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June, 363. Julian, the current Roman emperor, has already established himself as a fresh and unique face: he is a pagan philosopher, determined to restore the culture and religion of the classical Roman empire. He is campaigning in Persia (or, as he calls it, Parthia), determined to follow in the footsteps of Alexander the Great. He has just defeated the forces of the Sassanid army at the capital of Ctesiphon. The Persian king, one Shapur II, offers him a peace treaty to prevent further bloodshed. It is here that our Point of Divergence occurs.
In our timeline, Julian rejected the treaty, and instead chooses to advance further into Persia. This decision caused the Roman army to be met with disaster, and within weeks, Julian retreated back into Anatolia. During his trip back, he was killed in a skirmish with Persian forces.
But what if...
Although reluctant, Julian agrees to halt campaigning. His convinces Shapur to cede all of his empire up to the Euphrates River, and the whole land is annexed as the Roman province of Parthia.
Rome is electrified by the news. Never before had Parthia been annexed, and many citizens flock to cradle of civilization, eager to exploit the new fertile land under Roman control.
Immediately after his campaign on Parthia, Julian goes back to Rome to enact his plans for restoring paganism. First, most of the temples in the Roman Empire which had been turned into churches by his uncle Constantine were re-opened as temples again. Julian proclaims that Roman Paganism, or the Roman Cult, as he calls it, will be turned into the official national religion. Julian believed that the primary reason Christianity came to power was because of a lack of organization and centralized doctrine in the old religions. So, in order to defeat Christianity, he sets out to create a definitive belief system for the empire. To start, he spends large amounts of money restoring the Temple at Delphi, returning statues that had been taken to Constantinople to their original location at the temple. The Edict of Delphi, declared on 4 December 363, mandates that the oracle must be consulted before any major military or political decisions are made.
These reforms are a partial success, and many Christians end up converting to the new Roman Cult. Finally, after several years of gradually reducing the power of the Church and restoring more and more temples, Julian hires his long time religious advisor Maximus, as well as several prominent philosophers from Athens, to write a holy book for the Roman Cult.
By 380, the holy book of the Roman Cult, which includes the stories of Ovid, Homer, Hesiod, Virgil and others, plus several new stories and customs, is finished. With the Roman Cult now possessing a definitive doctrine, Christianity gradually declines in favor of the more tolerant and traditional new religion. By 390, only 31% of the Roman population remains Christian, mostly in Constantinople and Jerusalem. By 400, this number would be down to only 19%. By now, most Christians realize that they have lost control of the Empire, and many immigrate to nearby kingdoms and empires, Armenia and Axum in particular.
With his religious reforms coming along smoothly, Julian now focuses on the military problems of the empire - namely, the huge influx of barbarians along the Roman border. Fleeing from a mysterious enemy known as the Huns, thousands of barbarians have arrived at the Rhine and Danube rivers, begging the Romans to let them through.
Julian is unsure what to do about this initially, but he soon discovers a solution. He orders merchants across the empire to cede hundreds of ships to him (causing his popularity to decline among the populace), and appears to allow the barbarians permission to settle in Britannia. The tribes rejoice - unknowningly falling right into Julian's trap.
On 30 January 371, a massive fleet of some 60,000 barbarians sets off from the coast of Germania, destined for Britannia. Julian now enacts his plan, and, completely betraying his pacifist values, commits arguably the single worst act of genocide in the empire's history up to that point.
On a ship, a small group of about five slaves, setting alight carefully concealed torches, slowly and methodically set fire to the ship. They then jump overboard. Following suit, another group of slaves sets fire to their ship. And another. Soon, the entire fleet of barbarian ships has been set on fire. Trapped in the middle of the sea with no aid, an estimated 58,000 people burn alive on their ships. Of the 2,000 that survive, nearly all of them freeze to death in the ice-cold water.
This act of violence shocks Julian's fellow philosophers. Historians have often marked this event, which became known as the Barbarian Massacre, as the beginning of Julian's transformation from a peaceful philosopher to a savage emperor.
Julian, however, does not notice his change in personality, believing himself merely to be protecting Rome’s borders. Neither, it seems, do the Roman people: after he deals with the barbarians, he is hailed as a hero, and his popularity soars. Despite his success, however, his solution proves to only solve the problem temporarily.
In 376, another tribe of barbarians, the Visigoths, begin forcing their way past the Roman border and into the countryside. Between March 376 and February 377, hundreds of border towns are sacked by Visigoth looters, their inhabitants enslaved. To everyone in the empire, the barbarians appear unstoppable.
However, while this looting is ravaging the further parts of the empire, Julian is busy devising a plan to combat the barbarians in one massive battle. In January 377, he sends a messenger to the Visigoth king, demanding that they return across the Rhine river or suffer the consequences. The king responds by sending Julian back the messenger’s head. Expecting this, he gathers his army of 55,000 troops to meet the Visigoth forces at their current location in northern Gaul.
On February 19, 377, the two armies clash in the Battle of the Rhine. Although the Visigoths have the advantage in numbers, Julian imitates Alexander and spreads his army out, dispersing the enemy across the battlefield and leaving them easy prey for his archers. The battle proves to be a decisive victory for the Romans: while Julian only lost 2300 of his troops, an estimated 49,000 Visigoth soldiers are killed in the battle, with the king being captured. After Julian executes him, he throws his body and the bodies of the dead Visigoth troops into the Rhine after stripping them of their valuables, literally dying the river red for several days. The message to the migrating tribes on the other side of the Rhine river is clear: stay out of the empire. For 50 years, the barbarians heed this warning, and only again become a problem when the Huns finally arrive in Europe.
With the barbarians safely taken care of and his domestic reforms slowly but surely coming to fruition, Julian now becomes obsessed with emulating the second century emperor Trajan, determined to conquer new lands for the empire. Unlike Trajan, however, he also wants to ensure that these lands will be secure for future generations. He decides to begin his conquests with Parthia, resolving to finish what he started fourteen years earlier. He spends the next four years debating and refining a plan for invasion with his advisors before he is ready to begin his campaign.
First, he concludes that Armenia and the Caucasian tribes must be subdued to act as a staging area for his assault on Parthia. For the past 20 years, Armenia has been an increasingly irritating thorn in Rome’s side, particularly because it is home to many Christians emigrants, who often harass the imperial border.
On October 3, 381, Julian leads an army of some 60,000 troops north out of the Roman province of Parthia, destined for Armenia. The kingdom has no chance against the might of the Roman army. On November 11, the capital is captured; Armenia summarily surrenders. After several brief and pointless battles with the surrounding tribes, the kingdom and all of the land around is subdued by New Years’ Day and annexed as the Roman province of Armenia; this extends the imperial border to the Caucasus Mountains. Showing a glimpse of his former self, Julian declares that all Christians living in the area will be free to stay or leave as they wish, and that he will not persecute them so long as they keep the peace and maintain civic order-terms which the Christians happily agree to.
On January 22, 382, Julian leads his army across the Euphrates River and into Parthia. Thanks to his military genius, the Romans defeat the Parthians in battle after battle, finally capturing the capital of Ctesphion on March 29, causing king Aradashir II to flee across what is left of his shattered empire. After many months of fleeing from the Roman forces, his army is slowly and methodically wiped out, and when he finally reaches the Indus river on November 30, the Romans are waiting for him. The Indians, hearing of Julian’s military might, refuse to grant him asylum; as a result, he signs the Treaty of the Indus on December 2, in which he agrees to cede all of his empire to Rome, effectively bringing an end to Parthia as an independent state. In exchange for this, Julian lets him live, sentencing him to exile on the island of Malta, where he lives the remainder of his live as a peaceful fisherman, dying of natural causes in July 396.
Julian’s conquest of Parthia makes him the most beloved emperor since Augustus, with one Roman senator going so far as to declare him the next Alexander. En route to a triumph being held for him in Rome, Julian stops in the town of Milan, where he meets an odd young man with the unique name of Volesus. The boy is a child prodigy with aspirations to become, as he puts it, a “philosopher general”. After enjoying a rhetorical debate with him, Julian takes him under his wing, and after growing close to him over many years, formally names him as his successor on May 3, 397.
After his victory in Parthia, Julian turns his attention to Caledonia. The native tribes, having overrun the abandoned Antonine Wall decades ago, are now harassing Hadrian’s Wall more and more frequently. Deciding that the best solution is the complete annihilation of these tribes, Julian leads an army of some 21,000 troops across the border of Britannia in April 384. Over the next four years, he proceeds to slowly and methodically wipe out the tribes of Caledonia, with the last of them being eliminated by 388. Caledonia is annexed as a Roman province, and Hadrian’s Wall is re-purposed to serve as a provincial border.
Julian, by now well into his 50s, begins reverting to his former self, becoming concerned with the intellectual and domestic interests of the empire. Curious about Rome’s new neighbor, he hires the historian Britannicus to travel across India and report what he finds. In 395, Britannicus publishes Observations of India, which mesmerizes the people of Rome with its stories of this land shrouded in mystery.
In the final years before his death, Julian becomes a reclusive introvert, surrounding himself in the literature and philosophy of the ancient world as he did in his youth. In 394, as his last major act as emperor, he orders a massive, seven foot high concrete wall constructed across all of Roman Africa’s border. Stretching from the Nile river to the west African coast, this wall is completed by 400, and puts an end to any threats of Tribal invasion along the African border.
In 398, he orders the construction of the Library of Athens. Though he doesn’t live to see its completion, after it is built, it becomes the intellectual and philosophical capital of the empire, containing virtually every major work from Ancient Greece and Rome. His last act as emperor is to order the construction of the Mausoleum of Julian in 399 on a peaceful and remote island in the Aegean Sea. In 400, he publishes his memoirs, which become the most acclaimed writings of any emperor since Marcus Aurelius. He dies peacefully in his sleep on July 18, 401.
His death is intensely mourned throughout the empire and he is immediately deified by the Roman senate. In accordance with his wishes stated in his will, his body is cremated, and he is given a modest state funeral in Rome attended by any who wish to come. His ashes are interred in his mausoleum and his 29-year-old adopted son Volesus comes to power without incident.
Volesus (401-444 CE)
Volesus starts his reign by traveling to Parthia. After realizing that Parthia is too large, he divides it into six regions. Mesopotamia includes three by itself: Sumer (southern Mesopotamia), Babylon (central Mesopotatmia) and Assyria (northern Mesopotamia). Inland Persia has Êran (South Persia), Persia (mid-Persia) and Parthia (north and East Persia). He is also more tolerant than Julian- although still a member of the Roman Cult, he gives more freedoms to the other religions.
In 406, he begins his conquests of the Celtic tribes living in Hibernia (Ireland). However, unlike Julian, his campaigns are much more considerate: the Celts are allowed to continue living in the land, and very few are killed. Nonetheless, it is annexed as a Roman province in 408. Volesus settles down to strengthen the Arabian and Germanian frontiers, ordering a large wall to be built at the borders of the provinces of Arabia and Nabatea and to strengthen the small walls on the Germanian frontier.
In 415, Voelsus' 14th year as emperor, the Library of Athens is completed. The new library is then extended by Voelsus, who has a policy of treating all regions of the Empire equally. The new parts of the library would house Egyptian, Celtic, Nabatean and Persian works of literature and science.
The Huns arrive in the East Germanic plains in 420, scaring most of the tribes left there (Ostrogoths, a few remaining Visigoths, Saxons, Alamanni, Franks and Angles) into forcing their way into the Roman Empire. Like Julian, Volesus attacks them, but unlike Julian, his ways are not so bloody. Instead of massacring the prisoners, he lets most of the tribes settle in unpopulated areas of the Empire, such as Iberia, Caucasic Iberia, parts of Hibernia and Caledonia, Parthia, Assyria, and Sumer, with the conditions that they surrender their weapons. However, instead of recruiting them for war en masse, like many other emperors (which had lead to the de-romanization of the Roman army), he recruits very few soldiers from the "barbarian cities". The only tribe not permitted to settle in the empire are the Visigoths, who are given several ships and forced to sail beyond the Atlantic coast.
Voelsus also reforms the Roman army, de-barbarizing it and returning it to the basic principles of Marius. He adds several improvements of his own and borrows ideas from the Celt, Germanic and Persian armies.
Realizing it is only a matter of time before the Huns and the Romans clash in open conflict, Volesus spends much of his reign strengthening the empire internally in preparation for the coming war. To start, he develops the simple but ingenious beacon defense system for the empire’s northern borders. Throughout the length of the Rhine and Danube rivers, large watchtowers with giant torches on top of them are constructed every three miles. This way, if the Roman Empire is invaded, a watchman at one of the towers can set his torch alight, and the watchman at the next tower will follow suit. This process repeats itself until all of the torches are set ablaze, providing an effective warning system against a foreign invasion.
Volesus also believes that communication inside the empire is crucial as well. Between 409 and 435, the Imperial Road is constructed. Modeled after the famous Royal Road of the ancient Persian Empire, the road stretches from the Indus River (Rome’s eastern border) to the west African and Atlantic coasts. It is seventeen feet wide and contains smaller sub-roads, which are used by civilians and traders.
In terms of imperial administration, Volesus makes the important decision of beginning the gradual reunification of the empire. Ever since Julian removed Christianity from the empire, the East and the West have slowly but surely become more and more alike, and by the end of Julian's reign, any assertions of autonomy from either side had all but vanished. In 407, he begins unifying positions and posts in the empire that had previously been divided into two for the east and west. By 439, imperial administration has been re-purposed to include all of the empire.
Domestically, Volesus makes an important realization: the Roman people are disillusioned. With the Hun war still several decades off and a lack of civil wars to rip the empire apart, the people are becoming increasingly bored and apathetic. Volesus believes emphasizing three aspects of Roman live can solve this: religion, education, and innovation. For the first one, he orders the construction of hundreds of new temples in the empire’s more recently acquired territories. He also encourages more people to join the mystery cults of the Roman Empire, which have been slowly gaining more power. For the second one, he constructs many new schools throughout the empire, having in mind the ambitious goal of making education available for all Roman citizens. While he never accomplishes this, he does make a positive impact on Roman education, with the percentage of illiterate Roman citizens dropping from 81% to 70% by the end of his reign.
Finally, he builds what are often considered his greatest achievements: the universities. 21 major universities are constructed throughout the empire during his reign, located at Londonium, Parisium, Milan, Rome, Athens, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Ctesiphon. Designed to be a haven for the intellectuals of the empire, these universities house innovative experiments and daring new ideas. Within a century of Volesus’ death, many major inventions and discoveries are made at these universities.
As for the man himself, Volesus is an Epicurean, devoted to the finer things in life. Because of his admiration for the writings of Epicurus, he spends many of his off days in the Library of Athens. He also loves food, and is affectionately nicknamed “the fat man” by the Roman people. Despite his luxurious lifestyle, he is careful never to spend to the point that it affects the Roman economy negatively.
He stays happily married throughout his life, having three children in 399, 401, and 404 respectively. The Roman court is constantly filled with gossip about him and his wife Medea, whom Volesus once refers to as “the greatest woman that ever drew breath”. He is openly affectionate towards her and his children, leading to some accusations of living an “effeminate” lifestyle, accusations which he dismisses without any interest.
The final years of his life are tragic. On October 24, 443, his wife and youngest child are killed in a terrible accident in southern Gaul. This sends Volesus into a depression, causing him to drown his miseries in wine and food for the rest of his life. Just a month before his death, recognizing the need for a war-time emperor, he appoints his military advisor Narcissus as his successor. On September 11, 444, his bad habits finally catch up to him, and he dies of a massive heart attack. He is given an elaborate funeral, with a 12-foot-high statue of him constructed in Rome to mourn his passing. After his funeral, his ashes are interred in Julian’s mausoleum, the last remains laid to rest there. With the empire well prepared for the coming war, Narcissus is determined to lead Rome to victory.
Narcissus (444-451 CE)
From the get-go, Narcissus makes it clear that he is a general first and a politician second. Dreaming of acquiring more territory for Rome than any military leader since Julius Caesar, he makes some last minute adjustments to the Roman army. First, he creates three new legions and puts them under his personal command, carefully avoiding recruiting more then a few hundred troops from areas of the empire that are home to barbarian immigrants. After this, he makes some minor repairs to neglected areas of the Imperial Road, the closest he ever gets to making any domestic improvements. For the next few months, Rome holds its breath, waiting to see which side will strike first.
As it turns out, the Huns ending up launching the first strike, crossing the Danube river and sacking several Roman fortresses on December 30, 444 under their leader Attila. This launches the Hun-Roman wars, which last until 451.
Earlier that year, Attila had united the last of the Hun tribes, and spent several months preparing and unifying his army. At the start of the war, he has command of 98,000 Hun soldiers, with an additional 11,000 troops from conquered tribes. Attila dreamed of uniting the whole known world under the Hun banner, and decided the Roman Empire would serve as an excellent first target.
However, Attila underestimates the formidability of Rome’s army. Ever since the reforms of Volesus, the Roman Empire has had one of the finest militaries in the world, and, due to wise recruiting methods, consists of incorruptible soldiers with a strong sense of patriotism. While Attila’s army is larger, it is disorganized, consisting mostly of apathetic and lazy soldiers who are in the army primarily for loot and women. Realizing the advantages in this, Narcissus decides to slowly weaken Attila’s army before attacking it head on. After several brief skirmishes that push the Hun army across the Danube once again, he stations his army at the river and orders them not to cross it. He then begins a series of spy missions that last until October 445. Designed to agitate and demoralize Attila’s army, these missions primarily focus on sabotaging food supplies and murdering popular officers. The plan works: soon, Attila’s army becomes restless and impatient, and on October 10, some 2900 Hun soldiers abandon the army, crossing the Danube without weapons and asking to settle in Roman territory. Narcissus grants their request, and allows them to relocate to unpopulated regions of Caledonia (he is careful to keep the Huns dispersed in order to avoid a rebellion).
Finally, on October 19, Attila leads his army across the river and clashes with the Romans at the decisive Battle of the Danube. The battle rages on for five days until Attila retreats back across the river on October 24. The total number of casualties is 5,100 for the Romans and a staggering 44,000 for the Huns. With his army virtually cut in half in less than a week, Attila retreats back into the Hunnic mainland. Incorrectly believing that he has won the war, Narcissus triumphantly enters Constantinople on November 2. He has the Danube Memorial built near the center of the city. It includes a huge statue of Narcissus at its center, and, rather gruesomely, a pool that is 20 feet deep and has the bodies of the Hun soldiers killed in the battle weighed down at the bottom. Due to complains from local residents, the pool is removed in 447 and the bodies are buried under a concrete base.
For the next three years, Attila focuses on training and disciplining his army. Borrowing ideas from various lands outside of his empire, he creates and efficient and loyal troop base by 448. Finally, he sends an embassy to Narcissus, demanding he bring his best troops to the Hun region of Bospori for a battle. Expecting an easy victory, he leads a mere 4000 troops across the Black Sea, arriving in Bospori on December 20. What follows is easily the worst defeat of Narcissus’ reign. Unaware of the strength of the newly-reformed Hun army, the Roman troops are slaughtered in the battle. Narcissus and the surviving 700 troops barely escape with their lives.
Angered by this defeat and determined to avenge his fallen soldiers, he spends three months gathering a massive army, recalling legions from every non-border province in the empire. On February 5, 449, he crosses the Rhine river in northern Gaul with 105,000 troops. Over the next year, he proceeds to wreak havoc on the Hunnic Empire, destroying hundreds of tribal villages and setting fire to countless Germanian forests. This earns him the nickname “The Roman Butcher” from the Huns. By January 450, he has virtually wiped out half of Attila’s empire, angering the Hunnic Ruler greatly. Still, throughout all of this, Attila refuses to directly accompany any of his troops into combat or assist the decaying regions, correctly believing that sending small amounts of his troops to face the Romans will exhaust their army over time. Finally, believing the Roman army is weak enough to directly assault, he prepares to face the Romans in a massive battle at the very heart of his empire. However, before he can do this, the Romans mysteriously retreat back into their own territory. Although the Huns do not know why they did this, Narcissus makes this decision because of rebellions that have sprung up throughout the empire in the absence of a strong military presence. These rebellions have become an increasingly high threat to Roman stability. He spends the next year battling various militias and traitorous governors. Under ordinary circumstances, the Huns would have used this opportunity to attack the Roman Empire. However, the Roman raids left the empire in shambles, and Attila wisely uses this one-year period of grace to rebuild devastated areas of his empire and strengthen his army.
In February 451, Narcissus sends a messenger to Attila, announcing that he is ready to end the war once and for all. Attila and Narcissus lead their respective armies toward the agreed upon meeting location at the center of Attila’s empire (the latter uses his army to destroy and loot whatever towns he comes across along the way). On March 21, 351, the two armies finally meet in what is arguably the most massive and important battle of the 5th century. Over the next two weeks, both armies attack each other day in and day out, with their engagements always ending in a stalemate. Finally, on April 3, a lucky shot from a Roman archer pierces Attila’s throat, killing him instantly. Without their leader, the Huns easily fall to their enemies. This battle is often used by historians to mark the end of the Hunnic Empire. After Attila’s death, a series of internal conflicts rip the empire apart, ensuring that the Huns will no longer be a threat to Roman security.
Although the battle is a huge victory for the Romans, it also devastating for the Roman army: 61,000 troops perish in the battle, with another 23,000 wounded. Recognizing that Rome’s northern neighbors now pose no real threat to national security, Narcissus leaves northern Europe to its fate, choosing not to annex large amounts of territory due to the staggering military losses. Rome does, however, take control of all of Germania up to the Elbe River and the former Bosporian Kingdom, annexing both lands as the provinces of Germania Superior and Bosporia respectively.
Realizing that he is not fit to be a peace-time ruler, Narcissus voluntarily retires as emperor, the first to do so since Diocleatian. He lives a full life, dying in his villa in the Macedonian countryside on August 31, 482. He leaves his general and trusted friend Lucius Aurelianus the task of rebuilding and strengthening the empire.
Lucius Aurelianus (451-486 CE)
Lucius Aurelianus begins his reign by starting a plethora of educational improvements. He places a goal of reduction of the illiteracy rate by 10% over ten years. He builds several new schools, notably in Rome, Mediolandum, Londinium, Constantinople, Athens, Thebes, Alexandria, and Persepolis. By 455 CE, the illiteracy rate has dropped from 71% to 60%, an extremely impressive achievement in the 5th century. Basic education is greatly improved and made available. Advanced education levels are created, but are only available for the rich.
Lucius Aurelianus' next reforms are administrative. Traveling to Athens, he decides that it is too important a city to be just a secondary city on Achæa. He divides the province of Achæa into the provinces of Attica and Achæa itself. Next, he decides the old Persian city of Ctesiphon cannot be a capital city, and starts the first plans to re-build the now ruined city of Babylon as the new capital of the Province of Babylon. It takes almost two hundred years to finish the city, but when it is finished, it is the greatest city in all of Parthia. Finally, he divides the province of Arabia into Nabatea, Arabia and Sinai in 470 CE.
Lucius Aurelianus turns his attention to consolidating the Roman frontiers. He builds a great wall at the Arabic border, another one at the Germanic frontier and a last, weaker one at the North Persian one. He builds a great infrastructure of roads and resting buildings across the Empire, to help the troops get across the empire in a quicker way and to arrive to the front stronger and better rested.
Lucius Aurelianus then moves his interests towards religion. Due to a civil war in Nubia, many Christians are immigrating back into the province of Aegyptus. The emperor, however, is extremely hostile towards Abrahamic religions. He had already forced most Jews to migrate to the already sprawling Jew center in Arabia, and he had proclaimed an issue reading "no Abrahamic religion, be it Christianity or Judaism, may exist within the Roman borders". In 482 CE, Lucius Aurelianus takes most of the Roman army south into the Aegyptus border and attacks the Christian mass in the Slaughter of Abu Simbel. Twenty thousand Christians are killed directly in the massacre, while some of the survivors are killed later, taken to the circus to be eaten by lions or crucified.
This brutal act of intolerance sparks an uproar within the Roman Empire, causing tens of thousands of Roman citizens to abandon the Roman Cult to the more tolerant and rather similar Greek Cult, the newly reformed Egyptian Cult, or the mysterious Zoroastrianism.
Lucius Aurelianus then retires from public view. He marries a young Persian woman but they have no children. He slowly starts relinquishing his powers, becoming mostly a public figurehead.
In 485, Lucius Aurelianus starts to feel his forces faltering. He decides it's time to elect his successor, and starts traveling through the Roman cities searching for somebody to be a good heir. He travels through several cities, most notably Antioch, Athens, Rome, Mediolandum, Londinium, Carthago, Ctesiphon and Persepolis. He finally chooses a young adult found within the bazaar of Ctesiphon, named Shapur. He notices Shapur is an intelligent, strong and smart man, able, he guesses, to govern the empire effectively. He names Shapur as his heir.
The next year sees Lucius Aurelianus going out less and less. He gradually becomes weaker and weaker and dies in his sleep from an unknown illness (possibly cancer) on August 6, 486.
The reign of Lucius Aurelianus was, for the most part, dull and unremarkable. The Roman people expect little from his successor.
Shapur (486-515 CE)
22 years old and dazzlingly handsome, Shapur is young, energetic, and determined to change the empire for the better. Although there is a brief scandal regarding Shapur’s Persian ethnicity and his name (the same as the king who was reigning when Julian invaded Parthia), it dies down within a few weeks. As Parthia has been part of the empire for over a century now, nobody is still alive to remember Julian’s conquests, and the Parthians themselves have gradually become Romanized over the last century.
Shapur begins with the Roman army. It has been 35 years since Attila drew his last breath, and, aside from a few minor skirmishes along the northern European border, the legions haven’t fought an opponent in decades. Believing that a lack of combat has made the Roman army weak, Shapur decides to make use of the province of Germania. Since the partial annexation of Germania in 451, it has been largely ignored, and, aside from a few trading outposts and government towns, remains largely barbarian. Deciding to take advantage of this untapped land, he orders the construction of a new military and political capital for Germania in 487. Upon its completion in 488, he orders the construction of a revolutionary new training facility in the city. Named the Academia Augustua, this facility teaches the Romans a new technique: guerrilla warfare. Taking advantage of the lush forests surrounding the city, the academy regularly instructs troops in the art of sabotage and hit-and-run combat.
In 490, Shapur decides to test these new reforms. Desiring to increase Rome’s territorial holdings in Europe, he orders the creation of a legion of 5000 troops called the Furtim. This new legion is trained entirely in the new military academy, and is designed to determine just how effective a legion based entirely on stealth warfare is.
In March 491, this legion crosses the Elbe river, with the goal of conquering all of Germania up to the Vistula River. The newly trained troops fare well: within two years, all of the territory is conquered, and throughout this time, the unit only suffers 119 casualties. Shapur attributes their success to their low rations, which forced them to steal from local towns. This tactic was risky, but it worked: not only has a large portion of Germania been annexed, but the whole northern region is too weak from the raids by the Furtim to rebel. In order to keep the frontier secure, Shapur orders the construction of a five feet high concrete wall that stretches from the southern end of the Vistula to the northern Danube. He posts two legions to guard this wall, and implies he will start no campaigns to the east.
With nearly all of western Europe now under Roman control, Shapur is anxious to continue with his military success. He chooses to target the one area of western Europe still not under Roman control: the land to the north of Germania, which the Romans refer to as Cimbria. In January 494, the Furtim begin their gradual conquest of the land, and the last native tribes are eliminated or subdued by the spring of 496. Cimbria is annexed as a Roman province, and Shapur announces he will seek no further territory for the empire, deciding to permanently station the Furtim at Cimbria.
Greatly impressed with the Furtim and their barbarian war tactics, Shapur decides to construct academies throughout the empire in order to make training easier. He deliberately builds them in out of the way and obscure locations so that the troops will get used to the isolation that might be encountered in the event of a campaign. After these new academies are completed, Shapur orders all legions to spend a month training at them. In addition to all this, he orders the expansion of the Imperial Road to Cimbria and northern Gemania in 503; this expansion is completed by 505.
Though his military achievements were impressive, Shapur’s reign is best remembered for the huge technological innovations that took place during it. At a university in Milian in 499, a young scientist writes a treatise that lays out the first plausible theory of flight. Although gliders would not become standard means of Roman transportation until more then a century later, this date is often seen as the birth of flight in the Roman Empire.
The most famous man of Shapur’s reign is Gaius Claudius, a doctor and personal physician to Shapur who heavily influences his decisions. In 498, he publishes the 11-volume treatise On Health, which argues that people must live in a clean environment and bathe regularly to stay healthy. Impressed by his argument, Shapur searches for a way to eliminate the garbage in Rome’s streets. Finally, in 500, he orders that a garbage dump be constructed on a remote island off the coast of Italia. This island, he declares, will become the dumping spot for all the trash of Rome. Three ships are built specifically for this purpose, and every two months, slaves patrol the Roman streets, gathering up trash and loading them on to the barge. Once the trash arrives at the island, the majority of it is burned in a massive fire pit at the center. This concept would be expanded to other cities and islands over the years, and by the end of Shapur’s reign, so-called “trash islands” exist for the cities of Constantinople, Antioch, Carthage, Londonium, Jerusalem, Caesaria (the new provincial capital of Germania), Alexandria, Ctesphion and the still under construction Babylon. In the case of the latter two, the garbage is transported to a designated area in the desert about two miles across.
As for the public baths, Shapur orders 50 of them to be constructed throughout Rome, and cities throughout the empire follow suit. Within 30 years, public baths are available in every major city, and by 600, nearly every city in the empire has at least two of them.
During his reign, Shapur makes it his business to improve the standard of living for the poorer people of the empire, earning him the nickname “The Emperor of the People”. Throughout his reign, Shapur travels to nearly all of the provinces, listening to the plights of average citizens with genuine compassion. In order to help these people, he declares the Edict of Londonium during his visit to Britannia in April 501. This edict states that any citizen, patrician or plebian, is capable of rising to prominence militarily, politically, and economically. Men, he declares, are not to be judged by their social status, but by their merits. Although this act offends the aristocracy, the lower-class citizens of the empire hail Shapur as a hero. In addition, he lowers the taxes of working class Roman citizens, reasoning that the empire is in no dire need of money.
Throughout his life, Shapur never marries, which, considering his Persian heritage, makes him a very unique emperor. Nonetheless, he is a very friendly and approachable man. Once, while Shapur was touring Antioch, it is said that a merchant spilled wine on his tunic. While the merchant was stammering an apology, Shapur began laughing, and is said to have cried “a hilarious mishap if there ever was one”! He accepted the man’s apology and allowed him to continue his day.
Although he never has children, Shapur is just beginning to consider adopting his heir when a scandal breaks out. A rumor is circulated throughout the empire that Shapur is planning on giving the senate his powers after his death, effectively restoring the republic. Although Shapur denies this, he does secretly consider the option. At this point in Roman history, the republic is well and truly dead, and the senate, despite being powerless, is determined not to have it restored. Prominent Roman senator Julius Mereanus decides that Shapur cannot be allowed to bring back the republic. On April 22, 515, he stabs Shapur to death as he is leaving the senate building. After Shapur is dead, he declares himself emperor. This ignites a series of chaotic civil wars that last until 518.
The Roman Civil Wars (515-518 CE)
As there has been no issue regarding imperial succession in well over a century, the Romans are initially at a loss as to how to react to this assassination. However, prominent generals and aristocrats soon take advantage of the situation in an effort to create power for themselves.
Kingdom of Gaul
Although Mereanus' authority is respected in Hispania and Italia, nearly all other parts of the empire have influential people of their own who are determined to mold the empire into their own image. Without the peaceful transition that comes with adoption, the occasion is ripe with opportunity to challenge Roman authority.
The first to take advantage of this opportunity is Tiberius Calvinus, a popular and influential Gallic patrician. Calvinus is descended from the ancient Gallic tribes who lived in the area before the conquest of the land by Julius Caesar. Calvinus has a goal of restoring the independence of Gaul and, by extension, the parts of Germania that Rome has conquered. After negotiating with provincial governors for several months (who agree to join his breakaway state if he agrees to appoint them to positions of power), he declares the independent Kingdom of Gaul on July 1, 515. This breakaway state includes all of Roman Gaul, all of the annexed Germanian lands, and several other parts of the empire. On July 9, he is crowned King Calvinus I in an elaborate ceremony. In his inaugural speech, he states his desire to restore the culture of ancient Gaul and Germania, but also to accept Roman customs and influences that have had a positive impact on the region.
The next new state is formed by the influential Constantinople politician Menelaus. As his name suggests, he is Greek, and is extremely proud of his culture and heritage. As a young man, he had dreamed of restoring the glory of Classical Greece, and Shapur's death gives him an excellent opportunity to do so. On August 5, he leads an army of five legions out of Constantinople and marches on mainland Greece. Most of the Grecian towns are defenseless against him, and the generals and provincial governors he encounters on the way are mostly willing to join his cause. Those that aren't are executed. By September 1, he has control of all of the empire up to the border with Anatolia in the east, and all of mainland Greece to the west. On Septmber 10, he declares Greece an independent state. He declares Athens the capital of the new state, and immediately begins decorating it in splendor, restoring and revitalizing old and neglected areas of the city. Menelaus has earned the admirations of historians everywhere due to his massive expansion of the Library of Athens. Thanks to his deligent work in preserving the literature of ancient Greece, the amount of texts that survive from the ancient world is roughly 150% more then in the OTL.
Because of their geographic isolation, Rome's northern island provinces are essentially impossible to control during this tumultous period. Spurius, the governor of Britannia, despises Mereanus, and refuses to recognize his status as emperor. At the same, however, he also wants to preserve Roman rule in his province. On August 2, he has the military governors of Caledonia and Hibernia assassinated, and claims power for himself. Because he has been an efficient and effective governor of Britannia, the citizens of the latter two provinces choose not to revolt against him. He gathers his legions together, and addresses them on August 8, declaring Britannia, Caledonia, and Hibernia to be independent from the rest of the Roman Empire. In addition, he announces all three provinces will be combined as Britannia.
Atellus is the provincial governor of Mauretania at the time of Shapur's death. He is descended from the ancient citizens of Carthage, and has a love for the sea. He dreams of creating a neo-Carthaginian civilization based on seafaring and trade. Although he grudgingly submits to Mereanus' rule for the first few months, his patience wears thin, and on October 3, he sends a messenger to Mereanus, declaring that the land he controls is no longer part of the Empire. He creates his new state of Carthage out of his own province and much of the Africa province, assassinating the governor of the latter. He sets to work building his newly created state.
Although Deredocus is an ethnic Greek, he wants nothing to do with the newly formed state. Instead, he embraces his adopted home of Aegyptus. At the time of Shapur's death, he is a popular legionary general. On November 3, he has his troops rush the governor's palace. The governor is brought out and publicly beheaded, and Deredocus declares himself the leader of an independent Egypt. Unlike the other governors, he does not wish to restore classical civilization. Instead, he merely wants autonomy from the Roman Empire, and does little in the way of domestic improvement.
Parthia and Anatolia
Through all this, the rest of the empire (Namely, Anatolia and Parthia) are essentially thrown into chaos. Military governors and generals are vying for power with each other, and thousands of civilians are executed by despot governments that change every week. In short, these areas of the Roman Empire are in complete anarchy.
The splinter states have been established, and each one of them waits to see who will make the first move. The world holds its breath.
The first few months after secession are tense and unstable. As the Roman Empire requires a steady supply of grain from Africa, Mereanus realizes it is only a matter of time before his people begin to starve. On November 30, he signs the Treaty of Parisium with Gaul, in which he agrees to recognize the Kingdom of Gaul in exchange for mutual military assistance in the event of an attack. Calvinus, unaware of Mereanus' plans for war, happily signs the treaty.
In Greece, Menelaus realizes that regulated trade must be established if his nation is to survive. On December 2, he and Atellus sign a trade agreement that normalizes relations with Carthage and Greece. Like the Treaty of Parisium, it also allows for mutual assistance in the event of war.
Spurius realizes that there is about to be a massive war, and so chooses to keep quiet. His two islands are self-sufficient enough that he does not require any trade or allies, and so he chooses to take a passive stance, deciding to wait until the war starts to strike.
Deredocus, meanwhile, desires to increase Egypt's territorial holdings simply because he wants to be in control of more land. A brilliant military commander, Deredocus gathers his legions together and marches across the Sinai Peninsula on December 5. Although it would take two years to fully control all of Anatolia and Parthia, Deredocus manages to avoid the ongoing war in Europe. This, combined with his natural talent at winning wars and toppling despotic governments, ensures that whoever wins the war in the west will definitely have a problem dealing with Egypt.
Finally, on January 23, 516, Mereanus declares war on Carthage, and sends his ships across the Strait of Gibraltar, destined for Africa. Although reluctant, Calvinus is a man of his word, and agrees to supply troops to help Mereanus in his war with Carthage. Similairly, Greece must fufill its end of the bargain as well, and now all four of the splinter states are at war with each other through a complex series of treaties. Expectedly, this leaves Europe in chaos, with soldiers ravaging the countryside in one battle after another. It also leaves the war in an undecisive stalemate. A third party is needed to tip the scales in one side's favor. Finally, on May 9, Britannia decides to enter the war.
Spurius, desiring to reunify the empire with himself as emperor, starts by attacking the Kingdom of Gaul. The kingdom, due to its haphazard military, simply cannot fight a war on two fronts, and Spurius slowly but surely conquers it. Calvinus, terrified of losing his new state, appeals to Mereanus for help, but Mereanus, aware of Spurius' military prowess and already busy fighting a two front war against Carthage and Greece, has no desire to help him. Without the assistance of the Roman Empire, Gaul is subdued by Spurius over the course of several months, and on August 1, he enters the capital of Parisium. Realizing that his kingdom is finished, Calvinus poisons himself. On the steps of Calvinus' palace, Spurius declares that he is the rightful emperor of the Roman Empire, and states that all of the land currently under his control is the Northern Roman Empire. In order to appease the populace, Spurius allows Calvinus' former soldiers to return to their homes in the countryside. He also chooses not to sack Parisium, despite his troops' requests to the contrary.
Although his generals are eager to attack the mainland empire, Spurius chooses to wait until Mereanus is sufficiently weakened by war against Carthage and Greece. Although this upsets his bloodthirsty soldiers, he knows that patience has always served him well in the past, and it is unlikely to let him down now.
This tactic proves to work: as the months go on, the people of the Roman Empire grow hungrier and hungrier, and Mereanus has yet to make any progress with his war against Carthage. Finally, his people begin to grow angry, and eventually begin to revolt. Seeing his opportunity, Spurius finally decides to invade mainland Italia. Imitating Julius Caesar's march on Rome, he crosses the Rubicon River on February 8, 517. The people of the Italian countryside, who are extremely unhappy with Mereanus, happily accept Spurius as their new head of state. On February 25, Spurius enters Rome, and the senate declares him the rightful emperor. Mereanus is stationed with his troops in Sicily when he hears this news, and he initially tries to get his men to march on Rome and fight Spurius. However, at this point in the war, his army is exhausted, hungry, and irritated, and they are in no mood to continue taking his orders. Several of Mereanus' generals tie him up and personally deliever him to Spurius in Rome. Although many citizens want to put him to death, Spurius is merciful, instead forcing Merianus to sign a treaty in which he concedes all of his territory and powers to him. Spurius then imprisons Mereanus for the rest of the war, and eventually lets him live out his life in peaceful exile (he dies in March 534).
With Mereanus dealt with, Spurius now turns his attention to the ongoing war with Carthage. It doesn't take him long to discover the flaws in Mereanus' battle strategy: essentially, he sent waves of soldiers at Carthage, apparently hoping to smother the enemy. The obvious problem with this tactic is that Carthage is a naval based state, wheras the Roman Army's strength usually lies in their land warfare. Carthage had been destroying many Roman ships before they even had a chance to land. Spurius realizes that, should Rome ever face Carthage on dry land, the former would easily win. In order to allow his troops to land, Spurius imitates the ancient Greeks' Trojan War tactic: he sends a messenger to Atellus, saying that he is ready to concede defeat in the war, and that he will send several ships worth of gold as a victory prize. Delighted at this, Atellus allows the Roman ships to land at his capital city, and they arrive on April 4. When the ships are opened, the citizens of Carthage are met with legions of extremely angry Roman soldiers (who, naturally, take their anger out on them). The soldiers proceed to utterly decimate the city, and Atellus is personally brought before Spurius. Although he begs for mercy, Spurius is adamant that Atellus must face the consequences for defying Roman authority (nobody has the nerve to point out his hypocrisy). Atellus is executed on April 6, and Carthage is absorbed back into the Roman Empire. Spurius spends the next month re-establishing grain trade with the rest of the empire, which naturally makes him very popular with the common people.
Spurius then turns his attention to Greece. Unlike Carthage, Greece is, by and large, militarily incompetent-although Menelaus had initial success conquering the territory, his vision of restoring classical Greece naturally makes his state peaceful and pacifistic. Aside from a few minor skirmishes with Mereanus, Greece has done its best to avoid the war. On May 10, Spurius personally leads a legion to Athens, where he meets with Menelaus. Spurius, a devoted classicist himself, is impressed by Menelaus' knowledge of the ancient world. The two spend several hours talking to each other in Plato's Academy, discussing politics, Alexander the Great, the Persian Wars, and even the Imperial Holy Book. Eventually, Menelaus agrees that maintaining Greece's independence is impossible, and asks for readmittance into the empire. Spurius, charmed by the young man, agrees, and is so impressed by Menelaus' improvements to Athens that he chooses not to loot the city, and even makes plans to spend his twilight years there.
With all of the western empire now reunified, Spurius must deal with a much larger threat: Egypt. In the years since the war began, Derodocus has been slowly but surely conquering the eastern territories of the empire, uniting countless towns and cities under his banner. While the Egyptian Empire (as he calls it) is culturally identical to Rome, Spurius is nonetheless determined to unite the entire empire. On May 20, Spurius sends a message to Derodocus demanding that he submit to western authority. Naturally, Deredocus refuses. Spurius then begins preparing the Roman Army to fight against him.
On June 18, Spurius crosses the Bosphorus (the unofficial border between the Roman and Egyptian empires) with 85,000 troops, determined to win back the empire. Although Deredocus is expecting this, he is caught off guard when the soldiers choose not to burn and destroy the countryside. Although he is confused by this, most historians believe that Spurius intended to use the areas as sources of food and water for his troops during his journey back to Europe.
The armies first meet at the Tigris River in central Parthia on July 2, 517. At the Battle of the Tigris, Spurius initially appears to be defeating the Egyptians-but just as Deredocus' army begins to contemplate retreat, he stuns the Romans by releasing elephants. Unbeknownst to Spurius, Deredocus had crossed the Indus river earlier that year and met with traders living in the collapsing Gupta Empire. Desiring to give his army a technological boost, he purchases 300 elephants from India, planning to use them against the other divisions of the empire in the event of a war.
It has been many years since the Romans have seen this animal, and many soldiers are crushed to death. The battle is thrown into chaos, and the Romans retreat across the Tigris River. Although this battle was a great victory for the Egyptian Empire, it is short lived: Spurius, realizing that the elephants will become deadly if provoked into a frenzy, has 30 of his archers secretly sneak up on the Egyptian camp the following day. The archers then aim for the eyes of the elephants; most of them are blinded, and they go into a frenzy, killing many of the soldiers and generals in the camp, including Deredocus himself. Without their leader, the Egyptians easily fall to the Romans, and all of the rebellious governments and territories of the Roman Empire are regained by January 518.
The Roman Civil Wars were the deadliest conflicts in centuries, and it is up to Spurius, now the undisputed ruler of the entire empire, to reunite the Roman people and begin healing the shattered empire.
Spurius (518-531 CE)
Although brief, the reign of Spurius is generally considered to be one of the most beneficial to Rome. He begins his reign by giving the Roman senate actual power for the first time in centuries-the Adoption Act, ratified in 520, allows for the senate to select a candidate to be the emperor's heir two years after the emperor has taken the throne. If the emperor finds the young man to be unsatisfactory, he can reject him, and the senate may recommend another heir two years later. This process repeats itself until the emperor finds an heir that he deems satisfactory. At any time, however, the emperor can negate this process by choosing an heir completely independent from the senatorial process. So, in reality, the Adoption Act is little more then a backup plan that is put in place to ensure the emperor does not die without an heir.
He also makes extensive reforms to the military. In order to prevent generals from using the legions to usurp the throne, he changes the payment system of Roman soldiers so that their salary is paid directly by the government of the province they are stationed in. He also sets an age limit for Roman soldiers, declaring that no soldier will be forced to serve past the age of 55. Finally, he makes extensive renovations and improvements to the Imperial Road, returning it to its original pristine condition.
While these reforms were important, Spurius' best remembered change is his introduction of elephants into the Roman army. Impressed by Deredocus' utilization of these behemoths, he establishes the trade of elephants with India. Each legion is given ten elephants to use, and an elephant trainer from India accompanies and guides them into battle.
This action was important not only in its strengthening of the Roman Army, but in its introduction of a brand new religion into the empire-Hinduism. While Britannicus briefly mentioned Hinduism in his travelogue of India written 120 years earlier, his descriptions of Hindu religious ceremonies greatly confused many Romans, and the vast majority of readers believed that Hinduism was merely an offshoot of their own polytheism. Once the elephant trainers who immigrate to the empire learn Latin, they begin educating Roman soldiers with the stories and beliefs that encompass Hinduism. In 526, a Gupta scholar translates several prominent works of Hindu literature into Latin (including, to the delight of many Romans, the Karma Sutra) and presents them to Spurius as a gift during one of his trips to Constantinople. After reading the Bhagvad Gita, he undergoes a profound spiritual transformation. In 528, he shocks the Roman people by announcing his conversion to Hinduism. He orders the Library of Athens to make several copies of the translations, and they become the most sought after and studied works amongst the philosophers of Athens, who are pleased with the Hindu message of non-violence and reincarnation. In 529, the first Hindu academy of philosophy is set up by Aristagoras in the southern section of the city. On March 27, 528, Spurius declares religious tolerance throughout the Roman Empire (however, this tolerance does not extend to Christians, who are still viewed with intense suspicion). Shortly before his death, he publishes the 21-volume philosophical work On Life, which preaches charity, modesty, and kindness as the greatest virtues any person can adopt. Many Romans adopt this book as their own personal moral compass. The thoughts and actions of Spurius profoundly shape the cultural future of the Roman Empire: for the next century, the Romans, undisturbed by invaders, become peaceful and pacifistic. Athens becomes the third most visited city in the empire, second only to Constantinople and Rome itself. This period, lasting from 518 to 632, is often called the Spurian Peace.
To reunify the empire, Spurius spends much of the treasury's money rebuilding cities that were sacked and looted during the wars. He also begins shaping Constantinople into a cosmopolitan and multicultural city. In 529, he orders the construction of the Cultural Academy. Upon its completion in 544, this academy becomes the first cultural melting pot in the world. The Academy itself contains several rooms devoted to the history of the Egyptians, Greeks, Parthians, Indians, and many other cultures. The central room in the building is a discussion hall with benches and rhetorical podiums. This hall is designed to be a meeting place and cultural exchange point for citizens of different backrounds.
Spurius' worldview has caused scholars to label him the first modern emperor. Several months before his death, he meets a young Greco-Egyptian boy by the name of Bacchus. Named after the Roman god of wine, Bacchus is a sharp, inquisitive, and peaceful young man with a profound interest in Egyptian history. Charmed by the young boy, he announces that Bacchus will be his heir. On January 7, 531, Spurius dies of heart failure in Alexandria. He is cremated, and his ashes are scattered in the Ganges River in accordance with Hindu tradition.
Spurius was nothing if not unique. The Roman people were by turns outraged and fascinated by him, and he is arguably one of the most influential emperors in Roman history. By the time of Spurius' death, Rome has fully recovered from the Civil Wars, and the reign of Bacchus will be marked by numerous technological and social innovations.
Bacchus (531-569 CE)
Bacchus begins his reign by improving an area of the Roman army that has been neglected since the end of the Punic Wars: the navy. As Rome has controlled all of the Meditteranean for over 500 years, an attack by sea has been something of a non-issue for the empire. Nonetheless, Bacchus believes that a strong navy is essential for the defence of the empire. In 532, he orders many grand improvements to the long forgotten city of Carthage. These improvements, modelled after some of Atellus' ideas, are meant to make Carthage the seafaring capital of the empire. To increase trade throughout the Mediterranean, he orders that several grand new harbors be built on the coast of the city. In order to improve Rome's military, he hires several prominent ship captains to become the heads of Rome's new navy. This navy consists of three fleets that number about 250 ships each. These fleets are posted in various places throughout the empire, designed both to ward off pirates and to protect the internal security of the empire. To construct these new fleets, he has an elaborate shipyard built at the center of Carthage, which is completed in 535. Although it takes until 546 for the new navy to be fully constructed, when it is finally finished, it is among the greatest in the western hemisphere.
Next, Bacchus turns his attention to the heavily outdated Julian Calendar. In 534, he orders astronomers at a university in Alexandria to begin work on a new, modernized calendar. This calendar is completed by 536, and is named the Bacchian Calendar. With the initiation of this new calendar, accuracy in telling time is greatly increased. Bacchus also orders that the official dating system of the empire be changed. Realizing that consuls are difficult to keep track of (and that they have no real power anymore), he announces the abolishment of the Consuls in 551. By 553, all official dating in the empire has been changed to the Ab Urbe Condita (from the founding of the city) dating system, which uses the date of the founding of Rome (traditionally 753 BCE) as its year zero.
In June 535, a student at a Constantinople university announces that he has developed the first prototype corrective lenses. Bacchus, who is severely nearsighed, takes great interest in this project, and spends large amounts of money financing it. In 541, the student makes the final adjustments to his lenses. While they work fine for him, he soon realizes that the effectiveness of glasses varies based on the eyesight of the wearer. In response to this, Bacchus orders the construction of the world's first eyecare center in 543. This facility is completed in 545, and, in 547, the student finally creates glasses that allow the emperor to see clearly. For the rest of his life, Bacchus wears these new corrective lenses, causing great interest among the Roman populace. In 550, he orders the construction of 30 new eyecare facilites throughout the empire for the convienience of the people. Although marble busts of Bacchus end up looking very unusual, he is adamant about wearing his glasses. By 600, some 35% of the Roman populace wears glasses, mostly the elderly.
Throughout his lifetime, Bacchus maintains a morbid fascination with death. In 549, he orders the construction of the Valley of the Emperors in the Italian countryside. Modeled after the Egyptian Valley of the Kings, this necropolis consists of over 100 elaborate tombs. These tombs contain many empty rooms that are meant to house the great achievments of the emperor. The central room in each tomb has a gold vase at the center, intended to house the cremated remains of the emperor (or, should the emperor choose it, a golden coffin).
Because of his fasincation with Egyptian history, Bacchus orders excavations into the Valley of the Kings in 548. On September 8, 552, an archaeologist performing digs in the Valley stumbles upon some abandoned staircases. After following them, he makes an electrifying discovery: the intact Tomb of Tutankhamun. The tomb contains a wealth of elaborate treasures, including solid gold artifacts. This discovery sets off a frenzy among Rome's historians, and in January of the next year, Bacchus announces the construction of the Museum of Egypt. Located in Alexandria, this museum contains nearly all of the artifacts that survive from Ancient Egypt, including many from Tutankhamun's tomb. By March, most of the item's from Tutankhamun's tomb have been removed, and it is sealed off to visitors. Tutankhamun's burial mask is taken away before his body is reinterred.
Like Spurius, Bacchus is a humanitarian, and seeks to "modernize" the empire in several ways. First, he declares the Edict of Rome in 555, which states that forced gladitorial combat is banned with the exception of prisoners. Bacchus, a huge fan of the gladiator shows, orders a massive renovation of the Roman Colliseum in 556. In 558, construction is begin on replica Colliseums throughout the empire's northern European provinces. This has the double purpose of both Romanizing the barbarians and finding some common ground with them (as Bacchus predicts, the Germans enjoy gladitorial combat immensely). In Rome, he divides the gladiators into two leagues: the Barbarian League, which consists of captured prisoners of war as well as condemned criminals (he builds a separate, lesser gladiator stadium for this league), and the Roman League, which consists of volunteer gladiators who desire fame and glory. In 557, Bacchus bans the practice of forcing Roman slaves to fight. These reforms have the effect of formalizing and improving gladiator combat throughout the empire, and many Romans flock to the games.
For the remaining 12 years of his reign, the empire enjoys unprecedented peace and prosperity. In 560, the senate selects a young man by the name of Postumus to be Bacchus' heir. Postumus is quick-witted and intelligent, and, although he can be rather blunt at times, Bacchus believes he will be a good heir. He accepts Postumus as his successor, becoming the first Roman emperor to take advantage of the Adoption Act. Unbeknownst to Bacchus, however, Postumus has plans to expand the empire once Bacchus dies.
For the rest of his life, Bacchus does little. The last important act he authorizes as emperor is to approve the reconstruction of several collapsing border walls in 562. He spends most of his life in Rome, enjoying dramas and gladiator shows in peace. On February 2, 569, he dies of a heart attack at the age of 62. Surprising many citizens of Rome, he specified in his will that he wished to be mummified and put on display in his tomb. His wishes are respected, and he is placed in an elaborate gold sarcophagus with Tutankhamun's burial mask placed over his face. He is the first emperor not to be cremated since Constantius in 361. His tomb consists of relics discovered from Tutankhamun's tomb, and, appropriately, many pairs of glasses. Postumus ascends to the throne and immediately puts his plans into motion.
Postumus (569-603 CE)
Postumus is nothing if not ambitious. One of his first acts as Emperor is to mobilize the Persian Gulf and Red Sea fleets, with the intention of using the Red Sea fleet to crack down on Arabian piracy along the Egyptian coast, while using the Persian fleet to blockade the port of Barbaricum, which has recently become independent of the collapsing Gupta Empire. Using Barbaricum as a base of operations, he leads almost three quarters of Rome's military in India in a rapid conquest of the eastern Sindh, followed by a naval thrust into the Punjab. By the time the decaying Gupta Empire manages to raise an army to oppose the Roman invasion, there were several legions throwing up fortifications from the headwaters of the Yamuna in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south. After several ill-advised attempts to drive the Roman invaders out, the Guptas are forced to accept a treaty which allows Postumus to annex the entire Punjab, a well as the Sindh, as the Roman Provinces of (obviously) Punjab and Sindh. The new Roman border extends from the Himalayas, south along the Thar desert, to the Arabian Sea.
Postumus's conquests in India sees several changes to the Roman military. First, elephants begin to play a less prominent role in battle. Due to both the Guptas and the Romans long utilization of elephants, they are both familiar with tactics that negated the advantage that elephants provided, making them hazards rather than assets. However, the innovative Romans soon find another use for their elephant corp. Most of the elephants are distributed among the command staff of the Roman military, to be used as mobile command posts. This allows the Roman commanders to plan their campaigns while maintaining the brutal pace set by the legionaries.
A second, more significant change in Roman military tactics is the adoption of gliders in the Roman military. For several years after their invention in 565, gliders had been viewed as toys of rich aristocrats. However, several small single pilot gliders were used as scouts to great effect during the Punjab campaign, allowing the Romans incredible strategic advantages over their enemies. Following his campaigns in the Punjab, Postumus begins a training process which would take almost ten years, but would end with at least a small glider detachment in every Roman Legion.
Following his extraordinarily successful campaign in India, Postumus begins an enormous campaign of intrastructure expansion, largely financed with loot from Gupta cities in North India. First, he significantly improves the Imperial Roads from the northern Euphrates to Antioch, allowing more of Mesopotamia's grain output to flow into the Mediterranean. In addition, he lavishes improvements on the city of Alexandria Charax, a port on the Tigris-Euphrates Delta, to support more trade with both India and China.
Following his extensive infrastructure improvements to northern Mesopotamia, Postumus gathers several legions in the city of Constantinople, before leading them in a rapid conquest of the mouth of the Dneiper, and the Sea of Azov. After constructing a line of fortresses protecting the new Roman territory, Postumus brings in several thousand colonists from Anatolia and Thrace, and provides them with free land grants. This new expanse of farmland is extremely fertile, and within a few years provides Constantinople with much of its grain.
Postumus also presides over some of the most important technological achievments in the history of Rome. The first and most far-reaching of these discoveries was the recreation of several Batteries, using old Parthian records and designs. Several prominent merchants from Gaul immediately begin to mass produce these newfangled devices for use in electroplating, their original intended function. By the end of Postumus's reign, Gaul is the center of a vibrant electroplating industry as well as the university of Massalia (OTL Marseille), which is home to some of the foremost experts on the manufacture of these devices, and their applications.
In addition to batteries, an enterprising German landlord invents a more efficient harness for plow horses. This allows both large and small landowners throughout the Roman Empire to bring much more land under cultivation, while requiring less work. This in turn leads to greater urbanization, as formerly employed farmhands drift into the cities looking for work. A rising class of traders and manufacturers begin to develop using this new labor pool as workers in enormous "manufacturers". Several of these manufacturers begin to standardize the production of their goods, creating the world's first assembly lines. Thanks to these economic advances, Postumus is not forced to increase taxes to pay for his military expansions, allowing these new industries to grow almost unchecked during the entirety of his reign.
By 580, the Roman Empire has entered a new golden age of prosperity and economic freedom. With this freedom, however, comes radical new ideas. At a university in Constantinople, a professor named Aelianus publishes the treatise On the Myth Of the Gods in June 581. This treatise contains one of the first arguments for and defenses of atheism. Athough it causes a brief scandal, the majority of the empire has believed in freedom of religion and free exchange of ideas for some time, so there is little to no violent reprucussions. While some people are convinced to reject religion due to this treatise, the vast majority of the population outside of the universities ignores the argument and remains deeply connected to religion, and atheism would not become a large minority until over a century later.
In 590, Postumus announces that the first empire-wide census in several hundred years will take place. It takes a full decade and a large amount of Rome's treasury, but in 600, the Roman Census is finally complete, and the data is made available to the public. The empire has a 44% literacy rate, a population of about 150 Million, and a life expectancy of 36 years.
In 593, Lucius Andreus, a professor at the University of Londinum, publishes The Prosperity of Empires, which is generally considered to be the worlds first book devoted entirely to economics. The book immediately provokes vigorous debate among the Empire's many bankers and merchants, and within a few years several universities begin offering classes in economics for prospective merchants and bureacrats. The most controversial section of the book is the final chapter, which puts forward both economic and moral arguments for the abolition of slavery. These ideas are fairly popular in Europe and Anatolia, where agriculture and manufacturing is controlled by small landowners and free, paid laborers. however, in Africa and Asia, the major agricultural centers of the empire, where massive estates dominate, these ideas fail to take hold (to put it lightly).
In 595, Postumus refits the Valley of the Emperors to serve as a museum for the great leaders of Rome's past, rather than a burial ground (Bacchus' remains are kept there, though). Also in this same year, he authorizes the creation of the Glider Transportation System in Rome. Throughout Rome, Gliders are used to transport people to various locations. By 610, glider transportation systems also exist for Constantinople and Jerusalem.
In the last few years of his life, Postumus spends large amounts of his own mounty rebuilding Rome and decorating it in splendor. In 601, his health begins to fail (later historians have speculated he may have had Alzheimer's disease). On March 15, 603, Postumus collapses while presiding over celebrations for the Ides of March. He dies less then an hour later, and is given a grand state funeral before finally being laid to rest in a grand masuleoum in his childhood home of Antioch.
Julius Augustus (603-606 CE)
For 240 years, Rome was blessed with a series of excellent emperors. Unfortunately, Postumus was the last of the Excellent Emperors (361-603). In his will, Postumus made the mistake of naming his son Julius Augustus as his heir, ending the adoption process that had worked so well since the time of Julian. Although some are optimistic about Julius' reign (mostly due to his not-so-subtle name), opinions about him quickly fly south. After his father is laid to rest, he prepares an eleborate coronation ceremony on March 20 (a date which he later declares to be a national holiday). Although his reign is short, it is arguably one of the most damaging in Rome's history.
Believing himself to be a reincarnation of the ancient emperor Nero, Julius quickly begins spending massive amounts of the empire's treasure on elaborate and expensive luxuries. One of his most infamous extravagances is his Imperial Palace Ship, a massive sailing vessel that is without question the largest ship built anywhere in the world at that point, and it is calculated that it costs as much as it would to maintain two legions in the field in order to keep the ship up and running. The ship features a ballroom made entirely of marble, as well as a fully functioning temple to Venus, the goddess of love.
Julius also quickly becomes infamous for his love of assassinating people, combined with his inability to hire competent assassins. Although his assassinations attempts (aimed primarily at politicians and prominent philosophers and merchants who disagree with him) are rarely successful, it soon becomes fashionable among Senators to travel through Rome's streets surrounded by heavily armed bodyguards.
In addition to his numerous other vices, Julius removes many competent, but common-born bureacrats from Roman Civil Service and replaces them with his aristocratic cronies. He also makes it much more difficult for commoners to enter the Roman Officer Corp. These two policies make him extraordinarily unpopular in both the military and the lower classes, as the military and the civil service are seen as the two main sources of upward mobility in Roman society.
In 604, he causes a scandal when he purchases a goat, drags it onto the senate floor, and proceeds to violently slaughter it in front of everyone present. He then loudly proclaims "THIS IS HOW I VIEW YOU ALL! YOU ARE WORTHLESS PARASITES, AND YOU MUST WORSHIP ME AS THE GOD THAT I AM!"
Julius renames every large city in the empire after himself, and has massive 50-foot monuments of himself erected in those cities. During the years that he was in power, citizens became terrified of his Night Raids: every few weeks, he hires a group of thieves and looks for stragglers in the streets of Rome. When he finds one, he proceeds to slowly kill them. He then strips them of their valuables and tosses their bodies into the Tiber River.
Julius wastes the public's money on elaborate spectacles and large public shows. Anyone who is in his presence is required to bow their heads and not look at him above the knees-those who do are beheaded.
After three years, the people of Rome finally decide they've had enough. On October 12, 606, during one of his parades through the city, an angry merchant attacks him with a rusty knife, stabbing him 12 times. Though he calls on his guard to intervene, they are sick of him as well, and stand by as he is murdered. After he is dead, the man proclaims, "THE MADMAN IS GONE!", resulting in thunderous applause from the crowd. Julius' head is severed from his body (which is thrown into the Tiber River) and paraded throughout the city. After this, it is buried under a section of the Imperial Road about 27 miles north of the city. A simple tile of concrete is placed above the burial site, reading: "Here lies the head of the Incompotent Fool Julius, Born 24 April 573, died 12 October 606. Be thankful this Shame of Rome is gone."
Two days after Julius' death, the Senate appoints their senior member, Celsus, Emperor of Rome. It is up to him to fix the damage Julius has done and restore the public's confidence in the Caesar.
Celsus (606-612 CE)
Fortunately for the Empire, Celsus is a extraordinarily skiled politician, and spends most of his reign restoring the Roman population's faith in the leadership of the Emperor. His first two years as Emperor are entirely devoted to reversing the destructive policies that Julius put in place, especially restoring old military commanders and bureacrats to their positions, and punishing Julius's aristocratic cronies.In addition to administrative reforms, Celsus uses some of the monetary reserves built up by the Excellent Emperors to launch a massive program of public works, which stimulated the economy that Julius had so badly damaged. He restores much of the Imperial Road system to pristine condition, founds a public ferry system between Gaul and Britannia, and constructs a new city, Celsium, at the mouth of the Dnieper. It grows quickly, as most of the grain from Crimea and the Dneiper basin passes through it.
In addition to being a talented politician, Celsus is also a student of history. Recalling the success of the original Roman Confederation, which had allowed Rome to expand across the Italian Peninsula, Celsus signs treaties with several hundred tribes, most of whom occupy territory along or near Vistula River. These tribes are granted reduced tariffs for trade with Rome, in exchange for allowing the Roman military to construct roads and fortresses in their territory, in order to protect the allied tribes from raiders from beyond the territory of the new Vistulan Confederation. This arrangement proves mutually beneficial for Roman and the Vistulan tribes. Rome no longer has to protect its own borders against barbarian raiders, and the Vistulans experience an economic boom thanks to reduced tariffs.
However, many Eastern European tribes feel threatened by Rome's renewed interest in Europe, and several powerful tribal leaders demand that Rome remove its new fortifications in the new Confederacy, or risk invasion by the combined forces of much of eastern Europe. Despite his age, Celsus decides to join the reinforcements sent from Italy to reinforce the Roman troops already garrisoning the Confederacy. Unfortunately, while traveling through the Alps, Celsus is thrown by his horse. Despite the best efforts of his doctors, he dies of internal injuries as a result of this accident on April 25, 612. Fortunately, he had already declared Julius Chlorus, his top general in Germania, to be his successor.
Julius Chlorus (612-625 CE)
Julius begins he reign with a great deal on his plate, the most important of which being the growing tensions between Rome and the barbarians of Eastern Europe. Julius quickly realizes that he is not the diplomat his predecessor was, and decides simply call the barbarian's bluff, and resort to warfare. Although he is later criticized by many Romans for his warmongering, the war is short, and a decisive Roman victory. Julius leads four legions, supported by gliders and several thousand auxiliary cavalry, into the territory of the loose coalition of tribes which had risen to oppose Rome. although at a slight numerical disadvantage, Rome crushes the only army which rises to oppose them, and throughly squashes resistance before returning to their own territory.Julius, having spent much of his life fighting off invaders from Eastern Europe, realizes the drain that these invasions have on the Imperial treasury, and spends much of his reign strengthening Rome's border defenses so as to minimize the damage that these invasions can cause. In Asia, he strengthens the Persian border with a series of mountain fortresses that cover all of the major invasion routes that invaders form the steppes of central Asia had used in the past to invade the Middle East. In addition, he strengthens the already formidable Roman defensive positions in India. In Europe, he utilizes his predecessors tactic of creating satellite states dependent on the Roman economy for support. In the Danube Region, he creates the Kingdom of Dacia, which covers all of Rome's northern border from the Black Sea to the Vistulan Confederacy. He also creates the Federation of the Dnieper, which extends from the Roman province of Bosporia up the Dnieper river into OTL Belarus. The Federation quickly becomes notorious as one of the most dangerous places to be stationed as a Roman soldier, and veterans of Dneiper garrisons are highly regarded among the Roman military.
Julius's reign also sees several important technological advancements. In Europe, the aging beacon defense system in replaced with heliographs, which use reflected sunlight to transmit messages in a code similar to OTL Morse Code. in addition, glider operators are trained in the use of portable heliographs, which they carry on their flights, and use to transmit information to their commanders on the ground, without having to land to report.