Division of the Roman
of Constantine the Great, Emperor of
the Roman Empire from 306 to 337, left the Empire with a new capital
in the east at Constantinople and with three critical challenges, any
one of which could have caused its collapse.
first was civil war as Constantine's three sons fought among themselves
for his throne--a struggle from which Constantius II finally emerged
in 350 not necessarily as victor but as last-man-standing. In any event,
leadership of the Empire was unified once more.
The second challenge, the military threat from Persia in the east, though
not resolved was at least contained by a disadvantageous peace treaty.
In the west, however, the cloud of territorial encroachment by the Goths
from the north grew steadily darker, a trend underscored by a great
Goth victory in the Battle of Adrianople in 378. As Emperor from 379,
Theodosius the Great brought a temporary respite through a careful policy
of appeasing and containing the Goths.
Theodosius' death in 495 brought the Empire into the less skilled hands
of his sons Honorius and Arcadius, who compounded their lack of statecraft
by their deep personal animosity. Their personal hostility was resolved
by a decision to divide the Empire irrevocably into two parts. Arcadius
became Emperor of the Eastern Empire, which soon became known as the
Byzantine Empire. Honorius assumed the throne of the new Western Empire--just
81 years before its demise at the hands of Odoacer,
leader of its rebellious barbarian mercenaries.
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1999-2000 C. I. Gable