Constantine in Rome

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Overview of urban developments in Rome during late Roman Empire

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Constantine in Rome

  1. 1. Transformations in Roman Europe in Late AntiquityBy the time of Hadrian, the Roman Empire was a very stable melting pot. So muchso that many emperors were “provincial”: e.g., Septimius Severus was from Libyaand his wife, Julia Domna from Syria. But problems would arise:• Increasing conflict amongst Roman leaders that would lead to civil war,ca. AD 217-284 and an East-West rift in Empire (4th-5th c. AD);• Increasing movement amongst free native Europeans and pressure from outsidegroups, such as the Huns;• Natives’ increasing knowledge of the Empire – benefits of civilization, social andmilitary organization, law, economy;• Part of East/West rift involved Christianity – East more strongly Christian, viewedWest as still largely “pagan” – therefore sometimes let barbarians in the back door(perhaps with view that East could claim West).
  2. 2. Third century AD crisisFactors:Breakdown in dynastic system and rise of usurpers with personal ambitions;Strength of army and Praetorian Guard coupled with weakening of the Senate;Pressure from “barbarian” groups.Intellectual challenges – what did “Roman” mean? Augustus lay 250 years in thepast.
  3. 3. Senate and People of RomeSacred in Republic and Early Empire, although disregarded by certain emperorssuch as Caligula and Nero.The more “Rome” meant the Empire, rather than city, SPQR were less effective.Still yearly elections; also aristocracy increasinging non Italian – spreadthroughout Empire; thus inability to convene in a serious manner. People morefrequently seeking election for power and wealth rather than to serve the State.Nevertheless, solid through early Severan period.Government was increasingly bureaucratic – Empire thrived well, but not somany strong and ambitious leaders amongst the political ranks.
  4. 4. Army and Praetorian GuardArmy, at first, highly mobile – troops not maintained in same place for very longand Auxiliary troops mixed (Tower of Babel theory – if soliders do not developstrong ties to each other, they cannot pose an internal threat.With relative peace, soldiers often in given location for long time and cohortsbased in frontier zones for generations. Psychologically – this leads to greatersense of power. Strong ties to governors who are seeing to their upkeep andpay.Praetorian Guard (10,000 men) =Emperor’s body guard and elite militaryunit. Praetorian Prefect was leader.Already at time of Tiberius, there was aconspiracy vs. the Emperor. FewEmperors were killed, though, butincreased violence and plots in late 2rdand early 3rd century until the Crisis.Dissolved by Constantine.
  5. 5. With the exception of the Marcomannic-Sarmatian wars under MarcusAurelius, the frontier zone was quite stable for much of Imperial period.Economic exchange/reliance – “barbarians” frequently provided basic goodsand services in exchange for money.Movement across border – natives entering Empire for trade or enlisting inauxiliary forces; Romans crossing into Barbaricum for trade. Opportunity fornatives to comprehend Roman culture, see benefits and understand the system,including military and political organization. Some “barbarian” kings began torule their populations like a mini-Roman emperor and populations adopted someaspects of Roman culture (dress, coinage, Christianity).With Roman political crisis in 3rd century, some native groups becameaggressive and attempted to gain Roman territories – Germans and Goths.
  6. 6. Germans and Goths waged war on Roman frontier
  7. 7. As strong and centralized as the government was, regions were also strongand (too) many individuals had access to power: at any given time Emperor(and co-regents), Praetorian Prefect, ca. 40 governors, 24 legionary generals.Constant warfare along European frontier and in East.In AD 214, all residents of the Empire granted citizenship under Caracalla;therefore, while a great democracy, anyone now had access to power andwould use any means at their disposal to achieve powerGeneral state of uncertainty – life and death? right and wrong? who shouldpeople pay alligence to? who were Romans? what did Roman mean?Religion did not necessarily play a direct role in Fall of Rome, butphilosophical thinking and nature of “monotheistic” religions had an influenceon leaders and the people.Basis of 3rd century crisis.
  8. 8. General events:Death of Septimius Severus, AD 211;his sons Geta and Caracalla to co-rule,BUT Caracalla with Praetorian Guardbacking him eliminated his brother;Caracalla, in turn killed in AD 217,setting off sequence of civil wars. Oneemperor, Severus Alexander almost re-established Imperial system, but killedin AD 235.Aurelian (AD 270-275) nearly settledmatters, but Diocletian (AD 284-305)would have the ultimate solution…atleast for the next 20 years…
  9. 9. During these years little attention to city of Rome; even in Severan period,not much buildingSeptimius: Arch of SS, Arch of Argentarii, Baths of Severus on Palatine andSeptemzodium (monumental fountain) also some major re-building (Forum ofPeace, Porticus of Octavia, Pantheon)
  10. 10. Temple of Elagabulus – Palatine HillShort-lived Severan emperor, AD 218-222Deus Sol Invictus – Eastern sun god, which would become strongly worshipped.(Romans ready for a new divinity – search for new identity, new greatness. Thirdcentury also height of many mystery cults, such as Mithras).
  11. 11. Arch of Gallienus, Esquiline HillGallienus, AD 253-268 (longest-livedEmperor of crisis years, but only soleemperor 260-268).
  12. 12. Aurelian Wall (AD 270-275)Unified Empire once again after Gaul and Britiain formed a separate empire andSyrians/Palmyrenes formed separate kingdom.
  13. 13. Diocletian – from Split, Dalmatia fromplebian family; skilled military commanderwho rose through the ranks, trusted byEmperor Carus; came to power 284 ADfollowing death of Carus and his sons.Tetrarchy 293 AD – four-man rule:Diocletian Aug. in East with Galerius asCaesarMaximian – Aug. In west with Constantiusas CaesarPrice Edict – AD 301 – set maximumprices on goods and services
  14. 14. Diocletian’s periodAD 284-305Monumental building and reconstruction,But Diocletian himself only visited Romeonce, AD 304.
  15. 15. Diocletian and Maximian retired in AD 305Constantius Chlorus and Galerius rose to rank of AugustiMaximinus Daia and Severus named Caesars BUTConstantine and Maxentius (sons of Constantius and Maximian) thought theyshould have been chosen…Constantius died in York 25 July 306, Constantine named emperor; Maxentiusnamed emperor a few months later……AND THEN THERE WERE FIVE…Severus died in 307 in attempt to take Rome from Maxentius, prompted byGalerius. Maximian had been brought back as emperor by Maxentius…Galerius would elevate Licinius to Augustus…AND THEN THERE WERE SIXGalerius, Licinius, Maximian – AugustiMaximinus Daia, Constantine, Maxentius - CaesarsMaximian would go against his son, Maxentius, but lost; sought aid fromConstantine. Maximian forced to abdicate power…AND THEN THERE WEREFIVE…
  16. 16. Galerius and Licinius – AUGConstantine, Maxentius, Maximinus Daia – CAESGalerius died 311 AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR…Maximinus Daia self-elevated to AUG upon death of GaleriusLicinius and Constantine would form an allianceMaximinus Daia and Maxentius would form an allianceWAR – 312 – Constantine stormed down Italy, gaining support from cities as heapproached RomeVeronaMilvian (Mulvian) Bridge – October 28 – Sibylline prophesy – “enemy of Romewill be defeated”; famous sign of CrossLicinisu defeated Maximinus Daia in 313Constantine and Licinius victors…AND THEN THERE WERE TWO…
  17. 17. Maxentius in RomeAD 306-312Construction in Rome – Villa and circus of Maxentius, via Appia; re-builtTemple of Venus and Roma
  18. 18. Maxentius in RomeAD 306-312Characterized as ruthless / a tyrant, but everyone was fighting each other,including Constantine. Supported Senate and People of Rome – probablynot as bad as Constantine portrayed him. Damnatio memoriae.
  19. 19. Reign of Constantine (Licinius in East)Legalized and promoted Christianity, although how deep his faith was is still amatter of debate:AD 313 – Edict of Milan – Christianity legalized, all religions tolerated, Christianproperty confiscated during Diocletian to be returnedAD 325 – Council of Nicea – in opening speechConstantine urged harmony and deplored dissention,saying that it was worse than war or disaster. Establishedbasis of Catholicism.Brief wars vs. Franks, Sarmatians and VisigothsAD 316-324 – Civil War between emperorswith Constantine as victorDuring most of this time, Constantine’s basewas Trier, where his father had been based.
  20. 20. Building in RomeArch of ConstantineMonumentalityTriumphIntegration of art fromdifferent periods.
  21. 21. Church building in RomeAbout a dozen, includingSt. Peter’sSt. John in LateranCatacomb churchesSan MartinoSanta Croce True, as Marina indicated, that most churches were outside city limits. Reasons: • Most pre-Constantinian Christian features were outside walls (catacombs and villas used for congregations; saints and martyrs buried here; • Space = grandeur – not much space available inside walls except on Lateran property and the (small) San Martino; • Did not want to compete (yet) with State religion (?). Unsure how conservative pagans might react; Christianity still somewhat marginal?
  22. 22. St. John in Lateran, begun 312-315.Estate owned by Laterani family in 1st c. AD, ownership changed hands;belonged to Fausta (wife of C.), donated to Pope Miltiades. Baptistry adjacent.
  23. 23. Helena resided on Sessorian Estate – directly opposite St. John’sHer grandsons built Santa Croce in Geraselemme
  24. 24. Development of ConstantinopleFounded as Byzantium by Greeks, 7th c. BC, control Bosporus, linkingBlack Sea and AegeanTaken by Rome in early 1st c. BC – increasingly important port as Romeclaimed territories in Anatolia, Balkans and lower Danube.
  25. 25. Destroyed by Septimius Severus in late 2nd c. AD, but immediatelyrebuilt. Original Roman features included the Hippodrome.Summer 324 AD – Constantine became sole emperor – battle vs. rivalLicinius nearby; reportedly fell in love with the city and decided toconstruct a “New Rome”“New Rome” founded May 11, 330 AD(20 days after April 21) – festivitiesin Hippodrome.Enlargement and embellishmentsunder later emperors: Theodosius,Arcadius, Justinian…Capital of the Byzantine EmpireUntil AD 1453 ; then capital of theOttoman Empire…
  26. 26. Assessment of Constantine…• Clearly interested in power/wealth/status• Genuine interest/vision to unite Empire• Perhaps did not immediately develop this Vision, nor did he understand, at first,how to achieve this• Eventually understood unifying elements of society and what elements causedissolution • Displays of might and triumph – inspires awe • Element of regality – Emperor as above all and in contact with God(s) • Religion and superstition – can unite, but can also cause dissent. On this note, while he promoted Christianity, all religious beliefs were tolerated; always tried to intermediate between and within religions. Would ultimately use Christianity as new and widely accepted mythology into which he, himself, was placed, just as Caesar and Augustus had placed themselves in pagan mythology (Venus – Aeneas – Romulus (Mars) – Caesar – Augustus). Considered himself to be 13th Apostle (he was buried in Church of Holy Apostles, Constantinople). • Did he give up on Rome, the city? New city for a new age?
  27. 27. CONSTANTINOPLE: THE “NEW ROME”

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