THE present volume covers a space of about two hundred years beginning with Constantine and stopping a little short of Justinian. At its opening the Roman Empire is standing in its ancient majesty, drawing new strength from the reforms of Diocletian and the statesmanship of Constantine: at its close the Empire has vanished from the West, while the East is slowly recovering from the pressure of the barbarians in the fifth century, and gathering strength for Justinian's wars of conquest. At its opening heathenism ...
THE present volume covers a space of about two hundred years beginning with Constantine and stopping a little short of Justinian. At its opening the Roman Empire is standing in its ancient majesty, drawing new strength from the reforms of Diocletian and the statesmanship of Constantine: at its close the Empire has vanished from the West, while the East is slowly recovering from the pressure of the barbarians in the fifth century, and gathering strength for Justinian's wars of conquest. At its opening heathenism is still a mighty power, society is built up on heathen pride of class, and Rome still seems the centre of the world: at its ending we see Christianity supreme, Constantinople the seat of power, and the old heathen order of society in the West dissolving in the confusion of barbarian devastations. At its opening Caesar's will is law from the Atlantic to Armenia: at its ending a great system of Teutonic and Arian kingdoms in the West has just been grievously shaken by the conversion of the Franks from heathenism direct to orthodoxy.
In our first chapter we trace the rise of Constantine, his reunion of the Empire, his conversion to Christianity, the political side of the Nicene Council, and the foundation of Constantinople. Then follows Dr Reid's account of the reforms of Diocletian and Constantine, which fixed for centuries the general outline of the administration. After this Mr NormanBaynes takes up the struggle with Persia under Constantius and Julian, and continues in a later chapter the story of the wars of Rome in East and West in the times of Valentinian and Theodosius. The victory of Christianity is treated by Principal Lindsay; and he describes also the rival systems of Neoplatonism and Mithraism, and gives an account of Julian's reaction and the last struggles of heathenism. The next chapter is devoted to Arianism. First the doctrine is described, in itself and in some of its relations to modern thought; then the religious side of the Nicene Council is given, and the complicated history of the reaction is traced down to the decisive overthrow of Arianism in the Empire by Theodosius. After this Mr C. H. Turner describes the organization of the Church—clergy, creeds and worship—looking back to the beginning, but chiefly concerned with its development in the age of the great Councils.
We now pass to the Teutons. Dr Martin Bang begins in prehistoric times, describing their migrations and their conquests westward and southward till the legions brought them to a stand on the Rhine and the Danube, and their long struggle of four centuries to break through the Roman frontier before the battle of Hadrianople settled them inside the Danube. Then Dr Manitius carries down the story through the administrations of Theodosius and Stilicho to the great collapse—the passing of the Rhine, the overrunning of Gaul and Spain, the Roman mutiny of Pavia, and the sack of Rome by Alaric. After this the great Teutonic peoples have to be dealt with severally.
Dr Ludwig Schmidt begins with the settlement of the Visigoths in Gaul, traces the growth and culmination of their kingdom of Toulouse, and ends with their expulsion from Aquitaine by Clovis. Professor Pfistergives the early history of the Franks; but they are still a feeble folk when he leaves them, for the conquests of Clovis belong to another volume. Then Dr Schmidt tells the little that is known of the Sueves and Alans in Spain, and more fully describes the history and institutions of the Vandal kingdom in Africa to its destruction by Belisarius.
Shortly: to the student of universal history the Roman Empire is the bulwark which for near six hundred years kept back the ever-threatening attacks of Teutonic and Altaian barbarism. Behind that bulwark rose the mighty structure of Roman Law, and behind it a new order of the world was beginning to unfold from the fruitful seeds of Christian thought. So when the years of respite ended, and the universal Empire went down in universal ruin, the Christian Church was able from the first to put some check on the northern conquerors, and then by the long training of the Middle Ages to mould the nations of Europe into forms which have issued in richer and fuller developments of life and civilisation than imperial Rome had ever known.
Bury was born and raised in Clontibret, County Monaghan, where his father was Rector of the Anglican Church of Ireland. He was educated first by his parents and then at Foyle College in Derry and Trinity College in Dublin, where he graduated in 1882 and was made a fellow in 1885, at the age of 24. In 1893 he gained a chair in Modern History at Trinity College, which he held for nine years. In 1898 he was appointed Regius Professor of Greek, also at Trinity, a post he held simultaneously with his history professorship. In 1902 he became Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University.
At Cambridge, Bury became mentor to the great medievalist Sir Steven Runciman, who later commented that he had been Bury's "first, and only, student." At first the reclusive Bury tried to brush him off; then, when Runciman mentioned that he could read Russian, Bury gave him a stack of Bulgarian articles to edit, and so their relationship began. Bury was the author of the first truly authoritative biography of Saint Patrick (1905).
Bury remained at Cambridge until his death at the age of 65 in Rome. He is buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome.
Bury's writings, on subjects ranging from ancient Greece to the 19th-century papacy, are at once scholarly and accessible to the layman. His two works on the philosophy of history elucidated the Victorian ideals of progress and rationality which undergirded his more specific histories. He also led a revival of Byzantine history, which English-speaking historians, following Edward Gibbon, had largely neglected. He contributed to, and was himself the subject of an article in, the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica. With Frank Adcock and S. A. Cook he edited the Cambridge Ancient History, launched in 1919.
History of the Later Roman Empire from Arcadius to Irene (1889)
History of the Roman Empire From its Foundation to the Death of Marcus Aurelius (1893)
History of Greece to the Death of Alexander the Great (1900)
Life of St. Patrick and His Place in History (1905)
History of the Eastern Empire from the Fall of Irene to the Accession of Basil I (1912)
History of the Freedom of Thought (1914)
Idea of Progress (1920)
History of the Later Roman Empire from the Death of Theodosius I to the Death of Justinian (1923)
The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians (1928)
History of the Papacy in the 19th Century