HIST 203 Lecture Outline (Fall 2016 – Week 2)

Week 2: Tuesday


Meet the Romans with Mary Beard: All Roads Lead to Rome (1 of 3; 59:06 min.):


Origins to 3rd century CE:

Click here for an Interactive map of the Roman Empire

Augustus, Julius Caesar’s grand-nephew and adopted son, becomes 1st emperor (31 BCE – 14 CE; see map)

1st century CE: empire develops under two dynasties: Julio-Claudians (founded by Augustus), 31 BCE-68 CE, and Flavians (founded by Vespasian), 69-96 CE

c. 4 BCE – 30 CE: Lifetime of Jesus in Judaea (Roman Palestine); birth of Christianity
. 50 – c. 150 CE: 27 canonical texts of New Testament written, including Acts of the Apostles (written by Luke, c. 65-85 CE)

Empire reaches its zenith in the 2nd century CE; encircles entire Mediterranean basin and extends beyond (see map) Empire falls into chaos in the 3rd century CE:
  • attacks by Germans and Persians; collapse of all Roman frontiers (see map)
  • bloody competition among “barracks” emperors for imperial throne
  • plague, spiralling taxation, currency debasement, and inflation
  • rise of mysticism, Neoplatonism, and Christianity

The late Roman Empire:

Restoration of order by Diocletian (284-305 CE):
  • division of the Roman empire into Eastern Empire and Western Empire, ruled by a Tetrarchy of 2 Augusti and 2 Caesares from new capitals (see map)
  • divinization of the office of the emperor and diminishment of the Senate
  • reorganization of the army, paid for by high taxation
  • recoinage and imposition of strict wage and price controls to reduce inflation
  • occupations become hereditary
  • persecution of Christians leads to subsequent heresy of DONATISM
  • 312 adopts Christian symbols at Battle of Milvian Bridge and defeats rival to become emperor of Western Empire (see map)
  • 313 Edict of Milan legalizes Christianity within both halves of the Empire
  • 324 defeats rival to become emperor of entire Empire; moves imperial capital to CONSTANTINOPLE
  • 325 assumes authority over Church and convenes Council of Nicaea to confront heresy of  ARIANISM; issues NICENE CREED

Emperor Theodosius the Great makes CHRISTIANITY THE ROMAN STATE RELIGION (391); at his death (395) the division of the Roman Empire into an Eastern Empire and a Western Empire becomes permanent (see map).

In the 5th century both the Eastern and Western Empires are assailed by attacks and invasions. The Eastern Empire (with its capital at Constantinople) survives. Rome itself is sacked twice: by the Visigoths in 410, and by the Vandals in 455, and the Western Empire crumbles; the last Western Emperor is deposed by a barbarian general in 476.

Click here for a picture-gallery of the Roman emperors

Click here for an image of Theodosius II (r. 408-450) and of his older sister and advisor Pulcheria


c. 4 BCE – 30 CE Lifetime of Jesus in Judaea
c. 50 – 150 CE
27 canonical texts of New Testament written:
  • 4 Gospels (attributed to SS. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)
  • Acts of the Apostles (attributed to Luke, c. 65-85)
  • Revelation (also called Apocalypse)
  • 21 Epistles (letters), many attributed to St. Paul
66-70 Jewish revolt in Judaea put down by Romans; Temple destroyed
2nd cent. Roman Empire at its height
3rd cent. Roman Empire in crisis (250s: persecution of Christians)
284-305 Diocletian (see above) reorganizes Empire; persecutes Christians (leading to DONATISM)
312-337 Constantine (see above) legalizes the practice of Christianity within the Empire (EDICT OF MILAN, 313) convenes the church Council of Nicaea in 325 (which rejects ARIANISM and produces the NICENE CREED)

Early Christian concepts shared with pagan mystical religions include:

  • baptism
  • eternal salvation
  • death and resurrection of a savior-god
  • sacramental meal
  • human brotherhood under a divine father

Early Christian concepts shared with Judaism include:

  • monotheism: one eternal, omnipotent, unseen god
  • messiah
  • prophets
  • angels
  • miracles
  • sacredness of Hebrew Bible
  • importance of prayer, alms, tithing, fasting, pilgrimage to Jerusalem
  • ritual use of bread and wine

Early Christian concepts not shared with Judaism or pagan mystical religions include:

  • Trinity (one god, with three divine, co-equal, consubstantial, co-eternal persons: Father, Son, Holy Spirit) original sin
  • Eucharist (Holy Communion)
  • sacramental powers of priests (7 sacraments: baptism, confirmation, penance, Eucharist (communion), marriage, extreme unction, ordination)
  • sacredness of New Testament
  • administrative hierarchy: laypeople, parish priests, bishops, archbishops, patriarchs (bishops of Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and, later, Constantinople)


The fourth and fifth centuries:
c. 375 – 600 Germanic migrations into Western Empire (many tribes convert to Arianism)
Late 300s – early 400s
3 “Latin Doctors” of the Church:
  • St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan (forces Emperor Theodosius to repent of massacre)
  • St. Jerome, translator of Hebrew Bible and New Testament into Latin (=“Vulgate” Bible)
  • St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo Regius and author of Confessions and City of God
391 Emperor Theodosius I makes Christianity the Roman state religion
395 Death of Theodosius I; final division of empire into Eastern and Western halves
410 Sack of Rome by Visigoths (prompts St. Augustine of Hippo to write City of God)
415 Murder of Hypatia of Alexandria (click on the trailer for movie Agora [2010], or on this 10-minute documentary, with film clips, which is the end of a 50-minute documentary on Alexandria)
455 Sack of Rome by Vandals
476 End of Western Roman Empire with deposition of last Western emperor (Romulus Augustulus) by barbarian general Odovacer