Child emperor rule in the late Roman west, AD 367-455

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This book examines some established assumptions about the governance of the late Roman empire, about the nature and function of the imperial office, and more particularly, about the ways in which child-emperors — boys who grew to adulthood in the imperial office — came to dominate that position in the west from c.370 to 450. Beginning with a study of the nature of the different roles and functions traditionally expected in a late Roman emperor, the book goes on to provide a detailed examination of the reigns of four western child-emperors: Gratian and Valentinian II, Honorius, and Valentinian III. Each of these child-emperors' reigns is subjected to thorough analysis with respect to a set of central concerns: (a) how a child-emperor could be plausibly presented as fulfilling the established imperial ideal; (b) how an ever-increasing emphasis on the ceremonial and Christian functions of the emperor were used to justify a child's inability to fulfil practical functions of his office, while military leadership came to be delegated on a permanent basis to the dominant general of the court; (c) the potential crisis period of a boy-emperor reaching adulthood, and the question of whether or not it was possible for a child-turned-adult emperor to make a full transition from ceremonial to actual power; (d) the long-term ramifications of the effective infantilization of the imperial office in the late Roman west, both in the Roman world and the medieval and Byzantine worlds to follow.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford, UK
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages355
ISBN (Print)9780199664818
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

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