After assumptions of the trappings of the eastern despotism i.e. during dominate, the office of the emperor of Rome faced several turbulent occasions. The barbarian kings started manipulating the western kings about the succession of the emperor while in the Byzantine emperor found it very hard with the autocratic trappings that were taking place in the East and which had consolidated support.
The post republican period that existed after the civilization was dominated by the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was characterized by vast territorial holdings both in Europe and the Mediterranean with an autocratic form of governance. Before coming to existence of the Roman Empire, there existed the republic of Rome which succumbed due to a series of civil wars within its territory. Events that can be used to mark the period of transition from the roman republic to the Roman Empire may include the appointment of Julius Caesar and his dictatorship in 44BC, the Actium battle that took place in 31BC and the grant by the roman senate, the Octavian, Augustus in the year 27 BC, 4th of January. The empire expanded very fast and in the times of King Trajan, from 98 to 117 AD, the empire controlled a very big territory almost six point five squared kilometers. Due to this vast territorial control, there was a lot of influence in the culture architecture, language, religion among other aspects of life in the Romans. (Isaac, 34)
Division of the territory was initiated by Diocletian, around late third century, AD. He divided the empire into four for better governance and to help him get rid of the crisis that was taking place in the third century. It is during this time that the Roman Empire got divided among the west and the east and after in the year 395, after the demise of king Theodosius 1, the empire divided for the permanently. The empire at the west collapsed in the year 476 after forceful abdication of Romulus Augustus to Odoacer while the eastern empire that was commonly referred to as the byzantine empire succumbed in 1453 following the death of the king Constantine XI Ottoman Turks capture of the Constantinople.
The turmoil of the late empire
Turbulence in the Roman Empire took place in the third century between 235 and 284, and it’s commonly known as the third century crisis. At this time, the empire had been ruled by twenty five emperors and the empire for all this period of time had experienced several crises from the political aspect, the military, and even the economic aspect. To add on this, there was also the Cyprian plague of the year 251 which caused several lives thus affecting the empire’s ability to defend itself in times of war. The Cyprian plague ended the Diocletian rule that took almost twenty years from 284 to 305 and also solved very many several problems of this period that were very acute.
Despite the solutions that Diocletian brought to some of this empire, he saw it ungovernable and thus decided to split the vast empire into two creating equal emperors giving them a title Augustus. This was the first step that gave an initial foundation to the base of the two empires that came to exist in the Roman Empire, the eastern and the western empire. When authority was provided in the year 293, Augustus simply brought in another figure to help him rule. Caesar came in to provide succession line, a situation known as Tetrarchy marking the beginnings of the late distant past. With the death Constantatius Chorus, the first one of the Constantine dynasty, the Tetrarchy simply collapsed; this was in the year 306. The next Augustus was immediately put on the throne by the Constantia’s troops, this was Constantine the Great. There after, there were a chain of civil wars that broke out. These civil wars gave to an end the idea that the whole empire was united under Constantine who through the edict of Milan had given permission and legalized Christianity in the empire, in 313.
The civil wars went for a very lengthy time and in the year 361; there came another emperor by the name Julian. He reopened the pagan temples and recalled the Christian bishops who had been exiled. Julian then decided to resume the war between them and Persia but in 363, he was killed from a fatal wound that he had got from the war. After the death of Julian, Jovian was elected as the next emperor of Rome. With Jovian as the emperor, Rome decided to give back the territories that had been taken from Persia and also gave back the Christian community in the empire their freedom and privileges. He died in 364.
Upon the death of Jovian, the second dynasty came to power with Valentinian I coming to power as the next emperor. This came to be known as the Valentinian dynasty. With Valentinian I as the next Augustus, the empire got another co emperor, Valens who was a brother to the emperor Valentinian I. However, this did not last and in the year 365, Procopius claimed the emperorship through bribing two of the legions and was proclaimed to be the Augustus. This brought war between these two emperors, Procopius and Valentinian I but finally Procopius was defeated. I the year 367, the youngest emperor was named, Gratian, who was by then was only eight year old. He was named the emperor alongside the two. However, in 375, Valentinian I
and his army carried out a campaign against the Germanic tribe but just before finishing the mission, he died. By then, Gratian was sixteen years old and people thought that he could take control of the emperorship. However, it was the unexpected that happened, the troops from the fallen emperor took control of the emperorship and claimed the title of Valentinian II and Gratian accepted.
The eastern empire on the other side had several problems as well; especially form the Germanic tribes that were present in it. A whole tribe sought refuge in the eastern empire and the then emperor, Valens allowed them to settle on the banks of river Danube, to the south, in the year 376. As soon as they had settled, this tribe started a revolt against their hosts, the Romans. I the year 378, Valens personally led the Romans against this tribe. So when the two forces met for a battle at Adrianople, Valens was too confident in his forces and expected an early glory from the war. However, hidden to him, the roman forces were to be overpowered and that same year, Valens died a fatal that he got from this war on 3rd of august 378. To the Romans, this was a very big loss; the loss of the battle and the death of Valens. In addition to this, the number of soldiers that the Romans lost was big. It sis estimated to be two thirds of the total soldiers of the Roman Empire at that time. The loss was so big and had very serious consequences to the people of Rome that even the retired soldiers were now going back to the field. At this time, Gratian was a grown up person and took full control of the empire. So he looked for another emperor to the eastern empire, he chose Theodosius I to be the replacement of Valens as the next Augustus of the eastern empire. This was in the year 379. (Abbott, 69)
With the coming of Theodosia, another dynasty came to the core of the ruling system in the empire. This marked the beginning of the Theodosia dynasty with Theodosia I as its founder. So in attempt to shelter succession of the dynasty, Theodosius decided to name Arcadius as Augustus, who by then was only five years old.
The Roman general that was stationed in Britain, Magnus Marcianus revolted against Gratian when he, Gratian, decided to attack Gaul. He was also proclaimed the next Augustus and seeing that things were not good on his side, Gratian decided to flee but he was later caught up with and assassinated. At the time of gratins death, the only senior Augustus was Valentinian II, who by then was only twelve years old. So it forced magnus to negotiate with the two emperors, Valentinian II and Theodosius but he failed to be recognized by the two emperors as the next Augustus of the west. So in the year 388, Theodosius launched a campaign against Magnus. He succeeded when finally, Magnus was captured and finished. In the year 392, the then emperor Valentinian II was also murdered and Eugenius was appointed to take charge after his death. (Bury, 42)
More troubles followed when Theodosius refused to recognize Eugenius as the emperor of the west. So he again invaded it. He succeeded in fighting Eugenius, killed him and Arbotast who had appointed Eugenius to the next Augustus of the west. With only him in power, he decided to reunite the whole empire and ruled it till 395 when he died. Theodosius made history, becoming the last emperor who ruled the united emperor for the last time. It is during his rule that he made Christianity the official religion in the empire. After the death of Theodosius, his two sons i.e. Honorius and Arcadius decided to split the empire again into two halves and throughout the 5th century, Rome remained a two empire in one, with only the centers of political authority brought the difference.
The fall of the empires
The western empire ruled after the 395 and with their military men taking full control o0f almost everything. However, it came to fall in the year 476. This is when Orestes simply refused the Germanic requests in the service to Italy. The Germanic mercenaries who were very disappointed decided to revolt against the then western emperor, Augustus Romulus. The mercenaries, led by the Odoacer, reacted very quickly to capture the provinces that were still remaining in Italy and gave it back to the eastern emperor, Zeno. As a result, Zeno received two delegations, one from Odoacer requesting that his conquest to Italy be recognized formally. Another delegation was from Nepos, the emperor whom Romulus succeeded; he wanted to regain his emperorship and would like the support from Odoacer. Zeno, decided to grant the delegation from Odoacer, and when Nepos finally died in the year 480, Zeno took Dalmatia for the east and this marked a significant war in the history of the western empire, marking an end to the Theodoric the Great’s rule. Odoacer announced and declared himself the king of Italy. (Arthur, 19)
The eastern empire on the other hand was now freeing itself from destructions. Under the leadership of their emperor, Justinian I, during the 6th century, it managed to recapture Italy and various parts like Illyria, North Africa and southern Hispania. In the history of the eastern empire, the year 610, have weight in that it saw the coming of emperor Heraclius who came up with several reforms in the empire. These reforms changed the empire’s face. Amongst them was that Greek was remade the language of the whole empire waning the influence of the Latin.
It is the Muslim conquests disturbed the eastern empire forcing it to lose some of its conquests in Africa. It also lost the Levant to the caliphate. However, in the year 1261, the empire recovered Constantinople and held the name Romans to all the inhabitants of the empire till 1453 when the Ottoman Turks captured it. When Constantinople finally fell that very year, the eastern empire could be declared ended. For this reason Emperor Constantine XI is seen as the last emperor of Rome.
Referring to the late empire, we are on the period that the empire, Roman Empire faced hard times leading to its split. We concentrate on the different dynasties that ruled both the eastern and the western empire and the relationships. In the year 395, when Theodosius died, the empire split permanently and the two sons becoming the fist two rulers of the two roman empires. In the east, we have several emperors including Arcadius, Theodosius II, and Marcian who became the first emperor who was honored as a saint. On the other hand the emperors of the west included Honorius and Valentinian III.
Abbott, F.History and Description of Roman Political Institutions. Classics: Heilbronn, 1901.
Adrian, G. The Men Who Won the Roman Empire, Weidenfield and Nicholson, 2003
Arthur F. The fall of the Roman Empire, Thames and Hudson, 1988
Bury, J. A Roman Empire History from its Foundation, Oxford University Press, 1913,
Churchill, J the English-Speaking Peoples’ history, Cassell, 1998,
Crook, J. Law and Life of Rome, Oxford University Press, 1967,
Donald R. Civilization of Rome, 2nd ed., Thames and Hudson, 1985,
Freeman, C. The Foundation of the Western World. New York: Penguin. 1999
Gibbon, E. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Cassell & Co, 1989
Isaac, I. "The Limits of Empire” Oxford University Press, 1992,