Ruling the Later Roman Empire

Ruling the Later Roman Empire

Ruling the Later Roman Empire

Ruling the Later Roman Empire

Excerpt

History is a conversation with the dead. We have several advantages over
our informants. We think we know what happened subsequently; we can
take a longer view, clear of ephemeral detail; we can do all the talking; and
with all our prejudices, we are alive. We should not throw away these
advantages by pretending to be just collators or interpreters of our
sources. We can do more than that.

—Keith Hopkins

Sometime around A.D. 552, a thwarted civil servant wrote a polemical history of his own decline and fall. That man was John Lydus (or John "the Lydian"); his book—written in Greek, his first language—was titled On the Magistracies of the Roman State. John was born around 490 in Philadelphia, the chief town of the province of Lydia, on the western coast of Asia Minor. In 511, after an expensive education (which included learning Latin), he left home for the metropolitan magnificence of Constantinople, "the all golden city" (3.44). Arriving in the imperial capital, the twenty-one-year-old John had high hopes of a successful career. He aimed to secure a coveted position as a junior official in one of the imperial secretariats (sacra scrinia), whose highly privileged staff, working in the palace, dealt with administrative and judicial matters directly involving the emperor himself (3.26).

While waiting for a suitable opening, John furthered his studies by attending lectures on Aristotle and Plato given by the famous Athenian philosopher Agapias. Later in the same year he was offered a position on the staff of the eastern Praetorian Prefecture. The post was attractive for an ambitious newcomer. In the early sixth century, the Prefecture was still one of the most important and wide-ranging administrative departments in the empire. It had overall responsibility for judicial and financial affairs, army recruitment, public works, and . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.