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The Crisis of the Third Century

June 14, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 288

What was the crisis of the Third Century" and how did Emperors Diocletian and Constantine respond to it? Simply put, the crisis of the Third Century was the end of the Roman Empire. After AD 212, the Constitutio Antoniniana of Emperor Caracalla decreed that all freemen in the empire were granted citizenship. This opened the floodgate to army enlistment, and the standard of the Roman military quickly deteriorated. The Roman army was no longer wholly devoted to the Empire's welfare. Instead, it was engaged in defending against German tribesmen, the Persians and the Gauls of France. With decreased ability to enforce the Roman way of life, the Crisis of the Third Century was eminent.

This, along with the economic instability that had been brewing for years led to the marked decline and fall of Rome. Emperors Diocletian and Constantine (A.D. 285 - 305 and 306 - 337, respectively) tried to remedy the spiraling situation, but their efforts only delayed the inevitable fall of Rome.

Emperor Diocletian demanded obeisance of all Roman subjects, and rescinded the long standing rule of local self governance throughout the various provinces. Emperor Diocletian also attempted to reinforce the faltering military by hiring German mercenaries and drafting prisoners of war. These were clearly desperate, fruitless efforts. His failed dictatorial policies only choked what little life remained in the citizens of this once great empire. There was no hope for gain or advancement, no future to look forward to.

Emperor Constantine replaced Emperor Diocletian as emperor in A.D. 306. In the BBC article, "Christianity and the Roman Empire", Dr Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe writes, "One of the supposed watersheds in history is the 'conversion' of the emperor Constantine to Christianity in, or about, 312 AD." His conversion coincides with the growing popularity of Christianity in the third century despite the intense persecution that the early church faced, in large part at the hands of the Romans and their emperors.

What was significant about Constantine's conversion was the law that he established declaring Christianity the state religion. This was compulsory. This had a soothing effect on the population. Many resisted pure strains of Christianity, and incorporated their former idol worship under the banner of this new Roman religion. What appeared earlier as a devotion to the root religions and cultures of the conquered peoples was now given license in this new mandatory worship. What the intellect could not provide, Constantine's religion did. This again, undermined the founding principle of the Roman Empire, namely empirical logic and intellect over mysticism and religion.

Taken together, all of these events led to the fall of the Roman Republic. The history of the Roman Republic ended with this Crisis of the Third Century due to the weight of a weakened military, the ascendency of foreign religious forces, and the missteps of Emperors Diocletian and Constantine

Works Cited:

Lunn-Rockliffe, Sophie. Christianity and the Roman Empire. BBC. Feb. 17, 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/romans/christianityromanempire_article_01.shtml

Curtis Bradley is the father of three and a full time writer and entrepreneur, residing in Connecticut. He holds a B.S. Finance, Summa Cum Laude, from Sacred Heart University (Fairfield, CT). Curtis is an avid reader and enjoys learning immensely. Currently, he's reading through his list of the top books of all time and writing extensively.

Source: EzineArticles
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