726 (-27)-933 (180)
|Reign of Sulla:|
933 (180)-981 (228)
|Reign of Marcus:|
981 (228)-1025 (272)
This is a history of the Roman Empire after Marcus Aurelius. On the eve of its stoic emperor's death, Rome had already risen to a position of immense geopolitical and military power. Nearly the largest and most populous state in human history until that point, it enjoyed economic and political stability like no other. The following pages chronicle the continued rise of Rome's sublime empire.
Getting started (180 CE)Edit
Caesar Marcus Aurelius died on July 2, 180 in his quarters at the Tiberian Palace, surrounded by his surviving children. Historians say Marcus held onto life if only to best prepare his son for succession. A true stoic, Marcus Aurelius asked for a modest state funeral, his ashes being laid to rest in the Mausoleum Augustum. As the most powerful man of his day, his passing was mourned by tens of millions of people across a vast empire.
Cassius Dio's encomium for the late emperor said:
...[Marcus] did not meet with the good fortune that he deserved, for he was not strong in body and was involved in a multitude of troubles throughout practically his entire reign. But for my part, I admire him all the more for this very reason, that amid unusual and extraordinary difficulties he both survived himself and preserved the empire. Perhaps only one thing kept him going through many of these hard times, namely that after rearing and educating his [Sulla's] person in the best possible way he was greatly pleased with him. This matter must be our next topic; for our history now continues to ascend from a kingdom of silver to one of gold, as was thought by the Romans of that day.
Gaius Corellus Sulla, the late Caesar's adopted son, took on the titles of the imperial office on July 6, 180, becoming Aurelius Sulla Augustus (I). At the time, contemporaries did not expect much from the new caesar. But by his death he earned the cognomen Magnus (the Great) and was ultimately considered the most prosperous of the Imperatores Boni (term coined by Valens in 767 to describe his ancient predecessors).
On the day of his ascension as Caesar, Sulla ordered a 5 km wide and 670 km long buffer zone built along the Carpathians to maintain control of the region following the recent defeat of the Marcomanni and Quadi tribes by general Tarutenius Paternus. Then, in honor of his father, Sulla published Aurelius' Meditations, spurring a slight interest in stoicism among patricians, and built a marvellous Victory Column for the once prolific emperor.
Like his father, Sulla paid little attention to a growing cult calling themselves followers of Christ and did not involve himself in the public execution of Scillitan martyrs by proconsul Vigellius Saturninus. However, he did care about the growing number of cults worshipping Mithras, a mysterious Persian god. Weakening their activities in his first year allowed Sulla to be lauded by his proponents for an "admirable intolerance for divisive cults".
Nevertheless, North African Christians were gaining ground in Egypt with the construction of the Didascalium Alexandriae (Catechetical School of Alexandria) for priests and theologians. The facility was commissioned by prominent stoic Christian Pantaenus after his return from missionary work in India. His school was the first large center of theological study for the entire Christian community.
Some members of the College of Augurs spread the theory that Sulla's reign would be short and bloody when the sky over Rome - and most of the planet - turned red. The natural cause of this phenomenon was an eruption of volcanic vents beneath a lake on the other side of the world, the largest volcanic eruption of the millennium. The augurs' prophecy was popular for a time but would be forgotten once Sulla had proven his mettle.
With the empire's borders secured and state religion defended in his opening acts as Caesar, Sulla moved swiftly to prove himself in civil affairs. Anticipating internal peace yet planning military excursions for plunder, Sulla revalued the denarius, Rome's main currency, with a change in silver purity from 79%, to which Aurelius devalued it, to 89% purity, an unprecedented 3.42 grams of silver, unseen since the times of Nero. Nevertheless, he kept striking coins bearing Marcus Aurelius' image for his first four years, ostensibly in his memory. Content of the aureus was similarly increased to 8.00 grams of gold, maintaining the parity of Roman currencies.
Like his father, Sulla involved himself personally in matters of law, hearing disputes and settling public petitions himself. Jurists in the first year of Sulla's reign became his most ardent supporters, publicly praising him as "an emperor with the tongue and heart of a Tullian". Sulla's presence in the judiciary persisted throughout his life except during those periods when he was campaigning outside Rome's borders.
Galen of PergamonEdit
One of the greatest ancient physicians, Galen of Pergamon, was a favorite of Caesar Sulla, who remembered Galen's work with his father. Their professional relationship began after Galen published medical texts in 180 on recommended hygiene and a correlation of paralysis with severing of the spine. As a physician and philosopher, he was already famous for original treatises on the Antonine Plague, which he supplemented in 188 with the Treatise on the Various Temperaments, describing symptoms of Smallpox and how to alleviate them. His political fame came from having been Marcus Aurelius' physician. However, his latest works, released at the start of Sulla's reign, were what brought him to the new emperor's attention and back into the imperial palace.
Galen's return to Rome came in 181, for the purpose of becoming an emperor's personal physician once again. From that position, he came to treat many patricians in the Senate, elevating his reputation to that of the most famous doctor in the Roman Empire. In honor of Galen's accomplishments, Sulla commissioned a center of medical research and practice in the East, a region where he thought such things were most necessary. Thus, in 187, the partially constructed Academia Medica Galena was inaugurated in Hierosolyma (Jerusalem).
Moving to his new academy on completion in 188, Galen was handed total control of its facilities so that he could advance the empire's medical knowledge as far as possible. His original Academy consisted of five buildings for storing medical texts, treating local patients, experimenting on the sick, and dissecting human cadavers without these functions intersecting. Its main building was recognizable across Jerusalem on account of a red banner around its central tower, ensuring that anyone could locate this hospital in times of need.
Medical texts from all the bibliotecae (libraries) of Alexandria, Pergamum and Jerusalem were copied for secon-dary storage in the Academy's own biblioteca. By 197, Galen owned copies of over half the medical texts in the empire. Within a mere six years, Jerusalem had become the center for medical research in the Western world, supported in no small part by the vastness of this one library.
While healing centers - known as valetudinaria - for slaves, gladiators and soldiers could be found around the empire, the only ways for citizens to get treated were to hire a doctor or visit a temple of aesculapius, the god of healing. Following the spreading fame of the Medical Academy's public center of medicine, a group of doctors in Alexandria founded their own medical establishment that they dubbed a galenaria (hospital), basing their services on the practices of Galen's doctors. The concept for such a place spread to Syracuse, Corinthia, Tyrus, and Naples, but did not reach Rome until 199. For the most part, galenariae were built and operated by the federal government. Necessary medical treatment was given freely, of course, but the hospitals could still churn a profit by charging for health check-ups, specially requested procedures, and haircuts. It wasn't long before every major city in the empire had a public hospital to care for its citizens.
Meanwhile, Galen and his colleagues were working hard to advance medical science. Before the century's end, he alone published over 84 works of medicine covering topics like pathology, pharmacology, medical botany and oral hygiene among others. The public and private donations flowing into his academy allowed for several large expan-sions to its facilities, letting it accomodate more patients, bodies and books.
The Academy's experiments on cadavers were widely known; and their autopsies a decent means of making money; but more nefarious activities were occuring in the Academy's sublevels. Local authorities started bringing living convicts to Galen, upon request, to supply his experimental vivisections of humans. His findings were amazing for the time and brought a historically notable shift in Galen's attitude from favoring rational inference of bodily functions to preferring experimental investigative methods. Galen confirmed many theories of the ancient doctor Herophilos, including that the brain held our intelligence, blood flowed away from the heart in arteries and towards it through veins (evidenced by the former's pumping), and nerves communicated the mind's will into action as well as carried information from the senses to the mind. More impressively, he established firm protocols for eye, chest, throat and brain surgeries that would not permanently harm patients - breakthroughs for his time.
The work of Galen, prior to his death at the ripe old age of 89, set the stage for the next 1,600 years of Roman medicine. It is fair to say that medical science hardly advanced a step after him until the 1800's, such that it is said that Galen was to medicine what Aristotle was to logic. The institutions he started - galenariae - established medicus (doctor) and chirurgius (surgeon) as highly respected secular professions and created the public health system that Romans continue to enjoy today.
Early rule (181-190)Edit
Slight hurdles stood in Sulla's way as he entered his second year as emperor. Picts north of Britannia finally overran the abandoned Antonine Wall, definitively moving the limes (border) to Hadrian's Wall in the south. Many in the Senate were alarmed by Britain's sudden increase in barbarian activity. Realizing the gravity of the situation and how it might escalate, Sulla transferred all auxiliary units from Alpes Cottiae to the garrison along the wall and sent Tarutenius Paternus to replace the governor of Britannia. He then combined AC with Alpes Poeninae into the imperial province Alpes Ulterior, protected by Alpes Poeninae's armies. Control of the area was further improved by building a new road through the province to connect Lepontiorum with Lugdunum.
Firing magistrates by dissolving a whole province freed up money which was diverted to soldiers' wages in Britain. Empowered legionaries were sent by Tarutenius from 182 to 184 to raid Caledonian fishing outposts. Spoils that were not lining the pockets of soldiers came to Rome to help found the Classis Africana Annona midway through the raids. This new fleet secured grain shipping routes between North Africa and Italy against piracy. Expenditures in other departments were funded by cancelling gladitorial games, to many people's disappointment.
Preempting further military obstacles, Sulla advised Tarutenius to keep his legionaries busy raiding Caledonia. Meanwhile, ten auxiliary wings were added to the Carpathian border. Expansion of the garrisons in Arabia was abandoned when word arrived from Tarutenius in 185 that a small number of legionaries in his province's south were discussing rebellion. Wage increases were given to match those of soldiers along the wall.
A Gallic anti-tax rebellion in 186 was swiftly put down by the local legion but not without the death of its general Clodius Albinus by a stray arrow. A distinguished military leader, having quelled numerous uprisings, Clodius' passing was mourned by the country and a state funeral was given in his honor. Another general, Publius Helvius Pertinax, defeated an organized force of Chatti tribesmen a year later when, under lack of sufficient legionaries, he made decisive use of auxiliary archers to win the day. The impression his manoeuvers made on military leaders at the time brought archery a new respect within the Legion.
Military problems were accompanied by rising inflation of the denarius in Egypt over the 180's. Not many responses could curb inflation in that day but Sulla spent a great deal of time personally lobbying for increasing imports to Egypt, lowering the local money supply, thus deflating the denarius to its common national value. His reasoning was far more primitive than modern economic theory can describe but it had the same effect.
In order to more evenly segment Roman authority over the provinces, as the system at the time went straight from the federal to the provincial level, Sulla organized provinces into larger territories called Foederatae in 188. This involved the controversial decision to abolish the ancient republican office of Consuls, which was becoming increasingly nominal, to concentrate what little bureaucratic power they had left among the senators. The office of Consul was then recreated as the post for the patrician governor of each Foederata.
Sulla's territorial reform extended an additional level of oversight for bureaucratic affairs in far off provinces while providing a prestigious post to give ambitious senators that would keep them happy and out of Rome. Pertinax, for example, was made the first Gallic Consul in 189. Sulla's brother-in-law, Lucius Antistius Brutus, was made the first African Consul. After the Foederatae were established, no later than early-191, the names of the territories were: Lesser Germany, Mauretania, Africa, Arabia, Anatolia, Greece, Dacia, Gallia, Illyria, Iberia and Italy, giving some indication of which provinces were included in each Foederata.
Tragedy befell Rome in 190 when a part of the Eternal City burnt down from a mysterious fire. However, under the patronage of the emperor, not only was it rebuilt more grandly than before but the Senate could be persuaded to found a fire fighting force separate from the vigiles, dedicated solely to subduing infernos. This new public force consisted of volunteered slaves that were sent by their masters living in the district being patrolled. To supply these fire fighters, more water towers were built over houses and apartments so that shortages during a disaster would be less common, if almost impossible, in the future.
While medical science was growing like an oak under the careful eyes of Galen, other sciences were not left to rot by the empire. Economics enjoyed some large leaps forward as money lenders and priests in Egypt spent a lot of effort analyzing the actions of Sulla and theiir effects on inflation in their province. The emperor, for his part, had no theories in mind when shrinking the supply of denarius in Egypt. He simply expected that when residents found currency more difficult to acquire but goods and food more readily available, their ability to buy the latter with the former would be improved. Observers of the economy formulated what they noticed into a primitive quantity theory of money, merely noting that money supply somehow affected the money's worth.
The astronomer Cleomedes, famous for covering the discoveries of Posidonius of Rhodes, was discovering things of his own. He is recorded teaching at his Greek schools that the atmosphere deviates the straight path of light (186), that the Moon is not a source of light but reflects light from the Sun (190), and that the Earth's shadow during an eclipse corroborates its sphericity (196). Cleomedes' works are the first in the empire to expound the procedure of Eratosthenes in measuring the Earth's circumference within a 2% error (Cleomedes preaching that there was no error) at 252,000 stadia (39,690 km).
Sulla's involvement in philosophy and science barely extended beyond his endorsement of Galen's practices. He was a stoic like his father and more concerned with practical matters of state, and by consequence the matter of maintaining a healthy population, than pursuing abstract knowledge of nature. In this regard, he issued laws in 193 that forced any practicing medici or chirurgii to obtain a license by passing federal examinations. By 219, a law had been passed prohibiting the practice of medicine by anyone unassociated with an official galenaria.
The emperor's next most noted academic intervention was in geography. Hoping to improve shipping lanes, he commissioned the voyage of four dozen ships in 214 to accurately map the entire Mediterranean. He expected geometric precision, with nothing larger than a decareme to be undocumented. Three decades of work went into Sulla's Carta Mediterranea but on its completion it was the most accurate map until the Catalan Atlas of a millennium later. By acting as a new source of hundreds of detailed maps, this publication gave birth to the new science of cartographia for future creation and modification of maps.
Stray generals were a problem for emperors of Rome, evidenced by such events as the bellum civile of 68-69. To avoid the possibility of a single man holding more sway over legions than himself, Sulla delocalized the payment of legionaries through procuratores in a legion's home province. The Legionary Wages Act of 192 guaranteed that no one could goad soldiers to rebellion with monetary incentives. However, the surefire method for keeping the trust of the Legion was still military victory so in December 191, the emperor assembled a force of six legions for training in Belgica. April of the following year, Sulla greeted the army, proclaiming his intention to launch a series of raids against the primitive tribes of Magna Germania (Greater Germany).
Over the next three years, the legions captured 2 million denarii worth of gold, jewels and equipment alongside over 3.9 million denarii in German slaves. Besides the thousands of people taken as slaves, an estimated 9,000 were slaughtered in their villages and 26,000 killed in battle. The empire's superior tactics, training and equipment allowed for only 168 deaths among legionaries and a few hundred among auxiliaries. One German tactic, however, that caught the eye of the emperor was their use of bows which, while largely ineffective against the scutum and lorica of legionaries, could be devastating against lightly armored foes.
Rome was not new to the experience of a bow and arrow's effectiveness. In 199, a professional archery wing was added to Legio Gemina X, privileged to be the first legion with its own archers. It was not the last. By 200 CE, nine other professional archery wings had been added to various legions and more were in the works.
The peace that Sulla hoped to enjoy after his first personal Triumph on return from Germany was broken by an invasion of Mesopotamia by the Persian Shah, Vologases V, in 195. Seeking the fertile lands of the cradle of civilization, the Parthian Persians were resolute. Nevertheless, despite the emperor's regret over not expanding the armies of the East, he managed to arrive with four legions of veterans from Germania to beat back this threat to Roman authority. Babylon and the Parthian capital of Ctesiphon were sacked by Sulla's forces while the mighty fortress of Atra, claimed to be untakeable, was - true to its reputation - burned to the ground.
Vologases himself was captured in the 197 sacking of his capital. His ransom back to Parthia for 60 million denarii effectively doubled the size of the Roman treasury. Adding the magnificent plunder from sacking Persian cities, the Aerarium (public treasury) and fiscus (imperial purse) were filled to unprecedented levels. Moreover, the Limes Arabicus, eastern frontier of the empire, was expanded deeper into Parthia.
While Sulla would spend the newfound wealth judiciously during his reign, this did not stop him from extending a congiarium of 200 denarii to each Roman citizen after his second Triumph. After reopening trade with Parthia in 198, factors began compounding into an economic boom throughout Palestina and the surrounding provinces. Entrepeneurial residents of that region were becoming bold, not least because the emperor's congiarium was applied to all the Jews of the empire in an effort to soften last century's wounds.
Money lenders in Hierosolyma were gaining enough profits to expand their business from stands to large buildings dedicated to storing their clients' money and to making transactions. Mattaias ben Pantanaeus created the first of these monetary establishments, naming it a banca after the benches of his trade. The name caught on with other money lenders who started their own bancae. For the time being, banks were limited to Judaea.
With the turn of the 3rd century (no one noticing since the Anno Domini calendar didn't exist) the world population had reached 270 million. The Roman Empire, for its part, was 70 million strong, matched only by the unstable state of China which had a population in decline. The limites of the empire were regarded within as the physical limits of human civilization, the rest of the world a mere sea of barbarism. Rome itself was a city of 800,000 citizens and 500,000 slaves for menial labor. Caesar Sulla owned 22,000 of these slaves. The star of Rome was rising like the Sun but this was only the beginning.
Despite the destruction of an Edessan church by flood, Mesopotamia became the first province with Christianity as a de facto religion in 201. Growing anxious from this cult's continued growth, the Senate petitioned the emperor to ban conversion to the cult and criminalize Christian propaganda. The relatively peaceful activities of these people, despite rumors of orgies and rape, inclined Sulla to justify tolerance of Christians.
Since his arguments were not pleasing to most senators, he sought to restore and renovate the Pantheon in Rome, lavishly decorating it in gold reliefs of the gods. Rome's polytheistic majority were pleased enough that senators could only nod in approval of their leader's piety. Of course, Sulla was not showing love and tolerance to everyone. 201 was the year Sulla assembled five legions of his veterans of Germania and Parthia for an excursion into Britannia. His target: Caledonia (Scotland).
Sulla was determined to curb the growing pressure from Picts outside Hadrian's Wall and was convinced that the only permanent solution was annexation. 26,000 legionaries, 70,000 auxilia, 4,000 sagittae (archers) and the famous general Pescennius Niger, veteran of the Parthian War, made up Sulla's forces. Their strategy was as ruthless as it was effective: exterminate the natives "with discretion". One favored means of doing so was to identify a relatvely isolated village with scouts then encircle it with the army as troops slowly closed in on the village center, killing everyone on the way. Not a soul escaped villages fell to this sort of extermination.
Scorched earth tactics were slackened after passing the Antonine Wall in 204; most Pict armies were annihilated by this point. The rest of the isle was conquered by 206. Accounts vary of the devastation but the most reliable ones state a halving of Caledonia's native population. Those villages that were selected for preservation rather than destruction were fed lies about barbarous actions being committed by Pict armies as they fled the Legion. This fiction remained the official story after annexation, going into the history books. By the end of the next century, no one doubted that the Romans had liberated Caledonia from dangerous Picts and stayed to rebuild the area under the prosperous rule of Roman authority.
Gaius Fulvius Plautianus was named Praetorian Prefect in 203 for continued services to the emperor. Under his leadership, insurrection was intolerable and the Praetorian Guard went from a powerful military force in the empire's capital to a force dedicated to protecting the emperor. A short crisis resulted from guards protesting an announcement in 207 that donatives should not be expected by Sulla's succesor but they were repelled from the palace by more loyal guards. Under the emperor's urging, Plautianus split the position of Praetorian Prefect into three offices of equal rank, balancing the authority of the leader of the palace guards.
While reforming the Praetorian Guard secured Rome from the bloodshed suffered by past emperors, the fire of the last decade revealed a structural flaw. Most domae and insulae were made of flimsy wood, brick or rubble - vulnera-ble to catching fire and crumbling when they do. Buildings constructed after the fire were made to much higher standards of solidity and inflammability but much of the city was poorly built. From 203 onwards, the Senate filled yearly quotas for subsidies or loans to any citizen of Rome who requested renovation of his home. 19,000 insulae were brought to better safety standards over the remainder of the emperor's reign.
Still sitting on combined treasuries of 96 million denarii, Sulla revalued the three primary currencies again in 209. The denarius was lifted to 3.57 grams of silver in a larger 3.95 grams coin, a silver purity of 90.4%. Rome's money was stronger than ever, reinforced even further by a law in 207 that illegalized the construction or use of imperial mints outside Rome itself. While precious metallic coins were only minted in Rome anyway, bronze asses and other minor currencies could be struck elsewhere and counterfeited denarii or sestertii could be made in these mints. Now they were all shut down for replacement by larger mints in the Eternal City.
Bearing the responsibility of minting bronze coinage was bothersome to the Roman Senate since it was accustomed to only minting its own currency when engaged in public spending or paying soldiers' wages. Still, the centralization of money supply was warm comfort to the emperor and people of Rome and thus tolerated by the Senate despite reservations that the situation was logistically untenable. Their fears never came to fruition.
Consolidating Rome (211-220)Edit
Sulla passed numerous laws in 212 relating to citizenship that are remembered as the Constitutio Sulla (Edict of Sulla). Some were meant to extend citizenship to all free men in Greece, and a long list of specific non-Jewish residents of Palestina. Another raised the Tributum (poll tax) on non-citizens by 12% but also granted free, non-citizens some of the property rights (Ius commercii) accorded only to citizens. Women were granted the right to marry Roman citizens, to gain citizenship for their children, with the condition they forfeit foreign family ties.
One law contained in his Edict made the Latin Right obsolete so that citizenship could only be afforded directly; no longer was there an intermediate between peregrinus (free non-citizen) and civis (citizen). Manumission, the freeing of a slave, became a means of gaining citizenship no more, only peregrinal status. Those people who still held the Latin Right were all granted citizen status. However, all other means of becoming a citizen that did not include offer by the Senate or emperor were banned. The result was a stable base of cives Romani and slightly greater equality between a citizen and a non-citizen.
Traditional marriage laws, legislated under Augustus, were reinforced over the 210's. Bachelorship was discou-raged for citizens by raising taxes on their lifestyles, and privileges such as lowered taxes or house subsidies were instituted for couples. In Rome alone, a grant of 20 sestertius (HS) per year could be accepted for a period of ten years after the birth of every Roman child. At the same time, patricians were banned from marrying plebs, equites, slaves and non-citizens, stabilizing the upper class. Protests were made that the new laws were too draconian but Sulla justified them on the grounds that they mimicked those of the Divine Augustus and guarded traditional values of the Roman household.
Meanwhile, bancae had spread to most of the East by 212 and their desirability for merchants of a large city was not missed by the powers that be. Sulla invited several of the most noted Jewish bancani - as they were calling themselves now - to his palace to discuss arrangements for bringing these institutions west. They accepted the invitation cautiously, emperors having a history of killing rich people for their money and property, and plans were made to create the first Roman bank on Tiber Island. These quickly outcompeted private depositories, temples, and merchants who used to perform the same function in an unspecialized manner.
The Senate, for its part, ordered construction of the Banca Romanae (Bank of Romans), a magnificent structure comparable to the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, in the Forum on July 219. It was put under the charge of a new office, the Praefectus Argentarius, and equipped to oversee and document all financial transactions taking place in the city as well as store over 1 billion denarii for citizens and the state. Under Sulla's orders, the interest rates of this bank had to be equal for all its clients and would set the maximum for Roman banks. It was during Rome's banking reform that Sulla took a renewed interest in his domain of Albion. Now that he had united the whole island, he found it easier to issue propaganda, playing on the idea of a united Roman Britain. This meant creating a, if you'll excuse the pun, romanticized portrayal of Britannia as a beautiful figure modelled after Minerva, wearing a centurion's helmet. Britannia had been seen before under more subjugational circumstances but was now portrayed as a strong and free woman, accompanied by a wolf (Rome).
Londinium was at the center of renovations to Britannia's infrastructure. Its forum was relocated outside the old city to a location barely west of the Tamesis (Thames). A provincial villa, temple to divine Claudius and several patrician villas popped up around the new forum, likely funded by the patricians who were offered homes there. While the rest of the city shifted to the new spot over the next sixty years, the Magna Banca Britannica was constructed by the Senate on the forum in 219, five years after its relocation. This bank served a similar function to the Bank of Romans, setting interest rates for the whole island. Across the province, galenariae, bancae and temples were established, with encouragement by the emperor, to serve major cities.
Up north, the Antonine Wall was cannibalized to renovate Hadrian's Wall, the official border between Britannia and the recently annexed province of Caledonia, legislated as an imperial province in 208. Trade with the latter was facilitated by constructing a 541 km road from Londinium to Eboracum then to the wall. Overall, Britain's provinces saw civil and structural growth unlike any prior time in its history.
In foreign affairs, Goths - barbarians from the northeast - were gathering for raids on Pannonia and Dacia in 220. Achieving initial successes, they were still repulsed within two years of coming to Rome's attention. The Senate had one wall constructed from Lauriacum to Aquincum and another along the Limes Alutanus near the city of Napoca. The new defenses totalled 960 km of heavy stone and mortar.
From the Far East, an Indian delegation arrived in Egypt asking to meet the emperor of the Hellenic world. News of them reached Sulla, who wished to reaffirm direct trade with the subcontinent and circumvent Persia. The dele-gation entered Rome to a fanfare by the Senate and upper class. No one had ever met anyone from that far east and everyone was fervently interested in the visitors, said to be from the kingdom of Andhra. However, Sulla sent legionaries to locate people who had dealt with Indians in the past. The man they turned up was a gnostic Christian, Bardaisan, who - despite his religious beliefs - was suitable for the emperor's intentions.
Sulla sent the Indians home with lucrative trade agreements and Bardaisan as official legatus indicus, first of many Roman ambassadors to India. Rome's influence in the Andhra Kingdom was minor, but together with a trade mission to Wei China starting in 225, over 1 million denarii was flowing yearly out of the empire.
Later rule & death (221-228)Edit
In follow-up to the visit from the Far East, Sulla sent soldiers - disguised as merchants - to explore farther out of his empire. Their primary goal was the discovery, and possible theft, of the source of Asian silk. Some of the men actually began trade relations with the Wei Kingdom but the rest managed to steal several thousand pounds of living silkworms, the sericultural source they had sought. Chinese workers who were kidnapped were forced to instruct their captors on how to care for the silkworms and extract the silk. Thus China's monopoly on the international silk trade was broken once again, this time by Westerners. Roman silk production was limited to a handful of facilities in Egypt.
Meanwhile, with the Goths settled far outside the limites of the empire, smaller kingdoms like the Regnum Bospori, were in danger of eradication. In anticipation, the Senate gradually ceased trading with the kingdom until the last ship returned to Byzantium from Bosporia in 227. It was hoped that a steady decline in trade would be less harmful to the Anatolian economy than the sudden halt that was sure to come. Gothic warfare ultimately reduced the region from a kingdom to a loose collection of fishing villages and ports by 267.
Instability was the common theme it seemed in foreign lands; Han China having recently collapse as well in the last decade; as the Parthians were losing control of Persia to the Sassanids that emeged in 208 CE. From their fortress of Ardashir-Khwarrah, the Sassanids slowly tore apart Parthia from the inside until the dying nation fell in 224 and Sassanid rule was established over Persia.
Unlike the Parthian nobility, the Senate of Rome was pleased to see their four centuries long rival collapse. The notion that mighty Persia was gone while Rome stayed strong was a delicious concept to Romans. A games was even held by the aging emperor to celebrate the occasion. Shahanshah Ardashir I, for his part, had no thoughts of challenging the colossus that was the Roman Empire. He politely opened trade relations in Syria and met in 226 with Sulla in Petra for a peaceful discussion.
One minor event shook the Roman Empire prior to this period. An unauthorized history of the Punic Wars was circulated throughout the Hispanic province of Tarraconensis, describing how the Carthaginians defended the city of Saguntum from a Roman surprise attack and Rome started the Second Punic War by this instigation. This same city was the site of a minor rebellion in 221 under delusions of an independent Phoenician Hispania. The Legion crushed the revolt but unrest persisted in the area for another half-century.
For the last years of Sulla's reign, Rome entered a period of near-absolute external and internal peace. No other country could challenge the empire in Europe, Africa or Asia Minor. After returning to Rome from Petra in 226, Sulla made an enormous fuss about declaring a new Pax Romana like that under Augustus. This indeed marked the start of an actual golden age - the empire's economy booming, currency stabilizing, trade expanding, cities growing, and arts and philosophy prospering like never before. Rome's combined treasuries measured a steady total of 82 million denarii and the population was rising at 72 million, especially quickly in Italy and Egypt.
This was a time for civil reform. In 222 and 225 respectively, the provinces of Alpes Ulterior and Aquitania were converted into proconsular provinces, as was Lycia in 227. The shift allowed relocation of multiple legions in the direction of more treacherous borders and signalled to the people of Rome that their empire was stabilizing. There was a growing sentiment that Rome had settled into its empire. It seemed that
Out in the imperial province of Caledonia, Sulla founded a new city on a major ford of the River Clyde. Presiding personally over the ceremony, Sulla named the settlement Corellia after his biological family. Colonization was restricted to residents of Italy and encouraged by removing taxes on activity in the city. It grew rapidly enough to exceed every other town in the province and achieve city status by the time of the emperor's death. Like in most provincial capitals at the time, a major state bank was established and the usual galenariae, temples and statues were built, most of the latter honoring Sulla, Marcus Aurelius and Hadrian.
At last, on January 1, 228, Caesar Sulla - who received the cognomen Magnus in 225 - collapsed during a speech in the Senate. The stroke he was suffering, despite his good health, was incurable even by Rome's best medici and ultimately, the leader of the civilized world passed away late that same evening.
A grand state funeral was held on January 4th, in stark contrast to Marcus Aurelius' modest private one, to coincide with the public mourning of tens of millions of people - the entire Western world - and to lay the emperor to rest with his ancestors in the Mausoleum Augustum. On January 5th, the adopted Marcus Antoninus Sulla was formally recognized as Caesar of Rome.
Statistics for the Roman Empire of 228 ADEdit
Population: 72 million people
Area: 5,840,000 km2
GDP: 8.9 billion denarii (~USD186.9 billion)
Treasury: 82 million denarii (~USD1.72 billion)
Government revenue: 381 million denarii (~USD7.62 billion)
Military spending: 276 million denarii (72.4% of revenue or 3.1% of GDP)
Size of the Legions: 157,000 legionaries, 227,000 auxiliaries and 10,000 praetorian guards
726 (-27)-933 (180)
|Reign of Sulla:|
933 (180)-981 (228)
|Reign of Marcus:|
981 (228)-1025 (272)