bolster their power through whatever means necessary. These men bought the loyalty of the army while subduing the political and military threat that the Senate posed. This created an emperor, who by the fourth century was vastly more powerful than those of the principate and who saw their power expand beyond the government. By the third century, the Roman army had become an influential force in shaping politics…show more content…
The Roman Empire had grown too expansive and suffered too many external threats to allow Rome to remain its political center. Instead new seats of power, such as Trier, Milan, Antioch, and Constantinople, were nearer to the borders and became more influential (Heather, 25). On the other hand, Rome’s power, and that of its senators waned. With emperors visiting Rome only a few times during their tenure (Heather, 25), it was difficult for senators to exert what political influence, while “Whatever places [the emperor] distinguishes most frequently with his visits, everything is increased—men, walls, and favours” (Heather, 27). This was especially problematic for the senators when combined with the shift toward rank based upon service in the imperial bureaucracy rather than birth. Before and during the early part of the third century, elites in the provinces would compete with one another through public services, especially building and maintain structures meant for public use, in order to gain favor and potentially citizenship (Halsall, 69). Once citizenship became universal, privately funded building projects became less frequent because there was not incentive for elites to spend their money (Halsall, 53). The imperial bureaucracy expanded to fill this void and the empire capitalized on the ambitions of its people by tying…show more content…
Most importantly, the Roman Empire began to be seen as an earthly imitation of heaven, where the emperor acted as God’s regent (Maas, 1). The head of the state now became a leading figure in the Church as well. This new role meant that the emperor was allowed to mediate issues concerning Christian ideology (Maas, 110). Of course this created tension with the clergy, who felt that matters of the Church should be dealt with internally rather by imperial decree. Later emperors, like Justinian, tried to placate the priesthood by echoing the sentiment that it was best “When the clergy shows a proper spirt and devotes itself entirely to God, and the emperor governs the state which is entrusted to him” (Maas, 9). This did not mean that these emperors did not also try to influence matters of the Church. Even Justinian was reprimanded for attempts to solve the Three Chapters Controversy (Maas, 9). So while the emperor gained influence as God’s chosen regent, he had to contend with the desires of the priesthood just as earlier emperors had to contend with the
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