The Age of Empire in Rome
Augustus’s long reign ushered in Pax Romana, 200 years of peace under Roman rule. The new emperor, who preferred to be called “First Citizen,” reorganized the military and the provincial governments and reinstituted constitutional rule.
Succeeding emperors weren’t so virtuous: Deranged Tiberius and Caligula, henpecked Claudius I, and the infamous Nero, who in AD 64 persecuted the Christians of Rome with a viciousness easily equal to the earlier slave repressions.
Several of the military commanders who became emperors were exceptions to the tyrant mold. Late in the AD 1C, Trajan expanded the empire’s eastern boundaries and constructed great public works, including a vast series of markets (recently reopened to visitors in Rome).
At this peak, Rome knew amenities not to be enjoyed again in Europe until the 18th century. Citizens were privileged to have police protection, fire fighting, libraries, sanitation, huge public baths such as the Caracalla by the Appian Way, and even central heating and running water[md]if they could afford them.
The empire’s decline began around AD 200. After sacking the city several times, Goths and other Germanic tribes set up their own leaders as emperors and were more interested in the spoils of an empire than in actually running one. And while Edward Gibbon’s famous opus The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire takes up an entire bookshelf to explain Rome’s downfall, in the end it all boils down to the fact that the empire had gotten just too big to manage.
After embracing Christianity in his famous AD 313 Edict of Milan, Emperor Constantine I tried to resolve the problem by moving the capital of the empire from Rome to the city of Byzantium (later renamed Constantinople and today known as Istanbul).
The Roman empire was irrevocably split in half: a western Roman Empire comprising most of Europe and North Africa, and an eastern Roman Empire filling southeast Europe and the Near East.
In AD 476, the last emperor (ironically, named Romulus) fell from power and the Roman Empire collapsed.
It would be 1,500 years before Rome and Italy were once again united as capital and nation.
Roman in Italy
Ancient in Italy
Topics in Italy
More on Roman
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Also in Italian history:
- Prehistory to Magna Graecia
- The Etruscan Enigma
- The rise of Rome
- Hail, Caesar!
- The Dark Ages
- The Renaissance
- The Second Fall
- The 19th Century
- A Nation United
- The Rise of Fascism