LATE ROMAN ART
In time, discord within the empire led to an unmanageable situation, and at the end of the third century
CE, the empire was divided into an eastern and western half with two rulers governing each half. This
attempt to reduce strife within the government had only a temporary effect. In the early fourth century
Constantine again unified the empire, but he made two important decisions that would permanently
change it: he allowed the open practice of Christianity in the empire, and he moved the capital from Rome
to Byzantium, which he renamed Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey). Constantine was the last of the
great Roman emperors, and the empire would continue its slow decline through the fourth and fifth
centuries.
Figures in sculpture and painting from the third and fourth centuries became simpler and almost doll-like
in proportions. Although this is generally seen as a result of artists losing interest in classical forms, there
are other explanations. Simpler forms are generally clearer and more understandable, especially when
seen at a distance. The simple figural style may have appealed more to the common people, or it may have
been a reflection of other cultural traditions imported from outlying areas. The latter explanation may
account for the patterning and stocky proportions of The Tetrarchs, which was probably carved in Egypt or
Asia Minor.
The Four Tetrarchs, c. 365
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