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The Roman Empire ( Latin: Imperium Rōmānum [ɪmˈpɛri.ũː roːˈmaːnũː]; Greek: Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, translit. Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post- Republican period of ancient Rome. As a polity it included large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, Northern Africa, and Western Asia ruled ...
- The Early Dynasties
- The Five Good Emperors
- The Severan Dynasty
- Two Empires: East & West
- Constantine & Christianity
- The Fall of The Roman Empire
- Legacy of The Roman Empire
Following the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE, Gaius Octavian Thurinus, Julius Caesar's nephew and heir, became the first emperor of Rome and took the name Augustus Caesar. Although JuliusCaesar is often regarded as the first emperor of Rome, this is incorrect; he never held the title `Emperor' but, rather, `Dictator', a title the Senate could not help but grant him, as Caesar held supreme military and political power at the time. In contrast, the Senate willingly granted Augustus the title of emperor, lavishing praise and power on him because he had destroyed Rome's enemies and brought much-needed stability. Augustus ruled the empire from 31 BCE until 14 CE when he died. In that time, as he said himself, he "found Rome a city of clay but left it a city of marble." Augustus reformed the laws of the city and, by extension, the empire's, secured Rome's borders, initiated vast building projects (carried out largely by his faithful general Agrippa (l. 63-12 BCE), who built the first Pantheon...
Domitian's successor was his advisor Nervawho founded the Nervan-Antonin Dynasty which ruled Rome 96-192 CE. This period is marked by increased prosperity owing to the rulers known as The Five Good Emperors of Rome. Between 96 and 180 CE, five exceptional men ruled in sequence and brought the Roman Empire to its height: 1. Nerva (r. 96-98 CE) 2. Trajan(r. 98-117 CE) 3. Hadrian(r. 117-138 CE) 4. Antoninus Pius(r. 138-161 CE) 5. Marcus Aurelius(r. 161-180 CE) Under their leadership, the Roman Empire grew stronger, more stable, and expanded in size and scope. Lucius Verus and Commodus are the last two of the Nervan-Antonin Dynasty. Verus was co-emperor with Marcus Aurelius until his death in 169 CE and seems to have been fairly ineffective. Commodus (r. 180-192 CE), Aurelius' son and successor, was one of the most disgraceful emperors Rome ever saw and is universally depicted as indulging himself and his whims at the expense of the empire. He was strangled by his wrestling partner in h...
Pertinax governed for only three months before he was assassinated. He was followed, in rapid succession, by four others in the period known as The Year of the Five Emperors, which culminated in the rise of Septimus Severus to power. Severus (r. 193-211 CE), founded the Severan Dynasty, defeated the Parthians, and expanded the empire. His campaigns in Africa and Britain were extensive and costly and would contribute to Rome's later financial difficulties. He was succeeded by his sons Caracallaand Geta, until Caracalla had his brother murdered. Caracalla ruled until 217 CE, when he was assassinated by his bodyguard. It was under Caracalla's reign that Roman citizenship was expanded to include all free men within the empire. This law was said to have been enacted as a means of raising tax revenue, simply because, after its passage, there were more people the central government could tax. The Severan Dynasty continued, largely under the guidance and manipulation of Julia Maesa (referre...
This period, also known as The Imperial Crisis, was characterized by constant civil war, as various military leaders fought for control of the empire. The crisis has been further noted by historians for widespread social unrest, economic instability (fostered, in part, by the devaluation of Roman currency by the Severans), and, finally, the dissolution of the empire which broke into three separate regions. The empire was reunited by Aurelian(270-275 CE) whose policies were further developed and improved upon by Diocletian who established the Tetrarchy (the rule of four) to maintain order throughout the empire. Even so, the empire was still so vast that Diocletian divided it in half in c.285 CE to facilitate more efficient administration by elevating one of his officers, Maximian (r. 286-305 CE) to the position of co-emperor. In so doing, he created the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire (also known as the ByzantineEmpire). Since a leading cause of the Imperial Crisis...
In 312 CE Constantine defeated Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge and became sole emperor of both the Western and Eastern Empires (ruling from 306-337 CE but holding supreme power 324-307 CE). Believing that Jesus Christwas responsible for his victory, Constantine initiated a series of laws such as the Edict of Milan (313 CE) which mandated religious tolerance throughout the empire and, specifically, tolerance for the faith which came to known as Christianity. In the same way that earlier Roman emperors had claimed a special relationship with a deity to augment their authority and standing (Caracalla with Serapis, for example, or Diocletian with Jupiter), Constantine chose the figure of Jesus Christ. At the First Council of Nicea (325 CE), he presided over the gathering to codify the faith and decide on important issues such as the divinity of Jesus and which manuscripts would be collected to form the book known today as The Bible. He stabilized the empire, revalued the c...
From 376-382 CE, Rome fought a series of battles against invading Goths known today as the Gothic Wars. At the Battle of Adrianople, 9 August 378 CE, the Roman Emperor Valens (r. 364-378 CE) was defeated, and historians mark this event as pivotal in the decline of the Western Roman Empire. Various theories have been suggested as to the cause of the empire's fall but, even today, there is no universal agreement on what those specific factors were. Edward Gibbon has famously argued in his The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empirethat Christianity played a pivotal role, in that the new religion undermined the social mores of the empire which paganism provided. The theory that Christianity was a root cause in the empire's fall was debated long before Gibbon, however, as the theologian Orosius(l. c. 5th century CE) argued Christianity's innocence in Rome's decline as early as 418 CE. Orosius claimed it was primarily paganism itself and pagan practices which brought about th...
The inventions and innovations which were generated by the Roman Empire profoundly altered the lives of the ancient people and continue to be used in cultures around the world today. Advancements in the construction of roads and buildings, indoor plumbing, aqueducts, and even fast-drying cement were either invented or improved upon by the Romans. The calendar used in the West derives from the one created by Julius Caesar, and the names of the days of the week (in the romance languages) and months of the year also come from Rome. Even the practice of returning some purchase one finds one does not want comes from Rome whose laws made it legal for a consumer to bring back some defective or unwanted merchandise to the seller. Apartment complexes (known as `insula), public toilets, locks and keys, newspapers, even socks all were developed by the Romans as were shoes, a postal system (modeled after the Persians), cosmetics, the magnifying glass, and the concept of satire in literature. Du...
- Joshua J. Mark
Within six centuries, Rome transformed from an independent city to a sprawling empire that dominated the Mediterranean Sea.
4 hours ago
- Period of Kings
- Republican Rome
- Imperial Rome
Rome was founded around 625 BC in the areas of ancient Italy known as Etruria and Latium. It is thought that the city-state of Rome was initially formed by Latium villagers joining together with settlers from the surrounding hills in response to an Etruscan invasion. It is unclear whether they came together in defense or as a result of being brought under Etruscan rule. Archaeological evidence indicates that a great deal of change and unification took place around 600 BC which likely led to the establishment of Rome as a true city.
The first period in Roman history is known as the Period of Kings, and it lasted from Rome’s founding until 510 BC. During this brief time Rome, led by no fewer than six kings, advanced both militaristically and economically with increases in physical boundaries, military might, and production and trade of goods including oil lamps. Politically, this period saw the early formation of the Roman constitution. The end of the Period of Kings came with the decline of Etruscan power, thus ushering in Rome’s Republican Period.
Rome entered its Republican Period in 510 BC. No longer ruled by kings, the Romans established a new form of government whereby the upper classes ruled, namely the senators and the equestrians, or knights. However, a dictator could be nominated in times of crisis. In 451 BC, the Romans established the “Twelve Tables,” a standardized code of laws meant for public, private, and political matters. Rome continued to expand through the Republican Period and gained control over the entire Italian peninsula by 338 BC. It was the Punic Wars from 264-146 BC, along with some conflicts with Greece, that allowed Rome to take control of Carthage and Corinth and thus become the dominant maritime power in the Mediterranean. Soon after, Rome’s political atmosphere pushed the Republic into a period of chaos and civil war. This led to the election of a dictator, L. Cornelius Sulla, who served from 82-80 BC. Following Sulla’s resignation in 79 BC, the Republic returned to a state of unrest. While Rome...
Rome’s Imperial Period was its last, beginning with the rise of Rome’s first emperor in 31 BC and lasting until the fall of Rome in AD 476. During this period, Rome saw several decades of peace, prosperity, and expansion. By AD 117, the Roman Empire had reached its maximum extant, spanning three continents including Asia Minor, northern Africa, and most of Europe. In AD 286 the Roman Empire was split into eastern and western empires, each ruled by its own emperor. The western empire suffered several Gothic invasions and, in AD 455, was sacked by Vandals. Rome continued to decline after that until AD 476 when the western Roman Empire came to an end. The eastern Roman Empire, more commonly known as the Byzantine Empire, survived until the 15th century AD. It fell when Turks took control of its capital city, Constantinople (modern day Istanbul in Turkey) in AD 1453.
The history of the Roman Empire covers the history of ancient Rome from the fall of the Roman Republic in 27 BC until the abdication of Romulus Augustulus in AD 476 in the West, and the Fall of Constantinople in the East in AD 1453. Ancient Rome became a territorial empire while still a republic, but was then ruled by Roman emperors beginning ...
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Roman Empire, the ancient empire, centered on the city of Rome, that was established in 27 BCE following the demise of the Roman Republic and continuing to the final eclipse of the empire in the West in the 5th century CE. Learn more about the Roman Empire in this article.