The Division of the Roman Empire, Late 3rd Century
By the late 3rd century, the Roman Empire was in its advanced stages of internal decline. The army, its numbers swelled with mercenaries hired to meet mounting German and Persian foreign threats, was all-powerful, making and unmaking emperors with bewildering rapidity and resulting in near-constant political anarchy. Moral decay infected the general Roman population, reflecting a widening social chasm between wealthy and poor that could not be countered by the proliferation of eastern mystery religions, whose numerous deities became trite and whose messages offered little hope for the future. The general population had scant interest in suffering the physical hardships entailed by active military service. The office of emperor was reduced primarily to that of supreme military commander, whose personal presence was required in the field to ensure the troops’ loyalty and guarantee any chance of successfully defending the empire against foreign enemies. Under the circumstances, Rome had ceased being the empire’s capital. Instead, the capital became wherever the emperor established his headquarters — Milan, Lyon, or Trier, among other locations.