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The Author's Notes:

But the significance was not the same. The chief of the Magians acted as representative of the Persian religion, the Patriarch acted as representative of the State. If he had specially represented the Church, his co-operation could never have been dispensed with. The consent of the Church was not formally necessary to the inauguration of a sovran.

This point is further illustrated by the fact that when the Emperor appointed a colleague, the junior Augustus was crowned not by the Patriarch but by the Emperor who created him. The suggestion of divinity has constantly been the device of autocrats to strengthen and enhance their power; and modern theories of Divine Right are merely a substitute for the old pagan practice of deifying kings.

Augustus attempted to throw a sort of halo round his authority by designating himself officially Divi Filius. But the glow of this consecration faded, and disappeared entirely with the fall of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. With Aurelian, who foreshadows the new Monarchy, the suggestion of divinity again appears. Justinian, in one of his laws, speaks of the Emperor as sent down by God to be a living law.

The Emperor, communicating his instructions in the form of an oratio to the Senate, could have his wishes embodied in senatorial decrees senatus consulta. But indirectly he possessed virtual powers of legislation by means of edicts and constitutions, which, though technically they were not laws, were for practical purposes equivalent. But the legislative activity of the early Emperors was chiefly exercised in the form of constitutions, a term which in the stricter sense applied to decisions which were only brought to the notice of the persons concerned. These "acts" had full validity, and the magistrates every year swore to observe them.

The power of dispensing from a law properly belonged to the Senate, and the earlier Emperors sought from the Senate a dispensation when necessary. Domitian began to encroach on this privilege. But the principle remained that the Princeps, who was constitutionally a magistrate, was bound by the laws; and when lawyers of the third century speak of the Princeps as legibus solutus , they refer to laws from which Augustus had formally obtained dispensation by the Senate. The term edict covered all the decisions which were formerly called constitutions, mandates, or rescripts, provided they had a general application.

But he always considered himself bound by the laws. An edict of A. For the truth is that our authority depends on the authority of law. It was never an arbitrary despotism, and the masses looked up to the Emperor as the guardian of the laws which protected against the oppression of nobles and officials. In the fifth century, the duty of crowning a new Emperor at Constantinople was, as we saw, assigned to the Patriarch.

This precedent was at first followed perhaps only in cases where a new Emperor was suspected of heretical tendencies, but by the tenth century 43 an oath of this kind seems to have been a regular preliminary to coronation. The fact that such capitulations could be and were imposed at the time of elevation shows that the autocracy was limited. The essence of an autocracy is that no co-ordinate body exists which is able constitutionally to act as a check upon the monarch's will. The authority of the Senate or the Imperial Council might constitute a strong practical check upon an Emperor's acts, but if he chose to disregard their views, he could not be accused of acting unconstitutionally.

The ultimate check on any autocracy is the force of public opinion. There is always a point beyond which the most arbitrary despot cannot go in defying it. In the case of a Roman Emperor, public opinion could exert this control constitutionally, by an extreme measure. The Emperor could be deposed. The right of deposition corresponded to the right of election. The deposition was accomplished not by any formal process, but by the proclamation of a new Emperor.

If he had not a sufficiently powerful following to render the proclamation effective and was suppressed, he was treated as a rebel; but during the struggle and before the catastrophe, the fact that the Senate or a portion of the army had proclaimed him gave him a presumptive constitutional status which the event might either confirm or annul. The method of deposition was, in fact, revolution; and we are accustomed to regard revolution as something essentially unconstitutional, an appeal from law to force; but under the Imperial system it was not unconstitutional; the government was, as has been said, 44 "an autocracy tempered by the legal right of revolution.


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The oriental conception of divine royalty is now formally expressed in the diadem; and it affects all that appertains to the Emperor. His person is divine; all that belongs to him is "sacred. It had long been the habit to address the Imperator as dominus , "lord"; in the fourth century the sovrans began to use it of themselves and Dominus Noster appears on their coins. Usage soon went further. Basileus was reserved for the Emperor and the Persian king, 49 and rex was employed to designate other barbarian royalties. The Imperial Chancery was conservative, and it was not till the seventh century that the Emperor designated himself as Basileus in his constitutions and rescripts.

The general use of Despotes is one of the most characteristic oriental features of the new Empire. It denoted the relation of a master to his slaves, and it was regularly used in addressing the Emperor from the time of Constantine to the fall of the Empire. Justinian expected this form of address. The subject spoke of himself as "your slave.

From the reign of Diocletian to the last quarter of the fifth century, the Empire is repeatedly divided into two or more geographical sections — most frequently two, an Eastern and a Western — each governed by its own ruler. To men of the fourth and fifth centuries such a mode of speech would have been unintelligible, and it is better to avoid it. To them there was and could be only one Roman Empire; and we should emphasise and not obscure this point of view.

But it is not merely a question of constitutional theory. The unity was not only formally recognised; it was maintained in practical ways. In the first place, the Imperial colleagues issued their laws under their joint names, and general laws promulgated by either and transmitted for publication to the chancery of his associate were valid throughout the whole Empire. Strictly speaking, it devolved upon him to nominate a new colleague.

After the fall of the Theodosian House, some of the Emperors who were elected in Italy were not recognised at Constantinople, but the principle remained in force. The unity of the Empire was also expressed in the arrangement for the nomination of the annual Consuls. Each Emperor named one of the two consuls for the year. As a general rule the names were not published together. The name of the Western consul was not known in the East, nor that of the Eastern in the West, in time for simultaneous publication. There were "the parts of the East," and "the parts of the West," 55 but the Empire was one.

And the theory made itself felt in practice. The Imperial Council Although the dyarchy, or double government of Emperor and Senate, had come to an end, and autocracy, as we have seen, was established without reserve or disguise, the Senate remained as an important constitutional body, with rights and duties, and, though it was remodelled, it maintained many of its ancient traditions. Constantine himself had not ventured upon this novelty. He did found a new senate in Byzantium, but his foundation seems rather to have resembled the senates of important cities like Antioch than the august Senatus Romanus.

The offices of aedile and tribune had disappeared, and by the end of the fourth century the quaestorship was on the point of disappearing. Hence the praetorship remained as the portal through which the sons of senators could enter the Senate. They not only could, but they were obliged. The sole duty of the Praetor now was to spend money on the exhibition of games or on public works. There were eight praetors in the East; the expenses were divided among them; and the Senate, which had the duty of designating them, named them ten years in advance, in order to enable them to economise or otherwise collect the necessary funds, as the cost of holding the office was extremely heavy.

Men who were not born in the senatorial order could be admitted to the Senate in various ways, whether by a decree of the Senate itself or by the Emperor, who might confer either upon an individual or upon a whole class of persons an order of rank which carried with it a seat in the Senate. Persons thus co-opted by the Senate were liable to the burden of the praetorship, and likewise those whom the Emperor ennobled, unless special exemption were granted. Exemption was granted frequently, and it took the form of adlectio. In the fourth century these classes disappeared and were replaced by the three orders of illustres , spectabiles , and clarissimi , in each of which there were certain subdivisions.

The Emperor could confer these orders of rank on any one, 61 and a person to whom he granted the clarissimate became thereby a member of the lowest order of the Senate, and belonged to the adlecti who were exempt from the praetorship. Further, under the new administrative system which will be described in the following chapter, all the important offices carried with them the title illustris , or spectabilis , or clarissimus , and thus secured to their occupants eventually, if not immediately, 62 seats in the Senate.

And in some cases, though by no means in all, this admission by virtue of office carried with it exemption. Again, there were many classes of subordinate functionaries who received, when they retired from office, the clarissimate or perhaps one of the higher titles, thus becoming senators, and these as a rule enjoyed exemption.

The praetorship was the front gate for entering the Senate, but there was also a back gate, adlection, of which the Emperor held the key, and a large and increasing number of the second section entered by this way. One of Constantine's administrative reforms was the opening to senators of all the official posts, which hitherto had been confined to the equestrian order, so that the careers open to a young man of senatorial birth were far more numerous and varied.

The equestrian order gradually disappeared altogether. On the other hand, men of the lowest origin might rise through the inferior grades of the public service to higher posts which carried with them the right of admission to the Senate. Thus an aristocracy was formed, which was recruited every year by men whose fathers had not belonged to it, and was divided into grades depending on office or special Imperial favour, not on birth.

Constitution of the Late Roman Empire

We may conjecture that the highest and smallest class, the Illustrious, came to form the majority of the active members of the Senate, and that this fact caused the Emperors before the middle of the fifth century to permit the two inferior classes, Spectabiles and the Clarissimi, to live wherever they pleased. The next step was to exclude entirely the two lower classes and confine the right of deliberating in the Senate to Illustres, and by the end of the fifth century this seems to have been the rule.

As the funds contributed by the praetors were exclusively applied for the benefit of the capital cities, the nomination of these magistrates and the control exercised over the distribution of the funds belonged to the municipal part of their duties. The Prefect of the City acted as chief of the Senate and as its executive officer, and conducted all its communications with the Emperor.

The History of the Constitution of the Late Roman Empire is a study of the ancient Roman Empire that traces the progression of Roman political development from the abolition of the Roman Principate around the year until the fall of the Western Roman Empire in CE. When Diocletian became Roman Emperor in CE, he inherited a constitution that was no longer functioning, and so he enacted the most significant constitutional reforms in over three-hundred years.

His reforms, much like those three-hundred years before, were intended to correct the errors in the previous constitution. Diocletian's specific reforms were less radical than was the reality that he exposed the state of government for what it had been for centuries: Between the death of the emperor Septimius Severus in , and the accession of Diocletian in , twenty-three emperors had been installed and then killed. Almost all of these emperors owed their elevation to the force of arms, and were able to maintain power so long as they both kept favour with their armed supporters, and prevented the emergence of a rival.

Thus, the army and the Praetorian Guard became the true power behind the throne. The result of this chaos was the accession of the emperor Diocletian to the throne. While the twenty-three emperors before Diocletian all encountered similar problems, the reign of the emperor Gallienus can be used as a typical example to illustrate the state of the empire during this period.

Gallienus reigned from to , [3] and during his reign no part of the empire other than possibly Africa escaped devastation at the hands of the barbarians. Also in the north, the Alemanni penetrated deep into Roman territory, encountering no serious opposition until they reached Ravenna , while the Franks passed through Gaul , and sacked towns in Spain. These invasions were primarily raiding expeditions, and the invaders usually retreated back to their own territory after their lust for booty had been satisfied.

One consequence of this situation was the emergence of usurpers, [4] who often came in the form of provincial governors. The citizens in the provinces often had a common enemy, and usually could not rely on Rome for protection. Thus, their loyalty to the emperor was seriously impaired, and they turned to their governors for leadership. The governors began assuming titles that did not legally belong to them, which resulted in a virtual dismemberment of the empire. One example of these usurpers was Postumus, who was governor of Gaul modern France during Gallienus' reign.

In , he was succeeded by another governor, Tetricus. The Count also exercised judicial functions as they related to fiscal matters under his supervision, with no appeal of his decision. The other key financial officer was the Count of the Imperial Estates " Comes rerum privatarum " who administered the private property of the Emperor and managed all Imperial estates, including the collection of rent derived therefrom. The praetorian prefects, vice-regents, however, had control over taxes paid in kind and the separate military Annona tax, ta assessments and revisions, censuses the overall budgets composed on a diocesan basis subdivided by province and municipality or other local unit.

They alone as for emperors could render final verdicts.

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From the late s fiscal appeal cases of the SL and RP were taken by the prefects, the vicars, proconsuls and urban prefects from their respective lower provincial and regional administrative courts. In the two counts were allowed once again to receive appeals directly from their own lower-rung administrative courts after Until then they had acted solely in an advisory capacity to the emperors to whom they represented their own interests as did the SL comptrollers and RP managers before the vicars and the other above-named officials, Jones, op. When Diocletian reformed the administrative machinery of the Empire, he stripped the civilian administrators of their military powers granting them instead to distinct offices.

Additionally, he further divided the various provinces into smaller units, effectively doubled the number of provinces from fifty to over a hundred. To this new organization he imposed two new bureaucratic levels between the Emperors and the provinces: Diocletian grouped these hundred provinces into twelve Dioceses, which were then grouped into four Prefectures. The result was that the units of government were much smaller, and thus more manageable, than they had been before Diocletian's reforms.

This not only made administration of the Empire easier but also helped to minimize the risk of revolt. The four Prefectures, each led by a civilian Praetorian Prefect " praefecti praetorio " , served as the highest level of provincial government. The Prefects were the Emperor's top administrators, ranking just below the Emperor himself in dignity. While initially serving as the Emperor's second in command in all matters of imperial administration military, civil, judicial, taxation, etc. These reforms were the result of both the lack of officials suitable for the prefect's wide-ranging tasks, and of the desire to reduce the potential challenge to the Emperor's authority posed by a power Prefect.

The civilian powers of the Prefects were still vast, however, as they could nominate individuals to fill a gubernatorial vacancy, supervise the conduct of the governors, or even dismiss a governor. Prefects could also interpret the law, hear appeals, control finances, and some were even assigned military responsibilities. The powers of the Prefects were so extensive that Diocletian only allowed each Prefect to remain in office for a short period of time.

The cities of Rome and Constantinople both were exempt from the control of a Praetorian Prefect and instead were controlled by their own civilian governors answering directly to the Emperor. These two Prefects of the City " Praefectus urbi " were responsible for the civilian administration of their respect city, presided over their respective Senate, and served as the chief judge for civil and criminal cases within the City.

The Prefects commanded the Urban Cohorts " Cohortes urbanae " and the City Watchmen " Vigiles " in order to maintain order and security within the city. The Prefect also oversaw maintenance of the city's aqueducts and supervised the markets. One of his most important duties was to oversee his respective City's grain supply. Ranking between the Prefectures and the provinces were the Dioceses. Each Dioceses was led by a civilian governor known as a Vicar " Vicarius " meaning "deputy [of the Praetorian Prefect]".

Each Vicar was appointed by the Emperor upon the recommendation of the respective Prefect, and held the rank of Count Second Class.

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Ranking directly below the Vicar were the provincial governors , who were appointed by the Emperor and held various titles. All provincial governors were Counts Third Class. The highest ranking provincial governors were the Proconsuls who governed the provinces of Africa , Asia , and Archaea. These three provincial governors reported directly to the Emperor due to their strategic value.

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All other provinces were administered by governors called Presidents " Praeses " , judges iudices or moderators. The primary duties of the provincial governors were administrative, judicial and financial. The governor could issues decrees that, if approved by the Emperor, would become binding upon the province. The governor was also the highest judicial official of the province, with appeals heard by the vicar of the diocese or in dioceses governed by prefects.

Civilian and military administrators of the late Empire were generally ranked as Counts " comes " meaning "companion [of the Emperor]". The rank of Count began as title given to the Emperor's trusted officials as a mark of imperial confidence, and later developing into a formal rank. All Counts were automatically members of the Senatorial Order. As the imperial system expanded, however, new offices were needed which resulted in the development of three classes within the rank of Count:.

The most important Imperial Court positions, the highest-ranking military commanders, and the Imperial Chamberlain were all Counts First Class.

The constitution of the later Roman Empire

Counts Second Class were the various Proconsuls, Vicars of the Dioceses, provincial military commanders, and others. Counts Third Class was the basic qualification to obtain entrance into the Senate and including the governorship of a province and other lower offices. To a reformed civilian structure, Diocletian added a reorganized supreme military command. Two significant parts of the reform are apparent: The Field Armies served as the Empire's strategic reserve to respond to crisis where it may arise whereas the Frontier Troops were permanently stationed along the Empire's borders " limes ".

Recruited from the ranks of the Field Armies were the Palace Troops units " Palatini " , who accompanied the Emperor as he traveled around the Empire as were the successor of the Principate Praetorian Guard. There were seven such Masters throughout the Empire two in the West and five in the East. The establishment of solely military officials provided for a more professional military leadership.

The Masters were all Counts First Class. There were six such Military Counts throughout the Empire. The various Frontier Troops were under the command of Dukes " duces limitis " or "border commanders". These commanders were the spiritual successor of the Imperial Legates " Legatus Augusti pro praetore " of the Principate. Most Dukes were given command of forces in a single province, but a few controlled more than one province. In the East, the Dukes reported to the Master of the Soldiers of their district whereas in the West they reported to their respective Military Count.

The removal of the seat of government from Rome reduced the Roman Senate to a municipal body, an image that was reinforced when the emperor Constantine later created a similar body in Constantinople. Diocletian also discontinued the practice of having the Senate ratify the Imperial powers of a new emperor [ citation needed ].