Book Review: Emperor and Senators in the Reign of Constantius II: Maintaining Imperial Rule Between Rome and Constantinople in the Fourth Century AD


by Muriel Moser

Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017. Pp. xvii, 242. Illus., appends., notes, biblio., index. $125.00,. ISBN: 1108481019

Reviving the Senatorial Class in the Later Empire

Prof. Moser (Goethe Frankfurt), a specialist in the later Empire, explores how and why Constantius II (r. A.D. 337-361) revived the role of the Senate in the Imperial administration. Building on the work of his father, Constantine the Great, Constantius created a new, second Senate at Constantinople, despite his own close ties to original in Rome, while also restoring to the senatorial class a role in the civil and military administration of the empire which it had lost during the late Third Century, when senatorial governors and military commanders too often made bids for the purple.

This seemingly simple administrative act in fact had very complex roots, the most significant of which were the growing importance of the East to the health of the Empire, the Emperor’s increasingly long absences from Rome, as the most troubled frontiers were in the East, and, perhaps most importantly, the continuing fiction that the Senate conferred the imperium. This last led several usurpers in the West to cow the senators at Rome into recognizing their claim to the purple, thus threatening stability, and wasting the empire’s resources through civil war. By creating this second Senate, populated by men brought over from the original Senate and those newly elevated to senatorial rank, and restoring senators to a role in civil and military life, Constantius cleverly tied the senatorial class more closely to himself.

As she explains this, Moser also gives us a look at careers of a number of senators, several more or less dangerous attempts at usurpation, and much more.

An important read for any serious student of the later empire, Emperor and Senators in the Reign of Constantius II may also be worth a read for the layman with a serious interest in the period.


Note: Emperor and Senators in the Reign of Constantius II is also available in several e-editions.

StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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