HISTORY OF THE ANCIENT WORLD: ROME
Author: Michael Rostovtzeff; translated and edited by Yanko Todoroff
Provinces of the Roman Empire from Caesar to Diocletian
The last portion of the right bank of the Danube — the mountain land on the two sides of the Margus (Morava), and the flat country stretching along between the Haemus and the Danube — was inhabited by Thracian tribes, and it appeared necessary in the first instance to cast a glance at this great stock as such. It runs parallel in a certain sense to the Illyrian. As the Illyrians once filled the regions from the Adriatic Sea to the middle Danube, so the Thracians were formerly settled to the east of them, from the Aegean Sea as far as the mouths of the Danube, and not less on the one hand upon the left brink of the Danube, particularly in the modern Transylvania, on the other hand beyond the Bosporus, at least in Bithynia and as far as Phrygia. Herodotus is not wrong in calling the Thracians the greatest of the peoples known to him after the Indians. Like the Illyrian, the Thracian stock attained to no full development, and appears more as hard pressed and dispossessed than as having any historically memorable course of its own. But, while the language and habits of the Illyrians have been preserved — though in a form worn down in the course of centuries — to the present day, the same does not hold good of the Thracian stock. There is manifold and sure attestation that the tribes of the territory, which in consequence of the Roman provincial division has ultimately retained the name Thracian, as well as the Moesians between the Balkan and the Danube, and not less the Getae or Daci on the other bank of the Danube, all spoke one and the same language. This language had in the Roman empire a position similar to that of the Celts and of the Syrians. The historian and geographer of the Augustan age, Strabo, mentions the likeness of language among the peoples named; in botanical writings of the imperial period the Dacian appellations of a number of plants are specified. When his contemporary, the poet Ovid, had opportunity given to him in the far-off Dobrudja to reflect on his too dissolute course of life, he used his leisure to learn Getic, and became almost a poet of the Getae.
But while the Irish bards, the Syrian missionaries, and the mountain valleys of Albania secured a certain continued duration for other idioms of the imperial period, the Thracian disappeared amidst the fluctuations of peoples in the region of the Danube and the over-powerful influence of Constantinople, and we cannot even determine the place which belongs to it in the pedigree of nations. The descriptions of manners and customs of particular tribes belonging to it, as to which various notices have been preserved, yield no individual traits valid for the race as a whole, and for the most part bring into relief mere singularities such as appear among all peoples at a low stage of culture. But they were and remained a soldier-people, not less useful as horsemen than for light infantry, from the times of the Peloponnesian war and of Alexander down to that of the Roman Caesars, whether they might range themselves against them or subsequently fight for them. Their wild but grand mode of worshipping the gods may perhaps be conceived as a trait peculiar to this stock — the mighty outburst of the joy of spring and youth, the nocturnal mountain-festivals of torch-swinging maidens, the intoxicating sense-confusing music, the flowing of wine and the flowing of blood, the giddy festal whirl frantic with the simultaneous excitement of all sensuous passions. Dionysos, the glorious and the terrible, was a Thracian god; and whatever of the kind was specially prominent in the Hellenic and the Roman culture, was connected with Thracian or Phrygian customs.
While the Illyrian tribes in Dalmatia and Pannonia, after the overthrow of the great insurrection in the last years of Augustus, did not again invoke the decision of arms against the Romans, the same did not hold true of the Thracian stock; the often-shown spirit of independence and the wild bravery of this nation did not fail it even in its decline. In Thrace, south of the Haemus, the old principate remained under Roman supremacy. The native ruling house of the Odryrsae, with their residence Bizye (Wiza), between Adrianople and the coast of the Black Sea, was already in the earlier period the most prominent among the princely families of Thrace; after the triumviral period there is no further mention of other Thracian kings than of those of this house, so that the other princes appear to have been made vassals or superseded under Augustus, and only members of this family were thenceforth invested with the Thracian kingly office. This was done, probably, because during the first century, as will be shown further on, there were no Roman legions stationed on the lower Danube. Augustus expected the frontier at the mouth of the Danube to be protected by the Thracian vassals. Rhoemetalces, who in the second half of the reign of Augustus ruled all Thrace as a Roman vassal-king, and his children and grandchildren therefore played in this country nearly the same part as Herod and his descendants in Palestine — unconditional devotedness towards the lord-paramount, a decided inclination to Roman habits, hostility to their own countrymen who clung to the national independence, and marked attitude of the Thracian ruling house. The great Thracian insurrection of the years 741-743, of which we have formerly spoken, was directed in the first instance against this Rhoemetalces and his brother and co-regent Cotys who perished in it, and, as he at that time was indebted to the Romans for reinstatement into his dominion, so he some years afterwards renderetl to them his thanks when, on occasion of the rising of the Dalmatians and the Pannonians, to which his Dacian kinsmen adhered, he kept faithfully to the Romans, and bore on essential part in its overthrow. His son Cotys was more Roman, or rather Greek, than Thracian; he traced back his pedigree to Eumolpus and Erichthonius, and gained the hand of a kinswoman of the imperial house, the great granddaughter of the triumvir Antonius; and not merely did the Greek and Latin poets of his time address him in song, but he himself was all but accounted a Getic poet. The last of the Thracian kings, Rhoemotalces, son of the early deceased Cotys, was reared in Rome, and, like the Herodian Agrippa, a youthful playmate of the emperor Gaius.
But the Thracian nation by no means shared the Roman leanings of the ruling house, and the government gradually become convinced in Thrace, as in Palestine, that the tottering vassal-throne only maintained by constant interference of the protecting power, was of use neither for them nor for the country, and that the introduction of direct administration was in every respect to be preferred. The emperor Tiberius made use of the quarrels that arose in the Thracian royal house to send to Thrace in the year 19 a Roman governor, Titus Trebellenus Rufus, under cover of exercising guardianship over the princes that were minors. Yet this occupation was not accomplished without resistance, ineffectual doubtless, but serious on the part of the people, who, particularly in the mountain-valleys, troubled themselves little about the rulers appointed by Rome, and whose forces, led by their family-chiefs, hardly felt themselves to be soldiers of the king, and still less soldiers of Rome. The sending of Trebellenus called forth in the year 21 a rising, in which not merely did the most noted Thracian tribes take part, but which threatened to assume greater proportions; messengers of the insurgents went over the Haemus to enkindle the national war in Moesia, and perhaps still further. Meanwhile the Moesian legions appeared in right time to relieve Philippopolis, which the insurgents besieged, and to suppress the movement. But, when some years later (25) the Roman government ordered levies in Thrace, the men refused to serve beyond the bounds of their own country. When no regard was paid to this refusal, the whole mountains rose and a struggle of despair ensued, in which the insurgents, constrained at length by hunger and thirst, throw themselves in great part on the swords of the enemy or on their own, and preferred to renounce life rather than their time-honoured freedom. The direct government continued in the form of exercising warden in Thrace up to the death of Tiberius; and, if the emperor Gaius at the commencement of his reign gave back the rule to the Thracian friend of his youth just as to the Jewish, a few years after, in the year 46 the government of Claudius definitely put an end to it. This final annexation of the kingdom, and conversion of it into a Roman province, also encountered an equally hopeless and equally obstinate resistance. But with the introduction of direct administration the resistance was broken. The governor, at first of equestrian, and from Trojan's time of senatorial rank, never had a legion; the garrison sent into the country, though it was not stronger than 2,000 men, along with a small squadron stationed at Perinthus, was sufficient in connection with the precautionary measures otherwise taken by the government to keep down the Thracians. The laying out of military roads was begun immediately after the annexation; we find that the buildings requisite in the state of the country for the accommodation of travelers at the posting stations were already, in the year 61, erected by the government and opened to traffic. Thrace was thenceforth an obedient and important province of the empire; hardly any other furnished so numerous men for all parts of the war-forces, especially for the cavalry and the fleet, as this old home of gladiators and of mercenary soldiers.
The serious conflicts which the Romans had to sustain with the same nation on the so-called "Thracian shore" [Ripa Thraciae], in the region between the Balkan and the Danube, and which led to the institution of the Moesian command, form an essential constituent part of the regulation of the northern frontier in the Augustan age, and have been already described in their connection. Of resistance similar to that offered by the Thracians to the Romans nothing is reported from Moesia; the tone of feeling there may not have been different, but in the level country and under the pressure of the legions encamped at Viminacium the resistance did not emerge openly.
Civilization came to the Thracian tribes, as to the Illyrian, from two sides: that of the Hellenes from the coast and from the Macedonian frontier, sic. Latin from the Dalmatian and Pannonian frontier. Of the former it will be more appropriate to treat when we attempt to describe the position of the European Greeks under the imperial rule. It suffices here generally to bring out the fact that not merely did that rule protect the Greek element where it found it, and the whole coast, even that subject to the governor of Moesia, always remained Greek. Moreover the province of Thrace, whose civilization was begun in earnest only by Trajan, and was throughout a work of the imperial period, was not guided fully into a Roman path, but became Hellenized. Even the northern slopes of the Haemus, although administratively belonging to Moesia, were comprehended in this Hellenizing: Nicopolis ad Istrum (actually on the Iatrus) and Marcianopolis, not far from Varna, both foundations of Trajan, were organized after a Greek model.
Of the Latin civilization of Moesia the same holds true as
of that of the adjoining Dalmatian and
Pannonian interior; only, as was natural, it
emerges so much the later, weaker, and more impure, the
farther remote it is from its starting-point. It followed
predominantly here the encampments of the legions, and
with these advanced eastward, starting from the probably
oldest campus of Moesia at Singidunum (Belgrade) and
Viminacium (Kostolatz). It is true that, in keeping with
the character of its armed guardians, it kept at a very low
stage in upper Moesia, and left room enough for the play
of the primitive conditions. Viminacium obtained Italian
urban rights from Hadrian. Lower Moesia, between the
Balkan and the Danube, in the earlier imperial period
remained probably throughout in the condition which the
Romans found subsisting there. Not till the legion-camps on the lower Danube were founded at Novae, Durostorum, and Troesmis, which probably did not take place till the beginning of the second century, did thin part of the right bank of the Danube become a seat of so much Italian civilization as was compatible with camp-arrangements. Thenceforth civil settlements arose here too — particularly on the Danube itself, between the great standing camps; those towns constituted after the Italian model, Ratiaria, not far from Widin, and Oescus at the confluence of the Istrum with the Danube, and gradually the region approached the level of the Roman culture then subsisting, though of itself on its decline. In the construction of highways in lower Moesia the rulers displayed manifold activity alter the time of Hadrian, from whence the oldest milestones hitherto found there proceed.
In the plain between the Danube and Theiss eastward from the Roman Pannonia, and between this and the Thracian Daci, there was inserted a section of the people — probably belonging to the Medo-Persian stock — the Sarmatae, who living nomadically as a nation of shepherds and horsemen filled in great part the wide east-European plain; these were the Jazyges, named the "emigrants" (merovinoi), in distinction from the chief stock which remained behind on the Black Sea. The designation shows that they only advanced at a comparatively late period into these regions; perhaps their immigration falls to be included among the assaults, under which about the time of the battle of Actium the Dacian kingdom of Burebista broke down. They meet us here at first under the emperor Claudius; the Jazyges supplied the Suebian king Vannius with the cavalry for his wars. The Roman government was on its guard against these alert and predatory bands of horsemen, but did not otherwise sustain hostile relations to them. When the legions of the Danube marched to Italy in the year 70 to place Vespasian on the throne, they declined the contingent of cavalry offered by the Jazyges, and appropriately carried with them only a number of the men of chief rank, in order that they should be pledges for quietness on the denuded frontier.
More serious and continuous watch was needed farther down on the lower Danube. There, beyond the mighty stream, which was now the boundary of the empire, were settled in the plains of Wallachia and the modern Transylvania the Daci. Further in the eastern flat country, in Moldavia, Bessarabia, and onward, in the first instance, the Germanic Bastarnae, and then Sarmatian tribes such as the Roxolani, a people of horsemen like the Jazyges at first between the Dnieper and Don, then advancing along the sea-shore. In the first years of Tiberius the vassal prince of Thrace strengthened his troops to ward off the Bastarnae and Scythians; in the latter years of Tiberius it was urged among other proofs of his government, more and more neglecting everything, that he suffered the inroads of the Dacians and the Sarmatae to pass unpunished. How matters went on in the last years of Nero on either side of the mouths of the Danube is approximately shown by the accidentally preserved report of the governor of Moesia at that time, Tiberius Plautius Silvanus Aelianus. The latter "brought upwards of 100,000 men dwelling beyond the Danube, with their wives and children, and their princes or kings over the river, so that they became liable to pay tribute. He suppressed a movement of the Sarmatae before it came to an outbreak, although he had given away a great part of his troops for the carrying on of war in Armenia (to Corbulo). A number of kings hitherto unknown or at feud with the Romans he brought over to the Roman bank, and compelled them to prostrate themselves before the legion standards. To the kings of the Bastarnae and Roxolani he sent back their sons, who had been made captive or recovered from the enemy; to those of the Dacians their captive brothers, and took hostages from several of them. Thereby the state of peace for the province was confirmed as well as further extended. He induced also the king of the Scythians to desist from siege of the town Chersonesus (Sebastopol) beyond the Borysthenes. He was the first who, by great consignments of corn from this province, made bread cheaper in Rome." We perceive here clearly, as well, the agitated vortex of peoples on the left bank of the Danube under the Julio-Claudian dynasty, as also the strong arm of the imperial power which even beyond the stream sought to protect the Greek towns on the Dnieper and in the Crimea, and was able also in some measure to do so will be further set forth.
The forces, however, which Rome had here at her disposal were more than inadequate. The insignificant garrison of Asia Minor, and the fleet likewise small on the Black Sea, were of account at most for the Greek inhabitants of its northern and western coasts. A very difficult task was assigned to the governor of Moesia who with his two legions bad to protect the bank of the Danube from Belgrade to the mouth; and the aid of the far from obedient Thracians was under the circumstances an additional danger. Especially towards the mouth of the Danube there was wanting a sufficient bulwark against the barbarians now pressing on with increasing weight. The withdrawal on two occasions of the Danubian legions to Italy in the troubles after Nero's death provoked still more at the mouth of the Danube, than on the lower Rhine, incursions of the neighbouring peoples, at first of the Roxolani, then of the Dacians, then of the Sarmatae (Jazyges). There were severe conflicts and in one of these engagements, apparently with the Jazyges, the brave governor of Moesia, Gaius Fonteius Agrippa, fell. Nevertheless, Vespasian did not proceed to increase the army of the Danube; the necessity of strengthening the Asiatic garrisons must have appeared still more urgent, and the economy specially enjoined at that time forbade any increase of the army as a whole. He contented himself with pushing forward the great camps of the army on the Danube to the frontier of the empire, as the pacification of the interior allowed, and the relations subsisting at the frontier imperatively required. Thus the Pannonian camps were brought away from the Drave, opposite to the Suebian kingdom, to Carnuntum and Vindobona, and the Dalmatian camp from Kerka and Cettina to the Moesian bank of the Danube, so that the governor of Moesia thenceforth disposed of double the number of legions.
Although under Vespasian probably not more than six legions were stationed on the Danube, their number was subsequently raised by Domitian and Trajan to ten; the two chief commands of Moesia and Pannonia hitherto subsisting were withal divided, the first under Domitian, the second under Trajan, and, as the Dacian was superadded, the whole number of the commanderships on the lower Danube was fixed at five. At the outset, indeed, they seem to have cut off the comer which this stream form below Durostorum (Silistra) and from the place now called Rassowa, where the river approaches within thirty miles of the sea, in order then to bend almost at a right angle to the north. This corner, however, was at least from the time of Hadrian embraced within the Roman frontier-fortification; for from that time we find lower Moesia, which before Trajan had probably possessed no larger standing garrisons at all, furnished with the three legionary camps of Novae (near Svishtov), Durostorum (Silistra), and Troesmis (near Galatz), of which the last lies in front of that very estuary of the Danube.
The great war on the middle Danube was once more followed by a six years' time of peace, the blessings of which could not be completely neutralized by the internal misgovernment that was constantly increasing during its course. No doubt various isolated accounts show that the frontier, especially the Dacian, which was most exposed, remained not without trouble; but above all, the stern military government of Severus did its duty here, and at least Marcomani and Quadi appear even under his immediate successors in unconditional dependence, so that the son of Severus could cite a prince of the Quadi before him and lay his head at his feet. The conflicts occurring at this epoch on the lower Danube were of subordinate importance. But probably at this period a comprehensive shifting of peoples from the north-east towards the Black Sea took place, and the Roman frontier-guard on the lower Danube had to confront new and more dangerous opponents. Up to this time the antagonists of the Romans there had been chiefly Sarmatian tribes, among whom the Roxolani came into closest contact with them; of Germans there were settled here at that time only the Bastarnae, who had been long at home in this region. Now the Roxolani disappear, merged possibly among the Carpi apparently akin to them, who thenceforth were the nearest neighbours of the Romans on the lower Danube, perhaps in the valleys of the Seret and Pruth.
By the side of the Carpi came, likewise as immediate
neighbours of the Romans at the mouth of the Danube, the people of the Goths.
This Germanic stock migrated, according to the tradition which
has been preserved to us, from Scandinavia over the Baltic towards the region of the Vistula, and from this to the
Black Sea; in accordance with this the Roman geographers of the second century know them at the Vistula,
and Roman history from the first quarter of the third at
the north-west coast of the Block Sea. Thenceforth they
appear here constantly on the increase; the remains of
the Bastarnae retired before them to the right bank of the
Danube under the emperor Probus, the remains of the
Carpi under the emperor Diocletian, while beyond doubt a
great part of the former as of the latter mingled among the
Goths and joined them. On the whole this catastrophe may be designated as that of the Gothic war only in the sense in which that which set in under Marcus is called the war of the Marcomani; the whole mass of peoples set in movement by the stream of migration from the north-west to the Black Sea took part in it, and all the more, seeing that these attacks took place just as much by land over the lower Danube as by water from the north coasts of the Black Sea. Not unsuitably, therefore, the learned Athenian who fought in this war and has narrated it prefers to term it the Scythian, as he includes under this name — which, like the Pelasgian forms the despair of the historian — all Germanic and non-Germanic enemies of the empire. What is to be told of these expeditions will here be brought together, so far as the confusion of tradition allows.
The year 238 — year also of civil war, when there were four emperors — is designated as that in which the war against those here first named Goths began. As the coins of Tyra and Olbia cease with Alexander (year 235), these Roman possessions situated beyond the boundary of the empire had doubtless become some years earlier a prey to the now enemy. In that year they first crossed the Danube, and the most northerly of the Moesia coast towns, Istros, was the first victim. Gordianus, who emerged out of the confusions of this time as ruler, is designated as conqueror of the Goths; it is more certain that the Roman government at any rate under him, if not already earlier, agreed to buy off the Gothic incursions. As was natural, the Carpi demanded the same as the emperor bad granted to the inferior Goths; when the demand was not granted, they invaded the Roman territory in the year 246. The emperor Philippus — Gordianus was at that time already dead — repulsed them, and energetic action with the combined strength of the great empire would probably here have checked the barbarians.
But in these years the murderer of an emperor reached the throne as surely as be found in turn his own murderer and successor. It was just in the imperiled regions of the Danube that the army proclaimed against the emperor Philippus first Marinus Pacatianus, and, after he was set aside, Traianus Decius, which latter in fact vanquished his antagonist in Italy, and was acknowledged as ruler. He was an able and brave man, not unworthy of the two names which he bore, and entered resolutely into the conflicts on the Danube; but what the civil war waged in the meanwhile had destroyed, could no longer be retrieved. While the Romans were fighting with one another the Goths and the Carpi had united, and had under the Gothic prince Cniva invaded Moesia denuded of troops. The governor of the province, Trebonianus Gallus, threw himself with his force into Nicopolis on the Haemus, and was here besieged by the Goths; these at the same time pillaged Thrace and besieged its capital, the great and strong Philippopolis; indeed they reached as far as Macedonia, and invested Thessalonica, where the governor Priscus found this just a fitting moment to have himself proclaimed as emperor. When Decius arrived to combat at once his rival and the public foe, the former was doubtless without difficulty set aside, and success also attended the relief of Nicopolis, where 30,000 Goths are said to have fallen. But the Goths, retreating to Thrace, conquered in turn at Beroe (Alt-Zagora), threw the Romans back on Moesia, and reduced Nicopolis there as well as Anchialus in Thrace and even Philippopolis, where 100,000 men are said to have come into their power. Thereupon they marched northwards to bring into safety their enormous booty. Decius projected the plan of inflicting a blow on the enemy at the crossing of the Danube. He stationed a division under Gallus on the bank, and hoped to be able to throw the Goths upon this, and to cut off their retreat. But at Abrittus, a place on the Moesia frontier, the fortune of war, or else the treachery of Gallus, decided against them. Decius perished with his son, and Gallus, who was proclaimed as his successor, began his reign by once more assuring to the Goths the annual payments of money (251).
This utter defeat of Roman arms as of Roman policy, the fall of the emperor, the first who lost his life in conflict with the barbarians — a piece of news which deeply moved men's minds even in this age demoralized by its familiarity with misfortune — the disgraceful capitulation following thereon, placed in fact the integrity of the empire at stake. Serious crises on the middle Danube, threatening probably the loss of Dacia, must have been the immediate consequence. Once more this was averted; the Governor of Pannonia, Marcus Aemilius Aemilianus, a good soldier, achieved an important success of arms, and drove the enemy over the frontier. But Nemesis bore sway. The consequence of this victory, achieved in the name of Gallus, was, that the army renounced allegiance to the betrayer of Decius and chose their general as his successor. Once more therefore civil war took precedence on frontier-defense; and while Aemilianus soon afterwards succumbed to his general Valerianus (254), Dacia was lost for the empire. The last coin struck by this province, and the latest inscription found there, are of the year 255; in the first years of Valerianus therefore the barbarians occupied the Roman territory on the left bank of the Danube, and certainly also pressed across to the right
We may not assign to these Gothic and Scythian expeditions, which fill up the twenty years 250-269, such significance, as if the hordes moving forth bad been minded to take permanent possession of the countries which they traversed. Such a plan cannot be shown to have existed even for Moesia and Thrace, to say nothing of the more remote coasts; hardly, moreover, were the assailants numerous enough to undertake invasions proper. As the bad government of the last rulers, and above all the untrustworthiness of the troops, far more than the superior power of the barbarians, called forth the flooding of the territory by land and sea robbers, so the re-establishment of internal order and the energetic demeanor of the government of themselves brought its deliverance. The Roman state could not yet be broken if it did not break itself. But still it was a great work to rally the government again as Claudius had done it. We know somewhat less even of him than of most regents of this time, as the probably fictitious carrying back of the Constantine pedigree to him has repainted his portrait after the tame pattern of perfection; but this very association, as well as the numberless coins struck in his honour after his death, show that he was regarded by the next generation as the deliverer of the state, and in this it cannot have been mistaken. These Scythian expeditions were at all events a prelude of the later migration of peoples; and the destruction of cities, which distinguishes them from the ordinary pirate voyages, took place at that time to such an extent that the prosperity as well as the culture of Greece and Asia Minor never recovered from it.
In 27 BC, Octavian offered to transfer control of the state back to the senate. The Senate refused the offer, which in effect was a ratification of his position within the state. Octavian was also granted the title of "Augustus" by the senate, and took the title of Princeps or "first citizen". As the adopted heir of Julius Caesar, Octavian, now referred to as "Augustus", took Caesar as a component of his name. By the time of the reign of Vespasian, the term Caesar had evolved from a family name into a formal title.
Augustus completed the conquest of Hispania, while subordinate generals expanded Roman possessions in Africa and Asia Minor. Augustus' final task was to ensure an orderly succession of his powers. His greatest general and stepson Tiberius had conquered Pannonia, Dalmatia, Raetia, and temporarily Germania for the empire, and was thus a prime candidate. In 6 BC, Augustus granted tribunician powers to his stepson, and soon after he recognized Tiberius as his heir. In 13 AD, a law was passed which extended Augustus' powers over the provinces to Tiberius, so that Tiberius' legal powers were equivalent to, and independent from, those of Augustus. In 14 AD Augustus died at the age of seventy-five, having ruled the empire for forty years.
Tiberius to Alexander Severus (14 AD to 235 AD)
Augustus was succeeded by his stepson Tiberius, the son of his wife Livia from her first marriage. Augustus was a scion of the gens Julia (the Julian family), one of the most ancient patrician clans of Rome, while Tiberius was a scion of the gens Claudia. Their three immediate successors were all descended from the gens Claudia, through Tiberius's brother Nero Claudius Drusus. They also descended from the gens Julia, emperors Caligula and Nero through Julia the Elder, Augustus's daughter from his first marriage, and emperor Claudius through Augustus's sister Octavia Minor. Historians refer to their dynasty as the "Julio-Claudian Dynasty".
The early years of Tiberius's reign were relatively peaceful. However, his rule soon became characterized by paranoia. He began a series of treason trials and executions, which continued until his death in 37 AD. The logical successor to the much hated Tiberius was his twenty-four year old grandnephew Caligula. Caligula's reign began well, but after an illness he became tyrannical and insane. In 41 AD Caligula was assassinated, and for two days following his assassination, the senate debated the merits of restoring the republic.
Due to the demands of the army, however, Claudius was ultimately declared emperor. Claudius was neither paranoid like his uncle Tiberius, nor insane like his nephew Caligula, and was therefore able to administer the empire with reasonable ability. In his own family life he was less successful, as he married his niece, who may very well have poisoned him in 54 AD. Nero, who succeeded Claudius, focused much of his attention on diplomacy, trade, and increasing the cultural capital of the empire. Nero, though, is remembered as a tyrant, and was forced to commit suicide in 68 AD.
Nero was followed by a brief period of civil war, known as the "Year of the Four Emperors". Augustus had established a standing army, where individual soldiers served under the same military governors over an extended period of time. The consequence was that the soldiers in the provinces developed a degree of loyalty to their commanders, which they did not have for the emperor. Thus the empire was, in a sense, a union of inchoate principalities, which could have disintegrated at any time. Between June 68 and December 69, Rome witnessed the successive rise and fall of Galba, Otho and Vitellius until the final accession of Vespasian, first ruler of the Flavian dynasty. These events showed that any successful general could legitimately claim a right to the throne.
Vespasian, though a successful emperor, continued the weakening of the Senate which had been going on since the reign of Tiberius. Through his sound fiscal policy, he was able to build up a surplus in the treasury, and began construction on the Coliseum. Titus, Vespasian's successor, quickly proved his merit, although his short reign was marked by disaster, including the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Pompeii. He held the opening ceremonies in the still unfinished Coliseum, but died in 81 AD. His brother Domitian succeeded him. Having exceedingly poor relations with the senate, Domitian was murdered in September of 96 AD.
The next century came to be known as the period of the "Five Good Emperors", in which the successions were peaceful and the Empire was prosperous. Each emperor of this period was adopted by his predecessor. The last two of the "Five Good Emperors" and Commodus are also called Antonines. After his accession, Nerva, who succeeded Domitian, set a new tone: he restored much confiscated property and involved the Roman Senate in his rule.
Starting with 101 AD Trajan undertook two military campaigns against the gold rich Dacia, which he finally conquered in 106 AD. In 112 AD, Trajan marched on Armenia and annexed it to the Roman Empire. Then he turned south into Parthia, taking several cities before declaring Mesopotamia a new province of the empire, and lamenting that he was too old to follow in the steps of Alexander the Great. During his rule, the Roman Empire expanded to its largest extent, and would never again advance so far to the east. Hadrian's reign was marked by a general lack of major military conflicts, but he had to defend the vast territories that Trajan had acquired.
Antoninus Pius's reign was comparatively peaceful. During the reign of Marcus Aurelius, Germanic tribes launched many raids along the northern border. The period of the "Five Good Emperors" also commonly described as the Pax Romana, or "Roman Peace", was brought to an end by the reign of Commodus. Commodus was the son of Marcus Aurelius, breaking the scheme of adoptive successors that had turned out so well. Commodus became paranoid and slipped into insanity before being murdered in 192 AD.
The Severan Dynasty, which lasted from 193 until 235, included several increasingly troubled reigns. A generally successful ruler, Septimius Severus, the first of the dynasty, cultivated the army's support and substituted equestrian officers for senators in key administrative positions. His son, Caracalla, extended full Roman citizenship to all free inhabitants of the empire. Increasingly unstable and autocratic, Caracalla was assassinated by Macrinus, who succeeded him, before being killed and succeeded by Elagabalus. Alexander Severus, the last of the dynasty, was increasingly unable to control the army, and was assassinated in 235 AD.
Later Emperors of Third Century (235 AD to 395 AD)
The Crisis of the Third Century is a commonly applied name for the near-collapse of the Roman Empire between 235 AD and 284 AD. During this time, 25 emperors reigned, and the empire experienced extreme military, political, and economic crises. Additionally, in 251 AD, the Plague of Cyprian broke out, causing large-scale mortality which may have seriously affected the ability of the Empire to defend itself. This period ended with the accession of Diocletian, who reigned from 284 AD until 305 AD, and who solved many of the acute problems experienced during this crisis.
However, the core problems would remain and cause the eventual destruction of the western empire. 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 AD 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.
The Tetrarchy effectively collapsed with the death of Constantius Chlorus, the first of the Constantinian dynasty. In 306 AD Constantius's troops immediately proclaimed his son Constantine the Great as Augustus. A series of civil wars broke out, which ended with the entire empire being united under Constantine, who legalized Christianity definitively in 313 AD through the Edict of Milan.
Addendum: The second volume of Rostovtzeff"s "History of the Ancient World" appeared in Bulgarian language in 1937 (originally published 1926 in English). Since the two volumes were thematically very different, and even Rostovtzeff himself admitted that transition from Greek to Roman history was cumbersome to present in lay manner — subsequently, the Bulgarian side with publisher "T. F. Chipev" decided to divide the translation efforts into parts. Thus Prof. G. Katzarov subsided to the chapters on Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece with Aegean Islands; adjunct professor Yanko Todorov wrote and edited the chapters on Roman Republic, and Roman Empire until partition to East and West provinces. As periodization in the new era is complicated and much literature pervade as citation sources, the Chair for Y. Todorov was specifically designed to deal with Rome only, its emperors and provinces, the influence of specific Roman culture, religion, militarization and urbanization patterns on the Bulgarian lands.
As the volatile reader could easily realize, Rome posed to the researchers of Antiquity considerably more puzzles for a brief historical time (1 A.D. to the 6th century) than the whole history of humanity beforehand for thousands of years. A unified chronology didn't existed before the Julian Calendar and as seen from the first title of introductory essays, excerpted in abridgement from Prof. T. Mommsen's "Roman History" (1887), dates follow a provisional Egyptian calendar (solar) until Thracian king Rhoemotalces appears as Roman vassal in year 19 A.D. Actually Roman chronology normalized the Egyptian dating by taking a founding year for Rome as origin (i.e., 751 B.C.) and thus subtracting subsequent dates until anno domino. As for Mommsen's magisterial work on "Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum" (CIL) we bring to attention a paragraph cited previously:
"Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL) assembled the inscriptions of the Danubian provinces (Raetia, Noricum, Pannonia, Dalmatia, Moesia and Dacia) together with Latin texts from the Greek East (Thrace, Macedonia, Greece, Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt). When Theodor Mommsen published this monumental work in 1873 most of the entries were based on written accounts from earlier scholars and travelers, many with little or no experience of the "minutiae" of Greek and Roman epigraphy. Whenever possible Mommsen himself travelled to conduct personal autopsy of the major collections accessible within the then existing boundaries of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The dismemberment of Turkey-in-Europe five years after the publication of CIL was to open for scholars many districts from which Mommsen himself confessed he had found virtually nothing to report."
To continue this line of thinking with extension to Bulgaria there are some materials that treat early research on Roman antiquities. First collector of epigraphic materials in the country appear to be a Czech, Vaclav Dobruski, appointed as Director of the National Museum who had this post until 1910. Principal excavations were done at the ancient towns of Oescus (Gigen, Pleven region, 1903), and Nicopolis ad Istrum (Nikjup, Veliko Tarnovo region, 1906). From 1910, Prof. Bogdan Filov took over the post of Director of the National Museum. His inaugural dissertation ("Die Legionen der Provinz Moezia von Augustus bis auf Diocletian. Leipzig, 1906") was the first publication from Bulgarian on the subject Rome. Afterwards in the 1920s and 1930s, B. Filov made several comebacks on the history of Early Roman Empire but his specialty was ostensibly dealing with matters of Christian Arts and the superficiality of Bulgarian style in the presence of Roman and Byzantine influences.
Apart from work with his senior mentors Assoc. Prof. Y. Todorov, who was in regular faculty staff of Department of Classical Philology, contributed a significant number of scholarly articles for a short working period beginning with "Durostorum" (1927, habilitation work). Following came articles on "Pre-Christian religious cults on Bulgarian lands" (1930), "Thracian Kings" (1932), "Chronological calendar systems" (1937), two articles in "Quarterni dell Impero" (1938, in Italian), and editorship of Journal for Classical Studies "Prometheus" (1938-1943). We couldn't trace further publications after 1945, probably Y. Todorov perished from the communist regime, ditto.
Pictures 1 & 2: Sample illustrations on the text above.
(i). Some of the early symbols of imperial Rome — 1) Fascia lictoriae (or, double-edged axe fixed on wood bunch-holder) was carried on left shoulder signifying power of the Roman magistrates; 2) Statue of the "good shepherd Jesus Christ carrying a lamb" was a pre-Christian cult for eternal consecration.
Copyright © 2011 by the author.