Pr02b4_Ancient Rome: Rise of Christianity and the Collapse of the Empire in the West (Slide by Slide Description)
Click on Pr02b4_Ancient Rome: Rise of Christianity and the Collapse of the Empire in the West to view the slides that accompany these descriptions.
Cover Slide: “SPQR”. Represents republican Rome’s creed. As an acronym, it stands for “Senatus Populusque Romanus” => The Senate and People of Rome. Such a phrase/ Acronym would be affixed at the end of official documents and public monuments.
We enter the period of gradual decline and ultimate collapse of the empire in the Western half. The eastern half, later to be known as the Byzantine Empire, will continue on for another nine centuries. If we were to mark off the period of Roman decline and collapse, we would first have to decide what the signs of ‘decline’ are. This would be beyond the scope of our course. Instead, we’ll look at a few of the major decisions in the empire’s two to three centuries before the collapse that later came to aggravate the conditions that brought on a political collapse.
Slide #2: Our first crisis decision is about the Roman institution of Slavery. (There are parallels in the Roman institution with the institution of Slavery as practiced in the United States.)
Do you see any problem with maintaining a high population of enslaved peoples who are kept under control with brutal regulations?
Slide #3: A painting of crucified rebellious slaves from Spartacus’ Slave Army.
Slide #4: Under the rule of an Emperor, the Roman government never adequately solved the problem of who would be the next emperor. Except for a ~100 year period where each emperor hand-picked a successor (adopted as a ‘Son’- think of what Julius Caesar had done with Octavian), transfer of power from one emperor to the next was often accompanied with violence and civil war.
Why do you suppose anyone would plunge their society into violent chaos just to be Emperor?
Slide #5: The Five Good (Adopted) Emperors.
Nerva begins the process that ends with Marcus Aurelius. Augustus (Octavian), as the first emperor, starts a period known as the Pax Romana (Roman Peace) that lasts until the end of the reign of the Five Good (Adopted) Emperors.
Slide #6: Another critical period of Rome’s history involves the issue about the empire’s geographic size.
In the United States, much has been debated about the security of the nation’s borders. Rome had a problem with it’s borders and thus became concerned about the empire’s physical size.
A solution to the problem was enacted by Emperor Diocletian- The Tetrarchy.
What difficulties do you see materializing from a division of the empire into four, semi-autonomous regions with their own local ruler with the title of ‘Caesar’?
Slide #7: Maps that are related to the problem of an empire that’s too large to govern efficiently.
The map in the bottom-center shows a city that one emperor, Constantine, uses as a ‘new’ eastern capital for the empire in the 4th C.
In essence, the empire is divided into two large parts: The Western portion- governed from Rome, and the Eastern portion- governed from Byzantium.
Slide #8: For most of Rome’s history, it reflected similar religious beliefs to other ancient civilizations- Polytheistic, nature-based faiths. The emperors Galerius and Constantine make major social changes in this field. The faith developing from the teachings of a Jewish Rabbi (to become Christianity) become increasingly accepted in Roman society. A persecuted faith gradually becomes the empire’s official faith under the reign of the Emperor Theodosius in the 4th-5th C. At that time the government’s position flip-flops. A formerly persecuted faith becomes the official faith of the government and once accepted faiths become targets of persecution.
What disruptions might you envision for a society that makes such a change?
Slide #9: The issue of troublesome borders comes back to haunt the empire in the 5th C. for the final time. Peoples who were once controlled by Rome’s mighty armies become ‘invaders’. These become the mislabeled ‘Barbarian’ invasions.
While these incursions were often violent, border security doesn’t always involve the movement of violent people. Can movement of people across borders, if done in a non-violent fashion, still endanger a society?
Slide #10 – 13: These slides highlight the divided development of the two former halves of the once mighty Roman Empire.
The Western half becomes divided among the ethnic groups represented by the (Barbarian) invaders in the 5th C.
The Eastern half continues on. Modern historians have labeled this remaining half as the BYZANTINE EMPIRE (records indicate that the people stilled referred to themselves as ‘Roman’). It’s capital city being the one Emperor Constantine established as the Eastern Capital in the 4th C.- Byzantium. It would later be renamed Constantinople.
These two halves will pursue divergent religious and political paths. Slides 11 – 12 illustrate some of the religious differences via the priests of the Eastern Orthodox Church (Eastern Christian Church) and the Roman Catholic Church (Western Church). Both of these ‘Churches’ still exist today.