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Early Empire: Octavian to the
end of the Pax Romana
Gaius Iulius Caesar Octavianus:
Who was he?
Gaius Iulius Caesar Octavianus
• Creator of the Roman Empire
• Not a soldier; Rather “sickly”, probably asthma
• Advantages:
• Really, really smart, political genius
• His best friend, Marcus Agrippa was his main general
and best friend
• After the battle of Actium, Octavian
was the master of the Roman World
• In 27BC, he formally resigned his
power and returned it to the Senate.
• 27BC: The Senate begged him to
reconsider, and he agreed to accept
the following
• Consul
• Proconsul of major provinces,
• Pontifex Maximus.
• Later he resigned the office of
Consul, and was given the office of
• Offices didn’t matter; he had total
power, but kept it hidden behind the
trappings of the republic.
Titles of Octavian
• In 27BC, the Senate also granted
him the title Augustus, “revered
• He also kept the title Imperator,
or military commander
(“commander in chief”)
• He preferred the title Princeps:
1st citizen
• Did not flaunt his power; lived &
dressed simply
• His house was a “normal” upper
middle class house
• When he had big parties he would
eat a little bread and cheese
• His wife Livia and his daughter Julia
spun wool and made his tunics
• Made himself a man who stood up
for traditional family values:
• He made adultery illegal,
• He passed laws that penalized members
of the Senatorial class who did not
• Hepassed a law that said that women
were “emancipated after having 3
Daughter Julia (39BC-14AD)
• Married cousin Marcellus. He died
• Married Marcus Agrippa, had 5 children
• Married Tiberius, who hated her.
• Was exiled to the island of Pandeteria
when her many affairs were revealed.
• Was probably starved by Tiberius after
the death of Augustus
What AUGUSTUS –Octavian
(Emperor: 31BC-14AD) did:
• Organized the city of Rome into 14 districts with
police and fire protection
• Totally organized the structure of the empire so that
it rolled along for almost 500 years despite some
incompetent or insane emperors after him
(bureaucratic inertia)
• Built roads, bridges aqueducts, buildings
• Expanded the empire
• Brought peace; started the period called the “Pax
Teutoburg forest-biggest military defeat
• With his friend Agrippa in charge
of the army, expanded the
boundaries of the empire to the
Rhine & Danube rivers. Agrippa
died in 12BC. Then Tiberius
conquered to the Elbe River.
• 3 Roman legions were ambushed
and annihilated by Germans.
• The Roman legions were
commanded byQuinctilius Varus.
• Varus’s assistant was a German
named Arminius, who served in
the Roman army, double-crossed
Varus, and led them into a trap.
• Augustus kept saying:“Quinctilius
Varus, give me back my legions!”
Ara Pacis
• Ara Pacis
Mausoleum of Augustus
Mausoleum of Augustus
• Senate & Assemblies still existed; Consuls,
praetors & censors were still elected, but their
power was greatly diminished
• One man was actually in charge, the Emperor
• There was no set way of deciding who would be
the next emperor (no rule of succession) so there
was often a power struggle
Imperium: Augustus
I Claudius
Death of Augustus, 14AD
• On the last day of his life he asked every
now and then whether there was any
disturbance without on his account; then
calling for a mirror, he had his hair
combed and his falling jaws set straight.
After that, calling in his friends and
asking whether it seemed to them that
he had played the comedy of life fitly, he
added the tag:
• “Do you think I have played part well?
Then everybody clap your hands and
from dismiss me from the stage with
• Suetonius
after Augustus related to Julius Caesar)
• Tiberius
• Caligula
• Claudius
• Nero
TIBERIUS (Emperor: 14AD-37AD)“tristissimus hominum”
• Step-son of Augustus; son of
Augustus’ wife Livia from her
previous marriage. Tiberius
Claudius Nero.
• After his grandsons all died,
Augustus adopted him, thus making
him his heir, Tiberius Iulius Caesar.
• Augustus had already forced him to
divorce his beloved wife Vipsania
and marry Augustus’ daughter Julia,
whom Tiberius detested (Augustus
later had to exile his daughter Julia
for her numerous acts of adultery)
TIBERIUS (Emperor: 14AD-37AD)“tristissimus hominum”
• Excellent general, expanded Roman
territory during the life of Augustus
• Even before he became emperor, he
was depressed, and retreated to the
island of Rhodes, probably to get
away from his wife Julia.
• By 4AD, it was clear that Tiberius
was the successor and he was
recalled to Rome.
• Became Emperor in 14AD
TIBERIUS (Emperor: 14AD-37AD)“tristissimus hominum”
• As Princeps, he was at first a
very good administrator,
who carefully supervised
finances, balanced the
budget, and chose good
• Eventually he became
depressed and reclusive
again; moved to the island
of Capri and left much of
the work to the head of the
Praetorian Guard, Sejanus.
Tiberius ruled by proxy,
more or less, from Capri.
TIBERIUS (Emperor: 14AD-37AD)“tristissimus hominum”
• When it was clear that
Sejanus was carrying out a
reign of terror, he had
Sejanus arrested and
• A few years later Tiberius
died. It is said that Romans
• Tiberius was succeeded by
his nephew Caligula.
CALIGULA(Emperor: 37AD-41AD)
• Real name: Gaius Caesar
Augustus Germanicus
• Caligula was a nickname –
meant “little boots”
• When he was 20, Tiberius
adopted him (Tiberius’s own
son had died)
• At first he was popular
CALIGULA(Emperor: 37AD-41AD)
• It became apparent that he was insane
• Claimed to be all the gods at once. Claimed he
had defeated Neptune in battle.
• Ordered a statue of himself set up in the
Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. This caused riots
among the Jewish people
• He led Roman army to the English Channel
where he ordered the troops to gather
• Was said to be a bit too fond of his three
• Was said to be planning to make his horse a
consul (or senator)
• Was murdered by the Praetorian Guard (after
the threatened to kill members of the Senate)
• Produced by Penthouse
• This one is bad
CLAUDIUS (Emperor 41AD-54AD)
• Name: Tiberius Claudius Nero
• Only member of the family who
was eligible and alive (they kept
murdering each other)
• Physical problems: limped &
drooled; thought by some to be
stupid, but was actually
intelligent and a scholar
CLAUDIUS (Emperor 41AD-54AD)
• Fairly good emperor; capable but
• Built aqueducts, harbors, etc.
• Conquered Britain & added it to the
• Adopted his wife’s son, Nero
• It is thought that his wife Agrippina
poisoned him with poisonous
NERO (Emperor: 54AD-68AD)
• Probably the most cruel of all the
• Born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, the
son of Claudius’s wife Agrippina (from her
previous marriage)
• Adopted by Claudius as his eldest son,
superseding Claudius’s own son.
• Renamed Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus
• Married Octavia, Claudius’s daughter
• Claudius died the next year, probably
NERO (Emperor: 54AD-68AD)
• At first he listened to advisors, including
the philosopher Seneca.
• Began to assume his own power.
• Had his mother Agrippina murdered.
• Divorced Octavia, and then had her killed.
• Married Poppaea Sabina, the former wife
of a military officer.
• He killed her a few years latter
• Executed many Roman senators because
they questioned his actions.
• Believed he was a great musician and
forced people to listen to his concerts
NERO (Emperor: 54AD-68AD)
• Great fire of Rome, 64AD. He blamed Christians and started
persecuting them.
• He had an enormous palace built: The Golden House—Domus
Aurea—in the middle of Rome in the area left from the first.
• Plan to overthrow him in 65AD failed. He killed more aristocrats
• Nevertheless most of Rome’s provinces were well governed and
peaceful during this time! Government by bureaucratic inertia!
NERO (Emperor: 54AD-68AD)
• In 68AD, military commanders revolted. Nero was declared
a public enemy.
• Nero committed suicide-” What an artist dies in me!”
“Army Emperors” (68AD-69AD)
• The empire was in crisis due to
the misrule of Nero
• 3 emperors ruled a very short
time – Galba, Otho, Vitellius
• Chosen and supported by legions
they commanded
• There was no rule of succession.
• 1st Galba was proclaimed by his
legion. Then Otho was
proclaimed by his legions and
overthrew Galba. Then Vetellius
was proclaimed & overthrew
VESPASIAN (lived 9AD-79AD;
ruled 69AD-79AD)
• Then Titus Flavius Vespasianus was proclaimed
emperor by his legions. He was in Egypt at the
time, where he had been busy putting down a
rebellion in Judea.
• Then other armies around the empire started
declaring themselves for Vespasian.
• A friend marched on Rome from the north in
support of Vespasian.
• Then the Senate declared itself for Vespasian.
• He had two sons, Titus and Domitian. The three
of them are the Flavian dynasty.
VESPASIAN (lived 9AD-79AD;
ruled 69AD-79AD)
• His “right hand man” was his older son,
Titus. He left Titus in Judea to finish putting
down the rebellion in Judea. Both
Vespasian and Titus were excellent
generals. Titus was his virtual co-ruler
• Vespasian was born in Reate, a town north
of Rome. Vespasian and his older brother
were the first generation of their family to
reach Senatorial status. His older brother
was the first of their family in politics.
• He commanded the Legio II Augusta, a key
legion in the invasion of Britannia. (This
happened during the time of Claudius)
• He incurred the displeasure of Nero by
falling asleep at one of his concerts.
VESPASIAN (lived 9AD-79AD; ruled 69AD79AD)
• He wanted to present himself as a down-to-earth,
normal guy after Nero. And he did.
• Nero had vastly overspent. He had to raise taxes
to get the finances stabilized. People didn’t
mind—much. But he succeeded in stabilizing
• Even put a tax on public toilets. Titus told he that
this tax was unpopular. He replied: “Pecunia non
olet!” Money doesn’t smell.
• In France, a common name for a public urinal is
“Vespasienne”; in Spain and (at least) some other
Spanish-speaking countries, “Vespasiana”.
• He was known for his sense of humor, and for
being stingy.
Old vespasienne in Paris
VESPASIAN (lived 9AD-79AD;
ruled 69AD-79AD)
• He tore down Nero’s infamous “Golden House”, and began building the
Colosseum, the Flavian Amphitheater, were it’s lake had been. This was
to give back the land to the people.
• It wasn’t finished until shortly after he died and was dedicated by Titus.
• Overall, a popular and successful emperor, known for his down-to-earth
personality and wit.
Final words: assumed to be ironic, since he
didn’t believe that emperors became gods.
VESPASIAN (lived 9AD-79AD;
ruled 69AD-79AD)
• Interesting side story:
• In his early twenties, he “dated”a woman
named Antonia Caenis, who was a slave, the
personal secretary of Antonia, mother of
• She was known for being highly skilled
secretary and having a “photographic
• When he married Flavia Domitilla he broke of
the relationship. His wife had their 3 children
and then died.
• Then he resumed his relationship with
Antonia Caenis (now a freedwoman, who had
made herself a fair amount of money ) , and
she was his wife in all but name for the rest of
her life. She was his assistant in financial
TITUS (lived: 39AD-81AD; ruled 79AD81AD)
• Titus only ruled 3 years. Then he got a fever and died. His main
contributions were as virtual co-ruler during the reign of his father.
• He dedicated and opened the Flavian Amphitheater.
• He was extremely popular with the Roman people.
• Was the emperor when Mount Vesuvius erupted!
DOMITIAN: lived 51AD-96AD;
ruled 81AD-96AD
• Titus Flavius Caesar Domitianus Augustus
• Youth spent in the shadow of his older brother.
• Vespasian was very close to his son Titus. Domitian
probably felt left out.
• During the reigns of Vespasian and Titus, Domitian
received a lot of honors and honorary positions, but
not real responsibility. Both thought he was unfit.
• Some historians think he killed his brother and
made it look like a sudden illness, but there is no
evidence of this.
• His father tried to arrange a marriage for Domitian,
but he insisted on marrying Domitia Longina, whom
he apparently loved dearly. Later in their marriage
he sent her away for awhile but then brought her
DOMITIAN: lived 51AD-96AD; ruled
• He was in some ways a very good administrator. He
skillfully handled money matters, adjusting upward and
downward (90% to 98% back down to 93.5%) the
amount of silver in coins. In fact, he micromanaged the
• He built or restored many buildings. He built the Temple
of Vespasian and Titus, the Arch of Titus, and put a 4th
level on the Colosseum.
• He sent the general Agricola to conquer Caledonia
(Scotland), but then recalled him, apparently due to
• He withdrew troops from Britannia to fight in Dacia
(Romania) where there was a serious threat. The
situation in Dacia stabilized, and it became a relatively
peaceful client kingdom.
I’m good with
money, but I
DOMITIAN: lived 51AD-96AD; ruled
• However, he abandoned the practice of pretending that
the Republic still existed and talked openly about his
divine right to rule. This angered the Senate.
• He forbade mimes (probably the most popular form of
drama) from appearing on stage, because he disliked
• He became a religious zealot in favor of the old Roman
religion: He prosecuted the head Vestal Virgin for unchastity, and she was buried alive. He stepped up
persecution of Christians.
• He continued to stress the reality of his autocracy. After
about 93AD, he accused and executed about 20
senatorial opponents for treason.
• Shortly before Domitian was assassinated, Domitian
ordered the execution of his secretary Epaphroditus.
I rule!!!
DOMITIAN: lived 51AD-96AD;
ruled 81AD-96AD
• A conspiracy to assassinated Domitian ar
• A man named Stephanus was chosen to
do the deed.
• There had been a prediction that he
would die on Sept. 18, 96AD, and he was
• Domitian went to his desk to sign some
decrees. Stephanus stabbed him.
Domitian and Stephanus wrestled on
the ground and Domitian stabbed
Stephanus, he died shortly thereafter.
Domitian was overpowered and stabbed
by other conspirators.
• He was succeeded by his advisor Nerva.
NERVA: lived 30AD-96AD; ruled 96AD-98AD
• The same day that Domitian was killed, the Senate declared Nerva emperor
• He had been consul several times and had served under all three Flavians;
an older man and a safe choice.
• He is considered wise and moderate by historians.
• He called an end to the treason trials
• He granted land to very poor citizens
• He lowered taxes for poorest Romans and abolished the special tax on Jews.
• The smartest thing he did as emperor was to adopt Trajan as his heir
• NERVA-good leader
• TRAJAN – Good leader
• Great general
• r;uled when the empire was at its largest
• HADRIAN: very gifted leader
& knew all parts of the empire very well;
Goal was to “Romanize” (bring Roman culture to) all parts of the Empire;
patron of the arts;
built Hadrian’s wall-wall between Roman Britain and Scotland-the
northern boundary of the Empire
• ANTONINUS PIUS- good leader
• MARCUS AURELIUS-good leader & extremely good man
• also a famous Stoic philosopher
• After him his son Commodus-who was a very bad ruler-took power; last
of the “5 Good Emperors”
Trajan: lived 52AD-117AD; ruler 98AD-117AD
• Marcus Ulpius Traianus
• From Spain. 1st emperor not from Italy
• Excellent soldier; popular & highly respected; very good administrator
• Nerva made him governor of upper Germany in 96AD, then adopted
him as heir in 97AD.
• When Nerva died in 98AD, he first made a made a tour of inspection to
see the legions along the Rhine and Danube
• Entered Rome in 99AD on foot. Crowds rejoiced. He embraced each of
the Senators. Was popular with both
Trajan: lived 52AD-117AD; ruler 98AD-117AD
• He was very “manly”: he liked to hunt,
climb mountains, and genuinely liked war.
• As Emperor he conquered Dacia (Romania)
in 106AD.
• He brought the empire to its largest extent.
• He improved roads and bridges. He build a
bridge across the Rhine in Dacia.
• He set aside funds for the upkeep of poor
children in Italy, including food and
subsidized education (alimenta)
• He finally had a stoke and tied. His ashes
were placed in Trajan’s Column.
• May you be luckier than Augustus, better
than Trajan –felicior Augusto, melior
The bridge over the Danube was later
dismantled to protect the empire from
Bridge in Spain built by Trajan
Hadrian Lived 76-138AD; ruled 117-138AD
• Born in Spain, a cousin of Trajan.
His father died when Hadrian was
young, and Trajan became his
• When Trajan died, his wife
presented papers adopting
Hadrian as his heir, but Plotina
signed them, not Trajan, so their
authenticity is doubtful
• Hadrian believed that the empire
shouldn’t expand any more. He
abandoned Trajans conquests in
Mesopotamia, believing it to be
I think the
empire is
already big
Hadrian Lived 76-138AD; ruled 117138AD
• Hadrian traveled almost continually
through the empire. His goal was to
Romanize all parts of the empire.
• Hadrian loved Greek art & culture. He
wrote poetry. He imitated the Greek
style by wearing a beard. Some Romans
thought he was a little “too much
• He built libraries, aqueducts, baths and
• The original Pantheon was built by
Marcus Agrippa, but Hadrian rebuilt it in
the form we have it today.
Oh how I
love Greek
art, don’t
you? And
don’t you
love my
Hadrian Lived 76-138AD; ruled 117-138AD
• He built permanent fortifications along the empire’s borders
includingHadrian’s wall across northern England and fortifications
along the Danube and Rhine mostly built of wood,
• To keep the army busy, he put emphasis on military drills and spit
and polish. He gave eloquent speeches to the troops
• His policy was primarily one of peace, not war. The Senate resented
his lack of aggressive policy.
Hadrian Lived 76-138AD; ruled 117-138AD
• Hadrian had a relationship with a handsome youth
named Antinous from about 123AD-130AD, when
Antinous drowned in the Nile on a trip to Egypt.
• Hadrian was devastated by the loss. He proclaimed
Antinous a deity and promoted a cult to worship
him. This caught on to some extent in Greek
(Hellenistic) lands.
• Many statues were made of him and at least 28
temples were built to him. This was more popular
in Hellenistic regions than in in Rome itself.
• He adopted Antoninus Pius as his heir.
• He attempted suicide several times, all thwarted
by Antoninus Pius. Antoninus Pius got the Pius part
of his name because he tried so hard to take care
of Hadrian when he was old.
• He died.
Hadrian Lived 76-138AD; ruled 117-138AD
Hadrian Lived 76-138AD; ruled 117-138AD
Antoninus Pius Lived 86AD-161AD, ruled
• No records of military campaigns in which
he participated. What fighting occurred he
left to his generals
• His reign was the most peaceful in the
entire history of the Roman Empire.
• He did authorize an invasion of southern
Scotland. There were some victories, and
the border was pushed northward. He built
the Antonine Wall.
• He was a skilled administrator and builder.
Built bridges, and especially aqueducts. He
emphasized free access to to drinking
water in Rome and throughout the empire
Antoninus Pius Lived 86AD-161AD, ruled
• Sent ambassador to China.
• Passed laws improving treatment of slaves:
• Presumption that a person had been
freed if it was not clearcut.
• Punishment for killing or mistreating a
• A Proconsul could take a slave away for
constant mistreatment.
• He adopted Marcus Aurelius
Be kind to
your slaves.
Marcus Aurelius: lived 121AD-180AD, ruled
I’m the good
• He was adopted by Antoninus Pius, and also
married Faustina, the daughter of Antoninus Pius
• He worked with Antoninus learning the business of
government from him.
• Before becoming emperor, he adopted Stoicism.
The basic ideas:
• Divine Reason rules the world
• The human soul is part of the divine reason.
• You should accept what happens to you without
• He wrote the “Meditations”, thought by many to be one
of the great books of all time.
• He made some mistakes, but historians agree that his
character was impecable.
old emperor
who died at
the beginning
of the movie
Marcus Aurelius: lived 121AD180AD, ruled 161-180AD
• Lots of bad things happened during his rule, but they weren’t his
• There were invasions in Egypt, Spain and Britain. There was a
major war with Parthia (Persia). The Roman’s won the war, but the
soldiers brought back a disease.
• A pandemic or “plague” of smallpox or measles. It caused about 5
million deaths.
Bad things
can happen
even to good
people like
Marcus Aurelius: lived 121AD-180AD, ruled
• There was never a rule of succession-a rule to decide who became
the next emperor
• Sometimes it was the son of the previous emperor, sometimes not
• Often the army decided who was the next emperor