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Brill's Series on the Early Middle Ages, Volume: 15 The appearance in of A.H.M. Jones' The Later Roman Empire – A Social, Economic, and.
Table of contents

The quaestorship is regularly recorded at Rome down to the early fifth century: there is no mention of it at Con- stantinople, perhaps because there it did not as at Rome involve games. The curule and plebeian aediles are recorded only in a poem of Ausonius on the festivals of Rome. The tribunate of the plebs is also only mentioned once, in , and curiously enough at Constantinople.

This is a warning against too lightly assuming that lack of evidence is proof of the disappearance of an ancient magistracy. The praetorship, because of the praetotian games, is frequently mentioned at both Rome and Constantinople; in both capitals it survived into the sixth century, as Boethius and John Lydus testify. The suffect consulship is last mentioned in the laws in Constantine' s time, when it still had games attached to it. But Symmachus happens to mention that in a suffect consul was thrown from his chariot in a procession.

The honour was accorded to the more distinguished praetorian prefects and magistri mi! It was sometimes, but rarely, granted to imperial favourites who held no office, such as Datianus, once only to a chief eunuch, Eutropius. Quite commonly it was given to the great aristocrats who regarded it as their birthright, in the West to members of the ancient noble families, in the East to the new nobility which grew up in the fourth century. At periods when the empire was divided one consul was nor- mally nominated by the Augustus who held Rome, and the other by the Eastern emperor: the latter entered upon office.

But the names of both were used for dating documents throughout the empire, except in periods of friction or civil war when one emperor refused to acknowledge his colleague's or a usurper's nominee. When in there finally ceased to be an emperor in the West Odoacer and Theoderic continued to nom- inate consuls, who were generally received in the East.

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But after the reconquest of Italy Justinian ceased to nominate Western consuls, and the last consul to hold office in Rome was Paulinus, whom Queen Amalasuntha appointed in 5 34 The office did not long survive in Constantinople. Not enough men of sufficient wealth and public spirit could be found to pay for the expensive games which tradition demanded from an ordinary consul. Flavius A pion. He proved to be the last subject to hold the consulate. Thereafter it was assumed only by emperors on the Kalends of January next after their accession.

These by a law of Zeno could be obtained by the payment of a mere centenarium of gold to the aqueduct fund of Constantinople-a payment which ordinary consuls had since 4 5 2 had to make in addition to their games. Though honorary consu! A law of Constantine shows that not only quaestors but praetors and even suffect consuls might be nominated under the age of sixteen, and the natural result from this followed, that most if not all adult senators were consulares, once the mo. The new order of precedence worked out by Valentinian I was, as we have seen, mainly based on imperial offices.

It was immensely complicated and became progressively more so. But competition for precedence was no doubt all the keener. In principle ex-consuls ranked highest according to the date of their office. But a consul who was also an ex-prefect or magister militum or a patrician had precedence over a consul of earlier date who had not these additional claims. A difficult point arose when a senior ex- consul who ranked below a junior ex-consul and patrician received the patriciate: it was decided that the question should be decided by the seniority of the consulates.

And what if a man became consul twice, as did very rarely happen? Here the rule differed in East and West. According to a law of Theodosius II, a second consulate merely re-affirmed and did not enhance the dignity of the recipient, but a novel ofValentinian III, issued significantly in , the second consulate of Petronius Maxim us, declared that a double consulate gave its holder precedence over all other consuls.

A law of dealt comprehensively with this tangled problem. A few examples will suffice to indicate the intricacies of this law. Provincial governors, archiatri sacri palatii, and assessors of illustrious magistrates, if they received the comitiva primi ordinis, ranked with vicars, but architects rewarded with the comitiva for their public services were equated only with consulares. Vicars of the magistri militum and comites rei militaris except those of Egypt and Pontica ranked as the duces. Tribunes of the scholae, who normally ranked on retirement with former duces, if they had concurrently held the comitiva were equated with former comites of Egypt or Pontus.

It was a basic principle that within any group of offices of equal rank individual precedence was determined by seniority of appointment, but that all past holders of actual offices ranked above all those who held honorary codicils. Disputes arose when holders of actual offices in a lower grade obtained honorary codicils in a higher. A law of , which grapples with this problem, cites cases of vicars who had obtained honorary codicils of prefects, or, more shocking still, mere praesides who had secured the honorary rank of ex-vicars, ex-proconsuls or even ex-prefects.

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The former are told that they are to rank only among actual ex-proconsuls, with precedence over honorary ex-proconsuls. The latter are to give precedence even to ex-consulars who have really governed a province. As a result Theodosius II had to draw up a yet more elaborate table of precedence among illustres.

First came those who had actually held illustrious offices; second those who had received, while present at court, a titular office; third those upon whom a titular office had been conferred in absence; fourth those who had received per- sonally from the emperor honorary codicils; and fifth those to whom honorary codicils had been sent in absence. All members of the first group, even those who had held the lowest illustrious office of comes rei privatae, ranked above all of the other four groups.

But within the last four groups regard was had to the rank of the titular or honorary office held, so that an honorary ex- prefect took precedence over a titular ex-quaestor. Finally a special exception was made for titular officers who had been entrusted with some extraordinary commission.

Thus Germanus, a magister mi! In such circum- stances the titular office ranked as active. B 1 Members of the senatorial order possessed certain fiscal and jurisdictional privileges.

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  8. Constantius II granted all senators immunity from extraordinary levies and sordida munera. In illustres were accorded immunity not only from sordida munera but also from extraordinaria. Senators could also in the early fourth century, in virtue of their theoretical domicile at Rome, claim the jurisdiction of the prefect of the city, whether they were sued civilly or accused on capital charges.

    This privilege was likewise whitded away in the course of time as far as humbler senators were concerned, but maintained for the benefit of illustres. Members of the equestrian order and comites enjoyed immunity as being absent on the public service. Immunity had under the Principate been granted under this head only for the actual period of public service, but by Diocletian's time it had been extended to all who held equestrian rank. Con- stantine and his sons, alarmed by the flood of decurions who obtained codicils with a view to evading their curial obligations, endeavoured to restrict the privilege to those who had actually held offices, or had honesdy earned honorary codicils, and to insist that decurions must have performed their duties to their cities before seeking equestrian posts or the comitiva.

    It is doubtful whether they had much success, but the problem solved itself when decurions transferred their ambitions to the superior attrac- tions of the senatorial order. Senators enjoyed exemption from curial duties on the ground that they were citizens of Rome or Constantinople , and as such ceased to belong to their native cities.

    When decurions began to enter the order in significant numbers, the imperial government again became alarmed, and with reason, for since senatorial rank was hereditary, not only did decurions secure immunity for them- selves, but their families became exempt for ever. At first attempts were made to prevent decurions from entering the senate, but as these proved unavailing the immunity was in abolished for senators of curial origin.

    This rule was relaxed in in favour of illustres. In it was tightened up again so that in future only those decurions Zeno confined the privilege to those who gained the higher group of illustrious offices, and this remained the rule under Justinian. Under all these laws the immunity once gained was transmitted to sons born after its acquisition.

    The former were not very onerous. All honorati, including senators, except those of the highest rank, were obliged to attend the assemblies of their province or diocese. Standing leave to reside in the provinces was in fact regularly accorded, but a formal grant of commeatus was required until Theodosius II released all spectabiles and clarissimi from this technicality: illustres still had to obtain permission to leave the capital.

    Valentinian and Valens tried to make use of men of this category as collectors of the clothing levy and managers of the posting stations. This attempt was soon abandoned, but tasks of a more honourable kind, the audit of accounts discussiones and the revision of the census peraequationes , were commonly imposed on honorati. Such posts were remunerated and might in dishonest hands yield considerable profits, but they were onerous and responsible, and were evidendy regarded by most as a disagreeable imposition.

    From Constantine's time occasional levies of horses or recruits were made on all honorati: they are last recorded in the middle of the fifth century.

    Senators had to contribute to the gift of gold aurum oblaticium which the House was expected to make to the emperors on their accession and successive quin- quennial celebrations. They also from the time of Constantine until that of Marcian paid a small regular surtax, the gleba or jollis, on their lands: for this purpose a newly enrolled senator had to make a full return of his property to the office of the urban pre- fecture, and all subsequent additions to it had to be reported.

    Under Constantine quaestors, praetors and suffect consuls all gave games at Rome; the last later ceased to do so, and by the end of the fourth century the poorest senators might be let off with one show only, the quaestorian, which were the cheapest. In Constantinople praetorian games were instituted by Constantius II; no others are recorded. Senators might spend as much as they liked on their games, and at Rome members of great families, who had a tradition of munificence and ample fortunes to indulge their tastes, sometimes squandered fabulous sums on them.

    Symmachus is said to have spent zooo lb. Symmachus in his official capacity as prefect of the city thanked the emperor for such a measure. Provincial senators could send a sum of money to Rome and have their games celebrated by the censua! Symmachus alludes with contempt to the 'mediocrity' of such performances, and evidently regarded the absentees who refused to face the music as mean-spirited. By contrast he praises a praetor who had had the courage to give modest games in person. Constantine imposed on quaestors, praetors and consuls who failed to present themselves for their games a fine of 5 o,ooo modii of wheat, to be delivered to the granaries of Rome; which would have cost the delinquent something like 2ooo solidi.

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    The same penalty was re-enacted in 3 54 and It does not, however, follow that games cost less than this. The penalty was for contumacious absence without imperial permission , and there is no evidence that those who paid it were released from the expenses of their games. There was no tradition here, and no ancient and wealthy families to set the pace.

    Constantius II and his successors accordingly had to enact the amounts which the praetors had to spend. Constantius in laid down a scale of 50, 40 and 30 lb. As the value of the fo! In 36r two of the five praetors who then existed were relieved P. In 3 84 the praetor- ships, which had been reduced to four, were doubled in number. The first pair were ordered to spend rooo lb. Later in his reign Theodosius suspended all theatrical games and made the praetors contribute to.

    A few years later L was ruled that praetors of the first class should not be compelled to spend more than lb. One praetor had recently been allowed to spend as much as lb. The highest, rooo lb. The minimum expenditure was only 5 oo solidi. Though the Constantinopolitan senate was by no means so wealthy a body as the Roman, it is hard to believe that payments on this scale could have been a serious strain on the resources of the richer members.

    The most magnificent games were naturally those given by the ordinary consuls. They were permitted certain extravagancies which by a law of were forbidden to lower magistrates. They might send out invitation cards in the form of ivory diptychs- which are treasured in many museums today; others had to be content with diptychs of baser material. They might scatter gold coins to the crowd, while others might throw only silver, and small coins only, not larger than sixty to the pound.

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    Marcian abolished this custom, and instead made the consuls contribute roo lb. Justinian describes the somewhat reduced programmes of entertainments which the consuls gave at Constantinople in his day. He was to give only seven shows. The nature of the first and the last, when he received and laid down his insignia of office, are not specified and were perhaps merely processions.

    The second and the sixth were mappae or chariot races, the third a wild beast hunt in the theatre "v. The programme according to Procopius cost lb. They had to be nominated ten years in advance in order to give them ample time to accumulate the requisite funds. This rule is mentioned at Constantinople in and at Rome in Later so long notice was apparently found unnecessary at Constantinople. A law of speaks of three years as the waiting period fixed by the existing law, and declares that even this regulation had fallen into desuetude as being needless.

    It enacts that delay shall be allowed in future only to necessitous cases, and that the senate shall have discretion to vary it from two years up to five according to the candidate's financial circumstances. At Constantinople Constantius II laid down elaborate rules. In 3 56 he enacted that a quorum of 5o members was required at the election meeting, which was to be held on his birthday, and if necessary be adjourned to the next day or even longer.

    Three years later he ruled that only those who had themselves already given games should designate the praetors. In he ordered that there must be present at the election ten of the highest ranking senators, former ordinary consuls or prefects or proconsuls, and the distinguished philosopher Themistius, as well as those who had already held the praetorship. Some willing candidates were certainly forthcoming at Rome, where the great families felt it a matter of noblesse oblige to offer games, but even here it was necessary to nominate persons against their will, or in their absence and without their knowledge.

    In Constantinople the newly formed aristocracy, which had no traditions to maintain, was reluctant to shoulder the burden. Constantius II had to lecture his senators about their lack of public spirit. What more illustrious example can be found than these? This fact ought surely to have persuaded others invested with the offices of proconsul and vicar that the praetorship is not below their merits. The splendid rods of office should be an object of ambition, the glory of such a title should be coveted and no one ought to resist nomination.

    At Rome candidates apparently evaded the officials for years. V alen- tinian I wrote ironically to the urban prefect, who had apparently complained of this difficulty: 'Let us suppose it possible that those designated can elude the diligence of those who search for them in the first or the second or the third year: surely they can be found in the remaining seven. In 3 54 Constantius II had to Issue orders to the praetorian prefect of Italy to round up all senators who were due to give games, and compel them to come to Rome. Forty years later a procons. The nomina- tion of praetors at Constantinople was eventually in left to the censuales, who, since they knew the names and addresses of all senators and their property assessments, must always have played a large part in drawing up the list of candidates.

    The senate had already been rebuked in for allowing them to make the nominations. The term is a survival from the Principate, when the emperor could not only grant the latus clavus corresponding to the later codicilli clarissimatus , whiclt authorised the recipient to stand for the quaestorship, but also adlect a man direct into the senate with appropriate seniority, to rank with ex-praetors inter praetorios or with ex-consuls inter consulares.

    When these grades had ceased to have any significance, adlectio, or the grant of codicilli praetorii or consulares, survived as a device for enrolling a senator among those who had performed their praetorian games. The privilege was regularly granted to palatine civil servants on their attaining senatorial rank but to very few others. In adlectio was accorded to certain comites and tribuni. In exemption from the praetorship granted to duces who had WOfl: their promotion by long service, or were members of the conststory.

    In senators of curial origin, who complained that they could not simultaneously fulfil their obligations to the senate and to their own cities, were excused the praetorship. This cannot in fact have been necessary. At Constantinople at the end of the fourth century, with only eight praetorships to fill each year and two thousand senators on the roll, only about one in ten can have been called upon to serve. If the selection had been made fairly it should not have been difficult to find enough candidates to whom the relatively modest expense would have been a negligible item.

    Evidently, however, wealthy senators resident at the capital found means of evading the office, and it was imposed on provincial members of modest means, who found it a vexatious imposition. Theodoret wrote to his grand friends at Constantinople on behalf of two victims. Theocles could claim no legal immunity, but had, according to Theodoret, inherited only one farm, which gave him a bare livelihood.

    Henceforth there were to be only three praetors a year, and even they were released from any compulsory expenditure. The praetorship was still regarded as a burden at the end of the fifth century, but in the sixth the praetorian games seem to have died at Constantinople. In the West the praetorship continued in its traditional form, and Boethius still complains of it as a heavy burden on senators. The g! The two lower classes of senators had also lost most of their legal privileges: they were no longer exempt from extra- ordinaria and sordida munera, they no longer enjoyed any jurisdic- tional prerogatives, and those promoted from the curial order were not released from their obligations to their native cities.

    All il! Holders of offices-or l. The laws of the Theodosian Code frequently denounce those who obtain honorary codicils of rank in order to evade their curial duties, and Libanius often pleads for the grant of an office to a decurion because he is allegedly too poor to support the burden of his status. But it may be doubted whether on purely financial grounds it was always a gain to rise from curial to sena- torial status. The initial cost must generally have been heavy, since apart from fees large sums had to be lrud out m securing suffragia, and the praetorshlp seems.

    For at Constantinople you will gain nothing but expense, while at home you will be impoverished by your expenses else- where; your money will thus be lost by the decision of hin: who has given it to you. Persuade him not to emulate the cow m the proverb who, by kicking, spills the milk that is being drawn from her.

    Nevertheless decurions continued to press into the senate. There were evidently other attractions even more important than the legal privileges which made senatorial rank desirable. The common human desire to have a handle to one's name and to take precedence over one's. Titles were clearly much valued m the later Roman empire. They were regularly used not only in official documents but in private correspondence, and they steadily became more and bom- bastic; the highest class were not content by the middle of fifth century to be merely i!!

    The high :mportance attached to precedence among the aristocracy is illustrated by the elaborate laws regulating it which have been quoted above. These laws refer primarily to sessions of the senate and the consistory, but similar regulations governed protocol in the provinces. The 'order of salutation' laid down by the consular of Numidia in Julian's reign is preserved in an inscription. First came senators, comites, former comites, and holders of imperial offices administratores ; next the princeps and cornicu! They had a very real if rather intangible value.

    A pro- vincial governor could order mere decurions about, and too often ignored their legal privileges, and flogged them if he was annoyed with thc;m.

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    But if a decurion became c! He was now of equal rank with the governor if not superior to him. No governor would venture to flog c! Libanius passionately declares that it was the growing habit of flogging decurions that drove them to seek senatorial rank. That he was not entirely wrong is often admitted by the emperors themselves. In Theodosius allowed a decurion who had fulfilled his duties to acquire the comitiva tertii ordinis, 'in order that the dignity granted to him may protect him from all injuries', and in the same modest rank was accorded to the heads of the butchers' guild at Rome so that 'no fear of corporal injury may terrifY them'.

    L1baruus co. Gratian in 3 77 forbade private afternoon visits to a provincial governor by anyone of the same province, whether known to him or unknown, who claimed admission on the score of rank. In , three years after Theodosms had allowed the comitiva to decurions, Arcadius had to issue a warning: 'decurions who have received an honorary comitiva ought to fear those to whose government they have been committed and not to imagine that they have earned their rank in order to despise the commands of provincial governors. He goes on: 'But you also perceive that the public interest is damaged by the fact that, owing to the respect paid to their dignity, they place themselves beyond the coercive powers of the provme1al governors.

    The collection of arrears flags when the exactor pays deference to the debtor. They had gained no r1ght to decline their. But the mere title of senator was by itself enough to enable them to flout the law. Such being the power of a title,. This helps to explam why so many men were willmg to mcur huge debts to obtain? As Salvian in his usual exaggerated way puts it: 'an office once held gives them the privilege of having a perpetual right of rapine. The Roman senate contained a nucleus of ancient families who claimed descent from the Scipios and the Gracchi.

    It may be that in the veins of Anicius Acilius Glabrio Faustus, consul in 43 8, there flowed a few drops of the blood of the Acilius Glabrio who achieved nobility for his family by winning the consulship in BC. But whatever the truth of the matter, there is no doubt that these families believed themselves to be of vast antiquity and that their claims were generally accepted. Many of them, notably the great clan of the Anicii with its many branches, continued to flourish down to the sixth century.

    It no doubt contained a number of families whose origins went back further than the reign of Constantius II, for he presumably enrolled in it senators domiciled in his dominions; he certainly transferred to it the senators of Macedonia and Illyricum in 3 But these provincial senatorial families are not likely to have been of any great antiquity.

    Libanius' jibe was justified: it could not be claimed 'that the whole senate consisted of nobles descended from four generations or more of ancestors who had been magis- trates and ambassadors and done public service'. Libanius maliciously goes on to cite a number of great senators of the previous generations who had risen from the humblest origins- Ablabius, who had started life as a cohortalis of the province of Crete, Philippus, whose father was a sausage maker, Datianus, the son of a cloakroom attendant in the baths, Dulcitius whose father was a Phrygian fuller, Domitianus, the son of a working man Taurus and Elpidius.

    This was only natural. The higher strata of the curial class comprised the elite of the provinces.

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    Its members could often boast of very respectable pedigrees, even if they could not, like Synesius, trace their ancestry back to the Heraclids. They were men of substance, owning considerable landed estates. In their humbler sphere they served the state, not only holding office in :heir cit! They were men of culture, educated in the rhetorical schools.

    Superior decurions in fact conformed to the conventional standards of nobility. Their education moreover qualified them for the higher professions, in particular the bar, which were regular gateways to the senate. Most no doubt went no further than a provincial governorship or a vicariate, thus qualifying as clarissimi or specta- biles, but in the East, at any rate, some rose to the illustrious offices and in this way entered the inner circle of the aristocracy, which became in the latter part of the fifth century the effective senate. Zeno found it necessary to enact that only the higher illustrious offices-the urban and praetorian prefectures and the masterships of the soldiers-should carry with them exemption from curial duties, and that decurions who had since the beginning of his reign held the lesser offices from quaestor to comes rei privatae should remain subject to their civil obligations.

    A law of Anas- tasius annulling Zeno' s in so far as it was retrospective proves that a substantial number of decurions must have held the lesser illus- trious offices in the first ten years of Zeno's reign. Justinian in 53 8 still speaks of himself as appointing curiales to the highest offices which carried exemption. Such promotions, which had not been earned by any service to the state, were constantly denounced by the imperial government, but these very denunciations make it plain that they always continued to be common.

    Here again decurions were at first content with codicils of the clarissimate or equivalent honorary offices, but as the lower grades of the senatorial order sank in value they sought-and obtained-honorary illustrious offices. Justinian still granted them to curiales, only reaffirming that the beneficiaries, while becoming members of the senate, did not escape their curial obligations. All the more distinguished corps during the fourth and early fifth centuries successively secured the privilege that their senior members on retirement or during their last years of service were automatically accorded codicils of senatorial rank, and in some of the most distinguished all members were graded as senators.

    By a law of the same year the proximi of the sacra scrinia retired as spectabiles, and in 41 o all senior clerks of the scrinia were accorded the clarissimate. The silentiaries by a law of achieved the rank of spectabi! Between and the ten senior members of the domestici and the protectores became c! The retiring chief clerks of the! Outside the palace even the highest ministries were much more sparingly rewarded. It was not until the reign of Anastasius that the principal officials of the praetorian prefecture received on retirement a comitiva primi ordinis, which carried the rank of c!

    In the reign of Constantius II many notaries received spectacular advancement, even to the praetorian prefecture and the ordinary consulship. No other corps achieved such outstanding successes but a law of 3 So implies that retired principes of the agonies in rebus were often awarded provincial governorships, and laws of 42 3 and 43 2 suggest that silentiaries might well be promoted to higher things before completing their service.

    Many decurions wormed their way into the palatine service despite laws to the contrary, and thus managed to achieve sena- tonal rank. But the palatine service also provided an avenue of advancement for persons of humbler status, especially in the fourth century when access to it was relatively easy.

    Under Constantius II the notaries were still recruited from the lower classes, and it was in this way that the Constantinopolitan senators whose lowly origins Libanius held up to scorn had achieved their rank. But by the early fifth century the notaries had become a fashionable corps, in which hereditary senators, including young men of the noblest families, did nominal service, and men of humble origins could no longer hope to secure a place in it.

    Other palatine services under- went a similar evolution. Places in the corps of the domestici and protectores were by the sixth century only obtainable by purchase, and at very high prices. In the silentiaries and the scho! All these corps seem to have become preserves of the wealthy. Entry into the sacra scrinia was also by purch! There were in the reign of Valen- tinian Ill men serving in the sacra scrinia who were descended from co!

    OF THE SENATE of principes of the agentes in rebus and proximi of the sacra scrinia that they secured exemption from curial obligations for themselves and their children born after their promotion, although the rank of spectabi! Barristers, usually after preliminary service as assessors, were frequently, and indeed regularly, appointed to provincial governorships. Senior advocates of the high courts were in the late fifth and sixth centuries often promoted direct to the praetorian prefecture.

    Lawyers of distinction were often chosen as magistri scriniorum and quaestors. On the other hand from the early fifth century barristers of the high courts who did not aspire to office received senatorial rank on retirement, and from an honorary comitiva consistoriana which carried the rank of spectabi! In the lower courts such rewards were given more sparingly and later. Barristers enrolled at the bars of the comes rei privatae and the proconsul of Asia were only accorded the rank of comites primi ordinis clarissimi on retire- ment--and this as the result of a special petition to Anastasius.

    While a high proportion of barristers came of curial families, some were of humbler origin. Maximinus, who ultimately became praetorian prefect to Valentinian I, was the son of a cohorta! By this time there was a marked tendency for the membership of the profession to become heredi- tary, but it still provided a channel whereby cohorta! Justinian confirmed the anomalous rule that advocati ftsci of the praetorian and urban prefectures secured immunity from curial or cohortal obligations, and only limited the privilege by confining it to sons born after their fathers' promotion.

    Professors of the imperial university of Constantinople were from 42 5 awarded a comitiva primi ordinis with the rank of spectabi! But rhetoricians and poets were not infrequently accorded digni- tates, active or honorary. Libanius was offered the rank of quaestor by Julian, and that of praetorian prefect by Theodosius I; the Athenian philosopher Celsus was, as we have seen, admitted to the Roman senate on Symmachus' recommendation; the poet Claudian enjoyed the rank of a tribune and notary. All the pro- fessors of law at Berytus and Constantinople who took part in the compilation of.

    Digest and Institutes enjoyed honorary illustnous rank. Augustme, the son of a poor decurion of a small town, was hoping for honours, as he himself tells us, when he decided to. It was no doubt never easy for the common soldier to achieve promotion. Login with your institution. Any other coaching guidance? Don't have an account? Currency and addition of Tax VAT depend on your shipping address. Idle mout Chapter Ten. Idle mouths and solar haloes: A. Jones and the conversion of Europe in A. Jones and the Later Roman Empire. Author: David M. Add to Cart. Have an Access Token?

    Most recently, Bryan Ward-Perkins published a study in which he interpreted the disappearance of the Western Roman Empire as the end of a complex civilization with a high degree of specialization of labor. Ward-Perkins argued that the decline in quality and quantity of pottery and roofing tiles, the preference for building with wood rather than stone, and a dearth of coins point to the end of ancient material culture and the civilization that supported it.

    The study published by Michael McCormick in essentially charted the same material phenomenon, but allowed for a more nuanced interpretation. Rather than stress violence and insecurity, McCormick emphasized gradual and general population decline throughout the Roman world from the second century. Furthermore, McCormick assigned blame not to the arrival of barbarian newcomers, but rather to a decline in human health.

    Weather, disease, and poor health played a larger role in bringing the ancient economy to an end than did barbarian newcomers, and the decline occurred over a longer period than Ward-Perkins proposed. There simply is very little written evidence to support the thesis that disunited and scattered groups of barbarians destroyed not just the political unity of the Western Roman Empire, but also material civilization and modes of production. For the Burgundian settlement in particular, continuity reigns supreme over models of calamity. Rather, the sparse evidence for the period suggests that the Burgundians took control of cities peacefully, as when they occupied Lyon following the deposing of the emperor Avitus.

    In describing this natural disaster, Sidonius, who so clearly had a cultural disdain for the Burgundians, did not take the opportunity to compare such destruction to the activities of the newcomers. The gradual depopulating did not render the region sparsely inhabited or cause it to suffer from labor shortfalls. The civil and economic life of the region continued. Furthermore, the barbarians themselves were only able to thrive as warlords in the provinces because of Roman usurpers in Gaul. These usurpers did not want to destroy the Roman empire or even to carve out a provincial empire for themselves, but rather desired to rule the western half of the empire.

    As such, the usurpers had a vested interest in maintaining the imperial infrastructure, especially the infrastructure that supplied the army and minted coins, always an easy mechanism for propaganda. The Roman army, either under the imperial government or various usurpers, maintained control over at least parts of southern Gaul into the s. Only with the murder of Majorian in did Roman authority in Gaul begin to crumble.

    Other references are few and often only allusions. First, James operated on the assumption that the barbarians disrupted Roman authority in Gaul, which, as we have seen above, is incorrect. The evidence for the continued functioning of Gallic mints, on the other hand, is overwhelming. Burgundian coins from the reigns of Gundobad, Sigismund, and Godomar have survived. The Burgundians minted coins in gold, silver, and copper, and used a number of sizes and denominations.

    The evidence for the survival of mines is less obvious, and scholars have argued for their disappearance based on both written and archeological evidence. Such arguments require more nuance. First, as we have seen, coins continued to be minted in post-Roman Gaul, and those coins required the use of metal. While old metal, such as outdated coins, was likely melted down and recycled, at some point new ore would have been required. Second, it makes little sense to assume that Goths and Burgundians did not care about the continuation of mining operations any more than it would to assume that they did not care whether farming ceased.

    Mining was not only a profitable business. It was also necessary in order to supply soldiers and farmers alike with equipment. The physical evidence that Ward-Perkins used does indicate a sharp decline in classical Roman mining activities. This reduction, however, was not the result of barbarian invasions.

    Rather, it began in the third century. Levels of pollution were largely static from that point, showing only a gradual decline during the third, fourth, and fifth centuries. There is, then, no physical evidence indicating that either the barbarian invasions or the establishment of the successor states had any negative impact on mining activities. Similarly, while no explicit mention of continued mining operations can be found in the literary or legal sources, a substantial amount of tangential evidence exists.

    Limoges, in Aquitania, provides one interesting case study of tangential written evidence for continued smelting in the Visigothic kingdom. Throughout antiquity, Limoges was the site of an important gold mine, and while no physical evidence supports continued operations during the second half of the fifth century, the contemporary bishop Ruricius attests to knowledge of gold working. In two letters, Ruricius uses gold smelting as a metaphor with a technical detail that indicates a close understanding of smelting.

    For just as the precious purity of gold and silver can have neither its natural splendor nor its sound, and neither returns clarity to the looker nor a ringing to the listener but rather resonates raucously if it has been corrupted by the mixing of a base metal, or lead, or any other cheap material, unless it is purged by the heat of the fires. There is, therefore, enough evidence, when coupled with inference and logical supposition, to demonstrate that many state-owned industries continued to function into the period of the Germanic successor states.

    More importantly, no direct evidence indicates the opposite. It is a mistake to overestimate the early fifth-century destruction in Gaul and to assume that these imperial operations ceased. When the imperial government vacated portions of Gaul, the result was not chaos but the transfer of authority from the imperial office to the Germanic kings, who inherited not only imperial power but also the imperial infrastructure.

    What makes this continuity important to a discussion of slaves in the settlement is that all of these industries relied, to varying extents, on the use of servile labor. Noel Lenski has shown that the existence of public slaves continued much later than scholars have previously thought, in some cases into the middle of the fifth century. As serving in public administration took on a new prestige, the larger trend was to turn many city services over to free men.

    It is difficult, therefore, to demonstrate clearly that any Burgundian city, even the larger cities such as Lyon and Autun, continued to employ public slaves for any function — with one exception. The one function that Lenski believed undoubtedly remained in the hands of slaves was care for the aqueducts in Rome.

    The continued operation of aqueducts in the Burgundian kingdom is apparent in the literary evidence. Aiding Gundobad was in some sense a betrayal of Godigisel, and the engineer chose to assist Gundobad only because he was incensed at not having been considered important enough to remain in the city during the siege. Indeed, if Gregory provides any clue at all, it may be that it was a servile status that led to the engineer being included among those cast out of Vienne.

    None of this is enough to demonstrate that public slaves continued to maintain aqueducts, only that someone maintained them. In the case that these custodians were slaves, they probably continued to be the property of individual cities even after the settlement. The Burgundian kings laid claim to these properties and continued to exploit them as the imperial government had. The issuance of coins from Lyon demonstrates this most explicitly, but a careful examination of other evidence further supports this conclusion.

    It remains to be seen, however, how the replacement of imperial authority with Burgundian royal authority and the transfer of ownership affected these slaves. The Burgundian kings continued to use slaves in their traditional capacities: working the fields, minting coins, producing arms and armor for the Burgundian army, and performing domestic work. Given that where Burgundians settled they took possession of half as many slaves as they did land, it is likely that the Burgundian kings made gifts of slaves to their followers in order to ensure that the land was fully cultivated.

    More importantly, the Burgundian kings used slaves to administer the state. In Burgundy it is easy to see how the royal estates, which had previously supplied much income to the emperor, became an important part of the financial operation of the kingdom. That slaves were often in charge of these estates points to an increased social standing for royal slaves, similar to what occurred in imperial Rome.

    The Burgundian law codes clearly support the high status of some royal slaves. The title also includes a reminder to royal slaves not to overstep their stations, which implies that some of them were acting above their servile status, having difficulty reconciling their legal status with their actual power as agents of the king. Elsewhere, Gundobad lays claim to half of the property of royal freedmen at their death, further suggesting that both royal slaves and royal freedmen could be expected to profit from their stations. Despite the fragmented nature of the evidence, it is clear that the Burgundian kings employed slaves in administrative capacities to some degree.

    The law codes demonstrate that these slaves accrued both wealth and status, in accordance with what we know of imperial slaves in Rome.