At the end of the troubled third century, a new emperor— Diocletian —began the process of restoring the strength of the Roman Empire.
Diocletian created a new administrative system for a restructured empire.
The twelve dioceses were grouped into four prefectures, and the entire Roman Empire was divided into two parts, east, and west. ’’
Diocletian ruled the east, and Maximian, a strong military commander, the west. Each Augustus was assisted by a chief lieutenant or ‘‘vice-emperor’’ called a ‘‘Caesar,’’ who theoretically would eventually succeed to the position of Augustus.
Diocletian had obviously come to believe that one man was not capable of ruling such an enormous empire, especially in view of the barbarian invasions of the third century.
Despite the appearance of four-man rule, however, it is important to note that Diocletian’s military seniority enabled him to claim a higher status and hold the ultimate authority.
Soon after Diocletian’s retirement in 305, a new struggle for power ensued.
The victory of Constantine in 312 led to his control of the entire west, although he continued to share imperial authority with Licinius , a fellow emperor.
Under these two rulers, the Roman Empire was transformed into a system in which the emperor had far more personal power than Augustus, Trajan, or any of the other emperors had had during the Pax Romana.
The emperor, now clothed in jewel-bedecked robes of gold and blue, was seen as a divinely sanctioned monarch whose will was law.
Government officials were humble servants required to kneel before the emperor and kiss his robe.
The Society of the Germanic Kingdoms
As the Germans infiltrated the Roman Empire, they were influenced by the Roman society they encountered.
Consequently, the Germanic peoples of the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries were probably quite different from the Germans that the forces of Augustus encountered in the first century C.
The crucial social bond among the Germanic peoples was the family, especially the extended or patriarchal family of husbands, wives, children, brothers, sisters, cousins, and grandparents.
GERMANIC LAW - The German conception of family and kin-ship affected the way Germanic law treated the problem of crime and punishment. In the Roman system, as in our own, a crime such as murder was considered an offense against society or the state and was handled by a court that heard evidence and arrived at a decision.
Germanic law tended to be personal.
An injury by one person against another could lead to a blood feud in which the family of the injured party took revenge on the kin of the wrongdoer.
Since this system had a tendency to get out of control and allow mayhem to multiply, an alternative system arose that made use of a fine called wergeld.
This was the amount paid by a wrongdoer to the family of the person who had been injured or killed.
Wergeld, which means ‘‘money for a man,’’ was the value of a person in monetary terms.
That value varied considerably according to social status. ’’
An offense against a noble obviously costs considerably more than one against a free person or a slave.
Under German customary law, compurgation and the or-deal were the two most commonly used procedures for determining whether an accused person was guilty and should have to pay wergeld.
Compurgation was the swearing of an oath by the accused person, backed up by a group of ‘‘oath helpers,’’ numbering twelve or twenty-five, who would also swear that the accused person should be believed.
The Frankish family structure was quite simple.
A woman obeyed her father until she married and then fell under the legal domination of her husband.
After she can have no more children, he who kills her shall be sentenced to 8,000 denars.
’’ Since marriage affected the extended family group, fathers or uncles could arrange marriages for the good of the family without considering their children’s wishes."
The essential feature of the marriage itself involved placing the married couple in bed to achieve their physical union. In first marriages, it was considered important that the wife be a virgin so as to ensure that any children would be the husbands.
Archaeological evidence suggests that most women had life expectancies of only thirty or forty years and that about 10 to 15 percent of women died in their childbearing years, no doubt due to complications associated with childbirth.
In addition to clothing and feeding their own families, women could sell or barter clothes and food for additional goods.
Of all the duties of women, the most important was childbearing because it was crucial to the maintenance of the family and its properties.
It was only natural, then, that the bishops of those cities would also exercise considerable power.
Subsequent bishops of Rome were considered Peter’s successors and later the ‘‘vicars of Christ’’ on earth.
Though this exalted view of the bishops of Rome was by no means accepted by all early Christians, Rome’s position as the traditional capital of the Roman Empire served to buttress this claim.
By the end of the fourth century, the bishops of Rome were using the title of papa, ‘‘father’’.
Increasingly, they served as advisers to Christian Roman emperors.
Moreover, as imperial authority declined, bishops often played a noticeably independent political role.
Ambrose of Milan was an early example of a strong and independent bishop.
Ambrose created an image of the ideal Christian bishop.
The palace is the Emperor’s, the Churches are the Bishop’s. ’’
When Emperor Theodosius I ordered the massacre of many citizens of Thessalonika for refusing to obey his commands, Ambrose denounced the massacre and refused to allow the emperor to take part in church ceremonies.
Ambrose proved himself a formidable advocate of the position that spiritual authority should take precedence over temporal power, at least in spiritual matters.
Christian Intellectual Life in the Germanic Kingdoms
Although the Christian church came to accept Classical culture, it was not easy to do so in the new Germanic kingdoms.
Nevertheless, some Christian scholars managed to keep learning alive.
Most prominent was Cassiodorus , who came from an aristocratic Roman family and served as an official of the Ostrogothic king Theodoric.
The conflicts that erupted after the death of Theodoric led Cassiodorus to withdraw from public life and retire to his landed estates in southern Italy, where he wrote his final work, Divine and Human Readings, a compendium of the literature of both Christian and pagan antiquity.
Cassiodorus accepted the advice of earlier Christian intellectuals to make use of Classical works while treasuring the Scriptures above all else.
Cassiodorus continued the tradition of late antiquity of classifying knowledge according to certain subjects.
The Venerable Bede was a scholar and product of Christian Anglo-Saxon England. He used his sources so judiciously that they remain our chief source of information about early Anglo-Saxon England.
His work was a remarkable accomplishment for a monk from a small corner of England and reflects the high degree of intellectual achievement in England in the eighth century.
In the first half of the seventh century, during the reign of Heraclius , the empire faced attacks from the Persians to the east and the Slavs to the north.
The empire was left exhausted by these struggles.
Although this innovation helped the empire survive, it also fostered an increased militarization of the empire.
By the mid-seventh century, it had become apparent that a restored Mediterranean empire was simply beyond the resources of the Eastern Empire, which now increasingly turned its back on the Latin west.
The most serious challenge to the Eastern Roman Empire came from the rise of Islam, which unified the Arab tribes and created a powerful new force that swept through the east .
The empire lost the provinces of Syria and Palestine after the Arabs defeated an eastern Roman army at Yarmouk in 636.
The Arabs also moved into the old Persian Empire and conquered it. In 679, the Bulgars defeated the eastern Roman forces and took possession of the lower Danube valley, setting up a strong Bulgarian kingdom.
By the beginning of the eighth century, the Eastern Roman Empire was greatly diminished in size, consisting only of the eastern Balkans and Asia Minor.
It was now an eastern Mediterranean state.
By the eighth century, the Eastern Roman Empire had been transformed into what historians call the Byzantine Empire, a civilization with its own unique character that would last until 1453.
In Roman times, the Arabian peninsula came to be dominated by Bedouin nomads who moved constantly to find water and food for their animals.
In early times, the Bedouins had supported themselves primarily by sheepherding or by raiding passing caravans, but after the domestication of the camel during the second millennium
In his middle years, he began to experience visions that he believed were inspired by Allah.
Out of these revelations, which were eventually written down, came the Quran or Koran, which contained the guidelines by which followers of Allah were to live.
Muhammad’s teachings formed the basis for the religion known as Islam, which means ‘‘submission to the will of Allah. ’’
Allah was the all-powerful being who had created the universe and everything in it.
Humans must subject themselves to Allah if they wish to achieve everlasting life. ’’
After receiving the revelations, Muhammad set out to convince the people of Mecca that the revelations were true.
Discouraged by the failure of the Meccans to accept his message, in 622 Muhammad and some of his closest supporters left the city and moved north to the rival city of Yathrib, later renamed Medina.
Muhammad, who had been invited to the town by a number of prominent residents, soon began to win support from people in Medina as well as from members of Bedouin tribes in the surrounding countryside.
Muhammad soon became both a religious and a political leader.
The Teachings of Islam
At the heart of Islam was its sacred book, the Qur’an, with its basic message that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet.
Essentially, the Quran contains Muhammad’s revelations of a heavenly book written down by secretaries.
Islam was a direct and simple faith, emphasizing the need to obey the will of Allah.
Islam was not just a set of religious beliefs but a way of life as well.
After the death of Muhammad, Muslim scholars drew up a law code, called the Sharia, to provide believers with a set of prescriptions to regulate their daily lives.