31. Roman Empire - Its Origins, Vastness and Legacy

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Why Roman Empire is So Magnificient and Grandeur ?

I ) Roman Empire - Its Origins and Vastness

All roads lead to Rome. In ancient times, all routes did indeed emanate from the capital of the Roman Empire to Rome, the Eternal City, was seen as the caput mundi – ‘capital of the world’,

The Roman Empire was one of the largest in history, with contiguous territories throughout Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.The Latin phrase imperium sine fine ("empire without end") expressed the ideology that neither time nor space limited the Empire.

The Roman Empire , in its heydays, One fourth of human population lived and died under its Command and Controls. World rarely seen magnitude of this grandeur , elegance and opulence earlier and never seen after it.

The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of ancient Rome. As a polity it included large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe,North Africa and West Asia ruled by emperors. From the accession of Caesar Augustus to the military anarchy of the third century, it was a principate with Italy as metropole of the provinces and its city of Rome as sole capital (27 BC – 286 AD).

The traditional date for the founding of what eventually became the Roman Empire is 753 B.C. This is the year, according to legend, that brothers Romulus and Remus founded the city of Rome (also known as the Eternal City and the City of Seven Hills).

The Roman Republic began after the overthrow of the monarchy around 509 B.C. Two consuls, advised by the Senate, governed the Republic from its creation to about 27 B.C. The election of consuls took place annually. During this period a Roman constitution gradually developed, based upon a separation of powers and a system of checks and balances within the government.

Due to the Roman Empire's vast extent and long endurance, the institutions and culture of Rome had a profound and lasting influence on the development of language, religion, art, architecture, philosophy, law and forms of government in the territory it governed, and far beyond.

Pic : Augustus Caesar ( 27BC - AD 14 )

The predecessor state of the Roman Empire, the Roman Republic (which had replaced Rome's monarchy in the 6th century BC) became severely destabilized in a series of civil wars and political conflicts. In the mid-1st century BC Julius Caesar was appointed as perpetual dictator and then assassinated in 44 BC. Civil wars and proscriptions continued, culminating in the victory of Octavian, Caesar's adopted son, over Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. The following year Octavian conquered Ptolemaic Egypt, ending the Hellenistic period that had begun with the conquests of Alexander the Great of Macedon in the 4th century BC.

Octavian's power then became unassailable, and in 27 BC the Roman Senate formally granted him overarching power and the new title Augustus, effectively making him the first Roman emperor.

Though the old constitutional machinery remained in place, Augustus came to predominate it. Although the republic stood in name, contemporaries of Augustus knew it was just a veil and that Augustus had all meaningful authority in Rome. Since his rule ended a century of civil wars and began an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity, he was so loved that he came to hold the power of a monarch de facto if not de jure. During the years of his rule, a new constitutional order emerged ( in part organically and in part by design ), so that, upon his death, this new constitutional order operated as before when Tiberius was accepted as the new emperor.

The 200 years that began with Augustus's rule is traditionally regarded as the Pax Romana ("Roman Peace"). During this period, the cohesion of the empire was furthered by a degree of social stability and economic prosperity that Rome had never before experienced. Uprisings in the provinces were infrequent, but put down "mercilessly and swiftly" when they occurred. The success of Augustus in establishing principles of dynastic succession was limited by his outliving a number of talented potential heirs. The Julio-Claudian dynasty lasted for four more emperors—Tiberius,Caligula,Claudius and Nero—before it yielded in 69 AD to the strife-torn Year of Four Emperors, from which Vespasian emerged as victor. Vespasian became the founder of the brief Flavian dynasty, to be followed by the Nerva–Antonine dynasty which produced the "Five Good Emperors": Nerva,Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and the philosophically-inclined Marcus Aurelius.

II) The Peak of Power

After Domitian's death, the empire reached its peak of power and wealth under the rule of the 'Five Good Emperors.' These rulers, known for their moderate policies, were in contrast to their more tyrannical and oppressive predecessors and successors. The below reigning dates of the good emperors are all in A.D.

The Good Roman Emperors

1) Nerva ------------- 96 - 98

2) Trajan---------------98 - 117

3) Hadrian ------------117 - 138

4) Antoninus Pius-----138 - 161

5) Marcus Aurelius---- 161 - 180

The good emperors period was particularly notable for its peaceful method of succession, where each emperor chose his successor by adopting an heir. This prevented the political turmoil associated with unstable and weak governments. Secure from both internal and external threats these Roman rulers governed during a time of unprecedented territorial, economic, and cultural expansion.

Pic : Antoninus Pius

The greatest extent of Roman territorial expansion occurred with Trajan's conquest of Dacia in 117 A.D. Rome is considered the third largest and most powerful ancient empire, behind the first place Persian and second place Han dynasty. At the time of Jesus, it had a total population of about 60 million people.

As the historian Christopher Kelly has described it:

" Then the empire stretched from Hadrian's Wall in drizzle-soaked northern England to the sun-baked banks of the Euphrates in Syria; from the great RhineDanube river system, which snaked across the fertile, flat lands of Europe from the Low Countries to the Black Sea, to the rich plains of the North African coast and the luxuriant gash of the Nile Valley in Egypt. The empire completely circled the Mediterranean ... referred to by its conquerors as mare nostrum—'our sea'."

Pic : Roman Empire

With the fall of Ravenna to the Germanic Herulians and the deposition of Romulus Augustulus in 476 AD by Odoacer, the Western Roman Empire finally collapsed – the (Eastern Roman) Emperor Zeno formally abolished it in 480 AD. Nonetheless, some states in the territories of the former Western Roman Empire would later claim to have inherited the supreme power of the emperors of Rome, most notably the Holy Roman Empire.

The Eastern Roman Empire, identified by modern historians under the name of the Byzantine Empire, survived for another millennium until the Empire's last remains collapsed when Constantinople ( modern day Istanbul in Turkey ) fell to the Ottoman Turks of Sultan Mehmed II in 1453.

III ) Roman Empire's Lasting Impressions and Contributions

1 ) Languages

The language of the Romans was Latin, which Virgil emphasizes as a source of Roman unity and tradition.Until the time of Alexander Severus (reigned 222–235), the birth certificates and wills of Roman citizens had to be written in Latin.Latin was the language of the law courts in the West and of the military throughout the Empire, but was not imposed officially on peoples brought under Roman rule.This policy contrasts with that of Alexander the Great, who aimed to impose Greek throughout his empire as the official language. As a consequence of Alexander's conquests, koine Greek had become the shared language around the eastern Mediterranean and into Asia Minor.The"linguistic frontier"dividing the Latin West and the Greek East passed through the Balkan peninsula.