A map shows the division of the Roman empire, circa A D 284.
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Diocletian divided the empire into eastern and western halves to make governing more manageable. Why might the eastern Roman empire be considered more desirable?

The Empire Is Divided

In 284, the emperor Diocletian (DY uh KLEE shuhn) set out to restore order. To better handle the challenge of governing the huge empire, he divided it into two parts. He kept control of the wealthier eastern part for himself and appointed a co-emperor, Maximian (mak SIH mee uhn), to rule the weaker western provinces.

Diocletian also took steps to end the empire's economic decay. To slow inflation, or the rapid rise of prices, he fixed the prices of many goods and services. Other laws forced farmers to remain on the land. In cities, sons were required to follow their fathers' occupations. These rules were meant to ensure steady production of food and other goods.

Constantinople Becomes the Center of Power

In A.D 312, the talented general Constantine gained the throne. As emperor, Constantine continued Diocletian's reforms. More important, he took two steps that changed the course of European history. First, he granted toleration to Christians. Second, he set up a new capital at the centuries-old city of Byzantium, located near the Black Sea in what is now Turkey. He renamed it Constantinople (KAHNSTAN tuhn OH puhl). With this “New Rome,” he made the already wealthier and more populated eastern half of the empire the center of power.

Reforms Fail

The reforms of Diocletian and Constantine had mixed results. They revived the economy, and by increasing the power of government, they helped hold the empire together for another century. Still, the reforms failed to stop the long-term decline. In the end, internal problems, along with attacks from the outside, brought the empire down.

Rome Faces Invasions

For centuries, Rome had faced attacks from the Germanic peoples who lived along its borders. When Rome was powerful, its legions on the frontiers held back the invaders. Some of the Germanic tribes along the borders of the empire had learned Roman ways and become allies.

Migrating Nomads Attack

As early as A.D 200, wars in East Asia set off a chain of events that would eventually overwhelm Rome, thousands of miles to the west.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments