Page:Western Europe in the Middle Ages.djvu/32

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16
WESTERN EUROPE IN THE MIDDLE AGES

difficulties to military terms and to use military discipline as their only solution to all problems. When municipal officials found the burden of tax-collecting too great and tried to avoid holding office, the emperors made them hereditary servants of the state, bound to perform their unpopular duties from generation to generation. When bakers and boatmen began to find their occupations unprofitable they too were ordered to remain at their posts and to train their sons to succeed them. Small farmers who had lost their lands and had become tenants on great estates were also bound to their occupation. They could not give up their leases, nor could their landlords dispossess them; each family of tenants was to continue to cultivate the same patch of land forever. The civilian inhabitants of the Empire were to be the supply corps of the army, and like the army, they were to do their work without questioning orders or expecting special consideration for individual needs.

The absence of fixed constitutional principles had turned the Roman Empire into a military despotism. By the fourth century the army controlled the state, and the chief problem of the emperors was to control the army. Their task was made no easier by the fact that the army was no longer a Roman army, in any sense of the word. Both political and economic pressures barred Roman citizens from military service. The emperors were suspicious of members of the upper classes who sought military distinction, and succeeded in keeping them from serving as officers. Poorer citizens, sinking into economic servitude, could not be released from their tasks for military service. By the third century it was no longer possible to fill the ranks of the army from the inhabitants of the Empire, and the emperors had to seek their soldiers beyond the frontiers. Thousands of barbarians, especially Germans, were taken into the army; eventually whole tribes were hired as units, fighting under the commands of their chiefs. These barbarians were brave soldiers, loyal to their generals as long as they were paid, but their discipline was not good and they were not especially devoted to the Empire. They wanted to enjoy the benefits of Ro-