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With the untimely death of the beloved Ulpius, Rome had no successor to the curule throne. By his own laws, this allowed the Senate to elect a new emperor, choosing the famous general and consul Gnaeus Fabius Comptus. The people of Rome heavily supported this choice, as senators expected, and the man himself was pleased to accept. For his role in the ongoing civil war, Fabius was a national hero and the perfect choice to lead the country out of the conflict.
Caesar Fabius (537-582)
Few citizens had risen through the ranks of the empire as quickly as Fabius. Being named Legatus Augustus of the province of Dacia at the age of 31, he found himself leading one of the largest armies in history to retake Greece from a force of rebels. Once he successfully defeated the main rebel army in 534, he was recalled to Rome to be named Dacian Consul as a reward for his services to the empire. The Senate and Caesar had denied him his Triumph, on the grounds that it would insult the Greeks, but in return he would be named the youngest Consul since Pompeius Magnus (although consulship was very different then). Fabius proved to be an able consul and the people of Rome were still sore that he had not returned for a Triumph so when the equally beloved Caesar Ulpius was assassinated without an heir, the Senate had almost no choice but to appoint Fabius its new emperor.
Pleasing the people
As an emperor of the people, Fabius would go to great lengths during his long reign to keep them happy. Seeking to magnify his parallels with Pompey, he made one of his first acts the renovation of the Theater of Pompey, renewing it to its former glory and building a colonnade to enclose a new park outside the theater proper. This park had a statue of himself as its centerpiece but also featured religious art and was entered through a victory arch crediting success in the bellum civile (civil war) to his predecessor who had been emperor when he fought the Greek rebels. Construction on the theater put the public accounts even further into debt but was met with great enthusiasm from people of all orders.
Once this project was finished in 542, there would be another year before regular tax revenues returned and grain subsidies for Alexandria could be halted, since grain shipping routes would reopen once the plague subsided. Despite the admonition of the Senate, Fabius refused to cut the various expenditures that he would come up with each year, keeping the state in debt.
Starting in 540, the old idea of digging a Corinthian canal (Fluvossa Corinthiana) across the isthmus was revived in the Senate as a means of more closely connecting Graecia with Italia. The new route would cut any journey from the Aegean or Black Seas to the Western Mediterranean down by about 4 days and would bring Corinthus and Athenae to within a day's trip from each other. Only getting underway in 544, once the plague subsided, the canal took 15 years to complete and cost ~70 million Dn. Overall, the excavation went through ~6.3 km of land at a base width of ~28 meters that widened as the walls of the canal rose. The width of the canal was sufficient for traffic to go in both directions.
By this time, Roman engineers could finally mitigate the problem of landslides that had plagued earlier highway designs that cut through and around hills. Not only were the cliffs around the canal cut with roughly 74° slopes but concrete anchors were forced into the rockface at noticeably vulnerable locations. However, the most important measure against landslides was the digging of drainage ditches around the cliffs, drastically reducing the potential amount of rainwater flow over the sides. The cliffs were only spaced closely around the single arch bridge that spanned the canal near the town of Isthmia. This bridge connected the only land route through the isthmus of Corinth. These construction projects came after the completion of the canal and took a number of years to finish, as construction held back to allow the passage of ships. On the whole, the canal was a success, permitting easier travel especially during elections, facilitating the voting of Greek citizens in the capital. Furthermore, the canal was recognized as a marvel of human engineering, becoming a prominent example of the massive excavations of which Romans were capable.
For public entertainment, Fabius financed grand public games in Rome and in major Greek cities. Animals would be shipped in large quantities from Africa and Asia for local gladiators to fight to the death. Enough gladiator slaves were dying or gaining their own freedom that their numbers reached an all-time low. In fact, the number of slaves in general had fallen to about 5 million out of a total population of 91 million people (after over nine million people died from the Ulpian plague). While Fabius cared little about the falling total number of slaves, he was concerned about gladiatorial matches becoming more difficult to hold. To slow the decline, he arranged to buy agricultural slaves from the aristocracy for high prices. By the end of his reign, the number of slaves would fall to a historic 4 million slaves, from a combination of manumission, natural attrition, and death in the arena.
Since a maximum number under Caesar Constantine, slaves had slowly become less numerous in the Roman Empire. Laws were passed to restrict manumission and encourage the birth of vernae (slaves born to slaves) but these tended to be house slaves as emperors were not especially fond of the latifundia (landed estates) of the aristocracy, where the majority of Rome's agricultural slaves would work. At the end of his reign, Fabius had effectively left a situation where the owners of latifundia would never release their agricultural slaves and would heavily encourage their slaves to have children. Slave markets were basically only selling vernae from whatever sources were available, although a few small wars would occasionally supply markets.
As wealthy landowners weakened, the landholding plebeian grew in prominence. These lower class farmers were the backbone of the agricultural industry in Magna Germania, since ager publicus (public land) acquired by the emperor would be prioritized as gifts for retiring legionaries and the urban poor. Emperors before Ulpius had devoted millions of denarii each year toward encouraging such settlement and Fabius would continue this trend after it slowed during the crises of the previous few decades.
Caesar Sulla had supported lower class farming by buying latifundia but these had been resold to patricians by Imperator Antoninus and Caesar Maximius. As the number of slaves fell, these would become less profitable for wealthy landowners, leading them to sell their private land back to the emperor who gave the land to retiring legionaries and leased the rest to plebeians in a manner similar to what Sulla had pioneered. Over time, these properties would either be sold to whomever was leasing the land or given to legionaries retiring from military service. There had been quite some time since Italian estates could be given to veterans in return for their services to the empire and the resurgence of this particular donative greatly pleased the middle classes.
In terms of popularity, the reign of Fabius was a successful period. Few recent emperors other than Draconus were in power for as long as Fabius and that emperor did not have the former general's way with the people. Although hypercompetent at running an empire, Draco made no attempts to endear himself to the public and had a reputation for his temper. Fabius stands apart as a builder of the public's faith in imperial leadership, which had been strong under the Antonine dynasty but would waver from time to time under less competent or less caring emperors (e.g. Aurelius, Antoninus, Darius, Scipio II). His reign would long be remembered as a golden age for the Roman Empire, a time when the advantages of stability and wealth could freely support great works of art and philosophy without the worries of Germanic invasion, war with Persia, or internal upheaval.
As a signal of this peace, Fabius disbanded two legions between the years of 541 and 552. There had been obstacles in replenishing the ranks of fallen legions from the civil war and those legions which disappeared were already functionally gone. A major obstacle had been a law outlawing residents of the Greek provinces from joining the Legion except in positions where they operated artillery. In some sense, this measure that Ulpius passed was not to the benefit of the Greeks, since being a legionary was a good way for plebeians to make a good income. He had justified the law on the grounds that the Greek would need to prove their devotion and loyalty to the Populus Romanus and that they would be otherwise unpunished for the actions of their countrymen. Indeed, even Italian residents of Greece and Anatolia were included in the law, alleviating the sentiment of unfair treatment that some Greeks may have felt by their exclusion from the Legion. Ulpius was clear that the uncertain loyalties were regarding the Greek region rather than the Greek culture or people.
An exception to this restriction was the city of Sparta. The Spartans had refused the requests of Doreanos to join in rebellion against Rome, its strategos delivering a short and blunt speech to his city, urging that no one leave to join the rebels. In return, Rome not only exempt Sparta from the exclusion of Greek citizens from the Legion but granted the Spartans a permanent cohort as an honor guard for important military commanders. This battalion of 640 Spartans was both a reward and a fulfilment of a cultural progression that had ignited with the first Laconic Games, through which residents of Sparta displayed their physical prowess every four years. Indeed, the holding of these Games had resharpened the Spartans even further into the rough and disciplined people that they were before Rome. Their cohort would be known as the Cohors Lacona and would be led by its own strategos, distinct from the civic leader of the Spartans who bore the same title.
The Spartan cohort of Rome was to serve as a special unit within the Legion, bolstering any position it held on the field of battle. As a city of 45,000 Spartans, the city would always have around ~8,000 young men vying for the coveted 640 available positions. Only the best, according to standards specific to the Spartans, would be selected to fight for Rome. The rest would continue to compete with one another and with incoming Spartan boys seeking what they had failed to achieve. In general, the lifestyle of the Spartans would ensure that not only were those chosen the best the city could offer, but the city was the best to make such an offer. With a grain dole from Rome partially sustaining the city, every able-bodied man could devote himself to an intense regimen of training to become a soldier.
Regardless, the law excluded a region of around ten million people from membership in the Legion, seriously hurting recruitment. Disbanding two legions was more an official measure rather than an effect on present military strength. This reduction would still mean a weaker army defending the empire. With the fortifications on the frontiers, such a loss was of little concern to the Senate and would have positive consequences for the strained treasury.
After the civil war, the organization of the imperial legions was as follows. As usual, there were nine legions along the Limes Arabicus, for holding off a future invasion by Persia. One third of them were stationed behind the Vallum Magnum Judaecum while the rest protected Mesopotamia and Armenia. Across Greater Germany was a total of seven legions - four along the walls on the border of Gothica and three patrolling the frontier lands enclosed by the Danube, Rhine, and Vistula rivers.
There were three legions in Nubia, with none in Egypt, and only one legion in Hibernia (Ireland), as there had been little unrest there in the last century. Another four legions were stationed along the limes tyranensis, shared by the legates of Dacia and Moesia Inferior. The remaining two legions were stationed in Mauretania, for a total of 26 legions.
Although there had not been so few legions since the Republic, the military was far stronger than that period. Every border, save the western border to the great African desert, had a strong wall on which the legions and auxiliary soldiers were stationed, giving imperial forces a distinct advantage against foreign invaders, when supported with patrols going deep outside the empire. On the seas, Rome had never fielded stronger fleets, with over 200,000 men serving onboard its ships. Individual cities had their own city guards pooled from the population and paid by the treasury through a simple municipal stipend. More important than any of these factors, the Legion itself had unparalleled siege equipment and more than adequate ranged support.
On an open field, a single legion of 6,400 legionaries, 1,600 archers, 400 knights, and their artillery support was more than a match for a force of over thirty thousand Venedian natives or even the 10,000 Persian Immortals, the famous elite guard of the Sassanids. Together, a number of legions could be fielded to combat any foe that had ever faced Rome. Should the Huns reappear with their horde of one million tribesmen, there could be two dozen legions in Italy before they reached the Danube. Romans and their senators thought in exactly these terms and more, instilling unwavering confidence in the populace that they were safe. With the Hero of the Civil War serving Rome as first citizen, they felt they could be no safer.
Impressed with the few inventions of ballistarii (artillerymen) training in the Academia Bellica (War Academy), Fabius sought to encourage their creativity for weapons by devoting a school there to the study of siege engines. The emperor personally went to the Musaeum in Alexandria and the Lyceum in Athens, over the course of the 560s, to hire the finest mathematicians and the most renowned experts on Aristotelian physics for the school. Although one of its focuses would be to give better training to aspiring artillerymen, through five years of schooling, this wing of the War Academy would also be a space for mathematicians and natural philosophers to improve upon existing weapons.
A primary facet of training for artillery work was knowing how to manufacture and repair siege weapons so the interaction of the teachers with more experienced students would be a good opportunity for bringing fresh understanding to the study of weapons. Such opportunities were a result of the shift in spirit of the new artillery school from the older school where veteran artillerymen would teach newcomers their art. This new school was for understanding and using Roman siege equipment, as well as other pieces of military equipment, and its result was more valuable ballistarii than could be trained in the field.
In fact, there was such a gap between the skills of graduates from the new artillery school and field trained artillerymen that the emperor was forced to acknowledge this difference with an increase in pay - double the pay of a regular ballistarius. As Greeks could only join the army after training in this school, the majority of Greeks in the military occupied such positions.
Fabius promised the school an annual fund of 9 million denarii both for paying its teachers, known as doctores ballistarii, and for buying materials for siege equipment. This stipend exceeded funding for the rest of the War Academy. Over his reign, this Technaeum Armarum et Armaturae (Technical School for Arms and Armor) would produce a leather bracer for archers to avoid wearing down their arms, sturdier assemblies for the manuballista, polyboloi, carroballista, and regular ballista, and a mount for rapidly deploying stationary artillery on parapets (since they are usually stored nearby during peacetime). Small changes to existing lorica (body armor), sword, arcus (bow), and ballista (siege engine) designs would gradually improve the cost, sturdiness, reload time, and strain of some of these weapons, at a faster pace than before the Technaeum's existence. Prior to its completion, there were some mathematicians, artillerymen, and natural philosophers who would occasionally come up with better designs (as is the case for the lignaballista in decaremes) but this school ushered in an era of directed research.
Another invention of the Technaeum around 566 was a stone wheel operated by pedal that could used to sharpen iron. This simple grindstone went into regular use by the Legion and appeared in smithies in the form of a water-powered grinding wheel. The whetstone would also inspire the polishing and grinding wheels for glass lenses when those were invented a century later. For the navy, one geometer invented the cross-staff that measured the distance of a celestial body from the horizon. This simple tool would be the predecessor for the backstaff, invented at the Technaeum in 576 to measure the position of the Sun without staring in its direction, and eventually the mariner's astrolabe, invented to replace the quadrant but inspired by the astrolabe and backstaff that were in heavy use when geometers at the Technaeum created the first mariner's version in 601. Without this school where geometers and philosophers could freely develop their ideas, it is doubtless that these navigational tools would not have come into existence as early as they did.
Indeed, the new level of support by an emperor for technological research had few precedents in earlier history, perhaps only in the patronage of Aristotle by Alexander the Great or the support of court scholars by Chinese emperors. The degrees to which future Roman emperors would fund the Technaeum would vary but there was always enough funding to support a large staff, even if the institution could not afford many materials for bringing new ideas into reality.
Meanwhile, merchants working in India and China were bringing back other inventions. The decimal notation for numbers that came from India was still limited to Nubian and Petraean merchants but a unique horse collar, attaching to the breast rather than above the neck, had spread to Egyptian farmers around the 560s, allowing replacement of oxen with horses. A horse had greater speed and endurance than an ox, providing roughly 50% more efficient plowing. The breastcollar would be surpassed by another Chinese invention, the collar harness, that would guarantee the dominance of horses in agriculture. Widespread use of the breastcollar took about 50 to 60 years to arrive but the collar harness would be much more readily received, spreading from its introduction to Egyptians in the 590s to the recognition of Roman emperors for use by Italians around 615. Farmers in Germany especially benefited from this invention, alleviating some of the difficulty of working with German soil.
By this time, the iron horseshoe had almost totally replaced the hipposandal as the preferred soleae ferrae for horses in the Roman Empire. The latter would only be strapped to the hooves whereas the new solea ferra was nailed to the hoof of a horse. Horseshoes were far more comfortable for horses and more firmly gripped the hoof than the hipposandal, allowing their use in race and courier horses that moved quickly on often hard surfaces. When the horseshoe had become standard for horses used by the cursus velox (fast postal service) around 480, the mutationes (change stations) for switching horses could carry as low as a third as many horses as before since their rest period could be substantially shorter. Farmers had also benefitted from use of horseshoes, as had the iron industry that met the massive demand for the new hoofwear.
A less technological item arrived in the port of Aelana around 534 CE - a sack of seeds for the banana plant. Planted by a few merchants in Arabia Petraea, this bizarre fruit soon spread to Egypt and Palestine where the climate was also suitable. Romans of the patrician order began to display bananas at their dinner parties sometime around 567, when a famous poet wrote a lewd piece about its handling by the beautiful hostess of the party. Requiring careful transport from the eastern provinces and never being planted in massive quantities, bananas would remain a luxury for the elite of Rome for a long time.
The reign of Fabius also saw the introduction of the stirrup from China, sometime around the 540s. A demonstration for the emperor of how advantageous a stirrup would be is considered a likely inspiration for founding a center for weapons research. He would not allow Rome to be exceeded by great oriental empires, with their advanced technology. Instead, Rome would be the one to lead the world in weaponry, using her advantages in machine technology.
With the enfranchisement of the Greeks, nobles in Epirus, Achaia, Thracia, and Macedonia had disproportional votes, even in comparison with citizens living in Rome. For instance, the three centuriae of Athens collectively had about nine hundred citizens who could afford travel to Rome during each election season. Even patricians in Italy only voted at 2,500 per centuria, by far the greatest concentration of electoral privilege in the Roman homeland. Although this measure had served its purpose in dissuading the wealthy in Greece from the bellum civile, Rome could neither risk disenfranchising the Greeks nor abide that much power in the hands of a few provincial nobles (as they were the only citizens who could afford travel to vote in their centuriae).
As a way around this issue, Fabius expanded the Collegium Itinerarium that was created under Scipio II to transport pilgrims to the Jerusalem as well as improve travel within Italy. Three new routes were added: one from Byzantium to Athens, one from Athens to Nicopolis, and one from Nicopolis to Portus. Normally, ships carrying passengers along the full course would charge 100 Dn but during the month of July, these trips were free for citizens. Completion of new cursores for these routes came around 569 CE, with other cursores from the guild and the cursus vehicularis meeting demand during elections (in other words, letters can no longer travel by sea around elections).
Land routes were also established throughout Greece, taking people along all of the major roads in the Greek homeland. As in Italy, these routes charged 2 Dn for each day of travel, once the first route opened in 567. An average baker living in Athens could now afford to visit the stunning forum of Byzantium, taking a month from his work and spending 50 Dn out of savings, at least once in his life. As with public transportation in Italy, this change made a world of difference in a time when only the elite or those who traveled for trade would ever go farther than a little circle around the home.
Although the routes in Italy were netting a fine profit for the public purse, Fabius wanted to give the people of Rome more liberty and opportunity so he made travel throughout Italy by public carriage free all year round. Where a journey from the capital to the great city of Mediolanum (Milan) would cost an average of 40 Dn, a Roman could make the journey as long as he could spare time from his profession (a rare luxury for most citizens). Perhaps the main motivation for this public service was that more citizens could now attend the games in Rome, in particular the Ludi Romani (Roman Games) in September.
In any case, the extension of free transport to Rome during the elections encouraged a far larger number of urban citizens to vote and weakened the individual power of the Greek elite, although only to one fifth of their initial share. Unfortunately, a large number of Greek citizens could still not afford the long journey to Rome, even when the journey and lodgings were covered by the state. For their part, the public accounts had recently come out of debt through the usual military plunder but Fabius had imposed hefty new annual expenditures that future governments would be obliged to maintain for public support.
During this time of peace, Roman literature entered its second golden age, led by poets, political theorists, historians, and a few notable playwrights such as Avicius Gallius, the writer of the controversial Bellum Amicos Non Efficit about the civil war (the play that popularized the philosophical dispute between Fabius and Doreanos outside the walls of Byzantium). In general, people were shaken by the events in Greece and the literature reflected a countermovement against the notion that Roman governance was oppressive in any sense, mostly by celebrating Roman social mores and politics (prompting some noticeable exceptions to this trend in the political literature a few decades after the golden age).
As literature flourished, a group of patricians (aristocrats) formed a conservative writing club that opposed some of the recent and prior developments in the lingua latina (Latin tongue). In an attempt to encourage traditional spelling and pronunciation, these senators and businessmen bought out several ludi litterarii (elementary schools) operating out of Rome around 572, forcing the teachers to safeguard the future of the imperial language of Latin. At the same time, these reactionaries sought change for Latin, with a stated desire to remove the "impurities" that had settled into the language.
Seeking the patronage of the treasury, the club began to issue pamphlets to other aristocrats, lamenting the corruption of Latin by the vulgar forms spoken by provincials. Indeed, the rise of a vulgar latin (latina truncata) had not gone unnoticed in high society, nor had earlier but less severe bastardizations of the language (i.e. accents and idioms) been ignored. Aristocrats being how they were, many people were supportive of the ideals of the group and it did not take long before the Senate had passed a bill that called for the formation of a societas (institution) devoted to the preservation, purification, and proper evolution of Latin.
In this way, the Societas Latinae (Latin Institute) was founded in 579 by advice of the Senate. Over its first decade, the Institute brought all of the ludi litterarii in the capital under its wing and created the first permanent elementary school (as other litterarii only operated in gardens, houses, basilicas, temples, or plazas) on a plot of land in the Horti Maecenatis (Gardens of Maecenas) gifted to the Institute by Caesar Fabius. For the time being, this school building and attached library would be the only permanent facility for the Institute, a precursor to its future influence.
Growing in membership, the Institute became an anchor in the development of Latin. Although its direct influence was small at the start, its unflinching persistence in its conception of the language would have a delayed effect on the Latin of city-dwellers but an effect nonetheless. Over time, the Latin of distant cities persistently drifted closer to this one fixed point, at a rate that only rose with the influence of the Institute.
History of Rome
In 582, writer by the name of Gaius Aurelius Silvinus released the final volume of his Romana Historia (Roman History) as a detailed record of the history of the entire Roman world from the beginning to the present day. Copying the style of Tacitus, Silvinus desired to write about the history of the entire empire, from Britannia to Ethiopia, to ensure a record for posterity. Writing in forty volumes, he covers a great number of topics, mostly skimming those events that were documented in the Histories of Herodotus and Tacitus as well as in the Ab Urbe Condita Libri of Livius. Other historical volumes covering other periods only seem to be taken by Silvinus as one of many sources for documenting those periods, which he covered in great detail. When events from these three history books are mentioned, Silvinus assumes knowledge of those texts and provides his own political commentary on the events, expressing doubt that certain events occurred.
His Romana Historia includes the first Latin history of the Kingdom of Aksum and of Nubia. More notably, it is the single most complete record of the Roman emperors and wars from Vespasian to Fabius. Indeed, it opens with the plundering of the Second Temple during the reign of Vespasian before constrasting this with the construction of the Flavian Amphitheater. After going back from here to cover early Roman, Greek, Phoenician, Gallic, and Egyptian history up to the reign of Domitian, Silvinus would devote each successive volume to one emperor, starting with Nerva then ending with Fabius (only Romulus Augustus does not receive this treatment, short-lived and insignificant as his reign had been).
The remaining eight volumes of the Romana Historia cover what was known of Arabian, Jewish, Syrian, Mauretanian, Ethiopian, Nubian, and Armenian histories, followed by a detailed treatise on the history of Christianity where he elaborated upon events only mentioned in passing throughout his volumes on the Christian emperors. Overall, the Romana Historia would be dedicated to the emperor, who received the first complete copy that had been handwritten by Silvinus himself, and, unsurprisingly, it went to great lengths praising the imperial system of government, especially the adoptive method of succession. In fact, he describes the era from Trajan to Faustilon as the period of the Caesares Boni, praising many of their actions and reforms. The others who received comparable praise were Ulpius and obviously Fabius, although modern historians largely agree with his appraisals.
As a historian, Silvinus is notable for popularizing the thorough use of census records for inferring major events from raw data. Indeed, his tenure as Praefectus Tabularius (Chief Archivist) from 558 to 565 was his inspiration for writing a book on history. Rome had extensive records stretching back to the Annales Maximi of the early pontifices maximi, detailing major figures and events from as early as 400 BCE. Other detailed records from the Tabularium on the Roman Forum also went from the end of the Republic to when Agricola expanded the Census to more than could be contained solely within its vaults. For theology, the Romana Historia is widely considered the tolling of the bell of Christian eschatology, as its final volume criticizes a belief that the end of things could occur anytime in the future history of Rome (even regarding such beliefs as treasonous).
Such was the detail of this history that future historians discussing the period from the Flavians to the Fabians would solely use Silvinus as their reference. An entire genre of historical writing grew out of the practice of summarizing the Historia, presenting its key information in a more popularly digestible format. Becoming the most widely copied and summarized history book over the next century, some of the events of this text would become almost mythical in status within Roman culture. In particular, the reigns of Ulpius and Fabius would be remembered as a period of major transition for the empire. With the special detail given to the present emperor, future emperors seeking their own eternal fame would regard Fabius as their model of a leader.
One revolutionary contribution that Silvinus made to the study of history was his penchant for historical criticism, questioning the motives of the people who wrote texts that he cited. Silvinus has also earned himself a place in political science by analyzing the position of Caesar within the political framework and history of Rome. In particular, he addressed the ambiguity in including Gaius Julius Caesar in a list of emperors, likely a direct criticism of Suetonius, and discussed the dispersed nature of the powers of the emperor (designated by the title of Caesar), even in light of the constitutional reforms of Ulpius.
Aside from its historical value, the Romana Historia is of great literary significance. First and foremost of its influences on Latin literature was the introduction of a separate letter for the consonant sound of "i", as at the front of the name iulius caesar. The entire text is written with this new letter and the popularity of this letter would grow with the popularity of the book. Second, the last two volumes are the first major Latin texts written in a paper codex, as earlier codices used either papyrus or parchment. Paper was introduced to Silvinus in 576 during his excursions in Ethiopia, where he was researching primary sources about the kings of the Aksumites. Lastly, Silvinus pioneered the writing practice of integrating foreign words into Latin text, without attempting to Latinize the words, even using the appropriate foreign alphabet.
The facility in Alexandria that Silvinus had founded for manual papermaking would continue to be used by other authors in the Musaeum, as paper was cheaper than other writing materials. The techniques had been brought to Ethiopia from China during the unparalleled domination of the Erythraean Sea by the Aksumite navy, probably being passed on sometime around 510. While there would only be a few wooden boards for papermaking in Alexandria for now, scholars at the Musaeum would establish a mill in 597 that converted rags into pulp for making paper - creating the first pulp mill.
One minor development during the reign of Fabius was the effort of a Syrian monk to reform the Roman calendar. After the abolition of annual consulships by Emperor Sulla, the Romans had eventually adopted the record of Varro to mark years by the number of years since the founding of the city of Rome. When the system entered use in 247 CE, the calendar year was marked 1000 ab urbe condita (1000 years since the founding of the city), with the new calendar coming into use as part of the celebrations of the millennial anniversary of Rome. The monk Anterinus of Antioch was proposing a new system that would date the years according to the "incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ". When he wrote about this in 548 CE, he stated that his calendar would call that time 545 anno domini (in the 545th year of our lord), based on the accepted birth date of Jesus.
For the next thirty years, the proposed Anno Domini calendar would be a topic of discussion for Christian scholars, eventually coming before the Pope in 579 through a scholar from Jerusalem. Asked whether bishops should number the years in this way, the Pope gave a firm negative response, citing the intimate relationship between Rome and the Church. A similar answer had been given with earlier proposals from the eastern dioeceses to number the years after the creation of the world.
This so-called Anno Mundi calendar (in the year of the world) had been first proposed by Theophilus of Antioch during the reign of Marcus Aurelius. Following the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint), Theophilus had dated creation at 5,490 years before the reign of Marcus Aurelius. Over time, other scholars modified his estimate with references to biblical literature to get a date of 5,654 anno mundi for the start of Marcus Aurelius' reign. During the reign of the emperor Maximius, this calendar was put before the Pope, when it claimed the year was 5909 AM or 1169 AUC in the prevailing Roman calendar. The proposed new calendar had simply been ignored by that Pope but the present Pope had a stronger response. A papal decree was issued to all bishops in 581 demanding that they only use the calendar of their secular contemporaries.
After mention of the Anno Mundi calendar, it would be informative to discuss the theologico-philosophical discussions pertaining to the creation of the world. One canonical text of Christianity is the Book of Genesis, a narrative of how God created the things in the world, in particular his creation of and relationship with man. This text goes on to describe the descendants of the first of mankind from the time of creation to the enslavement of the Hebrews by the Egyptians. Using this text, Jewish as well as Christian scholars had counted the years from the day of creation to the days that could be found in other texts.
However, not all scholars upheld this narrative interpretation of the creation in Genesis. Indeed, the most influential of all early Christian scholars, Augustine of Hippo, rejected this view and argued for an allegorical interpretation wherein the days of creation were not literal days, since the clearest biblical statement about creation was that "[God] created all things at once." Despite this view, he also admits that interpretation of Genesis is difficult and that new information could change this belief. The Church took this exact combination of stances for its core tenets in the Council of Carthage.
Philosophers following Augustine have taken this standpoint as "inarguable" and interpreted it through the lens of their schools. Most notable among these philosophers was the Aristotelian school based in the Lyceum. Aristotle had argued that the world had always existed but once his school connected itself with Christianity, some of his followers reinterpreted his arguments as showing that something had to be eternal to avoid the infinite regresses of the alternative. Others merely considered Aristotle to be wrong on this point. In any case, both groups identified the Aristotelian prime mover with God, meaning they believed that God himself kept the aetherial spheres for the planets moving around the Earth.
Theory of motion
Only the Atomist school countered the Christian worldview of creation, as perhaps the sole non-Christian philosophical school. One of their core beliefs was that ex nihilo nihil fit (nothing comes from nothing) and therefore, whatever exists can be neither created or destroyed, only changed in form. Atoms are what exist and the void is what does not exist - for Epicureans, there was nothing else than atoms moving through the infinite void. By this time, only one philosopher still associated himself with this school of philosophy, the last vestige of a dying position. Dionada of Alexandria was how he would be remembered, primarily for his treatise written in 558 as an attempt to dismantle Aristotelian physics.
De Motu (On Motion) was a brilliant synthesis of geometry and atomism. While Aristotelian physics was in vogue for theorizing about nature, geometricians were the driving force behind the last millennium of advances in machinery. As pioneered by the great Archimedes, geometry alone informed how moving parts could be arranged to instigate motion in a desired direction, often with tremendous precision. Romans understood the principle that an action in one direction would induce motion in that direction and they knew the direction of the actions of ropes, gears, and other machines. Dionada interpreted this geometry of machinery in terms of moving atoms, where motion would be linearly transferred from one atom to another by collision.
Central to his philosophical system was the principle that an atom travels straight unless it collides with another atom. He said that every atom contained a certain amount of conata (efforts) toward one direction, preventing the atom from slowing down or changing direction once in motion (unlike Aristotle who believed that motion required constant action from an effective cause or a teleological cause, for forced and natural motion respectively). When two atoms collided, there was an exchange of conata that resulted in new directions and speeds for the atoms. The final state after a collision depends on the geometry and quantity of the initial conata of the atoms before that collision, such that both the total conata and the sums of conata in every direction had to be preserved. This primitive law of conversation of momentum was motivated by a need to explain how the new motion of atoms would be decided after a collision, since this was the only law which uniquely determined the final motion of the atoms.
In general, the total conata of any object had to be proportional to both its speed and its weight. Some objects could even be heavy enough that nothing else could impart enough conata for noticeable motion - the Earth served as Dionada's example here.
Exchange of conata could be used to explain why every moving object slows down to rest. Atomists considered the atoms in a solid state to be strongly connected such that dislodging atoms was difficult, although not impossible as breaking demonstrates. For this reason, the touching of two solids along a surface - such as a foot on flat rock - imparted conata from the moving foot into the heavy ground (even, as Dionada asserted, if the two surfaces were perfectly flat as he could show with metal plates). When something slides over the ground, it imparts its conata into the atoms of the heavier solid ground - Dionada notes that this is the reason dirt gets kicked up when bolts or stones from siege weapons strike soil.
Contrary to Aristotelians, who argue that air is what causes an arrow to be propelled in flight, Dionada believed that repeated collisions with atoms of air would slowly disperse the conata of the arrow into the air, slowing the projectile down. Similarly, wind would only be an organized motion of atoms in the air, building the conatus of a ship through collisions with its sails. All of these general principles were presented in specific parts of De Motu, as the majority of the text had been devoted to explaining the motion of specific machines with these principles to connect macroscopic motion with the motion of atoms.
Not only did Dionada theorize on collisions between atoms but he also had ideas for how atoms became attached. There were two classes of solid materials in Dionada's theory: elastikos (extensible) and akamptos (inextensible or rigid) solids. Atoms of the former kind were supposedly loosely connected, sharing certain qualities with liquids in being able to change shape, while atoms of the latter were said to be strongly connected, resisting changes to the macroscopic arrangement of the material.
A number of materials were recognized by Dionada as extensible. Most fibers could be stretched - a property that found its use in the simple arcus (bow) which men had known for millennia. Under some contexts, metals could be stretched but they could also be compressed, a process that Dionada described as subject to the same rules as stretching. In particular, Dionada talked about metallic springs, such as the simple leaf springs that had replaced cheaper wooden leaf springs in the suspension of carriages used for the Collegium Itinerarium (Public Transportation Guild), consequently coming into use around 514. Aside from leaf springs, Dionada also described the metallic v-spring used in non-military crossbows to reduce trigger sensitivity. No one before Dionada had described all springs in a single treatise, since a category "spring" had not existed. Dionada did not stop at describing springs, but went as far as to explain their behavior.
When stretched, an extensible material was descrbed as "hav[ing] an inclination toward its natural arrangement", explained by saying that the strength of the connection grew as the material became more extended. Dionada considered connection to be the second kind of interaction between atoms, other than collision. His explanation was that atoms had an innate tendency to joining together with other atoms of the same kind, such that "a great bulk of atoms would pull on other atoms as if by iron rope". This theory of material attraction was how Dionada explained gravity, elasticity, and stickiness. In general, Dionada argued that the strength of atomic attraction increased as clumped together atoms diverged from their natural arrangement (hence, a stretched bowstring would deliver more conata into its arrow the farther it stretches). On the basis of how this broad explanation fits a number of observations, Dionada showed that the strength of an elastic material's inclination to restore its natural shape was proportional to the amount it has presently stretched from its natural position.
A number of other theories are mentioned in passing by Dionada. First, he argued that the Earth is the result of a majority of the atoms in the cosmos ultimately settling into one place by their attractive inclination. Second, he compared the motion of the Sun and stars around the Earth with that of "an arrow that eternally misses its target", saying that celestial bodies were constantly falling toward the Earth (as the heaviest thing in existence) in such a way that they always missed. Third, he explained motion of the wandering stars (planetes) by a "lesser bulk of earth" following the deferent orbit around Earth while the visible star that would follow an epicyclical orbit centered on this mass, even as it also orbited the Earth along the deferent path. Lastly, the rising of fire was explained by a difference in inclination between fire and air, wherein the latter atoms had a stronger attraction that forced the fire atoms out of the way so that "[fire] seems to rise as air falls into its place". Bubbles of air rising through water were taken to follow the same principle, which he further extended as an explanation for the buoyancy of wood in water.
[note that aspects of Dionada's theory are correct and aspects are wrong - these ideas are part of history of science not science]
Unfortunately for the development of human knowledge, this book was widely taken to be just another polemic of an Epicurean against Aristotelianism and for this reason, its theories were ignored by most philosophers. De Motu would be the most accurate treatise on physics for some time, presenting a number of primitive ideas that would inspire modern mechanics. One observation, first noticed in De Motu, that would gain a wider audience was the fact that a lodestone bar would always orient itself along the same direction when freely suspended, a discovery Dionada attributed to one of his colleagues.
Since this direction was North-South, Dionada suggested that the lodestone could be used for navigation, by hanging a straight piece of lodestone by a string somewhere on a ship. While no one knows why there are no works on lodestones written by his unnamed colleague (who likely died during the early tenure of Dionada at the Musaeum), Dionada himself commissioned smiths to work pieces of lodestone into bars for selling to merchants coming into Alexandria. Within a century, nearly a fifth of ships in the empire had their own compass (dirigator), mostly ships going to the Erythraean Sea or traveling along the Atlantic coast.
Some nobles and people who spent time at sea started keeping a small dish of water, in which a lodestone was suspended, as a decoration in their home. The household compass made its owner seem to have an interest in travel to far away places and gave the appearance of wanting a constant reminder of the cardinal directions proscribed by Nature.
The reign of Fabius is regarded as the start of a golden age of Graeco-Roman mathematics, with mathematicians in the Musaeum and Technaeum renewing their level of discovery after almost three centuries of lacking progress. Dionada likely drew some of the inspiration for his work from this resurgence of mathematics.
One of the earliest of these developments was a geographic treatise written by Carcidemus of Alexandria as a geometric study of the Carta Mediterranea. Carcidemus corrected Ptolemy's measure of the width of the Mare Internum from the Canariae Insulae off the coast of Africa to the eastern shores of Syria, calculating 48 degrees longitude rather than 63 degrees. He also calculated more accurate geographic coordinates for over 2,000 Roman cities. However, he replaced Ptolemaic coordinates with his own system that placed the Prime Meridian (zero degrees longitude) through the Milliareum Aureum in Rome. To avoid negative numbers, Carcidemian coordinates are numbered as either AOC (ad occidentem) or AOR (ad orientem). Lastly, the book also had one of the most accurate measurements of the surface area of the Roman Empire. First published in 539, this Metrica Terranium was presented to Fabius a decade later as a gift from the city senate of Alexandria.
The Roman mathematician Aulus Gidius Agris wrote an original treatise in 545 that detailed both elaborate and simple methods for merchants to work with different types of quantities. There were many other works of this sort written in Italy, Egypt, and Arabia Petraea over the last few centuries but this piece stood above the rest. Among the topics of his Ars Mercatura are: areas of rectangular and irregularly-shaped fields, volumes of solids of various shapes, a pre-algebraic method of double false position for linear interpolation, and a method for extracting roots. Foremost among his original methods was a method of elimination for solving a system of linear equations as an array of numbers. This procedure was the earliest step toward matrices in Western mathematics, discovered independently from its invention in China before 100 BCE.
A commentary written in 571 on the Ars Mercatura has the first suggestion of negative numbers as a means of replacing some of the awkward terminology used by the original author. In particular, the author of this commentary equated a deficit or a debt with a different sort of number in practice than the positive rational numbers known to Graeco-Roman mathematics. The same author seems to have annotated a copy of the Arithmetica of Diophantus of Alexandria to note that negative rationals would offer additional solutions to some of his problems, solutions not considered by the famous Alexandrian. Unfortunately, the commentaries would never be published to a wider audience, only receiving occasional attention whenever noticed by scholars working at the Musaeum where they joined the shelves of its library.
Around 576, the mathematician Aetiales of Pergamum published a treatise on trigonometry. For his book, Aetiales invented three new trigonometric relationships between the sides of a triangle and its angles. These relationships were radius (cosine) semichordis (sine), and anteradius (versine), with semichordis defined as the relation of half a chord with half its angle. A number of well-known trigonometric theorems were rewritten in terms of these new relationships, that Aetiales described as more convenient than the chord relationship used by his contemporaries. The image of a circle circumscribing a triangle with these quantities displayed would become ubiquitous for trigonometry from this century onwards.
Applying his own algorithm to a 12,288-sided figure, Aetiales computed a value of 355/113 for the number pi, lamenting that he could go no further. Although this was a landmark achievement for Western mathematics, Aetiales made perhaps his greatest contribution to the empire through his textbook on geometry relevant to contemporary siege engines (a feat that overshadowed the treatise of Dionada, done as it was by a New Platonist who was also the Scholarch (headmaster) of the Technaeum).
Between these major discoveries was the general expansion of the Euclidean system of geometry, with mathematicians adding a number of original theorems about conic sections and triangles. However, these discoveries were characteristic of the same limited progress that had occurred since the writings of Diophantus, with some historians not even including them in their treatment of this period of Roman mathematics.
Astronomy (astronomia) had been the most sophisticated science practiced by Roman philosophers and mathematicians since the empire conquered Greece. By the 6th century, mathematicians at various institutions in the empire had spent centuries refining the Ptolemaic model of the solar system, although none added to the complexity of the epicyclic orbits of the planets. However, the reign of Fabius is notable for a slow rise in the prominence of astronomical observation in astronomy, where earlier scholars in the field placed the most emphasis on astronomical calculations. This trend accelerated toward the end of the 6th century as newer instruments such as the mariner's astrolabe were being invented.
A famous invention from this period, often considered symbolic of the scientific and artistic golden age that characterized the reign of Fabius, was the Circumspecta Caelesphaerium (literally the Circular Viewing Chamber of the Celestial Sphere). Constructed as a facility for the Musaeum, the 29 meter diameter dome for this structure was completed in 574. A thin tunnel on the southern end of the dome was the only entrance to the viewing platform within the dome. At the center of the platform was a bronze sphere with a detailed depiction of the known Earth, with the Roman Empire oriented on the top side of the sphere. From the viewing platform, a complete representation of the celestial sphere, including every known star and constellation, was visible, with only a single hemisphere able to be viewed at a time. The implication of this system is that an enormous machine was needed to rotate the celestial sphere around the axis of the entrance tunnel. These mechanisms were robust but their sheer size demanded care from the team of slaves tasked with rotating the entire chamber on the demand of astronomers from the Musaeum.
Not only were stars and their constellations mapped onto the great sphere but a line of gold marked the ecliptic (path of the Sun), with notes along the length of the ecliptic that specified its located across each month. Known to the scholars of the Musaeum as the Ephemeris Magnis (Great Star Chart) or simply the ephemeris, this massive diagram served as the most accurate map of the night sky in the known world, presenting information that was otherwise only available in tables of numbers or in armillary spheres. Directly outside the chamber was a mechanical armillary sphere, with elaborate mechanisms that precisely followed the motions of the Moon and the Sun. Motion of the projected positions of the Sun and Moon coincided with the rotation of a wheel and was designed to follow a mechanical computation of the Enneadecaeteris (also known as the astronomical cycle of Meton). Using this machine, the phases of the Moon could be computed for any day of any year. Unfortunately, the predictions of this device suffered increasing inaccuracy as time passed, forcing its replacement in 821 by a machine with updated parameters.
Together, these two devices gave Alexandrian astronomers an unprecendented capacity to analyze the celestial sphere, paving the way for future advances in the Roman understanding of nature and inspiring thousands of future astronomers. Small replicas of the Ephemeris Magnis began to appear in the homes of astronomers outside of Alexandria, with the difference that their chart was etched onto the outer surface of a globe rather than the inner surface of a sphere. By the 7th century, a caelesphaerium was a popular item for navigators, merchants, and the Roman nobility, keeping one in their homes as a sign of worldliness and knowledge to their guests (in a similar manner to the displaying a compass in one's home).
Conquest of Ethiopia
Traders from India brought news to the Romans that in 554 CE the Gupta dynasty of India had fallen to foreign invasion. Fabius heard about its collapse and took advantage of the news for propaganda. Romans who knew about the Gupta considered them to be even more powerful than Rome, making their fall a delicious turnaround for the Roman Empire. The emperor was emboldened and likely used the news as an excuse to invade the Kingdom of Aksum.
Aksumites had long been a commercial ally of Rome, eventually entering into a proper alliance with the creation of embassies in each other's cities. There was a beautiful citadel in the Aksumite capital, built in a similar style to the Basilica Aemilia except with towering walls to separate itself from the rest of the city. Rome kept a large detachment of delegates, guarded by 60 men of the Praetorian Guard, to mediate contact with the Aksumite King. When Rome invaded with 10 legions in 556, the Aksumites first action was to punish this embassy (for its part, Rome had allowed the ambassadors of the Aksum to safely leave Alexandria - knowing that this would make no difference and be favorably viewed). With the virtual impenetrability of their high walls, the delegation held out for several days as the Aksumites tried to build siege towers. A single siphon for liquid fire had been kept in the embassy, allowing the Romans to burn each tower as it approached (killing hundreds the first time this happened). After a few more days, the Aksumites came from multiple directions, foiling attempts to stop them. Other artillery helped the Praetorians to inflict over a thousand casualties before the main building was taken and the remaining liquid fire ignited for secrecy.
Rome's legions reached the capital of Aksum after making port in Alexandria after a journey of 123 days, ironically, going at such a fast pace by using the road that Caesar Ulpius had commissioned to build closer relations with Aksum. Meanwhile, the Grecis Rubricanis had been engaged in heated combat with the mighty navy of Aksum. Their fleets made up the largest navy in the world, composed of over six hundred vessels from small galleys to large polyremes. This navy had been the dominant naval power in the Pontus Erythraeanus (Indian Ocean) and had taken upon itself the responsibility of policing those seas for pirates - with the reward of total control over all waters from Petra to Anuradhapura. The Roman High Fleet in the region had its own forces of 46 decaremes, 84 quinqueremes, and 20 runners, but they were greatly outnumbered. To overcome this disadvantage, they began the war by cornering small patrols of the Aksumite navy, slowly dwindling its forces. But when a full response could be mounted by the Aksumite navy, the Roman Empire was staggered.
The Egyptian town of Berenice was the first Roman port to fall to the Aksumite navy but it was quickly followed by the remaining Nubian ports, with only the Petraean city of Aelana remaining untouched, defended as it was by a massive naval wall and most of the deceres in that region. However, this was a token victory for the comparatively small Aksum as the Grecis Rubricanis continued to whittle away at the Aksumite fleet by attacking isolated targets with quiqueres and cursores.
Only a few days before the Roman legions reached the capital on land, about three hundred of the remaining ships of the Aksum tried to take the last Roman port. The Battle of Aelana remains one of the largest confrontations between any two navies. While the Aksumites had nearly six times the numbers of the Romans, a single Roman decareme was a fearsome opponent in battle. The five decaremes equipped with siphones for liquid fire cut a swath through the enemy battle line. Over a hundred ships burned that day outside the Grand Harbor of Petra but the Aksumites persisted in the face of this awe-inspiring weapon.
They used their great numbers to ram their ships into those of Rome but many were sunk before closing the distance - only by coming at a faster rate than the main ballistae could fire (also avoiding the fast firing lignaballistae limited to specific lines of fire) could the ramming vessels succeed. Even when they collided, the Romans had the advantage of marines supported by the lethal polybolos that could fire onto the enemy deck even as it was wedged into that decareme's hull. In the end, Roman tactics prevailed as the remaining four decaremes cleaned up whatever ships could not escape under their own power. As Aelana spent time replenishing its tired crewmen, the Aksumites surprised Rome with another eighty ships that burned the city. Left with no port in which to resupply the quinqueremes and runners that were raiding isolated enemy ships were forced to make port along the neutral ports of the Red Sea, putting a serious strain on a number of Arabic coastal towns.
Nevertheless, their imposed docking in Arabic ports would be short lived as the legions began their siege of the capital. With its relatively small army of 68,000 regulars, Aksum was in a poor position. Their navy knew that devoting their armies to an invasion of Arabia Petrae or Egypt by sea would be pointless as Roman power lay thousands of kilometers away. Even if the mighty city of Petra, with its population of over 400,000, could be taken, this would only enrage Rome. The King offered incredible sums of gold and silver for the Romans to leave but he only received a scroll, signed by the emperor, asking him to lay down his arms and peacefully accept the rule of Rome. He conceded defeat the following morning, allowing the emperor and his legions to enter through the main gates of the city, securing the main roads to the royal palace before Fabius himself strode inside victoriously.
Fabius reportedly joked to King Meha'zeb about how ridiculous his offer had been when the alternative was simply to take the city for himself and have as much of his wealth as he pleased. Perhaps this had been a tactic of intimidation as Fabius went on to offer a degree of autonomy under Rome. The Aksumites would live in the province of Ethiopia, a name they had taken for themselves a few centuries earlier, as the Foederatus Ethiopiani (Federation of Ethiopia) governed by a son of Meha'zeb as a citizen of Rome and the Legatus Augustus (imperial governor) of the province. However, unlike other legati augusti, he would not have any military imperium, with the three legions operating independently under their respective duces (generals). As Fabius would eventually outlive this first legate, he would appoint another of Meha'zeb's sons to succeed him, a precedent that would be followed for a time.
Meanwhile, Fabius made a grand gesture of appropriating the entire treasury of the Kingdom of Aksum - a sum of gold, silver, and gems worth well over 350 million denarii - as reparations for the destruction of Roman ports and death of Roman citizens. He forced the king to admit to privately antagonizing Rome about its domination of the Mare Rubricum, laying the blame for the conflict on the king himself (in return for openly saying this to the public, he received a fine estate in Greater Germany). Nobles of the Aksumite government were sporadically granted citizenship, encouraging their assistance in governing the province. For now, the common person could barely tell that Rome now controlled his homeland, with taxes and censitores as lone indicators.
A 29 meter tall obelisk dedicated to King Anazeb was transported from the main square of the former capital for erection in the city of Athens, as a gift from the emperor to the Greek people. By decision of their city senate, the Athenians located their gift in front of the Parthenon, atop the great Agora of that ancient city.
Upon return to Rome, Fabius was hailed by the Senate with a chant of "Gnaeus Fabius Comptus Magnus!" that echoed through the entire Roman Forum. He accepted the new cognomen for the rest of his reign and then onward, as posterity would remember his as Caesar Fabius Magnus, recording his name as Emperor Fabius the Great.
As for the Mare Rubricum, Fabius enlarged the Grecis Rubricanis to 54 deceres and 89 cursores in addition to the previous number of quinqueres. Aksumites would now be employed as remiges (rowers) for many ships in the region. Otherwise, there would no longer be any presence of Aksum on the waters of the Erythraean Sea. This victory marked a unique event in Roman history, as the empire had conquered a civilization at its peak rather than while it remained weak. Continuing the allusions to the legendary Pompey, which Fabius encouraged, the Senate compared it to the conquest of the Kingdom of Pontus.
Conflict in India
With its new responsibility in the eastern seas, Rome found itself in conflict with the Kingdom of Anuradhapura on a large island off the coast of India. Pirates operating from this land had been raiding Roman ships at an increasing rate since the fall of the Kingdom of Aksum, forcing Fabius Comptus to take action in 567. After a brief period of shipbuilding, a force of 4 legions arrived by boat on the northwestern shore of the island. With translators identifying the location of the capital, the Roman army cautiously proceeded, sending out scouts to warn of retaliation. Opposition came in the form of 29,000 soldiers led by their king, Aggabodhi, which they defeated before continuing to the capital. Over the next ten years, the legions pillaged the island, taking possession of the sacred tooth of Buddha, realizing that the locals thought that whoever held the relic should govern the island.
Although possession of the tooth relic ensured a modicum of stability, there was enough difficulty holding the island that the appointed governor of the short-lived province of Taprobana decided to sell the tooth and the province to a trading partner of Rome, King Avanisimha of the Regnum Pallavum in South India, for about 90 million denarii worth of gold. With the plunder from conquering the island of Taprobane, the Roman government could finally pay off the remainder of its debts. Ownership of the island would mark the greatest extent of the Roman Empire up to this time. Indeed, this was the farthest the influence of Rome had yet reached, definitively affecting the history of India from this point forward.
While a Roman governor controlled Taprobane, a cutting from some sacred fig tree in the city of Anuradhapura was brought by the legatus augustus as a gift to Fabius. Locals regarded the heritage of the tree as sacred to their god Samabudda, who was said to have achieved his apotheosis while meditating under that same tree. Fabius was curious about this strange religion and would plant this tree on the Collis Capitolinus, almost in the shadow of the Capitoline Temple. Under Roman caretakers, this sapling would grow over the next century into a massive tree, whose shade would be much appreciated by urban residents.
After relinquishing this province, Rome would cease to exert its influence in India, restricting itself to informal trade as before. For now, the Romans would bask in the economic benefits of its annexation of the Kingdom of Aksum. Ethiopia was a large territory of about 1.2 million km² and a population of around 13 million people, most of whom were Roman Christian. Indeed, religious unity greatly assisted the peaceful pacification of the Aksumites (who Romans were more and more referring to as Ethiopians, as part of the emperor's efforts to distinguish the region as a territory of Rome rather than an independent nation).
While about four-fifths of the population was agrarian, the rest participated in a powerful economy that exported large volumes of gold, iron, and ivory to the rest of the Roman Empire. Traders coming from other parts of Africa brought slaves, incense, and exotic animals that local buyers would bring to a Roman audience whose demand for such luxuries was insatiable. The riches coming into the empire from its new province eclipsed any other acquisition in recent times. Nubia may have its mines but its population was nowhere near enough to make an impact and Greater Germany had to be colonized before it would be useful. For its part, Ethiopia had a large, wealthy, and productive population that was an asset to Rome.
However, holding the region would not be all about basking in taxes and trade. Despite religious unity and special propaganda legitimizing Roman rule, some aristocrats that did not benefit from domination by Rome managed to stir the peasantry into the occasional insurrection, including an uprising of tens of thousands of farmers in 578. Fabius encouraged the Patriarch of Egypt himself to visit the province as an alternative to continuing to crack down with his legions. The trip was successful in instilling fervent opposition of the more zealous Christians to the independence movements, reinforced by Roman supporters constructing a grand cathedral in honor of the Patriarch's visit.
With his military victories and long, stable reign, Fabius has gone down as one of the most highly regarded emperors in Roman history, presiding over a golden age in its civilization. While Rome would contract over the next two centuries, this period would serve as a reminder that her strength had not waned, inspiring future emperors to eventually further the glory of Rome.
Caesar Fabius (II) (582-595)
Adopted from a family in Greater Germany, Fabius the Younger would not achieve the same reputation as his adoptive father, losing face after an embarrassing military defeat during his reign. This period would see the emergence of the Germanic peoples near the borders of the Roman Empire, forcing the Senate and Caesar to struggle to maintain public morale. The recent history of Rome had painted these tribes as strong and merciless, a description that gained new color with their return.
Struggles of the confederation
While Rome had undergone a period of peace and prosperity under Fabius, the Germanic and Sarmatian kingdoms of the new Confederation of Germania went through a series of tumultuous events. The Avar Khaganate had violently wedged itself onto the southern edge of the confederacy, offering a modest tax in livestock - mostly horses - that the Kaisar Germanik (High King of the Germans) used to reward his loyal feudal lords.
After High King Cathric came High King Valeric of the Wesigoths, who was elected in 527. He reigned when King Buris of Lombardy came to power in the Kingdom of the Lombards. As the son of a Burgundian princess with the King of Lombardy, Buris became the oldest heir of the Burgundian Kingdom in 538 when his uncle died. These adjacent kingdoms were united in his person, keeping the royal residences at the Lombardian manor in Stromm. Valeric accepted this personal union, wherein both the Burgundian and the Lombardian lords owed fealty to the same king but his successor, High King Lovis of the Salian Franks, took this with less calm. Indeed, he had been trying to convince the other kings and High King Valeric that such growth in one of the kingdoms would unbalance the entire confederation but no one listened. Nevertheless, he maintained enough popularity against the other kings to be elected in 544 on the death of Valeric.
As Kaisar, Lovis gathered an army of 35,000 men from nearby kingdoms to dethrone King Buris in favor of his nephew for the land of the Burgundians and his half-brother for the Lombards. Unfortunately for Valeric, Buris was a far more able commander and his Lombards, though more focused on fighting on foot, were better archers. His meagre 14,000 soldiers handily defeated the forces of the High King, allowing him to march into the Salian Kingdom to overthrow Lovis. Buris had himself crowned High King of the Germans, using the taxes he accrued to enrich his kingdom as Rodirrek had done for the Kingdom of the Franks.
Buris used this effective wealth to encourage some farmers to risk adopting a new farming practice that his magestors (wise men of a lord) assured him had given the Romans their strength in numbers - this technique was a simple two-field rotation of crops. When this reform proved fruitful, Buris had his people build a wooden earthenworks wall along the norther section of their border with the Marcommanic Kingdom, leaving only a modest gap along the length of Lombard territory.
When Buris died in 561, his son contested the election of High King Euseric of the Wesigoths. As a member of the Concile Germanik, King Lando of Lombardy openly declared Euseric unfit to represent the gods as High King, forcing the assembled kings to quickly return from Stromm to their lands. Lando found allies in the Suebian Kingdom. Their separate forces invaded the Wesigothic Kingdom from the north and south, dividing the kingdom's own armies and leaving the other kings uncertain as to where they should send their men to defend their High King. When the last of the Wesigothic lords had fled or been brought before Lando, the German armies had been beaten in a number of battles, forcing the kings to acquiesce to Lando's wishes. For their part, the Suebians received the southern fifth of the Wesigothic Kingdom.
Lando did not try for the next election of Kaisar but he now stood in control of the largest kingdom of the Confederation, dwarfing even the large, open territory of the Avar Khaganate. During the rest of his reign, he endeavored to conquer the unclaimed lands around the Great Lake, a body of water now shared only by the Lombards as well as a few minor kingdoms and augusties.
Other internal conflicts gripped the Confederation during its first century in existence but the growth of Lombardy stands as the most significant. These battles brought the number of independent kingdoms down to 17, mostly the strongest survived. Despite these tribal struggles for dominance among the kingdoms, a number of smaller nations prospered. Small, independent lands held by a lord with no fiefs and no lord of his own were generally known by something similar to the Lombard word Agusty.
Most agusties consisted of a manor town surrounded by farms, with a total population scarcely above 50,000. However, these lords were important electors in the Confederation most held their lands with fierce independence. The agusties which would live the longest were those whose manors were constructed on the best sites, where walls would permit even a thousand devoted men to hold out against twenty thousand. Some of the more clever Aguste (Free Lords) could field an army of as many as 8,000 well-trained men, perhaps from holding regular archery tournaments or melees for townspeople. Eventually, these minor states would hold special places within the greater confederation, even as its unity evolved over time.
During the reign of Buris II of Lombardy, the Confederation went to war against the Bosporan Kingdom, a foederatus (vassal state) of the Roman Empire. The loose collection of fishing ports and mountain holds of the Bosporans offered little resistance to the army of ~45,000 unleashed in 591 by High King Geidamar of the Vandals. Before any subjugation of the new territories could get underway, the Germanic kingdoms were met with a retaliation from Rome. Unaware of this confederation, the Romans only sent two legions to regain control of Taurica - this time for direct government by Rome.
What Rome encountered in the mountainous lands of Taurica could not have been expected by its generals. Following vague information from pillaged towns, the legions followed the armies of the Confederation to a vast collection of farms north of the great Taurican peninsula. Here the legions were shocked to meet the large Germanic army on the field of battle. Out of poor leadership and a general lack of preparation, the legions were defeated in the First Battle for Taurica. News of the defeat reached Byzantium a few weeks later, prompting a re-evaluation of Roman objectives.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom of the Alans acquired the responsibility of governing territory gained by the Confederation in Taurica, with a few major port towns placed under the control of locals offered the titles of Aguste. With the acquisition of ports on what was clearly a major body of water, the High King encouraged the continuation of whatever trade relations the locals enjoyed. However, the royal court also swam with rumors that the "iron-clad army" that the Germanic forces faced on the vast plains of their new land was an army sent by the Romans. By this time, there were no people alive who had interacted with the Romans and the concept of the Imperium Romanum (or Umpire Romanorum, as most Germans called Rome) had become a legend.
Words from the Latin tongue had entered a number of Germanic languages - especially the Lombardian speech of the nobility - and many stories were told of the fierce and magical nature of Romans. Some advisers of the High King spoke of dragons that the Romans allowed to nest on their walls to defend their borders and cities as well as about how some Romans could kill a man from any distance as long as he could be seen. Rome had employed some of its infamous artillery at the First Battle but the artillerymen had little time to prepare and were unable to bring the full force of two legions to bear on their enemy. Nevertheless, the events of the battle did go toward confirming some of the Germanic myths about Rome, largely due to one manuballista successfully sniping the Khagan of the Avars even in the midst of the Germanic army.
In late 592, Fabius sent another army to retake Taurica - this time six legions were deployed from Dacia and Asia. No risks were taken once the legions disembarked on the eastern edge of the Taurican mountains. A fortified port was established to maintain a supply line as the army ventured away from the peninsula. They would not go far before meeting a fragment of the army Rome had faced before, near the neck of Taurica. The four legions engaged in this Second Battle for Taurica destroyed the Germans. There was no contest between 25,600 well-supported legionaries and 14,000 Germanic men-at-arms.
High King Geidamar arrived a few months later with 75,000 men-at-arms, the largest army that the Confederation had formed since its liberation from the Huns. Many kings and lords were motivated to support a war against the legendary Rome, although some few thought it would be akin to fighting gods (their voices were silenced by reference to the earlier defeat of the Romans). However, when Geidamar actually came face-to-face with five of the legions sent by Rome, he decided to open a parlay with his new enemy, rather than risk testing the legends about Rome.
Despite a blurry language barrier, legate Fabius Laevinus, natural son of the emperor, negotiated control over the peninsula while the Confederation, which he knew only as the Regnum Vandalum, would keep the rest of the former Bosporan Kingdom. Upon his return to Rome, Laevinus was chastised by his father for the embarrassing settlement but he allowed his son to appoint one of his generals from the invasion as legatus augustus of the new imperial province of Taurica. Fabius the Younger was too timid as a leader to press his military advantage although he would be remembered for forming a poor agreement with barbarians.
The new governor had materials shipped from Bithynia to fuel the construction of the Vallum Tauricanum along the neck of the peninsula. Only one gate would be open to the "Vandals" to foster regulated trade with this newly discovered kingdom.
Bureau of Barbarians
For his part, Fabius the Younger took the existence of a Vandal Kingdom as something of which Rome should be wary, even as he would tell the Senate that a return of the Vandals was nothing to be feared. Perhaps to privately ease his mind, the emperor followed the earlier treatment of the Kingdom of Aksum in his creation of a new civil office for the Roman Empire, an institution he called the Officium Barbarorum (Bureau of Barbarians).
Structurally, this officium was a series of facilities throughout the border provinces, funded for the purpose of regulating relations with "barbarian kingdoms" (as Romans saw all other empires). A reigning Caesar bore the responsibility of appointing capable patricians or equestrians to the non-magisterial office of dignitatum (diplomatic legate). There was to be one delegate for each of the major known nations - namely, the Persians, Mauri, Somali, Veneti, and Vandali. However, six years after its creation, the Officium Barbarorum would discover that the so-called Vandal Kingdom was really a number of kingdoms and city-states forming a unified foedus (alliance). After a delegation returned in 607 to Byzantium from the Kingdom of the Alans, the Romans finally began to grasp the scope of this new state.
They called themselves a Foederites, a term that the dignitatum saw as a bastardization of the Latin foederatus for a vassal and foedus for an alliance, styling their leader after the Caesar of Rome, calling this High King the Kaisar Germanik. Roman magistrates could not help but be amused by such derivations, perhaps endearing the next emperor (who was always pleased by what he found amusing), as well as many senators, to the Confederation. Great effort went into learning more about this confederation of barbarians and subsequently, normalizing diplomacy in the favor of Rome.
During the reign of this emperor, the first dignitatum somalianum received a modest fund of 20 million denarii to open more direct contact with leaders of some of the Somali ports. Roman silver flowed into the city of Opone, a wealthy merchant town on the far east of Somali Africa. A Roman style forum was commissioned to replace the main square of the city and several Roman citizens were established there as merchants, with the compliance of the Boqor (King) of Opone. Traders coming from Ethiopia, Egypt, and Arabia Petraea were encouraged by Roman governors to do more of their business in Opone than in the other Somali ports, allowing the dignitatum to gain a stronger foothold in the city. A room was offered permanently to Roman diplomats so that Rome would have a place in the modest courts of this merchant city - now the source of news about the entire Somali region.
Such gathering of information strongly reflected the primary role of the Officium Barbarorum. While not engaging strictly in what could be called espionage, the bureau specialized in keeping the emperor and the Senate informed of foreign events, often those events that foreign kings would want to keep within their courts. Consistent funds were provided to the dignitata for the purpose of maintaining an opulent lifestyle in the foreign capitals - as a show of Roman wealth - and for the paying of bribes to foreign officials whenever more information was desired.
In order to regain his reputation, Fabius the Younger sought to attach his name to the growth of the Roman Empire. However, the emperor was no fool and had no intention of destroying a strong trading partner, procuring useless desserts, or losing one of the empire's present strong borders. His Proprinceps, the right-hand man of the emperor, eventually brought for the suggestion of one of his colleagues - a large archipelago off the coast of Mauretania known as the Insulae Canariae (Canary Islands). The most recent contact the islands dated to before the reign of Agricola.
The emperor sent his son, Laevinus, to conquer the islands in 592 with two legions. The troops disembarked on the island that their geographers would identify as Pluvialia (Lazarote) once they had determined their location relative to the other islands. Finding the islands inhabited by more primitive natives than Rome had ever seen, the legionaries asked the first large tribe they found where they could find a king or lord of the island (with prudent foresight, the Romans had brought a number of translators for the nearby Berber, Punic, Phoenician, and Maurian languages - although similarities with Berber were less than perfect). The largest island of Nivaria had a relatively developed social hierarchy, with Menceys (Kings) governing different parts of the island. These were not only overthrown by the legionaries but their brothers and wives were whipped in the middle of their villages while a few family members were executed as examples. Romans could barely communicate in words with these people, but the display was a message with a universal meaning.
In this manner, the legions explored the islands for the next two years, capturing more native leaders and forcing a number of the poorer natives into slavery. When they returned to Rome for Laevinus' Triumph, the emperor was ill but came to watch his men parade the menceys through the Porta Triumphalis, alongside a host of fine artifacts pillaged from native ceremonial sites. After the death of the emperor from his disease, the city of Colonia Fabia was founded in his honor on the island of Nivaria. The homes of this walled colonia rapidly filled as the emperor elected by the Senate offered his legionaries homes there. At the same time, the islands were placed under the jurisdiction of the legatus augustus of the province of Mauretania.
Geologists from the Lyceum took a fervent interest in the new lands. The volcano on Nivaria was taller than even the great Aetna in Sicily. Expeditions would continue to be made to this newly discovered volcano to the benefit of Roman geology.
However, the next emperor also had personal aspirations for the Canary Islands. A beautiful beach on the southern end of the island of Canaria (Gran Canaria) became the site of a sprawling island villa for the emperor, exceeding the usual residence on Capri in size by no less than a factor of six. Hundreds of millions of denarii were spent from 598 to 617 on raising this palatial complex from nothing. Water for the villa was supplied by burning coal under a seaside chamber, distilling water in a massive wood and glass apparatus. Dozens of slaves were required to raise cold water above the chamber for condensation, to raise the resulting distilled water into storage tanks for use in the villa, and to clean the chamber of salt deposited during distillation.
Supplementing these supplies was an elaborate system for collecting rainwater during the wetter and more temperate winter months. During his reign, this next emperor had a law passed by the Senate that banned anyone from disembarking on Canaria without permission from the prefect appointed by the emperor to manage his island estate whenever he was in Rome.
The nearby presence of an emperor and a continued policy of offering Canarian land for retiring soldiers caused a flood of citizens to the archipelago. By 621, its population had reached 80,000 citizens and the natives were coming close to extinction, as they were now a reliable source of slaves as their violent resistance permitted Romans to justify taking them captive.
Statistics for the Roman Empire of 595 AD
Population: 101 million (41.3% of humans), including ~4 million slaves
Area: 9,416,000 km²
GDP: 8.383 billion denarii (~$126 billion US)
Treasury: 12 million denarii (~$180 million US)
Government revenue: 494 billion denarii (~$7.42 billion US)
Military spending: 249 million denarii (50.4% of revenue or 2.97% of GDP)
Military size: 166,400 legionaries (26 legions), ~240,000 auxiliaries, 10,000 praetorian guards, and 220,000 crewmen
Legislature: 600 senators
Christianity: 97% of citizens
Maya Conglomerate Undergoing another half century of non-expansionism, the Mayans managed to make themselves stronger and more united than ever. Most of the internal non-Mayan cultures were suppressed out of existence at this point with the exception of the Nahua Culture which had already grown in influence over the Mexica States and was, by the 580's, gaining momentum with the Mayan States. The teaching of the language Nahuatl became optional in all Mayan schools, to which over 70% of children attended, and the integration of Nahua practices with Mayan ones was underway. Though there would later be a minor cultural stand-off within the bureaucracy during the 600's, that problem would later be resolved in Nahuan favor.
Technology was also advancing rapidly due to the research institutes that existed as part of most schools. Hygiene became further emphasized during this period and several types of soaps and toothpaste were invented. Also a fine bristle brush was invented that could be used for the cleaning of teeth and easier cleaning of difficult hair. This hygienic shift created a much greater demand for water and so the government constructed the first stone Mayan aqueducts to bring water to their cities in 548. By 570 all major cities were serviced by at least one aqueduct, many by over 20, and by 590 water use per day was at around 100 L per person. This included its use for bathing, clothes washing and drinking.
On a city wide scale this was provided by a central aquifer which stored the water which was pumped by an archimedes screw to several massive surface wells. Simple faucets dispensed this water for free to anyone in the city who needed some. This would remain the norm until metal casting allowed for direct piping to houses during the VIIth Century.
A new city was founded in 588 with the intent of using it as a major financial center. This city was known as Chichen Itza. There, the first official place for the making of loans was established, the start of the Mayan Banking system. The massive structure was the only place in the Conglomerate where official loans could be made and this would still be the case up until another was founded in Teotihuacan in 616. Unlike in the Roman Empire, multiple small banking institutions did not spring up as the idea gained momentum, instead, a single bank would be built in each city, one which would contain that entire state's wealth and serve as the focal point of its economy. That was however to come much later.
In 590 CE an entirely new invention, unseen throughout the entire world was developed by a Mayan scientist. By filling a ceramic sphere with gunpowder and fragments of flint, they had created the first fragmentation grenade. As this weapon had a kill radius of about 6 meters, it was a lethally effective weapon. Every Mayan soldier was equipped with two of these, enormously increasing the effectiveness of a single man in battle.
Though the Mayans and their new technology were not known to the Romans at the time, the device would later be called Pyrobolum Silexis in the Latin language and the weapon's effectiveness at the time would have been devastating were it able to be used against Roman legionaries. Their advanced armor would only have been able to reduce the kill radius to about 4 meters and the only real protection a legionary would have had against these grenades would have been his shield. Still, due to how much more effective metallurgical weapons would have been against the Mayan's obsidian and stone ones, the Roman army was doubtless the more powerful of the two, and would have been the victor had the empires' paths ever crossed.
Towards the end of the century, 594 CE, the Mayan's next great king came onto the throne. He was regally known as Federal King Ch'anqua II. Son of the previous king and his Nahuan concubine, his reign would see the emergence of a unified Nahua culture as the dominant one in the Conglomerate and the greatest one on the entire continent.
1238 (485)-1290 (537)
1290 (537)-1348 (595)
1348 (595)-1395 (642)