What Were the Chief Characteristics of the Roman World in the Period C. Ad 100 to C. 450?

Topics: Roman Empire, Ancient Rome, Decline of the Roman Empire Pages: 7 (2140 words) Published: May 12, 2011
The world of classical Rome is a complex yet interesting area of study. It can teach us a lot about the Roman and wider European past and the society we are today. Therefore study of the later Roman Empire is essential when dissecting the inner workings and fall of this powerful empire. To learn fully about this time looking at the characteristics which made up this world is essential. The following essay will discuss in detail many of the characteristics of the Roman Empire in the time period 100 AD to 450 AD including the centrality of the emperor in Roman life, the Christian church and Rome, the rise of the East Empire, the fear of the northern Barbarians and Pax Romana

One of the main characteristics of the world of Late Antiquity is the centrality of the emperor in life. The Roman populace included their emperors in everything and it was hugely important that emperors were found favourable by the general public. “Pliny pays further tribute to Trajan’s popularity in stating how frequently, but without compulsion, Trajan is named in his subject’s wills”[1]. This shows, emperors were so important to their people to the extreme they would even aim to pay tribute to them after their death. They found popularity amongst all levels of their people from the common people to their soldiers for example Constantine who “enjoyed great popularity with the soldiers”[2]. Emperors were revered, feared and honoured leaders; they were involved in almost all aspects of being even religion. “Romans were a most religious people”[3] and the majority of emperors were treated as deities even in pre-Christian Rome “You do homage with a greater dread and intenser reverence to Caesar than to the Olympian Jove himself”[4]. Therefore it can be said that the importance of emperors to the people of Rome was a key characteristic of this time period considering religion was of great importance to these people and they were willing to include many emperors after Caesar as their Gods also. As well as this, the relationship between the Christian church and the Empire is undoubtedly a key characteristic of the late Roman Empire.  It is seen as a “pivotal development in western history”[5], as we could indeed question would the Roman Empire have developed the same without it? In early Rome the importance of Paganism was indeed significant to daily life as “human beings were seen to be totally dependent on them [the gods]”[6] and although it indeed took over three centuries to fully make the transition from pagan to Christian, the newly established state religion was treated with the same dignity and respect. But while Christianity became incorporated in many Roman citizens’ lives “many of their daily activities still bore the mark of the old religion”[7].Constantine the emperor who introduced more tolerance to Christianity really respected the religion “great indeed was the emperor's [Constantine] devotion to Christianity”[8] which expresses the people of Rome’s devotion to the religion. The involvement of the Christian church in daily roman life shaped the world today and as Gibbon claims the “establishment of Christianity may be considered as a very essential part of the history of the Roman Empire”[9].The major involvement of Christianity in both the emperor and normal citizen’s lives are the main reason the association between the empire and the Christian Church could be seen as a key trait of the Roman Empire between 100 and 450 AD.

“Constantinople is the new Rome”[10]. This important statement declared in 381 AD at the Council of Constantinople aptly shows the next key characteristic this essay will discuss. According to early Romans their state was the centre of the civilized world[11] and during the 300s and 400s the strange change of power became the demise of their civilization. “The centre of the world shifted irreversibly eastwards”[12]. In 410 Rome fell to Alaric, this can be seen as one of the main psychological low points for...
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