3d History

Roman Empire

The Roman Empiredominated the mediterranean and western europe 2000 years ago.

The Roman empire consisted of the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and beyond that were under Roman rule from the end of the 500 year old Roman Republic, at the end the first Century BC, to AD1453 when Constantinople was finally overrun by the the advancing Turkish Empire. Initially controlled from Rome, in AD285 the Empire was split into two halves: a Western empire ruled from Rome and an Eastern empire ruled from Constantinople; after which the Western empire fell into steady decline due mainly to incursions by northern tribes and internal disputes between various claimants for the title of Emperor. The Eastern Empire continued on, occasionally re-conquering lands in the west, until its final collapse in AD1453.


Language: Latin and Greek
Capitols: Rome, Constantinople (E), Milan (W), Ravenna (W)
Dates: 27BC - Augustus proclaimed Augustus
AD285 - Empire split into Eastern and Western halves
  AD330 - Constantine proclaims Constantinople as capitol of the empire.
  AD1453 - Constantinople is captured by the Turks
Population: Over 80 million at its maximum

The Roman Empire was ruled by an Emperor. The first one was Octavian, the adopted son of Julius Caesar. When he became Princeps (Emperor) meaning first amongst equals he used the name Augustus. At first there was a definite succession of the line of Augustus but there were times when there were more than one Emperor as different contenders (usually Generals) fought over the title. The list below records the most prominent person to be Emperor around the dates. In practice there could be as many as four at the same time, especially towards the end when the Empire was too big to be governed by one man.



31-14 Augustus
14-37 Tiberius
37-41 Gaius (Caligula)
41-54 Claudius
54-68  Nero
68-69 Galba
69 Otho
69 Vitellius
69-79 Vespasian
79-81 Titus
81-96 Domitian
96-98 Nerva
98-117 Trajan
117-138 Hadrian
138-161 Antoninus Pius
161-180 Marcus Aurelius 
161-166 Lucius Verus
180-192 Commodus
192-193 Pertinax
193 Didius Julianus
193-211 Septimius Severus
211-217 Antoninus (Caracalla)
217-218 Macrinus
218 Diadumenianus
218-222 Elagabalus
222-235 Severus Alexander 
235-238 Maximinus Thrax
238 Gordian I 
238 Gordian II
238 Pupienus (Maximus)
238 Balbinus
238-244 Gordian III
244-249 Philip the Arab
249-251 Decius
251-253 Trebonianus Gallus
253 Aemilius Aemilianus
253-260 Valerian
253-268 Gallienus
268-270 Claudius II Gothicus 
270-275 Aurelian
275-276 Tacitus
276 Florian 
276-282 Probus
282-283 Carus
283-284 Numerian
284-305  Diocletian
305-313 Maximinus Daia
305-307 Severus II
306-312 Maxentius
308-324 Licinius
306-337 Constantine I
337-340 Constantine II
337-350 Constans I
337-361 Constantius II
361-363 Julian II
363-364 Jovian
364-375 Valentinian I
364-378 Valens
375-383 Gratian
375-392 Valentinian II
378-395 Theodosius I the Great



393-423 Honorius 395-408 Arcadius
423-425 Johannes (John) 408-450 Theodosius II
425-455 Valentinian III    
455 Petronius Maximus    
455-456 Avitus 450-457 Marcian
457-461 Majorian 457-474 Leo I
461-465 Libius Severus    
467-472 Anthemius    
472 Olybrius    
473-474 Glycerius    
474-475 Julius Nepos 474 Leo II
475-476 Romulus ("Augustulus") 474-491 Zeno


Octavian was the adopted son of Julius Caesar. He is probably the most important person in the history of the Roman Empire. When Julius Caesar was assassinated the Republic was in disarray. Julius Caesar effectively had become king, something that the leaders of the Republic abhorred, and it cost him his life.  The Republic was ruled by a Senate of annually elected but had no formal constitution; the law was defined by tradition, precedent and the consensus of the Senate. This system was the cause of the problems in the Republic as politicians set dangerous precedents for their own advantage and started to use violence and intimidation to get their own way. This was effectively how Caesar gained his dominant position of dictator in the Senate. Caesar made no attempt at sorting out the system of government. Caesar's will named his adopted son Octavian, the grandson of his sister Julia, as his heir.

On Caesar's death there was a power struggle as several factions tried to gain the position of power that Caesar had left. Octavian, adding Caesar to his name, was amongst these factions, along with other, mutually antagonistic, powerful people like Mark Anthony, Caesar's friend, and Brutus, one of Caesar's assassins. In 30BC Octavian, a shrewd politician and able leader, emerged from the turmoil as the sole leader and saviour of the Roman Republic.

The Republic style of government had failed and Octavian recognised this. He also recognised the dangers of being perceived as a king, the mistake Julius Caesar had made. Octavian set about consolidating his rule by legal means, but he was also careful to respect tradition. Octavian took the title Augustus a term that had religious and social meaning but not one that suggested political supremacy. His titles were never accepted on a lifetime basis, they were all for a given period of 5 years or so. In this way he created the illusion that he didn't want absolute authority whilst patiently acquiring it. This assured that the aristocracy would not feel threatened and turn on him as they did Julius Caesar.