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Aythe Pax Romana

ayThe Pax Romana, Latin for Roman Peace, lasted approximately 206 years from the dawn of the Empire in 27 BC under Caesar Augustus to the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180 AD. “The Empire experienced an unprecedented period of peace, stability, and prosperity” (“”) and was referred to as the golden age of Rome. “The Roman empire also achieved its greatest territorial extent, and its population reached a maximum of up to 70 million people which was a third of the world’s population.” (“”)

“Augustus Caesar was the first Emperor of Rome and came to power after the assassination of his great-uncle Julius Caesar.” (“”) Augustus was born on September 23, 63 BC to the name Gaius Octavian and died on August 19, 14 AD in Nola, Italy; his reign lasted 40 years, 7 months, and 3 days. Augustus’ autocratic regime started out as the Principate because he did not claim the title of king. Instead, he referred to himself as Princeps or the first citizen. “Augustus with patience, skill, and efficiency, changed every aspect of Roman life and brought stability, peace, and prosperity to the newly formed Empire.” (“”) “The aim of Augustus was to guarantee law, order, and security within the empire, even if this meant separating it from the rest of the

world and defending, even by expanding, its borders through conquest.” (“ ”)

After Augustus’s death in 14 AD, Emperor Tiberius ruled with varying effectiveness. “His political inability, poor judgment and jealousy led Rome into a dark age of political purges, murder, and terror.” (“”) Tiberius had longed for the emperorship. He knew he was not the preferred successor, but with Augustus dead, he had to step up and claim power. Since Tiberius was weaker than his adopted father, two armies were fed up in the north and mutinied and threatened to march on Rome.

Tiberius sent his nephew, Germanicus, to rally the troops and lead them to victory against the Germanic tribes. After Germanicus came back triumphant Tiberius appointed him to be governor of the provinces of Cappadocia and Syria. Since Germanicus was incredibly successful in governing; he suddenly died in mysterious circumstances in 19 AD due to Tiberius’ insecurity on the throne. Tiberius then went looking for advisors and was impressed by Sejanus. “He praised him as "the partner of my labors" and gave him command of the Praetorian Guard, which protected the emperor.” (“”) Sejanus warned Tiberius that Germanicus’ family was plotting against him, so they exiled the dead hero’s widow and murdered her two elder sons with only the youngest, Caligula, surviving.

Throughout this time Tiberius had done nothing significant, he was now elderly and cut himself off from Rome almost completely with only Sejanus allowed to visit him. When Sejanus appeared ready to seize power, his attempt went terribly for him. Since in 31 AD, Tiberius turned against him in favor of Caligula, the only surviving son of Germanicus. Tiberius sent a secret message to the Senate condemning Sejanus, and so they strangled him to death. Tiberius reign lasted 22 years, 5 months and 27 days, and after Tiberius’s death in 37 AD, Caligula assumed power two days afterward.

Caligula’s emperorship was filled with a sadistic rule of violence. He was mentally ill and had regularly abused his power. “After inviting Ptolemy to come from his kingdom and receiving him with honor, he suddenly had him executed for no other reason than that when giving a gladiatorial show, he noticed that Ptolemy on entering the theatre attracted general attention by the splendor of his purple cloak.” (“”) Caligula then had Ptolemy’s kingdom of Mauretania annexed into Rome and then divided into provinces. “Whenever Caligula ran across handsome men with fine heads of hair, he disfigured them by having the backs of their heads shaved. There was a certain Aesius Proculus, son of a chief centurion, called Colosseros because of his remarkable size and handsome appearance; this man Caligula ordered to be suddenly dragged from his seat in the amphitheater and led into the arena, where he matched him first against a Thracian and then against a heavy-armed gladiator; when Proculus was victor in both contests, Caligula gave orders that he be bound at once, clad in rags, dragged through the streets, and then put to death.” (“”) “Eventually, his bizarre and tyrannical behavior turned the Romans against him, and in 41 AD, Caligula was assassinated by members of his own Praetorian guard.” (“”) His reign lasted only 3 years, 10 months and 6 days.

Emperor Claudius then became the next ruler. He was the uncle of Caligula, nephew of Tiberius, and great-nephew and step-grandson of Augustus. He was born on August 1, 10 BC at Lugdunum in Gaul (France), and became the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy. When he was young he was tormented with a limp and slight deafness due to sickness, and so his family ostracized him for much of his life and excluded him from public office.

“Following the death of Augustus, in 14 AD, Claudius appealed to his uncle, Emperor Tiberius to let him begin the Cursus Honorum, or the Course of Honor, which was the path followed by all Roman politicians. Tiberius responded by granting Claudius consular ornaments, but ignored Claudius’s repeated requests for political office. Deciding that Tiberius was not going to be any more generous than Augustus, Claudius gave up his political ambitions and retired to a life of scholarship.” (“”)

After the demise of Tiberius, Caligula recognized Claudius to be somewhat useful. He appointed Claudius his co-consul in 37 AD in order to emphasize the memory of Caligula’s deceased father Germanicus, because he was brothers with Claudius. Despite this, Caligula always tormented his uncle: playing practical jokes on him, charging him enormous sums of money, and humiliating him before the Senate. Claudius then became exceedingly fatigued, sickly, and thin by the end of Caligula’s reign due to stress.

Claudius’ infirmity most likely saved him from the fate that other nobles received during Tiberius’ and Caligula’s purges, so potential enemies did not see him as a major threat. His survival led to being declared Emperor by the Praetorian Guard rather than the Senate after Caligula’s assassination, at which point he was the last man of his family. Though he was inexperienced, Claudius proved to be an able and efficient administrator. He built new infrastructure, constructed many new roads, aqueducts, and canals across the Empire. He also added the provinces of Thrace, Noricum, Pamphylia, Lycia, and Judea into the empire during this time.

Claudius also had a personal interest in law, so he presided at public trials and issued up to twenty edicts a day. Though he did well, he was seen as vulnerable throughout his reign and was constantly forced to shore up his position. This resulted in the deaths of many senators. At the end of his time, many authors contend that he was poisoned by his wife, Agrippina the Younger. His reign lasted 13 years, 8 months, and 18/19 days.

After the death of Claudius in A.D. 54 AD, Nero, with the support of the Praetorian Guard he became emperor at the age of 17. Nero’s name was Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus at birth. He was the adopted son of Claudius, the nephew of Caligula, a great-great-nephew of Tiberius; grandson of Germanicus, and great-great-grandson of Augustus. He was born December 15, 37 AD and was pronounced emperor October 13, 54 AD. “His father died when he was nearly 3 years old, and his mother was banished by Emperor Caligula. After the murder of Caligula in January A.D. 41 and the ascension of Emperor Claudius shortly afterward, they reunited. His mother, Agrippina, would go on to marry Claudius in A.D. 49. She made it her mission that he adopted her son, and giving him a new name that started with Nero.” (“”)

In the first two years of Nero’s reign, his coins showed with his mother, Agrippina. Nero and his mother appear to have had a falling out within about two years of becoming emperor. Her face stopped appearing on Roman coins after A.D. 55, and seems to have been replaced in favor of Nero’s top advisers. Seneca the Stoic and Burrus, the commander of the Praetorian Guard who advised him on military affairs. So they had Agrippina killed after being shipwrecked off the coast. Officially, the reason given for Nero’s orders to kill his own mother was that she, herself, was plotting to kill him.

On the night of July 18, A.D. 64, a great fire started that would burn out of control in Rome. Leaving little of the city untouched, Rome was constructed with combustible material and became overcrowded which worked in favor of a major catastrophe. After the flames died Nero tried to cast blame on the Christians. Tacitus wrote; “Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.” (“”) While there is no proof, as of now, whether Nero started the fire, he did take advantage of the space it cleared. So, he started work on a new large golden palace called the Domus Aurea.

In the east Rome fought a war with Parthia and lost, and so Rome had to give up plans to annex the kingdom of Armenia, which served as a buffer between the two powers. Additionally, chaos in Judea happened in A.D. 67, near the end of Nero’s reign, and would eventually lead to the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the destruction of the Second Temple. One impact of this was the abandonment of the region of Qumran, the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found stored in nearby caves.

By A.D. 68, the problems Nero faced became too great. He had killed his mother, first wife and, by some accounts, his second. With the rebuilding of Rome, and the construction of the golden palace. The economic burden made Rome financially unstable, and Nero’s support began to crumble. Sotter writes that in April of 64, a Roman governor in Gaul renounced Nero and declared his support for Galba for the emperor. Not soon after, the Praetorian Guard, the force charged with guarding the emperor himself, renounced their support for Nero and the now former emperor was declared an enemy of the people by the Senate on June 8. The following day, he committed suicide. His last words to the world were said to be “what an artist dies in me!”

After the death of Nero, the Roman Empire dropped into chaos as a succession of short-lived emperors tried to gain control of the empire. “Only the year 69 AD, the so-called ‘Year of the Four Emperors’, following the fall of Nero and the Julio-Claudian line, interrupted nearly 200 years of civil order. Though this was only a minor hiccup in comparison to other eras. The arts and architecture flourished during this time after the chaos, along with commerce and the economy.” (“United Nations of Roma Victrix”) “The Pax Romana also saw many advances and accomplishments in engineering… To help maintain their sprawling empire, the Romans built an extensive system of roads which facilitated the movement of troops and communication.” (“”) The Romans also built aqueducts to carry water overland to cities and farms to increase the capability of harvests and provide more fortified cleaner outposts.

The last one of these emperors, Marcus Aurelius, was the final and last emperor of the Pax Romana. His reign was followed by the disastrous and terrible reign of his brutal son Commodus (160-192 C.E.). And by this time, Rome was struggling to hold off attacking tribes on the frontiers of the empire; spiraling the once great Rome into a former shell of itself.