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The Legal & Bureaucractic Reforms of Constantine

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The Legal & Bureaucractic Reforms of Constantine

Diocletian had started the many processes of centralization, and Constantine first embraced them and then expanded on them. First he subjected the bureaucracy to a massive overhaul. All ministries were under the command of the MAGISTER OFFICIORUM (master of offices), who supervised the rapidly centralized government. Although this trend had been toward a greater imperial authority, under Constantine’s direction the bureaus grew even weightier, more demanding but mor efficient.

Officers of the civil service rose in rank to wield influence and titles. Finances were administered by the COMES sacrarum largitionum (Count of the Sacred Largesse) and the comes privatae largitionis (Count of the Privy Purse) (see COMES). In legal matters Constantine relied upon the Jurists and his quaester sacri palati (chief legal advisor). All of these reforms found body and substance in the altered CONSILIUM PRINCIPIS, now called the CONSISTORIUM. This council of permanent magistrates and ministers framed the legislative enactments of the imperial will and brought all of the provinces under control. The regions of the Empire were still under the authority of prefectures, but the prefects themselves were more answerable to the imperial house, and the functions of these offices were altered.

Following the battle at Milvian Bridge, Constantine destroyed the CASTRA PRAETORIA, the centuries-old barracks of the PRAETORIAN GUARD. The Praetorians were disbanded and their prefects stripped of military duties. They retained their political and legal powers, however, overseeing the DIOCESE of the prefecture. In the place of the Guard, the DOMESTICI of Diocletian, along with the PALATINI, emerged as the military powers.

Now Constantine recognized the need to make a parallel military structure that would mirror the improved governmental body. He thus organized the army into two main classes, the COMITATENSES and the LIMITANEI. The comitatenses was the emperor’s mobile army. The limitanei stood in the ways of war and in the art of leading others. A ruthless character was tempered by the Christian doctrine. A complex personality, Constantine stood as the corner stone of a new age.

Change in Status of Cities

London at this time was one of the western emperor’s most active mints, but it was destined to be permanently closed down about 325 AD, soon after the victory over Licinius had made Constantine master of the entire empire and given him control of the great minting establishments of the East.

The northern Italian cities of Ticinum and Milan were the nerve centers of Constantine’s government in the half decade. The frequent presence of the emperor and his court resulted in the production at Ticinum of some attractive and unusual types in gold, both solidi and multiple denominations (medallions). The latter would have been specially minted as imperial gifts to high officials and dignitaries on state occasions The Ticinum mint was finally closed about 326 AD and its staff transferred to Byzantium, now renamed Constantinople. Their task was to create the empire’s largest minting establishment, to be operating in time for the official dedication ceremonies of the new capital in 330 AD.

Nicomedia had been the principal residence of Diocletian, and Constantine spent a considerable amount of time there in the period following his victory over Licinius in 324 AD. However, with the formal dedication in 330 AD of Constantinople as the eastern imperial capital, Nicomedia lost much of its former prestige.

The Monetary History of the World
© Martin A. Armstrong