Sovereign Debt Crisis
Fall of Communism
Fall of Fascism in Southern Europe
World War II
The Battle of Stalingrad (23 August 1942 – 2 February 1943) was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) in the south-western Soviet Union. Marked by constant close quarters combat and disregard for military and civilian casualties, it is amongst the bloodiest battles in the history of warfare. The heavy losses inflicted on the Wehrmacht make it arguably the most strategically decisive battle of the whole war. It was a turning point in the European theatre of World War II–the German forces never regained the initiative in the East and withdrew a vast military force from the West to replace their losses.
Scenes from Battle of Stalingrad – The dead of the battle of Stalingrad
Scenes from Battle of Stalingrad – Barmaley Fountain, Stalingrad, 1942
Rommel (aka the “Desert Fox” for his African campaign during WWII) and Guderian were two prominent German generals who are generally associated with what has come to be known as Blitzkrieg, the first in practice from the beginning of the French Campaign of 1940 and the latter as a theorist in Panzer Leader. “Blitzkrieg” describes a method of warfare whereby an attacking force spearheaded by a dense concentration of armoured and motorized or mechanized infantry formations, and heavily backed up by close air support, forces a breakthrough into the enemy’s line of defense through a series of short, fast, powerful attacks; and once in the enemy’s territory, proceeds to dislocate them using speed and surprise, and then encircle them. Whether it was a neat and formal theory derived from the mistakes of WWI (as advocated by Liddell Hart) or a more adhoc set of solutions and tactics implemented on the ground is contentious. Ultimately, it may be more sound to deconstruct Blietzkrieg into is component tactical and operational reforms: (1) The prominent use of mobile motorised armoured divisionsl; (2) Bewegungskrieg (“maneuver warfare”) and its associated leadership system called (3) Auftragstaktik (“mission tactics”), where units are assigned missions; local commanders decide how to achieve those missions); (4) Schwerpunkt (focal point) and the Schwerpunktprinzip (concentration principle), a center of gravity or point of maximum effort, where a decisive action could be achieved; (5) The pursuit of targets behind enemy lines by divisions that broke through schwerpunkts instead of engaging neighbouring areas of the front lines. (6) The destruction of pockets of resistance left behind by schwerpunkt attacks in concentrict Kesselschlacht, (“cauldron battle”) attacks on such encircled enemy forces. Throughout, and particularly during Kesselschlacht, (7) the use of air support was crucial. Clearly this set of tactics is not without its problems and may fail in the presence of defence in depth, well organised and focused adversaries and if supply lines become too stretched. However this does was not the case and ultimately this set of principles led to the expedient and successful German victory during the Battle for France. It should finally be said that Hitler offered little contribution to this manner of conducting warfare and that both Rommel and Guderian are known to have openly disagreed with Hitler. Rommel in particular is known for his honourable treatment of prisoners of war and his participation in a failed coup to overthrow Hitler. Germany’s early success during WWII was not linked to any imagined superior virtues of the dominant Nazi ideology, but rather occurred despite them.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (1939) between Nazi Germany and the USSR was a non-aggression pact between the two powers. In secret protocls it also established mutually exclusive spheres of influence between the two powers in Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland, with an eye to eventual conquests.
After the murder of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by Herschel Grynszpan (a Polish Jew), the SA were used for “demonstrations” against the act. In violent riots, members of the SA shattered the glass storefronts of about 7,500 Jewish stores and businesses, hence the appellation Kristallnacht (Crystal Night) to the events. Jewish homes were ransacked throughout Germany. This pogrom damaged, and in many cases destroyed, about 200 synagogues (constituting nearly all Germany had), many Jewish cemeteries, more than 7,000 Jewish shops, and 29 department stores. Some Jews were beaten to death and more than 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and taken to concentration camps.Thereafter, the SA became overshadowed by the SS, and by 1939 had little remaining significance in the Nazi Party.
The Night of the Long Knives (1934) was a purge within the Nazi party and among senior conservative politicians that were deemed to not be sufficiently loyal to Adolf Hitler. The attack concentrated between June 30th and July 2nd, ended rampant and controversial rebellion and hooliganism of the paramilitary SA that had challenged Hitler’s authority, shifted enforcement of Nazi doctrine to the army, Gestapo and SS and reinforced the stability of the new Nazi regime. Among others, victims include Rohm (centre), General von Schleicher (second at the bottom), Strasser (third at the bottom) and many direct supporters of Von Papen (first at the bottom), who had persuaded president Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor in the belief that he could be controlled in a minority Nazi cabinet.
The Reichstag fire of 27 February 1933 precipitated the issuance of the Reichstagsbrandverordnung by President Hindenburg at the instigation of Hitler, who had been appointed as Chancellor on 30 January 1933. After passing the decree, the government instituted mass arrests of Communists, including all of the Communist parliamentary delegates. With their bitter rival Communists gone and their seats empty, the National Socialist German Workers Party went from being a plurality party to the majority
Hitler As Chancellor with Hindeburg 1933
The stock market crash of 1929 heralded a decade of economic contraction, made worse by subsequent bank runs, contractionary monetary policy and the absence of a credible “lender of last resort“, despite initial efforts of wealthy investors to buy assets in the hope of averting a downwards depreciation of the market. The perceived failure of liberal regimes to stop the crash’s effects to spill over to the rest of the world and to deal with the problems and defend standards of life throughout the western world and Europe in particular, led to the escalation of political extremism and the spread of Italy’s totalitarian fascist political regime to Portugal, Spain and Germany.
The rise of Italian fascism can find its roots in the betrayal of 1915 promises made by the Triple Entente to Italy in order to galvanise its support and change of alliances with the Central powers (see irrendentism, expansionism, London Pact of 1915 and the 1920 Treaty of Rapallo), by the subsequent industrial conflicts between workers and capitalists, the lack of popularity of socialism among the Italian rural population, and the coalition of the National Fascist Party with the Landowner class and the Vatican.
German Unification: Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian Wars
Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815)
Napoleon’s Rise to Power
It was the first modern legal code to be adopted with a pan-European scope, and it strongly influenced the law of many of the countries formed during and after the Napoleonic Wars.
Civil Wars in France and UK – La Fronde & the Glorious Revolution
Edict of Potsdam (1685) issued by Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia, to attract the protestant minorities being chased from France due to the Edict of Fontainebleu issued the same year. It offered Hughenots tax-free status for ten years, and allowed them to hold church services in their native French.
The Edict of Fontainebleu issued by Louis XIV in 1685 revoked all privileges attributed to the Hughenots since the Edict of Nantes and confirmed eversince, albeit in parallel to increasing suppression of local Hughenots lords. Although there was no war akin to the one conducted by Henry IV the brain drain is believed to have had a very negative impact on France.
The Fronde (1648-1653): Civil war of France between the infant King Louis XIV and his Lords and the King and the parlements
30 Years War
The Peace of Westphalia (1648) was a series of diplomatic treaties concluded between the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, the Dutch Republic, France, Sweden and their allies which ended the Thirty Years war (1618-1648) of religion and paved the way to the nation-states of the 19th century by recognizing the right of sovereign states to observe their own laws (and religions) free of foreign interference.
The (2nd) Defenestration of Prague (1618) is generally considered to be the starting event of the thirty years war. On this occasion, 2 representatives of the fiercely Catholic Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia Ferdinand II were thrown out of a castle window in Prague, capital of staunchly protestant Bohemia.
Following the Peace of Augsburg (1555) the political trigger of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) was a dispute between Bohemian protestants and their incoming sovereign Ferdinand II, King of Bohemia since 1617 and Holy Roman Emperor since 1619. Following the replacement of the aloof and heirless Emperor Rudolf II by the similarly heirless Matthias in 1612, the latter eventually moved to make his cousin Ferdinand his successor, to maintain power within the house of Habsburg. However, where the Catholic Rugolf II and Mattias had been willing to overlook the principle of cuius regio, eius religio established at the peace of Augsburg in order to appease the local protestant majority, since Rudolf II issued the 1609 Letter of majesty, the staunchly Catholic Ferdinand II had no such intentions. Fearing repression and the loss of hardly fought for liberties, the locals favoured the more tolerant Elector Palatinate Frederick V as their preferred candidate for King of Bohemia. The civil war that ensued took religious features and triggered the Thirty Years War.
Despite the conversion of Henri of Navarre from his native protestant Calvinism to Catholicism in 1593, his Edict of Nantes (1598) was supposed to guarantee the freedoms of religion of his early protestant supporters.
Battle of Ivry (1590): The battle was a decisive victory for Henry IV of France, leading Huguenot forces against the Catholic League forces led by the Duc de Mayenne. Henry’s forces were victorious and he went on to lay siege to Paris. However, he was defeated in many sieges of Paris until he converted to Catholicism in 1593, concluding that “Paris vaut bien une messe” and was allowed into the city.
Looting of the Churches of Lyon by the Calvinists (1562):
Peace of Augsburg (1555): Representatives of the German estates at the Augsburg conference discuss the possibilities of a religious peace, following the victory of the Schmalkaldic War by Charles V. Despite his victory of the Schmalkaldic war, the religious fractures in the territories of the Holy Roman Empire forced the Emperor to recognise the right of religious self determination: cuius regio eius religio.
Reformation and Counter Reformation
Francois I of France (1515-1547) and Henry VIII (1509-1547) were second only to Charles V in the European geopolitical scene in the first half of the 16th century. It can be argued that Charles’s sack of Rome (1527) and virtual imprisonment of Pope Clement VII in 1527 prevented the Pope from annulling the marriage of Henry VIII of England and Charles’s aunt Catherine of Aragon. Meanwhile, Francois I ruled when the latest religious rift between Catholics and Protestants began, and following the Affaire des Placards actively began persecuting Zwinglians, Waldasians and paleo-Calvinists, opening the way for France’s war of religions. During his reign, French also replaced Latin as the kingdom’s administrative language.
Charles V, King of Spain (1516-1556), Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire , King of Germany and King of Italy (1519-1556), and Lord of the Netherlands (1506-1555) was the dominant sovereign of his age. Brought up in Flanders, he became leader of most of Europe. He used the riches from the newly discovered South American continent to ensure his election as Holy Roman Emperor. His reign was plagued by three different conflicts. Francois I of France (reign 1515-1547) found his reign encircled by Charles V‘s dominions and found enough allies to fight Charles in 3 different Italian wars (including the Italian War of 1521-26, the Italian War of 1536-38, the Italian War of 1551–1559). Religious controversies and deviations from orthodoxy and central commands that coalesced into the wars of religion within the Holy Roman Empire. Finally, his reign also saw the advance of the Ottoman Empire headed by Suleiman the Magnificent as far as the gates of Vienna in 1529. He abdicated all his thrones and retired to a monestary by the end of the 1550s. The Spanish and Italian possessions were inherited by his son Phillip II while the Habsburg crown of the Holy Roman Empire went to his brother Ferdinand I.
The Western World in 1500AD
Diet of Worms (1495): This legislative meeting between Emperor Maximillian I and the imperial electors laid the foundation stone for a comprehensive constitutional reform of the empire (Reichsreform).
The Eternal Peace (a ban on feuding), the Imperial Chamber Court and the Common Penny were the outstanding and defining results of the Diet of Worms in 1495. Due to their novelty at that time they were not able to be implemented immediately (or even at all), but at least the Eternal Peace and the Imperial Court laid the foundations of the present constitutional state. Considerably more important, however, were the less tangible results of the Diet of 1495. It heavily influenced the Diet both as a concept and an institution. For the first time, the nobles had gathered to make policy. Institutionalization and rule of law had been pursued. Above all the king accepted the institution of the Diet as a powerful political tool.
Frederick III of Saxony (17 January 1463 – 5 May 1525), aka Frederick the Wise was ruler of Saxony during the Reformation, and early supporter of Martin Luther. He was also one of the strongest drivers of reform in the Holy Roman Empire that would give electors a direct say in imperial policy via the Reichstag at the 1495 diet of Worms.
The Gutenberg Bible (1450): Considered the first book to ever be printed through with a printing press, it stands as a symbol of democratisation of information by a technological improvement that reduces the production costs and sale price. It laid down the ground for the Reformation, Enlightenment and Humanism.
The Age of the Discoveries
15th Century: Italian City States, France, Holy Roman Empire and Fall of Byzantium
The Battle of Agincourt (1415) was a major English victory in the Hundred Years War. Despite outnumbering the English 2:1 or 4:1, depending on modern estimates, the French nobility showed such hubris, lack of professionalism and greed in their actions that they excluded archers from most of the battle and charged in heavily packed formations through recently plowed land against the English formation in the hope of capturing British knights for ransom. Limited mobility caused by the cramming of knights and muddy soil made for easy pickings for the English.
The rise of the Medici Family: Cosimo (1389-1464), Piero (1416-1469) and Lorenzo (1449 – 1492) ruled Florence in the second half of the 15th century. They are the epitomes of the rise of Italian families to the leadership of their city-states thanks to privileged roles in finance and trading. The period of Lorenzo di Medici is renowned for also being the period of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo. The financial traditions of the Medicis runs in parallel to those of Venice and Genoa and as is indebted to the merchand bankers of cereal (commodities spot and futures traders) in Lombardy, to the Medieval fairs, the Templars and the Hospitalers’ role during the Cruzades and money changers dating back to the Roman empire and Greece.
Middle Ages – From the Crusades to the Hundred Years War
The Western World in 1400AD
Crusades Against the Heretics and Early Centre-Periphery Struggles
Jan Huss (1369-1415) was a Czech priest, philosopher, reformer, and master at Charles University in Prague. After John Wycliffe, the theorist of ecclesiastical Reformation, Hus is considered the first Church reformer, as he lived before Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli. He was burned at the stake
To put an end to the papal schism and to take up the long desired reform of the Church, he arranged for a general council to convene on 1 November 1414, at Konstanz (Constance). Hus likewise was willing to make an end of all dissensions and agreed to go to Constance, under Sigismund’s promise of safe passage. Imprisonment and preparations for trial
Spiezer Chronik, 1485
Map of the area where Hus was burnt at the stake
Jan Hus at the stake after being drawn out to be defend himself at the Council of Constance (1415) by a promise of free passage from Sigismund of Hungary, who was “King of the Romans”, that is head of the Holy Roman Empire, though not then Emperor and heir to the Bohemian crown.
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350, and killing between 75 million and 200 million people. Although there were several competing theories as to the etiology of the Black Death, recent analysis of DNA from victims in northern and southern Europe indicates that the pathogen responsible was the Yersinia pestis bacterium probably causing several forms of plague.
The Black Death is thought to have started in China or central Asia. It then travelled along the Silk Road and reached the Crimea by 1346. From there, it was probably carried by Oriental rat fleas living on the black rats that were regular passengers on merchant ships. Spreading throughout the Mediterranean and Europe, the Black Death is estimated to have killed 30 to 60 percent of Europe’s population. All in all, the plague reduced the world population from an estimated 450 million to a number between 350 and 375 million in the 14th century.
The aftermath of the plague created a series of religious, social and economic upheavals, which had profound effects on the course of European history. It took 150 years for Europe’s population to recover. The plague reoccurred occasionally in Europe until the 19th century.
The Western World in 1300AD
The Western World in 1200AD
Fibonacci (1170–1250), Dante (1265–1321) and Petrarch (1304-1374) are fundamental cultural characters of the first 3 centuries of the second millenium. Fibonacci for his crucial role in introducing Hindu-Arabic numerals to Europe and the other two for their contributions to Italian culture.
The Third Crusade (1189–1192) was triggered by the conquests of Christian Kingdom of coastal enclaves by Saladin. It was led by famous leaders such as Saladin, Richard the Lionheart, Philippe Auguste of France and the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Neither side was entirely satisfied with the results of the war. The campaign was largely successful, capturing Acre, Jaffa, and reversing most of Saladin’s conquests, but it failed to capture Jerusalem, the emotional and spiritual motivation of the Crusade. Richard’s decision not to push towards Jerusalem was particularly controversial. However, his victories facilitated the survival of a wealthy Crusader kingdom centered on Acre.. Richard was arrested and imprisoned in December 1192 by Duke Leopold, who suspected him of murdering his cousin Conrad of Montferrat. Leopold had also been offended by Richard casting down his standard from the walls of Acre. He was later transferred to the custody of Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, and it took a ransom of one hundred and fifty thousand marks to obtain his release. Richard returned to England in 1194 and died of a crossbow bolt wound in 1199 at the age of 41. In 1193, Saladin died of yellow fever. His heirs would quarrel over the succession and ultimately fragment his conquests. Henry of Champagne was killed in an accidental fall in 1197. Richard’s decision not to attack Jerusalem would lead to the call for a Fourth Crusade six years after the third ended in 1192.
The Western World in 1100AD.
The First Crusade (1095-1099) was conducted by European Lords at the behest of Pope Urban. Its main leaders were Hugh of Vermandois, Godfrey of Bouillon and his brother, Robert, Raymond of Toulouse and Bohemond of Taranto, among others. The leaders of the main polities, Phillippe I of France (Brother of Vermandois) and Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV did not participate because they were both at odds with the Catholic Church over marriage and the Investiture Controversy, respectively. The First Crusade succeeded in establishing the “crusader states” of Edessa, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Tripoli in Palestine and Syria (as well as allies along the Crusaders’ route, such as the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia).
The Viking Invasions and Expansion
Erik Evergood of Denmark, Inge the Elder of Sweden, and Magnus Barefoot of Norway
The rule of Cnut the Great (1016–1035) over his North Sea Empire that included England, Norway, Denmark and Skone in modern-day Sweden shortly precedes the end of the Viking age of expansion. In his rule we can see the effect of Christianisation and its management by the king over a religiously heterogenous realm. Christianisation began at the behest of one of Charlemagne’s sons, Louis the Pious, who sponsored an unsuccessful mission to Denmark by Ebbo, archbishop of Rheims, Saint Willibrord, Apostle to the Frisians, Willerich bishop of Bremen, and Halitgar, Bishop of Cambrai, in 823 and later by Saint Ansgar, to whom the conversion of Scandinavia is generally attributed. However, Christianisation was not adopted until the late 10th-11th century and is likely to have lived in parallel with paganism for up to 200 years. Canute IV, in Denmark, Inge the Elder, in Sweden, and Olaf Tryggvaason, in Norway appear to be the first kings to have converted to Christianity. The end of the Viking Age is consistent with the establishment of literate, organised structures of royal authority throughout Scandinavia and the end of raids from the peninsula and runs in parallel to the conversion of Scandinavia to Christianity. It is marked by the 1066 Battles of Stamford Bridge and Hastings in Britain, by the 1030 Battle of Stiklestad in Norway. In Sweden, the reign of king Olov Skötkonung (995–1020) is considered to be the transition from the Viking age to the Middle Ages, because he was the first Christian king of the Swedes and he is associated with a growing influence of the church in what is today southwestern and central Sweden. Finally, the rise of Hughes Capet in France and the resolution of the dynastic competition between the houses of Welf of Bavaria and the Hohenstaufen of Swabia for the Holy Roman Empire’s throne following the end of the Carolingian dynastyalso fragilised most of central Europe and limited its ability to resist the onslaught of Norsemen and the destruction that followed.
The Western World in 1000AD.
Rollon, Robert I of Normandy (846 – 932) (or Hrolfr)was the first Duke of Normandy, created in 911 by Charles the Simple (Great-great grandson of Charlemagne), King of Western Francia (what came to be known as France). He was probably the leader of the force left behind by Sigfried after the 835-836 siege of Paris. Following his return to the French capital in 911, he was confronted by Frankish opposition that After Charles was deposed by Robert I in 922, Rollo considered his oath to the King of France at an end. It started a period of expansion westwards. Negotiations with French barons ended with Rollo being given Le Mans and Bayeux and continued with the seizure of Bessin in 924. The following year the Normans attacked Picardy.
The unification of Norway and Sweden as triggers of the 9th century Viking Age: In line with the discussed hypothesis in the text following the map below showing the Viking Expansion, I think it might be appropriate to highlight an apparent but not completely certain fact, that both Swenden and Norway became engaged and succeeded in efforts to unify their territories under a single ruler between the 9th and the 10th century, coinciding with the increased Viking raids faced in central and western Europe. As far as I can ascertain, Norway was unified during the reign of Harald Fairhair (872-930) a process that continued until 1050 (see Figures 1, 2 and 4 above). In Sweden, the process might have started at the same time, but took longer to be completed. The reality of some of the earliest intervening characters seems to also be somewhat questionable. Sweden’s contemporary king to Harald Fairhar was Eric Anundsson or Eymundsson, who died in 882. According to the Hervarar saga Erik Anundsson was the king of the Swedes around Uppsala, as opposed to the Geats in the south. He was succeeded by his son, Björn Eriksson (ruled 882–932). There seems to be a 10 year gap as far as my limited sources can tell, but upon Bjorn’s death his sons, Eric the Victorious and Olof Björnsson, seem to have ruled together for a time. Eventually Erik seems to have poisoned Olof and went on to defeat what seems like a Geat invasion from the south led by Styrbjörn the Strong at the battle of Battle of Fýrisvellir (984), after which he finally united (most of the territory of present-day southern Sweden (Figure 4, above). The possible late 9th century Olaf Dynasty of Denmark and its Swedish origin, documented in the Sigtrygg Runestones in Schleswig-Holstein, is also contemporary to these events as are the incursions of Ivar the Boneless into England against the forces of Etherlred I of Wessex in 868. The hypothesis that sounds the most credible to me is that the political consolidation in the Scandinavian peninsula was a main trigger for the Viking age and the havok it helped create all over Europe . I can see two possible mechanisms through which this would have worked. First, the process of consolidation would have pushed the losing Jarls to seek fortune abroad. Secondly, the domestic stability afforded by internal power consolidation, even at its earliest stages, may have created the agency and unity of action necessary to conduct foreign incursions. It’s actually quite difficult to establish which is which and perhaps both are right at different times and for different Viking leaders in Danemark, Norway and Sweden. The second hypothesis is consistent with the later experiences of Great Britain and France during the 16th century and the activities of state-sponsored pirates like Jean-Francois de La Roque de Roberval and Sir Francis Drake. It is consistent with the Norwegian theory that Rognvald’s Eysteinsson and his possible son Rollon of Normandy, might have been supported from Harald Fairhair. However, the first hypothesis would be correct if one considers Rollon, 1st duke of Normandy, to be the son of “a powerful Danish nobleman at loggerheads with the king of Denmark”. Meanwhile, the establishment of the Kievan Rus in 882 by Rurik and his brothers Sineus and Truvor, most likely Swedes from Roden or Roslagen areas in Svealand. An interesting fact about the Viking expansion is that be it in French Normandy, Sicily, the British Isles or in modern Russia, the Scandinavian warriors that did settle simply seem to have replaced the existing elites and were quickly absorbed by their subjects and neighbours. Thus, the Rus quickly became Slavs, Rollon’s sons became French and so on. This is also consistent with the absorption of Visigoths and most invading barbarians after the fall of the Roman Empire, although the larger scale of those invasions left more apparent signs of symmetric ethnic mixing between invaders and invaded.
The Viking Expansion between the 700s and the 1000s has at least 5 possible explanations. 1st, that the Viking population may have exceeded the agricultural potential of their homeland. This may have been true of western Norway, where there were few reserves of land, but it is unlikely the rest of Scandinavia was experiencing famine. 2nd, some scholars propose that the Viking expansion was driven by a youth bulge effect: since the eldest son of a family customarily inherited the family’s entire estate, younger sons had to seek their fortune by emigrating or engaging in raids. However, no rise in population, youth bulge, or decline in agricultural production during this period has been definitively demonstrated. Nor is it clear why such pressures would have prompted expansion overseas rather than into the vast, uncultivated forest areas in the interior of the Scandinavian Peninsula, although perhaps emigration or sea raids may have been easier or more profitable than clearing large areas of forest for farm and pasture in a region with a limited growing season. 3rd, it is also possible that a decline in the profitability of old trade routes drove the Vikings to seek out new, more profitable ones. Trade between western Europe and the rest of Eurasia may have suffered after the Roman Empire fell in the 5th century, and the expansion of Islam in the 7th century may have reduced trade opportunities within western Europe by redirecting resources along the Silk Road.Trade in the Mediterranean was at its lowest level in history when the Vikings began their expansion. The Viking expansion opened new trade routes in Arabic and Frankish lands, and took control of trade markets previously dominated by the Frisians after the Franks’ destroyed the Frisian fleet. 4th, The end of the Viking expansion coincided with the assimilation of Scandinavia into the Christian world. One of the primary sources of profit for the Vikings had been slave-taking. The medieval Church held that Christians should not own fellow Christians as slaves, so chattel slavery diminished as a practice throughout northern Europe. This took much of the economic incentive out of raiding, though sporadic slaving activity continued into the 11th century. Scandinavian predation in Christian lands around the North and Irish Seas diminished markedly. Finally, and most likely in my opinion, the Viking expansion also coincided with the consolidation of internal polities in Norway and Sweden.
The Western World in 900AD.
Following the death of Charlemagne, Salic inheritance law left his successors to fight for his empire, leading to its division in three: Charles the Fat (839-888) is the last of the Carolingians to rule (881-888) an empire roughly the same size as that of Charlemagne, following the reigns of Charlemagne’s sons Pepin the Pious (813-840), Lothair I (817-855), Louis the Younger (844-875) and Charles the Bald (875-877). His inability to find a legitimate successor led to revolts among his nobles who chose to support his nephew Arnulf (887-899) in East Francia. When he died at a time of revolt among the nobles of Lower Germany and of increasing raids from Magyars into Moravia he was succeeded by his infant son Charles the Child (900-911) who died at 17, ending the Carolingian dynasty in Germany. The latter was then succeeded by Conrad (908-918) In Easter Francia, Henry Fowler (919-936) would eventually succeed Conrad and establish, with his son Otto I (962-973) the Ottonian dynasty of Holy (German) Roman Emperors in the tradition of Charlemagne. In France, Odo of France‘s (888-898) rule was short-lived. He, the count of Paris whose heroic leadership had saved Paris from the Viking siege of 855-856, was replaced by Charles the Simple (898-922), who himself was replaced by Robert I (922-823), who himself was succeeded by Rudolph of France (923-936), followed by Louis IV (936-954), Lothair (941-986) and Louis V (986-987), who was eventually deposed by Hugh Capet (987-996), putting an end to the Carolingian dynasty in the France.
Dark Ages, Second Migration, Rise of Islam, Carolingian Empire
The Western World in 800AD.
Charlemagne’s imperial coronation by the Pope on December 25, 800. Following the example of Clovis’ leadership of the West, building on the success of Charles Martel, Charlemagne moved to become the hegemon of the West and strengthen the role and influence of the Franks in the region as the protector of the Pope and of the Catholic faith against the Lombards. His reign saw a revival of antique knowledge and an improvement of administrative capacity and centralisation. His successors and their divisions ensured the separation of the French and German peoples into different states, the Kingdom of France and the Holy Roman (German) Empire, and its component fiefs, kingdoms and statelets.
At the Battle of Tours (732), Charles Martel, Mayor the Palace in the last days of the Frankish Merovingian Dynasty, defeated Abd Ar-Rahman Al Ghafiqi and his Muslim north-African forces, establishing the frontier of Christianity and Islam at the Pyrenees until 1035, when France became bordered by the Christian kingdom of Aragon. Charles Martel arrived following an extremely fast march of his army at the request of Odo, Duke of Aquitaine, after the muslim force pillaged his domains. In exchange for Charles’ victory and support, Odo accepted Frankish overlordship of Aquitaine and remained lord of Aquitaine and Vasconia.
751 – Battle of Talas (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Talas). (Intro of paper to islam, by which means it world get to Europe.
Most comprehensive historical chronicle of the Battle of Tours (732) where Charles Martel’s ChristianFrankish forces defeated the Islamic Umayyad forces led by Abd Ar-Rahman Al Ghafiqi. It provides the first use of the word “Europenses” as refering to Western Christians, natives of “Europa” by association.
Slavic migration (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavic_migration)
Saint Balthild and the abolition of slavery (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bathilde)
Radhanite jewish traders keep East-West commerce routes alive (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radhanite)
Rise of Islam (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_history)
The Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628 was the final and most devastating of the series of wars fought between the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire and the Sasanian Empire of Persia. The previous war between the two powers had ended in 591 after Emperor Maurice helped the Sasanian king Khosrau II regain his throne. In 602 Maurice was murdered by his political rival Phocas. Khosrau proceeded to declare war, ostensibly to avenge the death of Maurice. This became a decades-long conflict, the longest war in the series, and was fought throughout the Middle East and eastern Europe: in Egypt, the Levant, Mesopotamia, the Caucasus, Anatolia, and even before the walls of Constantinople itself. While the Persians proved largely successful during the first stage of the war from 602 to 622, conquering much of the Levant, Egypt, and parts of Anatolia, the ascendancy of emperor Heraclius in 610 led, despite initial setbacks, to the Persians’ defeat. Heraclius’ campaigns in Persian lands from 622 to 626 forced the Persians onto the defensive and allowing his forces to regain momentum. Allied with the Avars, the Persians made a final attempt to take Constantinople in 626, but were defeated there. In 627 Heraclius invaded the heartland of the Persians and forced them to sue for peace. By the end of the conflict both sides had exhausted their human and material resources. Consequently, they were vulnerable to the sudden emergence of the Islamic Rashidun Caliphate, whose forces invaded both empires only a few years after the war. The Muslim forces swiftly conquered the entire Sasanian Empire and deprived the Byzantine Empire of its territories in the Levant, the Caucasus, Egypt, and North Africa. Over the following centuries, half the Byzantine Empire and the entire Sasanian Empire came under Muslim rule.
The Western World in 600AD
St Leander of Seville and his brother, St Isidore of Seville, belonged to an influential Gallo-Roman family in Hispania (both spent some time in Constantinople). Leander was instrumental in the conversion of Hermenegild and Reccared (587) from Arianism to Catholicism, in what appears to be a mirror development to what happened to Clovis in Gaul through St Remigius.
Justinan’s gains were large but not durable. In his efforts to renew the Roman Empire, Justinian dangerously stretched its resources while failing to take into account the changed realities of 6th-century Europe. Paradoxically, the grand scale of Justinian’s military successes probably contributed in part to the Empire’s subsequent decline.
Emperor Justinian (527-565) was the last powerful (Eastern) Roman Emperor. His reign saw his campaigns to reconquer the West, the high cost of which (including Justinian’s plague of 541-542) was devastating to Italy as well as the eastern world, where it killed up to a quarter of the population, increased dependency on non-integrated barbarians and foreshadowed economic losses to Europe that the expansion of Islam would later consolidate. These losses were themselves foreshadowed by the costs of conducting Justinian’s campaigns, which emptied what had been the full coffers or Justin I and Anastasius. His main surviving contribution to the Western world is the Justinian Code, the first legal code to be published since the Theodosian Code.
1st Migration Period, Early Barbarian Kingdoms & Fall of the Western Roman Empire, Continuation of Byzantium
Clovis appointed four commissioners to research uses of laws that, until the publication of the Salic Law, were recorded only in the minds of designated elders, who would meet in council when their knowledge was required. Transmission was entirely oral. Salic Law therefore reflects ancient usages and practices. In order to govern properly, the monarchs and their administrations needed the code in writing. The name of the code comes from the circumstance that Clovis was a Merovingian king ruling only the Salian Franks before his unification of Frankia. The law must have applied to the Ripuarian Franks as well; however, containing only 65 titles, it may not have included any special Ripuarian laws.
The Liber Iudiciorum (642/643) comprises a set of laws promulgated by the Visigothic king of Hispania, Chindasuinth in his second year (642/643). They were enlarged by the novel legislation of Recceswinth (for which reason it is sometimes called the Code of Recceswinth), Wamba, Erwig, Egica, and perhaps Wittiza. In 654 Recceswinth promulgated the code anew after a project of editing by Braulio of Zaragoza, since Chindasuinth’s original code had been quickly commissioned and enacted in rough.
They are often called the Lex Visigothorum, law of the Visigoths. However, this code abolished the old tradition of having different laws for Romans and for Visigoths; all the subjects of the kingdom would stop being romani and gothi to become hispani. In this way, all the subjects of the kingdom were gathered under the same jurisdiction, eliminating social apart from juridical differences.
The laws were preserved by the Moors, who allowed Christians to follow them during their occupation of the Iberic Peninsula.
The Lex Burgundionum code was compiled by King Gundobad (474-516)( nephew of Flavius Ricimer), very probably after his defeat by Clovis I in 500. Some additions were subsequently introduced, either by Gundobad himself or by his son Sigismund. This law bears the title of Liber Constitutionum, indicating that it emanated from the king; it is also known as the Lex Gundobada or Lex Gombata. It was used for cases between Burgundians, and was also applicable to cases between Burgundians and Romans. For cases between Romans, however, Gundobald compiled the Lex Romana Burgundionum
The Breviarium of Alarici is a collection of Roman law, compiled by order of Alaric II, King of the Visigoths, with the advice of his bishops and nobles. It was promulgated on February 2, 506, the 22nd year of his reign. It applied, not to the Visigothic nobles under their own law, which had been formulated by Euric, but to the Hispano-Roman and Gallo-Roman population, living under Visigoth rule south of the Loire and, in Book 16, to the members of the Trinitarian Catholic Church. (The Visigoths were Arian and maintained their own clergy.)
The Codex Euricianus or Code of Euric was a collection of laws governing the Visigoths compiled at the order of Euric, King of Spain, sometime before 480, probably at Toulouse (possible at Arles); it is one of the earliest examples of early Germanic law. The compilation itself was the work of Leo, a Roman lawyer and principal counsellor of the king. The customs of the Visigothic nation were recognised and affirmed. The Code is largely confused and it appears that it was merely a recollection of Gothic custom altered by Roman law.
The code entrenches a clear stratification of Gothic and Gallo-Roman society. There is the class of lords, who are called either domini or patroni depending on whether they were lords of slaves or freemen. And there are two classes of freemen who have lords above them: the buccellarii and the saiones. The Code was in fact the first legal recognition of the buccellariatus, an office which the Roman Emperors were trying to ban. The buccellarii were a knightly class, they could change lords, but they had to return all the landed benefices they had received from their former lord.
Clovis I 466-511(513?) was the first king of the Franks to unite all of the Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the form of leadership from a group of royal chieftains to rule by a single king and ensuring that the kingship was passed down to his heirs. He was also the first Christian king to rule Gaul, known today as France.
Clovis was the son of Childeric I, a Merovingian king of the Salian Franks, and Basina, Queen of Thuringia. He succeeded his father in 481, at the age of 15. His conversion from paganism to Catholic Nicene Christianity on 496 by St Remigius (St Remi, himself extracted from high Gallo-Roman nobility of northern Gaul) is attributed to the influence of his wife, St Clotilde, or the Gallo-Roman Remi or to the need to distinguish himself from the Arian Visigoths competing for power in the region and gain the support of the Gallo-Roman aristocracy of Aquitaine. Clovis is considered the founder of the Merovingian dynasty, which ruled the Franks for the next two centuries.Numerous small Frankish kingdoms existed during the 5th century. The Salian Franks were one of two Frankish tribes that occupied the area west of the lower Rhine known as Toxandria, between the Meuse and Scheldt (in what is now the Netherlands and Belgium).
Childeric I, Clovis’ father, became king of the Salian Franks in 457 upon the death of his father, Merovech, ruling over lands he had received as a foederatus of the Romans. In 463 he fought in conjunction with Aegidius, the magister militum of northern Gaul (and an old colleague of Marcellinus), to defeat the Visigoths in Orléans. Childeric died in 481 and was buried in Tournai; Clovis succeeded him as king.
Under Clovis, the Salian Franks came to dominate their neighbours, initially aided by the association with Aegidius. Historians believe that Childeric and Clovis were both commanders of the Roman military in the Province of Belgica Secunda and were subordinate to the magister militum. Between 481 and 511 Clovis turned against the Roman commanders, however, defeating the Gallo-Roman ruler, and son of Aegidus, Syagrius in the Battle of Soissons (486), considered the end of Western Roman rule outside of Italy. These conquests were then followed by wars against Burgundians (unsuccessful) and conquest of the other Frankish as well as Visigothic Kingdoms. Aside from the unification of Gaul under one Frankish Kingdom, Clovis I is famous for converting to Catholic Christianity from Arianism and for the fact that his kingdom was partitioned among his four sons, Theuderic, Chlodomer, Childebert, and Clotaire. This partition created the new political units of the Kingdoms of Rheims, Orléans, Paris and Soissons, and inaugurated a tradition that would lead to disunity lasting, with brief interruptions, until the end of the Merovingian dynasty in 751.
Odoacer appears to have been a soldier of unclear Germanic stock. Although Jordanes writes of Odoacer as invading Italy “as leader of the Sciri, the Heruli and allies of various races”, modern writers describe him as being part of the Roman military establishment, based on John of Antioch’s statement that Odoacer was on the side of Ricimer at the beginning of his battle with the emperor Anthemius in 472. Procopius goes as far as describing him as one of the Emperor’s bodyguards.
When Orestes was in 475 appointed Magister militum and patrician by the Western Roman Emperor Julius Nepos, he became head of the Germanic foederati of Italy (the Scirian – Herulic foederati). However, Orestes proved to be ambitious, and before the end of that year Orestes had driven Nepos from Italy. Orestes then proclaimed his young son Romulus the new emperor as Romulus Augustus. However, Nepos reorganized his court in Salona, Dalmatia and received homage and affirmation from the remaining fragments of the Western Empire beyond Italy and, most importantly, from Constantinople, which refused to accept Augustulus and branded him and his father traitors and usurpers.
About this time the foederati, who had been quartered on the Italians all of these years, had grown weary of this arrangement. In the words of J. B. Bury, “They desired to have roof-trees and lands of their own, and they petitioned Orestes to reward them for their services, by granting them lands and settling them permanently in Italy”. Orestes refused their petition, and they turned to Odoacer to lead their revolt against Orestes, whom they killed at Placentia . The Germanic foederati, the Scirians and the Heruli, as well as a large segment of the Italic Roman army, then proclaimed Odoacer rex Italiae (“king of Italy”). In 476 Odoacer advanced to Ravenna and captured the city, compelling the young emperor Romulus to abdicate on September 4, with sources suggesting that he not only spared his life but give him a pension of 6,000 solidii and sent him to Campania to live with his relatives.
Following Romulus Augustus’ deposition,”The Eastern Emperor conferred upon Odoacer the title of Patrician and granted him legal authority to governing Italy in the name of Rome. Zeno also suggested that Odoacer should receive Nepos back as Emperor in the West “if he truly wished to act with justice.” Although he accepted the title of Patrician, Odoacer did not invite Julius Nepos to return to Rome, and the latter remained in Dalmatia until his death. Odoacer was careful to observe form, however, and made a pretence of acting on Nepos’ authority, even issuing coins with his image. Following Nepo’s murder in 480, Zeno legally abolished the co-emperorship and ruled as sole Emperor.
As Bury points out, “It is highly important to observe that Odovacar established his political power with the co-operation of the Roman Senate, and this body seems to have given him their loyal support throughout his reign, so far as our meagre sources permit us to draw inferences.” He regularly nominated members of the Senate to the Consulate and other prestigious offices: “Basilius, Decius, Venantius, and Manlius Boethius held the consulship and were either Prefects of Rome or Praetorian Prefects; Symmachus and Sividius were consuls and Prefects of Rome; another senator of old family, Cassiodorus, was appointed a minister of finance.” A. H. M. Jones also notes that under Odoacer the Senate acquired “enhanced prestige and influence” in order to counter any desires for restoration of Imperial rule. As the most tangible example of this renewed prestige, for the first time since the mid-3rd century copper coins were issues with the legend S(enatus) C(onsulto).
However, while an effort seems to have been made to maintain continuity in the administrative and legal systems of Roman Italy, the Germanic foederati tribes that rebelled against Orestes and constituted the support base of Odoacerm may be one of the reasons why, at least as an excuse, it would have been argued by Zeno that he was not respecting the rights of Roman citizens in Italy. Indeed, in order to maintain his power, he would have had to satisfy those original requests which Orestes had refused the foederati to grant them “to have roof-trees and lands of their own”, possibly expropriating it from existing Roman citizens. Either because of this, or more likely because he considering expansion to the East, Odoacer came to be perceived as a threat by Zeno, who sent Theodoric the Great and his Ostrogoths to conquer Italy. Theoderic came with his army to Italy in 488, where he won the battles of Isonzo and Verona in 489 and at the Adda in 490. In 493 he took Ravenna. On February 2, 493, Theoderic and Odoacer signed a treaty that assured both parties would rule over Italy. A banquet was organised in order to celebrate this treaty. It was at this banquet that Theoderic, after making a toast, killed Odoacer with his own hands.
Bury, disagrees that Odoacer’s assumption of power marked the fall of the Roman Empire: “It stands out prominently as an important stage in the process of the dismemberment of the Empire. It belongs to the same catalogue of chronological dates which includes A.D. 418, when Honorius settled the Goths in Aquitaine, and A.D. 435, when Valentinian ceded African lands to the Vandals. In A.D. 476 the same principle of disintegration was first applied to Italy. The settlement of Odovacar’s East Germans, with Zeno’s acquiescence, began the process by which Italian soil was to pass into the hands of Ostrogoths and Lombards, Franks and Normans. And Odovacar’s title of king emphasised the significance of the change.”
Rome would go on to be sacked another two times in the next 150 years (455 and 546), consistent with the wars and chaos that accompanied the fall of the Roman Empire, destroying its infrastructure and human capital.
Following the debacle of Cape Bon (468), three Roman Emperor followed in quick succession. Olybrius (472) (an aristocrat from the Gens Anicia) and Glycerius and while Julius Nepos was the nephew of Marcellinus and ruled nominally from Dalmatia following his removal by Orestes and the short-lived and final reign of Romulus Augustulus (475-476).
Following the chaos of Ricimer’s hegemony in the West, Eastern Emperor Leo I, the successor of Marcian sponsored a military revival in the West, appointing Anthemius (467-472) as emperor of the Westrn Empire, and funding a 2-front campaign to retake Africa, led by his generals Basiliscus (475-476) and Marcellinus from the sea, Heraclius from land via Egypt and Lybia, largely bypassing Ricimer. Ultimately the campaign was unsuccessful and the Vandals under Genseric imposed a devastating defeat on the Romans at the Battle of Cape Bon (468). The inability to retake Africa left the West bankrupt and the high cost of the campaign meant East was unable to attempt another reconquest for another 100 years.
Avitus (455) and Majorian (456-461) were the successors of Valentinian III. The inertia of Eastern Emperor Marcian left the West at the mercy of its generals, particularly Ricimer who as king maker ensured the rise of Avitus and then of Majorian. While Avitus is most remembered for being of Gallo-Roman stock, for his role in accepting the Visigoth attack on the Suevi and for having been deposed and made Bishop of Piacenza, Majorian was a successful commander who succeeded in domesticating the Visigoths and initiated an unsuccessful campaign of reconquest of Africa, that was the ultimate cause of his murder at the hands of Ricimer.
Valentinian, and Theodosian Dynasties, 1st Migration & Western Collapse ()
Following the devastation of Gaul, Attila the Hun met with Pope Leo I, Gennadius Avienus and Trigetius (452) in the vicinity of Mantua to negotiate terms of peace with the Emperor Valentinian III and withdraw from Italy. The scene is often represented as a scene of glorious persuasion by Pope Leo I on a simple-minded and superstitious Attila the Hun who feared the fate of Alaric, who died shortly after sacking Rome in 410. Most likely, the Huns knew that Eastern Emperor Marcian had sent an army across the Danube to attack Attila’s home and was also aware of the state of devastation of Italy, where famine was widespread in 451 due to poor harvests and war and the conquest of Carthage in 439. Facing these facts, withdrawal was the logical step and required little convincing. Nevertheless, it is worth pointing out that on his way back Attila’s army continued to ravage the country-side. Attila used the excuse of a letter from a Roman noble lady who was
Valentinian III (425-455) was installed by Theodosius II ‘s army led by Ardabur and Aspar and succeeded the usurper Johannes, who had been placed on the throne by Castinus following the deat of Honorius. Valentinian III was the son of Constantius III and Galla Placidia. His entire reign was marked by a power struggle with Flavius Aetius, a Roman General who had been a hostage of the Huns and a supporter of Johannes, but who had arrived with a Hunnic army too late to aid the usurper. Aetius is generally believed to be behind the assassination of Flavius Felix, an early supporter of the Theodosians. Supported by Count Boniface of the Diocese of Africa and the wealth of that province, Valentinian III and Galla Placidia challenged unsuccessfully Aetius in . Nevertheless, Aetius is remembered (inaccurately in my opinion) as the last true Roman of the West. His reputation is mostly the result of his victory over Attila in the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains (451). Valentinian’s reign saw the beginning of true collapse in the West, with no general ever again able to design a strategy of control of the West, overseeing the devastation brought upon the Empire by the Huns, and the economically damaging conquest of Africa by the Vandals in 439.
Following the death of Stilicho in 408, a power vaccum in the west lasted for around 3 years, during which Constantine III continued to challenge Honorius, and the Visigoths, unable to obtain land security sacked Rome under Alaric in 410. Thereafter, Constantius III (who ruled as emperor for 7 months in 421) rose through the ranks to become generalissimo of Honorius and eventually was raise to the purple and married to Galla Placidia (Honorius sister’s and wife to the Visigoth Ataulf, Alaric‘s successor(414-415) after her capture during the sack of Rome in 410 ), as a compensation for his success. Constantius‘ son by Galla was the last Emperor of the Theodosian dynasty in the West, Valentinian III. As described by Heather (2006), Constantius engaged in a 3-stage effort to restore stability to the empire. He first subdued Constantine III, Maximus and Gerontius, reuniting the Roman West under one imperial authority. He then turned his attention to the Visigoths and after settling them in Narbonensis blockaded them into submission. Finally, he turned his attention to Iberia and inflicted sufficient losses on the Vandal, Alan Suevi tribes to cause the Vandals to replace the Alans as the dominant barbarians in the peninsula. However, his premature death in 421caused his efforts to fail as the factions he had brought under control once more began fighting with each other and abandoned plans to impose a final defeat upon the Vandals. This gave free reign to the Visigoths and Vandals and eventually to the Huns to bring havok through the empire, until Leo‘s failed attempt at reunification in 468.
Following the Crossing of the Rhine in 406, the delayed response from the Western elites eventually exacerbated by the death of Stilicho and ensuing struggle for power led to the success of Constantine III‘s rebellion in 407 allowing it to last until his defeat in 411. Britain, had long been a hotbed of revolts and usurpers, probably due to its second tier status at the periphery of the empire. However, the disdain and slow response of the Italian elites vis-a-vis the destruction and pillage visited upon Gaul by the Alans, Vandals and Suevi caused them to support Constantine’s claim to power and further undermine the rule of Honorius during the lead-up to the sack of Rome. Constantine was eventually recognised by Honorius and received the Imperial robes but the rise of Constantius eventually led to his demise. Maximus was an usurper of Constantine III (himself an usurper), likely the son of Gerontius, the general Constantine III had sent to rule Hispania.
31 December 406 is the often-repeated date of the Crossing of the Rhine by a mixed group of barbarians that included Vandals, Alans and Suebi and possibly the Burgundians that established a kingdom on the Western side of the Rhine river in 411. The Rhine-crossing transgressed one of the Late Empire’s most secure borders pronouncing the decline of the Roman Empire and initiating a wave of destruction of Roman cities and the collapse of Roman civic order in northern Gaul. The barbarians may have been migrating due to climate change, fleeing the Huns or refugees from the remnants of Radagaisus‘ defeated Goths. Peter Heather offers some estimates of the numbers involved in the crossing of the Rhine:
Stilicho (359-408) was a Magister Militum who was, for a time, the most powerful man in the Western Roman Empire. Half Vandal and married to the niece of the Emperor Theodosius, Stilicho’s regency for the underage Honorius marked the high point of German advancement in the service of Rome. After many years of victories against a number of enemies, both barbarian and Roman, a series of political and military disasters finally allowed his enemies in the court of Honorius to remove him from power, culminating in his arrest and subsequent execution in 408. Known for his military successes and sense of duty, Stilicho was, in the words of historian Edward Gibbon, “the last of the Roman generals.
After the death of the Western Emperor Valentinian II in 392 and the usurpation of Eugenius, Stilicho helped raise the army that Theodosius would lead to victory at the Battle of the Frigidus (394), and was one of the Eastern leaders in that battle. One of his comrades during the campaign was the Visigothic warlord Alaric, who commanded a substantial number of Gothic auxiliaries. Alaric would go on to become Stilicho’s chief adversary during his later career as the head of the Western Roman armies. Stilicho distinguished himself at the Frigidus, and Theodosius, exhausted by the campaign, saw him as a man worthy of responsibility for the future safety of the Empire. The last emperor of a united Rome appointed Stilicho guardian of his son, Honorius shortly before his death in 395.
Alaric was a King of the Visigoths (successor to Fritigern and Athanaric) from 395–410, most famous for his sack of Rome in 410, which marked a decisive event in the decline of the Roman Empire. Alaric’s first appearance was as the leader of a mixed band of Goths and allied peoples who invaded Thrace in 391, who were stopped by the half-Vandal Roman General Stilicho. Later joining the Roman army, he began his career under the Gothic soldier Gainas. In 394 Alaric led a Gothic force of 20,000 that helped the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius defeat the Frankish usurper Arbogast at the Battle of Frigidus. Despite sacrificing around 10,000 of his men, Alaric received little recognition from the Emperor. Disappointed, he left the army and was elected reiks of the Visigoths in 395, and marched toward Constantinople until he was diverted by Roman forces. He then moved southward into Greece, where he sacked Piraeus (the port of Athens) and destroyed Corinth, Megara, Argos, and Sparta. As a response, the Eastern emperor Flavius Arcadius appointed Alaric magister militum (“master of the soldiers”) in Illyricum. In 401 Alaric invaded Italy, but he was defeated by Stilicho at Pollentia (modern Pollenza) on April 6, 402. A second invasion also ended in defeat at the Battle of Verona, though Alaric forced the Roman Senate to pay a large subsidy to the Visigoths. During the Italian invasion of Radagaisus, Alaric remained idle in Illyria. In 408, Western Emperor Flavius Honorius ordered the execution of Stilicho and his family, amid rumours that the general had made a deal with Alaric. Honorius then incited the Roman population to massacre tens of thousands of wives and children of Goths serving in the Roman military. Subsequently, around 30,000 Gothic soldiers defected to Alaric, and joined his march on Rome to avenge their murdered families. Moving swiftly along Roman roads, Alaric sacked the cities of Aquileia and Cremona and ravaged the lands along the Adriatic Sea. The Visigothic leader thereupon laid siege upon Rome in 408. Eventually, the Senate granted him a substantial subsidy. In addition, Alaric forced the Senate to liberate all 40,000 Gothic slaves in Rome. Honorius, however, refused to appoint Alaric as the commander of the Western Roman Army, and in 409 the Visigoths again surrounded Rome. Alaric lifted his blockade after proclaiming Attalus as Western Emperor. Attalus appointed him magister utriusque militiae (“master of both services”) but refused to allow him to send an army into Africa. Negotiations with Honorius broke down, and Alaric deposed Attalus in the summer of 410, and besieged Rome for the third time. Allies within the capital opened the gates for him on August 24, and for three days his troops sacked the city. Although the Visigoths plundered Rome, they treated its inhabitants humanely and burned only a few buildings. Having abandoned a plan to occupy Sicily and North Africa after the destruction of his fleet in a storm, Alaric died as the Visigoths were marching northward.
Following the debacle of the battle of Adrianople (378), Gratian called Theodosius from his retirement in Gaelicia. Theodosius (379-395)was the son of the Count Theodosius who had been popular and successful under Valentinian I but fallen from favour and killed. His rule saw him battle against the permanent Visigothic presence in Greece in a war of attrition that enjoyed some success but no definitive victory. He became sole ruler of the empire after the death of Gratian and Valentinian II and divided the Empire among his two heirs at his death, under the guidance of his top general the half-Roman/half-Vandal Stilicho. He is remembered as the last Emperor of a united empire, for his Christian piety and for the Edict of Thessalonica (380), which was issued with Gratian. His struggles with Saint Ambrose, who excommunicated him, offer a fascinating contrast with the religious dominance of the emperors of the Constantinian dynasty and the indifference of Valentinian I. Beyond the Emperor’s piety, it is likely that after the defeat of Adrianople left the Emperor in sufficiently fragile a political position to expose them to the influence of religious leaders, which they had previously controlled.
St Ambrose (340 – 397), St Augustine of Hippo (354-430) and St Jerome (347-420) were the leading religious authorities of their time. Ambrose, was sponsored in his early life by the doyen of the Anicii family, Petronius Probus. He was a dominating political figure in his time, defeating through his influence Symmachus in the argument before Gratian over the removal of the altar of Victory from the Senate floor in Rome, forcing penitence and humiliation on Theodosius the Great in Milan and imposing the Edict of Thessalonica that reinstated the primacy of Nicene Christianity over Arianism. He died shortly after delivering Theodisius’ funeral eulogy. Augustine, from North Africa, most famous for his theological work the City of God written after the Sack of Rome in 410 is considered a universalist redefinition of Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church away from the Roman and Imperial centrality that marked the Constantinian, Valentianian and Theodosian dynasties. St Jerome is best remembered as the translator of the Bible into Latin. Protected by Damasus, he was a moralist and enjoyed popularity among early Christian aristocratic ladies such as Marcella, Paula and Lea. However, his dislike of secular Roman clergy and the death of Blaesilla led to his exile in Antioch through the munificence of Paula.
The Battle of Adrianople (9 August 378), sometimes known as the Battle of Hadrianopolis, was fought between a Roman army led by the Roman Emperor Valens and Gothic rebels (largely Thervings as well as Greutungs, non-Gothic Alans, and various local rebels) led by Fritigern. The battle took place about 8 miles (13 km) north of Adrianople (modern Edirne in European Turkey, near the border with Greece and Bulgaria) in the Roman province of Thracia and ended with an overwhelming victory for the Goths.
Part of the Gothic War (376–382), the battle is often considered the start of the final collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century. Adrianople actually was fought between the Goths and the Eastern Roman Empire, which ultimately withstood the Gothic invasions and developed into the Byzantine Empire.
The Goths were a people that most likely originated in the West coast of present-day Sweden, possibly Gotland, although this is disputed. They left their scandinavian native homes in the 800s-700s BCE and throughout the next millenium spread until eventually arriving at the gates of Rome. In the late 4th century, the Huns came from the east and invaded the region controlled by the Goths. Although the Huns successfully subdued many of the Goths, who joined their ranks, a group of Goths led by Fritigern fled across the Danube. They then revolted against the Roman Empire, winning a decisive victory at the Battle of Adrianople. By this time the Gothic missionary Wulfila, who devised the Gothic alphabet to translate the Bible, had converted many of the Goths from paganism to Arian Christianity. In the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries the Goths separated into two main branches, the Visigoths, who became federates of the Romans, and the Ostrogoths, who joined the Huns. The large coalition of the Visigoths would eventually gain entrance into the empire and eventually defeat it in a major engagement in what was to become the first step towards the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. After the Ostrogoths successfully revolted against the Huns at the Battle of Nedao in 454, their leader Theodoric the Great settled his people in Italy, founding a kingdom which eventually gained control of the whole peninsula. Shortly after Theodoric’s death in 526, the country was captured by the Byzantine Empire, in a war that devastated and depopulated the peninsula. After their able leader Totila was killed at the Battle of Taginae, effective Ostrogothic resistance ended, and the remaining Goths were assimilated by the Lombards, another Germanic tribe, who invaded Italy and founded a kingdom in the northern part of the country in 567 AD.
The eldest son of Valentinian I, during his youth Gratian accompanied his father on several campaigns along the Rhine and Danube frontiers. Upon the death of Valentinian in 375, Gratian’s brother Valentinian II was declared emperor by his father’s soldiers. In 378, Gratian’s generals won a decisive victory over the Lentienses, a branch of the Alamanni, at the Battle of Argentovaria. Gratian subsequently led a campaign across the Rhine, the last emperor to do so, and attacked the Lentienses, forcing the tribe to surrender. That same year, his uncle Valens was killed in the Battle of Adrianople against the Goths – making Gratian essentially ruler of the entire Roman Empire. He favoured Christianity over traditional Roman religion, refusing the divine attributes of the Emperors and removing the Altar of Victory from the Roman Senate.
Valentinian II (375-392) ruled in parallel with his brother and was an inconsequent leader dominated by Gratian. He seems to have been elevated to the purple by Valentinian I’s generals (mainly the Frankish magister peditum of 375 Merobaudes, not to be confused with Mellobaudes, magister domesticorum in ) as (an ineffective) counter-weight to Gratian, because of the latter’s lack of military ability or simply as the will of the late Valentinian. Following the death of Gratian, he was found hung. Arbogast reported to Theodosius that he had committed suicide and eventually appointed Eugenius, an imperial official, as Emperor, which led to civil war with Theodosius and the appointment of Honorius as Emperor in the West.
Valens (364-378): The brother of Emperor Valentinian I, Valens is mainly remembered as the leader who so eagerly sought glory on the battlefield against the Visigoths that he refused to wait for the reinforcements of his nephew Gratian and eventually lost the battle of Adrianople, a defeat from which the empire never fully recovered, which left a permanent barbarian presence within the empire and began to fractionalise it as never before, eventually leading to its fall.
Following the murder of Jovian upon his return from Julian’s Persian campaign, a council of military and civilian elected Valentinian I (364-375) as emperor. The emperor had previously been tribune of the elite Scutarii infantry regiment. His reign was mainly preoccupied with military matters on the Danube border.
Jovian was briefly emperor in 364 following the death of Julian on the Easter front. His rule lasted a couple of months and was stained by the humiliating terms he had to accept from the Persians for safe-passage back to Roman territory.
Julian the Apostate (255-263), a nephew of Constantine the Great, is an interesting emperor for two reasons. First because, having been brought up as a Christian he converted to and promoted neoplatonic paganism against Christianity, even reinventing it as a uniform state religion in the latter’s image. Secondly, having risen to power as one of the few surviving Constantinians following years of dynastic massacres, his death following a campaign against Sassanian Persian ended that dynasty.
The reign of Constantine was important for 4 main reasons. Politically, he established the Constantinian dynasty that lasted as the sole holder of power until the death of Julian the Apostate in 360. He became the first emperor to sponsor Christianity as the state’s favourite, but not sole, religion and endorsed the Nicene creed against Arianism. He founded Constantinople as the capital of the East in 330 after 6yrs of construction both as a centre of civilian and military government, reformed the administration and the military and the revalued the currency. He set the stage for the collapse of the Roman Empire, a development quite unpredictable at the time of his death. He was ruthless and killed a wife and his eldest son, possibly to assert his authority to his heirs.
The Dominate – Diocletian, the Tetrarchy, the Great Persecution, Constantine the Great and Patronage of Christianity
Licinius and Constantine allied against Maxentius and eventually Constantine defeated the latter at the battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312. The Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 is a marking moment in Constantine the Great’s rise to power. Not only did he eliminate Maxentius, it is also often considered as the date of the beginning of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity. Meanwhile, Licinius came into conflict with Maximinus in 313 eventually defeating him at the Battle of Tzirallum. Thus by 313 there were only two surviving emperors, Constantine in the West and Licinius in the East. Constantine would have to deal with competition from Licinius, the Eastern Augustus, until 324 when he defeated him at the Battle of Chrysopolis.
The Edict of Toleration by Galerius was issued in 311 in Nicomedia by the Roman Tetrarchy of Galerius, Constantine and Licinius, officially ending the Diocletian persecution of Christianity. This Edict was followed by the Edict of Milan by Lactantius and Constantine in 312, which returned to Christians the property that had been confiscated during Diocletian’s great persecution. These two edicts set the path for the Edict of Thessalonica issued by Gratian, Valentinian II and Theodosius in 380 making Nicene Christianity the sole legal religion of the Roman Empire. In the East, Maximinus II continued to persecute Christians at the petition of the urban authorities of the cities of Tyre, Lycia and Pamphylia until his defeat at the hands of Licinius.
An interesting fact of the Great persecution is its implication and interpretation in terms of the rise of Christianity. Is its failure and the eventual rise to prominence of Christianity under Constantine following his conversion, a sign of the religions’ broad appeal and unstoppable ascendancy and popularity? Alternatively, did the religion really only takeover after the rise of Constantine, who came from a family clearly connected to Christianity (as is evidenced by the faith of his mother, the name of his sister and his father’s leniency during the persecution)? I find the argument that Christianity held sweeping sway over the empire by the time of Diocletian and that the persecution was a last attempt that was doomed to fail difficult to support on account of the lack of religiously motivated rebellions against it. The religion must have been popular with the middle urban classes of traders of the empire, from which many of the latter emperors originated. However, the sway that paganism held on the aristocratic classes of the empire until the beginning of the fifth century as is attested by Symmachus’s debates with St Ambrose excludes the possibility of the religion being dominant among the higher stratum of Roman society. The lack of military revolt excludes the hypothesis of the religion dominating the army. The case of St Sebastian (depicted above), supposedly captain of the praetorian guard, appears to be the exception, not the rule. Thus, it is difficult to argue that Christianity was dominant difficult to defend. However, the promotion and patronage of the new religion and its members new and old seems to have played an important role in the administrative reforms of Constantine, which led to the emergence of a strong aristocracy of service, leading to rise of such families as the Anicii (and their scion Petronius Probus). Ultimately, was Constantine’s conversion opportunistic or heartfelt? Probably opportunistic, but more for the purpose of ensuring loyalty of a new class of imperial civil servants, which he promoted on the basis of religious membership, rather than on account of any hypothesized sweeping popularity of Christianism. Matthews (1990), Arnheim (1972), Barnes (1995), Brown (1961), Elliott (1987), Hopkins (1998), Jones (1986) and Wright (1987) offer extremely insightful discussions of this and other issues.
The Great Persecution of Diocletian was the last state sanctioned persecution of Christian in the Roman Empire and appears to have been instigated by Galerius, who would paradoxically author the Edict of Toleration in 311. It began with an edict by Diocletian, Maximian, Galerius and Constantius in 303, amid Galerius’ rise to hegemony. It appears to have been triggered by the inability of soothsayers to perform their responsibilities due to the negative influence of Christians in their audience which triggered Diocletian to demand all present perform sacrifices to the gods or be punished, an order that extended throughout the empire. The persecution was carried out with diverse levels of intensity, being most violently implemented in the East under Galerius’ command and least in the West, under Constantius Chlorus, Constantine and Licinius.
Galerius (reigned 293-311) became the dominant emperor at the end of the Tetrarchy following the retirement of Maximian and Diocletian in 305. However, the succession he had successfully imposed on his co-Emperors was soon challenged. Upon the death of Constantius Chlorus in 306, Constantine escaped from Galerius‘ court and took over his father’s troops in Britain, being aclaimed as Augustus, and later recognised as Caesar by Galerius who maintained Severus as the Augustus of the West, while he himself held senior Augustan status in the East, with Maximinus as his Eastern Caesar. When Severus withdrew capitation tax exemption privileges from the Italian provinces in 306, Maxentius was acclaimed emperor with the support of his father’s veterans. Severus troops defected to Maxentius when he arrived in Italy to remove the usurper on the command of Galerius. An attack by Galerius himself in the summer of that year was also unsuccessful and although some defection also took place, the Easter Augustus himself was not captured. The same year Constantine established a thin alliance with Maxentius and Maximian by marrying Fausta, the daughter of the retired Augustus and recognising Maxentius in Italy. Maximian‘s failure to usurp his son and exile to the court of Constantine, and the ensuing multitude of emperors caused Galerius and Diocletian to call an imperial conference in Carnutum in 308, which officially established Galerius‘ trusted colleague Licinius as Augustus in the West with Constantine as his Caesar. In the East, Galerius remained Augustus and Maximinus remained his Caesar. Maximian was to retire, and Maxentius was declared a usurper. Nevertheless, Maximinus demanded equality with Galerius and rose to the honor of Augustus while Maxentius remained in power until he was defeated and Maximian remained at the service of Constantine. In 310 Maximian shortly and unsuccessfully usurped Constantine before being deposed and forced to commit suicide. When Galerius died in 311, Licinius became Augustus in the East with Maximinus as his Caesar and Constantine as the Augustus in the West to attend the usurpation by Maxentius.
The Tetrarchy was an experiment in governance during the end of the third century and the beginning of the fourth century instigated by Emperor Diocletian. Its purpose was to instill institutional stability to the Roman Empire by dividing power between 2 senior emperors (Augusti) aided by a junior emperor (Caesar) each. The system was instituted by Diocletian when he made Maximian junior co-Emperor (Caesar) in July 285, 9 months after his own accession to power and around the time of his defeat of Carinus. Maximian was eventually raised to the honor of Augustus in April 286. In the Winter and Spring of 293, Diocletian further delegated power to the Caesars Constantius Chlorus (praetorian prefect of Maximian in Gaul who was married to the latter’s daughter and was the father of Constantine by Helena his first wife) and Galerius (his son-in-law and likely praetorian prefect). In 305 Maximian and Diocletian, possibly pressured by Galerius, resigned their position as Augusti and retired. Constantius Chlorus became Augustus in the West and Galerius Augustus in the East. However, instead of nominating the sons of Constantius and Maximian as Caesars (Constantine I and Maxentius, respectively), as was expected, Diocletian promoted Galerius’ favourites, Severus and Maximinus II (a friend and a nephew of Galerius, respectively) as Caesars in the West and the East respectively. As is detailed above, following the death of Constantius Chlorus and the rise of Galerius, civil war destroyed the fragile peace of the Tetrarchy.
In 284 Diocletian was nominated emperor by a council of generals and tribunes following the death of emperor Numerian, son of Carus, on the way back from a successful campaign against the Sassanian Persian empire, which was still entangled in dynastic disputes following the death of Shapur I and struggled to pacify a rebellion in Afghanistan. Upon his appointment, he had to establish himself again Carus’ remaining son, Carinus, whom the late emperor had left in charge of the West before leaving for the Persian campaign. Carinus was defeated by Diocletian in 285 at the Battle of the Margus River, establishing himself as the sole emperor.
Crisis of the Third Century (235-285)
In parallel to the collapse of centralised Roman rule in Gaul, Hispania and Britain in the West, a similar development took place in the East as a result of a combination of the defeat and capture of Emperor Valerian by the Persian Sassanian Empire and the ensuing internal succession instability, leading to the rise of the Palmyrene Empire that lasted from 260 to 273. Following the chaos of Valerian’s death and the rejection by Shapur I of Palmyrene’s gift of subjection, the local grandee of Palmyra, Odaenathus, threw his stock with Galienus, Valerian’s son and successor but largely remained independent in his campaigns against Rome and largely able to exercise control over the Eastern provinces unchecked as a representative of Galienus. Following the defeat of Valerian he defeated the Persian army that had sacked Antioch and made inroads within the Sassanian Empire, reaching the walls of its Capital Ctesiphon by 264. He and his heir apparent, Hairan , were killed by a nephew, Maeonius, in 267 either as revenge or some punishment or through instigation of Zenobia, his second wife who wanted her own son, Vaballathus , to succeed Odaenathus. Following his death, Zenobia effectively controlled Palmyra on behalf of the 1yr old Vaballathus as Queen and Augusta of Palmyra. She broke off the ties her late husband had maintained with central Roman power and instead attacked and conquered Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Asia Minor and claimed them against central Roman authority from 269 until Aurelian defeated her in 273.
The chaos of the Crisis of the Third century, eventually brought about the collapse of central Roman rule. The main trigger for the collapse of centralised authority seems to have been the defeat and capture of Emperor Valerian by the Persian Sassanian Empire in 270 and the ensuing internal succession instability in the West. In Gaul, Hispania and Britain, this led to the rise of Postumus, an alleged Batavian soldier who rose through the ranks of the army to eventually reign as Emperor of what has been titled the Gallic Empire from 260 to 270 by the acclamation of the armies of Gaul with the support of German legions. His role as the founder of the Gallic Empire was crucial for the 14 year period of Gallic secession, the first sign of Gallo-Roman power, pretensions and discontent with central power. Postumus was followed by a rapid succession of usurpers and successors in the remaining 4 years of the Gallic empire, including: Laelianus (usurper) (268), Marius (268), Victorinus (268–270), Domitianus II (usurper) (271–?), Tetricus I (270–274), Tetricus II (270–274) and Faustinus (usurper) (273-274). The last of these was eventually was subdued by Aurelian by 274.
The collapse of the Severan Dynasty brought about the beginning of what has become known as the Crisis of the Third Century, a period of civil war that saw the rapid and violent succession of several Emperors: Maximinus Thrax (235-238), Gordian I (238) (aclaimed), Gordian II (238) (aclaimed), Pupienus (238) (appointed by the senate), Balbinus (238) (appointed by the senate), Gordian III (238-244) (appointed by the senate), Philip the Arab (244-249), Decius (249-251), Herennius Etruscus (251), Hostilian (251), Tebonianus Gallus (251-253), Volusianus (253), Aemilianus (253), Valerian (253-259), Gallienus (253-268), Claudius Gothicus (268-270), Quintillus (270), Aurelian (270-275), Tacitus (275-276), Florianus (276), Probus (276-282), Carus (282-283), Numerian (282-283)) and Carinus (282-284). NB: I would like to highlight 3 facts about this period regarding the instability of government, the dominant emperors and the main disruptions to power: I ) The period is market by the simultaneous rule of several emperors who contested and revolted against each other’s rule. This led to 4 episodes of intense contest that saw at least 3 Emperors lay claim to the throne in the same year: 238 (the year of the 6 emperors), 251, when Decius, Herennius, Hostilian and Tebonianus ruled, 253 when Volusianus, Aemilianus and Valerian ruled and 276 when Tacitus, Florianus and Probus ruled. Aside from Gordian III, Philip the Arab, Valerian, Gallienus, Aurelian and Probus, every Emperor’s reign lasted less than 5yrs. II) Three emperors appear to stand out from the large lot that emerged during this period. The 1st would be Valerian, who was defeated and captured by the Persians in 260. This is a significant character for 2 reasons: First, He and his son are probably the last Emperors to come from a traditionally prominent Roman Senatorial aristocratic family with similar pedigree to the Julio-Claudians or the Flavians, contrarily to the Severans, the Constantinians, Valentinians, Theodosians and those that followed. It may be appropriate to see in his rule the last credible effort of the upper Roman aristocracy to gain control of the Empire it conquered after the Nerva-Antonines and the Severans had slowly began favouring the equites at their detriment. Second, his defeat triggered a period of intense power struggles that saw the empire divided in three parts for a short but not insignificant period of 14 years. The 2nd salient Emperor would be Valerian’s son, Gallienus whose rule was the longest of the period, lasting for 15yrs and allowing for military reforms that set the way for the dominate, including the creation of the Comitatenses and excluding senators from military commands. The 3rd notable emperor would be Aurelian, who succeeded in restoring central Roman authority to the Palmyrean Empire and to the Gallic Empire. III) Militarily, three issues dominate this period: Rebellious armies, Northern pressures from the Allemani, the Dacians and the Sarmatians, and the defeat of the Parthians at the hands of the Sassanian Persian in 230 and their subsequent expansion and resurgence under Ardashir I and Shapur I. Indeed, all the aforementioned emperors either spent some time in one of those campaigns or died as the result of one of these issues. Here’s a rundown of the relevance of the military issues: i) All the Emperor of 238 were either killed by their soldiers or by another one of the contestants. Phillip the Arab was defeated and killed by his general, Decius who rose to power thanks to the discontent of the armies under his control. Trebonianus and his son Volusianus were both killed by his own soldiers following defeats against Aemilianus, who was himself defeated and killed by Valerian 3 months later and killed by his own soldiers. Gallienus fought more or less everywhere and every type of foe and ended up dying during the siege of a rebellious general. Regardless of the confusion surrounding his death, Quintillus (Claudius II’s brother) was never fully recognised by the army. Aurelian successfully campaigned against everyone but his severity against corrupt officials was such that the fear of punishment moved the Praetorian Guard to murder him. Probus defeated Florianus in battle and the latter’s soldiers killed him. Once again, Probus would eventually fall in a similar manner following a defeat to the head of his praetorian guard, Carus. Carinus, his son, was famously defeated by Diocletian, commander of the cavalry arm of Numerian’s imperial bodyguard. ii)With regards to Persia, Gordian III died in the Eastern front of undisclosed causes. Phillip the Arab engaged in campaigns against the Sassanians as well as against the Carpi by the Danube. Trebonianus also campaigned against Persia. Valerian was famously captured during his campaign against Shapur I of Persia. Carus conducted a successful campaign against the Persians who were occupied with a campaign in Afghanistan. iii)The Danube frontier also caused extensive disruption to the succession of Roman leadership. Decius and his son Herenius Etruscus were killed in a battle against the Goths across the Danube. Aemilianus successfully subdued the Goths as did Claudius II. Tacitus and Probus both defeated the Alemanni and the Franks, while Florianus fought against the Heruli. iv) Only Hostilian, Claudius II, Tacitus and Numerian seem to have died of natural causes, although this is disputed.
The Crisis of the 3rd Century was a fifty-year period in which 20–25 claimants to the title of Emperor, mostly prominent Roman army generals, assumed imperial power over all or part of the Empire.
By 258–260, the Empire split into three competing states: the Gallic Empire, including the Roman provinces of Gaul, Britannia and (briefly) Hispania; the Palmyrene Empire, including the eastern provinces of Syria Palaestina and Aegyptus; and the Italian-centered and independent Roman Empire, proper, between them. Later, Aurelian (270–275) reunited the empire; the Crisis ended with the ascension and reforms of Diocletian in 284.
The Crisis resulted in such profound changes in the Empire’s institutions, society, economic life and, eventually, religion, that it is increasingly seen by most historians as defining the transition between the historical periods of classical antiquity and late antiquity.
The Principate – Severan Dynasty
His mother held a great deal of influence over Alexander Severus, her jealousy going as far as bannishing his wife from court.
Military discipline collapsed. Mutinies became frequent in all parts of the Empire; in Rome, the Praetorian Guard became infuriated by the actions of the praetorian praefect Ulpian. A three day riot broke out in Rome between the people and the Praetorians, and it only ended with the death of Ulpian, who was hunted down and killed at the feet of the Emperor. Another mutiny forced the retirement of Cassius Dio from his command. In the provinces of the Empire, in Illyricum, in Mauritania, in Armenia, in Mesopotamia and in Germania, fresh mutinies perpetually broke out, as his officers were murdered and his authority was disregarded.
Nevertheless, although the Sassanids were checked for the time, the conduct of the Roman army showed an extraordinary lack of discipline. In 232 there was a mutiny in the Syrian legion, who proclaimed Taurinus emperor. Alexander managed to suppress the uprising, and Taurinus drowned while attempting to flee across the Euphrates. The emperor returned to Rome and celebrated a triumph in 233. The following year he was called to face German invaders in Gaul, who had breached the Rhine frontier in several places, destroying forts and over-running the countryside. Alexander mustered his forces, bringing legions from the eastern provinces, and crossed the Rhine into Germany on a pontoon bridge. Initially on the advice of his mother, he attempted to buy the German tribes off, so as to gain time.
Herodian says “in their opinion Alexander showed no honourable intention to pursue the war and preferred a life of ease, when he should have marched out to punish the Germans for their previous insolence”. These circumstances drove the army to look for a new leader. They chose Gaius Iulius Verus Maximinus, a Thracian soldier who had worked his way up through the ranks. Following the nomination of Maximinus as emperor, Alexander was assassinated (on either 18 or 19 March 235), together with his mother, in a mutiny of the Legio XXII Primigenia at Moguntiacum (Mainz). These assassinations secured the throne for Maximinus.
The death of Alexander is sometimes seen as the end of the Principate system established by Augustus. Although the Principate continued in theory until the reign of Diocletian, Severus Alexander’s death signalled the beginning of the chaotic period known as the Crisis of the Third Century which brought the empire to near collapse.
Elagabalus’s family held hereditary rights to the priesthood of the sun god Elagabal, of whom Elagabalus was the high priest at Emesa (modern Homs) in Syria. The deity Elagabalus was initially venerated at Emesa. This form of the god’s name is a Latinized version of the Syrian Ilāh hag-Gabal, which derives from Ilāh (“god”) and gabal (“mountain” (compare Hebrew: גבל gəbul and Arabic: جبل jabal)), resulting in “the God of the Mountain” the Emesene manifestation of the deity.
Gannys, the Emperor’s Tutor, led the troops that defeated Macrinus in 218. Eventually, the emperor’s religious beliefs appear to have become a problem.. Cassius Dio suggests that Gannys eventually killed by the new emperor because he was forcing Elagabalus to live “temperately and prudently.”
Elagabalus soon devalued the Roman currency. He decreased the silver purity of the denarius from 58% to 46.5% — the actual silver weight dropping from 1.82 grams to 1.41 grams. He also demonetized the antoninianus during this period in Rome.
The emperor violated many Roman customs, which would eventually fuel his downfall. He married a Vestal Virgin, he brought all the relics of other deities into the temple of Elagabal, which had been renamed “Deus Sol Invictus“, so that any worship at a temple had to be done at Elagabal’s temple, thus requiring the parallel worship of the new deity. He also stated regular celebrations of Elagabal at solstices which became popular due to the distribution of free food. However, the action that most outraged the Praetorian Guard was his marriage to Hierocles, a slave charioteer whom he attempted to nominate his hereditary Caesar. Feeling the growing discontent, Julia Maesa (Caracalla’s Maternal Aunt) the young emperor’s grandmother turned to her other daughter, Julia Avita Mamaea, and her daughter’s son, the thirteen-year-old Severus Alexander. After several attempts on his life and several attempts to get rid of his new rival, the young emperor and his mother were eventually killed by the Praetorian Guard. Upon his death his religious edicts were revoked and the sacred stone returned to Emesa
In the spring of 217, Caracalla was in the eastern provinces preparing a campaign against the Parthian Empire. Macrinus was among his staff, as were other members of the Praetorian Guard. In April, the Emperor went to visit a temple of Luna near the spot of the battle of Carrhae, accompanied only by his personal bodyguard, which included Macrinus. Events are not clear, but it is certain that Caracalla was murdered at some point on the trip (perhaps on April 8).
Caracalla’s body was brought back from the temple by his bodyguards, along with the corpse of a fellow bodyguard. The story as told by Macrinus was that the dead guard had killed Caracalla. By April 11, Macrinus proclaimed himself emperor. Despite his equestrian background, Macrinus was confirmed in his new role by the Senate. According to S.N. Miller, this may have been due to both his background as an accomplished jurist and his deferential treatment of the senatorial class. He found it necessary, however, to replace several provincial governors with men of his own choosing.Macrinus displayed some financial farsightedness when he revalued the Roman currency. He increased the silver purity of the denarius from 51.5% to 58% — the actual silver weight increasing from 1.66 grams to 1.82 grams.
Macrinus’ reluctance to engage in warfare, and his failure to gain victory over even a historically inferior enemy such as the Parthians caused considerable resentment among the soldiers. This was compounded by him curtailing the privileges they had enjoyed under Caracalla and the introduction of a pay system by which recruits received less than veterans. After only a short while, the legions were searching for a rival emperor.His popularity also suffered in Rome. Not only had the new emperor failed to visit the city after taking power but a late-summer thunderstorm caused widespread fires and flooding. Macrinus’ appointee as urban prefect proved unable to repair the damage to the satisfaction of the populace and had to be replaced.
This discontent was fostered by the surviving members of the Severan dynasty, headed by Julia Maesa (Caracalla’s aunt) and her daughters Julia Soaemias and Julia Mamaea. Having been evicted from the imperial palace and ordered to return home by Macrinus, the Severan women plotted from their home near Emesa in Syria to place another Severan on the imperial throne.
They used their hereditary influence over the cult of sun-deity Elagabalus (the Latinised form of El-Gabal) to proclaim Soaemias’ son Elagabalus (named for his family’s patron deity) as the true successor to Caracalla. The rumor was spread, with the assistance of the Severan women, that Elagabalus was Caracalla’s illegitimate son and thus the child of a union between first cousins.
Execution (218) 
On May 18, Elagabalus was proclaimed emperor by the Legio III Gallica at its camp at Raphana. A force under his tutor Gannys marched on Antioch and engaged a force under Macrinus on June 8 218. Macrinus, deserted by most of his soldiers, was soundly defeated in the battle and fled towards Italy
his death at the hands of Roman soldiers, Macrinus reinforced the notion of the soldiers as the true brokers of power in the third-century empire and highlighted the importance of maintaining the support of this vital faction
Declared that all free men in the Roman Empire were to be given full Roman citizenship and all free women in Empire were given the same rights as Roman women. Probably created to levy taxes and increase the pool of potential soldiers.
Despite what might have been seen as easy benefits, the edict came at the cost to the auxiliaries, which primarily consisted of non-citizen men, and led to barbarization of the Roman military. This is because before the edict, one of the main ways to acquire Roman citizenship was to enlist in the army, the completion of service in which would give the citizenship to the discharged soldier. The edict of 212 may have made enlistment in the army less attractive to most, hence the recruiting difficulties of the Roman army by the end of the 3rd century.
Caracalla’s reign was also notable for the Constitutio Antoniniana (also called the Edict of Caracalla), granting Roman citizenship to all freemen throughout the Roman Empire, which according to historian Cassius Dio, was done for the purposes of raising tax revenue. During his reign as emperor, Caracalla raised the annual pay of an average legionary to 675 denarii and lavished many benefits. He gained the Title of Germanicus Maximus after defeating and bribing away the Alemani who were threatening the Agri Decumates.
Caracalla was a violent emperor who instigated violence and massacres throughout the empire. He is supposed to have killed a welcoming party of Alexandrian dignitaries and unleashed his army to loot the city after in retaliation for the city’s inhabitant’s satire of his claims to having murdered his brother in self defence. Ultimately, this was his demise. While travelling from Edessa to continue the war with Parthia, he was assassinated while urinating at a roadside near Carrhae on 8 April 217, by Julius Martialis, an officer of his personal bodyguard. Herodian says that Martialis’ brother had been executed a few days earlier by Caracalla on an unproven charge; Cassius Dio, on the other hand, says that Martialis was resentful at not being promoted to the rank of centurion
When Septimius Severus died in Eboracum in the beginning of 211, Caracalla and Geta were proclaimed joint emperors and returned to Rome.
Regardless, the shared throne was not a success: the brothers argued about every decision, from law to political appointments. He was murdered on command of his older brother, Caracalla.
After deposing and killing the incumbent emperor Didius Julianus, Severus fought his rival claimants, the generals Pescennius Niger and Clodius Albinus.
After consolidating his rule over the western provinces, Severus waged another brief, more successful war in the east against the Parthian Empire, sacking their capital Ctesiphon in 197 and expanding the eastern frontier to the Tigris. Furthermore, he enlarged and fortified the Limes Arabicus in Arabia Petraea. In 202, he campaigned in Africa and Mauretania against the Garamantes; capturing their capital Garama and expanding the Limes Tripolitanus along the southern frontier of the empire.
Late in his reign he travelled to Britain, strengthening Hadrian’s Wall and reoccupying the Antonine Wall.
The Principate – Interdynastic (193)
Ascended the throne after buying it from the Praetorian Guard, who had assassinated his predecessor Pertinax. This led to the Roman Civil War of 193–197. Julianus was ousted and sentenced to death by his successor, Septimius Severus.
Pertinax (193) is thought to have been implicated in the conspiracy that led to Commodus’ assassination on 31 December 192. Ancient writers detail how the Praetorian Guard expected a generous donativum on his ascension, and when they were disappointed, agitated until he produced the money, selling off Commodus’ property, including the concubines and youths Commodus kept for his sexual pleasures. He revalued the Roman currency dramatically, increasing the silver purity of the denarius from 74% to 87% — the actual silver weight increasing from 2.22 grams to 2.75 grams. On 28 March 193, Pertinax was at his palace when, according to the Historia Augusta, a contingent of some three hundred soldiers of the Praetorian Guard rushed the gates (two hundred according to Cassius Dio). Ancient sources suggest that they had received only half their promised pay. Neither the guards on duty nor the palace officials chose to resist them. Pertinax sent Laetus to meet them, but he chose to side with the insurgents instead and deserted the emperor. After his death, the praetorian guards auctioned off the imperial position, which Senator Didius Julianus won and became the new Emperor, an act which triggered a brief civil war over the succession, won later in the same year by Septimius Severus
The Principate: Nerva-Antonine Dynasty (96-192)
Gaius was a celebrated Roman jurist, who wrote an elementary legal manual for beginners, known as the Institutes of Gaius.
Trajan (98-117) was the first non Italian General_From Hispania Baetica, nowadays Andalucia. He succeeded
Nerva was emperor of the Roman Empire between 96 and 98. He adopted the popular general Trajan and set the path for institutional stability that would guide the Nerva-Antonine dynasty for a century. Nerva’s distinctive feature in my opinion is that he had begun his career under Nero, served all 3 of the Flavians and himself became emperor at the age of 65.
The Principate: Flavian Dynasty (69-96)
Roman Empire 96 CE
Domitian (81-96) was the last emperor of the second dynasty of the Roman Empire, the Flavians.
The destruction of the Temple in 70CE was the final act of the first of three major rebellions by the Jews of Judaea Province (Iudaea), against the Roman Empire.
The Great Revolt began in the year 66 CE, originated in Greek and Jewish religious tensions that can trace their origin to the Maccabean revolt of 167-160BCE against the Hellenising efforts of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, later escalated due to anti-taxation protests and attacks upon Roman citizens.The Roman military garrison of Judaea was quickly overrun by rebels and the pro-Roman king Agrippa II fled Jerusalem, together with Roman officials to Galilee. Cestius Gallus, the legate of Syria, brought the Syrian army, based on XII Fulminata, reinforced by auxiliary troops, to restore order and quell the revolt. The legion, however, was ambushed and defeated by Jewish rebels at the Battle of Beth Horon, a result that shocked the Roman leadership.
Vespasian was then tasked by Nero with crushing the rebellion together with his second-in-command, his son Titus, who joined him from Alexandria. Vespasian was given four legions and in 67 CE invaded Galilee, working his way towards Jerusalem and destroying the rebel forces on the way.
After a lull in the military operations, owing to civil war and political turmoil in Rome, which concluded with the rise of Vespasian to the the purple, Titus besieged and destroyed the center of rebel resistance in Jerusalem in the year 70 CE, eventually pillaging and destroying the Temple..
Under the Flavian emperors (69-96 CE) the area of the Agri Decumates was settled and colonized.
a region of the Roman Empire’s province of Germania superior (“Upper Germania”), covering the Black Forest area between the Main river and the sources of Danube and Rhine rivers, presently in Southwestern Germany (modern Wurttemberg, Baden and Hohenzollern). To the southeast, the decumates bordered the militarily important province of Raetia. A network of roads eased legionary communications and improved protection from invading tribes using the re-entrant to penetrate into the Gaulish provinces. Frontier fortifications (limes) were constructed along a line running Rheinbrohl—Arnsburg—Inheiden—Schierenhof—Gunzenhausen—Pförring.
The only ancient reference to the name comes from Tacitus’ book Germania.
Vespasian (69-79) was the first of the 3 Flavian Emperors that ruled during most of the second half of the first century. He rose to power as the surviving claimant of the year of the four emperors (69), following the death of Nero. He had served in the British Isles, North Africa, Egypt and Judea.
Emperors of the Civil War of 69
Roman Empire: The Principate – Julio-Claudian Dynasty (44BCE-68CE)
During his reign the Empire conquered Thrace, Noricum, Pamphylia, Lycia and Judaea, and began the conquest of Britain. Having a personal interest in law, he presided at public trials, and issued up to twenty edicts a day.
On 24 January 41, Caligula was assassinated in a broad-based conspiracy involving the Praetorian commander Cassius Chaerea and several senators. There is no evidence that Claudius had a direct hand in the assassination, although it has been argued that he knew about the plot — particularly since he left the scene of the crime shortly before his nephew was murdered. However, after the deaths of Caligula’s wife and daughter, it became apparent that Cassius intended to go beyond the terms of the conspiracy and wipe out the Imperial family.
In the chaos following the murder, Claudius witnessed the German guard cut down several uninvolved noblemen, including many of his friends. He fled to the palace to hide. According to tradition, a Praetorian named Gratus found him hiding behind a curtain and suddenly declared him princeps. A section of the guard may have planned in advance to seek out Claudius, perhaps with his approval. They reassured him that they were not one of the battalions looking for revenge. He was spirited away to the Praetorian camp and put under their protection.
Caligula, Tiberius’ grand-nephew and adopted grandson, succeeded the emperor upon his death. Caligula’s father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome’s most beloved public figures. The young Gaius earned the nickname Caligula (meaning “little soldier’s boot”, the diminutive form of caliga, n. hob-nailed military boot) from his father’s soldiers while accompanying him during his campaigns in Germania.
When Germanicus died at Antioch in 19 AD, his wife Agrippina the Elder returned to Rome with her six children where she became entangled in an increasingly bitter feud with Tiberius. This conflict eventually led to the destruction of her family, with Caligula as the sole male survivor. Unscathed by the deadly intrigues, Caligula accepted the invitation to join the emperor on the island of Capri in 31, where Tiberius himself had withdrawn five years earlier.
During his brief reign, Caligula worked to increase the unconstrained personal power of the emperor (as opposed to countervailing powers within the principate). He directed much of his attention to ambitious construction projects and notoriously luxurious dwellings for himself. However, he initiated the construction of two new aqueducts in Rome: the Aqua Claudia and the Anio Novus. During his reign, the Empire annexed the Kingdom of Mauretania and made it into a province.
During his reign, the Empire annexed the Kingdom of Mauretania and made it into a province.
Tiberius, originally a Claudian, would later marry Augustus’ daughter Julia the Elder (from his marriage to Scribonia) and even later be adopted by Augustus, by which act he officially became a Julian, bearing the name Tiberius Julius Caesar. The subsequent emperors after Tiberius would continue this blended dynasty of both families for the next forty years; historians have named it the Julio-Claudian dynasty. In relations to the other emperors of this dynasty, Tiberius was the stepson of Augustus, great-uncle of Caligula, paternal uncle of Claudius, and great-great uncle of Nero.
Tiberius was one of Rome’s greatest generals, conquering Pannonia, Dalmatia, Raetia, and temporarily Germania; laying the foundations for the northern frontier. But he came to be remembered as a dark, reclusive, and sombre ruler who never really desired to be emperor; Pliny the Elder called him tristissimus hominum, “the gloomiest of men.”
After the death of Tiberius’ son Drusus Julius Caesar in 23, he became more reclusive and aloof. In 26, against better judgement, Tiberius exiled himself from Rome and left administration largely in the hands of his unscrupulous Praetorian Prefects Lucius Aelius Sejanus and Quintus Naevius Sutorius Macro.
Roman Empire under Augustus Caesar (31 BC – AD 6). Yellow: 31BC. Dark Green 31-19BC, Light Green 19-9BC, Pale Green 9-6BC. Mauve: Client states
The reign of Augustus initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana (The Roman Peace). Despite continuous wars or imperial expansion on the Empire’s frontiers and one year-long civil war over the imperial succession, the Mediterranean world remained at peace for more than two centuries. Augustus dramatically enlarged the Empire, annexing Egypt, Dalmatia, Pannonia, Noricum, and Raetia, expanded possessions in Africa, expanded into Germania, and completed the conquest of Hispania.
Born into an old, wealthy equestrian branch of the plebeian Octavii family, in 44 BC Augustus was adopted posthumously by his maternal great-uncle Gaius Julius Caesar following Caesar’s assassination. Together with Mark Antony and Marcus Lepidus, he formed the Second Triumvirate to defeat the assassins of Caesar. Following their victory at Phillipi, the Triumvirate divided the Roman Republic among themselves and ruled as military dictators. The Triumvirate was eventually torn apart under the competing ambitions of its members: Lepidus was driven into exile and stripped of his position, and Antony committed suicide following his defeat at the Battle of Actium by Augustus in 31 BC.
After the demise of the Second Triumvirate, Augustus restored the outward facade of the free Republic, with governmental power vested in the Roman Senate, the executive magistrates, and the legislative assemblies. In reality, however, he retained his autocratic power over the Republic as a military dictator. By law, Augustus held a collection of powers granted to him for life by the Senate, including supreme military command, and those of tribune and censor. It took several years for Augustus to develop the framework within which a formally republican state could be led under his sole rule. He rejected monarchical titles, and instead called himself Princeps Civitatis (“First Citizen”). The resulting constitutional framework became known as the Principate, the first phase of the Roman Empire.
Roman statesman and general. He was a close friend, son-in-law, lieutenant and defence minister to Octavian, the future Emperor Caesar Augustus and father-in-law of the Emperor Tiberius, maternal grandfather of the Emperor Caligula, and maternal great-grandfather of the Emperor Nero. He was responsible for most of Octavian’s military victories, most notably winning the naval Battle of Actium against the forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII of Egypt.
As a military commander and administrator, he was an important supporter and loyal friend of his mother’s cousin Julius Caesar. After Caesar’s assassination, Antony formed an official political alliance with Octavian (the future Augustus) and Lepidus, known to historians today as the Second Triumvirate.
The triumvirate broke up in 33 BC. Disagreement between Octavian and Antony erupted into civil war, the Final War of the Roman Republic, in 31 BC. Antony was defeated by Octavian at the naval Battle of Actium, and in a brief land battle at Alexandria. He and his lover Cleopatra committed suicide shortly thereafter. His career and defeat are significant in Rome’s transformation from Republic to Empire.
Rise & Fall of Roman Republic
While Rome’s military success can be attributed to the flexibility and adaptability of its legions, starting from the earlier days of the republic, the political institutions were constantly undermined by the corruption that undermined redistribution of land (Ager Publicus) from military conquests, the increased ability of few citizens to exploit ever larger swaths of land through increased slave labour and the class conflicts that this created, piting free but poor plebeians and their populare political supporters against the aristocracy and its optimates. While in the beginning of the republic the reliance on the plebeians for labour and military service allowed them to bargain for increasingly equal rights, the reactionary Senate was unable to accept the Gracchi reforms, as it would have undermined their landed wealth . Meanwhile, the poverty that this created continued to decrease the pool of citizens able to afford their own military equipment, which forced repeated census reforms to facilitate the fielding of armies. Ultimately, the Marian military reforms were a reflection of the increased income inequality between the empire and this a necessity in order to maintain the army alive. Nevertheless, these reforms are a clear breaking point in the history of the Roman Empire by eliminating one of the major checks and balances between politics. While Sulla may have succeeded to maintain the dominance of the Optimates, Caesar was successful in galvanising the plebs by advancing their cause and thus ensuring support from the populace within the walls Rome. Ultimately, the reforms did not succeed in increasing the influence of the people (beyond Augustus) but rather in increasing the power of the General, a feature which would remain true throughout the empire and which would undermine it through internal strife and successive civil wars. Ultimately, the military successes of the Republic were guaranteed at the detriment of its political institutions.
This episode describes the last moment of the Gallic Wars (58-50BCE).
Although Caesar portrayed this invasion as being a preemptive and defensive action, most historians agree that the wars were fought primarily to boost Caesar’s political career and to pay off the massive debts he incurred during his Consulship (59BCE). Still, Gaul was of significant military importance to the Romans, as these had been attacked several times by native tribes both indigenous to Gaul and farther to the north. Conquering Gaul allowed Rome to secure the natural border of the river Rhine.
If you’ve read your Asterix, you should be familiar with the battles of Gergovia and Alesia, where Caesar was initially defeated only to make a decisive comeback and defeat Vercingetorix.
Marcus Licinius Crassus (115 – 53 BCE) was a Roman general and politician who played a key role in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. Amassing an enormous fortune during his life, Crassus is considered the wealthiest man in Roman history, and among the richest men in all history.
Crassus began his public career as a military commander under Lucius Cornelius Sulla during his civil war. Following Sulla’s assumption of the dictatorship, Crassus amassed an enormous fortune through real estate speculation. His family fortune had been confiscated during the Marian-Cinnan proscriptions. He seems to have made his fortune in one of two different but related manners: First, through Sulla’s subsequent proscriptions following the Sulla’s second Civil War, literally using the method that destroyed his family’s wealth to reaquire and extend it. this included real estate and slave trade. Secondly, by purchasing property at low prices, generally in the aftermath or before a fire. Crassus then rose to political prominence following his victory over the slave revolt led by Spartacus, sharing the Consulship with his rival Pompey the Great.
A political and financial patron of Julius Caesar, Crassus joined Caesar and Pompey in the unofficial political alliance known as the First Triumvirate. Together the three men dominated the Roman political system. The alliance would not last indefinitely due to the ambitions, egos, and jealousies of the three men. While Caesar and Crassus were lifelong allies, Crassus and Pompey disliked each other and Pompey grew increasingly envious of Caesar’s spectacular successes in the Gallic Wars. The alliance was re-stabilized at the Lucca Conference in 56 BC, after which Crassus and Pompey again served jointly as Consuls. Following his second Consulship, Crassus was appointed as the Governor of Roman Syria. Crassus used Syria as the launchpad for a military campaign against the Parthian Empire, Rome’s long-time Eastern enemy. Crassus’ campaign was a disastrous failure, resulting in his defeat and death at the Battle of Carrhae.
Pompeo Magnus (106-48BCE) was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic. He came from a wealthy Italian provincial background, and his father had been the first to establish the family among the Roman nobility. Pompey’s immense success as a general while still very young enabled him to advance directly to his first consulship without meeting the normal requirements for office. Military success in Sulla’s Second Civil War led him to adopt the nickname Magnus, “the Great”. He was consul three times, and celebrated three triumphs.
In the mid-60 BC, Pompey joined Marcus Licinius Crassus and Gaius Julius Caesar in the unofficial military-political alliance known as the First Triumvirate, which Pompey’s marriage to Caesar’s daughter Julia helped secure. After the deaths of Julia and Crassus, Pompey sided with the optimates, the conservative faction of the Roman Senate. Pompey and Caesar then contended for the leadership of the Roman state, leading to a civil war. When Pompey was defeated at the Battle of Pharsalus, he sought refuge in Egypt, where he was assassinated. His career and defeat are significant in Rome’s subsequent transformation from Republic to Principate and Empire.
Roman Senator of the 1st century BC who is best known for the Catilinarian conspiracy, a supposed attempt to overthrow the Roman Republic, and in particular the power of the aristocratic Senate.
The Third Servile War (73–71 BC), also called the Gladiator War and the War of Spartacus by Plutarch, was the last of a series of unrelated and unsuccessful slave rebellions against the Roman Republic, known collectively as the Roman Servile Wars.
The war ended in 71 BC when the armies of Spartacus, after long and bitter fighting, retreating before the legions of Crassus, and realizing that the legions of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus were moving in to entrap them, launched their full strength against Crassus’ legions and were utterly destroyed.
The Third Servile War was significant to the broader history of ancient Rome in its effect on the careers of Pompey and Crassus. The two generals used their success in putting down the rebellion to further their political careers, using their public acclaim and the implied threat of their legions to sway the consular elections of 70 BC in their favor. Their actions as Consuls greatly furthered the subversion of Roman political institutions and contributed to the eventual transition of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire.
- Quintus Sertorius (126 – 72 BCE) was a Roman statesman and general, born in Nursia, in Sabine territory. Following Marius’ exile and Sulla‘s departure to fight the Mithrdatic War, Rome was engulfed in a civil war that saw the Optimate forces of Gnaeus Octavius be defeated by the Populares of Lucius Cornelius Cinna, who brought back Marius in what has been called the bellum Octavianum. Although he had a very bad opinion of Marius, he opposed Sulla who had thwarted his efforts when he ran for Tribune. Nevertheless he appears to have been a moderate in the proscriptions that followed, rebuking Marius, moving Cinna to moderation and annihilating Marius’ slave army that had partaken in his atrocities.
After Sulla’s return from the East in 83BCE, and following the subsequent collapse of the Populares power, Sertorius retreated to Hispania as proconsul, where his army allowed him to assume control over local officials who did not recognise his authority. He was subsequently forced to retreat to North Africa, once Sulla’s forces, under the command of Gaius Annius, broke through the fortify barrier that Sertorius had sent a commander, Salinator, to fortify. Following military sucecsses in Mauretania against Sulla’s generals, he was approached by disgrunted Lusitanians to become their general. With their support and that of other Iberian tribes he was able to successfully hoard off offensives from Sulla’s Generals until 70BCE. Between 80 and 75, he was successful, but from then onwards Pompey and Metellus, having probably received Roman reinforcements bega to win the war. The war came to an end following Sertorius’ assassination at the hand of Marcus Perpenna Vento killed Sertorius at a banquet in 72, which was followed by Vento’s defeat in 70 at the hands of Metellus and Pompey.
The painting illustration an episode of his life where Sertorius explained to his followers that in the same way a horse’s tail can be picked out hair by hair but not pulled out all at once, so smaller forces could defeat the Roman armies
The Gracchi brothers, Tiberius and Gaius, were Roman plebeian nobiles who both served as tribunes in the late 2nd century BC. They attempted to pass land reform legislation that would redistribute the major patrician landholdings among the plebeians, in addition to other reform measures. Generally considered to be among the most significant of the populares, the Gracchi have been considered the founding fathers of both socialism and populism. After achieving some early success, both were assassinated for their efforts.
It would appear that their land reforms were mostly centred around the reform of the distribution of the ager publicus, the public land that belonged to the republic and which the state could lease and sell to the citizens or distribute in exchange for military service.
Following the Punic wars, during which peasants were unable to attend to their farms due to the fact that they were serving abroad. Consequently, either through absence, debt, iliquidity or inability, small Roman landowners were being pushed off their farms by rich landowners. While their old lands were being worked by slaves, the peasants were often forced into idleness in Rome where they had to subsist on hand outs due to a scarcity of paid work.
A related issue was a shortage of troops due to recruitment difficulties and mutinies in the Numantine War with the Celtiberian in Hispania. This was partly due to lack of public land (the ager publicus) to give in exchange for military service; most of the land had already been divided among large landholders and speculators.
They were opposed by Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus Numantinus (185 – 129 BC), natural son of Lucius Aemilius Paulus Macedonicus, the conqueror of Macedonia, and adopted by the son of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (236–183 BC) the victor of Hannibal.
The Punic Wars were a series of three wars fought between Rome and Carthage from 264 BC to 146 BCE
Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (236–183 BC), also known as Scipio the African, Scipio the Elder, and Scipio the Great was a general in the Second Punic War and statesman of the Roman Republic. He was best known for defeating Hannibal at the final battle of the Second Punic War at Zama, a feat that earned him the agnomen Africanus.
During the second Punic War, in Iberia, which served as the main source of manpower for the Carthaginian army, a second Roman expedition under Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major took New Carthage by assault and ended Carthaginian rule over Iberia in the battle of Ilipa. The final showdown was the battle of Zama in Africa between Scipio Africanus and Hannibal, resulting in the latter’s defeat and the imposition of harsh peace conditions on Carthage, which ceased to be a major power and became a Roman client-state.
The Second Punic War” lasted from 218 to 201 BCE and involved combatants in the western and eastern Mediterranean. The war is marked by Hannibal’s surprising overland journey and his costly crossing of the Alps, followed by his reinforcement by Gaulish allies and crushing victories over Roman armies in the battle of the Trebia and the giant ambush at Trasimene. Against his skill on the battlefield, the Romans deployed the Fabian strategy. But, because of the increasing unpopularity of this approach, the Romans resorted to a further major field battle. The result was the Roman defeat at Cannae. In consequence, many Roman allies went over to Carthage, prolonging the war in Italy for over a decade, during which time more Roman armies were destroyed on the battlefield. Despite these setbacks, the Roman forces were more capable in siegecraft than the Carthaginians and recaptured all the major cities that had joined the enemy, as well as defeating a Carthaginian attempt to reinforce Hannibal at the battle of the Metaurus. The Punic Wars were a series of three wars fought between Rome and Carthage from 264 BC to 146 BCE
Republic (Period of 509 – 274 BCE)
–Early Italian campaigns (509–396 BCE): Against the Veii and Tarquinii Etruscans (509 BCE), the Latin Lavinii and Tusculi (496 BCE), the Veientes (477 BCE), the Aurunci ( 446 BCE), the Veii (435 BCE and 396 BCE)
–Celtic invasion of Italia (390–387 BCE) : Following the invasion of Etruscan Siena and the town of Clusium by the Gallic Senones led Rome to come to its assistance. This ultimately led to the Battle of Allia in 390-387 BCE, where the Romans were defeated and upon fleeing back to Rome allowed the city to be sacked by the Gauls. This was the beginning of an acrymonious relationship with the Gauls which would only end with the victory of Caesar at Alesia in 52 BCE.
–Expansion into Italy (343–282 BCE): First Samnite War (343-341 BCE), the Second Latin War (340–338 BCE), the Second Samnite War (327-304 BCE) and the Third Samnite War at the conclusion of which Rome defeated a coalition of Etruscans, Gauls and Umbrians at the Battle of Sentium (295 BCE). The Etruscans were definitively defeated at the battle of Poplonia (282 BCE)
–Pyrrhic War (280–275 BCE) – Against Pyrrhus of Epirus: First confront against elephants; alliance with Carthage against Epirus; showed Greek colonies’ fragility.
Roman law which provided compensation to the owners of property injured by someone’s fault.
With this law the priesthoods were open to plebeians. It also increased number of pontifices from five to nine (including pontifex maximus). The first plebeian pontifex maximus (Tiberius Coruncanius) was appointed in 254 BC. Also it demanded five augurs to be plebeian
This law made all resolutions passed by plebeians binding on all citizens. It was imposed by dictator Quintus Hortensius when the people pressed by patrician creditor, “seceded” to the Janiculum. The Lex Hortensia contained similar stipulations of the two earlier laws, the Lex Valeria-Horatia of 449 BC and Lex Publica ut plebei scita omnes quirites tenerent of 339 BC. The statement that set the Lex Hortensia apart was the prelude that ‘olim patricii dicebant plebi scitis se non teneri, quae sine auctoritate eorum facta essent.’ This meant that through their plebeian assembly the plebeians could make laws that were considered binding for the entire Roman people (both patrician and plebeian), but which excluded the patricians of having any say in the legislative process in the plebeian assembly. Patricians tended to be the wealthy upper crust of ancient Roman society. The plebeians were seen as the average citizens.
Lex Licinia Sextia was a Roman law introduced around 376 BCE and enacted in 367 BCE. It restored the consulship, allegedly reserved one of the two consular positions for a plebeian (though subsequent years did see two patricians as consul), and introduced new limits on the possession of conquered land.
The law was championed for the plebeians in their struggle for power with the war-weakened patricians during what is often referred to as the Later Conflict of the Orders, following major wars with Gaul and the Latins. It combines agrarian and constitutional demands of the plebeians.
Patrician conservative leader Marcus Furius Camillus may have seen the law as a required concession. The law comes near the end of a period described as ‘anarchy’ (375 BCE) during which no legitimate chief magistrates were elected at Rome. Some of the constitutional aspects of the bill were intended to address this and at the same time ensure more power for the plebeians.
The agrarian portions of the law may have been more form than substance, as it has been suggested they were easily evaded. The year following the passage of the law did see a plebeian stand for consul. Some historians present this as the first time plebeians as permitted to serve as consuls; others suggest that as many as 30% of the consuls in the early republic may have been plebeian. In any case, at this time there was fairly intense conflict between the orders and lex Licinia Sextia was a significant event in that conflict.
Kingdom (753 BC – 508 BCE)
–Tarquinius Priscus (616 to 579 BCE): Conquered Apiolae, Collatia, Corniculum, old Ficulea, Cameria, Crustumerium, Ameriola, Medullia and Nomentum.
–Servius Tullius ( 578-535 BCE): Against the Veii and the Etruscans
–Tarquinius Superbus ( 535-509 BCE): Latin Alliance and war against Volscii, taking the wealthy town of Suessa Pometia, against the Gabii and the Rutuli (interrupted by the overthrow of the Monarchy). Also maintained peace with the Aequi and the Etruscans.
Named after the tribune Gaius Canuleius, who proposed it, it abolished a corresponding prohibition in the Twelve Tables and allowed marriage between patricians and plebeians, with children inheriting the father’s social status. It is also referred to in Latin as the Lex de conubio patrum et plebis.
Canuleius also carried through a law that permitted plebeians to hold the office of consul, the highest of the Roman magistracies, which the patricians had retained as their prerogative.
The Law of the Twelve Tables (Latin: Leges Duodecim Tabularum or Duodecim Tabulae) was the ancient legislation that stood at the foundation of Roman law. The Law of the Twelve Tables formed the centrepiece of the constitution of the Roman Republic and the core of the mos maiorum (custom of the ancestors).
The Twelve Tables came about as a result of the long social struggle between patricians and plebeians. After the expulsion of the last king of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus, the Republic was governed by a hierarchy of magistrates. Initially only patricians were eligible to become magistrates and this, among other plebeian complaints, was a source of discontent for plebeians. In the context of this unequal status, plebeians would take action to secure concessions for themselves using the threat of secession. They would threaten to leave the city with the consequence that it would grind to a halt, as the plebeians were Rome’s labour force. One of the most important concessions won in this class struggle was the establishment of the Twelve Tables, establishing basic procedural rights for all Roman citizens as against one another.
Patricians long opposed this request, but around 451 BC, the first decemviri (decemvirate – board of “Ten Men”) was appointed to draw up the first ten tables. According to Livy, they sent an embassy to Greece to study the legislative system of Athens, known as the Solonian Constitution, but also to find out about the legislation of other Greek cities. Modern scholars believe the Roman assembly most likely visited the Greek cities of Southern Italy, and did not travel all the way to Greece. In 450 BC, the second decemviri started work on the last two tables.
In 449 BC, the plebs seceded again to force the patricians to adopt the Twelve Tables. Unlike the earlier secret laws which only the priests had access to, these new laws amounted to a written and published legal code. And unlike the earlier non-published laws, the Twelve Tables presented a basic set of laws and rights to the Roman public, as opposed to hidden and secret laws which gave no specific rights to the ordinary plebeian Roman. The patricians vehemently opposed it but were nevertheless forced to found a commission headed by a decemvir who in turn announced the Twelve Tables in the Roman Forum. With the announcement of the new laws, the plebs were to a degree freed from injustice and subjectivity during trials. However, they were still obliged to pay slavery debt.
During his consulship (460 BCE), his main adversary was the Plebeian Tribune Gaius Terentilius Harsa. Though Cincinnatus was initially able to prevent their enactment, Terentilius attempted to use the upheaval associated with the war effort to push through a series of reforms which were specifically to benefit the proletarii and peasantry, including a proposal to draw up a code of written laws applicable equally to patricians and plebeians — an early push for what would eventually become the Ten or Twelve Tables. During his first Dictatorship (458 BCE), he led the Romans against the Aequi and the Sabines. A second term as dictator (439 BCE) to put down a conspiracy of Spurius Maelius, who supposedly was planning to become king. Twice granted supreme power, he held onto it for not a day longer than absolutely necessary.
In 494 BC, in response to the harsh rule of Appius Claudius Sabinus Inregillensis, the plebeians seceded and fled to Mons Sacer (the Sacred Mountain) and threatened to found a new town. In response, the patricians freed some of the plebs from their debts and conceded some of their power by creating the office of the Tribune of the Plebs. This tribune was the first government position held by the plebs. The powers of the tribunes changed over time. At their zenith, the plebeian tribunes exercised the power of veto, by which a tribune could forbid or invalidate any decision or action of a magistrate, including a consul or praetor, or indeed of the whole Senate, that the tribune deemed harmful to the plebs.
- Brutus was a Roman noble and nephew of the seventh king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus. He had a number of grievances against his uncle the king, amongst them was the fact that Tarquin had put to death a number of the chief men of Rome, including Brutus’ brother. Brutus avoided the distrust of Tarquin’s family by feigning slow-wittedness.
Brutus, along with Spurius Lucretius Tricipitinus, Publius Valerius Publicola, and Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus were summoned by Lucretia to Collatia after she had been raped by Sextus Tarquinius, the son of the king Tarquinius Superbus. Lucretia, believing that the rape dishonored her and her family, committed suicide by stabbing herself with a dagger after telling of what had befallen her. According to legend, Brutus grabbed the dagger from Lucretia’s breast after her death and immediately shouted for the overthrow of the Tarquins.
The four men gathered the youth of Collatia, then went to Rome where Brutus, being at that time Tribunus Celerum, summoned the people to the forum and exhorted them to rise up against the king. The people voted for the deposition of the king, and the banishment of the royal family.
Brutus, leaving Lucretius in command of the city, proceeded with armed men to the Roman army then camped at Ardea. The king, who had been with the army, heard of developments at Rome, and left the camp for the city before Brutus’ arrival. The army received Brutus as a hero, and the king’s sons were expelled from the camp. Tarquinius Superbus, meanwhile, was refused entry at Rome, and fled with his family into exile.
The Roman Republic he set up was dominated by the Senate and other Legislative Assemblies, which represented the aristocracy and as such was effectively an oligarchy where competing, ring-fenced and timed powers created the checks and balances to avoid any one man dominating the state. The political history of the state, the economic pressures of warfare and capture by the oligarchy at the detriment of the plebs would slowly lead to conflicts between patricians and plebs which would inevitably lead to the Marian reforms that would facilitate the fall of the republic and the rise of the Empire.
Legend says that the Romans abducted Sabine women to populate the newly built Rome during the reign of Romulus. The resultant war ended only by the women throwing themselves and their children between the armies of their fathers and their husbands. According to Livy, after the conflict the Sabine and Roman states merged, and the Sabine king Titus Tatius jointly ruled Rome with Romulus until Tatius’ death five years later.
Rome would have been founded by Romulus and his companions, slaves, wanderers and shepherds, after he murdered his brother Remus and before the two restored their grand father to the throne of Alba Longa, from where their royal lineage linked them to Aenas.
The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. It is composed of 9,896 lines in dactylic hexameter. The first six of the poem’s twelve books tell the story of Aeneas’ wanderings from Troy to Italy, and the poem’s second half tells of the Trojans’ ultimately victorious war upon the Latins, under whose name Aeneas and his Trojan followers are destined to be subsumed.
The hero Aeneas was already known to Greco-Roman legend and myth, having been a character in the Iliad, composed in the 8th century BC. Virgil took the disconnected tales of Aeneas’ wanderings, his vague association with the foundation of Rome and a personage of no fixed characteristics other than a scrupulous piety, and fashioned this into a compelling founding myth or national epic that at once tied Rome to the legends of Troy, explained the Punic wars, glorified traditional Roman virtues and legitimized the Julio-Claudian dynasty as descendants of the founders, heroes and gods of Rome and Troy.
Graeco-Perwsian Wars, Pellopponesian Wars, Theban Hegegemony and Hellenistic Period
Strictly speaking, this painting from Raphael does not represent Hellenism but rather classical knowledge, and by association includes Greek, Romans and even some Muslim scholars.
In the Wars of the Diadochi that took place after Alexander’s death, Seleucus established the Seleucid dynasty and the Seleucid Empire. He was the son of Antiochus a general of Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander. His kingdom would be one of the last holdouts of Alexander’s former empire to Roman rule. They were only outlived by the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt by roughly 34 years.
After the death of Alexander, Seleucus was nominated as the satrap of Babylon in 320 BC. Antigonus forced Seleucus to flee from Babylon, but, supported by Ptolemy, he was able to return in 312 BC. Seleucus’ later conquests include Persia and Media. He was defeated by the emperor of India, Chandragupta Maurya and accepted a matrimony alliance for 500 elephants after ceding the territories considered as part of India. Seleucus defeated Antigonus in the battle of Ipsus in 301 BC and Lysimachus in the battle of Corupedium in 281 BC. He was assassinated by Ptolemy Ceraunus during the same year. His successor was his son Antiochus I.
Seleucus founded a number of new cities, including Antioch and Seleucia, now part of present-day Turkey and Iraq, respectively.
Ptolemy was one of Alexander’s most trusted generals, and was among the seven somatophylakes (bodyguards) attached to his person. He was a few years older than Alexander, and had been his intimate friend since childhood.
In the long wars that followed between the different Diadochi, Ptolemy’s first goal was to hold Egypt securely, and his second was to secure control in the outlying areas: Cyrenaica and Cyprus, as well as Syria, including the province of Judea.
In 312, Ptolemy and Seleucus, the fugitive satrap of Babylonia, both invaded Syria, and defeated Demetrius Poliorcetes (“besieger of cities”), the son of Antigonus, in the Battle of Gaza. In 321, Perdiccas invaded Egypt. Ptolemy decided to defend the Nile, and Perdiccas’s attempt to force it ended in fiasco, with the loss of 2000 men. This was a fatal blow to Perdiccas’ reputation, and he was murdered in his tent by two of his subordinates. in 309 Ptolemy personally commanded a fleet that detached the coastal towns of Lycia and Caria from Antigonus, then crossed into Greece, where he took possession of Corinth, Sicyon and Megara (308 BC). In 306, a great fleet under Demetrius attacked Cyprus, and Ptolemy’s brother Menelaus was defeated and captured in another decisive Battle of Salamis. Ptolemy’s complete loss of Cyprus followed. In the winter of 306 BC, Antigonus tried to follow up his victory in Cyprus by invading Egypt; but Ptolemy was strongest there, and successfully held the frontier against him. Ptolemy led no further overseas expeditions against Antigonus. However, he did send great assistance to Rhodes when it was besieged by Demetrius (305/304). Pausanias reports that the grateful Rhodians bestowed the name Soter (“saviour”) upon him as a result of lifting the siege. in 302, Ptolemy joined it, and invaded Syria a third time, while Antigonus was engaged with Lysimachus in Asia Minor. On hearing a report that Antigonus had won a decisive victory there, he once again evacuated Syria. But when the news came that Antigonus had been defeated and slain by Lysimachus and Seleucus at the Battle of Ipsus in 301, he occupied Syria a fourth time.
Ptolemy I was succeeded by his son Ptolemy II Philadelphus.
Alexander broke the power of Persia in a series of decisive battles, most notably the battles of Issus and Gaugamela. He subsequently overthrew the Persian King Darius III and conquered the entirety of the Persian Empire.i[›] At that point, his empire stretched from the Adriatic Sea to the Indus River.
Alexander’s legacy includes the cultural diffusion his conquests engendered. He founded some twenty cities that bore his name, most notably Alexandria in Egypt. Alexander’s settlement of Greek colonists and the resulting spread of Greek culture in the east resulted in a new Hellenistic civilization, aspects of which were still evident in the traditions of the Byzantine Empire in the mid-15th century.
The invading Macedonian troops, led by Alexander the Great, defeated an army led by Darius III of Achaemenid Persia in the second great battle of Alexander’s conquest of Asia. After the Macedonians soundly defeated the Persian satraps of Asia Minor (led by the Greek mercenary, Memnon of Rhodes) at the Battle of the Granicus, Darius took personal command of his army. He gathered reinforcements and led his men in a surprise march behind the Macedonian advance to cut their line of supply. This forced Alexander to countermarch, setting the stage for the battle near the mouth of the Pinarus River and the town of Issus. The Battle of Issus was a decisive Macedonian victory and it marked the beginning of the end of Persian power. It was the first time the Persian army had been defeated with the King (Darius III at the time) present.
Alexander succeeded his father, Philip II of Macedon, to the throne in 336 BC after Philip was assassinated. Upon Philip’s death, Alexander inherited a strong kingdom and an experienced army. He was awarded the generalship of Greece and used this authority to launch his father’s military expansion plans. In 334 BC, he invaded Persian-ruled Asia Minor and began a series of campaigns that lasted ten years.
After the Battle of Chaeronea (338BCE), the league of Corinth was setup by Philip II of Macedon as a coalition of Greek states under his hegemony from which he could draw the necessary resources to invade Persia, a campaign that Alexander the Great would successively take up. It complemented the manpower, expertise armament and navy of Macedon for the expedition. The privileged treatment given to Athens can be understood in this context as a result of Macedon’s necessity of the city state’s navy in the upcoming campaign.
Monument celebrating the Thebans (“sacred band“) dead at the battle(338BCE) that preceded the destruction of Thebes by Alexander when the city (together with Athens) rebelled once more in 335BCE
The Battle of Chaeronea (Greek: Μάχη της Χαιρώνειας) was fought in 338 BC, near the city of Chaeronea in Boeotia, between the forces of Philip II of Macedon and an alliance of some of the Greek city-states including Athens and Thebes. The battle was the culmination of Philip’s campaign in Greece (339–338 BC) and resulted in a decisive victory for the Macedonians.
Philip had brought peace to a war-torn Greece in 346 BC, by ending the Third Sacred War, and concluding his ten-year conflict with Athens for supremacy in the north Aegean, by making a separate peace. Philip’s much expanded kingdom, powerful army and plentiful resources now made him the de facto “leader of Greece”. To many of the fiercely independent Greek city-states, Philip’s power after 346 BC was perceived as a threat to their liberty, especially in Athens, where the politician Demosthenes led efforts to break away from Philip’s influence. When, in 340 BC, Athens formed an alliance with a city Philip was then besieging, he finally lost patience, and declared war on the Attic state. In summer 339 BC, Philip therefore led his army into Greece, prompting the formation of an alliance of Greek states opposed to him, led by Athens and Thebes.
After several months of stalemate, Philip finally advanced into Boeotia in an attempt to march on Thebes and Athens. Opposing him, and blocking the road near Chaeronea, was the allied Greek army, similar in size and occupying a strong position. Details of the ensuing battle are scarce, but after a long fight the Macedonians crushed both flanks of the allied line, which then dissolved into a rout.
The battle has been described as one of the most decisive of the Ancient World. The forces of Athens and Thebes were destroyed, and continued resistance was impossible; the war therefore came to an abrupt end. Philip was able to impose a settlement upon Greece, which all states accepted, with the exception of Sparta. The League of Corinth, formed as a result, made all participants allies of Macedon and each other, with Philip as the guarantor of the peace. In turn, Philip was voted as strategos (general) for a pan-Hellenic war against the Persian Empire, which he had long planned. However, before he was able to take charge of the campaign, Philip was assassinated, and the kingdom of Macedon and responsibility for the war with Persia passed instead to his son Alexander.
Demosthenes (384–322 BCE) was a prominent Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens. His orations constitute a significant expression of contemporary Athenian intellectual prowess and provide an insight into the politics and culture of ancient Greece during the 4th century BC. Demosthenes learned rhetoric by studying the speeches of previous great orators. He delivered his first judicial speeches at the age of 20, in which he argued effectively to gain from his guardians what was left of his inheritance. For a time, Demosthenes made his living as a professional speech-writer (logographer) and a lawyer, writing speeches for use in private legal suits.
Demosthenes grew interested in politics during his time as a logographer, and in 354 BC he gave his first public political speeches. He went on to devote his most productive years to opposing Macedon’s expansion. He idealized his city and strove throughout his life to restore Athens’ supremacy and motivate his compatriots against Philip II of Macedon. He sought to preserve his city’s freedom and to establish an alliance against Macedon, in an unsuccessful attempt to impede Philip’s plans to expand his influence southwards by conquering all the other Greek states. After Philip’s death, Demosthenes played a leading part in his city’s uprising against the new King of Macedonia, Alexander the Great. However, his efforts failed and the revolt was met with a harsh Macedonian reaction. To prevent a similar revolt against his own rule, Alexander’s successor in this region, Antipater, sent his men to track Demosthenes down. Demosthenes took his own life, in order to avoid being arrested by Archias, Antipater’s confidant.
The Alexandrian Canon compiled by Aristophanes of Byzantium and Aristarchus of Samothrace recognized Demosthenes as one of the ten greatest Attic orators and logographers. Longinus likened Demosthenes to a blazing thunderbolt, and argued that he “perfected to the utmost the tone of lofty speech, living passions, copiousness, readiness, speed”. Quintilian extolled him as lex orandi (“the standard of oratory”), and Cicero said about him that inter omnis unus excellat (“he stands alone among all the orators”), and he also acclaimed him as “the perfect orator” who lacked nothing.
In his youth, (c. 368–365 BCE) Philip was held as a hostage in Thebes, which was the leading city of Greece during the Theban hegemony. While a captive there, Philip received a military and diplomatic education from Epaminondas, became eromenos of Pelopidas, and lived with Pammenes, who was an enthusiastic advocate of the Sacred Band of Thebes.
In 364 BCE, Philip returned to Macedon. The deaths of Philip’s elder brothers, King Alexander II and Perdiccas III, allowed him to take the throne in 359 BCE. Originally appointed regent for his infant nephew Amyntas IV, who was the son of Perdiccas III, Philip managed to take the kingdom for himself that same year.
Philip redesigned the army of Macedon adding a number of variations to the traditional hoplite force to make it far more effective. He added the hetairoi, a well armoured heavy cavalry, and more light infantry, both of which added greater flexibility and responsiveness to the force. He also lengthened the spear and shrank the shield of the main infantry force, increasing its offensive capabilities.
Philip began to rapidly expand the borders of his kingdom. He first campaigned in the north against non-Greek peoples such as the Illyrians, securing his northern border. He next turned east, to the territory along the northern shore of the Aegean. The most important city in this area was Amphipolis, which controlled the way into Thrace and also was near valuable silver and gold mines of Mount Pangaion. This region had been part of the Athenian Empire, and Athens still considered it as in their sphere. After breaking with an earlier agreement to lease the mines to Athens who had until then failed to conquer the city, the Athenians attempted to curb the growing power of Macedonia, but were limited by the outbreak of the Social War (357-355BCE). They could also do little to halt Philip when he turned his armies south and took over most of Thessaly.
Control of Thessaly meant Philip was now closely involved in the politics of central Greece. 356 BC saw the outbreak of the Third Sacred War (356-346BCE) that pitted Phocis against Thebes and its allies. Thebes recruited the Macedonians to join them and at the Battle of Crocus Field. Phillip decisively defeated Phocis and its Athenian allies. As a result Macedonia became the leading state in the Amphictyonic League and Phillip became head of the Pythian Games, firmly putting the Macedonian leader at the centre of the Greek political world.
In the continuing conflict with Athens Philip marched east through Thrace in an attempt to capture Byzantium and the Bosphorus, thus cutting off the Black Sea grain supply that provided Athens with much of its food. The siege of Byzantium failed, but Athens realized the grave danger the rise of Macedon presented and under Demosthenes built a coalition of many of the major states to oppose the Macedonians. Most importantly Thebes, which had the strongest ground force of any of the city states, joined the effort. The allies met the Macedonians at the Battle of Chaeronea and were decisively defeated, leaving Philip and the Macedonians the unquestioned master of Greece.
Epaminondas (Greek: Ἐπαμεινώνδας; ca. 418 BC – 362 BC), or Epameinondas, was a Theban general and statesman of the 4th century BC who transformed the Ancient Greek city-state of Thebes, leading it out of Spartan subjugation into a preeminent position in Greek politics. In the process he broke Spartan military power with his victory at Leuctra and liberated the Messenian helots, a group of Peloponnesian Greeks who had been enslaved under Spartan rule for some 230 years, having been defeated in the Messenian War ending in 600 BC. Epaminondas reshaped the political map of Greece, fragmented old alliances, created new ones, and supervised the construction of entire cities. He was militarily influential as well, inventing and implementing several major battlefield tactics.
The Battle of Leuctra (or Leuktra) was a battle fought on July 6, 371 BC, between the Boeotians led by Thebans and the Spartans along with their allies amidst the post-Corinthian War conflict. The battle took place in the neighbourhood of Leuctra, a village in Boeotia in the territory of Thespiae. The Theban victory shattered Sparta’s immense influence over the Greek peninsula which Sparta had gained since its victory in the Peloponnesian War.
Pericles (Greek: Περικλῆς, Periklēs, “surrounded by glory”; c. 495 – 429 BC) was the most prominent and influential Greek statesmen, orator, and general of Athens during the Golden Age—specifically, the time between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars. He was descended, through his mother, from the powerful and historically influential Alcmaeonid family.
Pericles had such a profound influence on Athenian society that Thucydides, his contemporary historian, acclaimed him as “the first citizen of Athens”. Pericles turned the Delian League into an Athenian empire and led his countrymen during the first two years of the Peloponnesian War. The period during which he led Athens, roughly from 461 to 429 BC, is sometimes known as the “Age of Pericles”, though the period thus denoted can include times as early as the Persian Wars, or as late as the next century.
Pericles promoted the arts and literature; it is principally through his efforts that Athens holds the reputation of being the educational and cultural center of the ancient Greek world. He started an ambitious project that generated most of the surviving structures on the Acropolis (including the Parthenon). This project beautified the city, exhibited its glory, and gave work to the people. Pericles also fostered Athenian democracy to such an extent that critics call him a populist.
Thucydides has been dubbed the father of “scientific history”, because of the strict standards of evidence-gathering and analysis in terms of cause and effect without reference to intervention by the gods, as outlined in his introduction to the History of the Peloponnesian War.
He has also been called the father of the school of political realism, which views the relations between nations as based on might rather than right. His text is still studied at advanced military colleges worldwide, and the Melian dialogue remains a seminal work of international relations theory.
Themistocles (c. 524–459 BCE) was an Athenian politician and general. He was one of a new breed of non-aristocratic politicians who rose to prominence in the early years of the Athenian democracy. As a politician, Themistocles was a populist, having the support of lower class Athenians, and generally being at odds with the Athenian nobility. Elected archon in 493 BC, he convinced the polis to increase the naval power of Athens, which would be a recurring theme in his political career. During the first Persian invasion of Greece, he fought at the Battle of Marathon, and was possibly one of the 10 Athenian strategoi (generals) in that battle.
In the years after Marathon, and in the run up to the second Persian invasion he became the most prominent politician in Athens. He continued to advocate a strong Athenian navy, and in 483 BC he persuaded the Athenians to build a fleet of 200 triremes; these would prove crucial in the forthcoming conflict with Persia. During the second invasion, he was in effective command of the Greek allied navy at the battles of Artemisium and Salamis. Due to subterfuge on the part of Themistocles, the Allies lured the Persian fleet into the Straits of Salamis, and the decisive Greek victory there was the turning point in the invasion, which was ended the following year by the defeat of the Persians at the land Battle of Plataea.
After the conflict ended, Themistocles continued to be pre-eminent amongst Athenian politicians. However, he aroused the hostility of Sparta by ordering Athens to be re-fortified, and his perceived arrogance began to alienate him from the Athenians. In 472 or 471 BC, he was ostracised, and went into exile in Argos. The Spartans now saw an opportunity to destroy Themistocles, and implicated him in the treasonous plot of their own general Pausanias. Themistocles thus fled from Greece, and travelled to Asia Minor, where he entered the service of the Persian king Artaxerxes I. He was made governor of Magnesia, and lived there for the rest of his life.
Themistocles died in 459 BC, probably of natural causes. Themistocles’s reputation was posthumously rehabilitated, and he was re-established as a hero of the Athenian (and indeed Greek) cause.
A Greek force of approximately 7,000 men marched north to block the pass in the summer of 480 BC. The Persian army, alleged by the ancient sources to have numbered over one million but today considered to have been much smaller (various figures are given by scholars ranging between about 100,000 and 150,000), arrived at the pass in late August or early September. The vastly outnumbered Greeks held off the Persians for seven days (including three of battle) before the rear-guard was annihilated in one of history’s most famous last stands. During two full days of battle the small force led by King Leonidas I of Sparta blocked the only road by which the massive Persian army could pass. After the second day of battle a local resident named Ephialtes betrayed the Greeks by revealing a small path that led behind the Greek lines. Leonidas, aware that his force was being outflanked, dismissed the bulk of the Greek army and remained to guard the rear with 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians, 400 Thebans and perhaps a few hundred others, most of whom were killed.
A congress of states met at Corinth in late autumn of 481 BC, and a confederate alliance of Greek city-states was formed. This confederation had the power to send envoys asking for assistance and to dispatch troops from the member states to defensive points after joint consultation. Herodotus does not formulate an abstract name for the union but simply calls them “οἱ Ἕλληνες” (the Greeks) and “the Greeks who had sworn alliance” (Godley translation) or “the Greeks who had banded themselves together” . Hereafter, they will be referred to as the ‘Allies’. Sparta and Athens had a leading role in the congress but interests of all the states played a part in determining defensive strategy.Little is known about the internal workings of the congress or the discussions during its meetings. Only 70 of the approximately 700 Greek cities sent representatives. Nevertheless, this was remarkable for the disjointed Greek world, especially since many of the city-states in attendance were still technically at war with each other.
The majority of other city-states remained more-or-less neutral, awaiting the outcome of the confrontation. Thebes was a major absentee, and was suspected of being willing to aid the Persians once the invasion force arrived. Not all Thebans agreed with this policy, and 400 “loyalist” hoplites joined the Allied force at Thermopylae (at least according to one possible interpretation). The most notable city which actively sided with the Persians (“Medised”) was Argos, in the otherwise Spartan-dominated Peloponnese. However, the Argives had been severely weakened in 494 BC, when a Spartan-force led by Cleomenes I had annihilated the Argive army in Battle of Sepeia and then massacred the fugitives.
The first Persian invasion of Greece, during the Persian Wars, began in 492 BCE, and ended with the decisive Athenian victory at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BCE. The invasion, consisting of two distinct campaigns, was ordered by the Persian king Darius I primarily in order to punish the city-states of Athens and Eretria. These cities had supported the cities of Ionia during their revolt against Persian rule, thus incurring the wrath of Darius. Darius also saw the opportunity to extend his empire into Europe, and to secure its western frontier.The Persian fleet next headed south down the coast of Attica, landing at the bay of Marathon, roughly 25 miles (40 km) from Athens, on the advice of Hippias, son of the former tyrant of Athens Peisistratus. The Athenians, joined by a small force from Plataea, marched to Marathon, and succeeded in blocking the two exits from the plain of Marathon. At the same time, Athens’ greatest runner, Pheidippides (or Philippides) was sent to Sparta to request that the Spartan army march to Athens’ aid. Pheidippides arrived during the festival of Carneia, a sacrosanct period of peace, and was informed that the Spartan army could not march to war until the full moon rose; Athens could not expect reinforcement for at least ten days. They decided to hold out at Marathon for the time being, and they were reinforced by a contingent of hoplites from Plataea.
Stalemate ensued for five days, before the Athenians (for reasons that are not completely clear) decided to attack the Persians. Despite the numerical advantage of the Persians, the hoplites proved devastatingly effective, routing the Persians wings before turning in on the centre of the Persian line; the remnants of the Persian army left the battle and fled to their ships. Herodotus records that 6,400 Persian bodies were counted on the battlefield; the Athenians lost just 192 men and the Plataeans 11.
In the immediate aftermath of the battle, Herodotus says that the Persian fleet sailed around Cape Sunium to attack Athens directly, although some modern historians place this attempt just before the battle. Either way, the Athenians evidently realised that their city was still under threat, and marched as quickly as possible back to Athens. The Athenians arrived in time to prevent the Persians from securing a landing, and seeing that the opportunity was lost, the Persians turned about and returned to Asia. On the next day, the Spartan army arrived, having covered the 220 kilometers (140 mi) in only three days. The Spartans toured the battlefield at Marathon, and agreed that the Athenians had won a great victory.
The Histories—his masterpiece and the only work he is known to have produced—is a record of his “inquiry” (or ἱστορία historía, a word that passed into Latin and acquired its modern meaning of “history”), being an investigation of the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars and including a wealth of geographical and ethnographical information.
During Solon’s time, many Greek city-states had seen the emergence of tyrants, opportunistic noblemen who had grabbed power on behalf of sectional interests. In Sicyon, Cleisthenes had usurped power on behalf of an Ionian minority. In Megara, Theagenes had come to power as an enemy of the local oligarchs. The son-in-law of Theagenes, an Athenian nobleman named Cylon, made an unsuccessful attempt to seize power in Athens in 632 BC. Solon, on the other hand, appears to have been temporarily awarded autocratic powers by his fellow citizens on the grounds that he had the wisdom to sort out their differences for them in a peaceful and equitable manner. According to ancient sources, he obtained these powers when he was elected eponymous archon (594/3 BC). Some modern scholars believe these powers were in fact granted some years after Solon had been archon, when he would have been a member of the Areopagus and probably a more respected statesman by his (aristocratic) peers.
The social and political upheavals that characterised Athens in Solon’s time have been variously interpreted by historians from ancient times to the present day. Two contemporary historians have identified three distinct historical accounts of Solon’s Athens, emphasizing quite different rivalries: economic and ideological rivalry, regional rivalry and rivalry between aristocratic clans.
During this period, Athens succeeded in bringing the other towns of Attica under its rule. This process of synoikismos – the bringing together into one home – created the largest and wealthiest state on the Greek mainland, but it also created a larger class of people excluded from political life by the nobility. By the 7th century BC social unrest had become widespread, and the Areopagus appointed Draco to draft a strict new code of law (hence the word ‘draconian’). When this failed, they appointed Solon, with a mandate to create a new constitution (in 594 BC).
Theseus is the representative of the beginning of post Bronze Collapse/classic ancient Greece typified by city states, the Persian wars and the Peloponesian Wars. Theseus was the Athenian founding hero, considered by them as their own great reformer: his name comes from the same root as θεσμός, Greek for “institution”. He was responsible for the synoikismos (“dwelling together” or “bringing together under one home”),the political unification of Attica under Athens, represented emblematically in his journey of labours, subduing highly localized ogres and monstrous beasts.
A historical explanation of the myth of the Minotaur refers to the time when Minoan Crete was the main political and cultural potency in the Aegean Sea. As the fledgling Athens (and probably other continental Greek cities) was under tribute to Crete, it can be assumed that such tribute included young men and women for sacrifice. This ceremony was performed by a priest disguised with a bull head or mask, thus explaining the imagery of the Minotaur. It may also be that this priest was son to Minos. On an unrelated note, Theseus is also considered one of the several Kings of Greece.
Mythological Greek Foundations, Bronze Age Collapse and Dark Age Migrations
One of the main potential causes of the Greek bronze age collapse and subsequent dark ages (1200 BCE–750 BCE) is widespread migration of bellicous peoples. Evidence includes the widespread findings of Naue II-type swords (coming from South-Eastern Europe) throughout the region, and Egyptian records of invading “northerners from all the lands”. The Ugarit correspondence at the time mentions invasions by tribes of such as the mysterious Sea Peoples. This is also consistent with the Dorian Invasions of the Bronze Age Mycenean and the Heracleidae tradition (Dorians as descendants of Hercules).
In the context of the Bronze Age Collapse and the migrations that are supposed to have accompanied it, the Sea Peoples, who appear to have been a disparate mix of Luwians, Greeks and Canaanites, among others, are documented in the Ugarit correspondence.
They were loose a confederacy of seafaring raiders from Southern Europe, who sailed around the eastern Mediterranean and invaded Anatolia, Syria, Canaan, Cyprus, and Egypt toward the end of the Bronze Age.
The Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah explicitly refers to them by the term “the foreign-countries (or ‘peoples’) of the sea” in his Great Karnak Inscription.
They may also have included Phillistines, Myceneans, Minoans, Trojans, Anatolians, Tyrrhenian, Sicilians, Sardinians among others.
Egyptian hieroglyphs, report that Sea Peoples destroyed the Hittite Empire around the 11th century BCE and then attacked the 19th then the 20th dynasties of Egypt.
I take Hercules, one of the founding heroes of Greek culture, as a symbol of the Dorian invasion and by association, of the Bronze Age collapse and the beginning of the Iron Age. Although, mythologically, he is supposed to be a character fitting into the Mycenaean period, some generations after Perseus, the claims of the Dorian Heracleid as descendants of that Heraklaian dynasty, and his brutal feats make him a fitting representative.
In relation to the Centaur, Nissus, note that the most common theory holds that the idea of centaurs came from the first reaction of a non-riding culture, as in the Minoan Aegean world, to nomads who were mounted on horses.
The Greek Dark Age or Ages and Geometric or Homeric Age (ca. 1200 BC–750 BC) are terms which have regularly been used to refer to the period of Greek history from the presumed Dorian invasion and end of the Mycenaean Palatial civilization around 1200 BC, to the first signs of the Greek poleis in the 9th century BC. The archaeological evidence shows a widespread collapse of Bronze Age civilization in the eastern Mediterranean world at the outset of the period, as the great palaces and cities of the Mycenaeans were destroyed or abandoned. Around this time, the Hittite civilization suffered serious disruption and cities from Troy to Gaza were destroyed. Following the collapse, fewer and smaller settlements suggest famine and depopulation.
While it is impossible to know that the image actually depicts the death mask of Illiad Mycean King Agamemnon of Homeric repute, it has been treated and named as such since its discovery. His death, would coincide with the progressive collapse of the Mycenean civilization and the beginning of the Bronze Age Collapse.
The burning of Troy is consistent with the Bronze Age Collapse.
Most of the Homeric tales (800 BCE) take place during the Mycenaean period.
I take Perseus, as one of the founding characters of Greek culture, to be the representative of the Mycenaean period. He is here taken to represent the beginning of that period (1500BC-1100BCE).
In mythology, he was the son of Zeus and Danaë, daughter of the King of Argos
The Thera eruption or Santorini eruption, was a major catastrophic volcanic eruption with a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 6 or 7 and a Dense-rock equivalent (DRE) of 60 km3 (14 cu mi), which is estimated to have occurred in the mid second millennium BCE (sometime between 1642BCE and 1500BCE). The eruption was one of the largest volcanic events on Earth in recorded history, devastatiing the island of Thera (modern day Santorini), including the Minoan settlement at Akrotiri,
The Mycenaean conquest of the Minoans occurred in Late Minoan II period. The Mycenaeans were a military civilization and Mycenaean weaponry has been found in burials on Crete. This demonstrates Mycenaean military influence not many years after the eruption. Many archaeologists speculate that the eruption caused a crisis in Minoan civilization, making them vulnerable to conquest by the Mycenaeans.
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, the earliest attested form of Greek. The script predates the Greek alphabet by several centuries. The oldest Mycenaean writing dates to about 1450 BC. It is descended from the older Linear A, an undeciphered earlier script used for writing the Minoan language, as is the later Cypriot syllabary, which also recorded Greek. Linear B, found mainly in the palace archives at Knossos, Cydonia, Pylos, Thebes and Mycenae, disappeared with the fall of Mycenaean civilization.
The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BCE to the 15th century BCE.
I consider the Minoans as the first civilization as the first European civilization, according to most established knowledge, as patent in Will Durant, who calls them the “first link in the European Chain”.
In Greek Mythology he is a Titan who steals fire from the gods and gives it to Humanity, an act that enabled progress and civilization. For this, he is punished by being chained to a rock and have an eagle feed on his liver.
He is considered a giver of the arts of civilization, such as writing, mathematics, agriculture, medicine, and science as per Aeschilus, which is the reason I include him as the first original myth of creation on record for Western Europe.
Cadmus is the giver of the alphabet, in Greek Mythology. Cadmus killed the dragon, who had sent his companions to their death, to acquire the water it guarded, required to found Thebes. Given that Minoan Script is the first one found, it seems appropriate to introduce this hero of Greek tradition and Phoenician exile before the first proper European Civilization.
According to Greek Mythology, he was also the brother of Europa.
Scheme of Indo-European migrations from c. 4000 to 1000 BC according to the Kurgan hypothesis. The purple area corresponds to the assumed Urheimat (Samara culture, Sredny Stog culture). The red area corresponds to the area which may have been settled by Indo-European-speaking peoples up to c. 2500 BC; the orange area to 1000 BC.
Athena Gives Reason to Man after Prometheus creates it from clay.