Roman 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 Battle of Frigidus. September 6, 394.

The Battle of Frigidus, or the Battle of the River Frigid, took place between September 5 and 6, 394, pitting the Roman Emperor Theodosius I´s army against the army of the western usurper, Eugenius. As a result of Eugenius and his Frankish magister militum, Arbogast´s, defeat, the Roman Empire was in the hands of a sole emperor for the last time in its history. As a Christian, Theodosius was enraged by the pagan awakening that was taking place in the West under the reign of Eugenius. Furthermore, the death of Valentinian remained unsolved, and Eugenius had deposed all the civilian offices appointed by Theodosius when he ceded the western part of the empire to Valentinian II, leaving him with no control over the western Roman Empire. When a Western embassy arrived at Constantinople to reque...

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....

Galba Emperor. June 8, 68 AD.

Servius Sulpicius Galba was Roman Emperor from June 8, 68 until his death. He was the first of the four emperors that reigned during 69, known as “the year of the four emperors“. He had an outstanding political career: he was consul in 33, governor of Germania in 45, and proconsul of Africa in 46. In 45, he was sent by Caligula to Germania to replace Gaetulicus, of whom the emperor had grown suspicious. Galba achieved his reputation by developing efficient military policies and imposing strict discipline among his men. During his reign in Germania, he repelled barbarian invasions that had taken Gaul. Caligula was so happy with Galba´s achievements that he rewarded generously the troops under his command. In the turmoil after Caligula´s death, Galba declined taking the throne, e...

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...

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...

The Bostran Era. March 22, 106 AD.

The Bostran Era (also called Arabian Era) started corresponding to March 22, 106 AD. This was the official dating of the Roman Province Arabia Petraea, and it was introduced in order to make it coincide with the regnal years after the inclusion of the Nabatean Kingdom to the Roman Empire. It has the name of the city of Bostra, that soon was the home of the Sixth Legion. The start date of the Bostran Era was a controversial matter, in part because the Chronicon Paschale states that it started at the time of the consuls Candidus and Quadratus (105), while the discoveries of the Cave of Letters´ manuscripts made it clear that the Bostran Era started on 106. The Bostran year was lunisolar: it has 12 months with 30 days with five epagomenal days at the end of each year. The names of the months ...

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...

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...

Mount Vesuvius on the feast of Vulcan. August 23, 79 AD.

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 destroyed the Roman cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis and Stabiae, as well as several other settlements. The eruption ejected a cloud of stones, ashes and volcanic gases to a height of 33 km (21 mi), erupting molten rock and pulverized pumice and ultimately releasing 100,000 times the thermal energy released by the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings. More than 1,000 people died in the eruption, but exact numbers are unknown. The only surviving eyewitness account of the event consists of two letters by Pliny the Younger to the historian Tacitus. On August 23, Mount Vesuvius begins stirring, on the feast day of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire. The Vulcanalia was the annual festival held August 23 in his honor. His Greek counterpart is Hephaestus, the god...

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...

Life on Mars. August 6, 1996.

In August 6, 1996 a team of researchers announced that the meteorite ALH84001, discovered in the Allan Hills of Antarctica, may contain evidence of life on Mars, but further tests were inconclusive. To date, no proof has been found of past or present life on Mars. Cumulative evidence shows that during the ancient Noachian time period, the surface environment of Mars had liquid water and may have been habitable for microorganisms. The existence of habitable conditions does not necessarily indicate the presence of life. Scientific searches for evidence of life began in the 19th century, and continue today via telescopic investigations and deployed probes. While early work focused on phenomenology and bordered on fantasy, the modern scientific inquiry has emphasized the search for water, chem...

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