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Roman generals in the late fifth century were rarely active participants in theological disputes. Thus, when Vitalian revolted against the Emperor Anastasius (491–518) in Thrace in 513, at least partly motivated by the emperor’s anti-Chalcedonian policies, and led an army to Constantinople, this was not behaviour typical of the period. There was initially no fighting, however, and during negotiations Anastasius promised that the pope would be invited to settle Vitalian’s religious concerns. This did not happen and in 514 Anastasius sent an army against Vitalian. When Anastasius’ troops were defeated, Vitalian again marched on Constantinople and forced the emperor to organise a Church council at Heraclea. Although the pope and Eastern bishops were invited, the council did not take place. Vitalian then marched on Constantinople for a third time in 515, but he was defeated in fighting on land and sea. This revolt is exceptional in Late Antique history because of its religious motivation, which enables us to ask some interesting questions about imperial and religious politics in the early sixth century.1
In this volume, Hugh Elton offers a detailed and up to date history of the last centuries of the Roman Empire. Beginning with the crisis of the third century, he covers the rise of Christianity, the key Church Councils, the fall of the West to the Barbarians, the Justinianic reconquest, and concludes with the twin wars against Persians and Arabs in the seventh century AD. Elton isolates two major themes that emerge in this period. He notes that a new form of decision-making was created, whereby committees debated civil, military, and religious matters before the emperor, who was the final arbiter. Elton also highlights the evolution of the relationship between aristocrats and the Empire, and provides new insights into the mechanics of administering the Empire, as well as frontier and military policies. Supported by primary documents and anecdotes, The Roman Empire in Late Antiquity is designed for use in undergraduate courses on late antiquity and early medieval history.