The Roman Near East, 31 B.C.-A.D. 337

By Fergus Millar | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
5
THE TETRARCHY AND
CONSTANTINE

5.1. THE TETRARCHY: PERSIAN WARS
AND FORTIFIED LINES

For just over a decade after Aurelian's reconquest of Palmyra, we have effectively no evidence at all about the Roman Near East. Almost all that can be offered is a few inscriptions from Arabia, of the 270s and early 280s, showing governors supervising the building of walls and possibly other structures at Adraa and Bostra. But even these are sufficient to illustrate one of the major changes in the structure of the Empire which began step by step in the middle decades of the third century, and were taken much further in the period of the Tetrarchy and Constantine. That is to say, in broad terms, that the Imperial structure moved almost entirely away from its roots in the Republican system, based on the Senate and the holding of major offices by senators. Thus these inscriptions from Arabia show that the governors, who had previously been senators of ex-praetor rank, legati Augusti pro praetore, were now men of equestrian rank with the title praeses (hēgemōn in Greek).1 What we call the late Empire is already coming into being.

Beyond that, in the Tetrarchic period, from 284 onwards, there came rearrangements of provincial boundaries; a new taxation-system; what seems to have been a more active and positive attitude on the part of government (reflected in this period in a long series of boundary-decisions in the name of the Emperor); the appearance of a new tier of regional government, the twelve

____________________
1
SEG XVI, nos. 813-814 (274/275, Adraa), Flavius Aelianus, praeses -- ή(γɛμóνος); IGLS XIII.1, no. 9108 478/279, Bostra), Aur. Petrus, ιού δια[σημοιΦιον] ήγɛμ(óνος) 9109 (282/283, Bostra), Aemilius Aemilianus, hēgemōn.

-174-

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