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Accommodating Political Change under the Tetrarchy (293–306)

Authors
  • Hekster, Olivier
  • Betjes, Sven
  • Heijnen, Sam
  • Iannantuono, Ketty
  • Jussen, Dennis
  • Manders, Erika
  • Syrbe, Daniel
Type
Published Article
Journal
Klio
Publisher
De Gruyter
Publication Date
Nov 01, 2019
Volume
101
Issue
2
Pages
610–639
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1515/klio-2019-0042
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
Disciplines
License
Yellow

Abstract

This article seeks to address the question how the Tetrarchic system of four rulers could be presented as legitimate in a society that had never seen this political constellation before. What were the different modes of presenting Tetrarchic rule and how did they help in making the new system acceptable? The article argues that new power structures needed to be formulated in familiar terms, not only for the rulers to legitimate their position, but also for the ruled to understand such new systems. As a result, imperial messages during the Tetrarchic period were strongly influenced by traditional modes of representation from earlier periods. Traditions which were inherent in specific media and locations were determining factors for the way in which a new political system could be presented. The result was a much less coherent ideological Tetrarchic message than is often assumed. The image of group identity was regularly lost in a more complex and messy mode of formulating power. The new and innovative aspects of a collegiate rule by four emperors was less important than linking the power of those rulers to what was traditionally expected of the portrayal of Roman emperorship.

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