A Brief History

THE ANCIENT ROME IS CRUMBLING

In the 3rd century, foreign peoples began to massively invade across the borders of the Roman Empire. The power of the until then invincible superpower was slowly crumbling, which marked the beginning of the end of the Empire. At first glance, these were isolated critical events, but the empire was already in the middle of a severe crisis, from which it never fully recovered.

Emperor Diocletian (284 – 305) managed to stabilize the Empire at the end of the 3rd century. With radical reforms, he also renewed the army, but these were extremely difficult times for the citizens, far from the splendour and glory of the Augustan Age at the beginning of the 1st century. The economic and moral crisis of the state might have been part of the reason why Emperor Constantine I the Great (306 – 337), unlike Diocletian, accepted Christianity as the official religion. At the end of the reign of Emperor Constantine, peace was established in the Empire.

But soon, internal conflicts were stirred, encouraged by various aspects regarding the governance, organizational problems and religious battles. This led to civil wars, which again weakened the country. Despite the internal crisis, the Empire was able to successfully resist the ever-growing alliances of the peoples who were still trying to invade the borders. At the end of the 4th century, Roman Emperor Theodosius I the Great (378 – 395) began to rule. During the time of his reign, Christianity became a mandatory religion of the Empire, while non-Christians were persecuted. He suppressed two major usurpations (i.e. an illegal, violent conquest of power) and settled the situation in the Empire. He divided the country into the Eastern and Western part. At the time of his death, his sons came to rule, namely Honorius (393 – 423) in the West and Arcadius in the East (395 – 408).

With this, the Roman Empire was divided forever. The Eastern part, today known as the Byzantine Empire, developed and persevered until the end of the Middle Ages. The Western part scraped along only for a few decades until 476 when, after the deposition of the last Roman Emperor Romulus Augustus (475 – 476), it was distributed among the neighbouring peoples.

The formation of the claustra Alpium Iuliarum system can be dated to the time of Emperor Diocletian, in the period of consolidation of the Empire. Military strategists perhaps wanted to protect the strategically important entrance to ancient Italy, the so-called Illyro-Italian Gate – the area between Rijeka in Croatia in the south and the Alps in the north. The barrier system was probably used only during internal civil wars in the 4th century and not so much during the invasions of the neighbouring peoples in the 3rd century. With Theodosius’ division of the empire, the barrier system apparently lost its purpose. Very modest archaeological finds and literary sources have not yet given us satisfactory answers about the creation, purpose, role and abandonment of the claustra Alpium Iuliarum system. However, the barrier system was definitely created as part of the strategy of the Roman state, which was trying to prove itself as the world superpower for the last time and thus shape the history of the then world.

Fun facts

Did you know that fashion-conscious Roman men used razors and even tweezers to remove hair from their bodies?

Did you know that the Romans did not have the habit of eating breakfast? When they did, they most often enjoyed a single piece of bread. To the poor, bread was considered a luxury good all the way up to the beginning of A.D.

Did you know that the Romans already had their own kind of traffic sign? They placed milestones, stone obelisks some two meters in height, along the roads to mark the distance to major cities. The milestones were set 1478.5 meters apart, the distance of one Roman mile. This is where they got their name.

Did you know that the Romans were highly superstitious? They predicted the future by observing animals, plants and objects. The most common form of fortune telling was studying the flight of birds, known as Augury.