Roman Empire  

Roman Empire

territory controlled by ancient Rome. The Romans built up their empire through conquest or annexation between the 3rd century BC and the 3rd century AD. At its height, the Roman Empire stretched from north-western Europe to the Near East and encompassed all the lands of the Mediterranean.

The control of an empire of this scale depended on a tightly controlled system of administration, a strong and disciplined army, and excellent communications. Provinces of the empire were controlled by Roman governors appointed by the emperor. The Roman army and a number of strategically placed forts ensured that the empire was defended against hostile local peoples, and an efficient network of roads was built both to allow troops to move swiftly within the empire and to facilitate trade. Taxes levied and valuable commodities such as grain, minerals, and slaves enriched Rome and financed its army. The many diverse peoples and cultures whose countries became part of the Roman Empire were, to varying degrees, united by Roman culture and Roman ideals of government and citizenship.

The formation of the Roman Empire began under the Roman Republic, but was formed mostly by the early Roman emperors, and is often thought of as belonging particularly to the imperial dynasties who held power in Rome after the collapse of the old Republican constitution. By the end of the 1st century AD, the Roman Empire was already the greatest empire of the ancient world. However, at the end of the 5th century AD, various economic factors and ceaseless pressure from barbarian peoples on the frontiers of the empire led to its eventual collapse in western Europe. An eastern Empire, based on Constantinople (now stanbul), continued for far longer.

The Beginnings of Empire

The early history of the city of Rome saw its gradual domination, first under the Kings of Rome and then under the Roman Republic, of the Italian peninsula. The emergence of this small but powerful city-state inevitably brought it into conflict with other Mediterranean powers, particularly with some of the states of Greece and with Carthage. The protracted series of wars which Rome fought in order to establish itself as the major Mediterranean power led to the conquest and annexation of territories belonging to its rivals: in this way Rome acquired Sicily (241 BC); the twin province of Sardinia and Corsica (238 BC); most of Spain (197 BC); Macedonia and parts of northern Africa (146 BC); and the lands of Pergamum in Asia Minor (133 BC). Further territory was added as a result of the campaigns of Julius Caesar (leading to the conquest of the rest of Spain and of northern Gaul) and during the Civil Wars of the later 1st century BC (including, most importantly, the Provinces of Africa and of Egypt). By 27 BC, when Octavianus, having emerged from the chaos of the Civil Wars without significant rival to his powers, adopted the title "Augustus" and so became the first Roman emperor, the foundations of the empire were already laid, and Rome was already the leading power, in the western world.

In the early years of the Roman Empire, each province was given its own constitution, agreed and loosely supervised by the Senate in Rome. For each province a governor was appointed; although, in theory, the tenure of governors lasted one year, in practice, their terms of office were often extended. By the time of Augustus, a hierarchy of provinces had developed: some, considered "public provinces", were administered by proconsular governors, appointed by the Senate, with no responsibility for the command of troops. The remainder were imperial provinces, effectively governed by appointees of the emperor. For the more peaceful and stable imperial provinces, in which no more than a single legion of troops was based, the governor was a former praetor (magistrate); the more heavily garrisoned provinces were ruled by governors drawn from the ranks of former consuls (chief magistrates). There were also some provinces in which the governor was of equestrian rank (drawn from the lower echelons of the Roman nobility): Judaea, annexed in 6 BC after the collapse of the client kingdom of Herod, was an equestrian province, as was Egypt (which long had a special status on account of its great wealth and strategic importance). In times of crisis, a serving consul might be sent out to govern a province: this happened in Sicily after a serious slave revolt in 134 BC. Aided by a procurator, who was charged with financial affairs, the governor was responsible for the running of the province, day-to-day matters being settled by a series of local and town councils. The provincial constitution would deal with, among other matters, the status of free towns and ports within the province; with the rights of the inhabitants (whether or not Roman citizens); and with the types and levels of taxation which were to be paid by the provincials.

Each province was usually made up of civitates, local communities that were to some extent self-administering, and often roughly equivalent to the national or tribal groupings existing before annexation of the territory by Rome. At this early period the great majority of provincials were peregrini, citizens of a Roman province albeit without the rights of Roman citizens: many exceptions could, however, be found, in settlements such as the coloniae (legally regarded as virtual extensions of Rome itself) and in municipia to which citizen status had been granted. Until at least the late 1st century AD, however, it is true to say that the provinces of the empire were entirely subordinate to the Italian homeland.

From the beginning, the economic benefits of empire made themselves felt in Rome, and the city soon grew to depend upon the influx of provincial wealth. Taxes in kind, especially of grain, were enough to upset the balance of Italian agriculture, while the wealth of Spanish mines, of exotic goods, of slaves, and of custom dues from far-off caravan routes allowed huge programmes of public works in Rome and allowed its inhabitants relief from their own taxes. Increasingly, however, much of this wealth was required to sustain the ever-larger army needed to garrison and maintain the empire.

1st-Century Consolidation and Expansion

Rome's future as an imperial power was affirmed by Augustus, who set out to stabilize and formalize the rather haphazard and vaguely defined boundaries of Roman possessions. This objective was approached in two ways, according to circumstance: either by direct military conquest or, more subtly, by encouraging client kingdoms in strategic buffer zones, where the services of friendly local rulers could be bought or otherwise gained, and would offer a measure of security along the borders. This policy was used particularly to ally Rome to some of the sophisticated dynasties of the east, buying protection against the Scythian and Parthian peoples who threatened Asia Minor. Further east, however, legions were stationed in Syria to make a permanent frontier of the Euphrates and the edge of the Arabian Desert.

In Europe, the land of Gaul, which had been conquered by Julius Caesar, was organized into four provinces, and the older possessions in Spain into three. Attempts to find tenable frontiers for the Rhine and Danube provinces, however, were less straightforward, and attempts to push beyond the Rhine, and so to remove the threat posed by the Germanic peoples, led to one of Rome's most humiliating defeats when an army under Publius Quinctilius Varus was virtually wiped out in the Teutoberg Forest (the clades Variani; literally, "the catastrophe of Vares"). The eventual Roman withdrawal to the natural frontier suggested by the great rivers left the provinces of Upper and Lower Germany with a total of eight legions, with a further seven in the Danube provinces—an indication of Roman concern about the security of this border. Augustus, however, had been so shattered by the humiliation of the loss of Germany that he instructed his successor, Tiberius, not to increase further Rome's territories.

The machinery of empire consolidated by Augustus was inherited by his successors. Tiberius (ruled AD 14-37) annexed the client kingdom of Cappadocia (annexation being a policy commonly applied when clientage arrangements for any reason broke down). The next significant territorial expansion, however, was the invasion of Britain, in AD 43, under Claudius. Partly justified in commercial terms and partly as a move to prevent British support of potentially rebellious Gaulish tribes, this adventure was probably largely a quest for personal prestige by the emperor, who played an active personal part in the conquest and consolidation. Although some difficulty was experienced in establishing a safe northern boundary (eventually to be established by the building of Hadrian's Wall, which became the ultimate northern boundary of the empire), Britain rapidly became drawn into the Roman provincial modes of life, with several flourishing cities, including Camulodunum (now Colchester), the original provincial capital, and many minor towns. Claudius took a close interest in the provinces of the empire and did much to extend Roman citizenship by founding coloniae and municipiae, especially in Gaul. He also introduced measures to draw provincials into the higher ranks of Roman administration, particularly into the Senate: this did much to underline the increasing parity of the provinces with the Italian homeland, to which they were previously completely subordinate.

The Julio-Claudian dynasty came to an end with the murder of Claudius's deranged successor, Nero, in AD 68. The following year of dynastic struggle has been graphically named "the year of the four Emperors". From the turmoil emerged the able Vespasian, first of the Flavian Emperors. He and his sons Titus and Domitian ruled successively until 96, and maintained the empire. New territory was added in Germany, east of the Rhine, and the eastern frontiers were greatly improved and strengthened. The empire was not, however, to grow for much longer: forces were at work, both internally and externally, which were to bring about the protracted end of the Roman Empire.

2nd-Century Retrenchment

For a while, however, the provinces flourished. The dynasty of the Antonines began in 96 with the murder of Domitian and his succession by Nerva: when, two years later, the Imperial purple passed to the Spanish-born Trajan (ruled 98-117), the Roman world had for the first time a ruler who was himself a provincial. From this time, it is possible to see the empire develop as a genuinely cosmopolitan community. Though, ultimately, it was Italy and Rome which mattered and which were subsidized by provincial revenues, there was at the same time a considerable amount of shared interest, as well as common culture and institutions.

Trajan tried to increase the extent of the empire and, indeed, it was under his reign that it briefly reached what was to be its greatest size. His armies pushed as far as the shores of the Persian Gulf and two new provinces—Mesopotamia and Assyria—were created. These new possessions could not be consolidated, however, and were soon relinquished by Hadrian (ruled 117-138), who was far more concerned with safeguarding the existing provinces than with acquiring new ones.

Hadrian took a close, personal interest in the empire, and travelled extensively through every part of Rome's dominions. He was an able and just administrator with an interest in philosophy. His long reign was, by and large, a period of peace, stability, and prosperity. Perhaps his most lasting gift to the empire was the system of formal, defended frontiers which he established in Britain and along the Rhine and Danube. He was succeeded by Antoninus Pius (ruled 138-161), a Gaul married to a Spanish wife: Antoninus Pius continued the imperial policies of Hadrian, and the strongly garrisoned frontiers remained intact.

Crisis was to come in the following reign, that of the Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius (ruled 161-180). The expansion of Barbarian tribes outside the empire was producing ever more pressure on available territory, and the productive lands of the Roman provinces were irresistibly attractive not only to casual raiders and looters but, more importantly, to expanding or dispossessed peoples looking for land on which to settle. For a while the whole of the empire in the west was threatened when a host of Germanic tribes, the most powerful of whom were the Marcomanni, smashed through the Danube frontier, overran the adjacent provinces, and pushed as far as northern Italy, where they lay siege to Apuleia. After a long and grimly fought war, they were pushed back, but the pattern of barbarian pressure and incursion was to continue.

The Empire at its Height

At its greatest extent, the Roman Empire included all the lands bordering on the Mediterranean Sea, and reached far into northern Europe and the Near East. The northern limit was in Britain where, after an unsuccessful Antonine attempt to annex southern Scotland, the frontier was eventually established on Hadrian's Wall, which stretched from the Tyne to the Solway. The whole of the Iberian Peninsula was occupied, and divided into the provinces of Tarraconensis, Baetica, and Lusitania. Gaul extended as far as the Rhine, and comprised Gallia Narbonensis (Provence and the south); Gallia Aquitania (south of the Loire); Gallia Lugdunensis (between Loire and Seine); and Gallia Belgica (northern France reaching to Germania Inferior on the banks of the Rhine). Along the southern bank of the Danube lay the provinces of Rhaetia, Noricum, and Pannonia. As well as the whole of Italy, the whole of Greece was in Roman possession, with the Balkan provinces of Moesia, Thrace, and Dacia. Virtually the whole of the coastal strip of northern Africa was part of the empire, divided into the provinces of Africa, Mauretania, Numidia, Cyrenaica, and Aegyptus (Egypt).

In the east, Rome held the whole of Asia Minor (Bithynia, Galatia, Pontus, Cappadocia, and Cilicia) as well as the province of Syria: further lands in Armenia and Iraq had been given up by Hadrian. Roman influence spread even further than the far-flung boundaries of this Empire: major trade routes, especially to the Orient, had been opened, and Roman goods have been found as far east as India and as far west as Ireland.

Clearly, the empire included a bewildering racial mixture, from the shaggy, trouser-wearing Celtic people of northern Britain to the sophisticated townsfolk of Damascus or Alexandria. In practice, it is usual to think of a western Empire of Britain, Gaul, Spain, and the provinces of the Rhine and the Danube; and an eastern Empire in Greece, Asia, and Africa. The distinction became clearer as the east inevitably adopted Greek as its main language while, for most formal purposes, the west was dominated by Latin. National and regional identities were not, as a rule, suppressed by the empire: rather, the multitude of provincials rapidly came to regard themselves as at least partly Roman while maintaining their specific identity. An important turning-point came in 212, when the Emperor Caracalla extended full Roman citizenship to all free-born subjects of the empire, abolishing the distinction between Roman and provincial, and so doing much to create a common sense of Romanitas (an identity with the traditions and institutions of the Roman world).

The Spread of Roman Culture and Customs

The extent to which Roman culture and Roman institutions were eagerly adopted by the peoples of newly acquired provinces is remarkable: even the Britons, remote inhabitants of a semi-mythical island at the very edge of the known world, adopted with great speed the cosmopolitan, provincial culture of the Roman Empire. In the earliest periods of Romanization, much was probably due to social competition among the native people, whose prestige might be enhanced by possessions or manners which might associate them with such a powerful and successful society as that of Rome. This argument applies most convincingly to the less developed native societies of the west: thus the upper classes of the Celtic peoples of Gaul and Britain, even before Roman conquest, measured their social success in terms of their access to wine from the Roman world, and to the paraphernalia of wine-drinking: British chieftains were buried with jars of imported wine and with the cups and mixing-bowls which formed part of the ritual of wine-drinking, and their armour and weaponry were influenced by Roman technological development.

There was, then, a considerable taste for Roman material goods already established in some provinces even before they were drawn into the empire. Once a province had become part of the empire, and Romans were seen to be the dominant group, it is probable that the desire to be associated with Roman ways and to seem to be Roman grew among the native people. The Romans themselves were also anxious that natives should become civilized Roman provincials (and, later, citizens): they were also, however, quick to adopt provincial styles and customs which they found attractive, so that the empire became a melting-pot of cultural influences.

In the east, the situation was rather different. Here were existing, highly structured societies, usually based around networks of towns and cities, and with traditions of civilization which reached back for centuries. Rome found it relatively easy to administer these provinces: the basic structure of government, of urban life, of taxation, communications, and administration was already in place. In cultural terms, however, the ancient societies of the east did not become Romanized to the same extent as the "barbarian" societies of the west: they were already secure in an ancient identity, the culture and institutions of Rome (themselves largely derived from ancient Greece) were less of a novelty, and, because things already worked with a fair degree of efficiency, the Romans felt less compulsion to impose change in order to be able to exploit and administer.

The first contact which most people in the "barbarian" western provinces had with the Roman world was with the army, and the army became one of the most important early forces behind Romanization of the provinces. From an early date, provincials and members of conquered nations were enlisted into the Roman army (although the elite regiments, the legions, were reserved for Roman citizens). By the end of the 1st century, the army was mostly non-Italian: in the later Empire, troops of Germanic origin became increasingly important. The army brought many native people into contact with Roman ways and Roman money and, after discharge, a soldier could be eligible for Roman citizenship. The practice of settling retired legionary troops in coloniae, model towns often situated in newly conquered territory, was also important, providing shining examples of the advantages of civilized (that is to say, Romanized) life. On a smaller scale, native people were encouraged to settle in vici, small civil settlements on the margins of forts, where they would be in close contact with, and be economically dependent upon, the occupying garrison.

Towns and Cities

Despite the obvious economic importance of the countryside, Roman life was characteristically the life of the cities and towns. Romans considered the city an essential part of civilization, and it is certainly true that, especially in the west (where settlement had previously been almost entirely rural), the creation of cities and towns was one of the most dramatic effects of Roman rule. Native people gravitated towards the towns: not only the upper classes, who were often enrolled as councillors and magistrates, but also the artisans and craftsmen who rapidly adopted the new styles and technologies.

Provincial towns could be of great magnificence, and were regularly distinguished by fine public buildings, temples, and other amenities. As early as the reign of Augustus, the city of Augustodunum (Autun), in central Gaul, was given walls and magnificent gates in a distinctive North Italian style which would not be disgraced by any building in Rome itself. The recently recognized basilica (the administrative headquarters) of Roman London was one of the largest in the empire. Public buildings such as the theatre at Arausio (Orange) or the amphitheatre at Arelate (Arles) are, even today, of breathtaking magnificence, and testimony to the importance, not solely of the provincial towns, but of communal, urban life.

Life in the Country

The effects of Romanization were also felt in the countryside. An immediate factor was the need to meet the demands of Roman taxation, and to produce a surplus to feed the non-productive populations of the towns. In northern Britain the amount of land under cultivation increased dramatically at about the time of the arrival of the Roman army: this probably reflects the new demands that were being placed on the productive capacity of the countryside. A major transformation of the rural landscape was brought about by the introduction of the centralized and highly capitalized villa system of agriculture, which in some areas seems to have dominated the farming economy. Elsewhere, however, the impact of Roman rule upon the peasantry was probably less than it was upon those living in the towns. Individual farmsteads often continued to function without a break in much the same way as before Roman conquest, though the material possessions of the people were usually transformed, with pottery, glass, pins, and small metal objects, all in Roman provincial style, appearing at an early date at most rural ites. There is evidence that Latin (in the west) was adopted almost universally,

both in town and in the country.


As Roman rule and Roman culture spread, so did Roman religion. The Romans were remarkably eclectic in religious matters: while there were certain observances which had to be made, they were reluctant to exclude any other religious belief, and happy to accept most of the gods and practices of the subject peoples of the empire. Rare exceptions were made in such cases as those of the Druids of Gaul, considered politically dangerous as well as unacceptable on account of their practice of human sacrifice, and of the early Christians, who insisted on the exclusive truth of their belief and so challenged the divine authority of the emperor. Usually, however, the Romans were content to apply a doctrine known as interpretatio Romana (literally "Roman translation"), under which native gods were seen as equivalent to, or as aspects of, the more familiar gods of Rome. In this way the Celtic war-god Camulos was considered as being equivalent to Mars, and Brigantia, tutelary goddess of the northern Britons, was represented as Minerva Victrix.

This doctrine made the spread of Roman religion throughout the empire remarkably easy. At the same time, Roman society absorbed many religious trends from the provinces: the cults of Mithras, Isis, Osiris, and, eventually, Christianity were all imported. Particularly important was the way in which religion, either as the cults of deified emperors or of those associated with living emperors (such as that of the Unconquered Sun in the 3rd century), was used to reinforce and to legitimize the secular power of the imperial dynasties.

Decline and Fall

From the beginning of the 3rd century, the Roman Empire was on the defensive, beset by economic and social problems from inside and faced with barbarian pressure from outside. Septimius Severus (ruled 193-211), after fighting bloody civil wars to establish his power, managed to extend Roman possessions in Mesopotamia, but was occupied in turning back a tide of barbarian invaders in northern Britain when he died in York. Under his reign, Italy lost many of its privileges, and had to pay provincial taxes: this was a symptom of the pressure which the demands of a huge army and growing civil service were placing upon the empire's revenues.

The accession of Septimius Severus marked the beginning of a period in which the relatively ordered, hereditary imperial dynasties began to break down. Real power lay with the army, and it was up to the army to approve, or even to appoint, a new emperor. At times, this could reduce the succession to a squalid auction, at which the candidate who offered the greatest cash bribe to the troops was likely to take control. Costly and damaging civil wars between competing claimants became increasingly common. The effect could only be to damage the stability of the empire and to divert military attention from external threats.

In 238 came massive attacks by Germanic tribes on the Black Sea area. By 253 the Goths and the Heruli had ravaged the shores of the Aegean, and in 267 Athens was taken. At the same time, the Danube frontier came under great pressure, and the province of Dacia was effectively abandoned. In 259 the Allemanni, a huge confederacy of German tribes, attacked eastern Gaul, penetrated as far as Spain, and linked up with other Germanic groups in the west. German tribes occupied northern Italy. In the east came renewed trouble with the Parthians, culminating in the ultimate humiliation of the Emperor Valerian being captured by the forces of the Parthian king, Shapur, who pushed the Roman Empire back to the Euphrates. In 270 Zenobia, queen of the formerly friendly Syrian city-state of Palmyra, invaded Egypt and adjacent territories. Some recovery from these disasters was achieved by Aurelian (ruled 270-275), who defeated both Palmyra and the German tribes, but the situation continued to be volatile, and the position of the empire precarious.

Major reorganization of the empire was undertaken by Diocletian (ruled 284-305), who formally divided Roman territory into a Western Empire and an Eastern Empire, each administered by an Augustus (senior emperor) and a junior Caesar (subordinate emperor)—a system known as the Tetrarchy. Imperial power, increasingly absolute and arbitrary, was enforced by a large secret police force (the agentes in rebus). Diocletian also undertook radical reforms of the army, and of the defences of the provinces. The twin empires were again united by Constantine (ruled 306-337), who adopted Christianity (formerly a relatively unimportant cult) and who moved the centre of imperial government from Rome to the new city of Constantinople, in Asia Minor. This last was an extraordinary move: it recognized that the empire in the east was now the primary concern, and broke a chain of historical and political continuity which had been, for immemorial ages, at the heart of Roman identity. On Constantine's death the empire was again divided formally into Eastern and Western, between his sons Constans and Constantius II.

The second half of the 4th century was a time of military reverses. Picts and Scots invaded Britain in 360 and, though the barbarians were temporarily defeated by Theodosius in 370, the legions were forced to begin their abandonment of the province in 383 (a process completed by 410) in order to reinforce the severely pressed frontiers elsewhere. Huns and Goths were invading Europe from several points, and in 378 the Emperor Valens was defeated and killed by Visigoths at Adrianople (now Edirne), in Thrace. The Emperor Theodosius (ruled 392-395) briefly reunited the empire and tried to rally Roman forces against the barbarian tide, but nothing could be done. In 396 Alaric, king of the Visigoths, began a campaign that was to sweep through Greece and the Balkans to Italy: in 410 he sacked the city of Rome itself and, though Italy was briefly to be reconquered by the Byzantine general Belisarius in 535, the ancient heartland of the empire was now lost.

Over the following century, the Western Empire fell steadily into barbarian hands. Desperately short of troops, Rome had adopted the despairing policy of allowing some Germanic foedorati (people with whom the Romans, by treaty, had agreed friendly association or alliance in perpetuity) to settle in the European provinces in return for guaranteeing the borders against other, more hostile, tribes: in this way, much of Europe was to fall under barbarian rule and occupation by clandestine means. Vandals were settled in Spain; Ostrogoths in Dalmatia; and Huns in Pannonia and other parts of eastern Europe. In 443, the Vandals took Rome's last possessions in northern Africa. The final end of the Western Empire came in 476 with the death of its last emperor, Romulus Augustulus, ironically named after one of the twin founders of Rome, and the proclamation of the German barbarian general Odoacer as king of Italy.

In the east, the empire was to continue, in one form or another, for many centuries, but the days were over when the empire could be called Roman: the lands governed from Constantinople are usually referred to as the Byzantine Empire, and were eventually to fall to the Muslim Turks in 1453.

The causes of the collapse of this mighty Empire are more complex than the simple series of military defeats outlined above. In essence, the empire had grown too big for its resources. Extended frontiers required a huge army, always a vast drain on revenues, and in turn generating an increasingly unwieldy bureaucracy: too many unproductive mouths were being fed by too few farmers and peasants. This situation was worsened in the areas most exposed to barbarian invasion, where conditions were most unstable. Political competition between rivals for power resulted in continual civil wars, which drained the exchequer, depleted manpower, and exhausted the countryside. Massive rates of inflation, following debasement of the coinage in order to increase the money supply to pay the army and administrators, reduced confidence in the currency and inhibited economic production. Roman society had become inflexible and fossilized, caught in a cycle of economic depression and bureaucratic stagnation. All these factors were exacerbated by the ceaseless pressure on the frontiers of the empire, and by the constant need for more troops and more taxes.

The Roman Inheritance

By the Europe of the early Middle Ages, the Roman Empire was remembered, though sometimes dimly, as an age of stability, power, and achievement: it was Rome which largely shaped the culture and institutions of medieval Europe, and bestowed a lasting legacy.

The Germanic people who gained the western Roman Empire were conscious of the achievements of Rome, but were unfortunately not always organized in a way that would allow them immediately to build upon the inheritance. Their adoption of Roman culture and institutions was, therefore, far from uniform, and the lasting legacy of Rome can be difficult to perceive. In Italy, in Iberia, and to a lesser extent in France and some of the Balkan states, the language spoken is still based closely upon Latin: all the Germanic invaders were illiterate in their own tongues, and such learning and higher culture as was to survive in Europe in the centuries following the fall of the empire was conducted in Latin. Moreover, the very survival of that learning is owed to the Christian Church, itself a Roman institution which was to outlive the empire that produced it.

It was the Church, more than anything, that was the real heir of the empire, and which was able to provide a measure of continuity after the collapse of temporal power and civil administration. The papacy continued to be based in Rome and to exert enormous authority over most of Europe, keeping alive not only many of the ideas of the Roman world but also a sense of a wider community which looked to the ancient city for support and leadership.

Besides the Church, some of the most important institutions of the medieval world had their origins in the Roman Empire. The feudal system, which was to govern not only the holding and administration of land but also the web of relationships and obligations that held together medieval society, has been seen as developing from the late Roman system of land law. In places, other traditions of Roman law and administration survived, and the courts of the more sophisticated Germanic peoples—Franks, Goths, Burgundians—were modelled upon the imperial courts of Rome. Five hundred years after the fall of the city, Roman styles continued to dominate material culture, art, and, in particular, architecture. The barbarian races had coveted Rome and what the empire represented: it is true to say that they did not destroy the Roman legacy, but used it, adapted it, and integrated it into their own cultures.

Contributed By:

Percival Turnbull

Quelle: Microsoft Encarta