THE 4 KINGDOMS
FLOWING OUT OF
BABYLON

MAP OF
THE BOUNDARIES OF
THE ANCIENT EMPIRES


The Babylonian Empire The Medo-Persian Empire The Grecian Empire
The East Roman Empire The Seleucid Portion - Old Grecian Empire

Click On The Thumbnail
For A Study Of Each Empire 


Non Descript Beast

Babylon        Medo-Persia             Grecia           Rome


DANIELS "BEAST" VISION OF EACH EMPIRE

THE
BABYLONIAN EMPIRE
625 - 539 B.C.




 

Hammurabi (c. 1792-c. 1750 BC) is surely the most impressive and by now the best-known figure of the ancient Middle East of the first half of the 2nd millennium BC. He owes his posthumous reputation to the great stela into which the Code of Hammurabi was carved and indirectly also to the fact that his dynasty has made the name of Babylon famous for all time. In much the same way in which pre-Sargonic Kish exemplified the non-Sumerian area north of Sumer and Akkad lent its name to a country and a language, Babylon became the symbol of the whole country that the Greeks called Babylonia. This term is used anachronistically by Assyriologists as a geographic concept in reference to the period before Hammurabi. Originally the city's name was probably Babilla, which was reinterpreted in popular etymology as Bab-ili ("Gate of the God").

The 1st dynasty of Babylon rose from insignificant beginnings. The history of the erstwhile province of Ur is traceable from about 1894 onward, when the Amorite Sumuabum came to power there. What is known of these events fits altogether into the modest proportions of the period when Mesopotamia was a mosaic of small states. Hammurabi played skillfully on the instrument of coalitions and became more powerful than his predecessors had been. Nonetheless, it was only in the 30th year of his reign, after his conquest of Larsa, that he gave concrete expression to the idea of ruling all of southern Mesopotamia by "strengthening the foundations of Sumer and Akkad," in the words of that year's dating formula. In the prologue to the Code of Hammurabi the king lists the following cities as belonging to his dominions: Eridu near Ur, Ur, Lagash and Girsu, Zabalam, Larsa, Uruk, Adab, Isin, Nippur, Keshi, Dilbat, Borsippa, Babylon itself, Kish, Malgium, Mashkan-shapir, Kutha, Sippar, Eshnunna in the Diyala region, Mari, Tuttul on the lower Balikh (a tributary of the Euphrates), and finally Ashur and Nineveh. This was on a scale reminiscent of Akkad or Ur III. Yet Ashur and Nineveh cannot have formed part of this empire for long because at the end of Hammurabi's reign mention is made again of wars against Subartu--that is, Assyria.

Under Hammurabi's son Samsuiluna (c. 1749-c. 1712 BC) the Babylonian empire greatly shrank in size. Following what had almost become a tradition, the south rose up in revolt. Larsa regained its autonomy for some time, and the walls of Ur, Uruk, and Larsa were leveled. Eshnunna, which evidently had also seceded, was vanquished about 1730. Later chronicles mention the existence of a state in the Sealand, with its own dynasty (by "Sealand" is understood the marshlands of southern Babylonia). Knowledge of this new dynasty is unfortunately very vague, only one of its kings being documented in contemporary texts. About 1741 Samsuiluna mentions the Kassites for the first time; about 1726 he constructed a stronghold, "Fort Samsuiluna," as a bulwark against them on the Diyala near its confluence with the Tigris.

Like the Gutians before them, the Kassites were at first prevented from entering Babylonia and pushed into the mid-Euphrates region; there, in the kingdom of Khana (centered on Mari and Terqa, both below the junction with the Khabur River), a king appears with the Kassite name of Kashtiliashu, who ruled toward the end of the Babylonian dynasty. From Khana the Kassites moved south in small groups, probably as harvest workers. After the Hittite invasion under Mursilis I, who is said to have dethroned the last king of Babylon, Samsuditana, in 1595, the Kassites assumed the royal power in Babylonia. So far, the contemporary sources do not mention this epoch, and the question remains unresolved as to how the Kassite rulers named in king lists mesh with the end of the 2nd millennium BC.

TO THE PERSIAN EMPIRE

THE
MEDO - PERSIAN EMPIRE
550 - 400 B.C


Cyrus II, byname CYRUS THE GREAT (b. 590-580 BC, Media, or Persis--d. c. 529, Asia), conqueror who founded the Achaemenid empire, centred on Persia and comprising the Near East from the Aegean Sea to the Indus River. He is also remembered in the Cyrus legend--first recorded by Xenophon, Greek soldier and author, in his Cyropaedia--as a tolerant and ideal monarch who was called father of his people by the ancient Persians and in the Bible as the liberator of the Jews captive in Babylonia.

 

Life And Legend

Cyrus was born between 590 and 580 BC, either in Media or, more probably, in Persis, the modern Fars province of Iran. The meaning of his name is in dispute, for it is not known whether it was a personal name or a throne name given to him when he became a ruler.

It is noteworthy that after the Achaemenid empire the name does not appear again in sources relating to Iran, which may indicate some special sense of the name. Most scholars agree, however, that Cyrus the Great was at least the second of the name to rule in Persia.

One cuneiform text in Akkadian--the language of Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) in the pre-Christian era--asserts he was the son of Cambyses, great king, king of Anshan, grandson of Cyrus, great king, king of Anshan, descendant of Teispes, great king, king of Anshan, of a family [which] always [exercised] kingship. In any case, it is clear that Cyrus came from a long line of ruling chiefs.

The most important source for his life is the Greek historian Herodotus. The idealized biography by Xenophon is a work for the edification of the Greeks concerning the ideal ruler, rather than a historical treatise. It does, however, indicate the high esteem in which Cyrus was held, not only by his own people, the Persians, but by the Greeks and others. Herodotus says that the Persians called Cyrus their father, while later Achaemenid rulers were not so well regarded.

The story of the childhood of Cyrus, as told by Herodotus with echoes in Xenophon and the Greek historian Ctesias, may be called a Cyrus legend since it obviously follows a pattern of folk beliefs about the almost superhuman qualities of the founder of a dynasty. Similar beliefs also exist about the founders of later dynasties throughout the history of Iran.

According to the legend, Astyages, the king of the Medes and overlord of the Persians, gave his daughter in marriage to his vassal in Persis, a prince called Cambyses. From this marriage Cyrus was born. Astyages, having had a dream that the baby would grow up to overthrow him, ordered Cyrus slain. His chief adviser, however, instead gave the baby to a shepherd to raise. When he was 10 years old, Cyrus, because of his outstanding qualities, was discovered by Astyages, who, in spite of the dream, was persuaded to allow the boy to live.

Cyrus, when he reached manhood in Persis, revolted against his maternal grandfather and overlord. Astyages marched against the rebel, but his army deserted him and surrendered to Cyrus in 550 BC.

Cyrus' Conquests

After inheriting the empire of the Medes, Cyrus first had to consolidate his power over Iranian tribes on the Iranian plateau before expanding to the west. Croesus, king of Lydia in Asia Minor, had enlarged his domains at the expense of the Medes when he heard of the fall of Astyages, and Cyrus, as successor of the Median king, marched against Lydia. Sardis, the Lydian capital, was captured in 547 or 546, and Croesus was either killed or burned himself to death, though according to other sources he was taken prisoner by Cyrus and well treated.

The Ionian Greek cities on the Aegean Sea coast, as vassals of the Lydian king, now became subject to Cyrus, and most of them submitted peacefully. Several revolts of the Greek cities were later suppressed with severity.

Next Cyrus turned to Babylonia, where dissatisfaction of the people with the ruler Nabonidus gave him a pretext for invading the lowlands. The conquest was quick, for even the priests of Marduk, the national deity of the great metropolis of Babylon, had become estranged from Nabonidus.

In October 539 BC, the greatest city of the ancient world fell to the Persians. In the Bible (e.g., Ezra 1:1-4), Cyrus is famous for freeing the Jewish captives in Babylonia and allowing them to return to their homeland. Cyrus was also tolerant toward the Babylonians and others. He honored Marduk and conciliated the local population by supporting local customs and even sacrificing to local deities.

The capture of Babylon delivered not only Mesopotamia into the hands of Cyrus but also Syria and Palestine, which had been conquered previously by the Babylonians. The ruler of Cilicia in Asia Minor had become an ally of Cyrus when the latter marched against Croesus, and Cilicia retained a special status in Cyrus' empire.

Thus it was by diplomacy as well as force of arms that he established the largest empire known until his time. Cyrus seems to have had several capitals. One was the city of Ecbatana, modern Hamadan, former capital of the Medes, and another was a new capital of the empire, Pasargadae, in Persis, said to be on the site where Cyrus had won the battle against Astyages. The ruins today, though few, arouse admiration in the visitor. Cyrus also kept Babylon as a winter capital.

No Persian chauvinist, Cyrus was quick to learn from the conquered peoples. He not only conciliated the Medes but joined them with the Persians in a kind of dual monarchy of the Medes and Persians. Cyrus had to borrow the traditions of kingship from the Medes, who had ruled an empire when the Persians were merely their vassals. It is probable that a Mede was traditionally made an adviser to the Achaemenid king, as a sort of chief minister; on later reliefs at Persepolis, a capital of the Achaemenid kings from the time of Darius, a Mede is frequently depicted together with the great king.

The Elamites, indigenous inhabitants of Persis, were also the teachers of the Persians in many ways, as can be seen, for example, in the Elamite dress worn by Persians and by Elamite objects carried by them on the stone reliefs at Persepolis. There also seems to have been little innovation in government and rule, but rather a willingness to borrow, combined with an ability to adapt what was borrowed to the new empire. Cyrus was undoubtedly the guiding genius in the creation not only of a great empire but in the formation of Achaemenid culture and civilization.

Little is known of the family life of Cyrus. He had two sons, one of whom, Cambyses, succeeded him; the other, Bardiya ( Smerdis of the Greeks), was probably secretly put to death by Cambyses after he became ruler. Cyrus had at least one daughter, Atossa (who married her brother Cambyses), and possibly two others, but they played no role in history.

When Cyrus defeated Astyages he also inherited Median possessions in eastern Iran, but he had to engage in much warfare to consolidate his rule in this region. After his conquest of Babylonia, he again turned to the east, and Herodotus tells of his campaign against nomads living east of the Caspian Sea.

According to the Greek historian, Cyrus was at first successful in defeating the ruler of the nomads--called the Massagetai--who was a woman, and captured her son. On the son's committing suicide in captivity, his mother swore revenge and defeated and killed Cyrus.

Herodotus' story may be apocryphal, but Cyrus' conquests in Central Asia were probably genuine, since a city in farthest Sogdiana was called Cyreschata, or Cyropolis, by the Greeks, which seems to prove the extent of his Eastern conquests. The legacy of Cyrus It is a testimony to the capability of the founder of the Achaemenid empire that it continued to expand after his death and lasted for more than two centuries.

But Cyrus was not only a great conqueror and administrator; he held a place in the minds of the Persian people similar to that of Romulus and Remus in Rome or Moses for the Israelites.

His saga follows in many details the stories of hero and conquerors from elsewhere in the ancient world. The manner in which the baby Cyrus was given to a shepherd to raise is reminiscent of Moses in the bulrushes in Egypt, and the overthrow of his tyrannical grandfather has echoes in other myths and legends. There is no doubt that the Cyrus saga arose early among the Persians and was known to the Greeks. The sentiments of esteem or even awe in which Persians held him were transmitted to the Greeks, and it was no accident that Xenophon chose Cyrus to be the model of a ruler for the lessons he wished to impart to his fellow Greeks.

In short, the figure of Cyrus has survived throughout history as more than a great man who founded an empire. He became the epitome of the great qualities expected of a ruler in antiquity, and he assumed heroic features as a conqueror who was tolerant and magnanimous as well as brave and daring.

His personality as seen by the Greeks influenced them and Alexander the Great, and, as the tradition was transmitted by the Romans, may be considered to influence our thinking even now. In the year 1971, Iran celebrated the 2,500th anniversary of the founding of the monarchy by Cyrus.

 

The Kingdom of the Medes in Iran (c. 700-550 BC)
and the establishment of the Achaemenid Persian Empire

Achaemenian DYNASTY, also called ACHAEMENID, Persian HAKHAMANISHIYA (559-330 BC), ancient Iranian dynasty whose kings founded and ruled the Achaemenian Empire. Achaemenes (Persian Hakhamanish), the Achaemenians' eponymous ancestor, is presumed to have lived early in the 7th century BC, but little is known of his life.

From his son Teispes two lines of kings descended. The kings of the older line were Cyrus I, Cambyses I, Cyrus II the Great, and Cambyses II. After the death of Cambyses II (522 BC) the junior line came to the throne with Darius I. The dynasty became extinct with the death of Darius III, following his defeat (330 BC) by Alexander the Great. Probably the greatest of the Achaemenian rulers were Cyrus II (reigned 559-c. 529 BC), who actually established the empire and from whose reign it is dated; Darius I (522-486), who excelled as an administrator and secured the borders from external threats; and Xerxes I (486-465), who completed many of the buildings begun by Darius.

During the time of Darius I and Xerxes I, the empire extended as far west as Macedonia and Libya and as far east as the Hyphasis (Beas) River; it stretched to the Caucasus Mountains and the Aral Sea in the north and to the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Desert in the south.

The Achaemenian rule of conquered peoples was generally liberal; the empire itself was divided into provinces (satrapies), each administered by a satrap who underwent frequent inspections by officials reporting directly to the king. Royal inscriptions were usually trilingual, in Old Persian, Elamite, and Akkadian; Aramaic, however, was employed for imperial administration and diplomatic correspondence.

Building activity was extensive during the height of the empire, and of the several Achaemenian capitals, the ruins at Pasargadae and at Persepolis (qq.v.) are probably the most outstanding. Achaemenian sculptured reliefs and a great number of smaller art objects present a remarkably unified style for the period. Metalwork, especially in gold, was highly developed, and a variety of carefully executed examples survive.

 

The Achaemenid Persian Empire (529-330 BC) under the successors of Cyrus II the Great, Greek rule to c. 250 BC

The empire under Cambyses II, Darius I, and Xerxes I (529-465 BC): the subjugation of Egypt, establishment of peace in the empire, penetration of the Balkan Peninsula and the unsuccessful attempts to conquer mainland Greece

Bosporus, Kingdom of the, also called CIMMERIAN BOSPORUS, ancient Greek state situated on Kerchensky Proliv (Straits of Kerch) in present-day southern Ukraine, which reached its peak of power in the 4th century BC.

The kingdom's major city, Panticapaeum (modern Kerch), was ruled by the Archaeanactid dynasty (480-438 BC), then by the Spartocid dynasty (438-110 BC), which annexed to Panticapaeum other Greek colonies--e.g., Nymphaeum, which had been founded in the region in the 7th and 6th centuries. After the second half of the 5th century, Athenian influence was strong among the Bosporus cities; Athens controlled local trade until 404 BC and remained the chief customer of the Bosporus throughout the 4th century.

The Spartocids suppressed piracy in the Black Sea, and through their management of trade in grain, fish, and slaves, trade on the Bosporus prospered. Dynastic and financial decline began in the middle of the 3rd century, and after 110 BC the kings of Pontus controlled the region. A new dynasty, established in the 1st century AD, ruled for 300 years under the protection of the Roman Empire. After AD 342 the country was alternately under barbarian and Byzantine control.

TO THE GRECIAN EMPIRE

THE
GRECIAN EMPIRE
334- 309B.C.




The Grecian Empire
Alexander the Great
Introduction

 

Alexander the Great (Alexander III), king of Macedonia, overthrew the Persian Empire, carried Macedonian arms to India, and laid the foundations for the Hellenistic world of territorial kingdoms. Already in his lifetime the subject of fabulous stories, he later became the hero of a full-scale legend bearing only the sketchiest resemblance to his historical career.

 

LIFE

He was born in 356 BC at Pella in Macedonia, the son of Philip II and Olympias (daughter of King Neoptolemus of Epirus). From age 13 to 16 he was taught by Aristotle, who inspired him with an interest in philosophy, medicine, and scientific investigation; but he was later to advance beyond his teacher's narrow precept that non-Greeks should be treated as slaves.

Left in charge of Macedonia in 340 during Philip's attack on Byzantium, Alexander defeated the Maedi, a Thracian people; two years later he commanded the left wing at the Battle of Chaeronea, in which Philip defeated the allied Greek states, and displayed personal courage in breaking the Sacred Band of Thebes. A year later Philip divorced Olympias; and, after a quarrel at a feast held to celebrate his father's new marriage, Alexander and his mother fled to Epirus, and Alexander later went to Illyria. Shortly afterward, father and son were reconciled and Alexander returned; but his position as heir was jeopardized.

In 336, however, on Philip's assassination, Alexander, acclaimed by the army, succeeded without opposition. He at once executed the princes of Lyncestis, alleged to be behind Philip's murder, along with all possible rivals and the whole of the faction opposed to him.

He then marched south, recovered a wavering Thessaly, and at an assembly of the Greek League at Corinth was appointed generalissimo for the forthcoming invasion of Asia, already planned and initiated by Philip.

Returning to Macedonia by way of Delphi (where the Pythian priestess acclaimed him "invincible"), he advanced into Thrace in spring 335 and, after forcing the Shipka Pass and crushing the Triballi, crossed the Danube to disperse the Getae; turning west, he then defeated and shattered a coalition of Illyrians who had invaded Macedonia.

Meanwhile, a rumor of his death had precipitated a revolt of Theban democrats; other Greek states favored Thebes, and the Athenians, urged on by Remoistens, voted help. In 14 days Alexander marched 240 miles from Pelion (near modern Korçë, Albania) in Illyria to Thebes. When the Thebans refused to surrender, he made an entry and razed their city to the ground, sparing only temples and Pindar's house; 6,000 were killed and all survivors sold into slavery. The other Greek states were cowed by this severity, and Alexander could afford to treat Athens leniently. Macedonian garrisons were left in Corinth, Chalcis, and the Cadmea (the citadel of Thebes).

 

Beginnings Of The Persian Expedition

From his accession Alexander had set his mind on the Persian expedition. He had grown up to the idea. Moreover, he needed the wealth of Persia if he was to maintain the army built by Philip and pay off the 500 talents he owed.

The exploits of the Ten Thousand, Greek soldiers of fortune, and of Agesilaus of Sparta, in successfully campaigning in Persian territory had revealed the vulnerability of the Persian Empire.

With a good cavalry force Alexander could expect to defeat any Persian army. In spring 334 he crossed the Dardanelles, leaving Antipater, who had already faithfully served his father, as his deputy in Europe with over 13,000 men; he himself commanded about 30,000 foot and over 5,000 cavalry, of whom nearly 14,000 were Macedonians and about 7,000 allies sent by the Greek League.

This army was to prove remarkable for its balanced combination of arms. Much work fell on the light armed Cretan and Macedonian archers, Thracians, and the Agrianian javelin men. But in pitched battle the striking force was the cavalry, and the core of the army, should the issue still remain undecided after the cavalry charge, was the infantry phalanx, 9,000 strong, armed with 13-foot spears and shields, and the 3,000 men of the royal battalions, the hypaspists.

Alexander's second in command was Parmenio, who had secured a foothold in Asia Minor during Philip's lifetime; many of his family and supporters were entrenched in positions of responsibility. The army was accompanied by surveyors, engineers, architects, scientists, court officials, and historians; from the outset Alexander seems to have envisaged an unlimited operation.

After visiting Ilium (Troy), a romantic gesture inspired by Homer, he confronted his first Persian army, led by three satraps, at the Granicus (modern Kocabas) River, near the Sea of Marmara (May/June 334).

The Persian plan to tempt Alexander across the river and kill him in the melee almost succeeded; but the Persian line broke, and Alexander's victory was complete. Darius' Greek mercenaries were largely massacred, but 2,000 survivors were sent back to Macedonia in chains.

This victory exposed western Asia Minor to the Macedonians, and most cities hastened to open their gates. The tyrants were expelled and (in contrast to Macedonian policy in Greece) democracies were installed. Alexander thus underlined his Panhellenic policy, already symbolized in the sending of 300 panoplies (sets of armor) taken at the Granicus as an offering dedicated to Athena at Athens by "Alexander son of Philip and the Greeks (except the Spartans) from the barbarians who inhabit Asia." (This formula, cited by the Greek historian Arrian in his history of Alexander's campaigns, is noteworthy for its omission of any reference to Macedonia.) But the cities remained de facto under Alexander, and his appointment of Calas as satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia reflected his claim to succeed the Great King of Persia.

When Miletus, encouraged by the proximity of the Persian fleet, resisted, Alexander took it by assault; but, refusing a naval battle, he disbanded his own costly navy and announced that he would "defeat the Persian fleet on land," by occupying the coastal cities. In Caria, Halicarnassus resisted and was stormed; but Ada, the widow and sister of the satrap Idrieus, adopted Alexander as her son and, after expelling her brother Pixodarus, Alexander restored her to her satrapy. Some parts of Caria held out, however, until 332.

 

Asia Minor And The Battle Of Issus

In winter 334-333 Alexander conquered western Asia Minor, subduing the hill tribes of Lycia and Pisidia; and in spring 333 he advanced along the coastal road to Perga, passing the cliffs of Mt. Climax, thanks to a fortunate change of wind. The fall in the level of the sea was interpreted as a mark of divine favor by Alexander's flatterers, including the historian Callisthenes.

At Gordium in Phrygia, tradition records his cutting of the Gordian knot, which could only be loosed by the man who was to rule Asia; but this story may be apocryphal or at least distorted. At this point Alexander benefited from the sudden death of Memnon, the competent Greek commander of the Persian fleet.

From Gordium he pushed on to Ancyra (modern Ankara) and thence south through Cappadocia and the Cilician Gates (modern Külek Bogazi); a fever held him up for a time in Cilicia. Meanwhile, Darius with his Grand Army had advanced northward on the eastern side of Mt. Amanus. Intelligence on both sides was faulty, and Alexander was already encamped by Myriandrus (near modern Iskenderun, Turkey) when he learned that Darius was astride his line of communications at Issus, north of Alexander's position (autumn 333). Turning, Alexander found Darius drawn up along the Pinarus River. In the battle that followed, Alexander won a decisive victory. The struggle turned into a Persian rout and Darius fled, leaving his family in Alexander's hands; the women were treated with chivalrous care.

 

Conquest Of The Mediterranean Coast And Egypt

From Issus Alexander marched south into Syria and Phoenicia, his object being to isolate the Persian fleet from its bases and so to destroy it as an effective fighting force. The Phoenician cities Marathus and Aradus came over quietly, and Parmenio was sent ahead to secure Damascus and its rich booty, including Darius' war chest.

In reply to a letter from Darius offering peace, Alexander replied arrogantly, recapitulating the historic wrongs of Greece and demanding unconditional surrender to himself as lord of Asia. After taking Byblos (modern Jubayl) and Sidon (Arabic Sayda), he met with a check at Tyre, where he was refused entry into the island city. He thereupon prepared to use all methods of siegecraft to take it, but the Tyrians resisted, holding out for seven months. In the meantime (winter 333-332) the Persians had counterattacked by land in Asia Minor--where they were defeated by Antigonus, the satrap of Greater Phrygia--and by sea, recapturing a number of cities and islands.

While the siege of Tyre was in progress, Darius sent a new offer: he would pay a huge ransom of 10,000 talents for his family and cede all his lands west of the Euphrates. "I would accept," Parmenio is reported to have said, "were I Alexander"; "I too," was the famous retort, "were I Parmenio."

The storming of Tyre in July 332 was Alexander's greatest military achievement; it was attended with great carnage and the sale of the women and children into slavery. Leaving Parmenio in Syria, Alexander advanced south without opposition until he reached Gaza on its high mound; there bitter resistance halted him for two months, and he sustained a serious shoulder wound during a sortie. There is no basis for the tradition that he turned aside to visit Jerusalem.

In November 332 he reached Egypt. The people welcomed him as their deliverer, and the Persian satrap Mazaces wisely surrendered. At Memphis Alexander sacrificed to Apis, the Greek term for Hapi, the sacred Egyptian bull, and was crowned with the traditional double crown of the pharaohs; the native priests were placated and their religion encouraged.

He spent the winter organizing Egypt, where he employed Egyptian governors, keeping the army under a separate Macedonian command. He founded the city of Alexandria near the western arm of the Nile on a fine site between the sea and Lake Mareotis, protected by the island of Pharos, and had it laid out by the Rhodian architect Deinocrates. He is also said to have sent an expedition to discover the causes of the flooding of the Nile.

From Alexandria he marched along the coast to Paraetonium and from there inland to visit the celebrated oracle of the god Amon (at Siwah); the difficult journey was later embroidered with flattering legends. On his reaching the oracle in its oasis, the priest gave him the traditional salutation of a pharaoh, as son of Amon; Alexander consulted the god on the success of his expedition but revealed the reply to no one. Later the incident was to contribute to the story that he was the son of Zeus and, thus, to his "deification." In spring 331 he returned to Tyre, appointed a Macedonian satrap for Syria, and prepared to advance into Mesopotamia. His conquest of Egypt had completed his control of the whole eastern Mediterranean coast.

In July 331 Alexander was at Thapsacus on the Euphrates. Instead of taking the direct route down the river to Babylon, he made across northern Mesopotamia toward the Tigris, and Darius, learning of this move from an advance force sent under Mazaeus to the Euphrates crossing, marched up the Tigris to oppose him. The decisive battle of the war was fought on the plain of Gaugamela between Nineveh and Arbela. Alexander pursued the defeated Persian forces for 35 miles to Arbela, but Darius escaped with his Bactrian cavalry and Greek mercenaries into Media.

Alexander now occupied Babylon, city and province; Mazaeus, who surrendered it, was confirmed as satrap in conjunction with a Macedonian troop commander, and quite exceptionally was granted the right to coin. As in Egypt, the local priesthood was encouraged. Susa, the capital, also surrendered, releasing huge treasures amounting to 50,000 gold talents; here Alexander established Darius' family in comfort. Crushing the mountain tribe of the Ouxians, he now pressed on over the Zagros range into Persia proper and, successfully turning the Pass of the Persian Gates, held by the satrap Ariobarzanes, he entered Persepolis and Pasargadae.

At Persepolis he ceremonially burned down the palace of Xerxes, as a symbol that the Panhellenic war of revenge was at an end; for such seems the probable significance of an act that tradition later explained as a drunken frolic inspired by Thaïs, an Athenian courtesan. In spring 330 Alexander marched north into Media and occupied its capital Ecbatana. The Thessalians and Greek allies were sent home; henceforward he was waging a purely personal war.

As Mazaeus' appointment indicated, Alexander's views on the empire were changing. He had come to envisage a joint ruling people consisting of Macedonians and Persians, and this served to augment the misunderstanding that now arose between him and his people. Before continuing his pursuit of Darius, who had retreated into Bactria, he assembled all the Persian treasure and entrusted it to Harpalus, who was to hold it at Ecbatana as chief treasurer. Parmenio was also left behind in Media to control communications; the presence of this older man had perhaps become irksome.

In midsummer 330 Alexander set out for the eastern provinces at a high speed via Rhagae (modern Rayy, near Tehran) and the Caspian Gates, where he learned that Bessus, the satrap of Bactria, had deposed Darius. After a skirmish near modern Shahrud, the usurper had Darius stabbed and left him to die. Alexander sent his body for burial with due honors in the royal tombs at Persepolis.

 

Campaign Eastward - To Central Asia

Darius' death left no obstacle to Alexander's claim to be Great King, and a Rhodian inscription of this year (330) calls him "lord of Asia"--i.e., of the Persian Empire; soon afterward his Asian coins carry the title of king.

Crossing the Elburz Mountains to the Caspian, he seized Zadracarta in Hyrcania and received the submission of a group of satraps and Persian notables, some of whom he confirmed in their offices; in a diversion westward, perhaps to modern Amol, he reduced the Mardi, a mountain people who inhabited the Elburz Mountains. He also accepted the surrender of Darius' Greek mercenaries.

His advance eastward was now rapid. In Aria he reduced Satibarzanes, who had offered submission only to revolt, and he founded Alexandria of the Arians (modern Herat). At Phrada in Drangiana (either near modern Nad-e 'Ali in Seistan or farther north at Farah), he at last took steps to destroy Parmenio and his family. Philotas, Parmenio's son, commander of the elite Companion cavalry, was implicated in an alleged plot against Alexander's life, condemned by the army, and executed; and a secret message was sent to Cleander, Parmenio's second in command, who obediently assassinated him.

This ruthless action excited widespread horror but strengthened Alexander's position relative to his critics and those whom he regarded as his father's men. All Parmenio's adherents were now eliminated and men close to Alexander promoted. The Companion cavalry was reorganized in two sections, each containing four squadrons (now known as hipparchies); one group was commanded by Alexander's oldest friend, Hephaestion, the other by Cleitus, an older man. From Phrada, Alexander pressed on during the winter of 330-329 up the valley of the Helmand River, through Arachosia, and over the mountains past the site of modern Kabul into the country of the Paropamisadae, where he founded Alexandria by the Caucasus.

Bessus was now in Bactria raising a national revolt in the eastern satrapies with the usurped title of Great King. Crossing the Hindu Kush northward over the Khawak Pass (11,650 feet), Alexander brought his army, despite food shortages, to Drapsaca (sometimes identified with modern Banu [Andarab], probably farther north at Qunduz); outflanked, Bessus fled beyond the Oxus (modern Amu Darya), and Alexander, marching west to Bactra-Zariaspa (modern Balkh [Wazirabad] in Afghanistan), appointed loyal satraps in Bactria and Aria. Crossing the Oxus, he sent his general Ptolemy in pursuit of Bessus, who had meanwhile been overthrown by the Sogdian Spitamenes. Bessus was captured, flogged, and sent to Bactra, where he was later mutilated after the Persian manner (losing his nose and ears); in due course he was publicly executed at Ecbatana.

From Maracanda (modern Samarkand) Alexander advanced by way of Cyropolis to the Jaxartes (modern Syrdarya), the boundary of the Persian Empire. There he broke the opposition of the Scythian nomads by his use of catapults and, after defeating them in a battle on the north bank of the river, pursued them into the interior.

On the site of modern Leninabad (Khojent) on the Jaxartes, he founded a city, Alexandria Eschate, "the farthest." Meanwhile, Spitamenes had raised all Sogdiana in revolt behind him, bringing in the Massagetai, a people of the Shaka confederacy. It took Alexander until the autumn of 328 to crush the most determined opponent he encountered in his campaigns. Later in the same year he attacked Oxyartes and the remaining barons who held out in the hills of Paraetacene (modern Tadzhikistan); volunteers seized the crag on which Oxyartes had his stronghold, and among the captives was his daughter, Roxana. In reconciliation Alexander married her, and the rest of his opponents were either won over or crushed.

An incident that occurred at Maracanda widened the breach between Alexander and many of his Macedonians. He murdered Cleitus, one of his most trusted commanders, in a drunken quarrel; but his excessive display of remorse led the army to pass a decree convicting Cleitus posthumously of treason. The event marked a step in Alexander's progress toward Eastern absolutism, and this growing attitude found its outward expression in his use of Persian royal dress.

Shortly afterward, at Bactra, he attempted to impose the Persian court ceremonial, involving prostration (proskynesis), on the Greeks and Macedonians too; but to them this custom, habitual for Persians entering the king's presence, implied an act of worship and was intolerable before a man. Even Callisthenes, historian and nephew of Aristotle, whose ostentatious flattery had perhaps encouraged Alexander to see himself in the role of a god, refused to abase himself.

Macedonian laughter caused the experiment to founder, and Alexander abandoned it. Shortly afterward, however, Callisthenes was held to be privy to a conspiracy among the royal pages and was executed (or died in prison; accounts vary); resentment of this action alienated sympathy from Alexander within the Peripatetic school of philosophers, with which Callisthenes had close connections.

 

Invasion of India.

In early summer 327 Alexander left Bactria with a reinforced army under a reorganized command. If Plutarch's figure of 120,000 men has any reality, however, it must include all kinds of auxiliary services, together with muleteers, camel drivers, medical corps, peddlers, entertainers, women, and children; the fighting strength perhaps stood at about 35,000.

Recrossing the Hindu Kush, probably by Bamian and the Ghorband Valley, Alexander divided his forces. Half the army with the baggage under Hephaestion and Perdiccas, both cavalry commanders, was sent through the Khyber Pass, while he himself led the rest, together with his siege train, through the hills to the north. His advance through Swat and Gandhara was marked by the storming of the almost impregnable pinnacle of Aornos, the modern Pir-Sar, a few miles west of the Indus and north of the Buner River, an impressive feat of siegecraft.

In spring 326, crossing the Indus near Attock, Alexander entered Taxila, whose ruler, Taxiles, furnished elephants and troops in return for aid against his rival Porus, who ruled the lands between the Hydaspes (modern Jhelum) and the Acesines (modern Chenab). In June Alexander fought his last great battle on the left bank of the Hydaspes. He founded two cities there, Alexandria Nicaea (to celebrate his victory) and Bucephala (named after his horse Bucephalus, which died there); and Porus became his ally.

How much Alexander knew of India beyond the Hyphasis (probably the modern Beas) is uncertain; there is no conclusive proof that he had heard of the Ganges. But he was anxious to press on farther, and he had advanced to the Hyphasis when his army mutinied, refusing to go farther in the tropical rain; they were weary in body and spirit, and Coenus, one of Alexander's four chief marshals, acted as their spokesman. On finding the army adamant, Alexander agreed to turn back.

On the Hyphasis he erected 12 altars to the 12 Olympian gods, and on the Hydaspes he built a fleet of 800 to 1,000 ships. Leaving Porus, he then proceeded down the river and into the Indus, with half his forces on shipboard and half marching in three columns down the two banks. The fleet was commanded by Nearchus, and Alexander's own captain was Onesicritus; both later wrote accounts of the campaign. The march was attended with much fighting and heavy, pitiless slaughter; at the storming of one town of the Malli near the Hydraotes (Ravi) River, Alexander received a severe wound which left him weakened.

On reaching Patala, located at the head of the Indus delta, he built a harbour and docks and explored both arms of the Indus, which probably then ran into the Rann of Kutch. He planned to lead part of his forces back by land, while the rest in perhaps 100 to 150 ships under the command of Nearchus, a Cretan with naval experience, made a voyage of exploration along the Persian Gulf. Local opposition led Nearchus to set sail in September (325), and he was held up for three weeks until he could pick up the northeast monsoon in late October. In September Alexander too set out along the coast through Gedrosia (modern Baluchistan), but he was soon compelled by mountainous country to turn inland, thus failing in his project to establish food depots for the fleet. 

Craterus, a high-ranking officer, already had been sent off with the baggage and siege train, the elephants, and the sick and wounded, together with three battalions of the phalanx, by way of the Mulla Pass, Quetta, and Kandahar into the Helmand Valley; from there he was to march through Drangiana to rejoin the main army on the Amanis (modern Minab) River in Carmania. Alexander's march through Gedrosia proved disastrous; waterless desert and shortage of food and fuel caused great suffering, and many, especially women and children, perished in a sudden monsoon flood while encamped in a wadi. At length, at the Amanis, he was rejoined by Nearchus and the fleet, which also had suffered losses.

 

Consolidation Of The Empire

Alexander now proceeded farther with the policy of replacing senior officials and executing defaulting governors on which he had already embarked before leaving India. Between 326 and 324 over a third of his satraps were superseded and six were put to death, including the Persian satraps of Persis, Susiana, Carmania, and Paraetacene; three generals in Media, including Cleander, the brother of Coenus (who had died a little earlier), were accused of extortion and summoned to Carmania, where they were arrested, tried, and executed.

How far the rigour that from now onward Alexander displayed against his governors represents exemplary punishment for gross maladministration during his absence and how far the elimination of men he had come to distrust (as in the case of Philotas and Parmenio) is debatable; but the ancient sources generally favourable to him comment adversely on his severity.

In spring 324 he was back in Susa, capital of Elam and administrative centre of the Persian Empire; the story of his journey through Carmania in a drunken revel, dressed as Dionysus, is embroidered, if not wholly apocryphal. He found that his treasurer, Harpalus, evidently fearing punishment for peculation, had absconded with 6,000 mercenaries and 5,000 talents to Greece; arrested in Athens, he escaped and later was murdered in Crete. At Susa Alexander held a feast to celebrate the seizure of the Persian Empire, at which, in furtherance of his policy of fusing Macedonians and Persians into one master race, he and 80 of his officers took Persian wives; he and Hephaestion married Darius' daughters Barsine (also called Stateira) and Drypetis, respectively, and 10,000 of his soldiers with native wives were given generous dowries.

This policy of racial fusion brought increasing friction to Alexander's relations with his Macedonians, who had no sympathy for his changed concept of the empire. His determination to incorporate Persians on equal terms in the army and the administration of the provinces was bitterly resented. This discontent was now fanned by the arrival of 30,000 native youths who had received a Macedonian military training and by the introduction of Orientals from Bactria, Sogdiana, Arachosia, and other parts of the empire into the Companion cavalry; whether Orientals had previously served with the Companions is uncertain, but if so they must have formed separate squadrons. In addition, Persian nobles had been accepted into the royal cavalry bodyguard. Peucestas, the new governor of Persis, gave this policy full support to flatter Alexander; but most Macedonians saw it as a threat to their own privileged position.

The issue came to a head at Opis (324), when Alexander's decision to send home Macedonian veterans under Craterus was interpreted as a move toward transferring the seat of power to Asia. There was an open mutiny involving all but the royal bodyguard; but when Alexander dismissed his whole army and enrolled Persians instead, the opposition broke down. An emotional scene of reconciliation was followed by a vast banquet with 9,000 guests to celebrate the ending of the misunderstanding and the partnership in government of Macedonians and Persians--but not, as has been argued, the incorporation of all the subject peoples as partners in the commonwealth. Ten thousand veterans were now sent back to Macedonia with gifts, and the crisis was surmounted.

In summer 324 Alexander attempted to solve another problem, that of the wandering mercenaries, of whom there were thousands in Asia and Greece, many of them political exiles from their own cities. A decree brought by Nicanor to Europe and proclaimed at Olympia (September 324) required the Greek cities of the Greek League to receive back all exiles and their families (except the Thebans), a measure that implied some modification of the oligarchic regimes maintained in the Greek cities by Alexander's governor Antipater. Alexander now planned to recall Antipater and supersede him by Craterus; but he was to die before this could be done.

In autumn 324 Hephaestion died in Ecbatana, and Alexander indulged in extravagant mourning for his closest friend; he was given a royal funeral in Babylon with a pyre costing 10,000 talents. His post of chiliarch (grand vizier) was left unfilled. It was probably in connection with a general order now sent out to the Greeks to honour Hephaestion as a hero that Alexander linked the demand that he himself should be accorded divine honours.

For a long time his mind had dwelt on ideas of godhead. Greek thought drew no very decided line of demarcation between god and man, for legend offered more than one example of men who, by their achievements, acquired divine status. Alexander had on several occasions encouraged favourable comparison of his own accomplishments with those of Dionysus or Heracles. He now seems to have become convinced of the reality of his own divinity and to have required its acceptance by others. There is no reason to assume that his demand had any political background (divine status gave its possessor no particular rights in a Greek city); it was rather a symptom of growing megalomania and emotional instability. The cities perforce complied, but often ironically: the Spartan decree read, "Since Alexander wishes to be a god, let him be a god."

In the winter of 324 Alexander carried out a savage punitive expedition against the Cossaeans in the hills of Luristan. The following spring at Babylon he received complimentary embassies from the Libyans and from the Bruttians, Etruscans, and Lucanians of Italy; but the story that embassies also came from more distant peoples, such as Carthaginians, Celts, Iberians, and even Romans, is a later invention. Representatives of the cities of Greece also came, garlanded as befitted Alexander's divine status.

Following up Nearchus' voyage, he now founded an Alexandria at the mouth of the Tigris and made plans to develop sea communications with India, for which an expedition along the Arabian coast was to be a preliminary. He also dispatched Heracleides, an officer, to explore the Hyrcanian (i.e., Caspian) Sea.

Suddenly, in Babylon, while busy with plans to improve the irrigation of the Euphrates and to settle the coast of the Persian Gulf, Alexander was taken ill after a prolonged banquet and drinking bout; 10 days later, on June 13, 323, he died in his 33rd year; he had reigned for 12 years and eight months. His body, diverted to Egypt by Ptolemy, the later king, was eventually placed in a golden coffin in Alexandria. Both in Egypt and elsewhere in the Greek cities he received divine honours.

No heir had been appointed to the throne, and his generals adopted Philip II's half-witted illegitimate son, Philip Arrhidaeus, and Alexander's posthumous son by Roxana, Alexander IV, as kings, sharing out the satrapies among themselves, after much bargaining. The empire could hardly survive Alexander's death as a unit. Both kings were murdered, Arrhidaeus in 317 and Alexander in 310/309. The provinces became independent kingdoms, and the generals, following Antigonus' lead in 306, took the title of king.

TO THE ROMAN EMPIRE


THE EASTERN
ROMAN EMPIRE
330 B.C.- 1453


THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE

The city of Byzantium grew from an ancient Greek colony founded on the European side of the Bosporus. In AD 330 the Roman emperor Constantine I, in an attempt to strengthen the empire, refounded Byzantium as Constantinople, the "New Rome" and capital of the eastern half of the empire. At his death in 395 Emperor Theodosius I divided the empire between his two sons, and it was never reunited. Theodosius also made Christianity the sole religion of the empire, and Constantinople assumed preeminence over other Christian centres in the East as Rome did in the West. The fall of Rome to the Ostrogoths in 476 marked the end of the western half of the Roman Empire. The eastern half continued as the Byzantine Empire, with Constantinople as its capital.

The eastern realm differed from the western in many respects. It was heir to the Hellenistic civilization, a blending of Greek and Middle Eastern elements dating back to the conquests of Alexander the Great. It was more commercial, more urban, and richer than the West, and its emperors, who in the Hellenistic tradition combined political and religious functions, had firmer control over all classes of society. They were also more skillful in fending off invaders, through both warfare and diplomacy. With these advantages, the Byzantine emperors, who still considered themselves Romans, long nourished the dream of subduing the barbarian kingdoms of the West and reuniting the empire.

The greatest of these emperors was Justinian I (reigned 527-565), who with his able wife Theodora prepared for the reconquest by defeating the Persians on the eastern frontier and extirpating various heresies that had alienated the Roman Catholic church. He sponsored a compilation and recodification of Roman law and built the magnificent Hagia Sophia cathedral. Justinian's reconquests of North Africa and Italy were short-lived. The later years of his reign were marred by renewed war with the Persians and incursions by Bulgar and Slavic tribes, which created severe shortages of manpower and revenue. The weakened empire, preoccupied with internal problems, grew less and less concerned with the West. Although its rulers continued to style themselves "Roman" long after the death of Justinian, the term "Byzantine" more accurately describes the very different medieval empire.

Perhaps the most significant cultural feature of the Byzantine Empire was the type of Christianity developed there. More mystical and more liturgical than Roman Christianity, it was also less unified because of age-old ethnic hostilities in the region, the survival of various heresies among the clergy in Syria, Egypt, and other provinces, and the early use of the demotic (vernacular) languages in religious services. This disunity partly caused the sweeping success of the Arab invasions that began after Muhammad's death in 632. Within 10 years Syria and Palestine, Egypt and North Africa were under Muslim Arab control. Religious disunity continued to weaken the empire throughout the Iconoclastic Controversy (a dispute over the use of religious images, or icons) of the 8th and early 9th centuries, which left the Eastern Orthodox church split into factions and further alienated from Rome. A formal schism between Eastern and Western churches was mutually agreed to in 1054. By that time the Eastern Orthodox church had been revitalized by successful missions among the Russians, Bulgars, and Slavs, some of them directed by the monks Cyril and Methodius, whose invention of Slavonic alphabets (still called Cyrillic) made possible the translation of the Bible and the spread of literacy along with Christianity in Slavic lands.

Although the empire had lost much territory to the Arabs and to the independent kingdoms established in the Balkan Peninsula, its remnants were strengthened by a number of institutional reforms. A new administrative unit, the theme, was introduced along with a system of military land grants and hereditary service that ensured an adequate supply of soldiers. It also laid the foundation for the emergence of great landed families who in later centuries would wage dynastic struggles for the imperial throne. The Byzantine economy was actually strengthened by the loss of territory, as the shrinking empire allowed greater freedom to merchants and agricultural labour.

All of these developments led to a golden age marked by a literary renaissance and brief resurgence of military and naval power under the Macedonian dynasty, whose founder, a peasant adventurer named Basil, murdered his way to the throne in 867. The Macedonian emperors supervised the Hellenization of the Code of Justinian, into which they wrote the principle of imperial absolutism tempered only by the spiritual authority of the church. They also reversed for a time the military defeats of their predecessors and reconquered large areas from the Arabs and Bulgars.

No matter how centralized their administration or how absolute their power on paper, the emperors were unable to stop the feudalization of the empire and the concentration of land and wealth in a few great families. The rivalry between rural and urban aristocracies led each faction to nominate its own imperial candidates. While they were engaged in civil disputes, new enemies, the Normans and the Seljuq Turks, increased their power around the eastern Mediterranean.

In the late 11th century, Emperor Alexius I reluctantly sought help from the outside. He appealed to Venice, to whom he gave the first of the commercial concessions that helped make it a great maritime power, and to the pope, who in turn appealed to the feudal rulers of the West, many of them, ironically, Normans. These doubtful allies rapidly turned the ensuing Crusades into a series of plundering expeditions not only against the Turks but also against the heart of the Byzantine Empire. The Fourth Crusade resulted in the fall of Constantinople to Venetians and crusaders in 1204 and the establishment of a line of Latin emperors. The empire was recaptured by Byzantine exiles in 1261, but under the final Palaeologus dynasty it was little more than a large city-state besieged from all sides. In the 14th century the Ottoman Turks replaced the Seljuqs as the major enemy in the east. Almost the entire Balkan Peninsula fell to them, but their siege of Constantinople, begun in 1395, was prolonged by the city's near-impregnable strategic position and by Turkish factionalism. It ended in 1453, when the last emperor, also named Constantine, died fighting on the walls and the Turks took the city. The final stronghold of Greek power, Trapezus (modern Trabzon, Turkey), fell to the Turks in 1461.

 

    THE ROMAN AND CHRISTIAN BACKGROUND
    Unity And Diversity In The Late Roman Empire

The Roman Empire, the ancestor of the Byzantine, remarkably blended unity and diversity, the former being by far the better known since its constituents were the predominant features of Roman civilization.

The common Latin language, the coinage, the "international" army of the Roman legions, the urban network, the law, and the Greco-Roman heritage of civic culture loomed largest among those bonds that Augustus and his successors hoped would bring unity and peace to a Mediterranean world exhausted by centuries of civil war.

To strengthen these sinews of imperial civilization, the emperors hoped that a lively and spontaneous trade might develop among the several provinces. At the pinnacle of this world stood the emperor himself, the man of wisdom who would shelter the state from whatever mishaps fortune had darkly hidden. The emperor alone could provide this protection since, as the embodiment of all the virtues, he possessed in perfection those qualities displayed only imperfectly by his individual subjects.

The Roman formula of combating fortune with reason and therewith assuring unity throughout the Mediterranean world worked surprisingly well in view of the pressures for disunity that time was to multiply. Conquest had brought regions of diverse background under Roman rule. The Eastern provinces were ancient and populous centres of that urban life that for millennia had defined the character of Mediterranean civilization. The Western provinces had only lately entered upon their own course of urban development under the not always tender ministrations of their Roman masters.

Each of the aspects of unity enumerated above had its other side. Not everyone understood or spoke Latin. Paralleling and sometimes influencing Roman law were local customs and practices, understandably tenacious by reason of their antiquity. Pagan temples, Jewish synagogues, and Christian baptisteries attest to the range of organized religions with which the official forms of the Roman state, including those of emperor worship, could not always peacefully coexist.

And far from unifying the Roman world, economic growth often created self-sufficient units in the several regions, provinces, or great estates. Given the obstacles against which the masters of the Roman state struggled, it is altogether remarkable that Roman patriotism was ever more than an empty formula, that cultivated gentlemen from the Pillars of Hercules to the Black Sea were aware that they had "something" in common. This "something" might be defined as the Greco-Roman civic tradition in the widest sense of its institutional, intellectual, and emotional implications.

Grateful for the conditions of peace that fostered it, men of wealth and culture dedicated their time and resources to glorifying that tradition through adornment of the cities that exemplified it and through education of the young who they hoped might perpetuate it.

Upon this world the barbarians descended after about AD 150. To protect the frontier against them, warrior emperors devoted whatever energies they could spare from the constant struggle to reassert control over provinces where local regimes emerged. In view of the ensuing warfare, the widespread incidence of disease, and the rapid turnover among the occupants of the imperial throne, it would be easy to assume that little was left of either the traditional fabric of Greco-Roman society or the bureaucratic structure designed to support it. Neither assumption is accurate. Devastation was haphazard, and some regions suffered while others did not. In fact, the economy and society of the empire as a whole during that period was more diverse than it had ever been.

Impelled by necessity or lured by profit, people moved from province to province. Social disorder opened avenues to eminence and wealth that the more stable order of an earlier age had closed to the talented and the ambitious. For personal and dynastic reasons, emperors favoured certain towns and provinces at the expense of others, and the erratic course of succession to the throne, coupled with a resulting constant change among the top administrative officials, largely deprived economic and social policies of recognizable consistency.

 

The Reforms Of Diocletian And Constantine

The definition of consistent policy in imperial affairs was the achievement of two great soldier-emperors, Diocletian (ruled 284-305) and Constantine I (sole emperor 324-337), who together ended a century of anarchy and refounded the Roman state.

There are many similarities between them, not the least being the range of problems to which they addressed themselves: both had learned from the 3rd-century anarchy that one man alone and unaided could not hope to control the multiform Roman world and protect its frontiers; as soldiers, both considered reform of the army a prime necessity in an age that demanded the utmost mobility in striking power; both found the old Rome and Italy an unsatisfactory military base for the bulk of the imperial forces.

Deeply influenced by the soldier's penchant for hierarchy, system, and order, a taste that they shared with many of their contemporaries as well as the emperors who preceded them, they were appalled by the lack of system and the disorder characteristic of the economy and the society in which they lived. Both, in consequence, were eager to refine and regularize certain desperate expedients that had been adopted by their rough military predecessors to conduct the affairs of the Roman state.

Whatever their personal religious convictions, both, finally, believed that imperial affairs would not prosper unless the emperor's subjects worshiped the right gods in the right way. The means they adopted to achieve these ends differ so profoundly that one, Diocletian, looks to the past and ends the history of Rome; the other, Constantine, looks to the future and founds the history of Byzantium.

Thus, in the matter of succession to the imperial office, Diocletian adopted precedents he could have found in the practices of the 2nd century AD. He associated with himself a coemperor, or Augustus. Each Augustus then adopted a young colleague, or Caesar, to share in the rule and eventually to succeed the senior partner. This rule of four, or tetrarchy, failed of its purpose, and Constantine replaced it with the dynastic principle of hereditary succession, a procedure generally followed in subsequent centuries.

To divide administrative responsibilities, Constantine replaced the single praetorian prefect, who had traditionally exercised both military and civil functions in close proximity to the emperor, with regional prefects established in the provinces and enjoying civil authority alone. In the course of the 4th century, four great "regional prefectures" emerged from these Constantinian beginnings, and the practice of separating civil from military authority persisted until the 7th century.

Contrasts in other areas of imperial policy are equally striking. Diocletian persecuted Christians and sought to revive the ancestral religion. Constantine, a convert to the new faith, raised it to the status of a "permitted religion." Diocletian established his headquarters at Nicomedia, a city that never rose above the status of a provincial centre during the Middle Ages, while Constantinople, the city of Constantine's foundation, flourished mightily. Diocletian sought to bring order into the economy by controlling wages and prices and by initiating a currency reform based upon a new gold piece, the aureus, struck at the rate of 60 to the pound of gold. The controls failed and the aureus vanished, to be succeeded by Constantine's gold solidus. The latter piece, struck at the lighter weight of 72 to the gold pound, remained the standard for centuries.

For whatever reason, in summary, Constantine's policies proved extraordinarily fruitful. Some of them--notably hereditary succession, the recognition of Christianity, the currency reform, and the foundation of the capital--determined in a lasting way the several aspects of Byzantine civilization with which they are associated. Yet it would be a mistake to consider Constantine a revolutionary or to overlook those areas in which, rather than innovating, he followed precedent. Earlier emperors had sought to constrain groups of men to perform certain tasks that were deemed vital to the survival of the state but that proved unremunerative or repellent to those forced to assume the burden. Such tasks included the tillage of the soil, which was the work of the peasant, or colonus; the transport of cheap bulky goods to the metropolitan centres of Rome or Constantinople, which was the work of the shipmaster, or navicularius; and services rendered by the curiales, members of the municipal senate charged with the assessment and collection of local taxes.

Constantine's laws in many instances extended or even rendered hereditary these enforced responsibilities, thus laying the foundations for the system of collegia, or hereditary state guilds, that was to be so noteworthy a feature of late-Roman social life. Of particular importance, he required the colonus (peasant) to remain in the locality to which the tax lists ascribed him.

 

THE 5TH CENTURY:
PERSISTENCE OF GRECO-ROMAN CIVILIZATION IN THE EAS
T

Whether innovative or traditional, Constantine's measures determined the thrust and direction of imperial policy throughout the 4th century and into the 5th. The state of the empire in 395 may, in fact, be described in terms of the outcome of Constantine's work.

The dynastic principle was established so firmly that the emperor who died in that year, Theodosius I, could bequeath the imperial office jointly to his sons, both of whom were young and incompetent: Arcadius in the East and Honorius in the West. Never again would one man rule over the full extent of the empire in both its halves. Constantinople had probably grown to a population of between 200,000 and 500,000; in the 5th century the emperors sought to restrain rather than promote its growth.

After 391 Christianity was far more than one among many religions: from that year onward, imperial decree prohibited all forms of pagan cult, and the temples were closed. Imperial pressure was often manifest at the church councils of the 4th century, with the emperor assuming a role he was destined to fill again during the 5th century in defining and suppressing heresy.

"Reprinted with permission from the Encyclopaedia Britannica 1998-2000 Britanica.com Inc. All rights reserved.


THE MUSLIM EMPIRE
AND
THE HASHEMITE KINGDOM 



THE HASHEMITE KINGDOM

THE MUSLIM EMPIRE
 

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