THROWING BALLAST OVERBOARD:
THE ATTITUDE OF THE EASTERN ROMAN EMPIRE
TOWARDS THE WEST IN THE FIFTH CENTURY AD
Mikhail V. Gratsianskiy
Moscow State University
The year 395 marked a turning point in the fortunes of the Roman Empire. The division of the imperial territory into two portions proved to be final and, in the short-term historical perspective, led to the downfall of the western part. The article suggests that this event was caused by a deliberate position taken by the ruling elites of the Eastern Roman Empire toward their western counterparts. The main reason for the downfall of the West thus lies in the fact that the eastern government refused to subsidize the western infrastructural and military needs with its money and other resources, which up to that time had been the necessary condition for the maintenance of the Roman civilization in the westernmost part of the Roman Empire—praefectura Galliarum. The eastern ruling class used the unique situation of the virtual absence of the Roman army and its commanders, which had withdrawn for operations in Italy, to establish the rule of a civilian government. The refusal to support the West economically led to the rise of the eastern economy, as well as to the growth in importance of eastern regions such as Syria and Egypt, which were economically the strongest. These conditions, created within the Eastern Empire after the secession of the West, in many respects resembled those of the same territories during the Hellenistic period, with the exception that now they were kept together by the efficient unifying institutions of the Roman state of Late Antiquity.
Keywords: Eastern Roman Empire, Western Roman Empire, Emperor Constantine the Great, Emperor Theodosius I, Emperor Justinian, Rome, Constantinople, Roman elites, Egypt, Syria, Gaul, Illyricum, Hellenistic World, the Church of Constantinople, the Church of Alexandria, the Church of Antioch, the Church of Rome.