Key Terms and Events
Name given to Emperors rising to power on the strength of their armies after the
fall of the Severi. These emperors often spent most of their time at war,
fighting against Barbarians, Parthians, and Sassanids, though they
themselves often were not pure Roman born.
The idea of the political, economic unity of the Mediterranean world in which
security, peace—pax—was guaranteed by Roman law and military force. A
reality from 90 to 200 CE.
Elite force of palace guards established in the beginning of Empire period, to
guard the person and family of the Emperor. From time to time, they would
emerge as a political force, killing and proclaiming rulers. Eliminated at end
of third century.
Historic opponents of Roman rule in Mesopotamia, they became warlike again in
160s. Defeated by Marcus Aurelius, they caused intermittent problems into
the 200s, then were replaced by the Sassanids, who were more aggressively
expansionist and thus more of a threat.
German Barbarian tribe on the north-central Rhine, they began invasions of Roman
lands in the 160s, requiring Marcus Aurelius' sustained attention. Belong
to the western German tribal groups.
Barbarian tribe situated opposite the Roman borders in Pannonia (Balkans), they
raided westward from the reign of Aurelius.
Lower Balkan Germanic Tribes, they raided along with the Quadi during Marcus
Aurelius' time. Were defeated by him.
Persian dynasty that overthrew the Parthians in 220s. More aggressively
expansionist than their predecessors, they claimed lands ruled by ancient
Persian states going as far West as Palestine. Posed a large military
threat to Roman lands until the 630s. Made life difficult for military emperors
of third century.
A Germanic super-tribe emerging around 200 on the upper Rhine just opposite
Gaul. Began raiding from the late 200s, and especially after the Hunnic arrival
in the 300s.
German super-tribe from the 250s, on the northern Rhine between Alamanni and
Saxons. They worked as Roman foederati, and began to
cross the Rhine only in the 400s. Eventually converted to Catholic
Christianity, ensuring greater acceptance in West.
The western Goths, they settled north of Thrace and east of the Adriatic
Balkans. Coming into Roman lands initially with imperial agreement in 375, they
soon rebelled against the Roman's negligent treatment and defeated Valens in
378, then moved westward from 395. When no Roman authority would consent to
their integration into Roman forces in exchange for food, their leader
Alaric led an invasion of Italy resulting in the plundering of Rome. After
failing to get to North Africa, the Visigoths, under Athaulf and Wallia,
moved north from Italy into Gaul, where they fought for Rome against claimants.
In late 418, they were made foederati, settled in
western Gaul, and allowed hospitalitas. They moved
from their assigned lands to Iberia after the 430s, yet assisted Aetius to
defeat Huns in 451. Kingdom in Spain lasted to c.a. 700.
The eastern Goths, they were forced west from the Crimea and Black Sea area to
north of Thrace and Visigoth realms in the 370s. Assisted in Visigothic
defeat of Valens in 378. Became trouble for East Rome when they pressured
emperors, notably Zeno in 470-80s. Zeno responded to the problem by
encouraging Theodoric the Ostrogoth to lead his people west and unseat
Odovacar in 488-93, thus freeing the east from the Ostrogoth menace.
Theodoric overthrew Odovacar and established the Ostrogothic Kingdom in Italy,
Southern Gaul. Christians of the Arian persuasion.
Eastern Germanic tribe, a late entrant into Roman territories, came with
Rhadagaesius and his Vandals and plundered from 410s onward, eventually
settling as foederati in the Worms region. After the
Roman fall, they moved south to Gaul just beyond the Italian Alps to found a
Non-Germanic, Slavic-Turkic tribe from far Central Asia, arrived in Roman
theatre in 350-70s, driving all tribes west to pile up on Roman borders. Those
that did not flee were subjugated and incorporated as slaves into Hun armies.
Set off Germanic migrations into Roman lands. Raided East Roman areas from
430s, under unitary rulers—Rugilla and Attila. Went west under Attila,
pillaged 451-3. Were defeated by Aetius, Roman and German troops in 451, Battle
of Catalaunian Plains. Were scattered by
Germanic Uprising in 455.
East German tribe located beyond Burgundians before 400. Beginning in 406,
entered Gaul across Rhine at Mainz. They traveled and pillaged all through Gaul
and Iberia, crossing to North Africa in 429. After taking Carthage, they took
up piracy in the Mediterranean and cut off food supplies to Rome from North
Africa. In 455, Vandal ships sailed up the Tiber and sacked Rome.
Latin term for the fortified border areas along the Rhine and Danube rivers.
Ancient city in Western Asia Minor. Diocletian ruled from there, beginning
the tradition of imperial rule from East.
Method of rule innovated by Diocletian in order to assure smooth imperial
succession. Under this design, two Augusti, one in the East and one in the
West, would rule togetherBelow each ruled a junior colleague, or Caesar, who
was a trusted general. When an Augustus position became vacant, the
corresponding Caesar would occupy it, and this new Augustus would raise up a
new, trusted Caesar. The system did not ultimately work, giving way to civil war in 306.
Urban officials with municipal responsibility. Also called curiales,
beginning with Diocletian their roles expanded to include tax collection.
The class was made hereditary to prevent people from escaping the difficult task
An arrangement with Barbarian tribes across Roman borders under which the
Barbarians would fight in support of Roman interests in return for goods or
funds. From 370s, such agreements were applied also to Barbarians within
A version of Christianity based on the teachings of Arius, a priest who believed
that Christ was less divine than God, being his son and corporeal. Though long
accepted through much of the East and instrumental in converting many Goths to
Christianity, Arianism was never accepted in the West and soon became known as
the Arian Heresy. The resulting religious divide between Goths and Roman
Christians forestalled attempts at assimilation.
Ancient fishing village in the Bosphorous Straits where Europe meets Asia.
Constantine selected it as the site for his new imperial city, which he
christened Constantinople. After the 470s, more than a century after
demise of the Western Empire, Byzantium would become the popular name of the
Eastern continuation of the Roman Empire.
Another name for the Eastern Roman Empire, originating from the fact that
Constantinople was constructed on the ruins of the ancient city
The capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople was founded on the remains
of the ancient city of Byzantium, with construction beginning in 325.
of the richest cities on earth from 400-1300, because it was founded by the
Christian Constantine, it also was one of the first important cities to
encompass a totally Christian milieu.
German for 'Peoples'; Wanderings', it refers to the great Barbarian migrations
lasting from 150 CE until the 550s.
Germanic justice system, focusing on avoidance of blood-feuds by assigning cash
payments to different kinds of physical offenses; it was based upon severity of
offense, and the victim's social status.
Roman legal device, originally entailing the quartering of Roman troops in rural
agricultural areas during the winter to provide them with provisions. Modified
after the 420s, it was used to legalize Germanic residence in Gaul, Iberia, and
to provide them with access to a portion of agricultural production.
Estates set up by rural elites (senators, officials, etc.) beginning in the
100s; beginning with the 300s, peasants who could not afford the recent tax
bills, took up residence as employees of the estates. The peasants, tied to
these lands, began the road to enserfment, especially once Germanic notables
began to possess latifundia after the 440s.
Battle of Milvian Bridge (312)
Battle between Maxentius and Constantine in Italy over control of the
empire. After experiencing Christian visions, Constantine went on to defeat his
rival and become emperor.
325 Council of Nicaea
Held in Western Asia Minor under Constantine's supervision, a Church council
called to sort out the Arian dispute regarding the relationship between
Christ and God in terms of degrees of divinity. Though the Orthodox creed was
established proclaiming the co-equality of divinity, many were not convinced,
Arianism continued, and even became the East's official creed for a time.
Battle of Adrianopole
Battle between Eastern Roman forces led by Valens and
Visigothic/Ostrogothic forces in 378. At the battle, Valens refused to
wait for reinforcement led by the Western Roman Emperor Gratian, and
attacked. The Romans were routed, Valens was killed, and the Eastern army was
decimated. The aftermath was large-scale settlement of Goths within Roman
Battle of Catalaunian Plains
A 451 battle in central Gaul, in which Barbarian troops, with a small Roman
contingent, defeated the forces of Attila the Hun. Overall command was
jointly by Aetius and Theodoric the Visigoth, who died here.