The Roman Empire and the fall of the Western Roman Empire

August and the Roman Empire, the Pax Romana

The reign of Augustus (considered first Roman Emperor) initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana, or Roman peace. Despite continuous wars on the frontiers, and one year-long civil war over the imperial succession, the Mediterranean world remained at peace for more than two centuries. Augustus enlarged the empire dramatically, annexing Egypt, Dalmatia, Pannonia, and Raetia, expanded possessions in Africa, and completed the conquest of Hispania.

He reformed the Roman system of taxation, developed networks of roads with an official courier system, established a standing army, established the Praetorian Guard, and created official police and fire-fighting services for Rome. Much of the city was rebuilt under Augustus; and he wrote a record of his own accomplishments, known as the Res Gestae Divi Augusti, which has survived. Upon his death in AD 14, Augustus was declared a god by the Senate—to be worshipped by the Romans. His names Augustus and Caesar were adopted by every subsequent emperor, and the month of Sextilis was renamed 'Augustus' (now August) in honour of his memory. He was succeeded by his adopted son (also stepson and former son-in-law), Tiberius.

Augustus also promoted the ideal of a superior Roman civilization with a task of ruling the world (the extent to which the Romans knew it), a sentiment embodied in words that the contemporary poet Virgil attributes to a legendary ancestor of Augustus: tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento—"Roman, remember by your strength to rule the Earth's peoples!"

By the end of his reign, the armies of Augustus had conquered northern Hispania (modern Spain and Portugal),the Alpine regions of Raetia and Noricum (modern Switzerland, Bavaria, Austria, Slovenia), Illyricum and Pannonia (modern Albania, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia, etc.), and extended the borders of the Africa Province to the east and south. After the reign of the client king Herod the Great (73–4 BC), Judea was added to the province of Syria when Augustus deposed his successor Herod Archelaus. Like Egypt which had been conquered after the defeat of Antony in 30 BC, Syria was governed not by a proconsul or legate of Augustus, but a high prefect of the equestrian class. Again, no military effort was needed in 25 BC when Galatia (modern Turkey) was converted to a Roman province shortly after Amyntas of Galatia was killed by an avenging widow of a slain prince from Homonada. When the rebellious tribes of Cantabria in modern-day Spain were finally quelled in 19 BC, the territory fell under the provinces of Hispania and Lusitania. This region proved to be a major asset in funding Augustus' future military campaigns, as it was rich in mineral deposits that could be fostered in Roman mining projects, especially the very rich gold deposits at Las Medulas for example. Las Médulas is a historical site near the town of Ponferrada in the region of El Bierzo (province of León, Castile and León, Spain), which used to be the most important gold mine in the Roman Empire. Las Médulas Cultural Landscape is listed by the UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Sites.

Extent of the Roman Empire under Augustus. The yellow legend represents the extent of the Republic in 31 BC, the shades of green represent gradually conquered territories under the reign of Augustus, and pink areas on the map represent client states; however, areas under Roman control shown here were subject to change even during Augustus' reign, especially in Germania.
Victory in battle was not always a permanent success, as newly conquered territories were constantly retaken by Rome's enemies in Germania.  A prime example of Roman loss in battle was the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in AD 9, where three entire legions led by Publius Quinctilius Varus were destroyed with few survivors by Arminius, leader of the Cherusci, an apparent Roman ally. Around 15,000–20,000 Roman soldiers must have died; not only Varus, but also many of his officers are said to have taken their own lives by falling on their swords in the approved manner. Tacitus wrote that many officers were sacrificed by the Germanic forces as part of their indigenous religious ceremonies, cooked in pots and their bones used for rituals.

Upon hearing of the defeat, the Emperor Augustus, according to the Roman historian Suetonius in his work De vita Caesarum ("On the Life of the Caesars"), was so shaken by the news that he stood butting his head against the walls of his palace, repeatedly shouting:

    "Quintili Vare, legiones redde!“ ('Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!')

Augustus retaliated by dispatching Tiberius and Drusus to the Rhineland to pacify it, which had some success although the battle of AD 9 brought the end to Roman expansion into Germany.

Though the shock at the slaughter was enormous, the Romans immediately began a slow, systematic process of preparing for the reconquest of the country. In 14 CE, just after Augustus' death and the accession of his heir and stepson Tiberius, a massive raid was conducted by the new emperor's nephew Germanicus.

After initial successful skirmishes in summer 15 CE, including the capture of Arminius' wife Thusnelda, the army visited the site of the first battle. According to Tacitus, they found heaps of bleached bones and severed skulls nailed to trees, which they buried, "...looking on all as kinsfolk and of their own blood...". (Burial pits with remains fitting this description have been found at Kalkriese Hill).

The Roman general Germanicus took advantage of a Cherusci civil war between Arminius and Segestes; they defeated Arminius, who fled that battle but was killed later in 21 due to treachery.  General Germanicus was very popular among the citizens of Rome, who celebrated enthusiastically all his victories. He was also a favorite with Augustus, his grandfather in law, who, for some time, considered him as heir to the Empire. In AD 4, he finally decided in fabor of Tiberius, his stepson, but compelled him to adopt Germanicus as a son and name his heir.

During the Reformation but especially during 19th century German nationalism, Arminius was used as a symbol of the "German" people and their fight against Rome. It is during this period that the name "Hermann"  (meaning "army man" or "warrior") came into use as the German equivalent of Arminius. He was rechristened "Hermann" by Martin Luther, and he became an emblem of the revival of German nationalism fueled by the wars of Napoleon in the 19th century.

 The Hermannsdenkmal (German for Hermann monument) is a monument located in Ostwestfalen-Lippe in Germany in the Southern part of the Teutoburg Forest, which is southwest of Detmold in the district of Lippe. It stands on the densely forested and 386 m tall Teutberg in the ring fortification located there, which is called Grotenburg.

Augustus' reign laid the foundations of a regime that lasted for nearly fifteen hundred years through the ultimate decline of the Western Roman Empire and until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. Both his adoptive surname, Caesar, and his title Augustus became the permanent titles of the rulers of Roman Empire for fourteen centuries after his death, in use both at Old Rome and at New Rome. In many languages, caesar became the word for emperor, as in the German Kaiser and in the Bulgarian and subsequently Russian Tsar.

Many consider Augustus to be Rome's greatest emperor; his policies certainly extended the Empire's life span and initiated the celebrated Pax Romana or Pax Augusta. Although the most powerful individual in the Roman Empire, Augustus wished to embody the spirit of Republican virtue and norms. He also wanted to relate to and connect with the concerns of the plebs and lay people. He achieved this through various means of generosity and a cutting back of lavish excess. Augustus' ultimate legacy was the peace and prosperity the Empire enjoyed for the next two centuries under the system he initiated.

However, for his rule of Rome and establishing the principate, Augustus has also been subjected to criticism throughout the ages. The contemporary Roman jurist Marcus Antistius Labeo (d. AD 10/11), fond of the days of pre-Augustan republican liberty in which he had been born, openly criticized the Augustan regime. In the beginning of his Annals, the Roman historian Tacitus (c. 56–c.117) wrote that Augustus had cunningly subverted Republican Rome into a position of slavery.  He continued to say that, with Augustus' death and swearing of loyalty to Tiberius, the people of Rome simply traded one slaveholder for another.

Augustus brought a far greater portion of the Empire's expanded land base under consistent, direct taxation from Rome, instead of exacting varying, intermittent, and somewhat arbitrary tributes from each local province as Augustus' predecessors had done. This reform greatly increased Rome's net revenue from its territorial acquisitions, stabilized its flow, and regularized the financial relationship between Rome and the provinces, rather than provoking fresh resentments with each new arbitrary exaction of tribute.  The measures of taxation in the reign of Augustus were determined by population census, with fixed quotas for each province. August also cut the number of legions from 60 to 28, in fear that too many organized troops could be turned against him. Augustus used the vast wealth of Egypt to pay off retired soldiers, who were settled in colonies all over Italy.

Augustus ruled cleverly and successfully. He formed a system of government in which the Senate and the emperor worked together. This brought peace after years of civil war, and turned a troubled republic into a stable and prosperous empire. When he died in AD14, few people could remember a republican government that had been worth preserving, so the idea of restoring a republic slowly died out.

In the new era of peace and prosperity that August established, Roman literature blossomed as never
before. It became the fashion for writers to give public readings from their works in progress, a practice that greatly increased their potential reading public. Under the patronage of both Augustus and his friend Maecenas, several Roman writers came to the fore.

Augustan literature is the period of Latin literature written during the reign of Augustus (27 BC–AD 14), the first Roman emperor. In literary histories of the first part of the 20th century and earlier, Augustan literature was regarded along with that of the Late Republic as constituting the Golden Age of Latin literature, a period of stylistic classicism.

Poets of the period include Vergil, Horace, Ovid, Propertius, and Tibullus. Augustan literature thus produced the most widely read, influential, and enduring of Rome’s poets.

[Publius Vergilius Maro (October 15, 70 BC – September 21, 19 BC), usually called Virgil or Vergil in English, was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues (or Bucolics), the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid.

Virgil is traditionally ranked as one of Rome's greatest poets. His Aeneid has been considered the national epic of ancient Rome from the time of its composition to the present day. Modeled after Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, the Aeneid follows the Trojan refugee Aeneas as he struggles to fulfill his destiny and arrive on the shores of Italy—in Roman mythology the founding act of Rome (Troy was sacked in the 12th or 13th century BC, so the idea that Trojan refugees sought refuge in central Italy is probably pure fiction). Virgil's work has had wide and deep influence on Western literature, most notably the Divine Comedy of Dante, in which Virgil appears as Dante's guide through hell and purgatory.

Book 1 (at the head of the Odyssean section) opens with a storm which Juno, Aeneas' enemy throughout the poem, stirs up against the fleet. The storm drives the hero to the coast of Carthage, which historically was Rome's deadliest foe. The queen, Dido, welcomes the ancestor of the Romans, and under the influence of the gods falls deeply in love with him. At a banquet in Book 2, Aeneas tells the story of the sack of Troy, the death of his wife, and his escape to the enthralled Carthaginians, while in Book 3 he recounts to them his wanderings over the Mediterranean in search of a suitable new home. Jupiter in Book 4 recalls the lingering Aeneas to his duty to found a new city, and he slips away from Carthage, leaving Dido to commit suicide, cursing Aeneas and calling down revenge in a symbolic anticipation of the fierce wars between Carthage and Rome. In Book 5, Aeneas' father Anchises dies and funeral games are celebrated for him. On reaching Cumae, in Italy in Book 6, Aeneas consults the Cumaean Sibyl, who conducts him through the Underworld where Aeneas meets the dead Anchises who reveals his Rome's destiny to his son.

Book 7 (beginning the Iliadic half) opens with an address to the muse and recounts Aeneas arrival in Italy and betrothal to Lavinia, daughter of King Latinus. Lavinia had already been promised to Turnus, the king of the Rutulians, who is roused to war by the Fury Allecto and Amata Lavinia's mother. In Book 8, Aeneas allies with King Evander, who occupies the future site of Rome, and is given new armor and a shield depicting Roman history. Book 9 records an assault by Nisus and Euryalus on the Rutulians, 10, the death of Evander's young son Pallas, and 11 the death of the Volscian warrior princess Camilla and the decision to settle the war with a duel between Aeneas and Turnus. The Aeneid ends in Book 12 with the taking of Latinus' city, the death of Amata, and Aeneas' defeat and killing of Turnus, whose pleas for mercy are spurned.

The Aeneid remained the central Latin literary text of the Middle Ages and retained its status as the grand epic of the Latin peoples, and of those who considered themselves to be of Roman provenance, such as the English. It also held religious importance as it describes the founding of a "Holy City".
Virgil Roman Writer Depicted Reading His "Aeneid" to His Patron Maecenas by Lodovico Pogliaghi
 The structure known as "Virgil's tomb" is found at the entrance of an ancient Roman tunnel (also known as "grotta vecchia") in the Parco di Virgilio in Piedigrotta, a district two miles from old Naples, near the Mergellina harbor, on the road heading north along the coast to Pozzuoli. (The site called Parco Virgiliano is some distance further west along the coast.) While Virgil was already the object of literary admiration and veneration before his death, in the following centuries his name became associated with miraculous powers, his tomb the destination of pilgrimages and veneration. The poet himself was said to have created the cave with the fierce power of his intense gaze

Some quotes attributed to Virgil:

Amor vincit omnia: Love conquers all things.
Nunc scio quid sit amor!: Now I know what love is! 

Publius Ovidius Naso (20 March 43 BC – AD 17/18), known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of poetry, the Heroides, Amores and Ars Amatoria, and of the Metamorphoses, a mythological hexameter poem. He is also well known for the Fasti, about the Roman calendar, and the Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto, two collections of poems written in exile on the Black Sea.

His poetry, much imitated during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, greatly influenced European art and literature and remains as one of the most important sources of classical mythology.

In 8 AD, Ovid was banished to Tomis, on the Black Sea, by the exclusive intervention of the Emperor Augustus, without any participation of the Senate or of any Roman judge.

The Julian Marriage Laws of 18 BC, which promoted monogamous marriage to increase the population's birth rate, were fresh in the Roman mind. Ovid's writing in the Ars Amatoria concerned the serious crime of adultery, and he may have been banished for these works which appeared subversive to the emperor's moral legislation. However, because of the long distance of time between the publication of this work (1 BC) and the exile (8 AD), some authors suggest that Augustus used the poem as a mere justification for something more personal.

He married three times and divorced twice by the time he was thirty years old. However, he only had one daughter who eventually bore him grandchildren. His last wife was connected in some way to the influential gens Fabia and would help him during his exile in Tomis

In exile, Ovid wrote two poetry collections titled Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto, illustrating his sadness and desolation. Being far from Rome, he had no access to libraries, and thus might have been forced to abandon the Fasti poem about the Roman calendar, of which only the first six books exist – January through June.

Ovid died at Tomis in AD 17. It is thought that the Fasti, which he spent time revising, were published posthumously. He was allegedly buried a few kilometers away in a nearby town. In 1930 that town was renamed Ovidiu in his honor. As Ovid spent the last years of his life and literary work in what is now Romania, Romanian nationalists have adopted him as "The First Romanian Poet" and placed him in the pantheon of Romanian national heroes

Fasti poem goes through the Roman calendar, explaining the origins and customs of important Roman festivals, digressing on mythical stories, and giving astronomical and agricultural information appropriate to the season. The poem was probably dedicated to Augustus initially, but perhaps the death of the emperor prompted Ovid to change the dedication to honor Germanicus. Ovid uses direct inquiry of gods and scholarly research to talk about the calendar and regularly calls himself a vates, a priest. He also seems to emphasize unsavory, popular traditions of the festivals, imbuing the poem with a popular, plebeian flavor, which some have interpreted as subversive to the Augustan moral legislation. While this poem has always been invaluable to students of Roman religion and culture for the wealth of antiquarian material it preserves, it recently has been seen as one of Ovid's finest literary works and a unique contribution to Roman elegiac poetry

Ovid became one of the best known and most loved Roman poets during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The authors of the Middle Ages used his work as a way to read and write about sex and violence without orthodox "scrutiny routinely given to commentaries on the Bible"

In Spain Ovid is both praised and criticized by Cervantes in his Don Quixote where he warns against satires that can exile poets as it happened to Ovid.

Scythians at the Tomb of Ovid (1640) by Johann Heinrich Schönfeld

Titus Livius Patavinus (59 BC – AD 17) — known as Livy in English — was a Roman historian who wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people. Ab Urbe Condita Libri, "Books from the Foundation of the City," covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome well before the traditional foundation in 753 BC through the reign of Augustus in Livy's own time.

Livy's only surviving work is the "History of Rome" (Ab Urbe Condita), which was his career from an age in middle life, probably 32, until he left Rome for Padua in old age, probably after the death of Augustus in the reign of Tiberius.

Livy's History of Rome was in demand from the publication of the first packet. Livy became so famous that a man from Cadiz travelled to Rome just to see him, and once he had seen, returned home

During the Middle Ages interest in Livy declined. Due to the length of the work the literate class were already reading summaries rather than the work itself, which was tedious to copy, expensive, and required a lot of storage space. It must have been during this period, if not before, that manuscripts began to be lost without replacement.

The first book of Livy, Ab Urbe Condita, narrates   in sections 24-6 a Roman legend about a dispute between two warring cities;  Rome and Alba Longa, when three brothers from a Roman family, the Horatii, agree to end the war by fighting three brothers from a family of Alba Longa, the Curiatii. The three brothers, all of whom appear willing to sacrifice their lives for the good of Rome, are shown saluting their father who holds their swords out for them.

Based on this tale, Jacques-Louis David painted an imaginary scene in 1784 the Oath of the Horatii.  The painting depicts the Roman Horatius family, who, according to Titus Livius' Ab Urbe Condita (From the Founding of the City) had been chosen for a ritual duel against three members of the Curiatii, a family from Alba Longa, in order to settle disputes between the Romans and the latter city. As revolution in France loomed, paintings urging loyalty to the state rather than to clan or clergy abounded. Although it was painted nearly five years before the revolution in France, the Oath of the Horatii became one of the defining images of the time. According to Thomas Le Claire:

    This painting occupies an extremely important place in the body of David’s work and in the history of French painting. The story was taken from Livy. We are in the period of the wars between Rome and Alba, in 669 B.C. It has been decided that the dispute between the two cities must be settled by an unusual form of combat to be fought by two groups of three champions each. The two groups are the three Horatii brothers and the three Curiatii brothers. The drama lay in the fact that one of the sisters of the Curiatii, Sabina, is married to one of the Horatii, while one of the sisters of the Horatii, Camilla, is betrothed to one of the Curiatii. Despite the ties between the two families, the Horatii's father exhorts his sons to fight the Curiatii and they obey, despite the lamentations of the women.

Oath of the Horatii (French: Le Serment des Horaces) by the French artist Jacques-Louis David

Tiberius, Caligula and Tiberius Claudius Drusus

Tiberius (42 BC – 37 AD) was one of Rome's greatest generals, conquering Pannonia, Dalmatia, Raetia, and temporarily Germania; laying the foundations for the northern frontier. But he came to be remembered as a dark, reclusive, and somber ruler who never really desired to be emperor; Pliny the Elder called him tristissimus hominum, "the gloomiest of men." Tiberius is considered to have lacked the political ability of his predecessor Augustus and was a jealous emperor; particularly distrustful of his popular general Germanicus.Despite the overwhelmingly negative characterization left by Roman historians, Tiberius left the imperial treasury with nearly 3 billion sesterces upon his death. Rather than embark on costly campaigns of conquest, he chose to strengthen the existing empire by building additional bases, using diplomacy as well as military threats, and generally refraining from getting drawn into petty squabbles between competing frontier tyrants. The result was a stronger, more consolidated empire.The emperor Tiberius left Rome in 26 AD never to return. For most of the rest of his life he stayed on the island of Capri, where he had 12 villas. Remains still exist of some of them. The best preserved is Villa Jovis which was the largest. Apparently the main motivations for Tiberius's move from Rome to Capri were his wariness of the political manoeuvring in Rome and a lingering fear of assassination.

The Gospels record that during Tiberius' reign, Jesus of Nazareth preached and was executed under the authority of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. In the Bible, Tiberius is mentioned by name only once, in Luke, stating that John the Baptist entered on his public ministry in the fifteenth year of his reign. Many references to Caesar (or the emperor in some other translations), without further specification, would seem to refer to Tiberius. Some Biblical scholars have argued that the Gospel accounts are not historically accurate, with some believing Pilate was a mythical character. The discovery of the Pilate Stone in 1961 confirmed his historicity as a Prefect.

General Germanicus died suddenly in Antioch in AD 19. His death aroused much speculation, with several sources blaming Piso, under orders from Emperor Tiberius. This was never proven, and Piso later died while facing trial (ostensibly by suicide, but Tacitus supposes Tiberius may have him murdered before he could implicate the emperor in Germanicus' death), because he feared the people of Rome knew of the conspiracy against Germanicus, but Tiberius' jealousy and fear of his nephew's popularity and increasing power was the true motive. The death of Germanicus in what can only be described as dubious circumstances greatly affected Tiberius' popularity in Rome, leading to the creation of a climate of fear in Rome itself. Also suspected of connivance in his death was Tiberius' chief advisor, Sejanus, who would then turn the empire into a frightful tyranny throughout the 20s, before himself being removed and executed by Tiberius in a bloody purge in 31. Agrippine the Elder the wife of Germanicus accused Tiberius of having Germanicus poisoned and because of that she was exiled to the island of Pandataria (now called Ventotene, Italy)  where she starved herself to death. Agrippina is regarded in ancient and modern historical sources as a Roman Matron with a reputation as a great woman, who had an excellent character and had outstanding Roman morals. She was a dedicated, supporting wife and mother who looked out for the interests of her children and the future of her family. She was the first Roman woman of the Roman Empire to have traveled with her husband to Roman military campaigns; to support and live with the Roman Legions.

Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (31 August AD 12 – 24 January AD 41), commonly known as Caligula and sometimes Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 to 41. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula's father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome's most beloved public figures. Caligula accepted the invitation to join the emperor on the island of Capri in 31, where Tiberius himself had withdrawn five years earlier. At the death of Tiberius in 37, Caligula succeeded his great-uncle and adoptive grandfather.


There are few surviving sources on Caligula's reign, although he is described as a noble and moderate ruler during the first two years of his rule. After this, the sources focus upon his cruelty, extravagance, and sexual perversity, presenting him as an insane tyrant. For example, Caligula made his horses consul, made a house for them, invited them for dinner...While the reliability of these sources has been questioned, it is known that during his brief reign, Caligula worked to increase the authority of the emperor. Another account says that Caligula wanted to invade Britain, but he stopped at the French coast where he ordered his men to collect shlls to prove his 'conquest' of the sea. The few primary sources disagree on what precisely occurred. Modern historians have put forward numerous theories in an attempt to explain these actions. This trip to the English Channel could have merely been a training and scouting mission.The mission may have been to accept the surrender of the British chieftain Adminius. "Seashells", or conchae in Latin, may be a metaphor for something else such as female genitalia (perhaps the troops visited brothels) or boats (perhaps they captured several small British boats). On 24 January 41, Caligula was assassinated (he was only 28 years old) as the result of a conspiracy involving officers of the Praetorian Guard, as well as members of the Roman Senate and of the imperial court. On the same day the Praetorian Guard proclaimed Claudius the new emperor and Messalina the became the new empress.

Tiberius Claudius Drusus, then Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus until his accession, was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. During his reign the empire conquered Thrace, Noricum, Pamphylia, Lycia and Judaea, and began the conquest of Britain. The Romans never successfully conquered the whole island, building Hadrian's Wall (117 AD) as a boundary with Caledonia, which covered roughly the territory of modern Scotland.

Messalina was a Roman Empress and the third wife of Emperor Claudius. A powerful and influential woman with a reputation for promiscuity, she conspired against her husband and secretly married her love. She was executed when the plot was discovered.  She bore a daughter Claudia Octavia (born 39) and son (born 41) called Britannicus.

Claudius married Agrippina the Younger, the sister of Caligula and adopted her son Nero (who had married Claudia Octavia), but he regret this and began to favor Britannicus, preparing him for the throne.This was the motive that is claimed that Agrippina needed to eliminate Claudius. Ancient sources credited her with poisoning Claudius on October 13, 54 with a plate of poisoned mushrooms at a banquet, thus enabling Nero to quickly take the throne as emperor. Other sources reported that Claudius died of natural causes. Britannicus lived only months into his step brother Nero's reign, and was probably murdered just before his 14th birthday (year 55).

Many British towns that grew on the sites of Roman Forts, such as Manchester, Colchester, Gloucester and Leicester - have name endings derived from castrum, the latin word for fort.Within 10 years, London - which the Romans called Londinium - had established itself as a thriving cosmopolitan merchant town. Londinium was a destination for merchant ships importing goods that weren't made in Britain: Wine, olive and fish from Italy and Spain, Glossy red pottery from France, Fine glass from Germany and Italy, Perfumes and Spices from Egypt and the Middle East.

"The climate is objectionable, with its frequent raind and mists, but there is not extreme cold". The Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote about Britain and its history in the 1st century.

The Romans introduced the Britons to many new vegetables, including cabagges, carrots, lettuce and onions.

Nero, Christianity and Judaism at his time

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (15 December 37 – 9 June 68), born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, and commonly known as Nero, was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68. He was the last emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. During his reign, Nero focused much of his attention on diplomacy, trade, and increasing the cultural capital of the empire.Nero's rule is often associated with tyranny and extravagance. He is known for a number of executions, including those of his mother Agrippina the Younger on 59 AD and the probable murder by poison of his stepbrother, Britannicus. It is also believed by most scholars that Nero is the Great Beast whose number is six hundred and sixty six referred to in the last Biblical book The Apocalypse.


He is also infamously known as the emperor who "fiddled while Rome burned", and as an early persecutor of Christians. He was known for having captured Christians burned in his garden at night for a source of light. This view is based upon the writings of Tacitus, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio, the main surviving sources for Nero's reign.

Over the course of his reign, Nero often made rulings that pleased the lower class. Nero was criticized as being obsessed with being popular. Nero banished her first wife Octavia to the island of Pandateria on a false charge of adultery. When Octavia complained about this treatment, her maids were tortured to death. His second wife Poppaea Sabina induced him to have his mother, his former wife Octavia and the philosopher Seneca killed (65 AD). One story has it that in a fit of temper, Nerok kicked her to death. When Poppaea died in 65, Nero went into deep mourning.

The Great Fire of Rome erupted on the night of 18 July to 19 July, AD 64. The fire started at the southeastern end of the Circus Maximus in shops selling flammable goods. It completely destroyed three of fourteen Roman districts and severely damaged seven. It was said by Suetonius and Cassius Dio that Nero sang the "Sack of Ilium" in stage costume while the city burned.  Popular legend claims that Nero played the fiddle at the time of the fire, an anachronism based merely on the concept of the lyre, a stringed instrument associated with Nero and his performances. According to Tacitus, the population searched for a scapegoat and rumors held Nero responsible.To deflect blame, Nero targeted Christians. He ordered Christians to be thrown to dogs, while others were crucified and burned. According to Christian tradition, Peter is said to have been crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero Augustus Caesar. It is traditionally held that he was crucified upside down at his own request, since he saw himself unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus Christ. Tacitus described these events:

“     Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians [or Chrestians] by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. 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."

Christian Dirce by Henryk Siemiradzki.
The cost to rebuild Rome was immense, requiring funds the state treasury did not have. Nero devalued the Roman currency for the first time in the empire's history. He reduced the weight of the denarius from 84 per Roman pound to 96 (3.85 grams to 3.35 grams).

The economic policy of Nero is a point of debate among scholars. According to ancient historians, Nero's construction projects were overly extravagant and the large number of expenditures under Nero left Italy "thoroughly exhausted by contributions of money" with "the provinces ruined.

Christianity was seen as objectionable by the Roman establishment not on grounds of its religious tenets or cultic practice, but because early Christians chose to consider their new faith as precluding the participation in the imperial cult, which was seen as subversive by the Roman establishment.

The pagans who attributed the misfortunes of Rome and its wider Empire to the rise of Christianity, and who could only see a restoration by a return to the old ways.

In 66, there was a Jewish revolt in Judea stemming from Greek and Jewish religious tension.In 67, Nero dispatched Vespasian to restore order.This revolt was eventually put down in 70, after Nero's death by Titus (who ruled between 79-81). This revolt is famous for Romans breaching the walls of Jerusalem and destroying the Second Temple of Jerusalem.

Relief from the Arc of Titus that depicts Roman soldiers sacking the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the
second Jewish-Roman War (circa 70 AD). Note that the soldiers are carrying away the Temple's menorah as
part of their spoils.
In March 68, Gaius Julius Vindex, the governor of Gallia Lugdunensis, rebelled against Nero's tax policies. In an attempt to gain support from outside his own province, Vindex called upon Servius Sulpicius Galba, the governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, to join the rebellion and further, to declare himself emperor in opposition to Nero. Lucius Verginius Rufus, the governor of Germania Superior, was ordered to put down Vindex's rebellion.At the Battle of Vesontio in May 68, Verginius' forces easily defeated those of Vindex and the latter committed suicide.However after putting down this one rebel, Verginius' legions attempted to proclaim their own commander as emperor.While Nero had retained some control of the situation, support for Galba increased despite his being officially declared a public enemy. The prefect of the Praetorian Guard, Gaius Nymphidius Sabinus, also abandoned his allegiance to the emperor and came out in support for Galba.

In response, Nero fled Rom. However he abandoned the idea when some army officers openly refused to obey his commands, responding with a line from Vergil's Aeneid: "Is it so dreadful a thing then to die?" Nero then toyed with the idea of fleeing to Parthia, throwing himself upon the mercy of Galba, or to appeal to the people and beg them to pardon him for his past offences. Nero sought for some place where he could hide and collect his thoughts. An imperial freedman offered his villa, located 4 miles outside the city. Travelling in disguise, Nero and four loyal servants reached the villa, where Nero ordered them to dig a grave for him. As it was being prepared, he said again and again "What an artist dies in me!". At this time a courier arrived with a report that the Senate had declared Nero a public enemy and that it was their intention to execute him by beating him to death. After quoting a line from Homer's Iliad ("Hark, now strikes on my ear the trampling of swift-footed coursers!") Nero drove a dagger into his throat. With his death, the Julio-Claudian dynasty came to an end. Chaos ensued in the Year of the Four Emperors.

Christian tradition and secular historical sources hold Nero as the first major state sponsor of Christian persecution, and sometimes as the killer of Apostles Peter and Paul. Some modern biblical scholars  such as Delbert Hillers (Johns Hopkins University) of the American Schools of Oriental Research and the editors of the Oxford & Harper Collins study Bibles, contend that the number 666 in the Book of Revelation is a code for Nero, a view that is also supported in Roman Catholic Biblical commentaries

It is not surprising that Seneca (c. 4 BC–65), Nero's teacher and advisor, writes very well of Nero.

[Lucius Annaeus Seneca (often known simply as Seneca, or Seneca the Younger) (c. 1 BC – AD 65)
His family was from Cordoba in Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula), and he may have been born there, although there is no documentary evidence for it. There is no way of knowing when the family came to Spain. At Rome he was trained in rhetoric and was introduced to Hellenized Stoic philosophy by Attalus and Sotion. Seneca's own writings describe his poor health. At some stage he was nursed by his aunt; as she was in Egypt from 16 to 31 AD, he must have at least visited and perhaps lived for a period in Hellenistic Egypt.

Seneca and his aunt returned to Rome in 31, and she helped him in his campaign for his first magistracy.

In 65, Seneca was caught up in the aftermath of a plot to kill Nero. Although it is unlikely that he conspired, he was ordered by Nero to kill himself. He followed tradition by severing several veins in order to bleed to death.

Seneca generally employed a pointed rhetorical style. His writings expose traditional themes of Stoic philosophy: the universe is governed for the best by a rational providence; contentment is achieved through a simple, unperturbed life in accordance with nature and duty to the state; human suffering should be accepted and has a beneficial effect on the soul; study and learning are important. He emphasized practical steps by which the reader might confront life's problems. In particular, he considered it important to confront one's own mortality. The discussion of how to approach death dominates many of his letters.

Most famous Dialogues

    * (40) Ad Marciam, De consolatione (To Marcia, On consolation) - Consoles her on the death of her son
    * (49) De Brevitate Vitæ (On the shortness of life) - Essay expounding that any length of life is sufficient if lived wisely.
    * (56) De Clementia (On Clemency) - written to Nero on the need for clemency as a virtue in an emperor
    * (63) De Tranquillitate Animi (On tranquillity of mind)
    * (64) De Providentia (On providence)

De Brevitate Vitæ (On the shortness of life) - Essay expounding that any length of life is sufficient if lived wisely.

"The life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it. "

"You will hear many men saying: "After my fiftieth year I shall retire into leisure, my sixtieth year shall release me from public duties." And what guarantee, pray, have you that your life will last longer? Who will suffer your course to be just as you plan it? Are you not ashamed to reserve for yourself only the remnant of life, and to set apart for wisdom only that time which cannot be devoted to any business? How late it is to begin to live just when we must cease to live! What foolish forgetfulness of mortality to postpone wholesome plans to the fiftieth and sixtieth year, and to intend to begin life at a point to which few have attained! "

"Life is divided into three periods—that which has been, that which is, that which will be. Of these the present time is short, the future is doubtful, the past is certain. "

"Decrepit old men beg in their prayers for the addition of a few more years; they pretend that they are younger than they are; they comfort themselves with a falsehood, and are as pleased to deceive themselves as if they deceived Fate at the same time. But when at last some infirmity has reminded them of their mortality, in what terror do they die, feeling that they are being dragged out of life, and not merely leaving it. They cry out that they have been fools, because they have not really lived, "

"Does it serve any useful purpose to know that Pompey was the first to exhibit the slaughter of eighteen elephants in the Circus, pitting criminals against them in a mimic battle? He, a leader of the state and one who, according to report, was conspicuous among the leaders28 of old for the kindness of his heart, thought it a notable kind of spectacle to kill human beings after a new fashion. Do they fight to the death? That is not enough! Are they torn to pieces? That is not enough! Let them be crushed by animals of monstrous bulk! Better would it be that these things pass into oblivion lest hereafter some all-powerful man should learn them and be jealous of an act that was nowise human"

"Those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear for the future have a life that is very brief and troubled; when they have reached the end of it, the poor wretches perceive too late that for such a long while they have been busied in doing nothing."

"How long will these things last?" This feeling has led kings to weep over the power they possessed, and they have not so much delighted in the greatness of their fortune, as they have viewed with terror the end to which it must some time come. When the King of Persia,34 in all the insolence of his pride, spread his army over the vast plains and could not grasp its number but simply its measure,35 he shed copious tears because inside of a hundred years not a man of such a mighty army would be alive"

 Ad Marciam, De consolatione (To Marcia, On consolation) - Consoles her on the death of her son

"Why then," you ask, "do we all so persist in lamenting what was ours, if it is not Nature's will that we should?" Because we never anticipate any evil before it actually arrives, but, imagining that we ourselves are exempt and are travelling a less exposed path, we refuse to be taught by the mishaps of others that such are the lot of all. So many funerals pass our doors, yet we never think of death! So many deaths are untimely, yet we make plans for our own infants — how they will don the toga, serve in the army, and succeed to their father's property! So many rich men are stricken before our eyes with sudden poverty, yet it never occurs to us that our own wealth also rests on just as slippery a footing! Of necessity, therefore, we are more prone to collapse; we are struck, as it were, off our guard; blows that are long foreseen fall less violently. And you wish to be told that you stand exposed to blows of every sort, and that the darts that have transfixed others have quivered around you!

"Again, why this forgetfulness of what is the individual and the general lot? Mortal have you been born, to mortals have you given birth. You, who are a crumbling and perishable body and oft assailed by the agents of disease,— can you have hoped that from such frail matter you gave birth to anything durable and imperishable? Your son is dead; that is, he has finished his course and reached that goal toward which all those whom you count more fortunate than your child are even now hastening. Toward this, at different paces, moves all this throng that now squabbles in the forum, that looks on at the theatres, that prays in the temples; both those whom you love and revere and those whom you despise one heap of ashes will make equal. This, clearly, is the meaning of that famous utterance ascribed to the Pythian oracle:


    And is this the prime
    And heaven-sprung adage of the olden time?

What is man? A vessel that the slightest shaking, the slightest toss will break. No mighty wind is needed to scatter you abroad; whatever you strike against, will be your undoing. What is man? A body weak and fragile, naked, in its natural state defenseless, dependent upon another's help, and exposed to all the affronts of Fortune; when it has practiced well its muscles, it then becomes the food of every wild beast, of everyone the prey; a fabric weak and attractive only in its outer features, unable to bear cold, heat, and toil, yet from mere rust and idleness doomed to decay; fearful of the foods that feed it, it dies now from the lack of these, and now is burst open by their excess; filled with anxiety and concern for its safety, it draws its very breath on sufferance, keeping but a feeble hold upon it — for sudden fear or a loud noise that falls unexpectedly upon the ears will drive it forth and fosters ever its own unrest, a morbid and a useless thing.

Do we wonder that in this thing is death, which needs but a single sigh? Is it such a mighty 
undertaking to compass its destruction? For it, smell and taste, weariness and loss of sleep, drink and food, and the things without which it cannot live are charged with death. Whithersoever it moves it straightway becomes conscious of its frailty; unable to endure all climates, from strange waters, a blast of unfamiliar air, the most trifling causes and complaints, it sickens and rots with disease — having started life with tears, what a mighty bother all the while does this despicable creature make! Forgetting his inevitable lot, to what mighty thoughts does man aspire! He ponders upon everlasting and eternal things, and makes plans for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, while meantime, amid his far-reaching schemes, death overtakes him, and even this, which we call old age, is but the passing round of a pitifully few years.

Reflect that there are no ills to be suffered after death, that the reports that make the Lower World terrible to us are mere tales, that no darkness is in store for the dead, no prison, no blazing streams of fire, no river of Lethe, that no judgment-seats are there, nor culprits, nor in that freedom so unfettered are there a second time any tyrants. All these things are the fancies of the poets, who have harrowed us with groundless terrors. Death is a release from all suffering, a boundary beyond which our ills cannot pass — it restores us to that peaceful state in which we lay before we were born. If anyone pities the dead, he must also pity those who have not been born. Death is neither a good nor an evil; for that only which is something is able to be a good or an evil. But that which is itself nothing and reduces all things to nothingness consigns us to neither sphere of fortune: for evils and goods must operate upon something material.

In the first place, suppose he had survived — grant him the very longest life a man can have — how many years are there after all? Born as we are for the briefest space, and destined soon to yield place to another coming into his lease of time, we view our life as a sojourn at an inn. "Our" life do I say, when Time hurries it on with such incredible swiftness? Count the centuries of cities; you will see how even those that boast of their great age have not existed long. All things human are short-lived and perishable, and fill no part at all of infinite time. This earth with its cities and peoples, its rivers and the girdle of the sea, if measured by the universe, we may count a mere dot; our life, if compared with all time, is relatively even less than a dot; for the compass of eternity is greater than that of the world, since the world renews itself over and over within the bounds of time.

What, then, is to be gained by lengthening out that which, however much shall be added on to it, will still not be far from nothing? The time we live is much in only one way — if it is enough! You may name to me men who were long-lived and attained an age that has become proverbial, and you may count up a hundred and ten years for each, yet when you turn your thought upon eternal time, if you compare the space that you discover a man has lived with the space that he has not lived, not a whit of difference will you find between the shortest and the longest life.

And so you must not burden yourself with the thought: "He might have lived longer." His life has not been cut short, nor does Chance ever thrust itself into the years. What has been promised to each man, is paid; the Fates go their way, and neither add any thing to what has once been promised, nor subtract from it. Prayers and struggles are all in vain; each one will get just the amount that was placed to his credit on the first day of his existence. That day on which he first saw the light, he entered upon the path to death and drew ever nearer to his doom, and the very years that were added to his youth were subtracted from his life.

"There eternal peace awaits it when it has passed from earth's dull motley to the vision of all that is pure and bright. There is no need, therefore, for you to hurry to the tomb of your son; what lies there is his basest part and a part that in life was the source of much trouble — bones and ashes are no more parts of him than were his clothes and the other protections of the body. He is complete — leaving nothing of himself behind, he has fled away and wholly departed from earth; for a little while he tarried above us while he was being purified and was ridding himself of all the blemishes and stain that still clung to him from his mortal existence, then soared aloft and sped away to join the souls of the blessed.

A saintly hand gave him welcome — the Scipios and the Catos and, joined with those who scorned life and through a draught of poison found freedom, your father, Marcia."

Now l may have the view of countless centuries, the succession and train of countless ages, the whole array of years: I may behold the rise and fall of future kingdoms, the downfall of great cities, and new invasions of the sea. For, if the common fate can be a solace for your yearning, know that nothing will abide where it is now placed, that time will lay all things low and take all things with it. And not simply men will be its sport — for how small a part are they of Fortune's domain! — but places, countries, and the great parts of the universe. It will level whole mountains, and in another place will pile new rocks on high; it will drink up seas, turn rivers from their courses, and, sundering the communication of nations, break up the association and intercourse of the human race; in other places it will swallow up cities in yawning chasms, will shatter them with earthquakes, and from deep below send forth a pestilential vapor; it will cover with floods the face of the inhabited world, and, deluging the earth, will kill every living creature, and in huge conflagration it will scorch and burn all mortal things.

"And when the time shall come for the world to be blotted out in order that it may begin its life anew, these things will destroy themselves by their own power, and stars will clash with stars, and all the fiery matter of the world that now shines in orderly array will blaze up in a common conflagration. Then also the souls of the blest, who have partaken of immortality, when it shall seem best to God to create the universe anew — we, too, amid the falling universe, shall be added as a tiny fraction to this mighty destruction, and shall be changed again into our former elements." Happy, Marcia, is your son, who already knows these mysteries!

Some other famous quotes by Seneca:

Timendi causa est nescire:  Ignorance is the cause of fear. 
Errare humanum est: To err is human.
Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis: Times are changing and we are changing with them.

AD 69: The year of the four emperors. After Nero's death, an army commander called Galba took power, helped by the Praetorian Guard. But he did not pay enought to them so they turned against him and had him murdered. They replaced him with Otho, governor of a province in Spain but he was also killed by Vitellius. Finally Vitellius was killed by Vespasian who was chosen as general by the legions on the Danube.

The Flavian dynasty was a Roman Imperial Dynasty, which ruled the Roman Empire between 69 and 96 AD, encompassing the reigns of Vespasian (69–79), and his two sons Titus (79–81) and Domitian (81–96). The Flavians rose to power during the civil war of 69, known as the Year of the Four Emperors.

The Flavian dynasty is perhaps best known for its vast construction programme on the city of Rome, intended to restore the capital from the damage it had suffered during the Great Fire of 64, and the civil war of 69. Vespasian added the temple of Peace and the temple to the Deified Claudius. In 75 a colossal statue of Apollo, begun under Nero as a statue of himself, was finished on Vespasian's orders, and he also dedicated a stage of the theater of Marcellus. Construction of the Flavian Amphitheatre, presently better known as the Colosseum (probably after the nearby statue), was begun in 70 under Vespasian and finally completed in 80 under Titus. In addition to providing spectacular entertainments to the Roman populace, the building was also conceived as a gigantic triumphal monument to commemorate the military achievements of the Flavians during the Jewish wars.

 [Flavius Josephus, Romano-Jewish scholar and historian:

In the war between the Jews and the Romans of 66-70, the Jewish general Joseph son of Matthias defended Galilee against the Roman legions. Joseph was born as a Sadducee and an aristocrat.

In the spring of 67, Joseph's men were under siege in the town of Jotapata (which controlled the road to Sepphoris) and after some fighting, it became clear that they had to surrender to Vespasian's Fifteenth Legion. The author of the Jewish War tells a strange story about the fate of the defenders. They hid in a cave, decided to draw lots to choose the man  who was to kill the others and himself. We are to believe that it was pure luck or divine interference that enabled Joseph to win this sinister lottery (also known as the "Josephus problem" or "Roman Roulette"). Instead of committing suicide, he surrendered to the Romans

After he had been defeated, he defected to his enemies, and advised the Roman general Vespasian. When the latter became emperor, his adviser started a career as a historian who tried to explain Judaism to the Greeks and Romans. His works are the Jewish War, the Jewish Antiquities, an Autobiography and an apology of Judaism called Against the Greeks (or Against Apion). As Roman citizen, he accepted a new name: Flavius Josephus. He must have died about 100, more than sixty years old.

The Flavians, although a relatively short-lived dynasty, helped restore stability to an empire on its knees. Although all three have been criticised, especially based on their more centralised style of rule, they issued reforms that created a stable enough empire to last well into the 3rd century.

Titus was Vespasian' son (and Domitian his young brother). He is remembered for his capture of Jerusalem in AD70. This was commemorated by an arch in the forum of Rome. Titus's record among ancient historians stands as one of the most exemplary of any emperor. All the surviving accounts from this period, many of them written by his own contemporaries such as Suetonius Tranquilius, Cassius Dio, Pliny the Elder, present a highly favourable view towards Titus. His character has especially prospered in comparison with that of his brother Domitian. In contrast to the ideal portrayal of Titus in Roman histories, in Jewish memory "Titus the Wicked" is remembered as an evil oppressor and destroyer of the Temple. For example, one legend in the Babylonian Talmud describes Titus as having had sex with a whore on a Torah scroll inside the Temple during its destruction. Although his administration was marked by a relative absence of major military or political conflicts (except the Jewish revolts), Titus faced a number of major disasters during his brief reign. On August 24, 79, barely two months after his accession, Mount Vesuvius erupted, resulting in the almost complete destruction of life and property in the cities and resort communities around the Bay of Naples. The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried under metres of stone and lava, killing thousands of citizens. Titus appointed two ex-consuls to organise and coordinate the relief effort, while personally donating large amounts of money from the imperial treasury to aid the victims of the volcano.Additionally, he visited Pompeii once after the eruption and again the following year.The city was lost for nearly 1700 years before its accidental rediscovery in 1748. Since then, its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire, frozen at the moment it was buried on August 24, 79. The Forum, the baths, many houses, and some out-of-town villas like the Villa of the Mysteries remain surprisingly well preserved.

The Eruption of Mount Vesuvius by an English Romantic Landscape painter, J.M.W Turner in 1817
Herculaneum and other cities affected by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The black cloud represents the general distribution of ash and cinder. Modern coast lines are shown.
Vesuvius has erupted many times since and is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years. Today, it is regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the population of 3,000,000 people living nearby and its tendency towards explosive (Plinian) eruptions. It is the most densely populated volcanic region in the world.

The House of the Faun in Pompeii contains the Alexander Mosaic, depicting the Battle of Issus in 333 BC between Alexander the Great and Darius III of Persia. This mosaic is inspired by or copied from a Greek painting finished in the late fourth century BC
Titus reign came to an unexpected end when he was struck by a fatal illness on 13 September 81. The following day his brother Domitian was declared emperor by the Praetorian Guard. Domitian was popular with the people and the army but despised by members of the Roman Senate as a tyrant. Religious, military, and cultural propaganda fostered a cult of personality, and by nominating himself perpetual censor he sought to control the public and private morals. His reign came to an end on 18 September 96 when he was assassinated by the court officials. He was succeeded by his friend and advisor Nerva, who founded the long-lasting Nerva-Antonine dynasty. Although contemporary historians vilified Domitian after his death, his administration provided the foundation for the peaceful empire of the 2nd century AD, and the culmination of the 'Pax Romana'. His successors Nerva and Trajan were less restrictive, but in reality their policies differed little from Domitian's.

[Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus (AD 56 – AD 117) was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors.

The Roman historian and senator Tacitus referred to Christ, his execution by Pontius Pilate and the existence of early Christians in Rome in his final work, Annals (written ca. 116 AD), book 15, chapter 44. The passage is one of the earliest non-Christian reference to the origin of Christianity, the execution of Christ described in the Canonical gospels, and the presence and persecution of Christians in 1st-century Rome. Scholars generally consider Tacitus' reference to the execution of Jesus by Pontius Pilate to be both authentic, and of historical value as an independent Roman source. Tacitus was a patriotic Roman senator. His writings shows no sympathy towards Christians, or knowledge of who their leader was. His characterization of "Christian abominations" may have been based on the rumors in Rome that during the Eucharist rituals Christians ate the body and drank the blood of their God, interpreting the symbolic ritual as cannibalism by Christians

The historian was not much read in late antiquity, and even less in the Middle Ages. Only a third of his known work has survived; we depend on a single manuscript for books I-VI of the Annales and on another one for the other surviving half (books XI-XVI) and for the five books extant of the Historiae. His antipathy towards the Jews and Christians of his time — he records with unemotional contempt the sufferings of the Christians at Rome during Nero's persecution — made him unpopular in the Middle Ages. He was rediscovered, however, by the Renaissance, whose writers were impressed with his dramatic presentation of the Imperial age.

Tacitus is remembered first and foremost as the greatest Roman historian. Encyclopædia Britannica opines that he "ranks beyond dispute in the highest place among men of letters of all ages." His work has been read for its moral instruction, dramatic narrative, and for its prose style; but it is as a political theorist that he has been and remains most influential outside the field of history.

The rediscovery of the works of Tacitus during the Renaissance allowed to reintroduce historical characters as "Voadicea" (Boadicea) in 1534.Boudica (d. AD 60 or 61) was queen of the British Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire.

Boudica's husband Prasutagus, ruler of the Iceni tribe who had ruled as a nominally independent ally of Rome, left his kingdom jointly to his daughters and the Roman Emperor in his will. However, when he died, his will was ignored — the kingdom was annexed as if conquered, Boudica was flogged, her daughters were raped, and Roman financiers called in their loans.

Roman law also allowed inheritance only through the male line, so when Prasutagus died his attempts to preserve his line were ignored and his kingdom was annexed as if it had been conquered; lands and property were confiscated and nobles treated like slaves.

In AD 60 or 61, while the Roman governor, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, was leading a campaign on the island of Anglesey in northern Wales, Boudica led the Iceni people, along with the Trinovantes and others, in revolt. They destroyed Camulodunum (modern Colchester), formerly the capital of the Trinovantes, but now a colonia (a settlement for discharged Roman soldiers) and the site of a temple to the former emperor Claudius, which was built and maintained at local expense. They also routed a Roman legion, the IX Hispana, sent to relieve the settlement.

On hearing the news of the revolt Suetonius hurried to Londinium (London), the twenty-year-old commercial settlement that was the rebels' next target. Concluding that he did not have the numbers to defend the settlement, Suetonius evacuated and abandoned it — Londinium was burnt to the ground, as was Verulamium (St Albans). An estimated 70,000–80,000 people were killed in the three cities (though the figures are suspect).Suetonius, meanwhile, regrouped his forces in the West Midlands and, despite being heavily outnumbered, defeated the Britons in the Battle of Watling Street.

Boudica then either killed herself so she would not be captured, or fell ill and died

Boudica sculture at the Westminster Bridge in London.
(Thomas Thornycroft,1902)
Raphael Holinshed included her story in his Chronicles of England (1577), based on Tacitus and Dio,and inspired Shakespeare's younger contemporaries Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher to write a play, Bonduca, in 1610. A resurgence of Boudica's legendary fame during the Victorian era, when Queen Victoria was portrayed as her 'namesake'. Boudica has since remained an important cultural symbol in the United Kingdom.

The Five good emperors

The Nerva–Antonine dynasty was a dynasty of seven consecutive Roman Emperors who ruled over the Roman Empire from 96 to 192. These Emperors are Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus, and Commodus.

The rulers commonly known as the "Five good emperors" were Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius.The term Five Good Emperors was coined by the political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli in 1503:

From the study of this history we may also learn how a good government is to be established; for while all the emperors who succeeded to the throne by birth, except Titus, were bad, all were good who succeeded by adoption; as in the case of the five from Nerva to Marcus. But so soon as the empire fell once more to the heirs by birth, its ruin recommenced.

The 18th-century historian Edward Gibbon, in his work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, opined that their rule was a time when "the Roman Empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of wisdom and virtue". Gibbon went so far as to state:

    If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus. The vast extent of the Roman Empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of virtue and wisdom. The armies were restrained by the firm but gentle hand of four successive emperors, whose characters and authority commanded respect. The forms of the civil administration were carefully preserved by Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian and the Antonines, who delighted in the image of liberty, and were pleased with considering themselves as the accountable ministers of the laws. Such princes deserved the honour of restoring the republic had the Romans of their days been capable of enjoying a rational freedom.

 Under the wiser rule of Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius in the 2nd century AD, Roman citizens enjoyed wealth and comfort, with most of the work performed by slaves. Entertainment ncluded visits to the baths, the theater, and the games.The town of Pompeii, buried when Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, preserves many fascinating details of everyday life.

Domitianus was the third and last emperor of the Flavian dynasty. He was the brother of Titus and took power on 81. His reign lasted fifteen years - longer than any man who had governed Rome since Tiberius. During his reign the Roman Emprie was expended as far as modern day Scotland and in Dacia. His government nothelesses exhibited totalitarian characteristics. As emperor, he saw himself as the new Augustus, an enlightened despot destined to guide the Roman Empire intoa new era of Flavian reinassance. Domitian was popular with the people and the army but despise by members of the Roman Senate as a tyrant.

Nerva (Latin: Marcus Cocceius Nerva Caesar Augustus; 8 November 30 – 27 January 98), was Roman Emperor from 96 to 98. Nerva became Emperor at the age of sixty-five, after a lifetime of imperial service under Nero and the rulers of the Flavian dynasty. Although much of his life remains obscure, Nerva was considered a wise and moderate emperor by ancient historians.

On 18 September, 96, Domitian was assassinated in a palace conspiracy organised by court officials. Modern historians believe Nerva was proclaimed Emperor solely on the initiative of the Senate, within hours after the news of the assassination broke. Nerva had seen the anarchy which had resulted from the death of Nero in 69; he knew that to hesitate even for a few hours could lead to violent civil conflict. Rather than decline the invitation and risk revolts, he accepted. Following the accession of Nerva as emperor, the Senate passed damnatio memoriae on Domitian: his coins and statues were melted, his arches were torn down and his name was erased from all public records.The Domitian (81 to 96) period declined into terror. By nominating himself perpetual censor, Domitian sought to control public and private morals. He became personally involved in all branches of the government and successfully prosecuted corruption among public officials. The dark side of his censorial power involved a restriction in freedom of speech, and an increasingly oppressive attitude toward the Roman Senate. He punished libel with exile or death and, due to his suspicious nature, increasingly accepted information from informers to bring false charges of treason if necessary.
Modern history has rejected the negative views, instead characterising Domitian as a ruthless but efficient autocrat, whose cultural, economic and political programme provided the foundation for the Principate of the peaceful 2nd century.

The place of Nerva in Roman history is therefore summarized as a necessary, if tumultuous stop-gap before the Trajanic-Antonine dynasties. It is a fact of irony that even the only major public work completed during his reign, the Forum of Nerva, ultimately became known as the Forum Transitorium, or transitional forum. After Nerva each emperor, who took the title of August, carefully chose a younger colleague called the Caesar as his heir. When the August died, the Caesar took his position and title, and then chose his own Caesar.

Trajan (born in Spain in 98, died in 117) was the first non-Italian to become head of the empire. Under him the empire reached its largest extent after his conquest of large areas of the Middle East. His campaigns in Dacia (modern Romania) are recorded in a series of sculptures on the pillar in Rome known as Trajan's Column.

Trajan's Column

Trajan was an able military organizer. In two wars against Dacia he brought that region, the parent of monder Romania, under Roman control. This is the conquest commemrated by the Trajan's Colum. Trajan also annexed Arabia Petraea, and in three campaigns he conquered the greater part of the Parthian empire, including Armenia and Upper Mesopotamia. As civic administratorm He partially drained the Pontine Marshes and restored the Appian Way, and at Rome he built an aqueduct, a theater, and the immense Forum of Trajan, containing basilicas and libraries. He died in Cilicia (south coastal region of Asia Menor) when returning from one of his campaigns.

Ancient sources on Trajan's personality and accomplishments are unanimously positive. Pliny the Younger,for example, celebrates Trajan in his panegyric as a wise and just emperor and a moral man. Dio Cassius added that he always remained dignified and fair. The Christianisation of Rome resulted in further embellishment of his legend: it was commonly said in medieval times that Pope Gregory I, through divine intercession, resurrected Trajan from the dead and baptized him into the Christian faith. An account of this features in the Golden Legend. Theologians, such as Thomas Aquinas, discussed Trajan as an example of a virtuous pagan.

Hadrian (Latin: Publius Aelius Trajanus Hadrianus Augustus) was Roman Emperor from 117 to 138. He is best known for building Hadrian's Wall, which marked the northern limit of Roman Britain. In Rome, he re-built the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma. In addition to being emperor, Hadrian was a humanist and was philhellene in all his tastes.

Although it was an accepted part of Hadrian's personal history that he was born in Spain, his biography in Augustan History states that he was born in Rome on 24 January AD 76, of a family originally Italian, but which had lived in Spain for many generations. However, this may be a ruse to make Hadrian look like a person from Rome instead of a person hailing from the provinces.

In 130, Hadrian visited the ruins of Jerusalem, in Judaea, left after the First Roman-Jewish War of 66–73. He rebuilt the city, renaming it Aelia Capitolina after himself and Jupiter Capitolinus, the chief Roman deity. Hadrian placed the city's main Forum at the junction of the main Cardo and Decumanus Maximus, now the location for the (smaller) Muristan. Hadrian built a large temple to the goddess Venus on top of what early Christians venerated as the tomb of Christ in order to suppress Christian worship there; later this site was rebuilt as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre after the Christian Empress Helena (consort Emperor Constantius, and the mother of Emperor Constantine I) ordered the temple of Venus to be demolished.

A new temple dedicated to the worship of Jupiter was built on the ruins of the old Jewish Second Temple, which had been destroyed in 70 (the First Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon, the second one in 70 CE, four years after the Jewish population rebelled against the Roman empire. In 70 CE, Roman legions under Titus retook and subsequently destroyed much of Jerusalem and the Second Temple. Christians believe that Jesus prophesied Jerusalem's destruction (Mark 13:2) four decades earlier).

In addition, Hadrian abolished circumcision, which was considered by Romans and Greeks as a form of bodily mutilation and hence barbaric.

These anti-Jewish policies of Hadrian triggered in Judaea a massive Jewish uprising, led by Simon bar Kokhba and Akiba ben Joseph. Following the outbreak of the revolt, Hadrian called his general Sextus Julius Severus from Britain, and troops were brought from as far as the Danube. Roman losses were very heavy, and it is believed that an entire legion, the XXII Deiotariana was destroyed.

Hadrian's army eventually put down the rebellion in 135, after three years of fighting. According to Cassius Dio, during the war 580,000 Jews were killed, 50 fortified towns and 985 villages razed. The final battle took place in Beitar, a fortified city 10 km. southwest of Jerusalem.

He attempted to root out Judaism, which he saw as the cause of continuous rebellions, prohibited the Torah law, the Hebrew calendar and executed Judaic scholars (See Eleh Ezkera: A poem in which the Roman emperor Hadrian decides to martyr 10 rabbis as 'punishment' for the 10 brothers listed in the Torah who sold their brother Joseph to Ancient Egypt (Genesis 37). He justifies this by saying that the penalty for this was death  -according to Jewish law, one who kidnaps his fellow Jew and sells him into slavery is punished with death-). The sacred scroll was ceremonially burned on the Temple Mount.

Hadrian spent more than half his rule touring the provinces. After deciding that the empire was too large he gave up the new territories in the East (except dacia). Many of his reforms improved the organization of the empire.

Hadrian's law reform: In the Republic when a judge took office, he issued a document called an edictum. It listed the interpretation of each law, and was based on that of his predecessor. Hadrian's reforms meant that all citizens had to obey the same laws. In AD212 citizenship was granted to free men throughtout the empire. This mean that the law applied to all Roman people (Notice that Criminals in Roman time were not imprisoned. Instead they were exiled to distant parts of the empire for a period. Others lost their citizenship and had their property confiscated. Others were sent to be oarsmen on warship or to work in mines. The conditions were harsh and many prisioners died as a result of maltreatment and overwork. In Republican times the death penalty was rare, but during the Empire crucifixion, flogging, beheading or drowning were more common.

Hadrian died in 138 on the 10th of July, in his villa at Baiae at the age of 62. The cause of death is believed to have been heart failure. Hadrian's homosexual relationship with the Greek youth Antinous is well known through history and remains one of the defining parts of his reign.It is said that ,while the two were on a tour of Egypt, Antinous fell off of a barge in the Nile and died.The loss of his young lover made Hadrian go insane and he immediately diefied the youth and had cults developed to worship him.Hadrian also named some cities throughout the empire after him.

Antinous Ecouen, from Villa Adriana at Tivoli
The Mausoleum of Hadrian, usually known as the Castel Sant'Angelo, is a towering cylindrical building in Parco Adriano, Rome, Italy. It was initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. The building was later used by the popes as a fortress and castle, and is now a museum. Much of the tomb contents and decorations have been lost since the building's conversion to a military fortress in 401 and its subsequent inclusion in the Aurelian Walls by Flavius Augustus Honorius. The urns and ashes were scattered by Visigoth looters during Alaric's sacking of Rome in 410, and the original decorative bronze and stone statuary were thrown down upon the attacking Goths when they besieged Rome in 537, as recounted by Procopius.
Mausoleum of Hadrian (Castel Sant'Angelo)
Hadrian's Wall across the narrow part of the island of Great Britain was built from 122 to 126 under Emperor Hadrian and was extended by Emperor Severus a century later. The wall demarcated the northern boundary and defense line of Roman Britain. Fragments of the wall remain.

Hadrian's Wall
Antoninus Pius (138-161): While Antoninus Pius was in power, Rome was seen to be at the height of its wealth and power. Antoninus made few initial changes when he became emperor, leaving intact as far as possible the arrangements instituted by Hadrian. Antoninus in many ways was the ideal of the landed gentleman praised not only by ancient Romans, but also by later scholars of classical history. His reign was the most peaceful in the entire history of the Principate while there were several military disturbances throughout the Empire in his time, none of them are considered serious. He dealt with these crises without leaving Italy once during his reign, instead dealt with provincial matters of war and peace through their governors or through imperial letters to the cities such as Ephesus. This style of government was highly praised by his contemporaries and by later generations.

The Roman Empire during the reign of Antoninus Pius.
In 142 AD, Antoninus Pius built a new wall in Great Britain ,the Antonine wall, but nothern than Hadrian's wall. But this wall was inefective since the tribes rebelled and pushed back the Roman troops behind the Hadrian's wall.

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (26 April 121 – 17 March 180) was Roman Emperor from 161 to 180. He ruled with Lucius Verus as co-emperor from 161 until Verus' death in 169. He was the last of the "Five Good Emperors", and is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers.

Marcus Aurelius
Marcus' family originated in Ucubi a small town southeast of Córdoba in Iberian Baetica. The family rose to prominence in the late 1st century AD. Marcus' great-grandfather Marcus Annius Verus (I) was a senator and (according to the Historia Augusta) ex-praetor; in 73–74 his grandfather Marcus Annius Verus (II) was made a patricia

Over the winter of 161–62, as more bad news arrived—a rebellion was brewing in Syria—it was decided that Lucius should direct the Parthian war in person. He was stronger and healthier than Marcus, the argument went, more suited to military activity. Lucius' biographer suggests ulterior motives: to restrain Lucius' debaucheries, to make him thrifty, to reform his morals by the terror of war, to realize that he was an emperor.Whatever the case, the senate gave its assent, and, in the summer of 162, Lucius left. Marcus would remain in Rome; the city "demanded the presence of an emperor".

In 165, Roman forces moved on Mesopotamia. Edessa was re-occupied, and Mannus, the king deposed by the Parthians, was re-installed. The Parthians retreated to Nisibis, but this too was besieged and captured. The Parthian army dispersed in the Tigris. A second force, under Avidius Cassius and the III Gallica, moved down the Euphrates, and fought a major battle at Dura. By the end of the year, Cassius' army had reached the twin metropolises of Mesopotamia: Seleucia on the right bank of the Tigris and Ctesiphon on the left. Ctesiphon was taken and its royal palace set to flame. The citizens of Seleucia, still largely Greek (the city had been commissioned and settled as a capital of the Seleucid empire, one of Alexander the Great's successor kingdoms), opened its gates to the invaders. The city got sacked nonetheless, leaving a black mark on Lucius' reputation.

Cassius' army, although suffering from a shortage of supplies and the effects of a plague contracted in Seleucia, made it back to Roman territory safely. The returning army carried with them a plague, afterwards known as the Antonine Plague, or the Plague of Galen, which spread through the Roman Empire between 165 and 180. The disease was a pandemic believed to be either of smallpox or measles, and would ultimately claim the lives of two Roman emperors—Lucius Verus, who died in 169, and Marcus Aurelius, whose family name, Antoninus, was given to the epidemic. The disease broke out again nine years later, according to the Roman historian Dio Cassius, and caused up to 2,000 deaths a day at Rome, one quarter of those infected. Total deaths have been estimated at five million.

Starting in the 160s, Germanic tribes and other nomadic people launched raids along the northern border, particularly into Gaul and across the Danube. This new impetus westwards was probably due to attacks from tribes farther east. A first invasion of the Chatti in the province of Germania Superior was repulsed in 162. Far more dangerous was the invasion of 166, when the Marcomanni of Bohemia, clients of the Roman Empire since 19, crossed the Danube together with the Lombards and other German tribes.

Both Marcus and Verus led the troops. After the death of Verus (169), Marcus led personally the struggle against the Germans for the great part of his remaining life. The Romans suffered at least two serious defeats by the Quadi and Marcomanni, who could cross the Alps, ravage Opitergium (Oderzo) and besiege Aquileia, the main Roman city of north-east Italy. At the same time the Costoboci, coming from the Carpathian area, invaded Moesia, Macedonia and Greece. After a long struggle, Marcus Aurelius managed to push back the invaders. Numerous Germans settled in frontier regions like Dacia, Pannonia, Germany and Italy itself.

Marcus Aurelius died on 17 March 180, in the city of Vindobona (modern Vienna). He was immediately deified and his ashes were returned to Rome, and rested in Hadrian's mausoleum (modern Castel Sant'Angelo) until the Visigoth sack of the city in 410. His campaigns against Germans and Sarmatians were also commemorated by a column and a temple built in Rome.

Although there were many equestrian imperial statues, they rarely survived because it was practice to melt down bronze statues for reuse as coin or new sculptures in the late empire. Statues were also destroyed because medieval Christians thought that they were pagan idols. The statue of Marcus Aurelius was not melted down because in the Middle Ages it was incorrectly thought to portray the first Christian Emperor Constantine. Indeed, it is the only fully surviving bronze statue of a pre-Christian Roman emperor. The original is on display in the Palazzo Nuovo, with the one now standing in the open air of the Piazza del Campidoglio being a replica made in 1981
Having fathered a son, Marcus Aurelius naturally gave the succession for Commodus, whom he had named Caesar in 166 and made co-emperor in 177. This decision, putting an end to the series of "adoptive emperors", was highly criticized by later historians since Commodus was a political and military outsider, as well as an extreme egotist with neurotic problems. The naming by Marcus Aurelius of his son Commodus was considered to be an unfortunate choice and the beginning of the Empire's decline

Marcus Aurelius' work Meditations, written in Greek while on campaign between 170 and 180, is still revered as a literary monument to a philosophy of service and duty, describing how to find and preserve equanimity in the midst of conflict by following nature as a source of guidance and inspiration. The meditations serve as an example of how Aurelius approached the Platonic ideal of a philosopher-king and how he symbolized much of what was best about Roman civilization. The preponderance of Greek tutors indicates the importance of the language to the aristocracy of Rome. This was the age of the Second Sophistic, a renaissance in Greek letters. Although educated in Rome, in his Meditations, Marcus would write his inmost thoughts in Greek

The book has been a favourite of Frederick the Great, John Stuart Mill, Matthew Arnold, Goethe and Wen Jiabao.

Words that everyone once used are now obsolete, and so are the men whose names were once on everyone's lips: Camillus, Caeso, Volesus, Dentatus, and to a lesser degree Scipio and Cato, and yes, even Augustus, Hadrian, and Antoninus are less spoken of now than they were in their own days. For all things fade away, become the stuff of legend, and are soon buried in oblivion. Mind you, this is true only for those who blazed once like bright stars in the firmament, but for the rest, as soon as a few clods of earth cover their corpses, they are 'out of sight, out of mind.' In the end, what would you gain from everlasting remembrance? Absolutely nothing. So what is left worth living for? This alone: justice in thought, goodness in action, speech that cannot deceive, and a disposition glad of whatever comes, welcoming it as necessary, as familiar, as flowing from the same source and fountain as yourself. (IV. 33, trans. Scot and David Hicks).
Do not then consider life a thing of any value. For look at the immensity of time behind thee, and to the time which is before thee, another boundless space. In this infinity then what is the difference between him who lives three days and him who lives three generations? (IV. 50, trans. George Long)
From my brother Severus i learnt to love my kin, and to love truth and from him I received the idea of a polity in which there is the same law for all, a polity administered with regard to equal rights and equal freedom of speech, and the idea of a kingly government which respects most of all the freedom of the governed; I learned from him also consistency and undeviating steadiness in my regard for philosophy; and a disposition to do good, and to give to others readily, and to cherish good hopes, and to believe that I am loved by my friends; and in him I observed no concealment of his opinions with respect to those whom he condemned, and that his friends had no need to conjecture what he wished or did not wish, but it was quite plain.
Death is such as generation is, a mystery of nature; a composition out of the same elements, and a decomposition into the same; and altogether not a thing of which any man should be ashamed, for it is not contrary to the nature of a reasonable animal, and not contrary to the reason of our constitution.
Think continually how many physicians are dead after often contracting their eyebrows over the sick; and how many astrologers after predicting with great pretensions the deaths of others; and how many philosophers after endless discourses on death or immortality; how many heroes after killing thousands; and how many tyrants who have used their power over men's lives with terrible insolence as if they were immortal; and how many cities are entirely dead, so to speak, Helice and Pompeii and Herculaneum, and others innumerable. Add to the reckoning all whom thou hast known, one after another. One man after burying another has been laid out dead, and another buries him: and all this in a short time. To conclude, always observe how ephemeral and worthless human things are, and what was yesterday a little mucus tomorrow will be a mummy or ashes. Pass then through this little space of time conformably to nature, and end thy journey in content, just as an olive falls off when it is ripe, blessing nature who produced it, and thanking the tree on which it grew.

Commodus, Caracalla and the decline of the Roman Empire

Commodus (Latin: Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus; 31 August 161 – 31 December 192), was Roman Emperor from 180 to 192. He also ruled as co-emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius from 177 until his father's death in 180.

Commodus as Hercules,
Capitoline Museums
Often, wounded soldiers and amputees would be placed in the arena for Commodus to slay with a sword. Commodus' eccentric behaviour would not stop there. Citizens of Rome missing their feet through accident or illness were taken to the arena, where they were tethered together for Commodus to club to death while pretending they were giants. These acts may have contributed to his assassination.

His recorded actions do tend to show a rejection of his father’s policies, his father’s advisers, and especially his father’s austere lifestyle, and an alienation from the surviving members of his family. It seems likely that he was brought up in an atmosphere of Stoic asceticism, which he rejected entirely upon his accession to sole rule. Innumerable statues around the empire were set up portraying him as a demigod, a physical gian, a protector and a battler against beast and men.

He especially adored killing animals, and killed 100 lions in one day, to the spectators’ disgust. He killed himself three elephants singlehanded in the arena, beheaded an ostrich and laughed at the senators attending, brandishing the head and motioning that they were next. He speared a giraffe to death, an animal which the spectators did not see as fearsome at all.

The senators conspired to have him killed, and poisoned him, but he threw it up. They then sent in his favorite wrestler, a gladiator named Narcissus, who strangled him in his bath. His reign lasted 12 years, from 180 to 192.

Pollice Verso (Gérôme) by French painter Jean-Léon Gérôme

Septimius Severus (145-211) was Roman emperor from 193 to 211.

Severus was born in Leptis Magna (nowadays ruins near Khoms, Libya) in the Roman province of Africa. He spoke the local Punic language fluently, but he was also educated in Latin and Greek, which he spoke with a slight accent.

In 191 Severus received from the Emperor Commodus the command of the legions in Pannonia. However, Commodus was assassinated the following year. Pertinax was acclaimed emperor but was killed by the Praetorian Guard in early 193. In response to the murder of Pertinax, Severus' soldiers proclaimed him Emperor at Carnuntum, whereupon he hurried to Italy. Pertinax's successor in Rome was Didius Julianus, who had bought the emperorship in an auction. Julianus was condemned to death by the Senate and killed, and Severus took possession of Rome without opposition. He executed Pertinax's murderers and dismissed the rest of the Praetorian Guard, filling its ranks with loyal troops from his own legions. After killing Julianus, Severus fought his rival claimants (this was the year of the 5 emperors), the generals Pescennius Niger and Clodius Albinus. Niger was defeated in 194 at the Battle of Issus in Cilicia.

After consolidating his rule over the western provinces, Severus waged another brief, more successful war in the east against the Parthian Empire, sacking their capital Ctesiphon in 197 and expanding the eastern frontier to the Tigris. Furthermore, he enlarged and fortified the Limes Arabicus in Arabia Petraea.

His victory over Parthia was for a time decisive, establishing a new status quo in the east which secured Nisibis and Singara for the Empire. On 197 in the Battle of Lugdunum Severus defeated Clodius Albinus, securing his full control over the Empire. Severus was also distinguished for his buildings. Apart from the triumphal arch in the Roman Forum carrying his full name, he also built the Septizodium in Rome and enriched greatly his native city of Leptis Magna (including another triumphal arch on the occasion of his visit of 203).

With the succession of his sons, Severus founded the Severan dynasty, the last dynasty of the empire before the Crisis of the Third Century.

Caracalla (Latin: Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Augustus; 4 April 188 – 8 April 217), was Roman emperor from 209 to 217. Caracalla is remembered as one of the most notorious and unpleasant emperors because of the massacres and persecutions he authorized throughout the empire. He is also one of the emperors who commissioned a large public bath-house (thermae) in Rome. Three things stand out from his reign: The edict of 212 (Constitutio Antoniniana) granting Roman citizenship to freemen throughout the Roman Empire; and the construction of a large thermae outside Rome, the remains of which, known as the Baths of Caracalla, can still be seen. These remains are one of the major attractions of the Italian capital.

His father died in 211 at Eboracum (now York). Caracalla was present and was proclaimed co-emperor with his brother Publius Septimius Antoninus Geta. Then in December AD 211 at a reconciliation meeting arranged by their mother Julia, Caracalla had Geta assassinated by members of the Praetorian Guard loyal to him. Geta died in his mother's arms.

When the inhabitants of Alexandria heard Caracalla's claims that he had killed Geta in self-defense, they produced a satire mocking this as well as Caracalla's other pretensions. In AD 215 Caracalla savagely responded to this insult by slaughtering the deputation of leading citizens who had unsuspectingly assembled before the city to greet his arrival, and then unleashed his troops for several days of looting and plunder in Alexandria. According to historian Cassius Dio, over 20,000 people were killed.

The Constitutio Antoniniana (also called the Edict of Caracalla or the Antonine Constitution) was an edict issued in 212, by the Roman Emperor Caracalla declaring that all free men in the Roman Empire were to be given theoretical Roman citizenship and that all free women in the Empire were to be given the same rights as Roman women. According to Cassius Dio the reasons Caracalla passed this law were mainly to increase the number of people available to tax. before the edict, one of the main ways to acquire Roman citizenship was to enlist in the army, the completion of service in which would give the citizenship to the discharged soldier. The edict of 212 may have made enlistment in the army less attractive to most, hence the recruiting difficulties of the Roman army by the end of the 3rd century. The edict came at the cost to the auxiliaries, which primarily consisted of non-citizen men, and led to barbarization of the Roman military.

Seeking to secure his own legacy, Caracalla also commissioned one of Rome's last major architectural achievements, the Baths of Caracalla, the largest public baths ever built in ancient Rome. The main room of the baths was larger than St. Peter's Basilica, and could easily accommodate over 2,000 Roman citizens at one time. The bath house opened in 216, complete with libraries, private rooms and outdoor tracks. Internally it was lavishly decorated with gold-trimmed marble floors, columns, mosaics and colossal statues.

The elaborate baths of Caracalla covered an area of up to 30 acres
While travelling from Edessa to continue the war with Parthia, he was assassinated while urinating at a roadside near Carrhae on April 8, AD 217, by Julius Martialis, an officer of his personal bodyguard. Herodian says that Martialis' brother had been executed a few days earlier by Caracalla on an unproven charge; Cassius Dio, on the other hand, says that Martialis was resentful at not being promoted to the rank of centurion. The escort of the emperor gave him privacy to relieve himself, and Martialis then ran forward and killed Caracalla with a single sword stroke. He immediately fled on horseback, but was in turn killed by a bodyguard archer.

Decius, death in foreign battle

Gaius Messius Quintus Decius (ca. 201 – June 251) was Roman Emperor from 249 to 251. In the last year of his reign, he co-ruled with his son Herennius Etruscus until both of them were killed in the Battle of Abrittus.

Around 245, Emperor Philip entrusted Decius with an important command on the Danube. By the end of 248 or 249, Decius was sent to quell the revolt of Pacatianus and to rid the region of the Goths, Germans and Dacian Carpi who had flooded in during the crisis and his troops in Moesia and Pannonia; the soldiers were enraged because of the peace treaty signed between Philip and the Sassanids.

Once arrived, the troops forced Decius to assume the imperial dignity himself instead. Decius still protested his loyalty to Philip, but the latter advanced against him and was killed near Verona, Italy. The Senate then recognized Decius as Emperor, giving him the attribute Traianus as a reference to the good emperor Trajan

During his reign, he proceeded to construct several building projects in Rome "including the Thermae Deciane or Baths of Decius on the Aventine" which was completed in 252 and still survived through to the 16th century; Decius also acted to repair the Colosseum, which had been damaged by lightning strikes

In January 250, Decius issued an edict for the suppression of Christianity. The edict itself was fairly clear:

    All the inhabitants of the empire were required to sacrifice before the magistrates of their community 'for the safety of the empire' by a certain day (the date would vary from place to place and the order may have been that the sacrifice had to be completed within a specified period after a community received the edict). When they sacrificed they would obtain a certificate (libellus) recording the fact that they had complied with the order.

While Decius himself may have intended the edict as a way to reaffirm his conservative vision of the Pax Romana and to reassure Rome's citizens that the empire was still secure, it nevertheless sparked a "terrible crisis of authority as various Christian bishops and their flocks reacted to it in different ways.

Christian followers who refused to offer a pagan sacrifice for the Emperor and the Empire's well-being by a specified date risked torture and execution. A number of prominent Christians did, in fact, refuse to make a sacrifice and were killed in the process including Pope Fabian himself in 250 and "anti-Christian feeling[s] led to pogroms at Carthage and Alexandria."In reality, however, towards the end of the second year of Decius' reign, "the ferocity of the [anti-Christian] persecution had eased off, and the earlier tradition of tolerance had begun to reassert itself." The Christian church though never forgot the reign of Decius whom they labelled as that "fierce tyrant".

At this time, there was a second outbreak of the Antonine Plague, which at its height in 251 to 266 took the lives of 5,000 a day in Rome. This outbreak is referred to as the "Plague of Cyprian" (the bishop of Carthage), where both the plague and the persecution of Christians were especially severe. Cyprian's biographer Pontius gave a vivid picture of the demoralizing effects of the plague and Cyprian moralized the event in his essay De mortalitate. In Carthage the "Decian persecution" unleashed at the onset of the plague sought out Christian scapegoats.

During his brief reign, Decius engaged in important operations against the Goths, who crossed the Danube to raid districts of Moesia and Thrace. This is the first considerable occasion the Goths — who would later come to play such an important role — appear in the historical record.

The final engagement, the battle of Abrittus, in which the Goths fought with the courage of despair, under the command of Cniva, took place during the second week of June 251 on swampy ground in the Ludogorie (region in modern Razgradwhich in northeastern Bulgaria that merges with Dobruja plateau and the Danube Plain to the north) near the small settlement of Abrittus or Forum Terebronii (modern Razgrad). Jordanes records that Decius' son Herennius Etruscus was killed by an arrow early in the battle, and to cheer his men Decius exclaimed, "Let no one mourn; the death of one soldier is not a great loss to the republic." Nevertheless, Decius' army was entangled in the swamp and annihilated in this battle, while he himself was killed on the field of battle

Decius was the first Roman emperor to die in battle against a foreign enemy.

The battle typically marks the starting of a period of increased military and political instability in the Roman Empire, although the symptoms of the crisis had already appeared in the preceding decades

Lactantius, a Christian apologist of the early 4th century (deeply hating Decius for the persecution of Christians resulted from his edict on sacrifices) described the emperor's demise as following :

    "He was suddenly surrounded by the barbarians, and slain, together with great part of his army; nor could he be honoured with the rites of sepulture, but, stripped and naked, he lay to be devoured by wild beasts and birds, a fit end for the enemy of God."

[Origen (184-253): Origen was born in Alexandria to Christian parents. He was educated by his father, Leonides of Alexandria, who gave him a standard Hellenistic education, but also had him study the Christian scriptures. The name of his mother is unknown. Eusebius, our chief witness to Origen's life, says that in 203 Origen revived the Catechetical School of Alexandria where Clement of Alexandria had once taught but had apparently been driven out during the persecution under Severus. His fame and the number of his pupils increased rapidly, so that Bishop Demetrius of Alexandria, made him restrict himself to instruction in Christian doctrine alone. Origen, to be entirely independent, sold his library for a sum which netted him a daily income of 4 obols, on which he lived by exercising the utmost frugality. Teaching throughout the day, he devoted the greater part of the night to the study of the Bible and lived a life of rigid asceticism.

His own interests became more and more centered in exegesis, and he accordingly studied Hebrew, though there is no certain knowledge concerning his instructor in that language. From about this period (212–213) dates Origen's acquaintance with Ambrose of Alexandria, whom he was instrumental in converting from Valentinianism to orthodoxy. Later (about 218) Ambrose, a man of wealth, made a formal agreement with Origen to promulgate his writings, and all the subsequent works of Origen (except his sermons, which were not expressly prepared for publication) were dedicated to Ambrose.

At the request of Ambrose, he began a huge commentary on the Bible, beginning with John, and continuing with Genesis, Psalms 1–25, and Lamentations, besides brief exegeses of selected texts (forming the ten books of his Stromateis), two books on the resurrection, and the work On First Principles.

Origen was one of the greatest biblical scholars of the early Church, having written commentaries on most of the books of the Bible, though few are extant. He interpreted scripture both literally and allegorically. Origen was largely responsible for the collection of usage information regarding the texts which became the New Testament.

An ordained priest in Palestine, he has left posterity numerous homilies on various books of the Bible. Finally, he has also been regarded as a spiritual master for such works as An Exhortation to Martyrdom and On Prayer.

The exegetical writings of Origen fall into three classes:

    - scholia, or brief summaries of the meaning of difficult passages
    - homilies
    - "books", or commentaries in the strict sense of the term.

Unlike many church fathers, he was never canonized as a saint because some of his teachings directly contradicted the teachings attributed to the apostles, notably the Apostles Paul and John. His teachings on the pre-existence of souls, the final reconciliation of all creatures, including perhaps even the devil (the apokatastasis), and the subordination of the Son of God to God the Father, were extremely controversial. Because of his heretical views, Origen is technically not a Church Father by many definitions of that term but instead may simply be referred to as an ecclesiastical writer.


Crisis of the Third Century

Crisis of the Third Century: Despite a number of crises, the Roman Empire had stood firm since its inception under Augustus. But after emperor Alexander Severus was murdered by soldiers in 235, Roman legions were defeated in a campaign against Sassanid Persia, and the empire fell apart. General after general squabbled over control of the empire, the frontiers were neglected and subjected to frequent raids by Carpians, Goths, Vandals and Alamanni, and outright attacks from aggressive Sassanids in the east.

Valerian (Latin: Publius Licinius Valerianus Augustus; 193/195/200 – 260 or 264), also known as Valerian the Elder, was Roman Emperor from 253 to 260. He was taken captive by Persian king Shapur I after the Battle of Edessa, becoming the only Roman emperor who was captured as a prisoner or war and causing wide-ranging instability across the empire.

At the beginning of 260, Valerian was decisively defeated in the Battle of Edessa (The Battle of Edessa took place between the armies of the Roman Empire under the command of Emperor Valerian and Sassanid forces under Shahanshah (King of the Kings) Shapur I in 259.) and he arranged a meeting with Shapur to negotiate a peace settlement. The truce was betrayed by Shapur who seized him and held him prisoner for the remainder of his life. Valerian's capture was a scorching defeat for the Romans, though partly balanced by subsequent victories

According to Lactantius, Shapur humiliated Valerian, using the former emperor as a human stepping-stool while mounting his horse. Valerian's body was later skinned and stuffed with manure to produce a trophy of Roman submission preserved in a Persian temple.

A bas relief of Emperor Valerian standing at the background and held captive by Shapur I found at Naghsh-e Rostam, Shiraz, Iran.

By 258, the Roman Empire broke up into three competing states. The Roman provinces of Gaul, Britain and Hispania broke off to form the Gallic Empire and, two years later in 260, the eastern provinces of Syria, Palestine and Aegyptus became independent as the Palmyrene Empire, leaving the remaining Italian-centered Roman Empire-proper in the middle.

Claudius II (Latin: Marcus Aurelius Valerius Claudius Augustus;May 10, 213 – January 270), commonly known as Claudius Gothicus, was Roman Emperor from 268 to 270. During his reign he fought successfully against the Alamanni and scored a crushing victory against the Goths at the Battle of Naissus.
Claudius, like Maximinus Thrax before him, was of barbarian birth. After an interlude of failed aristocratic Roman emperors since Maximinus's death, Claudius was the first in a series of tough soldier-emperors who would eventually restore the Empire from the Crisis of the third century. He died after succumbing to a smallpox plague that ravaged the provinces of the empire. The Alamanni were routed, forced back into Germany, and did not threaten Roman territory for many years afterwards.

The psychological impact of this victory was so strong that Claudius became known to posterity as Claudius II Gothicus ("conqueror of the Goths"). However devastating the defeat, the battle did not entirely break the Gothic tribes' military strength. Besides, the troubles with Zenobia in the East and the breakaway Gallic Empire in the West were so urgent that the victory at Naissus could only serve as a temporary relief for the troubled Empire.

In 269 Zenobia, her army, and the Palmyrene General Zabdas violently conquered Egypt with help from their Egyptian ally, Timagenes, and his army. The Roman prefect of Egypt, Tenagino Probus and his forces, tried to expel them from Egypt, but Zenobia's forces captured and beheaded Probus. She then proclaimed herself Queen of Egypt.

Queen Zenobia's Last Look Upon Palmyra,
by Herbert Schmalz.
When Claudius died in 270 of the plague, Aurelian, who had commanded the cavalry at Naissus, succeeded him as the emperor and continued the restoration of the Empire.

 In 271, after Aurelian repelled another Gothic invasion, he abandoned the province of Dacia north of Danube forever, in order to rationalize the defense of the Empire

Aurelian began a military campaign to reunite the Roman Empire in 272-273. Aurelian and his forces left the Gallic Empire and arrived in Syria. The forces of Aurelian and Zenobia met and fought near Antioch. After a crushing defeat, the remaining Palmyrenes briefly fled into Antioch and then into Emesa. Aurelian defeated Queen Zenobia in this battle, the Battle of Immae and again, decisively, in the Battle of Emesa. Within six months, his armies stood at the gates of Palmyra, which surrendered when Zenobia tried to flee to the Sassanid Empire. The "Palmyrene Empire" was no more.

Palmyra city in the morning

Zenobia and Vaballathus were taken as hostages to Rome by Aurelian. Vaballathus is presumed to have died on his way to Rome. In 274, Zenobia reportedly appeared in golden chains in Aurelian’s military triumph parade in Rome.

There are multiple reasons put forth for Zenobia's death— illness, hunger strike, or beheading being some of the oft-cited. The happiest account, though, is that Aurelian, impressed by her beauty and dignity and out of a desire for clemency, freed Zenobia and granted her an elegant villa in Tibur (modern Tivoli, Italy).

Aurelian then moved into Gaul and defeated Tetricus at the Battle of Châlons in 274; according to the sources, Tetricus, weary of the in-fighting, offered to surrender in exchange for clemency for him and his son.This detail may be later propaganda, but either way, Aurelius was victorious, and the Gallic Empire was effectively dismantled

According to literary sources, after being displayed as trophies at Aurelian's triumph in Rome, the lives of Tetricus and his son were spared by Aurelian, and Tetricus was even given the title of corrector Lucaniae et Bruttiorum, that is governor of a southern region of Italia.Tetricus died at an unknown date in Italy; he is listed as one of Rome's Thirty Tyrants in the Historia Augusta.

The Alamanni, Allemanni, or Alemanni were originally an alliance of Germanic tribes located around the upper Rhine river (Germany). Their most famous battle against Rome took place in Argentoratum (Strasbourg), in 357, where they were defeated by Julian, later Emperor of Rome, and their king Chnodomarius was taken prisoner to Rome.

The names for Germany in many modern Romance languages like French, Spanish and Portuguese derive from the name of the Alamanni.

Aurelian (Latin: Lucius Domitius Aurelianus Augustus) (9 September 214 or 215 – September or October 275), was Roman Emperor from 270 to 275. During his reign, he defeated the Alamanni after a devastating war. He also defeated the Goths, Vandals, Juthungi, Sarmatians, and Carpi. Aurelian restored the empire's eastern provinces after his conquest of the Palmyrene Empire in 273. The following year he conquered the Gallic Empire in the west, reuniting the empire in its entirety. He was also responsible for the construction of the Aurelian Walls in Rome, and the abandonment of the province of Dacia. His successes effectually ended the empire's Crisis of the Third Century, earning the title Restorer of the World.

In 275, Aurelian marched towards Asia Minor, preparing another campaign against the Sassanids: the deaths of Kings Shapur I (272) and Hormizd I (273) in quick succession, and the rise to power of a weakened ruler (Bahram I), set the possibility to attack the Sassanid Empire.

On his way, the emperor suppressed a revolt in Gaul — possibly against Faustinus, an officer or usurper of Tetricus — and defeated barbarian marauders in Vindelicia (Germany).

However, Aurelian never reached Persia, as he was murdered while waiting in Thrace to cross into Asia Minor.The notarius Mucapor and other high-ranking officers of the Praetorian Guard, murdered him in September of 275, in Caenophrurium, Thrace (modern Turkey).

Aurelian's short reign reunited a fragmented Empire while saving Rome from barbarian invasions that had reached Italy itself. His death prevented a full restoration of political stability and a lasting dynasty that could end the cycle of assassination of Emperors and civil war that marked this period. Even so, he brought the Empire through a very critical period in its history and without Aurelian, it would never have survived the invasions and fragmentation of the decade in which he reigned. 20 years later the reign of Diocletian would fully restore stability and end the Crisis of the third century. The Western half would survive another 200 years while the East would thrive for another millennium.

Sol Invictus ("Unconquered Sun") was the official sun god of the later Roman empire. In 274 Aurelian made it an official cult alongside the traditional Roman cults. Scholars disagree whether the new deity was a refoundation of the ancient Latin cult of Sol, a revival of the cult of Elagabalus or completely new. The god was favoured by emperors after Aurelian and appeared on their coins until Constantine. The last inscription referring to Sol Invictus dates to 387 AD and there were enough devotees in the 5th century that Augustine found it necessary to preach against them. A festival on 25 Dec. is sometimes thought to be responsible for the date of Christmas

Diocletian and the split of the Roman Empire, the Tetrarchy and the ascend of Constantine

Diocletian (Latin: Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus Augustus; c. 22 December 244  – 3 December 311), was a Roman Emperor from 284 to 305.

Diocletian saw the vast empire as ungovernable, and therefore split the empire in half and created two equal emperors to rule under the title of Augustus. In doing so, he effectively created what would become the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire. In 293 authority was further divided, as each Augustus took a junior Emperor called a Caesar to provide a line of succession. This constituted what is now known as the Tetrarchy ("rule of four"). The transitions of this period mark the beginnings of Late Antiquity.

Constantine the Great (Latin: Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus) (c. 27 February 272 – 22 May 337), also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity,  Constantine reversed the persecutions of his predecessor, Diocletian, and issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all religions throughout the empire. This is a decisive turning point in the history, especially considering his decision to build a new capital at Constantinople (Byzantium). By the 5th century the Empire was split into two. Rome and the Western Empire could not stem the tide of Germanic invaders migrating southward and Italy fell first to the Goths and later to the Lombards. The Eastern Empire retained nominal control over parts of Italy from its stronghold at Ravenna, which became the richest, most powerful city of the age, while the great palaces and arenas of Rome were reduced to ruins.

In July 285, Diocletian declared Maximian, another colleague from Illyricum, his co-emperor. Each emperor would have his own court, his own military and administrative faculties, and each would rule with a separate praetorian prefect as chief lieutenant. Maximian ruled in the West, from his capitals at Mediolanum (Milan, Italy) or Augusta Treverorum (Trier, Germany), while Diocletian ruled in the East, from Nicomedia (I.zmit, Turkey). The division was merely pragmatic: the Empire was called "indivisible" in official panegyric,and both emperors could move freely throughout the Empire. In 288, Maximian appointed Constantius (father of Constantine) to serve as his praetorian prefect in Gaul.

Constantine had returned to Nicomedia from the eastern front by the spring of 303, in time to witness the beginnings of Diocletian's "Great Persecution", the most severe persecution of Christians in Roman history

In late 302, Diocletian and Galerius sent a messenger to the oracle of Apollo at Didyma with an inquiry about Christians. Constantine could recall his presence at the palace when the messenger returned, when Diocletian accepted his court's demands for universal persecution.On 23 February 303, Diocletian ordered the destruction of Nicomedia's new church, condemned its scriptures to the flame, and had its treasures seized. In the months that followed, churches and scriptures were destroyed, Christians were deprived of official ranks, and priests were imprisoned.

Saint Eulalia by John William Waterhouse -. She was a Roman Christian teen martyred in Emerita, the capital of Lusitania (modern Mérida in Spain) during the persecution of Christians in the reign of emperor Diocletian and his co-emperor Maximian.
On 1 May 305, Diocletian, as a result of a debilitating sickness taken in the winter of 304–5, announced his resignation. In a parallel ceremony in Milan, Maximian did the same. Diocletian retired to his Palace near the administrative center of Salona on the Adriatic Sea. The palace later became the seed of modern Split, Croatia. He was the only Roman emperor to remove himself from office; all of the others either died of natural causes or were removed by force.

[The Diocletianic Persecution (or Great Persecution) was the last and most severe persecution of Christians in the Roman empire. In 303, Emperor Diocletian and his colleagues Maximian, Galerius, and Constantius issued a series of edicts rescinding the legal rights of Christians and demanding that they comply with traditional religious practices. Later edicts targeted the clergy and demanded universal sacrifice, ordering all inhabitants to sacrifice to the gods. The persecution varied in intensity across the empire—weakest in Gaul and Britain, where only the first edict was applied, and strongest in the Eastern provinces. Over 20000 Christians are thought to have died during Diocletian's reign.

Nonetheless, for the first two centuries of the Christian era, no emperor issued general laws against the faith or its Church. Persecutions, such as they were, were carried out under the authority of local government officials

When Emperor Nero executed Christians for their alleged involvement in the fire of 64, it was a purely local affair; it did not spread beyond the city limits of Rome.

Constantine the Great (sculture at York)
As they left office, Diocletian and Maximian probably imagined Christianity to be in its last throes. Churches had been destroyed, the Church leadership and hierarchy had been snapped, and the army and civil service had been purged. Eusebius declares that apostates from the faith were "countless"  in number.At first, the new Tetrarchy seemed even more vigorous than the first. Maximinus in particular was eager to persecute

Constantius and Galerius were promoted to Augusti, while Severus and Maximin were appointed their Caesars respectively. Constantine and Maxentius were ignored.

Constantine recognized the implicit danger in remaining at Galerius' court, where he was held as a virtual hostage. His career depended on being rescued by his father in the west. Constantius was quick to intervene.In the late spring or early summer of 305, Constantius requested leave for his son, to help him campaign in Britain.

Constantius had become severely sick over the course of his reign, and died on 25 July 306 in Eboracum (York). Before dying, he declared his support for raising Constantine to the rank of full Augustus. The Alamannic king Chrocus, a barbarian taken into service under Constantius, then proclaimed Constantine as Augustus. The troops loyal to Constantius' memory followed him in acclamation. Gaul and Britain quickly accepted his rule;

He requested recognition as heir to his father's throne, and passed off responsibility for his unlawful ascension on his army, claiming they had "forced it upon him". Galerius was put into a fury by the message; he almost set the portrait on fire. His advisers calmed him, and argued that outright denial of Constantine's claims would mean certain war. Galerius was compelled to compromise: he granted Constantine the title "Caesar" rather than "Augustus" (The latter office went to Severus instead). Wishing to make it clear that he alone gave Constantine legitimacy, Galerius personally sent Constantine the emperor's traditional purple robes.Constantine accepted the decision, knowing that it would remove doubts as to his legitimacy.

Constantine's share of the Empire consisted of Britain, Gaul, and Spain. He therefore commanded one of the largest Roman armies, stationed along the important Rhine frontier. After his promotion to emperor, Constantine remained in Britain, and secured his control in the northwestern dioceses.

Constantine began a major expansion of Trier. He strengthened the circuit wall around the city with military towers and fortified gates, and began building a palace complex in the northeastern part of the city.

According to Lactantius, Constantine followed his father in following a tolerant policy towards Christianity. Although not yet a Christian, he probably judged it a more sensible policy than open persecution, and a way to distinguish himself from the "great persecutor", Galerius.

In 310, a dispossessed and power-hungry Maximian rebelled against Constantine while Constantine was away campaigning against the Franks. Maximian had been sent south to Arles with a contingent of Constantine's army, in preparation for any attacks by Maxentius in southern Gaul. He announced that Constantine was dead, and took up the imperial purple. In spite of a large donative pledge to any who would support him as emperor, most of Constantine's army remained loyal to their emperor, and Maximian was soon compelled to leave. Maximian was captured and reproved for his crimes. Constantine granted some clemency, but strongly encouraged his suicide. In July 310, Maximian hanged himself.

In spite of the earlier rupture in their relations, Maxentius was eager to present himself as his father's devoted son after his death. He began minting coins with his father's deified image, proclaiming his desire to avenge Maximian's death.Constantine initially presented the suicide as an unfortunate family tragedy. By 311, however, he was spreading another version. According to this, after Constantine had pardoned him, Maximian planned to murder Constantine in his sleep. Fausta learned of the plot and warned Constantine, who put a eunuch in his own place in bed. Maximian was apprehended when he killed the eunuch and was offered suicide, which he accepted. Along with using propaganda, Constantine instituted a damnatio memoriae on Maximian, destroying all inscriptions referring to him and eliminating any public work bearing his image.

In the summer of 311, Maxentius mobilized against Constantine while Licinius was occupied with affairs in the East. He declared war on Constantine, vowing to avenge his father's "murder"

On 28 October 312, the sixth anniversary of his reign, he approached the keepers of the Sibylline Books for guidance. The keepers prophesied that, on that very day, "the enemy of the Romans" would die. Maxentius advanced north to meet Constantine in battle.

The Battle of the Milvian Bridge: Maxentius organized his forces—still twice the size of Constantine's—in long lines facing the battle plain, with their backs to the river. Constantine's army arrived at the field bearing unfamiliar symbols on either its standards or its soldiers' shields.According to Lactantius, Constantine was visited by a dream the night before the battle, wherein he was advised "to mark the heavenly sign of God on the shields of his means of a slanted letter X with the top of its head bent round, he marked Christ on their shields." Eusebius describes another version, where, while marching at midday, "he saw with his own eyes in the heavens a trophy of the cross arising from the light of the sun, carrying the message, In Hoc Signo Vinces or "In this sign, you will conquer"; in Eusebius's account, Constantine had a dream the following night, in which Christ appeared with the same heavenly sign, and told him to make a standard, the labarum, for his army in that form. Eusebius is vague about when and where these events took place,but it enters his narrative before the war against Maxentius begins.Eusebius describes the sign as Chi  traversed by Rho: a symbol representing the first two letters of the Greek spelling of the word Christos or Christ

Constantine deployed his own forces along the whole length of Maxentius' line. He ordered his cavalry to charge, and they broke Maxentius' cavalry. He then sent his infantry against Maxentius' infantry, pushing many into the Tiber where they were slaughtered and drowned. The battle was brief: Maxentius' troops were broken before the first charge.Maxentius' horse guards and praetorians initially held their position, but broke under the force of a Constantinian cavalry charge; they also broke ranks and fled to the river. Maxentius rode with them, and attempted to cross the bridge of boats, but he was pushed by the mass of his fleeing soldiers into the Tiber, and drowned.

Constantine at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge by Raphael
Galerius elevated Licinius to the rank of Augustus in the West on November 11, 308. In 313, Constantine met Licinius in Milan to secure their alliance by the marriage of Licinius and Constantine's half-sister Constantia. During this meeting, the emperors agreed on the so-called Edict of Milan, officially granting full tolerance to Christianity and all religions in the Empire.The document had special benefits for Christians, legalizing their religion and granting them restoration for all property seized during Diocletian's persecution.

Relations between the two remaining emperors deteriorated, as Constantine suffered an assassination attempt at the hands of a character that Licinius wanted elevated to the rank of Caesar; in either 314 or 316 the two Augusti fought against one another at the Battle of Cibalae, with Constantine being victorious. They clashed again at the Battle of Mardia in 317.

Supposedly outnumbered, but fired by their zeal, Constantine's army emerged victorious in the Battle of Adrianople. Licinius fled across the Bosphorus and appointed Martius Martinianus, the commander of his bodyguard, as Caesar, but Constantine next won the Battle of the Hellespont, and finally the Battle of Chrysopolis on 18 September 324. Licinius and Martinianus surrendered to Constantine at Nicomedia on the promise their lives would be spared: they were sent to live as private citizens in Thessalonica and Cappadocia respectively, but in 325 Constantine accused Licinius of plotting against him and had them both arrested and hanged; Licinius's son (the son of Constantine's half-sister) was also eradicated. Thus Constantine became the sole emperor of the Roman Empire

Licinius' defeat represented the passing of old Rome, and the beginning of the role of the Eastern Roman Empire as a center of learning, prosperity, and cultural preservation. Constantine rebuilt the city of Byzantium,a small trading town on a magnificently strategic site jutting into the sea of Marmara, and renamed Constantinopolis ("Constantine's City" or Constantinople in English), and issued special commemorative coins in 330 to honor the event.

The figures of old gods were either replaced or assimilated into a framework of Christian symbolism. Constantine built the new Church of the Holy Apostles on the site of a temple to Aphrodite.

[The church was dedicated to the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, and it was the Emperor's intention to gather relics of all the Apostles in the church. In the event, only relics of Saint Andrew, Saint Luke and Saint Timothy (the latter two not strictly apostles) were acquired, and in later centuries it came to be assumed that the church was dedicated to these three only.

An image from a Vatican Codex of 1162 believed to be a representation of the Church of the Holy Apostles
For more than 700 years the Holy Apostles was the second-most important church in Constantinople, after the basilica of the Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia). But whereas the Holy Wisdom was in the oldest part of the city, the Holy Apostles stood in the centre of the newer part of the much expanded imperial capital, on the great thoroughfare called Mese or Centre Street, and was the busiest church in the city. Most Emperors and many patriarchs and bishops were buried in the church and their relics were venerated by the faithful for centuries.

The most treasured possession of the church were the supposed skulls of Saints Andrew, Luke and Timothy, but the church also held relics of Saint John Chrysostom and other Church Fathers, saints and martyrs. The church also held what was believed to be part of the "Column of Flagellation", to which Jesus had been bound and flogged.

The basilica was looted during the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The historian Nicetas Choniates records that the Crusaders plundered the imperial tombs and robbed them of gold and gems. Not even Justinian's tomb was spared. The tomb of Emperor Heraclius was opened and his golden crown was stolen along with the late Emperor's hairs still attached on it. Some of these treasures were taken to Venice, where they can still be seen in St Mark's Basilica.

In 1453 Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks. The Holy Wisdom was seized and turned into a mosque, and the Sultan Mehmed II ordered the Greek Patriarch Gennadius Scholarius to move to the Holy Apostles, which thus became the centre of the Greek Orthodox Church. But the area around the church was soon settled by Turks, and there was increasing hostility to such a large and centrally located building remaining in Christian hands. Gennadius therefore decided to move the Patriarchate to the Church of St Mary Pammakaristos in the main Christian part of the city, the Phanar district.

Rather than convert the Holy Apostles into a mosque, Mehmed decided to demolish it and build a mosque of comparable magnificence on the site. The result was the Fatih Cami (Mosque of the Conqueror), which still occupies the site and houses Mehmed's tomb.

The Church of the Holy Apostles inspired Venice's Church of St. Mark.

Constantine summoned the bishops, and told them of his hope to be baptized in the River Jordan, where Christ was written to have been baptized. He requested the baptism right away, promising to live a more Christian life should he live through his illness. The bishops, Eusebius records, "performed the sacred ceremonies according to custom". He chose the Arianizing bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, bishop of the city where he lay dying, as his baptizer.In postponing his baptism, he followed one custom at the time which postponed baptism until old age or death. It was thought Constantine put off baptism as long as he did so as to be absolved from as much of his sin as possible. Constantine died soon after at a suburban villa called Achyron, on the last day of the fifty-day festival of Pentecost directly following Easter, on 22 May 337.Following his death, his body was transferred to Constantinople and buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles there.

Constantine had often referred to himself as the ‘Equal of the Apostles’ and instructed that twelve sarcophagi be set upright in the church of the Holy Apostles, each one representing the original followers of Christ, and that his own should be set in the middle of them. He intended that his own tomb should be worshipped alongside the Holy Apostles and it seems probable that he saw himself not simply as their equal, but in fact their superior.

Constantine won major victories over the Franks and Alamanni in 306–8, the Franks again in 313–14, the Visigoths in 332 and the Sarmatians in 334. By 336, Constantine had reoccupied most of the long-lost province of Dacia, which Aurelian had been forced to abandon in 271. At the time of his death, he was planning a great expedition to end raids on the eastern provinces from the Persian Empire.

For most of their history, the Romans didnt have a week as we understand it, though they did have a market day every eight days. Then, in AD321, the emperor Constantine introduced a new seven-day week, with Sunday as the first day... The Romans believed that the Sun and the Moon were planets and thought that there were seven planets altogether. The planets had been named after Roman gods ad goddess, and the days of the week were named after the seven planets:

Sunday: Dies Solis-The Sun day
Monday: Dies Lunae-Moon day
Tuesday: Dies Martis-Day of Mars
Wednesday: Dies Mercuri (day of Mercury)
Thursday: Dies Jovis (Day of Jove-Jupiter)
Friday: Dies Veneris (Day of Venus)
Saturday: Dies Saturni (day of Saturni)

The Germanic peoples generally substituted roughly similar gods for the Roman gods, Tiu (Twia) - Germanic god of war and the sky - , Woden -  the chief Anglo-Saxon/Teutonic god -, Thor - the Norse god of thunder -, Freya (Fria) - Teutonic goddess of love, beauty, and fecundity- , but did not substitute Saturn.

In antiquity Saturday was the seventh day of the week. On 7 March 321 the Roman emperor Constantine the Great decreed that Sunday (the day of the Sun) will be the main day of the week instead of Saturday.

The language of Rome before its expansion was Latin, and this became the empire's official language. By the time of the imperial period Latin began evolving into two languages: the 'high' written Classical Latin and the 'low' spoken Vulgar Latin. While Classical Latin remained relatively stable, even through the Middle Ages, Vulgar Latin as with any spoken language was fluid and evolving. Vulgar Latin became the lingua franca in the western provinces, later evolving into the modern Romance languages: Italian, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian, etc. Greek and Classical Latin were the languages of literature, scholarship, and education.

Although Latin remained the most widely spoken language in the West, through to the fall of Rome and for some centuries afterwards, in the East the Greek language was the literary language and the lingua franca.

In Rome itself Greek became the second language of the educated elite. It became the common language in the early Church (as its major centers in the early Christian period were in the East), and the language of scholarship and the arts.

By the 4th century AD, Greek no longer held such dominance over Latin in the arts and sciences as it had previously, resulting to a great extent from the growth of the western provinces. This was true also of Christian literature, reflected, for example, in the publication in the early 5th century AD of the Vulgate Bible, the first officially accepted Latin Bible. As the Western Empire declined, the number of people who spoke both Greek and Latin declined as well, contributing greatly to the future East–West / Orthodox–Catholic cultural divide in Europe.

Important as both languages were, today the descendants of Latin are widely spoken in many parts of the world, while the Greek dialects are limited mostly to Greece, Cyprus, and small enclaves in Turkey and Southern Italy (where the Eastern Empire retained control for several more centuries). To some degree this can be attributed to the fact that the western provinces fell mainly to "Latinised" Christian tribes whereas the eastern provinces fell to Muslim Arabs and Turks for whom Greek held less cultural significance.

The Romance languages (sometimes referred to as Romanic languages, Latin languages, Neolatin languages or Neo-Latin languages) are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome. There are more than 800 million native speakers worldwide, mainly in the Americas and Europe,

Nowadays the six most widely spoken standardized Romance languages are Spanish/Castilian (about 500 million), Portuguese (about 240 million), French (about 250 million), Italian (about 70 million), Romanian (about 30 million), and Catalan (about 14 million).

In 361, after further episodes of civil war, Julian became emperor. His edict of toleration in 362 ordered the reopening of pagan temples (that is why he is remembered as Julian "the apostate"), and, more problematically for the Christian Church, the recalling of previously exiled Christian bishops. Because Christian charities were open to all, including pagans, it put this aspect of the Roman citizens lives out of the control of the Imperial authority and under that of the Church. Thus Julian envisioned the institution of a Roman philanthropic system, and cared for the behaviour and the morality of the pagan priests, in the hope that it would mitigate the reliance of pagans on Christian charity, saying: "These impious Galileans not only feed their own poor, but ours also; welcoming them into their agapae, they attract them, as children are attracted, with cakes". On 5 March 363 AD, Julian led his army of about 90,000 men out of Antioch to war against the Persian Empire.Whilst Constantius had been Emperor in the East, the Persian King, Shapur II, had conquered a number of key cities in the East that had previously been under Roman rule and now he posed a dangerous threat to Roman territories. Julian’s army marched east into what is now Iraq, winning a number of minor engagements along the way, until they reached the Persian capital city of
Ctesiphon (20 miles from Baghdad). However, jubilation at the victory was short-lived when Julian’s forces were unable to take the city itself. The Emperor now faced several problems. The main Persian army was advancing rapidly to Ctesiphon and the Roman army was running out of supplies.Julian eventually resumed the war against Shapur II of Persia, although he received a mortal wound in battle and died one day later in the year 363. His officers then elected Jovian emperor. Jovian ceded territories won from the Persians as far back as Trajan's time, and restored the privileges of Christianity, before dying in 364.

Theodosious, the last sole emperor

From 364 to 375, the Roman Empire was governed by two co-emperors, the brothers Valentinian I and Valens; when Valentinian died in 375, his sons, Valentinian II and Gratian, succeeded him as rulers of the Western Roman Empire. In the West the Emperor Gratian achieved an important victory over the Alemanni tribe near the river Rhine in 378.Valens, eager for success against the Goths in the East, set out with the army to confront what he believed was a small Gothic force near Adrianople in what is today Northern Turkey, not far from Constantinople itself. In August 378, after Valens was killed in the Battle of Adrianople, which is viewed today as one of the worst defeats in Roman history, as much as two thirds of the Roman army was destroyed during the battle including many important officers, administrators and officials.. The battle is also often considered the start of the process which led to the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century.

Gratian invited a former military commander from Spain, Theodosius, to take command of the Balkan army.  Theodosius was born in Cauca or Italica, Hispania,to senior military officer Theodosius the Elder. He accompanied his father to Britannia to help quell the Great Conspiracy in 368. He was military commander (dux) of Moesia, a Roman province on the lower Danube, in 374. However, shortly thereafter, and at about the same time as the sudden disgrace and execution of his father, Theodosius retired to Spain. The reason for his retirement, and the relationship (if any) between it and his father's death is unclear but it is possible that the death of Valentinian I in 375 created political pandemonium. Fearing further persecution on account of his family ties, Theodosius abruptly retired to his family estates in the province of Gallaecia (present day Galicia, Spain) where he adapted to the life of a provincial aristocrat. As Valens had no successor, Gratian's appointment of Theodosius amounted to a de facto invitation for Theodosius to become co-augustus for the East.

Gratian was killed in a rebellion in 383, Theodosius then appointed his elder son, Arcadius, his co-ruler for the East. After the death in 392 of Valentinian II, whom Theodosius had supported against a variety of usurpations, Theodosius ruled as sole emperor, appointing his younger son Honorius Augustus as his co-ruler for the West.

A major weakness in the Roman position after the defeat at Adrianople was the recruiting of barbarians to fight against other barbarians. In order to reconstruct the Roman Army of the West, Theodosius needed to find able bodied soldiers and so he turned to the most capable men readily at hand: the barbarians recently settled in the Empire.

The final treaties with the remaining Gothic forces, signed 3 October 382, permitted large contingents of primarily Thervingian Goths to settle along the southern Danube frontier in the province of Thrace and largely govern themselves.

Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War - establishing their homeland south of the Danube within the empire's borders. He also issued decrees as the Edict of Thessalonica (380) that effectively made Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire: It is sometimes asserted that this edict made Christianity the 'state religion' of the empire. But its aim was not to force pagans into the Church, but to make all Christians accept Nicene Christianity. To say that Christianity was now the 'state religion' is meaningless, since pagans were not discriminated against; as late as the early 390s pagans still provided half of the high-ranking state officials and provincial governors in the eastern provinces, under the rule of Theodosius. The Edict of Thessalonica, also known as Cunctos populos, was delivered on 27 February 380 by Theodosius I, Gratian, and Valentinian II in order that all their subjects should profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria. By 325 Arianism, a type of christology which denied the trinity, had created enough problems in the early Church that Constantine (who had little patience for the finer points of theology) called the Council of Nicaea in an attempt to establish an empire-wide orthodoxy and end the controversy. The council produced the Nicene creed, which rejected Arianism and upheld the trinity. By 379, when Valens was succeeded by Theodosius, Arianism was widespread in the eastern part of the empire, while the west had remained staunchly orthodox (i.e. Nicene). Theodosius, who had been born in Hispania was himself orthodox and very devout. In August, his counterpart in the west Gratian took steps toward legal persecution of heretics in the west. This was followed shortly by the jointly issued Edict of Thessalonica.

Saint Ambrose who like Augustine and Jerome ranks as one of the great Latin Fathers of the Western church, was bishop of Milan at that time and  fought two major foes, paganism and Arianism. Advisor to emperors Valentinian I, Gratian, and Theodosius, he used his position as bishop to urge war against both paganism and Arianism.

In 390 the population of Thessalonica rioted in complaint against the presence of the local Gothic garrison. The garrison commander was killed in the violence, so Theodosius ordered the Goths to kill all the spectators in the circus as retaliation; Theodoret, a contemporary witness to these events, reports:

    "...the anger of the Emperor rose to the highest pitch, and he gratified his vindictive desire for vengeance by unsheathing the sword most unjustly and tyrannically against all, slaying the innocent and guilty alike. It is said seven thousand perished without any forms of law, and without even having judicial sentence passed upon them; but that, like ears of wheat in the time of harvest, they were alike cut down."
Theodosius oversaw the removal in 390 of an Egyptian obelisk from Alexandria to Constantinople. The
obelisk had originally been set up in around 1490 BC by Tuthmosis III. It is now known as the obelisk of Theodosius  and still stands in the Hippodrome, the long racetrack that was the center of Constantinople's public life and scene of political turmoil.

Obelisk of Theodosius in modern Istanbul
In the year 392, Theodosius become Emperor of also the western part of the Roman Empire, and will be the last emperor to rule over both. In the same year he officially began to proscribe the practice of Paganism and and in 392 and 394 confiscated their places of worship. This is the time in which he authorized the destruction of many temples throughout the empire. After the last Ancient Olympic Games in 393, it is believed that either Theodosius I, or his grandson Theodosius II in AD 435, suppressed them forever.

Upon the death of Theodosius I 395, a political crisis ensued, which the barbarians were quick to take advantage of by invading the empire on an unprecedented scale. Since most of the Germanic tribes infiltrating, settling, or invading the Empire were Arian Christian, many nominal Orthodox Christians became less certain of their religion. Consequently, many nominal Christians converted back to Paganism. Pagans, in their turn, became more aggressive and began to blame the Christians for the disasters affecting the empire.

In the 4th century the Church began to influence the way the empire was governed. Bishops, not generals, organized resistance to the barbarians. They also converted many barbarians to Christianity. The developing Church produced many writers and philosophers. Even after the barbarian invasion the Church remained very influential. As Christianity grew, Christians founded communities called monasteries all over the empire. Some monasteries became famous places of learning, and monks saved and copied ancient books. In this way they preserved many works of Latin and Greek literature and history which otherwise might have been destroyed.

Decline and end of the Western Roman Empire, sack of Rome

After Theodosius death, Theodosius' sons Arcadius and Honorius inherited the East and West halves respectively, and the Roman Empire was never again re-united.

Arcadius (Latin: Flavius Arcadius Augustus; Greek: ; 377/378 – 1 May 408) was the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Emperor from 395 to his death. He was the eldest son of Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the western emperor Honorius. A weak ruler, his reign was dominated by a series of powerful ministers and by his wife, Aelia Eudoxia.

Arcadius was dominated by his wife Aelia Eudoxia, who convinced her husband to dismiss Eutropius, who was holding the consulate, at the height of his power, in 399. That same year, on the 13th July, Arcadius issued an edict ordering that all remaining non-Christian temples should be immediately demolished.

Arcadius was also dominated for the rest of his rule by Anthemius, the Praetorian Prefect, who made peace with Stilicho in the West. Arcadius himself was more concerned with appearing to be a pious Christian than he was with political or military matters, and he died, only nominally in control of his empire, in 408.

During the reign of the Emperor Arcadius one of the most influential, although divisive, figures within the Church and Byzantine culture was John Chrysostom who was appointed bishop of Constantinople in 398 AD. The name Chrysostom comes from the Greek word ‘chrysostomos’ and means ‘golden mouthed’.

He was particularly critical of the Empress Eudoxia who was known to have a string of lovers and to be lavish and extravagant in her lifestyle. His criticisms led to his banishment in 403 AD but he was quickly restored by Arcadius. However, his disputes with Eudoxia led to a further banishment and Chrysostom died in exile in Georgia in 407 AD. He had proved to be a figure who had enjoyed great popularity amongst the general populace in the East. Interestingly, Chrysostom had been reluctant to take the post of bishop of Constantinople because he was opposed to the wealth and privileges that went with the position. Indeed, he was outspoken in condemning excess and corruption within the Church in general and was well known for speaking on behalf of the poor.

John Chrysostom confronting Aelia Eudoxia, in a 19th-century painting by Jean-Paul Laurens.
Honorius (Latin: Flavivs Honorivs Avgvstvs) (9 September 384 – 15 August 423), was Western Roman Emperor from 395 to 423. He was the younger son of emperor Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the eastern emperor Arcadius.

Even by the standards of the rapidly declining Western Empire, Honorius' reign was precarious and chaotic. His reign was supported by his principal general, Flavius Stilicho, who was successively Honorius's guardian (during his childhood) and his father-in-law (after the emperor became an adult). Stilicho's generalship helped preserve some level of stability, but with his execution, the Western Roman Empire moved closer to collapse.

During the first part of his reign Honorius depended on the military leadership of the general Stilicho, who had been appointed by Theodosius and was of mixed Vandal and Roman ancestry.

The first crisis faced by Honorius was a revolt led by Gildo, the Comes Africae and Magister utriusque militiae per Africam, in Northern Africa, which lasted for two years (397–398). It was eventually subdued by Stilicho, under the local command of Mascezel, the brother of Gildo.

Then in 405, an enormous barbarian army, composed of Ostrogoths, Alans, Vandals, and Quadi, numbering some 500,000 and led by Radagaisus crossed the frozen Rhine and invaded Italy, bringing devastation to the heart of the Empire, until Stilicho defeated them in 406

Another invasion by Alaric in 408 saw Stilicho forcing the Roman Senate to pay 4,000 pounds of gold to buy another brief period of peace so that he could deal with the Visigoths at his leisure

Rome's loss of jurisdiction in Hispania began in 409, when the Germanic Buri, Suevi and Vandals, together with the Sarmatian Alans crossed the Rhine and ravaged Gaul until the Visigoths drove them into Iberia that same year.

Honorius, in the meantime, was at Bononia, on his way from Ravenna to Ticinum, when the news reached him of his brother's death in May 408. He at first was planning to go to Constantinople to help set up the court in the wake of the accession of Theodosius II. Summoning Stilicho from Ravenna for advice, Stilicho advised Honorius not to go, and proceeded to go himself. In Stilicho’s absence, a minister named Olympius began currying favour with Honorius. Whispering in his ear, he convinced the emperor that his Arian father-in-law was conspiring with the barbarians to overthrow Honorius. On his return to Ravenna, Honorius ordered the arrest and execution of Stilicho. With Stilicho’s fall, Honorius moved against all of his former father-in-law’s allies, killing and torturing key individuals and ordering the confiscation of the property of anyone who had borne any office while Stilicho was in command.

In 409, Alaric returned, and with the agreement of the Senate supported the usurpation of Priscus Attalus. In 410, the Eastern Roman Empire sent six Legions (6,000 men; late Roman legions were small units) to aid Honorius. To counter Priscus, Honorius tried to negotiate with Alaric. Alaric withdrew his support for Priscus in 410, but the negotiations with Honorius broke down. Alaric again entered Italy and sacked Rome.

The Sack of Rome took place on August 24, 410 by the Visigoths under Alaric.

The city had not been under the control of a foreign force since an invasion of Gauls some eight centuries before. The sack itself was notably mild as sacks go; Churches and religious statuary went unharmed for example.

Sack of Rome by the Visigoths on 24 August 410, by J-N Sylvestre, 1890.

At that time, Rome was no longer the capital of the Western Roman Empire, replaced in this position initially by Mediolanum and then later Ravenna (Ravenna was the capital city of the Western Roman Empire from 402 until the empire's collapse in 476. Afterwards, it served as the capital of the Kingdom of the Ostrogoths). Nevertheless, the city of Rome retained a paramount position as "the eternal city" and a spiritual center of the empire. The sack was to prove a major shock to contemporaries, friends and foes of the empire alike.

After the sack, Alaric and his forces journeyed south, where they expected to take ships to Africa. The ships were destroyed, however, in a storm and Alaric died around the same time. Ataulf took command of the Goths, leading them north into Gaul, where they settled in Aquitaine.

[Agustine of Hippo (354-430) was born in Thagaste (now Souk Ahras, Algeria).  Augustine is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers in the Western Christianity for his writings in the Patristic Era. Among his most important works are City of God and Confessions

His first insight into the nature of sin occurred when he and a number of friends stole fruit they did not want from a neighborhood garden. He tells this story in his biography, The Confessions. He remembers that he did not steal the fruit because he was hungry, but because "it was not permitted."His very nature, he says, was flawed. 'It was foul, and I loved it. I loved my own error—not that for which I erred, but the error itself." From this incident he concluded the human person is naturally inclined to sin, and are in need of the grace of Christ.

At the age of 17, through the generosity of his fellow citizen Romanianus,Augustine went to Carthage to continue his education in rhetoric.

It was while he was a student in Carthage that he read Cicero's dialogue Hortensius (now lost), which he described as leaving a lasting impression and sparking his interest in philosophy. Although raised as a Christian, Augustine left the church to follow the Manichaean religion (Manichaeism taught an elaborate dualistic cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness. Its beliefs were based on local Mesopotamian gnostic and religious movements. His major profet, Mani, declared as an apostle of Jesus Christ), much to his mother's despair. As a youth Augustine lived a hedonistic lifestyle for a time, associating with young men who boasted of their sexual exploits. The need to gain their acceptance forced inexperienced boys like Augustine to seek or make up stories about sexual experiences. It was during this period that he uttered his famous prayer, "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet."

At about the age of 19, Augustine began an affair with a young woman in Carthage. Though his mother wanted him to marry a person of his class, the woman remained his lover for over fifteen years and gave birth to his son Adeodatus.

In Rome, he reportedly turned away from Manichaeanism, embracing the scepticism of the New Academy movement. Because of his education, Augustine had great rhetorical prowess and was very knowledgeable of the philosophies behind many faiths. At Milan, his mother's religiosity, Augustine's own studies in Neoplatonism, and his friend Simplicianus all urged him towards Christianity.

Initially Augustine was not strongly influenced by Christianity and its ideologies, but after coming in contact with Ambrose of Milan, Augustine reevaluated himself and was forever changed. Augustine quickly discovered that Ambrose was a spectacular orator. Eventually, Augustine says that through the unconscious, he was led into the faith of Christianity.

Ambrose baptized Augustine, along with his son Adeodatus, on Easter Vigil in 387 in Milan. A year later, in 388, Augustine completed his apology On the Holiness of the Catholic Church. That year, also, Adeodatus and Augustine returned home to Africa. Augustine's mother Monica died at Ostia, Italy, as they prepared to embark for Africa. Upon their arrival, they began a life of aristocratic leisure at Augustine's family's property. Soon after, Adeodatus, too, died. Augustine then sold his patrimony and gave the money to the poor.

In 391 Augustine was ordained a priest in Hippo Regius (now Annaba), in Algeria. He became a famous preacher (more than 350 preserved sermons are believed to be authentic), and was noted for combating the Manichaean religion, to which he had formerly adhered.

In 395 he was made coadjutor Bishop of Hippo, and became full Bishop shortly thereafter, hence the name "Augustine of Hippo"; and he gave his property to the church of Thagaste. He remained in that position until his death in 430. He wrote his autobiographical Confessions in 397-398. His work The City of God was written to console his fellow Christians shortly after the Visigoths had sacked Rome in 410.

The first ten books of The City of God, which make up the first part of the work, refute the pagans’ charges that Christians brought about the fall of Rome.

-In book I, Augustine attacks the pagans, who claimed that Rome fell because the Christian religion had weakened it, and he stresses that misfortune happens to everyone. In book II, he demonstrates that the fall of Rome is not a unique event in human history. The Romans suffered calamities before, even when the old gods were being actively worshipped, and those gods did nothing to prevent those calamities from happening. He recalls for example the sack of Rome by the Gauls. Augustine also argued that Christianity did not destroy Rome, but rather succeeded this decadent empire.

He emphasizes the idea that the peace and happiness found in the heavenly city can also be experienced here on earth.

-In book III, Augustine continues discussing catastrophes that occurred in pagan times to further prove that Christianity did not cause Rome to fall. To drive home his point, he asks again why the old gods did not defend Rome in the past.

-In book V Augustine says the Romans of ancient times were virtuous, and God rewarded that virtue, even though they did not worship him.

-Book XI begins the second part of The City of God, where Augustine describes the doctrine of the two cities, one earthly and one heavenly. In the next three books he details how these two cities came about, based on his reading of the Bible. He also described how in The City of God the elect and the doomed would be separated.

Augustine presents the four essential elements of his philosophy in The City of God: the church, the state, the City of Heaven, and the City of the World. The church is divinely established and leads humankind to eternal goodness, which is God. The state adheres to the virtues of politics and of the mind, formulating a political community. Both of these societies are visible and seek to do good. Mirroring these are two invisible societies: the City of Heaven, for those predestined for salvation, and the City of the World, for those given eternal damnation. This grand design allows Augustine to elaborate his theory of justice, which he says issues from the proper and just sharing of those things necessary for life.

Augustine concludes that the purpose of history is to show the unfolding of God’s plan, which involves fostering the City of Heaven and filling it with worthy citizens. For this purpose, God initiated all of creation itself. In such a grand plan, the fall of Rome is insignificant.

-Book XX deals with the Last Judgment and the evidence found for it in the Bible. Augustine continues with this theme in book XXI and describes the eternal punishment of the damned, arguing that it is not a myth. The final book, book XXII, tells of the end of the city of God, after which the saved will be given eternal happiness and will become immortal.

In The City of God, he also presents the development of slavery as a product of sin and as contrary to God's divine plan. He wrote that God "did not intend that this rational creature, who was made in his image, should have dominion over anything but the irrational creation--not man over man, but man over the beasts." Thus he wrote that righteous men in primitive times were made shepherds of cattle, not kings over men. "The condition of slavery is the result of sin" he declared.

It should be noted that Augustine as a Platonist meant that the City of God is in heaven and not here on the earth. So, even the Christian Church on the earth is not the City of God itself but merely its earthly representative, "symbolic presentation," or "foreshadowing image." For Augustine, state and religion are separate, although they can cooperate to guide the lives of humans in this world.

In his late treatise On Care to Be Had for the Dead, section 5 (420 AD) he exhorted to respect the body on the grounds that it belonged to the very nature of the human person. Augustine's favourite figure to describe body-soul unity is marriage: caro tua, coniunx tua — your body is your wife.Soul is a kind of substance, participating in reason, fit for ruling the body. Augustine was not preoccupied, as Plato and Descartes were, with going too much into details in efforts to explain the metaphysics of the soul-body union. It sufficed for him to admit that they are metaphysically distinct: to be a human is to be a composite of soul and body, and the soul is superior to the body.

Augustine took the view that the Biblical text should be interpreted metaphorically, if a literal interpretation contradicts science and our God-given reason. While each passage of Scripture has a literal sense, this "literal sense" does not always mean that the Scriptures are mere history; at times they are rather an extended metaphor.

 In The Literal Interpretation of Genesis, Augustine took the view that everything in the universe was created simultaneously by God, and not in seven calendar days like a literal account of Genesis would require. He argued that the six-day structure of creation presented in the book of Genesis represents a logical framework, rather than the passage of time in a physical way — it would bear a spiritual, rather than physical, meaning, which is no less literal. One reason for this interpretation is the passage in Sirach 18:1, creavit omnia simul ("He created all things at once"), which Augustine took as proof that the days of Genesis 1 had to be taken non-literally. Augustine also does not envision original sin as causing structural changes in the universe, and even suggests that the bodies of Adam and Eve were already created mortal before the Fall. Apart from his specific views, Augustine recognizes that the interpretation of the creation story is difficult, and remarks that we should be willing to change our mind about it as new information comes up

Augustine asserted that Christians should be pacifists as a personal, philosophical stance. However, peacefulness in the face of a grave wrong that could only be stopped by violence would be a sin. Defence of one's self or others could be a necessity, especially when authorized by a legitimate authority.  In essence, the pursuit of peace must include the option of fighting for its long-term preservation. Such a war could not be pre-emptive, but defensive, to restore peace. Thomas Aquinas, centuries later, used the authority of Augustine's arguments in an attempt to define the conditions under which a war could be just.

Against certain Christian movements, some of which rejected the use of Hebrew Scripture, Augustine countered that God had chosen the Jews as a special people, and he considered the scattering of Jewish people by the Roman Empire to be a fulfillment of prophecy. Augustine, who believed Jewish people would be converted to Christianity at "the end of time," argued that God had allowed them to survive their dispersion as a warning to Christians; as such, he argued, they should be permitted to dwell in Christian lands.

He believed that the serpent approached Eve because she was less rational and lacked self-control, while Adam's choice to eat was viewed as an act of kindness so that Eve would not be left alone. Augustine believed sin entered the world because man (the spirit) did not exercise control over woman (the flesh).

Augustine spent his final days in prayer and repentance, requesting that the penitential Psalms of David be hung on his walls so that he could read them. He directed that the library of the church in Hippo and all the books therein should be carefully preserved. He died on 28 August 430. Shortly after his death, the Vandals lifted the siege of Hippo, but they returned not long thereafter and burned the city. They destroyed all of it but Augustine's cathedral and library, which they left untouched.

 Augustine wrote a "Contra Faustum", Faustus of Mileve was a Manichaean bishop of the fourth century. Augustine determined the Manichaean stories unsubstantiated and his questions unanswerable by the Manichaeans, specially Faustus, its most celebrated proponent.:

Manichæus teaches a Battle Before the Constitution of the World.  Who can believe that any battle was fought before the constitution of the world?  And even supposing it credible, we wish now to get something to know, not to believe.

Manichæus talks about two Opposite Substances. Where is the proof of all this?  And where did Manichæus learn it? The wedge of darkness sunders not a region distinct and separate from God, but the very nature of God.  Or if God did not generate, but make it, of what did He make it?  Or if of Himself, what is this but to generate?  If of some other nature, was this nature good or evil?  If good, there must have been some good nature not belonging to God; which you will scarcely have the boldness to assert.  If evil, the race of darkness cannot have been the only evil nature.  Or did God take a part of that region and turn it into a region of light, in order to found His kingdom upon it?  If He had, He would have taken the whole, and there would have been no evil nature left.  If God, then, did not make the region of light of a substance distinct from His own, He must have made it of nothing.


For who can doubt that the whole of that which is called evil is nothing else than corruption?  Different evils may, indeed, be called by different names; but that which is the evil of all things in which any evil is perceptible is corruption.  So the corruption of an educated mind is ignorance; the corruption of a prudent mind is imprudence; the corruption of a just mind, injustice; the corruption of a brave mind, cowardice; the corruption of a calm, peaceful mind, cupidity, fear, sorrow, pride.  Again, in a living body, the corruption of health is pain and disease; the corruption of strength is exhaustion; the corruption of rest is toil. If corruption is the only evil to be found anywhere, and if corruption is not nature, no nature is evil".

With Jerome, Ambrose, and Gregory I, Augustine is hailed as one of the four fathers of the Catholic Church.

In 420–422, another Maximus (or perhaps the same) gained and lost power in Hispania. By the time of Honorius’s death in 423, Britain, Spain and large parts of Gaul had effectively passed into barbarian control.

Honorius issued a decree during his reign, prohibiting men from wearing trousers in Rome [Codex Theodosianus 14.10.2–3, tr. C. Pharr, "The Theodosian Code," p. 415]. The last known gladiatorial fight took place during the reign of Honorius.

The Huns may have stimulated the Great Migration, a contributing factor in the collapse of the western Roman Empire.They formed a unified empire under Attila the Hun, who died in 453; their empire broke up the next year.

The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. The Huns first appeared in Europe in the 4th century. They show up north of the Black Sea around 370. The Huns crossed the Volga river and attacked the Alans, who were then subjugated. Jordanes reports that the Huns were led at this time by Balamber while modern historians question his existence, seeing instead an invention by the Goths to explain who defeated them.

Rugila was a warlord who was a major factor in the Huns' early victories over the Roman Empire. In 432, Rugila is mentioned as a sole ruler of the Huns. After his death, Attila and Bleda, sons of his brother Mundzuk (Mundiuch), became joint rulers of the united Hunnic tribes.

Attila and Bleda ruled together but each king had their own territory and people under them. Never did two Hun kings rule the same territory. Attila and Bleda were as ambitious as king Rugila. Attila and Bleda met with the imperial legation at Margus (present-day Požarevac) and, all seated on horseback in the Hunnic manner,negotiated a successful treaty.  They forced the Eastern Roman Empire to sign the Treaty of Margus, giving the Huns trade rights and an annual tribute from the Romans. With their southern border protected by the terms of this treaty, the Huns could turn their full attention to the further subjugation of tribes to the east. The Romans agreed to not only return the fugitives, but to also double their previous tribute of 350 Roman pounds (ca. 115 kg) of gold, to open their markets to Hunnish traders, and to pay a ransom of eight solidi for each Roman taken prisoner by the Huns. The Huns, satisfied with the treaty, decamped from the Roman Empire and returned to their home in the Hungarian Great Plain, perhaps to consolidate and strengthen their empire. Theodosius used this opportunity to strengthen the walls of Constantinople, building the city's first sea wall, and to build up his border defenses along the Danube.

The Huns remained out of Roman sight for the next few years while they invaded the Sassanid Empire. When defeated in Armenia by the Sassanids, the Huns abandoned their invasion and turned their attentions back to Europe. In 440 they reappeared in force on the borders of the Roman Empire, attacking the merchants at the market on the north bank of the Danube that had been established by the treaty.

While the Huns attacked city-states along the Danube, the Vandals led by Geiseric captured the Western Roman province of Africa and its capital of Carthage. Carthage was the richest province of the Western Empire and a main source of food for Rome.

The Romans stripped the Balkan area of forces needed to defeat the Vandals in Africa which left Attila and Bleda a clear path through Illyricum into the Balkans, which they invaded in 441. During 442 Theodosius recalled his troops from Sicily and ordered a large issue of new coins to finance operations against the Huns. Believing he could defeat the Huns, he refused the Hunnish kings' demands. Attila responded with a campaign in 443. They encountered and destroyed a Roman army outside Constantinople but were stopped by the double walls of the Eastern capital. They defeated a second army near Callipolis (modern Gallipoli).

Theodosius, stripped of his armed forces, admitted defeat, sending the Magister militum per Orientem Anatolius to negotiate peace terms. The terms were harsher than the previous treaty: the Emperor agreed to hand over 6,000 Roman pounds (ca. 2000 kg) of gold as punishment for having disobeyed the terms of the treaty during the invasion; the yearly tribute was tripled, rising to 2,100 Roman pounds (ca. 700 kg) in gold; and the ransom for each Roman prisoner rose to 12 solidi. Their demands were met for a time, the Hun kings withdrew into the interior of their empire. Following the Huns' withdrawal from Byzantium (probably around 445), Bleda died. Attila then took the throne for himself, becoming the sole ruler of the Huns.

During the reign of Attila he was one of the most feared enemies of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires. He crossed the Danube twice and plundered the Balkans, but was unable to take Constantinople. In 450, Attila proclaimed his intent to attack the Visigoth kingdom of Toulouse by making an alliance with Emperor Valentinian III. He had previously been on good terms with the Western Roman Empire and its influential general Flavius Aëtius. Aëtius had spent a brief exile among the Huns in 433, and the troops Attila provided against the Goths and Bagaudae had helped earn him the largely honorary title of magister militum in the west

Empire of Attila the Hun
However, Valentinian's sister was Honoria, who, in order to escape her forced betrothal to a Roman senator, had sent the Hunnish king a plea for help – and her engagement ring – in the spring of 450. Though Honoria may not have intended a proposal of marriage, Attila chose to interpret her message as such. He accepted, asking for half of the western Empire as dowry. When Valentinian discovered the plan, only the influence of his mother Galla Placidia convinced him to exile, rather than kill, Honoria. He also wrote to Attila strenuously denying the legitimacy of the supposed marriage proposal. Attila sent an emissary to Ravenna to proclaim that Honoria was innocent, that the proposal had been legitimate, and that he would come to claim what was rightfully his.

Attila then attempted to conquer Roman Gaul (modern France), crossing the Rhine in 451 and marching as far as Aurelianum (Orléans) before being defeated at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains. The two armies clashed in the Battle of Châlons, whose outcome is commonly considered to be a strategic victory for the Visigothic-Roman alliance. Theodoric,King of the Visigoths, was killed in the fighting

Roman villa in Gaul sacked by the hordes of Attila the Hun. Illustration from a book by  Georges Rochegrosse

The following year, Attila renewed his claims to Honoria and subsequently he invaded Italy, devastating the northern provinces. Hoping to avoid the sack of Rome herself, Emperor Valentinian III sent three envoys, the high civilian officers Gennadius Avienus and Trigetius, as well as the Bishop of Rome Leo I, who met Attila at Mincio in the vicinity of Mantua, and obtained from him the promise that he would withdraw from Italy and negotiate peace with the emperor.

The new Eastern Roman Emperor Marcian (Byzantine Empire,450-457)then halted tribute payments. From the Carpathian Basin, Attila mobilised to attack Constantinople. Before this planned attack Attila married a German girl named Ildico. In 453, he died of a nosebleed on his wedding night.

His sons Ellac (his appointed successor), Dengizich, and Ernakh fought over the division of his legacy, specifically which vassal kings would belong to which brother. As a consequence they were divided, defeated and scattered the following year in the Battle of Nedao by the Ostrogoths and the Gepids under Ardaric who had been Attila's most prized chieftain.

Later writers developed the meeting of Leo I and Attila into a pious "fable which has been represented by the pencil of Raphael and the chisel of Algardi", reporting that the Pope, aided by Saint Peter and Saint Paul, convinced Attila to turn away from the city.

Certain Hun skeletons have shown evidence of artificially deformed skulls that are a result of ritual head binding at a young age. Contemporary literary sources do not provide a clear understanding of Hun origins. The Huns seem to "suddenly appear", first mentioned during an attack on the Alans, who are generally connected to the River Don (Tanais). Scholarship from the early 20th century literature connected the sudden and apparently devastating Hun appearance as a predatory migration from the more easterly parts of the steppe, i.e. Central Asia.

Attila's brother Bleda is called Buda in modern Hungarian. The city of Buda has been said to derive its name from him. The Magyars (Hungarians) in particular lay claim to Hunnic heritage. Although Magyar tribes only began to settle in the geographical area of present-day Hungary in the very end of the 9th century, some 450 years after the dissolution of the Hunnic tribal confederation, Hungarian prehistory includes Magyar origin legends, which may have preserved some elements of historical truth. The Huns who invaded Europe represented a loose coalition of various peoples, so some Magyars might have been part of it, or may later have joined descendants of Attila's men, who still claimed the name of Huns. The national anthem of Hungary describes the Hungarians as "blood of Bendegúz'" (the medieval and modern Hungarian version of Mundzuk, Attila's father). In modern Hungary and in Turkey "Attila" and its Turkish variation "Atilla" are commonly used as a male first name. In Hungary, several public places are named after Attila; for instance, in Budapest there are 10 Attila Streets, one of which is an important street behind the Buda Castle.

After the breakdown of the Hun Empire, they never regained their lost glory. One reason was that the Huns never fully established the mechanisms of a state, such as bureaucracy and taxes, unlike Bulgars, Magyars or the Golden Horde. Once disorganized, the Huns were absorbed by more organized polities.

The sack of 455 was the second of three barbarian sacks of Rome; it was executed by the Vandals, who were then at war with the usurping Western Roman Emperor Petronius Maximus.

The Barbarian invasions of the fifth century were triggered by the destruction of the Gothic kingdoms by the Huns in 372-375. The city of Rome was captured and looted by the Visigoths in 410 and by the Vandals in 455.
Upon the Vandal arrival, according to the chronicler Prosper of Aquitaine, Pope Leo I requested that Genseric not destroy the ancient city or murder its inhabitants. Genseric agreed and the gates of Rome were thrown open to him and his men. Petronius Maximus, who fled rather than fight the Vandal warlord, was killed by a Roman mob outside the city, possibly together with his son Palladius.

It is accepted that Genseric looted great amounts of treasure from the city, destroying objects of cultural significance (hence the modern term vandalism), and also took Licinia Eudoxia and her daughters hostage. Eudocia later married Huneric. There is, however, some debate over the severity of the Vandal sack. The sack of 455 is generally seen by historians as being more thorough than the Visigothic sack of 410, because the Vandals plundered Rome for fourteen days whereas the Visigoths spent only three days in the city.

Flavius Ricimer (c. 405 – August 18, 472; ) was a Germanic general who achieved effective control of the remaining parts of the Western Roman Empire, during the middle of the fifth century AD. His power was based on his military strength as Magister militum, "master of the troops", and he exercised political control through a series of "puppet emperors", whom he enthroned and eliminated.

The deaths of Valentinian and Aëtius in 454–55 created a power vacuum in the west. At first, Petronius Maximus attempted to seize control of the imperial throne, but he was killed when the Vandal king Geiseric sacked Rome in May of 455. Avitus was then made Emperor by the Visigoths. Following his arrival in Rome, Avitus appointed Ricimer as commander of the stricken Western Empire (by then reduced to Italy and a part of southern Gaul). He raised a new army and navy from among the Germanic mercenaries available to him.

After leaving Rome, Geiseric had left a powerful fleet blockading the Italian coast. In 456, Ricimer led his own fleet out to sea, and defeated the Vandals in a sea fight near Corsica. He also defeated the Vandals on land near Agrigentum in Sicily. Backed by the popularity thus acquired, Ricimer gained the consent of the Roman Senate for an expedition against the emperor Avitus, whom he defeated in a bloody battle at Piacenza on October 16, 456. Avitus was taken prisoner, forcibly made bishop of Piacenza, and shortly afterwards sentenced to death. Ricimer then obtained from Leo I, the eastern emperor at Constantinople, the title of Patricius.

Avitus had a good relationship with the Visigoths, in particular with their king Theodoric II, who was a friend of his and who acclaimed Avitus Emperor, but the possibility of a strong and useful alliance between Visigoths and Romans ended when Theodoric invaded Roman Hispania and then refused to help Avitus against the rebel Roman generals who deposed him.

In 457, Ricimer set up Majorian as his own emperor in the West and induced Leo I the Thracian ,Eastern Roman Emperor, to give his consent. However, Majorian proved to be a capable ruler and soon became uncomfortably independent. Majorian was defeated (possibly by treachery) by Geiseric near the modern city of Valencia, Spain, while trying to organize an expedition against him, in 461. Ricimer then forced him to abdicate and caused his assassination on August 7, 461. The successor whom Ricimer placed upon the throne was Libius Severus, who proved to be more docile than Majorian, but had to face the disapproval of Leo in the East and rivalry of Aegidius in Gaul. Upon Libius Severus' death in 465 — said to be due to poisoning by Ricimer — this emperor-maker ruled the West for eighteen months without an emperor.

Finally, after a lengthy debate in which he and Geiseric, now working together, tried to force their own candidate as emperor upon Leo, Ricimer accepted Leo's candidate Anthemius as new Caesar.

Ricimer commanded a large portion of the Roman forces in an expedition mounted by Leo against Geiseric in 468. His behavior raised suspicions that Ricimer secretly wanted the expedition to fail, which it ultimately did.

Four years later, Ricimer moved to Mediolanum (Milan), ready to declare war upon Anthemius. Epiphanius of Pavia, bishop of Milan, patched up a short-lived truce, after which Ricimer was again before Rome with an army of Germans. He proclaimed as emperor Olybrius, the candidate for emperor he and Geiseric had once favored. After a three months' siege, he took the city, on July 1, 472. Anthemius was killed. Ricimer died less than two months later. Some sources assert that he died in his palace, alone, in malignant fever, vomiting blood.

Ricimer's "rule" lasted until his death. After this, the Western Roman Empire experienced an even more rapid succession of emperors, none of whom was able to effectively consolidate power. The line of western emperors ended (arguably in either 476 or 480), leaving the Eastern Roman Emperors, based in Constantinople, with tenuous claims of reign over the western parts of a "re-united" empire.

Romulus Augustus (fl. 461/463 – after 476, before 488), was the last Western Roman Emperor, reigning from 31 October 475 until 4 September 476. His deposition by Odoacer traditionally marks the end of the Western Roman Empire, the fall of ancient Rome, and the beginning of the Middle Ages in Western Europe.

Romulus, little more than a child, acted as a figurehead for his father's rule. Reigning for only ten months, Romulus was then deposed by the Germanic chieftain Odoacer and sent to live in the Castellum Lucullanum in Campania; afterwards he disappears from the historical record.

As a proxy for his father, Romulus made no decisions and left no monuments, though coins bearing his name were minted in Rome, Milan, Ravenna, and Gaul.

Several months after Orestes took power, a coalition of Heruli, Scirian and Turcilingi mercenaries demanded that he give them a third of the land in Italy. When Orestes refused, the tribes revolted under the leadership of the Scirian chieftain Odoacer. Orestes was captured near Piacenza on 28 August 476 and swiftly executed.

Odoacer advanced to Ravenna, capturing the city and the young Emperor. Romulus was compelled to abdicate the throne on 4 September 476. This act has been used to mark the end of the Western Roman Empire, although Romulus' deposition did not cause any significant disruption at the time.


In the same year Odoacer renounced the meaningless title of Emperor, avoiding a conflict with Constantinople. He sent the imperial insignia to the Eastern Emperor Zeno and declared himself Patrician of the Western Empire, which by this time was no more than the Italian peninsula, Dalmatia and an exclave in central Gaul.

Theodoric and his Ostrogoths defeated Odoacer at Aquileia in 488, at Verona in 489, and at the Adda River in 490. In that same year, Theodoric besieged Odoacer at Ravenna. The siege lasted three years and was marked by dozens of attacks on both sides. In the end, neither side could conclusively prevail, and so on 2 February 493, Theodoric and Odoacer signed a treaty that ensured a shared rule over Italy. A banquet was organized in order to celebrate this treaty. It was at this banquet that Theodoric, after making a toast, killed Odoacer with his own hands.

Theodoric the Great was interred in Ravenna, but his bones were scattered and his mausoleum was converted to a church after Belisarius conquered the city in 540. His mausoleum is one of the finest monuments in Ravenna, but his equestrian statue, the Regisole, which also once graced the city was later removed and ultimately destroyed during the French Revolution.

The idea of a "peaceful transformation" between the Western Roman Empire and barbarian kingdom simply goes against the evidence as well as simple logic. Even more importantly,  the archaeological record shows just how massive a change there was as a result of Rome’s fall. Much of this had to do with the everyday life of ordinary people, who, for instance, now lived in houses with thatched rather than tiled roofs, and used simpler, locally produced pottery, rather than a range of finer imported wares. Cultural sophistication declined so sharply that scholars felt justified in calling it ‘the end of civilisation’. The church, through its monasteries, became the center of Classical learning after the Roman Empire fell, preserving its cultural heritage, language, literature, and art.

Why the Western Roman Empire fell?

The Roman Empire’s decline occurred gradually, from 235 to 500. During this time the empire struggled, occasionally regained vitality, and then succumbed to a death in the West and a transition in the East . Since 1776, when Edward Gibbon published the first volume of his "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", Decline and Fall has been the theme around which much of the history of the Roman Empire has been structured. "From the eighteenth century onward," historian Glen Bowersock wrote, "we have been obsessed with the fall: it has been valued as an archetype for every perceived decline, and, hence, as a symbol for our own fears."

Some scholars saw things in almost as blatantly racial terms and viewed the basic failure of Rome as a consequence of permitting too many barbarian Germans to enter its frontiers. The preoccupations of each age have usually been reflected in their views on Rome’s fall. Social problems and class tension have sometimes become fashionable explanations, often in combination with economic factors.

Another observation from the Fall of Rome is that autocratic governments lose the backing of their people. From its inception the Roman Empire ignored the role of citizens in the formation of their government. With the loss of real senatorial power under Augustus, no citizen group could challenge the imperial system. The army became the only group that could effect change, and this power was confined to the leadership, not the rank and file. All the Western emperors after Theodosius were utter failures, and the incompetent rule of Honorius probably accelerated the West’s fall more than any other factor.

The economic factor is also important: Since the West could not draw upon Eastern wealth to pay its mercenaries, it taxed its citizens for the revenue, giving rise to citizen apathy, tax evasion, and the West’s ultimate financial and political collapse. The Roman Empire has often been accused of driving its population into the hands of the Germanic invaders because it levied high taxes and engaged in economically oppressive behavior.

Pagans blamed everything on the Christians for neglecting the old gods who had guided and protected the empire. In turn, Christians blamed pagans for clinging to the old mistaken beliefs, while a few began to link the end of Rome with the end of the world. St Augustine wrote his monumental City of God to explain to Christians that in the end all human states, including Rome, the greatest of them all, would pass.

The empire’s collapse served as a warning for other nations and empires. By trying to understand and explain Rome’s fall, each nation might avoid the same “mistakes” and thereby “save” itself. The most important lesson is humility: Any nation can fall, such as the Ottoman Empire or the Chinese Manchus dynasty, both of which fell in the early twentieth century after 500 years of rule.

There are, of course,other lessons to learn from Rome’s fall; even the ancient Romans argued that their society would collapse because of their decadence. This became a call for action in late antiquity to return to the idealized earlier days, when people supposedly behaved with more decorum and restraint. Modern societies also argue that they are corrupt and decadent. In America this ideology has been used to discredit the current culture. For years, the 1950s have been seen as an era of peace and propriety that gave way to the turbulent 1960s, Vietnam, the 1970s, etc.

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