Rome (Latin, Roma), the most famous state of ancient times, originally comprising little more than the city of Rome, latterly an empire embracing a great part of Europe, North Africa and Western Asia. The origin of Rome is generally assigned to the year 753 B.C., at which time a band of Latins, one of the peoples of Central Italy, founded a small town on the left bank of the Tiber, about 15 miles from the sea, the population being subsequently augmented by the addition of Sabines and Etruscans. The weight of tradition places it beyond doubt that in the earliest period the government of Rome was an elective monarchy, the king being chosen by an assembly of patres (fathers) or heads of families who formed the senate.
These are according to tradition are the seven early kings, and their reigns :
|753 - 716 B.C||Romulus||715 - 676||Numa Pompilius||674 - 642||Tullus Hostilius|
|642 - 618||Ancus Martius||618 - 578||L. Tarquinius Priscus||578 - 534||Servius Tullius|
|534 - 509.||Tarquinius Superbus|
From the commencement of Roman history the people are found divided into two classes, the patricians or aristocracy (a kind of oligarchy), and the plebeians or common people, besides a class called clients immediate dependents of the patricians. All political power Was in the hands of the patricians. All matters of importance had to he laid before them in their comitia curiata or assembly, in which they voted by divisions called curioe. From and by them also were elected the members of the senate, or council of the elders, as it may he called, which advised the king . By reforms instituted by Servius Tullius the way was at least prepared for altering this state of affairs. He introduced a division of all the people, according to their property, into five classes, and these again into centuries. With the first or highest class was sometimes reckoned a body called equites or horsemen, but these were sometimes regarded as above all the classes. The lowest section of the people, called proletarii, were sometimes reckoned as a sixth class, and sometimes as forming part of the fifth. Thus originated a new assembly, the comitia centuriata, which included plebeians as well as patricians, though the latter had the great preponderance. The plebeians got also an assembly of their own with certain limited powers, the comitia tributa, in which they met by local divisions called tribes.
The last of the kings, Tarquinius Superbus, by his tyrannical government excited the hatred of all classes, and this was raised to the highest pitch by an act of violence perpetrated by his youngest son Sextus. The people then rose in rebellion and abolished for ever the kingly government (509 B.C.) Upon the expulsion of the kings the royal power was in trusted to one man who held it for a year, and was called dictator. Afterwards two yearly officers, called at first proetors, afterwards consuls, wielded the highest executive power in the state both in civil and military affairs.
Almost all political power still remained with the patricians, however and for more than 200 years the internal history of Rome is mainly composed of the endeavours of the plebeiana to place themselves on an equality with the patricians. In 494 B.C. the plebeians succeeded in securing a measure of justice, Two magistrates called tribunes were chosen from the ranks of the plebeians. Their persons were inviolable; said they had the right of protecting every plebeian against injustice on the part of an official. Later they were admitted to the senate, where they had the right of vetoing resolutions and preventing them from becoming law. Their number was afterwards increased to five, and finally to ten. The tribunes, through ignorance of the laws, which were kept secret by the patricians, were often thwarted in their endeavours to aid the plebeians. The plebs demanded the publication of the laws, and at last the senate yielded. It was agreed that in place of the regular magistrates ten men (decemviri ) should be nominated, with unlimited power to govern the state and prepare a code of written laws. These men entered on office in 451 B.C., and in the first year of office they had compiled ten tables of laws, and to these in the second year they added other two tables, making up the famous Laws of the Twelve Tables. But when the second year had elapsed, and the object for which they had been appointed was accomplished, they refused to lay down their office, and were only forced to do so by an insurrection. The immediate occasion of this rising was, according to the well-known story made popular by Macaulay in his lay of Virginia, an act of infamy attempted by one of the ten. After the overthrow of the decemvirate two chief magistrates were re-appointed, but the title was now changed from præetors to consuls (449 B.C.). In 444 another change was made by the appointment of military tribunes with consular power (from three to six or even eight in number), who might take the place of the consuls. To this office both classes of the community were eligible, although it was not till 400 B.C. that a plebeian was actually elected. In 443 B.C. a new patrician office, that of censor, was created, No plebeian was censor till 351 B.C.
During this period of internal conflict Rome was engaged in defensive wars chiefly with the Æquians and Volscians, who lived close by. With these wars are connected the legends and traditions of Coriolanus the extermination of the Fabii, and the saving of the Roman army by Cincinnatus. Towards the end of the 5th century B.C., after extending her territory to the south, Rome tuned her arms against Etruria in the north. For ten years (405 - 396) the important city of Veii is aid to have been besieged, till in the latter year it was taken by Camillus, and the capture of the city was followed by the submission of all the other towns in the south of Etruria . But just at this point Rome was thrown back again by a total defeat and rout on the banks of the Allia, a small stream about 11 miles North of Rome, and the capture and destruction of the city by the Gauls, in 390 B.C. After the Gauls retired with their booty the city was hastily reconstructed, but the destitution and suffering of the people rendered domestic tranquility impossible. After a struggle, however, the Licinian laws were adopted in 367, the plebeians being now admitted to the consulship, and a fairer distribution of public lands being brought about.
During the period 343 - 264 Rome was engaged in many important wars, the chief of which were the four Samnite wars, the great Latin war,the war with the Greek cities of South Italy, and the war with Pyrrhus, the invader of Italy from Greece. The chief events of this protracted struggle were the defeat of the Romans by the Samnites under Pontius at the Caudine Forks, and the passing of the Romans under the yoke in acknowledgment of their subjugation (321 B.C.) ; the defeat of the Samnites, Umbrians, Etruscans, and Gauls at Sentinum (295 B.C.); and the final defeat of Pyrrhus at Beneventum (275 B.C.) . In 272 B.C. the city and fortress of Tarentum surrendered to the Romans, and the defeat of the Sallentini in Calabria (266) made the Romans master, of all Italy south of the Rubicon and Macra .
Rome, having had leisure to conquer Italy, now felt at liberty to contend for the possession of Sicily, at this time almost entirely under the dominion of the great maritime power of Carthage. An opportunity for interfering in Sicilian affair, was easily found, and in 264 B.C. the First Punic or Carthaginian war began. It lasted for more than twenty years, caused the loss of three large fleets to the Romans, and the defeat of a Roman army under Regulus in Africa; but in 241 a great victory over the Carthaginian fleet caused the latter power to sue for peace. This was finally concluded on the conditions that Carthage gave up Sicily, and paid a great sum as a war indemnity. The larger western part of Sicily became the first Roman province ; the smaller eastern part continued under the supremacy of the Greek city Syracuse which was allied to Rome. The sway of Rome was also extended over all the islands which Carthage had possessed in the Mediterranean. About the same time the Roman. wrested the island of Corcyra (Corfu) and some coast towns from the piratical Illyrians. From 226 to 222 B.C. they were engaged in a more difficult war with Gauls inhabiting the Po basin; but the Romans were again successful, and the Gallic territory was reduced to a Roman province under the name of Gallia Cisalpina (Gaul on this side the Alps).
Meanwhile the Carthaginians had been making considerable conquest in Spain, which awakened the alarm and envy of the Romans, and induced them to enter into a defensive. alliance with the Greek colony of Saguntum, near the east coast of that country.
In 221 B.C. Hannibal, the son of Hamilcar Barca, who had bravely and skillfully maintained the Carthaginian arms in Sicily, and had since founded and in great part established the Carthaginian empire in Spain, succeeded to the command of the Carthaginian forces. The taking of Saguntum, a city allied to Rome, occasioned the second Punic war, during which Hannibal traversed Gaul, crossed the Alps, and invaded Italy. The war lasted for sixteen years (218 - 202 B.C.) ; and was carried on with consummate general ship on the part of Hannibal, who inflicted on the Romans one of the most disastrous defeats they ever sustained, at Cannæ, in 216 B.C. This great man was ill supported by his country, and the war terminated in favour of the Roman, through the defeat of Hannibal by P. Cornelius Scipio at Zama in Africa in 202 B.C. One of the results was that the power of Carthage was broken and Spain practically became a Roman possession. Upper Italy was also again subjugated, and Transpadane Gaul acquired. A third Punic war broke out on slight pretext in 149 B.C., and ended in 146 in the capture of Carthage by Scipio (the younger) after a severe struggle, and the conversion of the Carthaginian territory into the province of Africa.
Philip V. of Macedonia had favoured Hannibal, and so gave Rome a pretext to mix in Grecian affairs. The result was that Macedonia was made a Roman province (148 B.C.), while in the same year that Carthage fell Corinth was sacked, and soon after Greece was organized into the province of Achaia. Previously Antiochus the Great of Syria had been defeated by the Romans (190 B.C..) and part of Asia Minor brought into vassalage to Rome. In the east Rome intrigued where she could, and fought when she was compelled, and by disorganizing states made them first her dependencies and then her provinces. In 130 B.C. she received by bequest the dominions of Attalus III.. of Pergamus ( Mysia, Lydia, Caria, and Phrygia), which was formed into the province of Asia.
By this time within Rome strife between different classes again began to be bitter, but it was now not between patricians and plebeians, but between rich and poor. The conquests which had been made, and the lucrative posts which were now to be had, as well as the wide field generally available for money-making, had produced a wealthy privileged class partly consisting of patricians, partly of plebeians, without benefiting the other classes of the citizens. The agrarian laws which formerly protected the people were generally unobserved, great landed estates were accumulated in few hands, and the cultivation of the land by swarms of slaves left war the only occupation of the citizens. Thus vast numbers of the middle class of citizens were reduced to absolute want, and driven from their home.. To remedy this the two Gracchi, Tiberius and Caius, successively proposed measures for the better distribution of the land, and in general for the relief of the destitute classes. They thus incurred the violent hatred of the nobles or men of position, and both of them lost theft lives in the party struggles that ensued (in 133 and 121 B.C. respectively).
Previously to this the Romans had formed an alliance with the Greek colony of Massilia (Marseilles), and in aid of their allies they were twice called in to quell the neighbouring Gallic tribes (first in 154 B.C., and next in 125 B.C. ). On the second occasion after putting down the Gauls (125 - 123) they kept possession of the conquered country, and made this part of Gaul a Roman province ( Provincia Gallia - Provence). The next war was in Africa, with Jugurtha, who had usurped the throne of Numidia, and against whom the assistance of Rome had been asked. It was brought to an end by Caius Marius, who had risen from an obscure rank to the consulship (104 B.C.). Marius also repelled invasions of the province of Gaul by the Cimbri and Teutones in 102 - 101 B.C. A serious war, almost of the nature of a civil war, followed with the Roman allies in Italy, who rose in 90 B.C. to demand the right of equal citizenship with the people of Rome. This war, known as the Social war, lasted for two years (90 - 88 B.C.), and ended in the victory of the Romans, who, however, found it advisable to concede the franchise to the Italian tribes to prevent another rising.
The war had been concluded by Sulla, between whom and Manes great rivalry prevailed; and now sprang up the first Roman civil war, a struggle between the party of Marius (the people) and that of Sulla (the nobles). Sulla, the consul for 88, was on the point of starting for Asia to attack Mithridates, king of Pontus, a war that promised both glory and treasure. Marius was eager for the same command, and through intrigue on his behalf the populace deprived Sulla of the chief command and gave it to Marius. Thereupon Sulla marched on Rome with his legions, forced Marius to flee to Africa, and then proceeded to the Mithridatic war. In his absence Marrius returned, wreaked a bloody vengeance on the partisans of his rival, and died after being appointed consul for the seventh time (86 B.C.). Three years later Sulla came back from Asia, having brought the Mithridatic war to a satisfactory conclusion, and now felt himself at liberty to take his revenge on the Marian party for the atrocities it had been guilty of towards his own party in his absence; and he took it in full measure. Four thousand of his opponents he caused to be massacred in the circus in one day; and then got rid of all the chief men of the democratic party by proscription. He was now appointed dictator for an unlimited term (81 B.C.), and as such passed a series of measures the general object of which was to restore to the constitution its former aristocratic or oligarchical character. In the beginning of 79 B.C. Sulla, retired into private life, and he died the year following.
The man who now came most prominently before the public eye was Pompey, one of Sulla's generals. His first important achievement was the subjugation of the remnant of the democratic or Marian party that had gathered round Sertorius in Spain (76 - 72 B.C.). On his return to Italy he extinguished all that remained of an insurrection of slaves, already crushed by Crassus (71), and in 70 B.C. was consul along with Crassus. In 67 B.C. he drove the pirates from the Mediterranean, and afterwards reduced Cilicia, which he made into a Roman province. He was then appointed to continue the war that had been renewed against Mithridates, king of Pontus, whom he finally subdued, forming part of his dominions in Asia Minor into a Roman province and distributing the rest among kings who were the vassals of Rome. In 64 B.C. Pompey put an end to the dynasty of the Seleucidæ in Syria and converted their kingdom into a province, and in 63 B.C. advanced southwards Into Judea, which he made tributary to Rome. All these arrangements were made by him of his own authority. In the very year in which they were completed a member of the aristocratic party, the great orator Cicero, had earned great distinction by detecting and frustrating the Catilinarian conspiracy.
Only three years after these events (60 B.C.) a union took place at Rome of great importance in the history immediately subsequent. Caius Julias Cæsar, a man of aristocratic family who had attached himself to the democratic party and had become very popular, joined Pompey and Crassus in what is called the first triumvirate, and practically the three took the government of Rome into their own hands. On the part of Cæsar, who was now elected consul, this was the first step in a career which culminated in the overthrow of the republic, and his ova, elevation to the position of sovereign of the empire. After the death of Crassus (53 B.C.) came the struggle for supreme power between Cæsar and Pompey. Cæsar had gained great glory by the conquest of Gaul, but now at Pompey's instigation was called on to resign his command and disband his army. Upon this he entered Italy, drove Pompey into Greece, and the short civil war of 49 - 48 B.C., and the great battle of Pharsalia in the latter year, decided the struggle in Caesar's favour. Pompeys army was utterly routed; he himself was compelled to flee, and having gone to Egypt was there murdered. In a short time Caesar utterly subdued the remains of the Pompeian party and became virtually king in Rome.
Caesar was assassinated in 44 B. C., Octavius, the grand-nephew and adopted son of Caesar, then only nineteen, and Mark Antony, one of Caesar's generals in 43 B.C., formed with Lepidus what is known as the second triumvirate ; After avenging the death of Caesar and putting an end to the republican party in the battle of Philippi ( 42 ), Octavian and Antony, casting off Lepidus, who was a weakling, divided the empire between them, the former taking Rome and the West and the latter the East. In ten years war broke out between the two, and in the naval battle of Actium (31 B.C.) Antony was defeated, and the whole Roman world lay at the feet of the conqueror, Egypt being also now incorporated. Caius Octavius, was also called Cæsar Augustus, the title, and the name Augustus lives to this day in the phrase " The Augustan Age," a title which every nation is proud to give to the greatest period in its history.
He was handsome to look on, with fair hair, an aquiline nose, and large eyes noticeable for their brightness and their tranquil expression.
Augustus made a poor start in an effort to extend his dominions, but he soon found wisdom, and set himself to carry on the work of Cæsar. In his administration of the empire Augustus acted with great judgment ostensibly adhering to most of the republican forms of government, though he contrived in the course of time to obtain for himself all the offices of highest authority. The reign of Augustus is chiefly remarkable as the golden age of Roman literature, but it was a reign also of conquest and territorial acquisition. Before the annexation of Egypt Pannonia had been added to the Roman dominions (35 B.C.), and by the subsequent conquest of Moesia, Noricum, Rhætia, and Vindelicia, the Roman frontier was extended to the Danube along its whole course. Gaul and Spain also were now finally and completely subdued. The empire of Augustus thus stretched from the Atlantic to the Euphrates, and from the Rhine and the Danube to the deserts of Africa.
He was able to boast that he found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble. He surrounded himself by a bodyguard called the Praetorian Guard, and made peace the supreme object of his government. In this way commerce flourished and literature rose to the greatest heights. Cicero, Virgil, Horace, Ovid, and Livy are names that give glory to the Augustan Age.
Augustus lived two lives. In public he was the magnificent emperor, clothed with power and surrounded by mystery; but in his home, with Livia, his wife, he loved to play with children and to be free of all pomp. His dress was made for him by his wife. He superintended the education of his grandchildren. He ate sparingly, economised time, and worked diligently. Rather than face a cheering multitude, he usually left or entered Rome by night.On his deathbed he asked his friends if he had played his part well in life to give him their applause, and he died kissing his wife, telling her to remember their happy union. This emperor died in 14 A.D.
His reign is above
all memorable for under Augustus, Jesus was born it was he who ordered the census to be taken, for which Joseph
and Mary went from Galilee to Bethlehem. When this great Caesar passed away Jesus was a little boy some 10 years
of age, living in the town of Nazareth.
Augustus was followed by a series of emperors forming, when he and Julius Cæsar are included, the sovereigns known as the Twelve Cæsars .
The names of his successors and the dates of their deaths are:
Under his successor, Tiberius, Jesus was put to death in Palestine, and some time after that Christianity challenged all Caesarism for ever, the emperor was smitten with a strange melancholy, and went to live on the island of Capri in the Bay of Naples.
Rome kept her glory under this Cæsar, but it was not the glory of the reign of Augustus.Worse was to come. Tiberius was succeeded by Caligula, who had neither dignity nor intellect. To call such a creature Cæsar is a dishonour to Rome. He delighted in nothing so much as watching gladiators fight, yet he insisted that men should worship him as a god. He was a buffoon, but worse than his buffoonery was his blow at Caesar's central principle of empire. He ordered the governors of provinces to send him large sums of money for his pleasures and his debts. He was slain by his own bodyguard.
Then followed Claudius, under whose reign Britain was at last conquered, he carried on the work of improving the imperial city, though he was as bad as Caligula in the matter of gladiatorial shows.
Nero's loved cruelty, he murdered his mother, who had killed his father to put him on the throne . His youthful studies were under the noble Seneca, and Nero would often give himself to music and poetry. It is said that when Rome was in flames he called for his harp and sang the song of burning Troy. When his crucifixions and his gladiatorial shows came to an end, and to save himself from an outraged populace he took his own life, his last words were a confession of his innermost vanity: " In me the world loses a great artist."
Vespasia'nus, Titus Flavius, Emperor of Rome, was born near Reate, in the country of the Sabines, in A.D.9. After serving with distinction in Germany and in Britain as commander of a legion, he was made consul. He afterwards became proconsul of Africa and on the rebellion of the Jews he was sent with an army into Judæa (A.D.66). He reduced nearly all Galilee, and was preparing to attack Jerusalem when he received news of Nero's death (A.D. 68). Then followed the emperors Galba, Otho, and Vitellius .
In A.D. 69 Vespasian was himself elected emperor by the army, and arrived in Rome about the middle of the year 70, leaving the siege of Jerusalem to his son Titus. One of the greatest of the Caesar's, he immediately reformed the discipline of the army, purified the senatorial and equestrian orders, and improved the administration of justice.
Vespasian, constituted a new aristocracy, at one stroke he created a thousand new aristocrats, calling to Rome the finest men of character and substance whom he could discover in the provinces of the empire. He enjoyed the arts, letters and science, for its satisfaction Rome turned to Quintilian, Pliny, and Josephus .
" By virtue of one of those surprises of which history, by some mysterious caprice, is full,'' says one historian, the grandsons of the Gauls, the Spaniards, and the Africans conquered by Rome were more truly Roman than the descendants of those families of Central Italy which had conquered the empire.
The result of this reform was a new energy in the world, peace reigned, commerce flourished, the unity of the world seemed to be secure. Under the Roman Emperor and Roman Senate the turbulence of barbarous nations were held in check . Vespasian rebuilt part of the city, restored the capitol, and erected the gigantic amphitheatre, the ruins of which are still celebrated under the name of the Coliseum. Vespasian died in June, A.D. 79. his new aristocracy continued to play its part, during succeeding reigns.
Vespasian's son, Titus, has been honoured jointly with his father for the capture of Jerusalem, in A.D. 70, and whose memory visibly survives through the existing Arch of Titus in Rome, and the spacious Colosseum close by, built for the amusement of the Roman populace, in the main by the Jewish prisoners whom Titus had captured.
Titus also witnessed the destruction of the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum by an eruption of Vesuvius (A.D. 79). After Titus his tyrannical brother Domitian reigned till his death by assassination in A. D. 96, when an aged senator, Nerva, was proclaimed as his successor.
Nerva's reign was short (96 - 98) but beneficent, and he was followed by four emperors, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius, who together reigned for more than eighty years, and under whom the countries making up the Roman Empire enjoyed in common more good government, peace and prosperity than ever before or after.
Trajan (98 - 117) was a warlike prince, and added several province. to the Roman Empire, a great general who set aside the guiding principle of Augustus that Rome should preserve peace within her already enormous territory, and should seek no further conquests. Goaded by reprisals by the warlike Dacians on the Danube frontier, Trajan conquered them after bitter warfare; and then emulating Alexander the Great in the East, proceeded to cross the Euphrates sail down the Tigris, annex Mesopotamia, Armenia, and Assyria, and navigate the Persian Gulf. It was a tradition with the Romans that they never went back, Their god of boundaries, Terminus, they regarded as fixing a foot so firmly that it could never be moved. But Trajan's advance eastward led to the tradition being overthrown.
Hadrian, in full, Publius Ælius Hadrianus, the fourteenth in the series of Roman emperors, born at Rome, 24th Jan. 76 A.D. His father, died when he was ten years old, who was the cousin of emperor Trajan, who adopted Hadrian, who then married Sabina, Trajan's grand-niece. Hadrian accompanied the emperor on his expeditions, filled the highest offices of state, and, on the death of Trajan, assumed the government as his adopted son (117). He was compelled in wisdom to relinquish the lands that had been too hastily over-run by an inordinate ambition, and Terminus was no longer an unvanquished Roman god. He had given ground. He made peace with the Parthians, renouncing all conquests east of the Euphrates, bought off a war with the Roxolani by payment of a sum of money. From the year 121 he spent most of his time in visiting the major provinces of the empire. Hadrian's policy was a peaceful one, because he saw that the further extension of the empire only weakened it.
Both Trajan and Hadrian were urged to check the constant spreading of Christianity, and some degree of persecution took place. But the wiser Roma, emperors did not approve of religious interference, and made laws which though on some points allowing persecution, were really a defence against it. In short, the better Caesars sought to prevent all religious quarrels. The crisis was reached, strangely enough, in the reign Marcus Aurelius.
Although avoiding war as much as he could, he kept the armies in excellent condition, fortified the frontiers in Germany, and, crossing over into Britain, constructed the, wall know as Hadrian's Wall, which protected the Roman province from the barbarous tribes of the north. He next traveled into Asia and Africa, and lived in Athens for three years. In 131 he promulgated the Edictum Perpetuum, a fixed code of laws, which forms an important epoch in the development of Roman law. In 132 the, Jews revolted, and for four years carried on a bloody war, the only notable one of his long reign. Hadrian died at Baiæ in 138 .
Antoninus Pius (138 - 161) was likewise the adopted son of his predecessor. In his reign the northern wall in Britain, between the Forth and Clyde, was constructed.
The next emperor, Marcus Aurelius (161 - 180), was both the son-in-law and the adopted son of Antoninus Pius . He combined the qualities of a philosopher with those of an able and energetic ruler. As a boy he was remarkable for three things: the beauty of his figure, the precocity of his genius, and the courage with which he sought to overcome the feebleness of his health by vigorous and exacting games. The Emperor Hadrian made him a knight when he was six, and a priest when he was eight. He studied music, geometry, literature, and philosophy, and at 12 put on the philosopher's robe. He was gentle, sensitive, and delicate, yet he taught himself to believe that pain can be thought away, and he was for ever saying, " See to your opinions," meaning that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us. He taught that the happiness of every man depends on himself, on what he thinks, not on the circumstances of his life, and he believed that everyone is sent into the world to work for the good of the human race.
By wrestling, boxing, racing, and hunting, to which added the boyish game of ball, Marcus Aurelius strengthened his body so that he was able to bear the exhaustion of a soldier in the field and a scholar in his study. He became one of the greatest of the Roman emperors, one of the most admired of all philosophers, and the book of his Meditations is known to this day in every civilised nation.
Throughout the Roman Empire, houses
even in remote England, treasured among their possessions the bust of this emperor. Yet once more a great man's
mistake is seen standing out in human history, for Marcus Aurelius, by one single act at the end of his life, undid
the great work of Vespasian, and prepared the way for the downfall of the Roman Empire. He insisted on appointing
his successor. The Senate had chosen Claudius Pompeianus, but the emperor flouted it, and insisted on the dynastic
principle. When he died his son Commodus was 18.
Commodus (180 - 192), the son and successor of Aurelius, inherited none of his father's good qualities, and his reign, from which Gibbon dates the decline of the Roman Empire, presents a complete contrast to those of the five preceding emperors. During hi a reign an era of military despotism ensued. The praetorian guard (the imperial body-guard) became virtually the real sovereigns, while the armies of the provinces declared for their favourite officers, and the throne became the stake of battle.
A short reign, made up of civil war, and ended by assassination, was followed by the military absolutism of an African, Severus, Lucius Septimius, who reigned from 193 to 211. A Roman emperor, born near Leptis, in Africa, of a noble family, in the year 146 A.D. He early showed an ambitious mind and great military ability, at first the empire was content. Severus governed with a swiftness of decision and a strength of power which recalled the great days of Julius Caesar. Under Commodus he commanded the legions in Pannonia, and on the murder of Pertinax in March 193 was proclaimed emperor by his troops. Severus accordingly marched to Rome to subdue the partisans of Didius Julianus, who had purchased the imperial purple from the praetorians. On his approach Julian was assassinated by his own soldiers. Severus gained many adherents, banished the praetorians, and ridded himself of the rivalry of Albinus, commander of the Roman forces in Britain, by conferring upon him the title of Cæsar he then marched to the East against Pescennius Niger, who had also been elected emperor by a powerful army. After many obstinate battles Niger was rooted on the plains of Issus (A.D. 194). Having sacked Byzantium and conquered several eastern nations, Severus returned to Rome. He attempted to assassinate Albinus by his emissaries, but when this had failed of success he met him in battle on the plains of Gaul, near Lyons (February 197), and was again victorious. the adherents of Albinus were destroyed, and on the return of Severus to Rome the richest of the citizens were sacrificed, and their property was confiscated by the emperor. He humbled the Senate, he punished evil-doers, he executed or banished troublesome people, and he fostered the political and military fortunes of the empire. Severus, with his two sons Caracalla and Geta, now marched to the East to repel an invasion of the Parthians, and subjugated Seleuci Babylon, and Ctesiphon. Leaving Parthia he visited the tomb of Pompey the Great, and entered Alexandria .
After subduing an insurrection in Britain, about 210 A. D., he built a stone wall following the line of a similar structure made in the reign of Hadrian (A.D. 120), usually hailed as Hadrian's Wall . It was a defence against the incursions of the Caledonians which stretched from the Tyne to the Solway Firth , more than 70 miles long. On the north towards Scotland was a great ditch, on the southern edge of this was a stone wall varying from 6 to 9 feet in breadth and about 16 feet high, with towers, between 50 and 60 feet square at intervals of about a Roman mile. South of this was an earthen rampart, then a second ditch, backed by two minor earthen ramparts. At larger intervals were the stations or barracks. Remains of which are still to be seen, he died at York, A.D. 211.
Severus, insisted on the dynastic principle, and left the sovereignty to his Sons Caracalla and Geta.
Alexander Severus, who reigned from 222 till 235, was also an able ruler, and was also the first emperor who openly extended his protection to the Christians.The true master of Rome was the army. And under another Severus (Alexander Severus) the army revolted, slew the emperor, and set up its own nominee, Maximin, a brave soldier who could scarcely speak one word of Latin. Severus death was followed by a period of the greatest confusion, thus came civil war, running on through years of crisis, in which numerous emperors, sometimes elected by the senate, sometimes by the soldiers, followed one another at short intervals, or claimed the empire simultaneously. This period is. known as the era of the Thirty Tyrants. Meanwhile the empire was ravaged on the east by the Persians, while the German tribes and confederations (Goths, Franks, Alemanni) invaded it on the north. The empire was again consolidated under Aurelian (270 - 275), who subdued all the other claimants to the imperial dignity, and put an end to the Kingdom of Palmyra, which was governed by the heroic Zenobia .
The reign of Diocletian (284 - 305) is the last major example of Caesarism, Diocletian was nevertheless fated to be the destroyer of the Roman Empire. His policy was simple and ruinous, surrounded by enemies, and with Asian barbarism pressing on the eastern confines of the State, he decided to barbarise the empire. He turned his back on Europe, and prostrated himself before Asia. Diocletian was a great soldier, and a man who in his heart preferred justice to injustice but he set himself to destroy Christianity. He regarded it as a religion fatal to imperial greatness and worthy only of slaves and outcasts.His reign lives as the reign of martyrdom.
But in the midst of this persecution he was seized with illness, and he relinquished his power, it is one of the greatest surrenders in history, the first example of the division of the empire which ultimately led to the formation of the empire of the West and the empire of the East. Finding the number of the barbarian violators of the Roman frontier too great for him he adopted as joint-emperor Maximian; and in 292 each of these associated with himself another, to whom the title of Caesar was allowed. Diocletian took Galerius, and Maximian his son-in-law Constantius Chlorus. These four now divided the empire between them. Diocletian assumed the government of the East with Thrace, allotting to Galerius the Illyrian provinces; Maximian assumed Italy, Africa, and the islands of the Mediterranean; and left to Constantius Spain, Gaul, and Britain.
Diocletian went on to live in retirement, spending the last days of his life in beautifying his gardens and adding to the splendour of his palace. Today in the ruins of the palace of Diocletian at Spalato (Split),on the Adriatic coast; stands in the very midst of the gardens, more than sixteen hundred years after his death, a Christian cathedral .
Maximianus, Marcus Aurelius Valerius Herculius, a Roman emperor, who became colleague of Diocletian in the empire 286 AD. He endeavoured to murder his rival Constantine, to whom he had given his daughter Faustina in marriage, and being frustrated by the fidelity of the latter, strangled himself 310. He was the father and contemporary of Maxentius.
In 323 Constantine, the son of Constantius, was left sole master of the empire.Ever since the time of Augustus and Tiberius, Christianity had been spreading in the Roman Empire, notwithstanding terrible persecution . The great duel between Asia and Europe had come to an end. Rome became the seat of Christianity, Byzantium, which was hence called Constantinople (330) the seat of the Roman Empire, and completely reorganized the imperial administration.
The number of churches and congregations had increased in every city; the old religion had died out, and very few believed in it; so at last Constantine judged it wise to make the Christian religion the religion of the empire. From the throne of the Caesars the spirit of Christ spread into Germany, into France, into Ireland, into Britain. In a letter addressed to quarreling Christians, Constantine tells us that he had favoured this new religion because he had thought that by faith in One God " the conduct of public affairs would have been much facilitated, " and he cried out " Restore to me, I pray you, my quiet days and my nights without anxiety, so that I may for the future know the charm of the pure joy of life "
Constantine is specially interesting to us from his personal association with Britain. His father, Constantius, in his early soldiering days, married an innkeeper's daughter named Helena, but he rose in the world till he became a Caesar, or soldier-ruler, in Gaul. His son Constantine did not accompany him to the West, but remained with Galerius, the Roman commander in the East. Again Constantius received promotion, and became Augustus in the West. He wished his son to follow, and asked Galerius to allow young Constantine to come to him. But Galerius was suspicious of the family union, for Constantine had already distinguished himself in the field.
Constantine, however, set out on the journey on his own account, and, riding so rapidly as to make it impossible that anyone should overtake him, or carry a message to any place before him, he crossed Europe from Asia Minor to the English Channel, reaching Boulogne just as his father was about to leave Gaul and chastise the Caledonian tribes, who were harassing the northern parts of Roman Britain. Constantine accompanied his father, who, after a victorious campaign, died at York, and there the Roman legions of the West promptly saluted the son as their Augustus and Emperor.
Constantine was a great man, but there were seeds of orientalism in his character which were fatal to the glory of Rome. He gave himself up to elaborate pomp and ritual, he surrounded himself with a religious mysteriousness; he lived like an Asian tyrant. For all his Christian profession, he was at heart an eastern potentate.
It is said that while engaged in one of his numerous civil wars there appeared to Constantine a vision of a flaming cross, with the words, " By this sign shalt thou conquer." But it was not until he lay on his deathbed many years afterwards that he was baptised, although he had dedicated to the Virgin Mary the new city of Constantinople which he founded, and had issued many edicts, such as the observance of Sunday as a day of rest, which seem to show that he was genuinely interested in Christianity. Certainly, in spite of his eastern influences, he endeavoured to suppress the horrors of eastern religions, and passed laws which improved the lot of his poorest subjects.
Out of the simple and moral teaching's of Jesus men had a theology, a single religion which was fatal to its own dynastic claim. Men have still not learned that those who take the sword will perish by the sword, the day is surely dawning when this mighty struggle of evolution will end at last, in the universal brotherhood of man united in love and service under the Fatherhood of the Almighty God.
Constantine died in 337. the empire was left among his three sons, of whom Constantius became sole ruler in 353 .
The next emperor, Julian the Apostate, sought to restore the old religion, but in vain. He was an able ruler, but fell in battle against the Persians in 363. He was succeeded by Jovian, who reigned less than one year; and after his death (364) the empire was again divided, Valens (364 - 378) obtaining the eastern portion, and Valentinian (364 - 375) the western . From this division, which took place in 364, the final separation of the eastern and western empires is often dated. In the reigns of Valens and Valentinian great hordes of Huns streamed into Europe from the steppes of Central Asia . After subduing the eastern Goths (Ostrogoths) they attacked those of the west (Visigoths); but these, since they had already been converted to Christianity, were allowed by Valens to cross from the left to the right bank of the Danube, and settle in Moesia . In their new homes they found themselves exposed to the oppression and rapacity of the Roman governor, and when they could no longer brook such treatment they rose in rebellion, and defeated Valens in the sanguinary battle of Adrianople, in the flight from which the emperor lost his. life (378). His son Gratianus created the heathen Theodosius co-regent and in trusted him with the administration of the East. Theodosius became a Christian, fought successfully against the Western Goths, but was obliged to accept them as allies in their abodes in Moesia and Thrace. In 394 the whole empire was reunited for the last time under Theodosius. Alter his death (395) the empire was divided between his two sons, Honorius and Arcadius, and the eastern and western sections became permanent divisions of the empire, the latter being now under Honorius .
In 402 Alaric, king of the Visigoths who were settled on the south of the Danube, was incited to invade Italy, but he was soon forced to withdraw on account of the losses he suffered in battle (403). Scarcely had these enemies retreated when great hosts of heathen Teutonic tribes, Vandals, Burgundians, Suevi, and others, made an irruption into Italy on the north; but these also were overcome by Stilicho, the guardian of the youthful emperor Honorius, in the battle of Fæulæ (or Florence), and compelled to withdraw (406).
The Burgundians now settled in part of Gaul, while the Vandals and Suevi crossed the Pyrenees into Spain. Five centuries after the rise of the first great Caesar, Rome fell to the sword of Alaric in 408 he marched into Italy, advanced up to the walls of Rome, and ultimately took the city by storm (410). Shortly after Alaric died, and his brother-in-law Athaulf (Adolphus) concluded a treaty with Honorius, and retired into Gaul, where the Visigoths founded in the south-west a kingdom that extended originally from the Garonne to the Ebro (412).
About this time also the Romans practically surrendered Britain, by withdrawing their forces from it, and thus leaving it a prey to Teutonic pirates and northern savages. In 429 the Vandals wrested the province of Africa from the empire and set up a Vandalic kingdom in its place. In 452 the Huns left their settlement. in immense numbers under their king Attila, destroyed Aquileia, took Milan, Pavia, Verona, and Padua by storm, laid waste the fruitful valley of the Po, and were already advancing on Rome when the Roman bishop, Leo I., succeeded in inducing them to conclude a peace with Valentinian, and withdraw. Soon after their leader Attila, died (453), and after that the Huns were no longer formidable. Two years alter the death of Attila, Eudoxia the widow of Valentinian, the successor of Honorius, invited the assistance of the Vandals from Africa, who under their leader Genseric proceeded to Rome, which they took and afterwards plundered for fourteen days, showing so little regard to the works of art it contained as to give to the word vandalism the sense it still expresses (455). They then returned to Africa with their booty and prisoners. After the withdrawal of the Vandals, Avitus, a Gaul, was installed emperor. Under him the Suevian Ricimer, the commander of the foreign mercenaries at Rome, attained such influence as to be able to set up and depose emperors at his pleasure.
The last of the so-called Roman emperors was Romulus Augustulus (475 - 476 A.D.). His election had been secured through the aid of the German troops in the pay of Rome, and these demanded as a reward a third part of the soil of Italy. When this demand was refused, Odoacer, one of the boldest of their leaders, deposed Romulus, to whom he allowed a residence in lower Italy with a pension, and assumed to himself the title of King of Italy, thus putting an end to the Western Roman Empire, A.D. 476.