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Emperors of Pax Romana

Starting with the reign of Augustus and ending with the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the Pax Romana is a relatively stable 200 year period. The first five emperors are of the Julio-Claudia Dynasty. The last five of the Pax Romana are considered the "good" emperors by Machiavelli.

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Video transcript

- [Instructor] As we saw in the last several videos, the Roman Republic that was established in 509 BCE, it finally met its end with the rule of Julius Caesar. We talk about Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, becoming dictator for life, and then he's assassinated because of the power he was able to accumulate in 44 BCE, on March 15th, the Ides of March. That throws Rome into a civil war. Eventually it becomes a battle between Augustus, or at the time, Octavian, versus Mark Antony and Cleopatra. Octavian is able to be victorious. And, on 27 BCE, he is declared, or this is the date that historians often use as the beginning of him officially being emperor. This period from 27 BCE, with Augustus being emperor, all the way to 180 CE, so this roughly 200-year period, this is a relatively good time for the Roman Empire. As we will see, there is still a lot of conflict, there is still a lot of bloodshed, but it is a relatively stable period. It is also referred to as Pax Romana, or the Roman Peace. What we see pictured here, these are most of the Emperors of that roughly 200-year period. Augustus proves to be a relatively good administrator. He lays a good foundation for the next several hundred years of the Empire. The Roman Empire officially being ruled by an Emperor. It's eventually going to meet its demise, the Western Empire, at least, in 476 CE, so, it's gonna go for roughly 500 years, and Augustus lays a strong foundation for it. He's viewed as a strong administrator. He really builds a lot of institutions. From a historical perspective, it's worth noting that Jesus was born under Augustus's rule. Most historical views are Jesus was born in some place between 4 BCE and 6 BCE. Now, Augustus was followed by Tiberius. Tiberius, here, was both Augustus's step-son, and he married Augustus's daughter, so he was a step-son, and son-in-law. He also proved to be a relatively capable emperor. You can see Augustus had a fairly long rule. He took power in his 30s, and his power ended in his 70s. Tiberius, too, had a fairly long rule. From a historical point of view, or even a Biblical point of view, it's worth noting that Jesus would have been crucified under Tiberius's rule. The Roman Emperor referred to in the New Testament is Tiberius. It would have been his governor, Pontius Pilate, who orders the crucifixion of Jesus. Now, after Tiberius, you have his great-nephews, or his great, great-nephew, and you can see they're all not directly related, but they're all kind of family. His great, great-nephew is Caligula. Caligula, that's his nickname, is a bit of an infamous figure, one of the infamous figures, in history amongst the Roman Emperors 'cause he's really viewed as a sadist, as a pervert. He's known for killing people just for fun, and he is quickly assassinated. His term only, or his power, only lasted for several years. Then, in his place is put his uncle, Claudius. After Claudius comes another infamous figure of history, and that is Nero. Nero, he's known for, Rome had a significant fire in 64 AD. Many of the Roman citizens believed that Nero did it intentionally to clear out space for a palace. Significant number of Romans died in that fire. He killed a ton of people, including his mother. He's maybe most famous for persecuting Christians. There's some accounts that he would dip them in oil and set them on fire in his garden just as a source of light. These people, to say that they were insane, or demented, or sick, normally I try to avoid making any judgement on some of these historical figures, but both Caligula, and Nero, if we believe the accounts that we get from that period, and shortly after that period, were not, by any stretch of the imagination, good people. Nero eventually does commit suicide, and, with Nero's end, you actually have the end of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Let me write that down, Julio, Julio, Claudian, Claudian dynasty. The reason why it's called the Julio-Claudian dynasty is that all of these characters, let me circle them, or underline 'em. All of these characters right over here are essentially from the same family. They're descended from both the Julian line, Julius Caesar, and the Claudian family. That's why it's called the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Now, at the end of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, you have a new dynasty, Vespasian. There's a short civil war, so the Pax Romana is not without some war and bloodshed. In fact, this whole time, there's a lot of relatives being killed, people who might threaten the Emperor being killed, and that's just talking about the Romans, themselves. They're constantly fighting the Germanic tribes, and groups in the Middle East, and taking more, and more, and more territory, and these are extremely bloody thing. They're constantly enslaving people. The Roman Empire sometimes it looks like this neat, clean, idealistic thing, but there was a lot of enslaving of people, destroying of towns. Killing people out of paranoia, or really just out of the joy of killing, if you take the case of Caligula, or Nero. Then, you have the Flavian dynasty. I don't have the three Flavian Emperors depicted right over here. You have Vespasian, you have Titus, and you have Domitian. Of note, the Colosseum. The famous Colosseum in Rome was built during their time. They're also known for the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem. Then, after that, you have what historians, and especially Niccolo Machiavelli, so this is many centuries later, called the Good Emperors. The Good Emperors are these characters, let me square them off right over here. And these are really the last five emperors of the Pax Romana. We should even use the term, Good, maybe in quotation marks, because for Rome's enemies, for the slaves of Rome, for the people who were thrown into the Colosseum just because they were a prisoner of war, or they committed some simple crime, the Roman Empire didn't seem good. The reason why they were viewed good is they were viewed as able administrators. They continued to expand the Roman Empire. Trajan in particular, the peak of the Roman Empire comes, in terms of Geography, comes under Trajan's rule. That's this map right over here. This is the largest geographic extent that the Roman Empire takes on. Trajan is succeeded by Hadrian, most known for Hadrian's Wall. He had the upper-bound of the Roman Empire. Then, the Pax Romana ends with Marcus Aurelius, who is viewed as a, he's actually wrote meditations. He's a philosopher-emperor. He's viewed as one of the last great stoic philosophers. With that, you have the end of this period of Pax Romana. As we'll see in the next few videos, we then start really getting into the decline of at least the Western Roman Empire, as we'll see the Eastern Roman Empire outlives the West by a good thousand years.