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The Roman Empire was the post-Republican phase of the ancient Roman civilization, characterized by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean. The term is used to describe the Roman state during and after the time of the first emperor, Augustus.
The Roman Republic, which preceded it, had been weakened and subverted through several civil wars. Several events are commonly proposed to mark the transition from Republic to Empire, including Julius Caesar's appointment as perpetual dictator (44 BC), the Battle of Actium (2 September 31 BC), and the Roman Senate's granting to Octavian the honorific Augustus (4 January 27 BC).
The Latin term was Imperium Romanum (Roman Empire), probably the best-known Latin expression where the word imperium denotes the sphere of human life (for example some countries - lands with people) subdued to military commander - imperator, under Roman rule. Roman expansion began in the days of the Republic and continued until its decline. Because of the Empire's vast extent and long endurance, Roman influence upon the language, religion, architecture, philosophy, law, and government of nations around the world lasts to this day.
Main article: Roman Empire (Wikipedia)
In 161 AD, Marcus Aurelius became the emperor of the mighty Roman Empire. He was the last of the "Five Good Emperors". After his death in 180 his son Commodus succeeded him and the Empire plunged into the Crisis of the Third Century. Constantine the Great briefly united the empire for about 30 years but it split up again after his death. The Eastern Roman Empire survived until it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1453, while the Western Roman Empire collapsed after barbarians invaded in 476.
PoD and Rise of the Empire
In this time-line, the first son and heir of Marcus Aurelius, Marcus Annius Verus Caesar, does not die of natural causes like in OTL. Instead, he becomes the next emperor after his father's death and becomes Emperor Verus in 180. He turned out to be an aggressive monarch who led his gigantic army to Northern Europe to pacify the "barbarians" of the north. By 203, Rome was in control of all of Europe except Russia, Iceland, Scotland, and Ireland.
Verus is succeeded by his son Pertinax, who continues his father's conquests and begins the lengthy conquest of Northern Africa. He and his successors led the Roman army as it swept through Africa, conquering most of East Africa (including Ethiopia, Somali, and Sudan) and the rest of OTL Algeria. Beginning in the late 4th Century, Huns from Asia struck the Northeastern part of the Roman Empire, plundering as they headed towards Rome. The Roman army fell apart as the swift Hunnic army led by Attila the Hun invaded. Rome was sacked twice, but soon recovered. After Attila died in 453, Emperor Avitus recovered the lost European land and re-established order. Many of the new African colonies had been lost due to lack of military aid and political attention. After Avitus died in 461, the empire fell into chaos. The Empire was reunited by Emperor Justinian I, a devout Christian, who moved the capital from Rome to Byzantium. After he died on November 14, 565; his son Justin II succeeded him and reclaimed the lost provinces of Aegyptus (OTL: Egypt) and Germania (OTL: Germany). During Justinian's reign, a deadly plague killed millions of people and greatly weakened the empire.
In the early 13th Century, Emperor Timothy III's army invaded Iraq, Azerbaijan, and southwestern Iran. These conquests made it possible for the Romans to meet the Serican Empire .
Romans meet the Sericans
On the third month of 1278 of the Roman calendar, the Roman army entered the city of Shahr-e-Rey in Persia unopposed, as the force of 40 thousand crushed all who resisted. A month later, just as the Roman soldiers were about to exit, a force of 45 thousand Serican soldiers approached the city. The Romans were frightened, as the army had brought archers, cannons, and other siege weapons that rivaled their Roman counterparts. The Roman general stopped the advancing army and inquired their identities. The Sericans misunderstood them and thought it was a declaration of war. And so the two great armies clashed in what would be known as the Rey Incident.
Both sides suffered light casualties, but after a day of fighting both sides withdrew and sent negotiators. According to Serican sources, a Roman archer yelled, "Sorry!" in Persian to a Persian-speaking officer during the battle and the officer ordered to stop and withdraw. Roman sources say that a Serican officer shouted, "We are from the Land of the Silk, the great Song!" to the Romans and they withdrew. And yet Muslim sources claim that the people of Rey, tired of the destruction, ran out of their homes and between the two armies. They claim after the battle the Generals of both the Serican army and the Roman army converted to Islam after-wards. However, what all three sides agree is that the Sericans and Romans immediately established diplomatic relations with each other and agreed to make Shahr-e-Rey a neutral city for trading purposes. Silk and paper arrived in mass amounts all over Europa, while Roman and Greek books are bought by the Serican people.
In 1321 Serican chancellor Yangzi Liang (扬子 亮）arrived in Byzantium to meet with Roman consuls Quintus Faenius Ignatius and Vibius Calvisius Nennius, marking a new era of Pax Eurasia. The Romans were eager to trade with the Sericans after a famine killed millions in Northern Europe. In 1356, the Romans force the Vikings to get out of Europe and crush English revolts in Britannia.
The Black Death
The Black Death was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. It is widely thought to have been an outbreak of bubonic plague caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, but this view has recently been challenged. Usually thought to have started in Central Asia, it had reached the Crimea by 1346 and from there, probably carried by fleas residing on the black rats that were regular passengers on merchant ships, it spread throughout the Mediterranean and Europe. Due to the wide extent of the Roman Empire, the plague spread to many places of Europa and Northern Africa. The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europa's population. This has been seen as creating a series of religious, social and economic upheavals which had profound effects on the course of European history. It took 150 years for Europa's population to recover. The plague returned at various times, resulting in a larger number of deaths, until it left Europa in the 19th century.
The Black Death caused many Jews, friars, foreigners, beggars, and pilgrims to be prosecuted and killed throughout Europa because they were thought to be the source of the problem. Differences in cultural and lifestyle practices also led to persecution. Because Jews had a religious obligation to be ritually clean they did not use water from public wells and so were suspected of causing the plague by deliberately poisoning the wells. Christian mobs attacked Jewish settlements across Europa; by 1351, sixty major and 150 smaller Jewish communities had been destroyed, and more than 350 separate massacres had occurred. This persecution reflected more than ethnic hatred. In many places, attacking Jews was a way to criticize the emperor who protected them (Jews were under the protection of the emperor, and often called the "imperial treasure"), and monarchic fiscal policies, which were often administered by Jews. The plague also caused several sects of Christianity to break off. These included the Church of Cross and Thorns (a hybrid Scandinavian Christian sect which promoted human sacrifice), the Gallic Church (a more moderate Church, much like OTL Episcopal Church), and Vrynnicism ( a sect much like the Calvinist hardliners in the OTL Netherlands, which evolved into a criminal organization).
In 1393, war broke out between the Roman Empire and the Song Empire of Serica. Rome's allies, the Islamic Abbasid Caliphate and the Grand Duchy of Moscow joined the war. Although Allied forces outnumbered the scattered Serican forces in the Middle East, the Sericans had powerful cannons and gunpowder, weapons not familiar to the Romans at the time. After winning decisive victories in Persia, the Romans push the Sericans out.
Decline of the Empire
The war cost the Roman Empire more money than they expected, and the government easily ran out of money. Discontent heavily-taxed provincial residents had rebelled against the central government and declared independence from the empire, forming several independent states. The Islamic Abbasid Caliphate captured the dioceses of Aegyptus and the Oriens. The Roman government, now divided into several political fractions, was unable to do anything and the empire collapsed into several smaller states when Emperor Manuel II was killed by a rioters in 1418. The empire was declared over and the remaining Roman territories formed the Roman Commonwealth, one of the first modern republics.
Main Article: Roman Government (Wikipedia)
Although there existed a democratic Roman Senate, the de facto ruler was actually the emperor. Emperors were worshiped as gods in the early Roman Empire. After Christianity became the state religion, the Emperor would be hailed as the "earthly representative of divine will".
Emperors had the power to preside and control the senate, to declare war, to ratify treaties, and to negotiate with foreign leaders. They could also control senate membership. An Emperor was the de jure leader of the church in Byzantium, although the Ecumenical Patriarch of Byzantium managed most religious matters.
Realistically, the main support of an emperor's power and authority was the military. Being paid by the imperial treasury, the legionaries also swore an annual military oath of loyalty towards him, called the Sacramentum.
The death of an emperor led to a crucial period of uncertainty and crisis. In theory the senate was entitled to choose the new emperor, but most emperors chose their own successors, usually a close family member. The new emperor had to seek a swift acknowledgement of his new status and authority in order to stabilize the political landscape. No emperor could hope to survive, much less to reign, without the allegiance and loyalty of the Praetorian Guard and of the legions. To secure their loyalty, several emperors paid the donativum, a monetary reward.
When the empire was established in 27 BC, the Emperor and Senate were two equal branches of government. However, the senate was soon reduced to a vehicle through which the emperor disguised his autocratic powers under the cloak of republicanism.
Many emperors showed a certain degree of respect towards this ancient institution, while others were notorious for ridiculing it. During senate meetings, the emperor sat between the two consuls, and usually acted as the presiding officer. Higher ranking senators spoke before lower ranking senators, although the emperor could speak at any time. By the third century, the senate had been reduced to a glorified municipal body.
When Emperor Justinian I moved the capital to Byzantium, the Senate was replaced by leading members of the Church and officials of the Imperial Court.
Main article: Roman army (Wikipedia)
During and after the civil war, Octavian reduced the huge number of the legions (over 60) to a much more manageable and affordable size (28). Several legions, particularly those with doubtful loyalties, were simply disbanded. Other legions were amalgamated, a fact suggested by the title Gemina (Twin).
In AD 9, Germanic tribes wiped out three full legions in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. This disastrous event reduced the number of the legions to 25. The total of the legions would later be increased again and for the next 300 years always be a little above or below 30.
During Avitus' reign, the number of legions rose to 50 to help fight the Huns and pacify the rebellious provinces. Later on the number increased to 60 during the Silk Wars.
Augustus also created the Praetorian Guard: nine cohorts ostensibly to maintain the public peace which were garrisoned in Italy. Better paid than the legionaries, the Praetorians also served less time; instead of serving the standard 25 years of the legionaries, they retired after 16 years of service.
While the Auxillia (Latin: auxilia = supports) are not as famous as the legionaries, they were of major importance. Unlike the legionaries, the auxilia were recruited from among the non-citizens. Organized in smaller units of roughly cohort strength, they were paid less than the legionaries, and after 25 years of service were rewarded with Roman citizenship, also extended to their sons. According to Tacitus there were roughly as many auxiliaries as there were legionaries. Since at this time there were 25 legions of around 5,000 men each, the auxilia thus amounted to around 125,000 men, implying approximately 250 auxiliary regiments. In 1209 AD the elite Northern Legion was formed. Using warriors recruited out of Britannia and Scandinavia, they were used as scouts, guards, and pursuit troops. Their duties were later expanded and they became somewhat like modern special operations forces. Later emperors used them to counter the power of the Praetorian Guard.
The Roman Navy (Latin: Classis, lit. "fleet") not only aided in the supply and transport of the legions, but also helped in the protection of the frontiers in the rivers Rhine and Danube. Another of its duties was the protection of the very important maritime trade routes against the threat of pirates. Therefore it patrolled the whole of the Mediterranean Sea, parts of the North Atlantic (coasts of Hispania, Gaul, and Britannia), parts of the Persian Gulf, and had also a naval presence in the Black Sea. Nevertheless the army was considered the senior and more prestigious branch.
The imperial government was, as all governments, interested in the issue and control of the currency in circulation. To mint coins was a political act: the image of the ruling emperor appeared on most issues, and coins were a means of showing his image throughout the empire. Also featured were predecessors, empresses, other family members, and heirs apparent. By issuing coins with the image of an heir his legitimacy and future succession was proclaimed and reinforced. Political messages and imperial propaganda such as proclamations of victory and acknowledgements of loyalty also appeared in certain issues.
Legally only the emperor and the Senate had the authority to mint coins inside the empire. However the authority of the Senate was mainly in name only. In general, the imperial government issued gold and silver coins while the Senate issued bronze coins marked by the legend "SC", short for Senatus Consulto "by decree of the Senate". However, bronze coinage could be struck without this legend. Some Greek cities were allowed to mint. bronze and certain silver coins, which today are known as Greek Imperials (also Roman Colonials or Roman Provincials). The imperial mints were under the control of a chief financial minister, and the provincial mints were under the control of the imperial provincial procurators. The Senatorial mints were governed by officials of the Senatorial treasury.