Empire

The last Roman emperor elected by the Senate.

Marcus Claudius Tacitus Augustus, known as Tacitus, was the last Roman emperor elected by the Roman Senate, and served only for a short period of time, between 275 and 276 AD. Little is known about Tacitus´ career before his reign. Some sources suggest he served in the Danube Legions before becoming a senator. We do know he held the office of Senate consul, rising to the highest Senate rank, princeps senatus, an office he held at the time he reluctantly accepted to be the next emperor by acclaim of the Senate. After the assassination of Aurelian, an eight-month long interregnum took place. During this time, the army, who normally would proclaim the next emperor,  decided to cede their right to the Senate, due to their remorse over the death of the popular emperor, Aurelian, who had died wi...

The Revolt of the Batavi. August 1, 69 AD.

The Revolt of the Batavi took place in the Roman province of Germania Inferior between the years 69 and 70 AD. The revolt was led by the Batavi and other tribes from Germania and by the heir apparent Julius Civilis from Gaul, an official from the auxiliary troops. The revolt took advantage of the instability that was taking place in the Empire during the Year of the Four Emperors, with the Batavi managing to defeat two Roman legions and infringed humiliating defeats to the Roman army. The Batavi were highly skilled in war. Warriors were excellent horsemen, also were adept at swimming and boat managing (they were renowned for developing a technique of swimming in rivers while carrying all of their armour and weapons), so they became a desirable source for recruiting soldiers for the Empire....

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. June 28, 1519.

Charles I of Spain was also Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire.  He was known as the “Emperor” or the “Caesar”. As Charles I, he first reigned together with his mother, Joanna I of Castille, until 1555, and was king of all the Hispanic reigns and territories, reuniting for the first time in the same person the crowns of Castille (including the kingdom of Navarre) and Aragon. He became Holy Roman Emperor under the name of Charles V on June 28, 1519. As a child, Charles received a humanist and Christian education from the Flemish court. He received through diverse inheritances a huge compound of territories and acquired the imperial election in 1519 (disputed by Francis I of France). Charles set out, with the help of his counsellors, how he could use this immense power. His major concerns be...

Byzantium, Nova Roma. May 11, 330.

Byzantium was the Greek capital city of Thrace, situated in the Western part of the entrance of the Bosphorus Strait, actually Istambul. It has occupied an outstanding part in History since its founding, around 668 BC, according to Herodotus. Byzantium suffered, as did all Greece, Rome´s tutoring. The city entered a period of decline, although all of the Greek cities in this period were well supplied. During the Macedonian Wars, between Rome and Philippus V, Romans awarded Byzantium with the title of confederate city for their help. In 191 BC the city was a Roman ally and acknowledged as a free city, although it lost this status in 100 BC. Emperor Claudius reduced the city taxes to make up for its losses in the war against Thrace. Vespasian integrated Byzantium in the Roman province of Thr...

Empress Irene of Athens. April 19, 797.

On November 1, 768, a young and beautiful girl from Athens arrived to Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire. At the time she was one of the many applicants to marry Leo IV, future emperor. History nevertheless will remember her as one of the most powerful and controversial Byzantine Empresses, not only for her solo rule and her opposition to her son, but also for stopping, at least for some time, iconoclasm. Irene was unlikely to be chosen as Leo´s future wife for two reasons: first, she came from a noble family from Athens, not from Constantinople´s aristocracy. The second reason, even more significant, was that the Emperor Constantine V fiercely defended iconoclasm, while Irene supported, and possibly also professed veneration of icons. This was a pinp...

Shapur I, co-emperor. April 12, 240 AD.

Shapur I, son of Ardashir I reigned over the Sassanian Empire from 241 to 272. Towards the end of his rule, Ardashir had revived the war against the Roman Empire. Shapur continued it, conquering the Mesopotamian fortresses of Carrhae and Nisibis and entering Syria, although his forces were there rejected by the father in law of the young Emperor Gordian III, Timesitheus, and finally defeated in the Battle of Rasaena in 243, forcing him to leave Mesopotamia. Shortly after, Timesitheus died and Gordian was murdered by Philip the Arab, who signed a truce with Persians in 244. Shapur reignited the war shortly after, taking advantage of the Goths´ invasion of the Empire and the continuous succession of emperors that followed the death of Decian (251). Shapur conquered Armenia, invaded Syria and...

Commodus sole Emperor. March 17, 1180 AD.

Marcus Aurelius´ reign was characterized by continuous wars. In March 17, 180 AD, after two years leading the campaigns in the Danube himself, he died leaving his son Commodus as sole emperor of the Roman Empire. Therefore, although Commodus´ reign was more or less peaceful if compared with his father´s, it was terribly unstable and turbulent in political terms. His reign was subject to his own infatuations and needs instead of the needs of his people. In words of Dio Cassio: Commodus´ reign marked the transition a golden and silver age to that of rust and iron. This phrase has defined what many modern historians call the Decadence of the Roman Empire. Commodus stayed with his army in the Danube until he proposed a peace treaty to the Germanic Tribes, which didn´t hesitate to accept the Em...

Bardas Phocas against Basil II. February 7, 987.

Bardas Phocas was descendant of the Phocas Clan, an aristocratic family who consistently produced very competent generals that acted supplanting the actual heirs of the Macedonian Dynasty by acting as the authentic rulers of the Byzantine Empire. Let´s not forget that the Byzantine Empire at this time (during the second half of the tenth century) was characterized by long periods of military campaigns and many territories were conquered during this period. When Basil II ascended to the power at the death of his brother John I Tzimiskes in 976, tensions began to surface between the court and the emperor, that tried to rule without any exterior influence. This situation finally resulted in a major rebellion led by Bardas Phocas the Younger, the most powerful man left of the old Phocas Clan. ...

The Murder of Caligula. January 24, 41 AD.

Formally known as Gaius (Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus), but better known as Caligula, the third Roman emperor, from 37 to 41 AD, was born to the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He was son of Germanicus, one of the greatest generals of Roman history and adoptive son of Emperor Tiberius. His mother was Agrippina the Elder, a fiercely independent woman, who was married to Germanicus by order of Tiberius in order to bring him closer to the Julian family. As a child he accompanied his father on campaigns in the north of Germania, where he received the nickname of Caligula meaning “little (soldier’s) boot” in Latin, after the small boots (caligae) he wore… a nickname he grew to hate. Germanicus died in Syria, possibly poisoned by order of Tiberius, who saw him and his descendants a...

The death of Agrippa Postumus. August 20, 14 AD.

Agrippa Postumus was the youngest son of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Julia the Elder, the daughter and only biological child of the Roman Emperor Augustus. Augustus initially considered Postumus as a potential successor and formally adopted him as his heir. In AD 6, an uprising began in the Roman province of Illyricum. Augustus sent Tiberius to crush the revolt with his army, and after a year of delayed results, he sent Germanicus in his capacity as quaestor to assist in bringing the war to a swift end. The reason, Dio says, that Germanicus was chosen over Postumus is because Postumus was of an “illiberal nature”. Postumus was known for being brutish, insolent, stubborn, and potentially violent. He possessed great physical strength and reportedly showed little interest in anyt...

The Battle of Antioch. June 8, 218.

By the early third century, the balance of power had shifted from the Senate to the army, and the position of the Senate was considerably weakened. The emperor of Rome was appointed by the support of the military, while the Senate existed solely to officiate state affairs without any real authority. Both Macrinus and later Elagabalus secured the support of the military while generally disregarding the opinion of the Senate. Macrinus was in dire circumstances after Elagabalus’ rebellion and had no other choice but to turn to the Senate for assistance. While in Antioch, Macrinus made one final attempt at securing support, this time from Rome. A combination of distrust from the Senate, insufficient funds, and Elagabalus’ impending approach, however, forced Macrinus to face Elagaba...

The death of Severus. February 4, 211.

In 208 Septimius Severus travelled to Britain with the intention of conquering Caledonia. He probably arrived in Britain with an army over 40,000, considering some of the camps constructed during his campaign could house this number. He strengthened Hadrian’s Wall and reconquered the Southern Uplands up to the Antonine Wall, which was also enhanced. Severus then thrust north with his army across the wall into Caledonian territory. Retracing the steps of Agricola of over a century before, Severus rebuilt and garrisoned many abandoned Roman forts along the east coast, such as Carpow. He was supported and supplied by a strong naval force. Cassius Dio‘s account of the invasion reads: Severus, accordingly, desiring to subjugate the whole of it, invaded Caledonia. But as he advanced ...

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