Western Civilization

The Later Roman Empire page 4 of 5

The Reforms of Constantine (307-337)

Constantine generally continued Diocletian's policies, except that

1. In the period 313-330, he made Christianity an accepted and even favored religion. By 396, it had become the state religion of the Roman empire, both eastern and western.

2. He restored prosperity in the East

a. He increased gold currency by seizing the endowments of pagan temples and turning them into coinage.
b. He ended policy of balancing the eastern and western economies by unequal taxation. This ensured the recovery and survival of the eastern empire, which endured until the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453

The corollary of this is that the West was left to its own inadequate resources and began to decline in power.

3. He shifted the center of the empire to the East, building the city of Constantinople, the "New Rome." This caused the best talent and wealthiest families to leave Rome for the East. By 400, the capital had been moved out of Rome and, by 404, it was located in Ravenna, a town in northern Italy, protected by a great marsh and with a fortified harbor that allowed the arrival of reinforcements by sea in case the city was attacked. When Rome was sacked by Alaric and the Visigoths in 410, it was no longer an imperial capital. The highest-ranking government official in the city was the bishop. In 455, Attila threatened to plunder the city, and the bishop negotiated with him, arranging to pay him a large sum in return for his sparing the city. By this time, then, the bishop of Rome -- the pope -- was the actual ruler of the city and the lands surrounding it.





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