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Bill Thayer

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Ch. 1
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
History of the Later Roman Empire

by J. B. Bury

published by Macmillan & Co., Ltd.,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Ch. 3

Vol. I
Chapter II


We pass from the constitution of the monarchy to the bureaucratic system of government which it created. This system, constructed with the most careful attention to details, was a solution of the formidable problem of holding together a huge heterogeneous empire, threatened with dissolution and bankruptcy, an empire which was far from being geographically compact and had four long, as well as several smaller, frontiers to defend. To govern a large state by two independent but perfectly similar machines, controlled not from one centre but from two foci, without sacrifi­cing its unity was an interesting and entirely new experiment. These bureaucratic machines worked moderately well, and their success might have been extraordinary if the monarchs who directed them had always been men of superior ability. Blots of course and defects there were, especially in the fields of economy and finance:

sed delicta tamen quibus ignouisse uelimus.

The political creation of the Illyrian Emperors was not unworthy of the genius of Rome.

§ 1. Civil Administration

The old provinces had been split up by Diocletian into small parts, and these new provinces placed under governors whose powers were purely civil. A number of adjacent provinces were grouped together in a circumscription which was called a Diocese (resembling in extent the old province), and the Diocese was under the control of an official whose powers were likewise purely civil. The Dioceses in turn were grouped in four vast  p26  circumscriptions,​1 under Praetorian Prefects, who were at the head of the whole civil administration and controlled both the diocesan and the provincial governors. This system, it will be observed, differed from the previous system in three principal features: military and civil authority were separated; the provincial units were reduced in size; and two higher officials were interposed between the Emperor and the provincial governor. Perhaps we should add a fourth; for the Praetorian Prefect (whom Constantine had shorn of his military functions) possessed, so far as civil administration was concerned, an immensely wider range of power than any provincial governor had possessed under the system of Augustus.

At the end of the fourth century, then, the whole Empire, for purposes of civil government, was divided into four great sections, distinguished as the Gauls, Italy, Illyricum, and the East (Oriens). The Gauls, which included Britain, Gaul, Spain, and the north-western corner of Africa, and Italy, which included Africa, Italy, the provinces between the Alps and the Danube, and the north-western portion of the Illyrian peninsula, were subject to the Emperor who resided in Italy. Illyricum, the smallest of the Prefectures, which comprised the provinces of Dacia, Macedonia, and Greece, and the East, which embraced Thrace in the north and Egypt in the south, as well as all the Asiatic territory, were subject to the Emperor who resided at Constantinople. Thus each of the Praetorian Prefects had authority over a region which is now occupied by several modern  p27  States. The Prefecture of the Gauls was composed of four Dioceses: Britain, Gaul, Viennensis (Southern Gaul), and Spain; Italy of three: Africa, the Italies,​2 and Illyricum; Illyricum of two: Dacia and Macedonia; the East of five: Thrace, Asiana, Pontus, Oriens, and Egypt. Each of the diocesan governors had the title of Vicarius,​3 except in the cases of Oriens where he was designated Comes Orientis, and of Egypt where his title was Praefectus Augustalis.​4 It is easy to distinguish the Prefecture of the Oriens from the Diocese of Oriens (Syria and Palestine); but more care is required not to confound the Diocese with the Prefecture of Illyricum.

The subordination of these officials to one another was not complete or strictly graded. A comparison of the system to a ladder of four steps, the Emperor at the top, the provincial governor at the foot, with the Prefect and the Vicarius between, would be misleading. For not only were the relations between the provincial governor and the Prefect direct, but the Emperor might communicate directly both with the governor of the diocese and with the governor of the province. Two provinces had a special privilege: the proconsuls of Africa and of Asia​5 were outside the jurisdiction either of Vicarius or of Prefect, and were controlled immediately by the Emperor.6

The Praetorian Prefect of the East, who resided at Constantinople, and the Praetorian Prefect of Italy were in rank the highest officials in the Empire; next to them came respectively the Prefect of Illyricum, who resided at Thessalonica, and the Prefect of the Gauls. The functions of the Prefect embraced a wide sphere; they were administrative, financial, judicial,  p28  and even legislative. The provincial governors were appointed at his recommendation, and with him rested their dismissal, subject to the Emperor's approval. He received regular reports of the administration throughout his prefecture from the Vicarii and from the governors of the provinces. He had treasuries of his own, and the payment and the food supplies of the army devolved upon him. He was also a supreme judge of appeal; in cases which were brought before his court from a lower tribunal there was no further appeal to the Emperor. He could issue, on his own authority, praetorian edicts, but they concerned only matters of detail. The most important Imperial enactments were usually addressed to the Prefects, because they were the heads of the provincial administration, and possessed the machinery for making the laws known throughout the Empire.

The exalted position of the Praetorian Prefect was marked by his purple robe, or mandyes, which differed from that of the sovran only in being shorter, reaching to the knees instead of to the feet. His large silver inkstand, his pen-case of gold weighing 100 lbs., his lofty chariot, are mentioned as three official symbols of his office. On his entry all military officers were expected to bend the knee, a survival of the fact that his office was originally not civil but military.

Rome and Constantinople, with their immediate neighbourhoods, were exempt from the authority of the Praetorian Prefect and under the jurisdiction of the Prefect of the City.​7 The Prefect of Constantinople had the same general powers and duties as the Prefect of Rome, though in some respects the arrangements were different. He was the head of the Senate, and in rank was next to the Praetorian Prefects. While all the other great officials, even though their functions were purely civil, had a military character, in token of which they wore military dress and the military belt, the Prefect of the City retained his old civil character and wore the toga. He was the chief criminal judge in the capital. For the maintenance of further order the Roman Prefect had under his control a force of city cohorts, as well as police. We hear nothing of any institution at Constantinople corresponding to the city cohorts, but the police (vigiles) were organised as at Rome under a  p29  praefectus vigilum,​8 subject to the Prefect. For the care of the aqueducts and the supervision of the markets the Prefect was responsible. One of his most important duties was to superintend the arrangements for supplying the city with corn.º9 He had also control over the trade corporations (collegia) of the capital.

The supreme legal minister was the Quaestor of the Sacred Palace. His duty was to draft the laws, and the Imperial rescripts in answer to petitions. A thorough knowledge of jurisprudence and a mastery of legal style were essential qualifications for the post.10

The post of Master of Offices (magister officiorum) had grown from small beginnings and by steps which are obscure into one of the most important ministries.​11 It comprised a group of miscellaneous departments, unrelated to each other, and including some of the functions which had belonged to the pre-Constantinian Praetorian Prefects. Officium was the word for the body of civil servants (officiales) who constituted the staff of a minister or governor, and the Master of Offices was so called from the authority which he exercised over the civil service, but especially over the secretarial departments in the Palace.

There were three principal secretarial bureaux (scrinia), which had survived from the early Empire, and retained their old names: memoriae, epistularum, and libellorum.​12 At Constantinople the second bureau had two departments, one for Latin and one for Greek official correspondence. The secretarial business was conducted by magistri scriniorum,​13 who were in direct touch with the Emperor and were not subordinate to any higher official. They were not, however, heads of the  p30  bureaux, but the bureaux, which were under the control of the Master of Offices, supplied them with assistants and clerks.14

With the three ancient and homogeneous scrinia was associated a fourth,​15 of later origin and at first inferior rank, the scrinium dispositionum, of which the chief official was the comes dispositionum. His duty, under the control of the Master of Offices, was to draw up the programme of the Emperor's movements and to make corresponding arrangements.

The Master of Offices was responsible for the conduct of court ceremonies, and controlled the special department​16 which dealt with ceremonial arrangements and Imperial audiences. The reception of foreign ambassadors thus came within his scope, and he was the head of the corps of interpreters of foreign languages. In the Roman Empire the administrations of foreign and internal affairs were not sharply separated as in modern states, but the Master of Offices is the minister who more than any other corresponds to a Minister of Foreign Affairs. As director of the State Post (cursus publicus)​17 he made arrangements for the journeys of foreign embassies to the capital.

One of his duties was the control of the agentes in rebus, a large body of officials who formed the secret service of the State and were employed as Imperial messengers and on all kinds of confidential missions. As secret agents they were ubiquitous in the provinces, spying upon the governors, reporting the misconduct of officials, and especially vigilant to secure that the state post was not misused. Naturally they were open to bribery and corruption. The body or schola of agentes was strictly organised in grades, and when they had risen by regular  p31  promotion, they were appointed to be heads (principes) of the official staffs of diocesan and provincial governors, and might rise to be governors themselves. Their number, in the East, was over 1200.18

The Scholarian bodyguards, organised by Constantine,​19 were subject to the authority of the Master of Offices, so that in this respect he may be regarded as a successor of the old Praetorian Prefect. He also possessed a certain control over the military commanders in frontier provinces.​20 He became (in A.D. 396) the director of the state factories of arms. In the Eastern half of the Empire there were fifteen of these factories (fabricae), six in the Illyrian peninsula, and nine in the Asiatic provinces.

One of the most striking features of the administrative system was the organisation of the subordinate officials, who were systematically graded and extremely numerous.21

Our use of the words "office" and "official" is derived from the technical meaning of officium, which, as was mentioned above, denoted the staff of a civil or military dignitary.​22 Most ministers, every governor, all higher military commanders, had an officium, and its members were called officiales. Theoretically, the civil as well as the military officials were supposed to be soldiers of the Emperor; their service was termed militia, its badge was the military belt, which was discarded when their term of service expired, and their retirement from service was called in military language "honourable dismissal" (honesta missio). But these usages were a mere survival, and the state service was really divided into military, civil, and palatine offices. The term palatine in this connexion meant particularly the staffs of the financial ministers, the Counts of the Sacred Largesses and the Private Estates.

 p32  The number of subalterns in each office was fixed. To obtain a post an Imperial rescript was required, and advancement was governed by seniority. Those who had served their regular term in the higher offices became eligible for such a post as the governor­ship of a province and might rise to the highest dignities in the Empire.

Offices, such as those of a Praetorian Prefect, a vicar, or a provincial governor, were divided into a number of departments or bureaux (scrinia), each under a head. On these permanent officials far more than on their superior, who might only hold his post for a year, the efficiency of the administration depended. The bureaux differed in nature and name according to the functions of the ministry. Those in the office of the Praetorian Prefecture differed entirely from those of the financial ministries or those of the Master of Offices. But the offices of all the governors who were under the Praetorian Prefect reproduced in their chief departments the office of the Prefect himself. Each of these had a princeps,​23 who was the right hand of the chief and had a general control over all departments of the office.

The State servants were paid originally (like the army) both in kind and coin, but as time went on the annona or food ration was commuted into money. They were so numerous that their salaries were a considerable item in the budget. We have no information as to the total number of State officials; but we have evidence which may lead us to conjecture that the civil servants in the Prefectures of the East and Illyricum, including the staffs of the diocesan and provincial governors, cannot  p33  have been much fewer than 10,000.​24 To this have to be added the staffs of the military commanders, of the financial and other central ministries.

It was a mark of the new monarchy that the eunuchs and others who held posts about the Emperor's person and served in the palace should be regarded as standing on a level of equality with the State officials and have a recognised position in the public service. The Grand Chamberlain (praepositus sacri cubiculi), who was almost invariably a eunuch, was a dignitary of the highest class. In the case of weak sovrans his influence might be enormous and make him the most power­ful man in the State; in the case of strong Emperors who were personally active he seldom played a prominent part in politics. It is probable that he exercised a general authority over all officers connected with the Court and the Imperial person, but this power may have depended rather on a right of co-operation than on formal authority.​25 At Constantinople the Grand  p34  Chamberlain had a certain control over the Imperial estates in Cappadocia which supplied the Emperor's privy purse.26

We have already seen​27that all the higher officials in the Imperial service belonged to one or other of the three classes of rank, the illustres, spectabiles, and clarissimi,​28 and were consequently members of the senatorial order. The heads of the great central ministries, the commanders-in‑chief of the armies,​29 the Grand Chamberlain, were all illustres. The second class included proconsuls, vicars, the military governors in the provinces, the magistri scriniorum, and many others. The title clarissimus, which was the qualification for the Senate, was attached ex officio to the governor­ship of a province, and to other lesser posts. It was possessed by a large number of subaltern civil servants and was bestowed on many after their retirement. The liberality of the Emperors in conferring the clarissimate gradually detracted from its value. In consequence of this it was found expedient to raise many officials, who would formerly have been clarissimi to the rank of spectabiles; and this in turn led to a cheapening of the rank of illustres. The result was that before the middle of the sixth century a new rank of gloriosi30 was instituted, superior to that of illustres, and the highest officials are henceforward described as gloriosi.

§ 2. Military Organisation

The principal features in which the military establishment of the fourth century​31 differed from that of the Principate were the existence of a mobile field army, the organisation of the  p35  cavalry in bodies independent of the infantry, and the smaller size of the legionary units.

Diocletian had created, and Constantine had developed, a field army in which the Emperor could move to any part of his dominion that happened to be threatened, while at the same time all the frontiers were defended by troops permanently stationed in the frontier provinces. The military forces, therefore, consisted of two main classes: the mobile troops or comitatenses, which accompanied the Emperor in his movements and formed a "sacred retinue" (comitatus); and the frontier troops or limitanei.

The strength of the old Roman legion was 6000 men. The legion of this type was retained in the case of the limitanei; but it is broken up into detachments of about 1000 (corresponding to the old cohort), which are stationed in different quarters, sometimes in different provinces. And these detachments are no longer associated with a number of foot-cohorts and squadrons of horse, as of old, when the legatus of a legion commanded a body of about 10,000 men. The cavalry and the cohorts are under separate commanders.32

The field army consisted of two classes of troops, the simple comitatenses and the palatini.​33 The palatini, who took the place of the old Praetorian guards, were a privileged section of the comitatenses and retained the special character of Imperial guards, in so far as most of them were stationed in the neighbourhood of Constantinople or in Italy.​34 The infantry of the field army was composed of small legions of 1000, and bodies of light infantry known as auxilia which were now mainly recruited from Gauls, and from Franks and other Germans. The cavalry, under a separate command, consisted of squadrons, called vexillationes, 500 strong.

Each of these units, — the legion, the auxilium, the vexillatio  p36  of the comitatenses, the legionary detachment, the cohort of the limitanei, — was as a rule under the command of a tribune, in some cases of a praepositus.​35 The tribune corresponded roughly to the modern colonel.

All these armies were under the supreme command of Masters of Soldiers, magistri militum. The organisation of this command in the east, as it was finally ordered by Theodosius I, differed fundamentally from that in the west. In the east there were five Masters of Horse and Foot. Two of these, distinguished as Masters in Presence (in praesenti, in immediate attendance on the Emperor), resided at Constantinople, and each of them commanded half of the Palatine troops. The three others exercised independent authority over the armies stationed in three large districts, the West, Thrace, and Illyricum.36

It was otherwise in the west. Here instead of five co-ordinate commanders we find two masters in praesenti, one of infantry and one of cavalry. The Master of Foot was the immediate commander of the infantry in Italy and had superior authority over all the infantry of the field army in all the dioceses, and also over the commanders of the limitanei. In the dioceses the commanders of the comitatenses had the title of military counts.37

According to this scheme the Master of Horse in praesenti was co-ordinate with the Master of Foot. But this arrangement was modified by investing the Master of Foot with authority over both cavalry and infantry; he was then called Master of Horse and Foot, or Master of Both Services, magister utriusque militiae, and had a superior authority over the Master of Horse. In the last years of Theodosius the command of the western armies was thus centralised in the hands of Stilicho, and throughout the fifth century this centralisation, giving enormous power and responsibility to one man, was, as we shall see, the rule.

The limitanei were under the command of dukes, the successors of the old legati pro praetore of the Augustan system. In the west the duke was subordinate to the Master of Foot;  p37  in the east to the Master of Soldiers in the military district to which his province belonged.38

The Palatine legions were the successors of the old Praetorian guards, but Constantine or one of his predecessors organised guard troops who were more closely attached to the Imperial person.​39 These were the Scholae, destined to have a long history. We associate the name of School with the ancient Greek philosophers, who gave leisurely instruction to their schools of disciples in Athenian porticoes. It was applied to Constantine's guards because a portico was assigned to them in the Palace​40 where they could spend idle hours waiting for Imperial orders. The Scholarians were all picked men, and till the middle of the fifth century chiefly Germans; mounted, better equipped and better paid than the ordinary cavalry of the army. There were seven schools at Constantinople, each 500 strong​41 and commanded by a tribune who was generally a count of the first rank.​42 We have already seen that the whole guard was under the control of the Master of Offices. Closely associated with the Scholarians was a special body of guards, called candidati from the white uniforms which they wore.

While the Scholarians and Candidates were in a strict sense bodyguards of the Imperial person and never left the Court except to accompany the Emperor, there was another body of guards, the Domestici, consisting both of horse and foot, who as a rule were stationed at the Imperial Court, but  p38  might be sent elsewhere for special purposes.​43 They were under the command of Counts (comites domesticorum) who were independent of the Master of Soldiers.​44 It will be observed that most of the new military creations of the third and fourth centuries had names indicating their close relation to the autocrat, comitatenses, soldiers of the retinue; palatines, soldiers of the palace; domestics, soldiers of the household.

The army of this age had a large admixture of men of foreign birth, and for the historian this perhaps is its most important feature. In the early Empire the foreigner was excluded from military service; the legions were composed of Roman citizens, the auxilia of Roman subjects. Every able-bodied citizen and subject was liable to serve. Under the autocracy both these principles were reversed. The auxilia were largely recruited from the barbarians outside the Roman borders; new troops were formed, designated by foreign names; and the less civilised these soldiers were the more they were prized.​45 Some customs and words​46 illustrate the influence which the Germans exercised in the military world. The old German battle-noise, the barritus, was adopted as the cry of the Imperial troops when they went into battle. The custom of elevating a newly-proclaimed Emperor on a shield was introduced by German troops in the fourth century. It would be interesting to know how many Germans there were in the army. The fact that most of the soldiers whom we know to have held the highest posts of command in the last quarter of the fourth century were of German origin speaks for itself.

 p39  The legions continued to be formed from Roman citizens; but the distinction between citizens and subjects had disappeared since the citizen­ship had been bestowed, early in the third century, upon all the provincials, and it was from the least civilised districts of the Empire, from the highlands of Illyricum, Thrace, and Isauria, from Galatia and Batavia, that the mass of the citizen soldiers were drawn. From a military point of view highly civilised provinces like Italy and Greece no longer counted. The legions and citizen cavalry ceased to have a privileged position. For instance, the auxilia on the Danube frontier, who were chiefly of barbarian race, were superior in rank to the legionary troops under the same command.

It was a natural consequence of this new policy, in which military considerations triumphed over the political principle of excluding foreigners, that the other political principle of universal liability to service should also be relinquished. It was allowed to drop. In the fifth century it had become a dead letter, and Valentinian III expressly enacted that "no Roman citizen should be compelled to serve," except for the defence of his town in case of danger.47

A third ancient principle of the Roman State, that only freemen could serve in the army, was theoretically maintained,​48 and though it was often practically evaded and occasionally in a crisis suspended,​49 it is probable that there were never many slaves enrolled.

If we examine the means by which the army was kept up, we find that the recruits may be divided into four classes. (1) There were the numerous poor adventurers, Roman or foreign, who voluntarily offered themselves to the recruiting officer and received from him the pulveraticum ("dust-money," or travelling expenses), the equivalent of the King's shilling. (2) There were the recruits supplied by landed proprietors from among their serf-tenants. This was a State burden, but it fell only on the estates in certain provinces.​50 (3) The son of a soldier was bound to follow his father's profession. But this hereditary military  p40  service fell into abeyance before the time of Justinian. (4) The settlements of foreign barbarians within the Empire were another source of supply. These foreigners (gentiles), incorporated in the Empire but not enjoying the personal rights of a Roman,​51 were chiefly Germans and Sarmatians, and they were organised in communities under the control of Roman officers. They are found in Gaul, where they had the special name of laeti,​52 and in the Alpine districts of Italy.

The Imperial army was democratic in the sense that the humblest soldier, whatever his birth might be, might attain to the highest commands by sheer talent and capacity. The first step was promotion to the posts of centenarius and ducenarius, who discharged the duties of the old centurions and our non-commissioned officers.​53 Having served in these ranks the soldier could look forward to becoming a tribune, with the command of a military unit,​54 and the efficient tribune would in due course receive the rank of comes.

In order to follow the history of the fifth century intelligently and understand the difficulties of the Imperial government in dealing with the barbarian invaders it would be of particular importance to know precisely the strength of the military forces at the death of Theodosius.

The strength of the Roman military establishment at the beginning of the third century seems to have been about 300,000. It was greatly increased under Diocletian; and considerable additions were made in the course of the fourth century. The data of the Notitia dignitatum would lead to the conclusion that about A.D. 428 the total strength considerably exceeded 600,000.55  p41  We have, however, to reckon with the probability that the legions and other military units enumerated in the Notitia were not maintained at their normal strength and in some cases may have merely existed on paper. We may conjecture that if the army once actually reached the number of 650,000 it was not after the death of Theodosius, but before the rebellions of Maximus and Eugenius, in which the losses on both sides must have considerably reduced the strength of the legions. But if we confine ourselves to the consideration of the field army, there seems no reason to doubt that in A.D. 428 it was nearly 200,000 strong. It was unequally divided between east and west, the troops assigned to the west being more numerous. In Italy there were about 24,500 infantry and 3500 cavalry.56

The military organisation of Rome, as it existed at the end of the fourth century, was to be completely changed throughout the following hundred years. We have no material for tra­cing the steps in the transformation; of the battles which were fought in this period not a single description has come down to us. But we shall see, when we come to the sixth century, for which we have very full information, that the military forces of the Empire were then of a different character and organised on a different system from those which were led to victory by Theodosius the Great. These changes partly depended on a change in military theory. The conquests of Rome had always been due to her infantry, the cavalry had always been subsidiary, and, down to the second half of the fourth century and the success­ful campaigns of Julian on the Rhine, experience had consistently confirmed the theory that battles were won by infantry and that squadrons of horse were only a useful accessory arm. The battle of Hadrianople, in which the East German horsemen rode down the legions, shook this view, and the same horsemen who had defeated Valens showed afterwards in the battles which they helped Theodosius to win, how effective might be large bodies of heavy cavalry, armed with lance and  p42  sword. The lesson was not lost on the Romans, who during the following generations had to defend their provinces against the inroads of East German horsemen, and the leading feature of the transformation of the Imperial army was the gradual degradation of the infantry until it became more or less subsidiary to the cavalry on which the generals depended more and more to win their victories. In the sixth century we shall see that the battles are often fought and won by cavalry only. It is obvious that this revolution in tactic must have reacted on the organisation and carried with it a gradual modification of the legionary system. Another tactical change was the increased importance of archery, brought about by the warfare on the eastern frontier.

Rome did not depend only on her own regular armies to protect her frontiers. She relied also on the aid of the small Federate States which lay beyond her provincial boundaries but within her sphere of influence and under her control. The system of client states goes back to the time of the Republic. The princes of these peoples were bound by a definite treaty of alliance — foedus, whence they were called foederati — to defend themselves and thereby the Empire against an external foe, and in return they received protection and were dispensed from paying tribute. In the later period with which we are concerned the treaty generally took a new form. The client prince received from the Emperor a fixed yearly sum,​57 supposed to be the pay of the soldiers whom he was prepared to bring into the field. We shall meet many of these federates, such as the Abasgians and Lazi of the Caucasus, the Saracens on the Euphrates, the Ethiopians on the frontier of Egypt. It was on the basis of a contract of this kind that the Visigoths were settled south of the Danube by Theodosius the Great, and it was by similar contracts that most of the German peoples who were to dismember the western provinces would establish, in the guise of Federates, a footing on Imperial soil.

It may be added that "federation" was extended so as to facilitate and regulate the practice of purchasing immunity  p43  from foreign foes, such as the Huns and Persians, a device to which the rulers of the Empire as its strength declined were often obliged to resort. The tribute which was paid for this purpose was designated by the same name (annonae) as the subsidies which were allowed to the client princes.

While the Federate system was continued and developed, a new class of troops began to be formed in the fifth century to whom the name Federates was also applied, and who must be carefully distinguished. These troops were drawn indifferently from foreign peoples; they were paid by the government, were commanded by Roman officers, and formed a distinct section of the military establishment. We shall see that, in the course of the sixth century, these mixed Federate troops had come to be the most important and probably the most efficient soldiers in the Imperial army.

The origin of another class of fighting men who were to play a considerable part in the wars of the sixth century goes back to much the same time as that of the Federates. These were the Bucellarians, or private retainers.​58 It became the practice of power­ful generals, and sometimes even civilians, to form an armed retinue or private bodyguard.​59 These soldiers were called bucellarii, from bucella, the military biscuit. Such private armed forces were strictly illegal, but notwithstanding Imperial prohibitions​60 the practice increased, the number of retainers was limited only by the wealth of their master, and officers of subordinate rank had their private armed followers. In the sixth century Belisarius had a retinue of 7000 horse, and these private troops formed a substantial fraction of the fighting strength of the Empire. When they entered the service of their master they took an oath of loyalty to the Emperor.

If the expense of maintaining the army formed a large item  p44  in the annual budget the navy cost little. It would be almost true to say that the Empire at the period had no naval armaments. There were indeed fleets at the old naval stations which Augustus had established at Misenum and Ravenna, and another squadron (classis Venetum) was maintained at Aquileia. But it is significant that the prefects of these fleets, which were probably very small, were under the control of the Master of Soldiers in Italy.​61 There was no independent naval command. In the east we find no mention of fleets or naval stations​62 with the exception of the small flotillas which patrolled the Lower Danube under the direction of military commanders on that frontier. For centuries the Mediterranean had been a Roman lake, and it was natural that the navy should come to be held as an almost negligible instrument of war. In the third century it had been neglected so far as even to be inadequate to the duty of poli­cing the waters and protecting the coasts against piracy. An amazing episode in the reign of Probus illustrates its inefficiency.​63 A party of Franks, settled on the shores of the Black Sea, seized some vessels, sailed through the Propontis, plundered Carthage, Syracuse, and other cities, and then passing into the Atlantic safely reached the mouths of the Rhine. Yet in the contest between Constantine and Licinius navies played a decisive part, and the two adversaries seemed to have found many useful vessels in the ports of Greece, Syria, Egypt, and Asia Minor. The fleet of Licinius numbered 350 ships and that of Constantine 200, some of which he built for the occasion. It is not clear what the status of these ships was. In the fifth century the Empire was to feel the want of an efficient navy, when the Mediterranean ceased to be an entirely Roman sea and a new German power in Africa contested the  p45  supremacy of its waters. But the failures and defeats which marked the struggle with the vandals did not impress the government of Constantinople with the need of building up a strong navy. The sea forces continued to be regarded as subsidiary, and in overseas expeditions the fleets which convoyed the transports were never placed under an independent naval command. Not until the seventh century, when the Empire had to fight for its very existence with an enemy more formidable than the Vandals, was a naval establishment effectively organised and an independent Ministry of Marine created.

§ 3. The Financial System

There are three things which it is important to know about the finances of the Empire. The first is, the sources of revenue, and how they were collected; the second is the total amount of the revenue; the third is the total amount of the normal expenditure. As to the first we are fairly well informed; we know a good deal, from first-hand sources, about the system of taxation and the financial machinery. As to the second and third we are in the dark. No official figures as to the annual budget at any period of the later Roman Empire have been preserved, and all attempts to calculate the total of either income or outgoings are guess work, and are based on assumptions which may or may not be true. The utmost that can be done is to fix a minimum.

The financial, like every other department of administration under the autocracy, differed in its leading features from that of the Principate. In raising the revenue the ideal aimed at was equalisation and uniformity; to treat the whole Empire alike, to abolish privileges and immunities. Italy, which had always been free from the burdens borne by the provinces, was largely deprived of this favoured position by the policy of Diocletian.​64 The ideal was not entirely attained; some anomalies and differences survived; but on the whole, uniformity in taxation is the striking characteristic of the new system in contrast with the old. Another capital difference had been gradually brought about. The device of committing the collection of the revenue to middlemen, the publicans, who  p46  realised profits altogether disproportionate to their services, was superseded partly by the direct collection of the taxes by Imperial officials, partly through the agency of the local magistracies of the towns. Moreover, when we survey the sources of revenue at the end of the fourth century, we find that many of the old imposts of the Principate have disappeared, that new taxes have taken their place, and that the modes of assessment have been changed.

The most important and productive source of revenue was the tax on land and agricultural labour. This tax consisted of two distinct parts, the ground tax proper, which represented the old tributum imposed on conquered territories, and the annona. The tribute was paid only by those communities and in those districts which had always been liable; it was not extended to those which had been exempted under the Principate. It was paid in coin. The annona which was paid in kind was universal, and was a much heavier burden; no land was exempt; the Imperial estates and the domains of ecclesiastical communities had to pay it as well as the lands of private persons.

Originally the annona​65 was an exceptional tax imposed on certain provinces in emergencies, especially to supply Rome with corn in case of a famine, or to feed the army in case of a war. The amount of this extraordinary burden, and its distribution among the communities which were affected by it, were fixed by a special order of the Emperor, known as an indiction. During the civil wars of the third century indictions became frequent. The scarcity of the precious metals and the depreciation of the coinage led to a change in the method of paying the soldiers. They no longer received their wages in coin. Money donations were bestowed on them from time to time, but their regular salary consisted in allowances of food. This practice was systematically organised by Diocletian. The supply of provisions, — consisting of corn, oil, wine, salt, pork, mutton — necessary to feed a soldier for a year, was calculated, and was called an annona.​66 In the course of the fourth century  p47  the principle was extended and civil officials received salaries in kind.

This new method of paying the army was the chief consideration which determined the special character of Diocletian's reform in taxation. He made the annona a regular instead of an extraordinary tax, and he imposed, as was perfectly fair, on all parts of the Empire. But he did not fix it at a permanent amount. It was still imposed by an indiction; only an indiction was declared every year. Thus it could be constantly modified and varied, according to the needs of the government or the circumstances of the provinces; and it was intended that it should be revised from time to time by a new land survey.67

The valuation of the land was the basis of the new system. All the territory of the Empire was surveyed, and landed property was taxed not according to its mere acreage but with reference to its value in produ­cing corn or wine or oil. Thus there was a unit (iugum) of arable land, and the number of acres in the unit might vary in different places according to the fertility of the soil; there were units for vineyards and for olives; and the tax was calculated on these units.​68 The unit was supposed to represent the portion of land which one able-bodied peasant (caput) could cultivate and live on. Thus a property of a hundred iuga meant a property of a hundred labourers or capita, human heads.69

Apart from Imperial estates, the greater part of the soil of the Empire belonged to large proprietors (possessores). In country  p48  districts they were generally of the senatorial class; in the neighbourhood of the towns they were probably more often simple curials, members of the local municipal senate. Their lands were parcelled out among tenants who paid a rent to the proprietor and defrayed the land tax. The tenants were known as coloni and, as we shall see later, were practically serfs. Their names and descriptions were entered in the public registers of the land tax, and hence they were called adscriptitii.​70 As a rule, the proprietor would reserve some part of his estate as a domain for himself, to be cultivated by slaves, and for the tax on the iuga of this domain he would, of course, be directly liable.

Besides the large proprietors there were also small peasants who owned and cultivated their own land, and were distinguished from the serfs on the great estates by the name of plebeians. The tax which they paid was known as the capitatio plebeia. The meaning of this term has been much debated, but there seems little doubt that it is simply the land tax, assessed on the free peasant proprietors on the same principles as it was assessed on large estates.71

The Imperial domains and the private estates of the Emperors, let on leases whether perpetual or temporary, and their cultivators, were liable to the universal annona or capitation, and it was the same with lands held by monastic communities. As to the amount of the land taxes we have hardly any information.72

The ground-tax proper, or tribute, which was a trifle compared with the annona, seems to have been always paid in money,  p49  except in Africa and Egypt, which were the granaries of Rome and Constantinople. It was fixed on the basis of the same survey and was entered in the same book as the annona, but, as we have seen, it was not paid in the privileged territories which had always been exempt. As the currency gradually became established, after Constantine's reforms, the annona too was under certain conditions commuted into a money-payment, and this practice gradually became more frequent.73

In the town territories the body of the decurions or magistrates of the town were responsible for the total sum of the taxes to which the estates and farms of the district were liable. The general control of the taxation in each province was entirely in the hands of the provincial governor, but the collection was carried out by officials appointed by the decurions of each town.​74 These collectors handed over their receipts to the compulsor, who represented the provincial governor, and he brought pressure to bear upon those who had not paid.75

Heavy taxes fell upon all classes of the population when a new Emperor came to the throne and on each fifth anniversary of his accession. On these occasions it was the custom to distribute a donation to the army, and a large sum of gold and silver was required.​76 The senators contributed an offertory (aurum oblaticium).​77 The decurions of every town had to scrape together gold which was presented originally in the form of crowns (aurum coronarium). Finally a tax was imposed on all profits arising from trade, whether on a large or a petty scale. This burden, which was known as Five-yearly Contribution (lustralis collatio) or Chrysargyron ("Gold and Silver") fell upon prostitutes as well as upon merchants and shopkeepers, and was  p50  felt as particularly oppressive. It is said that parents sometimes sold their children into slavery or devoted their daughters to infamy to enable them to pay it.78

The chief immunity which senators enjoyed was exemption from the urban rates. Besides the aurum oblaticium, and the obligation of the wealthier of their class to fill the office of consul or of praetor, they were liable to a special property tax paid in specie. It was commonly known as the follis79 and was scaled in three grades (1 lb., ½ lb., and ¼ lb. of gold according to the size of the property. Very poor senators paid seven solidi​80 (£4, 8s. 6d.).

The senators, however, were far from being overtaxed. Most of them were affluent, some of them were very rich, and proportionally to their means they paid far less than any other class. In Italy the income of the richest was sometimes as high as £180,000, in addition to the natural products of their estates which would fetch in the market £60,000. Such revenues were exceptional, but as a rule the senatorial landed proprietors, who had often estates in Africa and Spain as well as in Italy, varied from £60,000 to £40,000.81

 p51  Besides the yield of all these taxes, which ultimately fell on agricultural labour, the Emperor derived a large revenue from custom duties,​82 mines, state factories, and extensive Imperial estates. We have no figures for conjecturing the amount of their yield.

The central treasury, which represented the fisc of the early Empire, was presided over by the Count of the Sacred Largess.​83 All the senatorial taxes, the aurum oblaticium, the collatio lustralis, the custom duties, the yield of the mines and of the public factories, that portion of the land-tax which represented the old tributum, the land-tax which was paid by the colons on the Imperial domains,​84 all flowed into this treasury. The Count of the Largess administered the mint, the customs, and the mines.

Besides the central treasury, at the Imperial residence in each half of the Empire, there were the chests (arcae) of the Praetorian Prefects. These ministers, though they had lost their old military functions, were paymasters of the forces. They were responsible not only for regulating the amount but also for the distribution of the annona. As much of the annona collected in each province as was required for the soldiers stationed there was handed over immediately to the military authorities; the residue was sent to the chest of the Praetorian Prefect.​85 These chests seem also to have paid the salaries of the provincial governors and their staffs.

The administration of the Imperial domains, which were extensive and were increased from time to time by the confiscation of the property of persons convicted of treason, demanded a separate department and a whole army of officials. At the head of this department was the Count of the Private Estates.86  p52  The Private Estate (res privata) had originally been organised by Septimius Severus, who determined not to incorporate the large confiscated estates of his defeated rivals in the Patrimony but to have them separately administered.​87 In the fourth century the Patrimony and the Private Estate were combined and placed under a minister of illustrious rank. His officials administered the domains and collected the rent from the colons. The greater part of the Imperial lands were treated as State property of which the income was used for public purposes. But certain domains were set aside to furnish the Emperor's privy purse. Thus the domains in Cappadocia were withdrawn from the control of the Count of Private Estates and placed under the control of the Grand Chamberlain.​88 And in the same way, in the west, certain estates in Africa (fundi domus divinae per Africam) were appropriated to the personal disposition of the Emperor, although they remained under the control of the Count.

What were the relations between the fisc or treasury of the Count of the Sacred Largess on one hand, and the chests of the Praetorian Prefects and the treasury of the Count of the Private Estates on the other? We may conjecture that the Prefects paid out of the treasuries directly the salaries of all the officials, both central and provincial, who were under their control; that in the same way the Count of the Private Estates paid out of the monies that came in from the domains all the officials who were employed in their administration; and that all that remained over, after the expenses of the departments had been defrayed, was handed over to the treasury of the Count of the Sacred Largess.​89 This was the public treasury which had to supply the money required for all purposes with the four exceptions of the Emperor's privy purse, the upkeep of the administration  p53  of the Imperial domains, the maintenance of the civil service under the Praetorian Prefects, and the payment of the army.

It has already been observed that no figures are recorded either for the annual revenue or for the annual expenditure. We have no data to enable us to conjecture, however roughly, the yield of the mines or of the rents of the Imperial domains. There is some material for forming a minimum estimate of the money value of the land-tax in Egypt, but even here there is much uncertainty.​90 Turning to expenditure, we find that the evidence points to 500,000 or thereabouts as the lowest figure we can assume for the strength of the army in the time of Theodosius the Great. The soldiers were paid from the annona. When this payment in kind was commuted into coin, it was valued at 25 or 30 solidi a year for each soldier.​91 The annual value of the annona must then have exceeded 12½ million solidi or nearly 8 million sterling. Of the salaries paid to the civil and military officials and their staffs we can only say that the total must have exceeded, and may have far exceeded, £400,000.92

From the general consideration that the population of the Empire at the lowest estimate must have been 50 millions, we might assume as the minimum figure for the revenue 50 million solidi, on the ground that in a state which was severely taxed the taxation could not have been less than 1 solidus per head.93  p54  That would be about £31,250,000. It is probably much under the mark.

Of the financial problems with which Diocletian and Constantine had to deal, one of the most difficult was the medium of exchange. In the third century the Empire suffered from scarcity of gold. The yield of the mines had decreased; and a considerable quantity of the precious metals was withdrawn from circulation by private people, who during that troubled period buried their treasures. But the chief cause of the scarcity was the drain of gold to the east in exchange for the Oriental wares which the Romans required. In the first century A.D. the annual export of gold to the east is said to have amounted (at the least) to a million pounds sterling.​94 The Emperors resorted to a depreciation of the coinage, and up to a certain point this perhaps was not particularly disadvantageous so far as internal trade was concerned, since the value of the metals had risen in consequence of the scarcity. When Diocletian came to the throne there was practically nothing in circulation but the double denarius, which ought to have been a silver coin equivalent to about 1s. 9d.), but was now made of copper, with only enough silver in it to give it a whitish appearance, and worth about a halfpenny. Both Aurelian and Diocletian made attempts to establish a stable monetary system, but the solution of the problem was reserved for Constantine. The Constantinian gold solidus or nomisma remained the standard gold coin and maintained its proper weight, with little variation, till the eleventh century. Seventy-two solidi went to the pound of gold, so that its value was about twelve shillings and sixpence.​95 But the solidus was not treated as a coin in the proper sense; and it was not received as interchangeable into so many silver or copper pieces. The pound of gold was really the standard, and, when solidi were used in ordinary transactions, they were weighed. In the payment of taxes they were accepted at their nominal value, but for other  p55  purposes they were pieces of metal, of which the purity, not the weight, was guaranteed by the mint.96

§ 4. Compulsory Social Organisation

Diocletian and Constantine had to seek solutions not only of political but also of more difficult economic problems. The troubles of the third century, the wars both domestic and foreign, the general disorder of the State, had destroyed the prosperity of the Empire and had rapidly developed sinister tendencies, which were inherent in ancient civilisation, and legislators whose chief preoccupation was the needs of the public treasury applied methods which in some ways did more to aggravate than to mitigate the evils. We find the State threatened with the danger that many laborious but necessary occupations would be entirely abandoned, and the fields left untilled for lack of labourers. The only means which the Emperors discovered for averting such consequences was compulsion. They applied compulsion to the tillers of the soil, they applied compulsion to certain trades and professions, and they applied it to municipal service. The results were serfdom and hereditary status. The local autonomy of the municipal communities,​97 the cities and towns  p56  which were the true units in the structure of the Empire, had been undermined in some ways under the Principate, but before Diocletian no attempt had been made to impose uniformity, and each community lived according to its own rules and traditions. The policy of uniform taxation, which Diocletian introduced, led to the strict control of the local bodies by the Imperial Government. The senates and the magistrates became the agents of the fisc; the municipalities lost their liberties and gradually decayed.

(1) For some centuries there had been a general tendency to substitute free for servile labour on large estates. The estate was divided into farms which were leased to free tenants, coloni, on various conditions, and this system of cultivation was found more remunerative.​98 But towards the end of the third century the general conditions of the Empire seem to have brought about an agrarian crisis. Many colons found themselves insolvent. They could not pay the rent and defray the heavy taxes. They gave up their farms and sought other means of livelihood. Proprietors themselves some sold their lands, and the tenants declined to hold their farms under the new owners. Thus land fell out of cultivation and the fiscal revenue suffered. Constantine's legislation, to solve this agrarian problem, created a new caste. He made the colons compulsory tenants. They were attached to the soil, and their children after them. They continued to belong legally to the free, not to the servile, class; they had many of the rights of freemen, such as that of acquiring property. But virtually they were unfree and were regarded as chattels. Severe laws prevented them from leaving their farms, and treated those who ran away as fugitive slaves. The conception of a colon as the chattel of his lord comes out clearly in a law which describes his flight as an act of theft; "he steals his own person."​99 But the Emperors, whose principal aim in their agrarian legislation was to guard the interests of the revenue, protected the colons against exorbitant demands of rent on the part of the proprietors. And if a proprietor sold any part of his estate, he was not allowed to retain the tenants.100  p57  At the same time the condition of rustic slaves was improved. The government interfered here too, for the same reason, and forbade masters to sell slaves employed on the land except along with the land on which they worked.​101 This limitation of the masters' rights tended to raise the condition of the slave to that of the colon.

The proprietor's power over his tenants was augmented by the fact that the State entrusted him with the duties of collecting the taxes for which each farm was liable,​102 and of carrying out the conscription of the soldiers whom his estate was called upon to furnish. He also administered justice in petty matters and policed his domains. Thus the large proprietors formed an influential landed aristocracy, with some of the powers which the feudal lords of western Europe exercised in later times. They were a convenient auxiliary to the Government, but they were also a danger. The custom grew up for poor freemen to place themselves under the protection of wealthy landowners, who did not scruple to use their influence to divert the course of justice in favour of these clients, and were able by threats or bribery to corrupt the Government officials. Such patronage was forbidden by Imperial laws, but it was difficult to abolish it.103

It had long been the custom for public bodies to grant the land which they owned on a perpetual lease, subject to the payment of a ground-rent (vectigal). It was on this principle that Rome had dealt with conquered territory. The former proprietors continued to possess their land, but subject to the owner­ship (dominium) of the Roman people and liable to a ground-rent. In the fifth century this form of land tenure coalesced with another form of perpetual lease, emphyteusis, which had its roots not in Roman but in Greek history. Emphyteusis meant the cultivation of waste land by planting it with olives or vines or palms.​104 To encourage such cultivation a special kind of tenure had come into use. The emphyteutes bound himself by contract to make certain improvements on the land; he paid a small fixed rent; his tenure was perpetual  p58  and passed to his heirs, lapsing only if he failed to fulfil his contract. In the course of time, all kinds of land, not only plantation land, might be held by emphyteutic tenure. Legally this agreement did not answer fully to the Roman conception either of a lease or of a sale, and lawyers differed as to its nature. It was finally ruled that it was neither a sale nor a lease, but a contract sui generis.105 This kind of tenancy was the rule on the Imperial domains. But it was also to be found on the estates of private persons.

(2) The trades to which the method of compulsion was first and most harshly applied were those on which the sustenance of the capital cities, Rome and Constantinople, depended: the skippers who conveyed the corn supplies from Africa and Egypt, and the bakers who made it into bread. These trades, like many others, had been organised in corporations or guilds (collegia), and as a general rule the son probably followed the father in his calling. It was the most profitable thing he could do, if his father's capital was invested in the ships or in the bakery.​106 But this changed when Diocletian required the skippers to transport the public food supplies, and made their property responsible for the safe arrival of the cargoes. They had to transport not only the supplies for the population of the capital, but the annonae for the soldiers. This was a burden which tempted the sons of a skipper to seek some other means of livelihood. Compulsion was therefore introduced, and the sons were bound to their father's calling.​107 The same principle was applied to the bakers, and other purveyors of food, on whom the State laid public burdens. In the course of the fourth century the members of all the trade guilds were bound to their occupations. It may be noticed that the workmen in the public factories (fabricae) were branded, so that if they fled from their labours they could be recognised and arrested.

(3) The decline of municipal life, and the decay of the well-to‑do provincial citizen of the middle class, is one of the important social facts of the fourth and fifth centuries. The  p59  beginnings of this process were due to general economic conditions, but it was aggravated and hastened by Imperial legislation, and but for the policy of the Government might perhaps have been arrested.

The well-to‑do members of a town community, whose means made them eligible for member­ship of the curia or local senate and for magistracy, formed the class of curiales.​108 The members of the senate were called decuriones. But in the period of decline these terms were almost synonymous. As the numbers of the curials declined, there was not one of them who was not obliged at some time or other to discharge the unwelcome functions of a decurion. In former times it had been a coveted honour to fulfil the unpaid duties of local administration, but the legislation of the Emperors, from the end of the third century onward, rendered these duties an almost intolerable burden. The curials had now not only to perform their proper work of local government, the collection of the rates, and all the ordinary services which urban councils everywhere discharge. They had also to do the work of Imperial officials. They had to collect the land-taxes of the urban district. And they were made responsible for the full amount of taxation, so that if there were defaulters, they were collectively liable for the deficiency.​109 They had also to arrange for the supply of horses and mules for the Imperial post, the upkeep of which, though its use was exclusively confined to Government officials, was laid upon the provincials and was a most burdensome corvée.

The burdens laid upon the curials became heavier as their numbers diminished. Diocletian's reorganisation of the State  p60  service, with innumerable officials, invited the sons of well-to‑do provincial families, who in old times would have been content with the prospect of local honours, to embrace an official career by which they might attain senatorial rank; and senatorial rank would deliver them from all curial obligations.

In course of time the plight of the middle-class provincials, who were generally owners of small farms in the neighbourhood of their town and suffered under the heavy taxation, became so undesirable that many of them left their homes, enlisted in the army, took orders in the Church, or even placed themselves under the patronage of rich proprietors in the country. The danger was imminent that the municipal organisation would entirely dissolve. Here again the Emperors resorted to compulsion. The condition of the curial was made a hereditary servitude.​110 He was forbidden to leave his birthplace; if he wanted to travel, he had to obtain leave from the provincial governor. His sons were bound to be curials like himself; from their birth they were, in the expressive words of an Imperial law, like victims bound with fillets.​111 He could only escape from his lot by forfeiting the whole or a part of his property. Restrictions were placed on his ordinary rights, as a Roman citizen, of selling his land or leaving it by will at his own discretion. Nothing shows the unenviable condition of the curial class more vividly than the practice of pressing a man into the curia as a punishment for misdemeanours.112

The power of the local magistrates had been diminished in the second century by Trajan's institution of the curator civitatis, whose business was to superintend the finances of the municipality. The curator was indeed a townsman, but as a State servant he had ceased to belong to the curial order and he was appointed by the provincial governor. By the middle of the fourth century his prestige had declined because the right of appointing him had been transferred to the curia itself. He was overshadowed by the new office of defensor instituted by Valentinian I to protect the interests of the poorer classes against  p61  the oppression of the power­ful.​113 The defensor was to be appointed by the Praetorian Prefect, and he was to be a man who filled some not unimportant post in the State service. But the institution did not prove a success. It was difficult to get the right sort of people to undertake the office, and it was soon bestowed for corrupt reasons on unsuitable persons. Theodosius the Great sought to remedy this by transferring the appointment of the defensor to the curials.​114 The prestige of the office at once declined, and the defensor­ship like the curator­ship became one more burden imposed upon the sorely afflicted curial class, without any real power to compensate for the duties which it involved. The influence of all the urban magistracies, which had become anything rather than an honour, was soon to be overshadowed by that of the bishop. And this reminds us of another feature in the decline of municipal life which deserves to be noticed.

That much-abused expression "age of transition" has a real meaning when some fundamental change forces a society to adapt itself slowly and painfully to new conditions. The period of the industrial transformation, brought about by the invention of machinery, in modern states is an example of a true age of transition. The expansion and triumph of Christianity in the third and fourth centuries rendered that period a genuine age of transition in the same sense, and the transition was marked by distress and destruction. Roman and Greek municipal life was inextricably bound up with pagan institutions — temples, cults, games. The interests and habits of the town communities were associated with these institutions, and when Christianity suppressed them, municipal life was deprived of a vital element. For the Church did not succeed in bringing her own institutions and practices into the same intimate connexion with municipal organisation.​115 With the passing of paganism something went out of the vitality of ancient town life which could never be restored.

(4) The principle of compulsion was extended to military service. The sons of veterans were obliged to follow the  p62  profession of their fathers, with the uninviting alternative of being enrolled in the class of decurions. They were definitely debarred from a career in the civil service. The sons of civil servants too were expected to follow the career of their fathers.116

We might better understand the economic conditions which the Emperors sought to regulate by tyrannical legislation if we possessed some trustworthy statistics of the population of the Empire and its various provinces. In the eighteenth century, even after Hume had exploded the old delusion that the ancient states in Europe were far more populous than the modern, Gibbon estimated the population of the Empire in the time of Claudius as 120,000,000. It is now generally agreed that this figure is far too high. Any estimate rests on a series of conjectures, but perhaps half this figure would be nearer the truth. According to a recent calculation, which is probably below rather than over the mark, the population at the death of Augustus amounted to 54,000,000, of which 26,000,000 are assigned to the western provinces including the Danubian lands, and 28,000,000 to the Greek and Oriental provinces.​117 By the beginning of the fourth century there seems some reason to suppose that the population had increased. This would be the natural result of the development of city life in Spain and Gaul, and the gradual civilisation of the Illyrian and Danubian provinces. On this basis of calculation, which, it must be repeated, involves many possibilities of error, we might conclude that in the time of Constantine the population of the Empire may have approached 70,000,000.

We have indeed some definite evidence that in the fourth century the government was not alarmed by the symptoms of a decline in numbers which had confronted the Emperor Augustus. It may be remembered that among the measures which Augustus adopted to arrest the fall in the birth-rate of Roman citizens he penalised bachelors by rendering them incapable of inheriting, and married people who were childless by allowing them to take only half of an inheritance which if they had children would  p63  fall to them entirely. It is significant that Constantine removed this disability from bachelors,​118 while Theodosius II abrogated the law of Augustus with regard to the childless. This repeal of a law which had been so long in force may fairly be taken as an indication that in the fourth century no fears of a decline in population troubled the Imperial Government.

§ 5. Ecclesiastical Organisation

While in all ancient monarchies religion and sacerdotalism were a political as well as a social power, the position of the Christian Church in the Roman Empire was a new thing in the world, presenting problems of a kind with which no ruler had hitherto been confronted and to which no past experience offered a key. The history of the Empire would have been profoundly different if the Church had remained as independent of the State as it had been before Constantine, and if that Emperor and his successors had been content to throw the moral weight of their own example into the scale of Christianity and to grant the Church the same freedom and privileges which were enjoyed by pagan cults and priesthoods. But heresies and schisms and religious intolerance on one side, and the despotic instinct to control all social forces on the other, brought about a close union between State and Church which altered the character and spirit of the State and constituted perhaps the most striking difference between the early and the later Empire. The disorders caused by violent divisions in the Church on questions of doctrine called for the intervention of the public authorities, and rival sects were only too eager to secure the aid of the government to suppress their opponents. Hence at the very beginning Constantine was able to establish the principle that it devolved upon the Emperor not indeed to settle questions of doctrine at his own discretion, but to summon general ecclesiastical Councils for that purpose and to preside at them. The Council of Arles (A.D. 314) was convoked by Constantine, and the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea exhibited the full claim of the Emperor to be head of the Church. But in this capacity he stood outside the ecclesiastical hierarchy; he  p64  assumed no title or office corresponding to that of Pontifex Maximus. Historical circumstances decided that this league of Church and State should develop on very different lines in the east and in the west. In the west it was to result in the independence and ultimately in the supremacy of the Church; in the east the Church was kept in subordination to the head of the State, and finally ecclesiastical affairs seem little more than a department of the Imperial Government. Even in the fourth century the bishop of Rome has a more independent position than the bishop of Constantinople.

At the beginning of our period the general lines of ecclesiastical organisation had been completed. The clergy were graded in a hierarchical scale of seven orders — bishops, priests, deacons, subdeacons, acolytes, exorcists, and readers. In general, the ecclesiastical divisions closely correspond to the civil.​119 Every city has its bishop. Every province has its metropolitan, who is the bishop of the metropolis of the province. And above the provincial metropolitans is the exarch, whose jurisdiction corresponds to the civil diocese. A synod of bishops is held annually in each province.

But among the more important sees, four stood out pre-eminent — Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch. Of these Rome was acknowledged to be the first, but there was rivalry for the second place. Besides these the See of Jerusalem had, by virtue of its association with the birth of Christianity, a claim to special recognition. By the middle of the fifth century the positions of these great sees were defined, and their jurisdiction fixed. Their bishops were distinguished as Patriarchs,​120 though the bishop of Rome did not assume this title. The ecclesiastical map shows five great jurisdictions or Patriarchates. The authority of Rome extended over the whole western or Latin half of the Empire, and included the Praetorian Prefecture of Illyricum.​121 The Patriarchate of Constantinople ultimately  p65  embraced the civil dioceses of Thrace, Pontus, and Asia.​122 The Patriarchate of Alexandria, third in precedence, corresponded to the Diocese of Egypt. The Patriarchate of Antioch comprised the greater part of the Diocese of the East; the small Patriarchate of Jerusalem the three Palestinian provinces. The autocephalous Church of Cyprus stood apart and independent.123

The development of a graded hierarchy among the bishops revolutionised the character of the Church. For three centuries the Christian organisation had been democratic. Its union with the monarchical state changed that. The centralised hierarchical system enabled the Emperors to control it in a way which would have been impossible if the old democratic forms had continued.

Constantine and his successors knew how to attach to themselves the power­ful organisation of which they had undertaken the direction. Valuable privileges were conceded to the clergy and the churches. Above all, the clergy, like the pagan priests, were exempted from taxation,​124 a privilege which attracted many to their ranks. The churches had an unrestricted right of receiving bequests, and they inherited from the pagan temples the privilege of affording asylum.​125 The bishops received the right of acting as judges in civil cases which the parties concerned agreed to bring before them, and their decisions were without appeal.​126 It was the Imperial policy to make use of the ecclesiastical authorities in local administration, and as the old life of the urban communities declined the influence of the bishops increased. The bishop shared with the defensor civitatis the duty of protecting the poor against the oppression of the power­ful and the exactions of government officials, and he could bring cases of wrongdoing to the ears of the Emperor himself. Ultimately he was to become the most influential person in urban administration.

The first century of Christianity in its new rôle as a state religion was marked by the development of ecclesiastical law. The canons of the Council of Nicaea formed a nucleus which was enlarged at subsequent councils. The first attempt to codify canon law was made at the beginning of the fifth century.  p66  The legislation of councils was of course only binding on the Church as such, but as time went on it became more and more the habit of the Emperors to embody ecclesiastical canons in Imperial constitutions and thus make them part of the law of the state. It is, however, to be noticed that canon law exerted little or no effect upon the Roman civil law before the seventh century.

The Author's Notes:

1 During the fourth century, the number of Prefectures was sometimes four, sometimes three; for at times, Italy and Illyricum were under one Prefect. The division of the Empire in 395 stereotyped the quadruple division. Cp. Mommsen, Hist. Schr. III.284 sqq. — For the administrative fabric of the fourth and fifth centuries a main source is the Notitia dignitatum, which consists of two distinct documents, the Not. in partibus Orientis, and the Not. in partibus Occidentis. It was the function of a high official, the primicerius notariorum, to prepare and issue the codicilli or diplomas of their appointments to all the higher officials of the Empire from Praetorian Prefects to provincial governors. The insignia of the office were represented on the codicil, for instance in the case of a Master of Soldiers the shields of the regiments which were under his command. For this purpose the primicerius of the West, and the primicerius of the East, had each a list (laterculum maius) of all the officials in order of precedence, with information as to their staffs and subordinates. The text which we by a lucky chance possess is derived from the lists which were probably in the hands of the primicerius of the West in A.D. 427 or not much later. The Not. Or. did not strictly concern him, but it was useful for reference, and a copy brought up to date had been sent to him from Constantinople. Compare Bury, The Notitia dignitatum, in J. R. S. X.

2 The Italies were divided into two districts, under two Vicarii: the V. urbis Romae, whose district comprised all Italy south of Tuscany and Umbria (inclusive) with Sardinia, Corsica, and Sicily; the V. Italiae, who was over the rest of Italy and Raetia.

3 There was no Vicarius of Dacia; it was directly subject to the Prefect.

4 Egypt had been part of the Diocese of the East till about A.D. 380‑382, when it was made a distinct Diocese, and the praefectus Aegypti received the title of Augustalis. Cp. M. Gelzer, Studien zur byz. Verw. Ägyptens, 7. The Augustalis seems to have acted at the same time as praeses of the province of Egypt.

5 Under the proconsul of Asia were two provinces, Hellespontus and Insulae (the islands along the coast of Asia Minor): Not. Or. XX.

6 The governor of one other province, Achaia, bore the old title of proconsul; the others were consulares or correctores or praesides. The governor had judicial as well as administrative powers. His court was the court of first instance in his province; but an appeal lay either to the court of the Vicarius or to that of the Prefect. He had also the duty of supervising the collection of taxes.

7 Ὁ ἔπαρχος τῆς πόλεως.

8 Ηυκτέπαρχος. The page of the Not. dig. appertaining to the Prefect of Constantinople is unfortunately lost.

9 In Rome there was a subordinate official, praefectus annonae, who presided over this department; and there was a praefectus annonae in Africa, who was under the Praetorian Prefect. At Constantinople there was no pr. ann., but the pr. ann. at Alexandria, where the corn was shipped, seems to have been under the Prefect of the City.

10 His functions in regard to petitions involved co-operation with the Magistri scriniorum, and the Scrinia supplied him with assistants; he had no special staff of his own.

11 In the Not. dig. he precedes in rank the Quaestor, but this was only a temporary arrangement. Μάγιστρος, when unqualified, in Greek writers always means the Mag. Off.

12 See Karlowa, op. cit. I.834 sqq.; Schiller, op. cit. II.102 sqq.; Bury, Magistri Scriniorum, etc.

13 The Greek title was ἀντιγραφῆς, Bury, ib. 24 sqq.

14 The Magister memoriae drafted brief Imperial decisions (adnotationes, on the margin of documents), answered petitions, and probably threw into their final form many of the documents emanating from the offices of the other magistri. The Magistri epistularum and epistularum Graecarum dealt with answers to communications from foreign powers and to deputations from the provinces; examined the questions addressed to the Emperor by officials; and also dealt with petitions. The duties of the Magister libellorum were concerned chiefly with appeal cases (cognitiones) and petitions which involved specifically legal questions. We have not sufficient information to draw a sharp line between the functions of these three ministers, which seem at many points to have overlapped and involved constant co-operation. They must also have been in constant touch both with the Master of Offices and with the Quaestor.

15 They are sometimes grouped together as sacra scrinia nostra.

16 Officium admissionum under a magister.

17 It had been under the control of the Praet. Prefect, who still retained the right of issuing passes or orders for its use. The change was made in A.D. 396; see below, p115.

18 They are often called magistriani (as under the authority of the Mag. Off.). In 430 there were more than 1174 (C. Th. VI.27.23); in the reign of Leo I the number was 1248 (C. J. XII.20.3).

19 See below, p37.

20 See C. J. XII.59.8; Nov. Theodosii 24. Perhaps he inherited this duty from the Praet. Pref. in A.D. 396.

21 A short survey of this complicated subject will be found in Karlowa, Röm. Recht, I.875 sqq.

22 In Greek, τάξις was used as well as ὀφφίκιον, and, for the members, ταξεῶται as well as ὀφφικιάλιοι. Apparitores (used in the early Empire for officials) is sometimes applied to members of the more important, cohortalini to those of the least important, offices. In the military officia the posts were confined to soldiers.

23 The princeps of the Prefect, the vicars, and the proconsuls was selected from the agentes in rebus. Strictly speaking he was outside the officium, though he is included in it in the Not. dig. The officium consisted of the cornicularius, who assisted the chief in administering justice; a criminal department under a commentariensis, who brought the accused to trial, drew up the acts of the process, executed judgment, superintended prisons; a section of accountants (numerarii), who dealt with fiscal business; the adiutor (βοηθός), and some others. Outside the officium there were attached a number of organised bodies (scholae) of clerks and assistants of various kinds, who were at the disposal of the officials, especially the school of exceptores or shorthand writers, the most expert of whom formed an inner college of augustales (cp. John Lydus, De mag. III.9). Other schools were the chartularii; the singulares (employed as messengers to the provinces); the scriniarii. From these the chief officials selected their clerks, who then became members of the officium.— The military staffs had a princeps and a commentariensis, but as they had no jurisdiction in civil cases they did not require a cornicularius or adiutor.

24 The offices of the provincial governors in Illyricum consisted of about 100 persons (C. J. XII.57.9); the maximum number in the vicariates was fixed at 300 (ib. I.15.5, cp. 12 A.D. 386), but that of the vicariate of Asia was 200, and that of the Count of the East 600 (ib. I.15.13; I.13.1). A calculation based on these figures for the dioceses and provinces of the Orient and Illyricum, as enumerated in Not. dig. would give about 8000, to which we must add probably more than 1000 for the offices of the Prefects. Justinian's ordinances (C. J. I.27.1), creating the Pr. Prefecture of Africa in the sixth century, gives the numbers and salaries of the officials both of the Prefect and of the provincial governors. There were 396 in the bureaux of the Prefect's office (including the scholiae), and each of the seven civil governors had a staff of 50. Including the salaries of the Prefect and the governors, the total cost amounted to nearly £11,000. The salary of the Prefect was 7200 solidi (£4500), that of a governor, 448 (£280). The staffs of the five military governors (dukes) were paid at a higher rate than those of the civil and the total cost of their establishments was £7050. The incomes of the subordinate officials, who handled legal matters, were considerably increased by fees; the salaries of all the subalterns were miserable.

25 The pages relating to the praepositus in the Not. dig. (both Or. and Occ.) are lost. The primicerius sacri cubiculi, chief of staff of the bedchamber, may have been nominally or partially independent of the praepositus; he was a spectabilis ranking immediately after the Counts of the Domestics. It is not clear what the relations of the praepositus were to the castrensis sacri palatii, who appears to have controlled many of the servants of the Great Palace at Byzantium, besides supervising stewards and caretakers in the various Imperial residences (curae palatiorum). Imperial rescripts were sometimes addressed to him. The Count of the Wardrobe (com. sacrae vestis) was probably under the praepositus, as were the decurions and the silentiarii, ushers who kept guard at the doors during meetings of the Imperial Council and Imperial audiences.— The Empress had a staff of cubicularii of her own; and there was a praepositus sacri cubiculi Augustae, at least in the reign of Anastasius I. (C. J. XII.5.3 and 5).

26 See below, p52.

27 See above, p19.

28 Ἰλλούστριοι, περίβλεπτοι, λαμπρότατοι were the official equivalents in Greek. Between A.D. 460 and 550 all illustres seem to have also a right to be addressed by the title of magnificus, μεγαλοπρεπής. See Koch, Die byzantinischen Beamtentitel, 51 (a book which must be used with caution).

29 Also the Comites domesticorum.

30 Also gloriosissimi. In Greek, ἐνδοξότατοι (also ἔνδοξοι). The gloriosissimi senatores are clearly marked off from the illustres in Justinian, Nov. 43.1 (A.D. 537).

31 Mommsen, Das röm. Militärwesen seit Diocletian (Hist. Schr. III.206 sqq.) is the principal work on the subject. A summary of the reorganisation by Reid will be found in C. Med. H. I.44 sqq. It is treated very fully in Grosse, Röm. Militargeschichte. — Recent investigation has shown that Gallienus initiated changes, especially in regard to the organisation of the cavalry, that prepared the way for the reforms of Diocletian. Cp. Homo, "L'Empereur Gallien," in Rev. Hist.sqq., 225 sqq., 1913; Ritterling, "Zum röm. Heerwesen," in Festschr. f. O. Hirschfeld, 1903.

32 There were cohorts as a rule among the frontier troops, but on the Danube, where there were auxilia, cohorts are exceptional. The cavalry squadron, ala, is generally 600 strong. Other classes of the cavalry of the limitanei were known as cunei equitum and equites.

33 Constantine, who formed the Palatini, increased the field army and withdrew many troops from the frontier provinces for the purpose. These new bodies were called pseudo-comitatenses (18 legions in the west, 20 in the east).

34 Of the 12 palatine legions in the west, 8 were in Italy, 3in Africa, 1 in Gaul. Of the 13 in the east, 12 were near Constantinople, 1 in Illyricum. Of the 65 auxilia in the west, 21 were in Italy; of 43 in the east, 35 were near the capital. So the Not. dig. See Mommsen, op. cit. 235.

35 Cp. Grosse, on tribune, praepositus praefectus, op. cit. pp143‑151.

36 The magistri in praes. had precedence over the others, and seem to have exercised some slight control (cp. C. J. XII.35.18), but not so as to violate the principle of co-ordination.

37 Comites rei militaris.— The comitatenses in Africa were under the immediate command of the duces of the limitanei. In regard to the titles comes and dux it is to be observed that every dux had the rank of comes, but usually of the second class. When he was a comes of the first class he was called comes et dux, and then simply comes.

38 E.g. the dux of Osroene to the mag. mil. per orientem. There were 12 dukes in the west; 13 in the east, where there were also two of superior rank, the count of the limes of Egypt and the count of Isauria. The province of Isauria was treated exceptionally like frontier provinces on account of the wild, insubordinate character of its uncivilised mountaineers. For the same reason the civil powers were invested in the military governor; the count was also the praeses. Other exceptions to the rule of separating civil from military functions were Arabia and Mauretania Caesariensis. The union of functions was sometimes temporarily introduced, e.g. in Sardinia (C. Th. IX.27.3, A.D. 382), Tripolitania (ib. XII.1.133, A.D. 393). Before A.D. 450 the duke of the Thebaid, which had been divided into two provinces, was praeses of the upper province (cp. Gelzer, Byz. Verw. Ägyptens,º p10); and on some occasions the Augustal Prefect of Egypt was invested with military powers.

39 Cp. Babut, La Garde impériale, § XI. p262, who thinks that they replaced the Equites singulares Augusti.

40 Procop. H.A. 14.

41 Not. dig. Or. 11. Five in the west (Occ. 9) and this was perhaps the original number.

42 C. Th. VI.13.1; Nov. Theod. 21. The title tribune was dropped in the course of the fifth century; and these officers were known till late times as Counts of the Schools (κόμητες σχολῶν).

43 C. Th. VI.24.3 where praesentales are distinguished from non in praes. The full title of the domestics was protectores et domestici.— The question of the protectores is difficult. We have to distinguish the Protectors who formed the Schola prima scutariorum in the Scholarian Guards from the Protectors who belonged to a sort of school for officers and were under the orders of the Masters of Soldiers. The discussion of Babut, op. cit., has not definitely cleared up the questions connected with the Protectors. See also Grosse, op. cit. 138 sqq.

44 In the Not. dig. we find two comites, a comes equitum and a comes peditum, in both east and west, but it seems probable that the command was not always thus divided. For the evidence see Seeck, sub "Comites" in P.‑W. col.548.

45 Mommsen, ib. 247.

46 Drungus (δροῦγγος), a body of infantry in close formation (cp. Vegetius, Ep. r. mil. III.16) is Germanic, and so is bandum (βάνδον), which the Greeks used as the regular term for military standard (σημεῖον). It may be noted here that in the fourth and fifth centuries the standard of the legion and the legionary detachment seems to have been the dragon. Though the eagle, the standard of the old legion, is sometimes mentioned, it probably went out of use gradually. See Grosse, op. cit. 230 sqq.

47 Nov. 5.

48 C. Th. VII.13.8; Digest, XLIX.16.11.

49 Mommsen, 250-251. In the danger of Italy, invaded by barbarians, in A.D. 406 slaves were invited to serve for the reward of liberty, C. Th. VII.13.16.

50 C. Th. VII.13.2 per eas provincias a quibus corpora flagitantur. In other provinces the proprietors could make a money payment instead of furnishing the men.

51 For instance, such a foreigner could not marry a Roman woman. See Mommsen, Hist. Sch. III.168.

52 C. Th. VII.20.12 laetus Alamannus Sarmata; in Not. Occ. we meet laeti Franci, l. gentiles Suebi, Sarmatae et Taifali gentiles.

53 Cp. Vegetius, op. cit. II.8.

54 Before becoming a tribune, it was usually necessary perhaps to serve in the school of protectors. The three ranks protector, tribunus, comes (et tribunus) appear e.g. in Ammian. XXX.7.3; Vegetius, III.10, and can be illustrated by inscriptions. But I do not think that Babut (op. cit.) is right in regarding the protectors as equivalent to the centurions under a new name and organisation.

55 Mommsen's estimate (op. cit. 263) based on the Notitia is: Limitanei (infantry 249,500, cavalry 110,500) 360,000; Comitatenses (infantry 148,000, cavalry 46,500) 194,500. Total, 554,500. But to this have to be added the limitanei of Italy, Africa, Gaul, and Britain, and they must have amounted to not much less than 100,000. If we estimate them at 90,000 we should get the figure 645,000, which according to Agathias (V.13) ought to represent the total force of the Empire. Agathias must have derived this figure from some document of the fourth century. John Lydus (De  (p41) mens. I.27) states that under Diocletian the strength of the army was 389,074, and that Constantine doubled it (the latter part of the statement is certainly an exaggeration). We are told that it was further increased by Valentinian I (Zosimus IV.12.1) but declined under Theodosius (μεμείωτο, ib. 29.1).

56 The distribution of the troops in the west c. 428 is given in Not. Occ. VII; there is no corresponding section in Or. In Africa there were 11,500 infantry, 9500 cavalry; in Spain 10,500 infantry; in western Illyricum 14,000 infantry; in Gaul 39,000 infantry, 5500 cavalry. Cp. Bury, Not. Dig.

57 Annonae foederaticae (σιτήσεις). Perhaps at first it was paid in kind. The subject of the frontier Federates has been clearly and briefly elucidated by Mommsen, Hist. Sch. III.225 sqq.

58 Olympiodorus fr. 7. (It was also used as an official term, for in the Not. dig., Or. 7, we find a second of comites catafractarii bucellarii iuniores.) The bucellarians were largely drawn from Goths, Isaurians, and Galatians. Cp. Mommsen, op. cit. 241 sqq.; Benjamin, De Iust. imp. aet. 18 sqq.

59 We have the cases of Rufinus (Claudian, In Ruf. II.76); Stilicho (Zosimus V.11; on the other hand, cp. Claudian, In cons. Stil. III.220 sqq.);º Aetius (Prosper, sub a., 455); Aspar (Malalas, frag. in Hermes, VI. p369, where Patzig has shown that the words οὓς ἐκάλεσε φοιδεράτους are not genuine, see Unerkannt und unbekannt gebliebene Malalasfragmente, 13). The bucellarii are recognised as a regular institution in Spain in the laws of Euric (Leges Visigotorum, p13). It is generally supposed that this custom was adopted by the Romans from the Germans.

60 C. J. IX.12.10 (A.D. 468).

61 Under him, too, were flotillas on Lake Como, Lake Neuchâtel, and on the Loire and Seine. Those on the Middle Danube, Lake Constance, and in the British channel were under the local military commanders. The Britannic fleet was important in the fourth century, but in the fifth we find instead a classis Sambrica, stationed apparently at Étaples (cp. Lot, Les Migrations sax. p5), and under the duke of Belgica Secunda. The care of the government is no longer to protect the coasts of Britain but to protect the other side of the channel. On all these fleets and flotillas see Fiebiger, art. "Classis" in P.‑W. John Lydus (loc. cit.) says that in Diocletian's time the number of sailors employed in the fleets both on sea and rivers was 45,000 and that Constantine increased it.

62 The classis Carpathia, the classis Alexandrina, and the classis Seleuciae (C. J. XI.2.4 and 13.1) were merely fleets of transports, — the former two being part of the service for conveying the grain supplies from Egypt to Constantinople.

63 Zosimus I.71.

64 Aurelius Victor, Caes. 39.

65 Much light has been thrown on the history of the annona by Seeck in Die Schatzungsordnung Diocletians, (see Bibliography, II.2, C) and Gesch. des Untergangs der antiken Welt, II.

66 This annona was a unit; the officers received, according to their rank, so many annonae. There was also an allowance for horses (capitum). For the distribution of the annona militaris (ῥόγα) in the sixth cent. cp. Pap. Cairo, II.67145.

67 Seeck has made it probable that a survey or census of the Empire was made every five years, beginning with A.D. 297 (then 302, 307, 312, etc.). See his article "Die Entstehung des Indictionencyclus," in Deutsche Zeitschrift f. Geschichtwissenschaft, XII. In later times a cycle of 15 indictions came to be used officially as a method of chronological reckoning. This cycle is usually counted as starting with A.D. 312, but it comes to the same thing if it is supposed to begin with A.D. 297.

68 In Syria there were seven classes of land; the same tax was paid on 5 acres of vineyard as on 20 of the best kind of tilled land and as on 225 of the best kind of olive land. The tax on the seventh class, mountain and pasture, was fixed according to the actual profits. See Bruns and Sachau, Syrorömisches Rechtsbuch (1880), pp37, 287. The unit of the iugum was not universal. In Italy there was a larger unit, the millena. In Africa the unit was the centuria =100 acres, and no distinction was made between different classes of land.

69 That the iugatio and the capitatio were not two different taxes (as Savigny held and Seeck and others still hold) but the same land tax seems to me to have been proved by Piganiol in his L'Impôt de capitation. In most cases the terms could be applied indifferently; but in the case, for instance, mentioned in the text, of a proprietor reserving a part of his estate the term capitation would be inappropriate, as there were no capita (colons).

70 That is, censibus adscripti. The Greek is, ἐναπόγραφοι. Fragments of a tax roll for the island of Thera have been preserved in which the various denominations of land, the cattle, asses, sheep, slaves, and colons are all enumerated. CIG III.8656 = IG XII. fasc.3, 343‑349 (1898).

71 This has been shown by Piganiol, op. cit. 33 sqq. The capitatio humana — another term which has caused much discussion — was probably (in the fifth century) a tax on slaves, paid by their owners, like the capitatio animalium which is usually associated with it in the laws. Ib. 68 sqq.

72 When Julian went to Gaul, the tribute on each caput was 25 solidi. He reduced it to 7, including all the burdens (on the text of Ammian. XVI.5.14 cp. Seeck, Rheinisches Museum, XLIX.630). In Illyricum it appears that the amount required by provincial governors for their own supplies was at one time a solidus on 120 capita, and was increased, illegally, so that the same sum was paid on 60 capita, and finally on 13. This flagrant case drew a rescript from the Emperor in A.D. 412, C. Th. VII.4.32.— It was the duty of the Praetorian Prefect to send to the provinces lists of the dues for which the taxpayers were liable every year, and on him principally rested the responsibility of deciding whether the ordinary taxation was sufficient to cover the expenses or an addition (superindictio) would be required which could only be imposed with the consent of the Emperor.

73 Adaeratio was the technical term for the commutation of species into pretia. Its extension in the fifth century can be traced in C. Th. VII.4 (cp. 28, 31, 32, 35, 36).

74 The exactor, whose duty was to make known the financial ordinances of the provincial governor and to see that they were executed, in his community; the susceptoresprocuratoresἐπιμεληταί) who actually received the taxes.

75 Cp. Nov. Majoriani, VII.14. The procedure is briefly summed up in C. Th. I.14.1, omnia tributa exigere suscipere postremo conpellere iubemus. Egyptian documents afford a good deal of illustration, see Gelzer, Studien zur byz. Verw. Ägyptens, 42 sqq.

76 Each common soldier seems to have received more than £6. Seeck (Untergang, II.281) calculates that the quinquennial donation, including presents to senators and others, must have cost the Emperor 3½ millions sterling at least. But before the sixth century the amount per soldier seems to have been reduced to 5 solidi (about 3 guineas); Procopius, H. A. 2A.

77 The amount presented to Valentinian II in A.D. 385 was 1600 lbs. = about £73,000 (Symmachus, Rel. 13).

78 Libanius, Or. XLVI.22 (vol. III p389); Zosimus, II.38; C. Th. XIII.1; and see below, chap. XIII. § 3. It was collected at the end of every four years, and yielded in the case of Edessa, a town of moderate size, about £450 a year.

79 The official name was collatio glebalis; it was also called gleba, and descriptio. See C. Th. VI.2; Zosimus, II.38; Hesychius, fr. 5; Seeck, Collatio glebalis in P.‑W. The follis was originally a bag of small coins. It was probably sealed at the mint and contained 3125 double denarii = 1 lb. gold, and was used in making large payments. The senatorial tax was known as follis because, as instituted by Constantine, the amount was fixed as so many bags. Popular usage transferred the name from the bag to the coin, and the double denarius itself was known as follis.

80 The magister census, who was subordinate to the Prefect of the City, decided (on the basis of the annona registers) at which rate each senator should be liable.

81 Olympiodorus, fr. 44, gives these figures. Probus, c. A.D. 424, spent £52,500 on his praetor­ship; Symmachus and Maximus £80,000 and £180,000 respectively on the praetor­ships of their sons. Symmachus had estates in Mauretania and in Italy (where he had 15 country houses); the Sallustii had estates in Spain; the domains of the Probi were in all parts of the Empire.— The reader may be reminded that the real value, or purchasing power, of gold was far greater than it is to‑day. It is generally reckoned that a gold coin in the sixteenth or seventeenth century was as useful as five of the same weight, say, in 1900. It is safe to assume that the proportion, 1:3, is not excessive for a practical comparison, in regard to the purchasing power of money in the nineteenth with the fourth and following centuries. In other words the purchasing power of a solidus approached that of £2 in 1900. This of course does not apply to every commodity, but to labour and commodities all round. Compare the useful remarks of Tenney Frank, Economic History of Rome (1920), pp80‑83.

82 In the early Empire custom duties (vectigalia) varied in different places, and were nowhere very high. In the east, at least, they were raised in the fourth century, and an apparently uniform tariff of 12⅓ per cent (octavae) was imposed (C. Th. IV.61.7 and 8). As no alteration was made in subsequent laws, this rate probably continued. For the whole volume of trade, we have no figures except Pliny's estimate of imports from the east in the first century A.D. (see below, p54). These imports were undoubtedly the largest item.

83 Comes sacrarum largitionum, so called because when the office was first instituted the chief duty of the comes was to arrange the largess to the soldiers. The Greek equivalent is κόμης λαργιτιώνων or τῶν θείων θησαυρῶν.

84 Cp.  C. Th. V.16.29.

85 C. Th. VII.4. Zosimus, II.33.

86 Comes rerum privatarum, κόμης τῶν πριβάτων.

87 Cp. Platnauer, Lucius Septimius Severus, pp183‑184. Stein, Stud. z. Gesch. d. byz. Reiches, p169.

88 Stein (op. cit. 171) is certainly right in pointing out that this transference meant the appropriation of the Cappadocian domains to the privy purse. In A.D. 379 these domains were under the comes r. p. (C. Th. VI.30.2). I should conjecture that the change was made in the first years of Arcadius while the power­ful Eutropius was Chamberlain. The section on praepositus s. cub. in the west in the Not. dig., Occ. is lost, but there is no evidence that a corresponding change was ever made in the west, or that the Imperial domains in Africa were ever under the praepositus. Stein's view that the change was common to both parts of the Empire, and that in the west the domus divina in Africa was restored to the comes r. p. before A.D. 409, seems to me to be unnecessary.

89 Or, if not handed over, that the accounts were submitted to him so that he knew the surplus on which he could draw.

90 For instance the figures as to the corn sent to Constantinople in Justinian, Edict 13; and to Rome, in the time of Augustus, in Victor, Epitome, c. 1 as to the amount of corn and of money taxes paid by Antaeopolis in the sixth century, in Pap. Cairo, I. No. 67057; and other data furnished by papyri. A figure which has been over­looked is the incidental statement in a later document, but which may come from a sixth century source, that the annual money taxes of Egypt amounted to 36,500 pounds of gold = 2,508,000 solidi; see Διήγησις περὶ τῆς ἁγ. Σοφίας, § 25 (cp. below, Vol. II Chap. XV. § 6).

91 25 solidi (C. Th. VII.7.13), 30 solidi (Nov. Valentin. VI.3) were the sums which, in A.D. 397 and 443 respectively, persons liable to the furnishing of recruits might pay instead. In Pap. Brit. Mus. III.985, we have a soldier's receipt for his pay, 30 solidi.

92 Based on various figures given in laws of Justinian (sixth century, but rates of pay were probably much the same). Cp. above, p33, n1. We have no material for conjecturing the cost of the numerous officials subordinate to the mag. off. and the financial ministers; and the chamberlains and staff of the Palaces are left entirely out of account. Bouchard (Étude sur l'admin. des finances de l'empire romain, p49) calculated that the civil service cost less than £250,000. Sundwall (Weström. Studien, p156) has much higher figures which seem precarious. He thinks the cost of paying the civil officials in Gaul and Italy amounted to £2,000,000. He calculates the revenue from land-taxes under Honorius as about £13,200,000 (p155).

93 To illustrate this, in 1760 the population of England and Wales was over 6½ millions, and the revenue (p54) from taxes amounted in 1762 to £6,711,000. This was about £1 a head, and the country, which was still mainly agricultural, was not overburdened. The taxation would necessarily have been much higher but for the happy expedient of the Public Debt.

94 100,000,000 sesterces (Pliny, N. H. XII.18, § 84), of which 55,000,000 went to India. The Emperor Gratian, about A.D. 374, legislated against the export of gold, C. J. IV.63.2.

95 The legend CONOB, which appears on solidi minted at Constantinople (till the reign of Leo III) is an abbreviation of the name of the mint and of the word obryzum, refined gold.

96 The siliqua was a silver coin = 124th of the solidus; but the silver coin most in use was the half-siliqua known as the nummus decargyrus. The silver miliarense (= 11000 lb. gold) was, according to Babelon, in the fifth and sixth centuries a monnaie de luxe (cp. Justinian, Nov. 105.2); 12 (not 14) went to the solidus. The ratio between gold and silver in A.D. 397 is given in C. Th. XIII.2.1 as 1 lb. silver = 5 solidi = 572 lb. gold, and in A.D. 422, 1 lb. silver = 4 solidi = 118 lb. gold (ib. VIII.4.27). Thus in these 25 years the ratio changed from 1:14⅖ to 1:18, a considerable depreciation of silver. On the silver and copper coins of the fourth and fifth centuries see Babelon, Traité des monnaies grecques et romaines, vol. I (1901) 566 sqq., and 612 sqq.It may be noted here that the ordinary rate of interest in the fourth and early fifth century was from 4 to 6 per cent. 12 per cent (the centesima) was the maximum allowed by law, but it would be an error to infer from the fulminations of Ambrose and Chrysostom against it that it was normal or typical in business transactions. It was only exacted in cases where there was no good security. See Billeter, Gesch. des Zinsfusses, 236 sqq. It was possibly due to clerical influence that senators were forbidden towards the end of the fourth century to lend on interest. The law was, of course, evaded and (after the fall of Chrysostom) they were allowed to receive interest up to 6 p. c. (See C. Th. II.33.3 and 4, with the commentary of Gothofredus, vol. I p274‑275).

97 J. S. Reid, Municipalities of the Roman Empire (1913). The early Roman Empire may be regarded "as an organisation based upon a federation of municipalities forming an aggregate of civic communities enjoying a greater or less measure of autonomy, and having certain characteristics derived from an age when state and city were convertible terms" (p3).

98 For the origins and history of the colonatus, see M. Rostowzew, Studien sur Geschichte des römischen Kolonates (1910).

99 C. J. XI.48.3, sese . . . furari intelligatur. The oppression of the colons is graphically described by John Chrysostom, Homilia in Matth. 61, 31 (P.G. 58, 591).

100 C. Th. XIII.10.3.

101 C. J. XI.48.7.

102 C. Th. XI.1.14.

103 The evils of patronage (προστασία) are portrayed in the oration of Libanius Περὶ τῶν προστασιῶν addressed to Theodosius I in A.D. 391 or 392 (Or. XLVII. ed. Förster). Cp. F. de Zulueta, De patrociniis vicorum (Oxford Studies in Legal and Social History, ed. by Vinogradoff, 1909).

104 Cp. Rostowzew, op. cit. 105, 267.

105 By Zeno, C. J. IV.66.1. See Justinian, Instit. 3, 24. This law provided that if part of an emphyteutic property became unproductive, the loss fell on the tenant; but if the whole, the owner was responsible.

106 Seeck, Untergang, II.311.

107 C. Th. XIII.5. For the regulations about the navicularii see E. Gebhardt, Das Verpflegungswesen von R. und C. Their services in transporting corn were remunerated by 4 per cent of the cargo (C. Th. XIII.5.7).

108 For the history and organisation of the curial bodies, see Kübler's article Decurio in P.‑W.

109 This seems to have been the rule, though the Emperors sometimes legislated otherwise; cp. C. J. XI.59.16, C. Th. VII.22.1. The decuriones themselves seem, so far as they could, to have made those whom they appointed to collect the taxes, liable for deficiencies. The results were not only cruel to the individual, but calamitous for the community. One of the forms of patronage, described by Libanius (op. cit.) illustrates the difficulties of the tax-collector. Villages in the district of an urban community would place themselves under the protection of soldiers quartered in the district, who, in return for gifts in kind or corn, would help them to defy the tax-gatherer and drive him out of the village. The unfortunate man might have to sell his property to make up the sum which he was required to produce. And thus the number of curials was reduced. Βουλευτὴς βουλῆς ἐξαλείφεται . . . ταῦτ’ ἐλάττους ποιεῖ τὰς βουλὰς ἀντὶ μειζόνων (ib. 10). See also Libanius, Or. II.33‑36 for the decline of the senates.

110 The principle is laid down in C. Th. XII.1.22 (A.D. 336). This long Title, de decurionibus, is a monument of merciless despotism. The decay of the curials is very fully treated by Dill, Roman Society, Book III. chap. II.

111 Ib. 122 veluti dicati infulis mysterium perenne custodiant. Men born in the curial class, who entered the army or the civil service, were sternly "restored" to their municipal duties, ib. 137, 139, 146.

112 The practice is forbidden ib. 66 and 108.

113 C. Th. I.29. See Seeck's art., Defensor civitatis, in P.‑W. Constantius had instituted (A.D. 361) defensores senatus in the provinces to protect members of the senatorial order against official oppression. C. Th. I.28.

114 C. Th. I.29.6.

115 Cp. the excellent remarks of Vinogradoff, in C. Med. H. I.554‑555.

116 See C. Th. VII.22.3.

117 Beloch, Die Bevölkerung der griechisch-römischen Welt (cp. the Table, p507). His numbers for the Danubian lands are 2,000,000; for Greece, 3,000,000; for Spain, 6,000,000; for Narbonensis, 1,500,000; for the other Gallic provinces, 3,400,000. E. A. Foord has attempted to prove that in A.D. 395 the population was 120,000,000 (Byzantine Empire, p10).

118 C. Th. VIII.16.1 (A.D. 320). In A.D. 410 Theodosius II abrogated the law of Augustus with regard to the childless; this applied only to the eastern half of the Empire. Ib. VIII.17.2.

119 In the east this seems to have strictly prevailed.

120 In early times the name Patriarch was sometimes given to simple bishops; cp. J.H.S. VI.346 (archbishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia). See also Cassiodorus, Var. IX.15; and cp. the "Patriarchate" of Aquileia. Duchesne, Églises séparées, 262.

121 The bishop of Thessalonica acted as Vicar of the Pope in Illyricum. The Patriarchs of Constantinople sometimes contested the Papal rights in this prefecture; e.g. Atticus, who doubtless prompted the law of Theodosius II, in C. Th. XVI.2.45 (A.D. 421), claiming the jurisdiction for the Patriarch. On the whole subject see Duchesne, op. cit. 229 sqq.

122 This was settled at the Council of Chalcedon, A.D. 451.

123 Its independence of Antioch was decreed by the Council of Ephesus A.D. 431.

124 C. Th. XVI.2.1.2; XI.1.1.

125 Ib. XVI.2.4; C. J. I.12.2.

126 C. Th. I.27, episcopalis audientia.

Thayer's Note:

a A simpler, condensed treatment of the bureaucracy in the later empire can be found in J. C. Rolfe's Introduction to Ammian.

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