Roman Empire

The Battle of Nineveh. December 12, 627.

The Battle of Nineveh was the climactic battle of the Byzantine-Sassanid War of 602–628. The Byzantine victory later resulted in civil war in Persia, and for a period of time, restored the Roman Empire to its ancient boundaries in the Middle East. This resurgence of power and prestige was not to last, as after a few years, an Arab Caliphate emerged from Arabia and once again brought the empire to the brink of destruction. The victory at Nineveh was not total: the Byzantines were unable to capture the Persian camp. However, this victory was significant enough to shatter the resistance of the Persians. With no Persian army left to oppose him, Heraclius’ victorious army plundered Dastagird, Khosrau’s palace, and gained tremendous riches. Khosrau had already fled to the mountains o...

This Week In History – Commodus Imperator. 27 November 177 AD.

On November 27, 177, Emperor Marcus Aurelius granted his son Commodus the rank of “Imperator” and makes him Supreme Commander of the Roman legions. This marked the start of Commodus´ rule, first as co-emperor with his father, and solely after his father´s death in 180. His accession was the first time a son had succeeded his biological father since Titus succeeded Vespasian in 79. He was also the first emperor to have both a father and grandfather (who had adopted his father) as the two preceding emperors. During his solo reign, the Empire enjoyed a period of peace and reduced military conflict compared to his father´s reign but intrigues and conspiracies abounded, leading Commodus to an increasingly dictatorial style of leadership that culminated in a God-like personality cult...

Emperor Diocletian and the Tetrarchy. November 20, 284 AD.

After his rise through the ranks of military until he became the Roman Cavalry Commander to Emperor Carus, when Carus and his son Numerian died on campaign in Persia, Diocletian became emperor on November 20, 284. Of course, Carus surviving son, Carinus also claimed the title, but was defeated in the battle of Margus.  Diocletian´s rule put an end to the Crisis of the Third Century. Diocletian named his fellow officer Maximian co-emperor,  Augustus, in 286. Afterwards, in 293, he named caesars Galerius and Constantius, or heirs of the augustus title. This new regime was called the Tetrarchy, or “government of four”, and it meant the geographical division of the empire into four parts. Diocletian lead military campaigns against Sarmatians, Carpi, Alemanii, and the usurpers in Egypt, securin...

The Battle of the Milvian Brigde. October 28, 312 AD.

The Battle of the Milvian Bridge took place between the Roman Emperors Constantine I and Maxentius on October 28, 312. It takes its name from the Milvian Bridge, an important route over the Tiber river. Constantine won the battle and started on the path that led him to end the Tetrarchy and become the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. Maxentius drowned in the Tiber during the battle; his body was later taken from the river and decapitated, and his head was paraded through the streets of Rome on the day following the battle. According to chroniclers, the battle marked the beginning of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity. Eusebius of Caesarea recounts that Constantine and his soldiers had a vision sent by the Christian God.

Trajan, Nerva´s successor. October 28,97 AD.

In September 96, Emperor Domitian was succeeded by Marcus Cocceius Nerva. After a brief and turbulent year in power, culminating in a revolt by members of the Praetorian Guard, Nerva was compelled to adopt the more popular Trajan as his heir and successor. Since Nerva was really unpopular with the army and had recently been forced to execute Domitian´s killers by his Praetorian Prefect, he felt the need to gain support of the military in order to avoid being deposed. He accomplished this on October 28 of 97 by naming Trajan as his adoptive son and successor, pleading only Trajan´s outstanding military merits. There are hints that Trajan´s adoption was imposed on Nerva, as Pliny wrote, and if this is what happened, then Trajan would be an usurper, and the notion of natural continuity betwee...

The Battle of Zama. October 19, 202 BC.

The Battle of Zama meant the end of the 17 years long Second Punic War. An army led by Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, supported by Masinissa, the Numidian leader, defeated a force greater in numbers and that counted with eighty war elephants, led by commander Hannibal. In Hannibal´s army there were a great number of conscripts, and it had been recently hampered by the vaunted Numidian cavalry,that had switched sides and now supported the Romans, having a superior cavalry by then. Instead of massing together to oppose the elephants, Scipio´s troops blew their horns loudly so that the elephants would charge through their open ranks, pelting them with missiles as they passed through, confusing and defeating them. Scipio deployed his army in three lines: the first line was composed of the...

Heraclius, emperor. October 4, 610.

In 608, Heraclius the Elder, Heraclius´ father, renounced his loyalty to the Emperor Phocas. The rebels even issued coins showing both Heraclii dressed as consuls, though neither of them had claimed the imperial title. Phocas responded with executions, among them of the ex-Empress Constantina and her three daughters. Heraclius’ younger cousin Nicetas launched a successful overland invasion of Egypt, where he defeated Phocas´ army. While this invasion was taking place, the younger Heraclius sailed eastward through Sicily and Cyprus, planning to enter Constantinople. Some prominent Byzantine aristocrats came to meet Heraclius, and he arranged to be crowned and acclaimed as Emperor before even entering Constantinople. As he approached the city, and planned the attack, the Excubitors, th...

Domitian, Emperor. September 13, 81 AD.

After a short reign, Titus, the elder son of Vespasian, died unexpectedly as a result of a disease on the 13th September 81. Next day, his younger brother Domitian was proclaimed emperor by the Praetorian Guard, his reign being the longest since that of Tiberius and the last of the Flavian Dynasty. He is described by classical sources as a cruel and paranoid tyrant, comparing his vileness to that of Nero or Caligula. Nevertheless, this sources have proven to be not very objective, as they come from writers openly hostile to the emperor, and modern research has shown that he was a ruthless but efficient monarch that developed cultural and economic programs that set the foundation of a very prosperous 2nd century.

Probus Born – August 19, 232 AD

According to most sources, Marcus Aurelius Probus was born on August 19, 232 AD in Sirmium, Pannonia Inferior (modern-day Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia). David Vagi notes in his two-volume work, “Coinage and History of the Roman Empire”, Probus may have actually been instead born in Siscia, given the interesting and unusual attention paid to that city on his coinage. In fact, his coinage itself displays the most elaborate bust types, along with very unusual legends and a complex set of mintmarks that combine to make a multitude of varieties. The most extensive website of which I currently know on the coins of Probus, was created by my friend GK, at: http://probvs.net/probvs/ Not much is documented about Probus before he joined the military, around 250 AD, when he was of age. Civil wars and tri...

Roman Provinces

The Roman Empire was sprawling and massive as they assimilated regions they conquered and mostly kept the population and cultures intact to a degree. In order to keep all of the provinces running smoothly, local mints were established to produce (mostly) base-metal coins. Over the course of the empire, more than 600 provincial mints provided the means for those not living in the large cities to conduct trade, while showcasing important themes, buildings or religious icons. Some large provincial mints, such as Tyre in Phoenicia, were allowed to strike silver coins. But mostly the provincial cities and towns featured their flavor on copper and bronze. This is the Roman Provincial Coinage. Interestingly, some Roman provincial issues are the only way to collect some of the family members, such...

Hadrian Dies at Baiae – July 10, 138 AD

Trajan expanded the borders of the Roman Empire to its greatest extent and was hoping his adopted successor, Hadrian, would continue to conquer even more territory. Hadrian was an experienced soldier, having campaigned with Trajan against the Parthians as a legate in early 117. History doesn’t describe Hadrian as having done anything outstanding during the campaign, however, Trajan did appoint him as governor of Syria when the current governor had to vacate to deal with problems in Dacia. During this time, Trajan was of ill health and getting worse, so he returned to Rome and left Hadrian in the East to keep matters under control. This is a great category in Roman Coins. After Trajan died on August 8, 117, Hadrian was endorsed by the Senate on August 9 as the next Roman emperor. Although n...

Pertinax Declared Emperor – January 1, 193 AD

The Roman emperor, Commodus, was murdered on December 31, 192 AD by Praetorian prefect Quintus Aemilius Laetus, Commodus’s mistress Marcia and chamberlain Eclectus. At the time, Publius Helvius Pertinax was the urban prefect and was rushed to the Praetorian camp and declared emperor on January 1, 193. Upon ascending to the throne, Pertinax immediately ran into issues with the Praetorians, who suspected he was part of the conspiracy to rid the world of Commodus and expected to be rewarded in helping him gain his new title. This is a category of  Denarius. Pertinax felt the military needed stricter discipline as they were getting too accustom to a licentious living, and instituted reforms, which they resisted and hated him for it. He also did not want to pay the Praetorians the donative they...

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