Alternate History

360-395 CE (Superpowers)

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Reign of Agricola:
1092 (339)-1113 (360)
Reign of Sapiens:
1113 (360)-1148 (395)
Post-Caesares Boni:
1148 (395)-1184 (431)

Adopted from Ephesus, Faustilon was a child prodigy, learning eleven of the imperial languages by age 16. Agricola raised the boy carefully, devoting a great deal of his efforts to instructing him in rhetoric, politics, legal science, ethics, and nature. Observant of the behavior of other people, especially once he joined the Senate as the son of the emperor, Faustilon formed the firm conclusion that many people of influence were not fit to manage the affairs of a complex state and he resolved to impose checks and balances that would safeguard Rome from future incompetence.

Restructuring the Senate (360 CE)

Already an authoritative member of the Senate, after achieving praetorian rank in sui anno (in his year), Faustilon wasted no time upon receiving the titles and authority of his adoptive father. While Caesar Agricola had streamlined taxation, reorganized the army, and expanded the census, the state still operated on a bureaucracy designed in piecemeal over centuries of modifications to the institutions of the Old Republic. Even 400 years after Augustus, Rome governed its territories using political instruments loosely tacked onto the Senatus Romanus and the Princeps Civitatis. Although this emperor, who would be remembered as Sapiens (the Wise), would not fix the situation, he did create more stable institutions and much needed magistracies.

As his first action, Faustilon announced that the size of the officium (staff) of the central government would be restricted, as magistrates, emperors, and the Senate had increased their numbers of accountants, aides, servants, scribes and other assistants to inordinate proportions to ease their burdens. Some senators hired their own assistants but there were hundreds of civil servants on public salaries, in a system completely lacking in organization. Under the new decree, there would be maximum and minimum limits for the numbers of each type of assistant and specific boundaries of this sort would be assigned to particular magistracies. These limits fell far below earlier numbers, prompting one brave senator to object to the emperor they would have to work much harder with so few people to delegate tasks. Before continuing his speech, Faustilon simply responded, "Sic." ("Precisely").

As another measure, Faustilon created more magistracies for senators to pick up the slack from the reductions in the public staff. Neither magistrates nor regular senators were paid for their services to Rome, a benefit of having an aristocratic class governing the state, so it was cheaper to give duties to senators than to hire them assistants. By replacing apparitores (civil servants) with magistrati (magistrates), the emperor effectively reduced the load on the treasury by delegating more tasks to the Senate.

Faustilon named one of his closest supporters, Gaius Rabirius Valius, as the Magister Fiscalis (Master of the Purse), a new magistracy with absolute authority over quaestores and responsible for analyzing public spending records to inform the Senate on financial decisions. Another companion, Lucius Domitius Aquilla, was named Proprinceps, a new magistracy intended as a close advisory position beside the princeps. Since an emperor wielded nearly absolute power in practice, Faustilon thought that having a person who was second to the emperor, almost but not quite as a co-ruler, would moderate the qualities of the absolute monarch, by giving him an adviser who could not be lawfully reprimanded by an emperor for any reason. A Proprinceps had the sacrosanctity of a censor but the authority to act on behalf of the princeps civitatis. Most importantly, Faustilon saw the Proprinceps as a close adviser to himself and to future emperors, since a Proprinceps was more free to speak his mind.

Although an emperor could not reprimand his Proprinceps, his behavior was at the mercy of the censores and any of his executive decisions could be overruled by the emperor, regardless of the delay in the emperor's response. Furthermore, after the death of an emperor, a Proprinceps would also lose his office and become vulnerable to judgement by the next emperor. In any case, Faustilon had created two high magistracies for senators to pursue and tremendously enlarged the powers of the Senate, by giving senators the authority to elect every future Magister Fiscalis, Proprinceps, and now the consul of each foederata (federation of provinces). Of course, the first citizen reserved the power to overturn most of these appointments (with the exception of Proprinceps).

Other lesser positions were created for senators, covering the administrative tasks of managing the city of Rome and of supervising the activities of provincial governors, the fiscal tasks of supervising the mints and the logging of tax information, and the legal tasks of auditing the album iudicum (list of licensed judges) and hearing the petitions of commoners to the Senate. On the whole, the new emperor had attempted to reinvigorate the Senate by expanding its responsibilities and powers.

As a way of ensuring the participation of senators, Faustilon imposed hefty fines for senators (and civil servants) who failed in their duties. For example, a senator would incur a 3000 denarii fine if he missed senatorial assemblies for two weeks in a row, unless he had specific duties keeping him outside the capital or was on a period of personal leave (as senators were entitled to have). This restriction was sharply distinguished the reign of Faustilon from earlier periods, when the majority of senators were fine with avoiding the Senate altogether and quorum had become an almost foreign concept. Fiscatores (tax collectors) and censitores (census-takers) similarly faced fines for specific failures of their duties but the penalties were more modest.

[the word fiscator began to be used by politicians to distinguish tax collectors from the accounts of the treasury, viz. the Fiscus]

Throughout the rest of his reign, Faustilon continued to reorganize the way Rome governed its empire. The spheres of quaestor and of governor in a province were more clearly delineated, removing any authority that governors had over tax collection. With the earlier removal of judiciary powers from governors, the task of governing a province was reduced to an administrative role, with the usual benefit of providing an income for senators in the middle of their careers. Also, a formal advisory council for the office of first citizen was codified through constitutional laws, bringing an end to the practice where each emperor built his own cohort of advisers from sycophants and companions, without regard for the variety of expertise he would need. 

Membership in this Concilium Civium (Council of Citizens) constituted an additional duty for several magistrates - in both old and new offices. There were no formal meetings of the Concilium. Instead, participation meant that the magistrate had to be available when the first citizen sought his advice and had to inform the emperor of issues within his jurisdiction. Upon creation, the Concilium consisted of ten magistrates: the Proprinceps, the Magister Fiscalis, the Praetor Urbanus, the Magister Officiorum (Master of the Staff), the Praefectus Argentarius (Overseer of Banks), the Praefectus Tabularius (Chief Archivist), Praefectus Annonae (Overseer of the Provisions), the Praefectus Memoriae (Overseer of Public Relations), the Magister Correctores (Master of Overseers), and the Magister Militum (Master of the Soldiers). Some of these offices had no precedents in earlier permanent offices but resembled temporary positions that previous emperors had given to their chosen companions.

The newer magistracies may merit description. The most powerful new office aside from Proprinceps was the Magister Correctores, a position with authority to impeach provincial governors and reorganize provincial cabinets. His duties were to survey the state of the provincial governments (whether proconsular or imperial) and maintain the sanctity of Roman Law outside Italy. Provincial governors had a tendency to autocratically run their provinces so an office with oversight on this behavior would be a moderating influence. Other members of the concilium had more responsibilities than powers, although their authority was nearly absolute within specific jurisdictions. For example, the Magister Officiorum completely managed the staff that served the Senate and first citizen, even deciding who could work as a civil servant (apparitor) and where these officials would be allocated. In effect, this magistrate served as the chief of staff for the Emperor of Rome, coordinating the support staff of the entire central government.

Similarly, the Magister Militum organized the supply chain that fueled the military operations of the empire. Although a legion locally procured most of its supplies, Rome needed to stay informed about these procurements. Furthermore, Norican steel (norica) solely came from contracts with smiths in the province of Noricum, originally forcing creative measures from local commanders to acquire the highly desirable material. With a Magister Militum, the Legion could procure norica for all of its legionaries. In general, this bureaucratic office permitted more widespread connections between different legions spread across the empire, despite receiving no authority over troops in its own right.

Four of the councillors were minor magistracies called praefecti, invested with potestas rather than proper imperium. The only new prefect was the Praefectus Memoriae. His tasks included the arrangement of the public appearances of the emperor; the organization of letters sent from governors, generals, and foreign leaders to the emperor; and personally hearing petitions from senators to the emperor. On the other hand, this prefect had an informal role of gathering information on public opinion toward the emperor and organizing programs to improve this image. Overall, the Praefectus Memoriae was responsible for the public image of the Senate and first citizen, often informally playing a role in the creation and dissemination of imperial propaganda.

More than reorganizing the bureaucracy, the reforms of Faustilon extended to the infrastructure of the capital. Across the Tiber, construction started in 363 on a new public building, the Basilica Antonina, intended as a repository for all future records from the nationwide census. Similarly, one of the dining halls in the Domus Augustana, the palace of the emperor, was converted in 366 into a repository for tax and public spending records. These respective vaults of codices and scrolls were open to any magistratus (public official) - magistracy being the only restriction on entering the new basilica. With this in mind, Faustilon made detailed regulations for magistrati and apparitores that enforced meticulous bookkeeping at key junctures in the bureaucratic process. In addition to the above archives, a vault was built far from the Tiber on the Collis Vaticanus, storing documents naming every magistrate throughout the years and another vault in Mediolanum (Milan) was made to store the service records of every citizen who ever served in the Legion after the vault's construction.

Some of these records could be thrown away when no longer necessary but recent data would be useful for public affairs. With immediate access to such extensive records, public accountants could more easily predict future costs of public works or military actions. Public budgeting became easier and cheaper by 369 when the last of these archives was completed.

Through his unprecedented restructuring of the government, Faustilon had earned the unrestrained respect of senators, a situation that had many in the Senatus and Populus of Rome referring to him (by the 370's) through the cognomen Sapiens (Wise).

Early in his reign, Faustilon convinced the Senate to revalue the denarius to 95.2% silver purity and the aureus from 8.00 grams of gold to a more hefty 8.45 grams. At last, the purity of the national currency had returned to levels only seen under Augustus. Sapiens readily admitted that his revaluation would not have been possible without the rich gold supplies feeding the empire from its newest province of Nubia. As further currency reform, the brass sestertius was replaced by a 2.50 gram sestertius composed of 74.8% silver and 23% brass. In general, the purity of currencies fluctuated over the last two hundred years - as with Constantine devaluing coins upon his return to Rome and Agricola reversing that decision - but only the historic increases in the value of coinage have been worth mentioning here in detail.

Rome aerial one

Model of the Palatine Hill and Domus Augustana,
overlooking the Circus Maximus

Even without legislative authority, the emperor still wielded tremendous executive power over his empire, possessing the ability to determine spending for the whole government, if he so desired. In exercise of this power, Sapiens sent almost a dozen magistrates to supervise the purchase of over 80 million denarii of Nubian gold for building a gold reserve in Byzantium.

Over 1,283 talents (41,440 kg) of gold were transported for storage in the Aerarium (national treasury house). Although one ship sank outside a port in Crete, this action left the empire with a marvelous store of value on one of the most reliable commodities in a classical economy. This measure had the additional benefit of allowing the government to mint gold coins in large quantities when necessary. In general, Sapiens was motivated by the observation that the price of gold had risen about 30% over the last century despite the falling of other more mundane prices such as grain and olive oil (i.e. despite deflation). The procured talents were forged into 125,995 libralea - a 328.9 gram gold bar that the government could use for large scale expenditure.

Before the end of the year, Sapiens proposed that a permanent committee should be formed to advise emperors on finances. This Decemviri Argentarii would consist of ten moral philosophers and businessmen, chosen for their expertise in the judgement of the Magister Fiscalis. The committee would have the unique authority to veto spending, taxing, or other fiscal decisions on the part of the Senate or the emperor and had the duty of issuing written reports on the state of the economy based on an evaluation of recent census and tax records. These reports could be sold to merchants for a substantial profit.

Imperial Highway System

On travels as a prince, Faustilon noticed how excessive the viae (roads) of the empire were. Thousands of kilometers of road were receiving virtually no traffice while more heavily traversed routes fell into disrepair. After coming to power, he formed a committee to design a new network of interprovincial highways spanning the entire Imperium Romanum. By 364, detailed plans for the system were complete and the emperor had already begun annually funneling 80 million denarii into banks for eventual spending on the new highways, anticipating that the project would require monumental expenditure. 

A basilica was built near the outskirts of the city of Rome to serve as the office of a prime commissioner of public roads (legatus viarum publicarum), a permanent new position charged with employing curatores (commissioners) and redemptores (contractors) for maintenance of viae publicae (public roads). This office could be filled by any patrician as an optional stage in his cursus honorum (political career).

Intercity roads in Italia were also renovated, with the exception of the Via Appia which remained in good condition after the work done under Caesar Marcus, the adoptive great-great-grandfather of Faustilon.

Techniques for constructing a via munita (public highway) - the largest of the public roads - varied according to local materials and weather conditions but commissioners adhered as closely as possible to the following method:

First, a fossa (ditch) was dug to a depth dependent on the terrain and its surface was tightly levelled end to end. Small stones were laid in until the ditch was only 0.72 m deep then that layer was set in cement to form the statumen (foundation). Next, a thick layer of coarse concrete (rudus) was poured over the stones. A finer layer of concrete (nucleus) went over this as bedding for the road. While the first two layers were poured, the walls on either side of the ditch were covered with a watertight seal to prevent moisture ingress and damage from groundwater.

Large rectangular blocks, of the most durable local stone, were planted onto this fine concrete bedding, arranged so that there was a distinctive bulge in the middle of the road. This shape allowed the topmost layer of the road to passively cast off rain or water like the shell of a tortoise. Carved with sharply cut bases, each stone firmly grasped the nucleus. Along both sides of the dorsum (upper stone layer), a thin concrete drainage ditch was laid to funnel water out small holes in the umbones (edge-stones) that separated the surface of the highway from the surrounding soil. In effect, the road would be as perfectly shielded from its environment as could be achieved with available techniques and would take centuries to erode even from rainwater.

All of these steps were performed with the utmost precision of Roman agrimensores (land-surveyors) and designed in such a way that encroachment from water or plants was as close as possible to impossible Their efforts have stood the tests of time as after seventeen centuries, these roads still serve with little deterioration.

As for the ancient roads being replaced, the construction of these public highways could not be stopped by anything in nature. Rivers were crossed by magnificent ponta (bridges) of stone, brick, and concrete; marshes were passed over with causeways of earth; hills or other mountainous terrain were cut into valleys to create flatter ground for straight highways. Where a road lay at the bottom of a valley that had been cut into a hill, the terrain would be deeply cut to ensure a shallower slope and thick concrete retaining walls would be built at their bases, near the road, to provide support for the sloping soil. Despite these efforts, there was the occasional landslide along the highway, at later points in time. Whenever such an event occurred, the debris would be cleared, the road repaired, the retaining wall reinforced or heightened, and the slope cut even shallower than before. After the first landslide on an Italian highway in 386, Sapiens opened a reward of one million denarii to anyone who could present a more effective technique for mitigating landslides. This standing offer would help motivate early geological science.

When the terrain was too difficult to cut into a valley, short tunnels were carved into the hillside, supported by internal concrete infrastructure to prevent soil above from caving into the road. Some tunnels were long enough to require a hole from the roof to the surface, allowing in more light and better air flow.

Wherever possible, an old highway was excavated so that the new one could be constructed in its place, avoiding the relocation of infrastructure such as mutationesstationes, and tabernae. However, unswerving rectitude was the highest priority in building the new highways, necessitating the extreme measures taken to cross rather than circumvent terrain and the negligence of some existing public and private buildings. When an old highway was not excavated, the old surface was left intact, giving travelers the option to still use these unmaintained roads. Earlier highways would be gradually be cannibalized for other projects.

Maintaining and repairing the new highways was put under the juridiction of curatores, positions awarded to local patriciani or equites. The appointed commissioner for a sector of public roads had the responsibility to employ contractors to repair damage or erosion of the roads, by either replacing damage stones in the dorsum or filling in defects in the cement nucleus. These public service managers received a customary annual wage (starting from 50 denarii) and had the benefit of some authority over their assigned stretch of road, entailing certain privileges unavailable to other local citizens. The Senate would watch the effectiveness of these commissioners, replacing them for negligence and intervening with unrequested repairs when appropriate.

Functionally speaking, there were two types of viae munitae, reflecting a change in how cities were connected through roads. More heavily traveled viae publicae princepesque (imperial public highways) were (exactly 3.6 m widetwo-lane highways that stretched unilaterally through a province. For example, one such highway starts in Brundisium as the Via Appia, passing through a straight line of cities before reaching Rome where a continuation of the highway cuts straight through the center of the peninsula, passing through Florentia, then splitting somewhere south of Verona into a westward, a northward, and an eastward highway. The first extended to Mediolanum before cutting through the Alps to reach Lugdunum after which it split again, one highway going toward Hispania and another toward Lutetia. Here the road split once more, one path to the coast at Gesoricum and another to Belgica and border fortresses in Germania Inferior. Sparse coverage and a large width were what characterized the viae princepesque, in contrast to the (exactly 2.3 m widetwo-lane highways known as the viae publicae consulares.

Each of these other stretches of the highway system branched off from a specific point along a via princepesque at a special intersection with either a triangular or crossed diamond shape (giving a carriage approaching the intersection along the imperial highway the option to smoothly turn off into a branch or to continue straight along his current path). The purpose of such branches was to link other major cities to the larger network of viae princepesque, since the latter directly connected provincial capitals without diverging for other cities along the way.

Through this carefully planned design, the total length of viae princepesque was only about 19,000 km whereas the multitude of short viae consulares added to a total of 143,000 km, slightly increasing the total length of paved highways in the empire. One improvement in the highway system was the 13,000 km of new connections between cities in the newly-acquired provinces of ArmeniaHibernia, Mesopotamia, and Nubia. Before the expansion, these provinces had only been serviced by existing non-Roman roads and ad hoc private roads built after annexation.

Smaller towns, villages, villas, and farms would be serviced by smaller single-lane viae publicae built with the same foundation as viae munitae but topped with a thick layer of gravel above the statumen and generally winding more than paved highways. In many places, these deverticula replaced old highways that were scarcely traveled or deemed superfluous. Arrangements were made with owners of viae privatae (private roads) to smoothly connect with deverticula and the paved highways.

Construction finished in 391 CE at a total cost of 3.8 billion denarii (~$38 billion US) spent over 27 years. Altogether, the new Imperial Highway Network streamlined maintenance costs for public roads and greatly reduced travel times along major trade and communication routes - a tighter, more practical public transportation system. This highway system was the grandest construction project of the ancient world, requiring more materials than both the Chinese and Roman great walls combined, and servicing a wider area than any single existing network of roads. Advantages of this improvement were:

  • faster mobilization of troops to the borders and to internal crises
  • faster communication through a rearrangement of stations for the public postal system
  • lower costs of transportation for merchants, census-takers, and tax collectors
  • more mobility for citizens or scholars who are willing and able to travel the empire

Overall, this system ensured greater connectivity between cities in the empire and shortened the political distance between Rome and its more distant provinces.

Urban regulations

Dealing with the urban crisis at the beginning of the century provided the empire with extensive laws on minimum standards for Roman urbes and coloniae. These regulations were serving the empire well but Faustilon thought that they were limited in scope and not able to accommodate diverse circumstances. To resolve this issue, the emperor formed a committee in 361 to evaluate the status of major cities and propose better regulations that would improve the quality of life of urban residents. 

Enough information had been gathered by 367 to establish a grading system for levels of urban development, allowing the government to evaluate settlements on requirements above what was needed for a city to merely function. Among the factors of a city's grade were per capita: inflow of water, outflow of sewage, number of banks and hospitals, available food, and even wealth. Generally, stuff like population density, road safety, and cleanliness were factored into an evaluation as well. Settlements that couldn't reach recommended standards for their size and composition, lost the right to even be called an urbs (city) and incurred an extra tax on their residents then eventually a repeating personal fine for their municipal leaders.

At the time, there were four types of settlements in the empire: a vicus (garrison town without official recognition); municipium (existing settlement brought into the empire); civitas (planned city designed by the state); and colonia (planned city built by the state for retired soldiers, magistrates and apparitores). Outside Italy and Greece, only the latter two consisted entirely of Roman citizens, their slaves, and a few foreign merchants.
Colonia Romana

Typical layout of a colonia militaris

Under Faustilon's regulations, vicus parvus came to indicate the lowest status for a settlement, aside from oppidum (village) which referred to a settlement of primitive foreigners. An oppidum was not subject to laws governing and evaluating settlements in the empire and would continue to be run by whatever procedure was employed by the locals.

Once the population of a vicus exceeded 8,000, it would have ten years to build its own amphitheater and forum, elect its own city senate, and maintain its streets at a certain level of cleanliness, before incurring fines and extra taxes. Successful improvement would garner a vicus the status of municipium. Even settlements with mostly non-citizens were expected to abide by these standards, as long as they were previously recognized as vici parvi. There were strict rules for what sufficed as a forum or an amphitheater and for how to run a city senate. Similarly, the original standards that needed to be met to become a vicus parvus in the first place included having roads, at least 100 people, a decent marketplace, and some kind of path to the public roads without having to travel off-road through a forest or a canyon of some sort. Since there were modest tax benefits to being a vicus parvus, residents of small settlements were encouraged to collaborate toward improving their home. This benefited census-takers and tax collectors as such settlements became more accessible.

Indeed, attempting to encompass the entire population of the empire into the census had revealed a number of unnoticed issues. Even thirty years later, there were still many regions that were not regularly covered by censitores (census-takers), even some villages or estates of Roman citizens. While new inhabitants were steadily being discovered and recorded, censitores visiting known settlements had also been reporting back to Rome about the need for bridges near small towns, more deverticula throughout the countryside, more organized marketplaces, and better access to fresh water. Wells remained the most prevalent means of accessing fresh water but Faustilon mandated that a municipium needed to have aqueduct service once its population became greater than 25,000 people. By the same law, a municipium with an aqueduct required at least two amphora (13.8 gallons) of water capacity per resident of the city (obviously with a substantial margin for error).

Above a population of 80,000, a municipium would have ten years to improve its roads with drainage; to build a galenaria, a banca, a post office, a censitorium, a therma, a barracks, a public fountain, and a public stable with a capacity of at least five dozen horses; to enlarge its public forum; to institute local fire departments, and to have access to at least four amphora (27.6 gallons) of water capacity per person through its aqueducts, or else suffer certain fines and heavier taxes. A city senate would be granted a temporary license to tax its citizens on top of regular taxes in order to fund these building projects. Successful adherence to these regulations would grant the municipium the status of urbs (city) and a stipend of 1 denarii per resident as well as 2 denarii per citizen (in addition to the residential funding). These funds could be used at the discretion of the city senate to maintain its status as urbs and to employ the required military garrison of one auxiliary soldier per 1,000 residents.

All cities of this size had an additional income from latrinae (public latrines), through their profitable near monopoly on stale urine; thermae (public baths); and other minor services provided exclusively by the municipal government.

Once an urbs surpassed 240,000 people, it could be designated a magnum urbs with enough effort. Although there were few cities of this size, Faustilon wanted to guarantee the special treatment of the largest cities in the empire, even after his death. As such, his regulations required a city of that size to achieve several goals before the fines and taxes would be lifted:

  • possess at least 4 km of cloacae (sewers), a Christian Cathedral, a dedicated slave market, a central bank, a cistern with a water capacity of at least 200 million gallons, and a small castrum (fort) for stationing troops
  • field at least 400 auxiliary soldiers for its defense
  • daily capacity of at least eight amphora (55.2 gallons) of water per person through its aqueducts
  • access to a via princepesque either directly or through a via consularis
  • create a quisquillia comparata collegium (public street cleaners) for organizing the cleaning services in the city
  • construct a monument to glorify the empire that meets the standards of the prime commissioner of urban regulations

The last one had effectively been completed by existing magna urbes. Alexandria had its Musaeum, Ephesus had its Artemision, Byzantium had its Basilica, Corellia had its Circus Caledonis, Athens had its Parthenon, Pergamum had its Library, and Carthage had its Cathedral. These were all historically or socially significant buildings within those cities.

Although grade was important to a settlement, there were other categories in the regulation of places of living. Strictest of all were those rules governing the design of coloniae and incolatia (regular settlement). The accompanying image provides an accurate representation of what a colonia of municipium grade required. In general, standards of living were expected to be higher in colonies, since the entire free population consisted of citizens. There were two general types of colonia: a colonia moenia was a settlement build all at once with a wall, a concrete foundation, and facilities integrated into the streets. These towns were of an exceptionally high quality, with proper drainage and aqueduct access despite usually having a capacity of less than about 10,000 citizens and their families. The other type was a colonia probata. Classified in the same way as the original municipal meaning of the term civitas, these colonia were built gradually according to a careful design and were meant to serve as urban footholds for the colonization of new territories (a colonia militaris had a similar function but was built for retiring personae publicae).

To monitor adherence to these rules, the Senate created the position of legatus regulae urbanae (prime commissioner of urban regulations) in 370 CE, tasking its occupant with sending special commissioners to evaluate applicants for higher or lower grades of settlements and performing some evaluations himself. Without compromising the special status of citizens, these regulations raised the standards of living for foreigners and citizens alike, enforcing a certain minimum for many people living under Roman rule (it bears mentioning that more than a three-quarters of people did not live anywhere more densely populated than a small village).

The stance of Faustilon on peregrini (foreigners) was infamous in the Senate, where non-citizens were regarded either as a source of tribute or as a minor inconvenience. Under his rule, the annona - a free grain ration for the urban poor of the city of Rome - was extended to the city of Alexandria, adding another large yearly expenditure to the cost of maintaining the empire. Nevertheless, the Senate enjoyed a low proportion of military spending out of an already high public revenue, which was unusual for a state at this period in time (most kings devoted the majority of their wealth toward military affairs).

During this period, the population of Italy alone approached 13 million citizens, with an additional 7 million Italian citizens spread among coloniae in other provinces. According to the census, ~4 million citizens were Greeks living in Greece while another ~4 million Greek citizens lived along the coast in the Pontus Euxinus or in cities in Sicily. Meanwhile, Egypt had a populace numbering around 7 million people, of which 820,000 lived in Alexandria alone. However, it would take time before the Senate was comfortable granting citizenship to everyone living within the personal territory of the emperor. By 395 CE, there were around 30 million citizens in an empire with a population close to 90 million.

Public health

Since the institution of the first public hospitals (galenariae) in the late-2nd century, the empire had experienced a steady march toward a more regulated and state-funded health system. As recently as 357Caesar Agricola had outlawed the practice of any form of medicine by people without a record of passing federal examinations over several years at a medical academy. Since many physicians practiced outside of public hospitals, properly enforcing this regulation was nearly impossible. To this end, Faustilon had hospitals built throughout the empire and initially took measures to encourage doctors to practice in them.

At the end of his reign, Faustilon outlawed private medicine entirely, forcing doctors either to become private physicians in the employ of a single client or to work on a salary at a hospital. Salaries for physicians varied with rank and were at the discretion of the archiatrus (medical chief), who supervised all of the employees at his assigned hospital. A position of Magister Archiatorum (Surgeon-General or Master of the Chief Healers) was created for the Senate. Its tasks were to appoint medical chiefs from among doctors and to oversee their compliance with Roman standards for medicine. In general, an archiatrus could expect to make more than thirty thousand denarii annually while the average doctor worked for a tenth of that amount. The possibility of receiving sufficient recognition to be named archiatrus helped motivate the sorts of behavior that led to a good reputation.

Over time, the position of medical chief became a third avenue toward starting a political career, as an alternative to legal practice and military service. The reputation and wealth of these doctors placed them among the equestrian class (ordo equester), where they were eligible to begin a political career in the Senate.

The importance of regulating the activities of physicians was obvious to anyone living at the time. Even in the 4th century, a doctor could effectively threaten to withhold treatment unless his patient accepted a proposed price, basically extorting money from wealthy clients. Back in the 1st century, some doctors were making tens of millions of denarii from this practice and matters had only scarcely improved, due to competition with hospitals, by the reign of Faustilon. His predecessor had made some attempt to confront this problem by imposing maximum prices on the medical services offered by all physicians but the lack of oversight made the existence of these laws of only nominal effect.

In his concern for public health, Caesar Faustilon had laws passed to enforce better hygienic standards in thermae (public baths). Although a bathhouse was one of the most viable ways for the average citizen to stay clean, these facilities were often cesspools of repeatedly used water, dirty bathing implements, and infectious floor tiles. This situation changed as the regulations of Faustilon were enforced across the colonies and municipalities of Rome. To facilitate their implementation, the laws specified that each night the pools were to be drained while the floors, walls, and benches were cleaned using concentrated vinegar before being watched down in preparation for the following day. Vinegar was known to stave off the effects of miasma (polluted air) that accumulated around stagnant water, open wounds, and dead bodies, so it was the natural choice for cleansing baths. Meanwhile, the strigils and other grooming tools available at baths (not everyone could afford their own bathing implements) were to be washed in vinegar before allowing other patrons to use them. In Rome, slaves did this type of cleaning for thermae.

These regulations transformed public bathing and were a major leap forward in hygiene. Baths used to be common means for the spread of tuberculosis and often caused gangrene or fungal infections but could now truly contribute to public health. Romans would come to express great pride in the state of their baths and the prominence of those facilities in their daily lives.

Cretan earthquake

Five years into his reign, Faustilon received news from the island of Crete about a tragic earthquake. The capital of Gortyn had suffered great damage but the towns on the west side of the island were utterly destroyed by the moving earth. None of these settlements survived the earthquake and even the eastern towns were left in a terrible state. Alone, the devastation of Crete was a disaster for the empire but the events that followed were a calamity.

tsunami spread throughout the Eastern Mediterranean from the epicenter of the earthquake. Hundreds of ports along the coast of the Aegean Sea were destroyed by this powerful wall of rushing water. Infrastructure was destroyed and thousands drowned as the water level overwhelmed them without warning. Similar devastation affected Cyrenaica, Egypt, SyriaPalestina, and Cyprus. Two large cities were especially suffered from this tsunami.

Appolonia in Cyrenaica was practically washed away by flood waters. Its harbor was permanently submerged and boats were thrown into the city, crushing pedestrians as the rest of the city temporarily went underwater. Half of the city was swallowed by the sea, even after the flood had subsided. Few people were left to receive aid once news spread of Appolonia's destruction.

With its massive population, Alexandria was the site of an even worse tragedy. Nearly a hundred thousand people were drowned as the sea rose to fill its streets. The sewers were overwhelmed with flood waters, unable to drain the streets at the rate they were being covered. A combination of factors mitigated the severity of damage to the city. Most of the city, especially the west side, was spared the force of the tsunami by the Island of Pharos. This force was further lessened by the presence of sea walls but neither factor could stop the flooding of the city, only slow its pace to a less destructive level. Even more fortuitously, recent work on the city streets in the eastern end had reinforced their foundations, preventing the receding waters from dragging buildings back into the sea as the soil was more restricted in its movement.

Faustilon was deeply moved by the news of the earthquake, a feeling that was only magnified when reports of the tsunami began to come in from other provinces. The next morning he led a procession from the palace to leave offerings for the deceased at the Capitoline Temple, the primary shrine of the Christian community. For the next year, he wore simple Greek robes and none of the symbols of his rank. As a practical response, he ordered the Classis Annona Africana - the fleet shipping grain to Rome - to divert some of its produce to Crete and the Aegean (Alexandria and Cyrenaica were not suffering similar famines as those regions in the wake of the quake). This relief program required the rapid construction of rudimentary wooden piers for mooring ships in the affected areas (as the disaster had damaged nearby wharves). As a Greek, the emperor took a personal interest in providing aid, devoting a substantial fraction of public funds and grain, slowing the ongoing construction of public highways.

At the same time, more permanent reconstruction was underway to replace the wharves and piers of eastern port towns. A large amount of funding for replacing damaged ports came from Faustilon, with local merchants and nobility providing the rest. The capital of Crete also received support from the emperor, as did the roads between cities on the island as part of the highway system that was to envelop the whole empire. Still, Crete would take over 80 years to recover its population and infrastructure.

During reconstruction, Faustilon politically separated Crete from Cyrenaica, leaving both as proconsular provinces, with their governors elected by the Senate in Rome. This development was presented as a gift to the people of Crete for their fortitude in the face of adversity, as contemporary propaganda made clear.

Christian doctrine

During the reign of Faustilon, the empire was in the midst of conversion to the religio Christiana which had the full support of the Senate. More than two-thirds of citizens had left behind other beliefs and begun to follow the theological lead of local sacerdotes (priests) participating in the Ecclesia Christiana (Christian community). At every templum (church), literate citizens had access to a copy of the holy text of Christianity - the Biblia - but most of these copies were written solely in Greek. Scholars employed at the Didascalium Alexandriae (Theological School of Alexandria) possessed Latin copies of the Bible, translated by the famous Victor using the original Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament, but this version was not available to the public at large. Responding to the interest of Faustilon in the putative importance of this text, the pontifex maximus (Pope) in 371 brought a copy of the Latin Bible before the emperor for his evaluation.

Although the Bishop of Rome praised the translations as the finest literature, Faustilon professed little reason to trust the accuracy of its translations, given the distance in time from the original transcription of the various books. For this reason, he implored the Pope to locate scholars throughout the empire and to collect all of the oldest copies of the books of Bible which could be found, including original Hebrew and Aramaic copies of the Tanakh (the canonical Jewish holy book on which the Old Testament of the Bible was based). Once these two things were brought together at the Musaeum of Alexandria, by now the most prolific academic institution in the Roman world, the biblical scholars were given the services of dozens of renowned writers for the task of translating between the relevant languages of the holy books. The majority of the College of Augurs - presently the ultimate authority on the interpretation of the Bible - was also present to assist in the hermeneutic component of translations.

As early as six years into this project, a single new copy of the Bible had been written. However, several errors were found by comparison with earlier texts, forcing another two years of slow writing to produce a translation of the Bible into Latin that was viewed as error-free in the considered judgements and comparisons of more than 20 biblical scholars. Throughout this process, the Victor's translation of the Bible served as a starting point for modifications made on the basis of earlier documents, resulting in the modification of nearly a quarter of his passages. When a final document was brought before the emperor, he called for a Second Council of Alexandria, a synod of bishops for achieving formal agreement on the canon texts of their religion.

Several majors decisions were reached at this synod:

  • The Book of Revelation was regarded as canonical but would not be included as a part of the Bible, instead circulating as a separate book for biblical scholars alone (considered as it was to be too open to misinterpretation by lay people).
  • Controversial passages such as the Pericope Adulterae and the doxology of the Lord's Prayer were retained but others such as the Mark 16:9-20 and various single verses in MatthewLuke, and John were struck from the record.
  • The Lord's Prayer became regarded as an intended template for prayer rather than being intended by Jesus as a prayer itself, but the synod agreed that it should be a widely recited prayer in its own right.
  • The need to strictly enforce biblical canon throughout the Ecclesia Christiana (Christian community) was emphasized. Authority was given to bishops alone to burn noncanonical passages, as long as the storage of a copy in the Musaeum was confirmed (these books still held some importance but could not be publicly available for risk of confusing lay people).
  • Lay people were to have unrestricted access to the Bible through copies in the local language in every Christian temple.
  • The canonical edition of the Latin Bible (now known as the Faustian Edition) would be kept in an archives in Rome, often getting moved from one vault to another as secular regulations changed.

The synod began and concluded over a four month period in 379 CE.

Upon return to Rome, the Bishop of Rome worked in concert with the emperor to institute an administrative division of the Christian community. The emperor split the empire into Dioeceses which would each be under the authority of an already predominant episkopos. Dioeceses encompassing a major city such as Syracuse, Alexandria, or Carthage were prestigiously named Archdioeceses to be governed by a more illustrious archepiskopos. There was no difference in temporal authority for these bishops but they were considered more faithful leaders, to be looked to before regular bishops, and had the more difficult task of administering urban Christians, something that went in line with their status as more faithful and experienced preachers.

After these events, thousands of copies of the Latin Bible were being handwritten throughout the empire, with old and no longer canonical copies being transported to the Didascalium or the Musaeum in Alexandria for permanent storage.

Great German Migration

Since Faustilon had little knowledge of military strategy, he regarded war as a last resort, only for when other solutions to a disagreement had been exhausted. For this reason, some consider it odd that one of his first reactions to a plea for aid from former rival Persia, still reeling from an invasion by Constantine, was to send seven legions to their assistance. Information that had reached Rome pointed to Sarmatians and Alani as the ones currently threatening Persia. However, as Rome would take some time to realize, the true culprit was a non-Germanic and non-Iranian tribe that they would call the Huni (Greek: Χοῦνοι).

Having invaded the Black Sea region, the Huns swiftly conquered the Alani tribes, forcing them into military service in 371 against the neighboring Greutungi. This conflict lasted until the defeat and execution of Greutungian King Vithimar five years later. News reached the Huns of a powerful empire to the southwest and a lesser, but equally wealthy, empire to the southeast. With this information, the Huns brought their army of tribes in 378 toward Persia's border.

During their brief conflict alongside Persia, the Legion was unable to learn anything about the political unity or military size of the invaders, except the vague notion that they had vast armies and lacked military organization. Once the Huns were blocked in the east of the Caucasus, their armies slid westward into Armenia, forcing Sapiens to concentrate his seven legions on that side. By 385, none of the mysterious invaders were left in the region, having seemingly fled northward for parts unknown (they had not suffered any major defeats against any legions, nor initiated any major engagements). Roman scouts in Magna Germania came back regularly over the next few decades with reports of brutal raids along the Volga River starting in 388 and continuing until about 420. Unbenownst to Rome, these raids were part of the conquest of hundreds of tribes by powerful Hunnic Kings such as King Uldin (403-415) and King Aksungur (416-425), who were amassing the largest army outside the civilized world.

Hunnic conquests in Europe were the driving force for a great migration of Germanic tribes toward the Imperium Romanum, the likes of which had never been witnessed in the civilized world. Over a million nomads were traveling west to escape the Huns and were slowly appearing within view of the limites of Rome.

This process began peacefully but ominously when over thirty tribes arrived at the border of Pannonia Superior, near the fort of Carnuntum, settling in 377 along the Danube river. Local general Lucius Flavius Theodosius was alarmed by this influx of nearly a hundred thousand people in the span of only one year but he had standing orders to avoid conflict whenever possible. Soldiers worked to break the language barrier, succeeding with the help of some locals in March of 378. At this time, the people were desperate after painful winter famines. Trade for what little cloth and leather the Germans could hunt and gather was initiated to provide food to the squatters. These communities along the Danube were relatively peaceful, prompting the Senate to agree to donations of food to keep them docile in harder months.

Germanic trinkets and jewelry became all the rage in Italy, so the Senate also banned forgeries of German jewelry to preserve trade with these settlers. Around this time, contact with Germanic settlers popularized pants (braccae) in Italy, bringing an item of clothing once only popular in Britain and Northern Gaul into more common use in the heartland. After the events of the 5th century, pants became a staple of Plebeian fashion, usually worn by men below a short tunica tied at the waste by a belt or string.

Emperor Sapiens was uneasy with the swelling population of Germans, going behind the Senate to construct a stone wall along the western edge of the south-flowing portion of the Danube and another stone wall along the eastern edge of the south-flowing Tisia. These walls created a thin corridor, less than a hundred kilometers wide, through which an invading army could be funneled by pressure to avoid the frontier walls. Such fortifications were completed in late-385.

Part of his motivations for these walls was the near-simultaneous arrival of a separate group of tribes at the limes. According to the commander of the forces in Dacia, these Vesigothi, successors to the Gothi who once held Taurica on the Black Sea, had appeared from the distance and immediately attempted to scale the walls. Modern historians recognize that this was really an attempt by the commander to conceal his refusal of asylum to these visitors. Contemporary accounts accepted his testimony and the emperor ordered that two legions be called in from Germania Superior to assist the four in Dacia and Moesia Inferior.

Repulsed from the Tisia River, the Vesigoths moved west toward the corridor between the Danube and the Tisia. With little in the way of fortifications to stop them at this time, they effortlessly entered Pannonia Inferior across the Danube before continuing in 380 to reach Dalmatia. The following year was punctuated by brief skirmishes between the opposing forces until they had found the location of a nearby city. The temptation of urban wealth was too great, bringing most of the Goths together against the legion on November 7, 381 in the Battle of Salona. Faced against four legions who could now fight in their element, the Goths were crushed, losing their leader, King Athanaric, in the battle. This failure marked the decline of Gothic dominance in Magna Germania, as Athanaric led the last united force of his people - the rest having splintered and spread among other tribes.

The victory of general Silvanus Antiochus was widely celebrated by Romans, earning him a Triumph and later a consulship over the region which he had protected from the barbarian hordes.

Unfortunately, attacks only escalated from there. In 382, the Sarmatians approached the limes tyranensis from along the coast, breaching it with siege weapons at its weaker points near the Black Sea. An army numbering over 68,000 flooded into the empire and pursued its goal relentlessly. They were seeking the fabled city of Byzantium, known to them through traders who spoke of its great wealth and the overconfidence of its residents.

Theodosius was deployed from Pannonia to lead three of his legions with the four in Moesia Inferior but his forces had barely reached Viminacium when the Sarmatians were laying waste to the city of Durostorum, casually slaughtering over half of its populace before crossing the Danube into Thracia. They were held off by the city walls of Byzantium for four days, giving Theodosius enough time to arrive with his forces and entrench himself around the enemy siege camps.

A peace was offered by the Sarmatian chief - requesting land to settle with their families in the Pannonian funnel but the general wanted to leave a clear message to outsiders. The slaughter at the Battle of Byzantium in 383 resonated through the Germanic and Scythian worlds. Survivors of the battle were set free at the border of Moesia Inferior, spreading news of how even an army as great as that of the Sarmatians could never take Byzantium. Although this news never reached the Huns as anything other than rumor, other tribes seem to have restrained themselves as the frequency of attacks on the borders decreased.

Data collection

Census and tax records being readily available for magistrates and provided them with unparalleled knowledge of the empire they governed. Not only was the data used to plan spending and to tax more people than otherwise but it could be used to tax specific demographics. Agricola started doing this when he introduced income tax brackets and location-based property taxes but this practice had even more potential. With data on the professions of residents, the government knew approximately what types of goods were bought, processed, and sold in each settlement, and who performed those jobs. The only limitation was that the amount that a resident was told that they would owe in taxes could not be exceeded in the five years between when that resident took the census and the next census. However, this did not prevent the Senate from giving tax breaks that could encourage certain activities in certain regions, even between the censuses in those areas, and it allowed room for people facing financial troubles to request re-evaluation of their assets before the next collection.

Faustilon used this data to extend the annual child subsidy, of 60 sestertii (HS) for the first ten years after the birth of every child in the city of Rome, to the rest of Italy and to the coloniae in other provinces. He also imposed a tax on citizens who were still bachelors past the age of 30. With accurate birth records for citizens, the censitores would know when a citizen lied about his age to avoid this tax. Sapiens justified this tax on the grounds of funding the expansion of the child care subsidies. Only priests and scholars were exempt from the tax (although neither were necessarily celibate by profession). Since marriages were also archived, the accountants working for the government could lift the tax on a bachelor on the year after he married.

Census data could also be used to provide tax breaks for farmers in small regions suffering drought or to fishermen along a specific coast in order to decrease the cost of fish in nearby towns. Other intricate measures could be implemented by future emperors as different needs arose. It is simply worth mentioning that such targeted tax breaks were becoming commonplace now that the government could reliably identify taxable characteristics using the Census.

Data collection went a step further in 388 when Sapiens commissioned accurate city maps of the major Roman settlements. Each one would take a team of dozens of cartographers and scribes several years to complete but the result of each expedition was a map that could be used to identify features as minute as a fountain or a small home. When the next census went through, the censitores would identify each person with their residence on the official map of the city, noting for future reference whenever a person was living in a residence not on the map or when a residence on the map no longer existed. By his death, Sapiens had commissioned maps of over two hundred cities, for storage in the new Tabularium vaults on the Collis Vaticanus. Copies of the famous Carta Mediterranea and other useful maps were also stored there.

In a age before computers and wireless monitoring, Rome was achieving the highest degree of surveillance possible, using what technology (scroll and stylus) was at hand. Various shorthand techniques were slowly being developed during this time. For instance, the abbreviation DN or eventually Dn for the denarius was in widespread use by censitores as early as 373. One might be incredulous that such thorough data collection across an empire of 90 million would even be possible but some approximate numbers can show some of the reality of the situation.

Working 200 days a year, being paid for an additional 80 days spent traveling to destinations, a censitoris could visit an average of 30,000 people in a year. Since a single Census was completed over the course of a lustrum (five years), one census-taker was necessary for every 150,000 residents of the empire (counting each pagus as one person, for an effective population of about 73 million people). This process was further facilitated by polling every family as a single household, usually talking only to the head of the household for information on the entire family.

Since a censitoris would make a respectable wage of 2 denarii per day of work, as a low class job for literate citizens, the cost of fielding the empire's ~520 censitores came to a modest 291,000 denarii every year. In other words, only a miniscule fraction of revenues went toward a program that easily increased the money colllected from taxes by a tenth (if not more). This was less than the administrative cost of tax collection itself which was nearly ten million denarii for fiscatores and transport costs, despite using banks to cut the number of tax collectors required. Overall, the Census stood as a prime example of a political apparatus that Rome employed on an unprecedented scale, in order to more effectively manage its vast territories.

Public information

On the other side of the coin, information about the Senate was also disseminated more readily by Faustilon to the public. Since the 2nd century BCE, the public could follow political events in Rome through the Acta Diurna (Daily Public Records) posted on tablets in public places. These publications would announce the outcomes of trials, marriages, deaths, and certain decrees that the emperor or Senate wanted to make known to the public. Under Augustus, the Acta Diurna ceased publishing detailed accounts of the proceedings of meetings of the Senate, keeping these records for the government archives alone. Faustilon reversed this move after nearly 400 years, by passing a law in 374 forcing a separate publication of this Acta Senatus (Public Records of the Senate) on the Forum Romanum where everyone could see. A praeconis (herald) was paid by the emperor to read these records to the crowds that would now gather each morning that these records were published.

Over the reign of other emperors, the status and use of these publications would change. Some emperors before the 6th century would censure them altogether. As part of the dramatic constitutional reforms of the 530's, publications of news were cemented by the return of the importance of politics to the average citizen. After that time, the Acta Diurna published almost exclusively political news and major events from throughout the known world. Among these publications, the major news in July was always the exact results of the yearly public elections (re-instituted by the reforms) and throughout the rest of the year, the news focused on the failures or successes of provincial governors or magistrates in Rome itself. At the same time, the Acta Senatus started getting put on public display in Byzantium, Athens, and Ephesus, as the franchise was extended to people in that region.

Final Caesar Bonus

As stoic as Sapiens was, the man had an emotional side - a soft spot for his family. When his wife died in 390, he was shaken to his core. He would rarely leave his palace and news of the completion of his highway program gave him no pleasure. Many of his duties were laid on his Proprinceps and his adopted heir was put to the side for his eldest son from his dead wife.

Worried senators became even more concerned when a bill was noticed for a mausoleum to be built outside Byzantium. They learned that the emperor wished to be buried with his descendants - his sole vanity project in a reign of 35 years. On the 5th day of September in 395 CE, neither his family nor his slaves had seen him all morning. It did not take long for them to find him in his bed, having passed away peacefully in the night. His heir, Marcus Aurelius Sapiens, took the titles of office the following week.

This latest succession broke the longstanding tradition of adopting a boy of suitable talents to be the next emperor, as had been done since Traianus was named heir to Nerva in 98 CE. By passing his titles to a biological heir, Faustilon set a new precedent, one not only influencing his descendants but worrying the Senate who felt Rome might descend into monarchy.

As some fears were be realized, this decision set a series of events in motion that would soon result in the fall of the dynasty of Antoninus, opening the throne for a new line of Roman Caesars.

Meanwhile, on a far away continent, well beyond the kingdoms of Europe, Africa, and Asia, a boy was born to a merchant family in the city of Ox Te' Tuun, one of the more prominent city-states of the Maya Civilization. Named Kich'en C'onle Mayapan by his parents, the boy would come to be regarded as the Father of the Mayan Empire and perhaps the most intelligent man to have ever lived - a force that would shape the face of his entire continent.

Statistics for the Roman Empire of 395 AD

Population: 90 million (35.1% of humans), including ~6 million slaves

Area: 7,113,000 km²

GDP: 6.6 billion denarii (~$73 billion US)

Treasury: 130 million denarii (~$1.43 billion US)

Government revenue: 449 million denarii (~$4.94 billion US), 6.8% of GDP

Military spending: 175 million denarii (39.0% of revenue or 2.65% of GDP)

Military size: 145,600 legionaries (28 legions), 192,682 auxiliaries, and 10,000 praetorian guards

Legislature: 600 senators

Christianity: 78% of citizens

Length of border fortifications: 4,219 km

Reign of Agricola:
1092 (339)-1113 (360)
Reign of Sapiens:
1113 (360)-1148 (395)
Post-Caesares Boni:
1148 (395)-1184 (431)

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