URBEM FECISTI - REFOUNDING THE EMPIRE | Bed and Rome and Breakfast - 3 B&B in Rome

martedì 18 settembre 2018


The articles of the series Urbem Fecisti are dedicated to the way Rome has shaped the modern world, to its modernity. It's a fact that Roman Empire is still living inside each of us in the western world and not only.

In a previous post we discussed about to founding myth of the Roman Empire. It was connecting the founders of Rme to the refugees from Troy and, even more important, it was connecting tehm, and their leader Aeneas, to the gens Julia, the one to which Octavianus August was belonging.
The Julia-Claudia dinastty ended with Nero. Nero was the last emperor belonging to the old Roman aristocracy. After him, the emperor had mostly Italic origins or from the provinces.
At the same time the Senate, still having a great power in the I century AD (Nero was deposed by the Senate and then committed suicide), progressively lost power and, at the time of Septimius Severus at the beginning of the III century AD, its power became only symbolic.
When the son of Septimius Severus, Anoninus Severus better know as Caracalla, extended the Roman citizenship to all the people living in the empire, the switch of power was completed. It went in the hands of the army. For over 70 years military anarchy reigned over the empire. No emperor after Septimius Severus died naturally till the advent of Diocletian.
To reestablish the orde in the empire Diocletian started sharing the power instituting the tetrarchy.
Diocletian resigned in the year 305 AD to spend his last years in his magnificent palace in Split in the modern Croatia. After his resignetion the tetrarchy survived for a very short period.
The one the emerged after the civil war that followed, was Constantine. First, after the battle at the Milvian Bridge in the year 312 AD, he took the control of the western part of the empire. In 324 AD he succeeded to become the only emperor.
Constantine understood that the empire had to be refounded.

A New Myth

The new foundation needed a new myth and Constantine found that in the christian religion. That occurred also with the suggestion of his Mother, Helen, that was christian and that is now celebrated as Saint Helen. The chistina community was relatively small, more or less 10 % of all the inhabitants of the empire,  but it was cohesive and transversal to social classes.
According to the ancient tradition, before the battle at the Milvian Bridge, Constantine had a vision, In hoc signo vinces (In this sign you will conquer) that convinced him to paint the cross on the shields of his soldiers.
In Hoc Signo Vinces
In  the year 313 AD the christian religion, that was persecuted under Diocletian, was fully legalized with the Edict of Milan.
Constantine donated the area formerly known as Horti Laterani to the bishop of Rome, i.e. to the Pope. At that time the area was know as Domus Faustae, because it belonged to the wife of Constantine, Fausta.
The palace became the residence of the Pope and a church, the first in Rome, was erected. That church is St. John Lateran, Holy See, cathedral of Rome and mother of all the churches of the world.
Two of the other maiin basilicas of Rome were erected under Constantine, St. Paul and St. Peter.

St. John Lateran
It may sound strange that the main and first basilica of Rome is dedicated to St. John (by the way, which one? Baptist or Evangelist?). Actually speaking is dedicated to both of them but mainly to Christ, the Most Holy Savior, and its official name is something extremely long - Major Papal, Patriarchal and Roman Archbasilica Cathedral of the Most Holy Savior and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist in Lateran, Mother and Head of All Churches in Rome and in the World. Because of that, its name, over the centuries, has been semplified to St. John Lateram.
Rather obvioulsy the christian community strongly supported Constantine. Anyhow Constantine, after getting the full control of the empire, reaffirmed its imperial role with the organization of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, that was presided by him, and which purpose was to settle all theological issues in the church and to define a unique guideline.


Indeed Constantine succeded in its purpose to refound the empire that, before him, looked close to collapse. In the western side the empire survived for other 150 years, in the eastern side for over 11 centuries till the Ottoman conquer of Constantinopole (Istanbul). 
Nevertheless his actions had, and still have, several consequences. 
Since the foundation of the empire, the emperor was considered a semi-divine figure. That was obvioulsy in contrast with the figure of the Pope, vicar of Chist God.
To avoid any contrast with the emerging power of the Church, Constantine moved the capital city of the empire to Constantinople, the New Rome
After the death of Constantine, the empire was divided again into Western and Eatern. Only Theodosius, at the end of the IV century, reigned over both parts and made the christian religion the official religion of the empire. After Theodosius the separation became definitive and, along with the barbarian invasions, the progressive influence of the ecclesiastical hierarchy weakened the position of the emperor till the final collapse in 476 AD.
The Church and the Pope increased their power over the centuries, The new empire, initially created by Charlemagne, took officially the name of Holy Roman Empire in 962 AD. 
Their influence is evident also nowadays, both beacause of the strong Roman imprint on the western civilization and because of the hidden power made up of financial power and intelligence.
A clear evidence of that is the fact that the Catholic Church is the world's largest non-governmental provider of education and healthcare services
Even because of that Rome is named the Eternal City. There is nothing eternal among the human things but for sure the legacy of Rome is what closer to eternal you might find in history.
Every person who wants to be well aware of what is happening in the world and wants to use the critical spirit, should know this piece of history.
Even the centuries-long disputes among Turks and Russians find their origin in the Roman legacy.
A recent book by Massimo Franco, Parallel Empires (Imperi Paralleli in
Italian) describes the often conflictual relationship among USA and the Vatican. It is worth reading it.

We, at San Lorenzo Gu,est House, Villa Borghese Guest House and St. John Villa, take care of this blog to help our guests to enjoy at the best their stay in Rome.


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