The Emperor Aurelian, A.D. 270-75

During a reign that lasted only five years, writes Stewart Perowne, Aurelian ‘accomplished wonders’, fortifying Rome, strengthening the monarchical principle and generally stabilizing the Roman Empire.

The reign of the Emperor Diocletian is generally regarded as the water-shed between the ‘old’ Roman empire, founded nearly three centuries earlier by Augustus, and the ‘new’ monarchy of Constantine, eventually established in New Rome, that is Byzantium, on the Bosphorus and destined to endure for more than a millennium.

So astonishing is this transformation, this vindication of the ‘eternity’ of Rome of which the Romans boasted, that it is easy to be dazzled by it, and to overlook one of the most formative achievements that took place during the fifty years preceding Diocletian, an achievement without which it is hard to see how Diocletian could have carried out his reformation.

Diocletian became Emperor in 284. During the previous half century there had been no less than nineteen Emperors, not counting a host of usurpers and upstarts who had established themselves in various parts of the Roman domains. After the year 251, for a decade and a half plague scourged armies and citizens alike.

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