UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The triumph of dynasticism in the Roman imperial succession : from the proclamation of Diocletian to the death of Constantine Wilson, Edward George


The purpose of this thesis is to trace the constitutional methods by which stability was restored to the Roman Empire after the civil wars of the middle part of the third century. The core of the problem was the lack of any specific laws concerning the appointment of imperial successors and the predominance of the army in the politics of the period. During the first two centuries of the Christian era the hereditary principle, never recognized in law, had brought stability to the imperial succession but the emperor's fundamental role as commander-in-chief of the armies necessitated that the elective principle be invoked by the military in order to oppose the barbarian invasions. The failure of this system became manifest in the decline of imperial unity and indicated that a method had to be devised whereby the succession might become automatic and at the same time might ensure capable military leaders. By an investigation of the ancient literary sources, and especially those which record imperial propaganda, and to a lesser extent the legal codes, inscriptions, and coins, an attempt is made in this thesis to trace the restoration of stability in the imperial succession. This restoration was accomplished in two distinct stages. In the first Diocletian anticipated potential usurpers by associating them with himself in the imperial power. Diocletian's denial of hereditary right led to the downfall of his system, the Tetrarchy, but the restoration of imperial unity enabled the dynastic system to flourish in the second stage under Constantine and his successors.

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