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Roman absolutism

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)


From the end of the 3rd century CE, the emperor ceased to be princeps to become “domine” – dominat. We owe the new type of government to Diocletian, who ruled from 284 to 305 CE. The emperor was now omnipotent, he could change the law as he pleased, and the appearance of a republic vanished.

His absolutism was the principle of state unity. The ideology of the divinity of the monarch was developing, the crime against him was not only an insult to majesty, but also a sacrilege.

The expression of the religious character of the arguments invoked to justify the ruler’s despotism was the then very popular solar theology: the invincible emperor is identical to the sun; the eagle became the imperial symbol, the only animal that (according to myths) can look the sun in the eyes; the divine sun is the ruler of the empire, and the emperor is its governor.

The solar cult fostered monotheism, monotheism became a political problem, a problem that Constantine the Great solved by legalizing Christianity. The baptism of the ruler was to ensure – already in conditions of increasing anarchy and symptoms of social, economic and political and political decay – the durability of the empire and the absolutism of its emperor.

More about Dominate

  • Historia Powszechna t. 5. Epoka Augusta i Cesarstwo Rzymskie, kons. prof. dr hab. E. Papuci-Władyka, prof. dr hab. J. Ostrowski

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