The reforms of Constantine and Diocletian were characterized by establishment of a strict centralization of power, introduction of a vast bureaucracy, and definite separation of civil and military power. These reforms were not new and unexpected. The Roman Empire began its trend toward centralization of power as early as the time of Augustus. Parallel with Roman absorption of the new regions of the Hellenistic East, which developed through long centuries higher culture and older forms of government, especially in the provinces of Ptolemaic Egypt, there was a gradual borrowing from the living customs and Hellenistic ideals of these newly acquired lands. The distinguishing characteristic of the states built on the ruins of the empire of Alexander the Great of Macedon, Pergamon of the Attalids, Syria of the Seleucids, and Egypt of the Ptolemies, was the unlimited, deified power of the monarchs, manifested in particularly firm and definite forms in Egypt. To the Egyptian population Augustus, the conqueror of this territory, and his successors continued to be the same unlimited deified monarchs as the Ptolemies had been before them.
This was quite the opposite of the Roman conception of the power of the first princeps, which was an attempt to effect a compromise between the republican institutions of Rome and the newly developing forms of governmental power. The political influences of the Hellenistic east, however, gradually changed the original extent of the power of the Roman principes, who very soon showed their preference for the East and its conceptions of imperial power. Suetonius said of the emperor of the first century, Caligula, that he was ready to accept the imperial crown, the diadem; according to the sources, the emperor of the first half of the third century, Elagabalus, already wore the diadem in private; and it is well known that the emperor of the second half of the third century, Aurelian, was the first one to wear the diadem publicly, while the inscriptions and coins call him God and Lord (Deus Aurelianus, Imperator Deus et Dominus Aurelianus Augustus). It was Aurelian who established the autocratic form of government in the Roman Empire.
A History of the Byzantine Empire - Table of Contents
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