The Transformation of Frontiers from Late Antiquity to the Carolingians

By Walter Pohl; Ian Wood et al. | Go to book overview
Save to active project

FRONTIERS OF THE LATE ROMAN EMPIRE:
PERCEPTIONS AND REALITIES

Javier Arce

If there was one author who transmitted his own personal perceptions about the problems of the frontiers of the Roman Empire (i.e. fines, limites imperii) in the fourth century A.D., it was the anonymous author of the small pamphlet known as De rebus bellicis.1 This short treatise does not belong to the official historiography of the period—a fact of great interest for our purpose. It expresses or, better, reflects the author's personal vision of the problems, without the interference of official rhetoric. He recommends to the Emperor (surely Constantius II and his colleague, the Caesar Julian)2 a series of measures that should be taken for the welfare of the Empire. Most of them are military, defensive measures, but they are not only that, for there are also fiscal strategies. Both are inextricably united or mixed. In fact, two centuries before, the historian Tacitus formulated a strict correlation between the military and the fiscal, showing their inexorable connection: the greater the number of armies needed, the greater the expenses in stipendia; the greater the stipendia, the more taxes that will, inevitably, fall upon the provincials: neque quies gentium sine armis; neque arma sine stipendia, neque stipendia sine tributis.3 Thus Tacitus.

1 There are, of course, other writers in the fourth century who were conscious of the
problem of frontiers and expressed their opinion about them—Ammianus and Themistius
are two examples (I would like to thank Peter Heather for drawing my attention to
Themistius Oratio 8, p. 170, 113 ff., which expresses almost the same opinion as the
Anonymus, De rebus bellicis: even so, the context of a speech delivered to the Emperor,
with all its rhetorical conventions, is of less value, in my opinion, than the spontaneous
and imaginative booklet of the Anonymous). On Ammianus about frontiers see
J. Matthews, The Roman Empire of Ammianus (London, 1989), with full references and
bibliography. For the Anonymous' De rebus bellicis I have used the edition of Andrea
Giardina, Le cose della guerra (Milan, 1989), but R. Ireland, De rebus bellicis, Part II, The
Text, BAR Inter. Series, LXIII (1979) and E.A. Thompson, A Roman Reformer and Inventor,
Being a New Text of the Treatise De Rebus Bellicis (Oxford, 1952) should also be mentioned.

2 The discussion about the date and addressee of the anonymous has been a long
one: Giardina offers a good summary of it on pp. xxxvii–lii, and I follow him in his
proposal—i.e. Constantius II and the Caesar Julian.

3 Tacitus, Hist. IV, 74.

-5-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Transformation of Frontiers from Late Antiquity to the Carolingians
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 299

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?