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A History of Rome to 565 A. D. by Boak

The dissolution and restoration of the empire 235 285 a


style="text-align: justify;"> VI. THE DISSOLUTION AND RESTORATION OF THE EMPIRE: 235-285 A. D.

*The end of the pax Romana.* The period of fifty years from 235 to 285 A. D. is a prolonged repetition of the shorter epochs of civil war of 68-69 and 193-197 A. D. During this interval twenty-six Augusti, including such as were colleagues in the _imperium_, obtained recognition in Rome and of these only one escaped a violent death. In addition, there were numerous usurpers or "tyrants," as candidates who failed to make good their claims to the principate were called. Almost all of these emperors were the nominees of the soldiery, and at least possessed military qualifications that were above the average. In general they conscientiously devoted themselves to the task of restoring order in the empire, but their efforts were in the main nullified by the treachery of their own troops and the rise of rival emperors.

*The mutiny of the army.* The main cause of this disorganization lay in the fact that the professional army had lost all sense of loyalty to the empire, an attitude already frequently evidenced by the praetorians, and by the legions also under Caracalla and his successors. Recruited, as the latter now were, almost entirely from the frontiers of the Roman world, they felt no community of interest with the inhabitants of the peaceful provinces and turned upon them, like unfaithful sheep dogs upon the flocks

whom it was their duty to guard. The sole object of the troops was to enrich themselves by plunder and the extortion of high pay and frequent largesses from the emperor whom they supported. Hence, in the expectation of fresh rewards, each army hailed as Imperator the commander who had led it to victory over foreign foes or revolting soldiers of Rome.

*Barbarian invasions.* In addition to constant civil war, the Roman world was exposed to all the horrors of barbarian invasions. We have already noticed the rise of a new Persian state whose object was the reestablishment of the empire as it had existed prior to the conquests of Alexander the Great. Likewise on the whole extent of the northern frontier new and more aggressive peoples assaulted and penetrated the frontier defences. On the North Sea coast, between the Rhine and the Weser were the Saxons whose ships raided the shores of Britain and Gaul. Facing the Romans along the lower Rhine were the Franks, along the upper Rhine the Alamanni, further east on the upper Danube the Marcomanni, while on the eastern frontier of Dacia and to the north of the Black Sea were situated the Goths and the Heruli. The withdrawal of troops from some sectors of the frontier to meet attacks at others and the neglect of their duty by the army corps who plunged into the maelstrom of civil war in support of various candidates for the imperial power gave the northern barbarians the opportunity to sweep down in destructive hordes upon the peaceful and undefended provinces.

*Dissolution of the empire.* The natural consequence of the failure of the imperial government to defend the provinces from hostile invasions was that the provincials began to take measures for their own protection and to transfer their allegiance from the Roman emperors to local authorities, who proved a more efficient help in time of trouble. These separatist tendencies were active both in the East and in the West and led to a temporary dissolution of the unity of the Empire.


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