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Parthian-Roman Wars  

Jason M. Schlude

Founded and ruled by the Arsacid royal family, the Parthian empire (c. 250 bce–227 ce) was the native Iranian empire that filled the power vacuum in the Middle East in the midst of Seleucid decline. Arsacid interaction with the Roman empire began in the mid-90s bce, eventually established the Euphrates river as a shared border, and was peaceful in nature till 54 bce. In that year, the first of four cycles of Parthian-Roman wars began. Since the Romans carried out the initial large-scale mobilization of troops that introduced most of these wars, it is appropriate to associate these four cycles with the various Romans who coordinated the Roman military efforts: (a) Crassus to Antony (54–30 bce); (b) Nero (57–63 ce); (c) Trajan (114–117 ce); and (d) Lucius Verus to Macrinus (161–217 ce). The fundamental causes for these conflicts were Roman imperialism, which was well ingrained by the 1st century bce, and Parthian imperialism, which accelerated in the 2nd century bce, probably accompanied by the Arsacids’ attempts to present themselves as successors to the Achaemenid dynasty.

Article

inequality  

John Weisweiler

The just distribution of social goods was fiercely debated in the ancient Mediterranean and the ideologies of egalitarianism and inegalitarianism developed in Rome and Athens shaped Euro-American political thought from the Enlightenment onward. By contrast, the study of actual income and wealth distributions in ancient societies is a more recent development. Only in the early 21st century have scholars begun to make systematic attempts to quantify levels of inequality in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East. Since we lack the documentary sources on which the study of inequality in contemporary economies is based, most of these reconstructions rely on a combination of modelling and the interpretation of isolated figures found in literary texts. This fragmentary evidence suggests that in the best-attested regions of the ancient Mediterranean and Near East inequality was considerable. In particular, the formation of large territorial states—most notably the empires of Babylon, Persia, and Rome—facilitated the concentration of wealth into fewer hands. But it is unclear whether inequality increased over time. At least, there is no unambiguous evidence that wealth and income were more unequally distributed in late antiquity than in earlier periods of Roman history.

Article

Diocletian, Roman emperor, 284–313 CE  

Monica Hellström

Although not the watershed once considered, it remains justified to treat Diocletian’s reign (284–305 ce) as the beginning of Late Antiquity. Its length allowed for changes to take root, and the introduction of a ruling college of two Augusti (Diocletian and Maximian) and two Caesares (Galerius and Constantius I, also made sons-in-law) deterred civil wars by creating predictable lines of succession. Even so, serious civil conflicts arose in Gaul, Britannia, and Egypt, while peoples across the Rhine and Danuble required constant attention. The most glorified campaign was against Sasanian Persia (295/6–298/299), concluded by a signal victory celebrated at a joint triumph/jubilee in Rome (303). Diocletian enlarged the army but did not radically transform its structure, concentrating on consolidation. The empire retained its integrity, and evidence for permanent imperial residences is lacking, but Nicomedia emerges as an eastern imperial centre. Better substantiated is the subdivision of provinces, which increased the presence and capacity of the bureaucracy. The fiscal reform (287–) supported the war effort, making extraction predictable and effective (if not necessarily heavier). A new, global coinage was introduced in 294, and the Edict of Maximum Prices (301) set maxima for commodities, likely to contain inflation.