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Several positive aspects of Augustus’ rule occurred. In terms of politics, Augustus successfully created a new order. Although the Senate was the chief deliberative body with certain powers, they were checked by the princeps, or first citizen, which was Augustus. One example of this power is making decrees. Furthermore, another positive creation was the princeps position. In actuality, it held no power; however, it was a positive innovation because it created a semblance of cooperation with the senate when, in reality, Augustus had maius imperium. Essentially, Augustus was slowly chipping away the power of the Senate without appearing as a dictator.
In terms of the army, Augustus created an army that contributed to the peace of the Roman Empire and the security of the princeps. Furthermore, another positive aspect of this army was the occurrence of Romanization to occur wherever the armies were settled. This was positive because it spread the Roman culture. Augustus’ creation of the army, which contained 28 legions, auxiliaries, and nine cohorts of praetorian guards, which protected the princeps, established him as the military commander, decreasing the chance for warfare between the previous general armies that were prominent in the early Republic. However, the praetorian guard, although positive in terms of protecting the princeps, later became a negative development as it maintained the ability of deposing emperors through assassination, which occurred several times, such as what happened with Caligula. They then forced the Senate to recognize Claudius, his uncle, as emperor.
Governing the provinces under Augustus was another development that may be viewed as positive. Augustus inaugurated a new system for governing in which he appointed deputies known as legates that governed the provinces. Although the senate could still appoint provincial governors, Augustus had the power to overrule their decisions, which enabled a more unified imperial rule. Furthermore, because a governor had to rely on local authorities, a substantial degree of self-government and local autonomy surfaced. Although this may seem negative because of the city-state’s ability to possibly undermine the emperor’s authority, Augustus’ rule prevented this from occurring since ccity councils of leading citizens made for stable local government. Also, he rewarded leading city-officials with Roman citizenship.
Another positive development under Augustus was the frontier policy he established. This showed Rome that their power was not unlimited. After the great catastrophe of 9 CE, in which Varus and three of Augustus’ legions were killed by Germans after advancing between the Danube and the Elbe, Augustus established the Rhine as their frontier between the Roman province of Gaul and the German tribes. When this positive development of curbing expansion and remaining within the frontiers was ignored by Trajan, who overextended Roman rule through his conquests, this proved negative for his successors, who resorted to a policy of retrenchment just to return the Roman empire to a reasonable governing size. For example, Hadrian withdrew Roman forces from Mesopotamia and built the Hadrian Wall, 80 miles long. Still, Trajan’s negative impact on expansion already made the empire vulnerable. For example, when frontiers troops were attacked, troops from other frontiers were brought in, leaving a part of the frontier unguarded. This lack of strategy contributed to the future invasions of the Germanic and surrounding tribes.
Augustan society was also a positive development that drove the direction of Roman civilization. First, his new social order won him the support of the senatorial order, allowed the equestrian order to have some power, and kept the lower classes from creating disturbances. Augustus created a social order with three classes. The first was the senatorial class. Although they held the most important positions and governed the provinces, Augustus decreased the amount of senators to about 600, added new members, and issued a requirement that they own one million sesterces to be in that order. The equestrian held lesser positions and owned 400,000 sesterces. Although the lower class held no power, they were provided with free grain and public spectacles to prevent revolts. The equestrian and lower classes also had the opportunity to advance to the next class.
One last positive aspect of Augustan rule was his religious and social reforms. While he restored priesthoods and temples, his initiation of a new religious cult strengthened the empire. The new cult was the cult of Augustus and Roma, the personification of the Roman state. Furthermore, his belief of the corruption of Roman morals led to new social legislation in hopes of restoring respectability to the upper classes and reversing the declining birthrate. He revised tax laws to penalize bachelors, widowers, and married people with less than three kids, limited feasts and made adultery a crime. He also undertook the physical rebuilding of Rome, taking Rome ‘from brick to marble.’
During Augustus’ rule, one positive development was in literature, where poets and historians reached their high point in literature. Virgil for example created The Aeneid, which was positive in fostering the idea that ruling was Rome’s gift. Horace is another distinguished poet who wrote the Satires, attacking movements, human weaknesses, and subjects such as greed. He also wrote the Epistles. Ovid was another poet whose work was a negative development toward Roman civilization. His frivolous series of love poems undermined Augustus’ attempts to reinstate morality in the population. For example, The Art of Love applauded loose sexual morals, while Augustus was trying to rid society of them. Livy was a historian whose contribution of the history of Rome remained the standard history of Rome for centuries.
A negative development that led to several more negative developments was the establishment of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Because Augustus outlived his desired successors, he resorted to allowing his stepson Tiberius to take the throne. From here, everything went downhill. From here, we see that emperors that choose their successor from their family result in failure. The four Julio-Claudians began undoing Augustus’ order. For example, they took over responsibilities Augustus had given to the Senate and began behaving as real rulers, increasing the opportunity for arbitrary and corrupt acts. The first was Tiberius, who tried to involve the senate in government. Caligula’s rule led to the new custom of the praetorian guard engaging in assassination to depose emperors. His tyrannical behavior and desire to be hailed as god, as well as his neglection of state affairs, led to his assassination and Claudius coming to rule. After Claudius, Nero’s reign caused the downfall of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero’s reign resulted in a negative development, not by the praetorian guard, but by the Roman legions and their ability to depose the emperor. This occurred for the first time through Galba.
Galba’s rule was temporary and the time period of 69 was the year of the four emperors. After their rule, Vespasian established the Flavian dynasty (69-96). His rule was a positive movement toward Roman civilization as it reestablished the economy on a sound basis after Nero and the destructive civil wars of 69. However, their use of the word emperor was a negative movement toward an absolute monarch.
5 Good Emperors
The five Good Emperors (96-180) contributed in a positive way toward Roman civilization as they were tolerant and diplomatic, respectable, cooperative with the Senate, ended arbitraty executions, and maintained peace in the empire. Furthermore, they created the new idea of adopting their successors. Nerva adopted Trajan, who was succeeded by Hadrian, who restored the military forces to good order. Antoninus Pius was his successor. The last of the five was Marcus Aurelius, who was viewed as a philosopher king. .
Five Good Emperor Rule
Positive aspects of their rule were the establishment of a program by Trajan to assist the poor in raising and educating their children. This positively affected the military as it created a larger pool of young men. They also engaged in building programs, such as Hadrian’s Pantheon that was one of the grandest ancient buildings in Rome.
Marcus Aurelius’ idea of allowing his son to rule resulted in assassinations and civil wars to occur, which negatively impacted the political structure of the empire. Furthermore, the development of the Severan dynasty caused the degeneration of the military monarchy created by Septimius Severus (193-211) to a military anarchy. This resulted in the next fifty years (235-284) to consist of civil war, bribery for emperorship, invasions, and internal turmoil. Furthermore, this internal turmoil enabled external invasions to occur as well. It also led to an unprecedented event to occur, the Roman emperor Valerian being captured and killed while in captivity, then displayed in Persia. Although Aurelian (270-275) built a wall and restored most of the boundaries, the central government broke down and provinces began to break away from the empire.
political collapse--> economy
This collapse almost caused the economic collapse of the third century, when the decline of the population, manpower, farm production, and the monetary system declined. This included the vanishing of the gold coins, dilution of the silver coins, and replacement by new coins of less value. This led to goods being used to pay soldiers, resulting in resentment and refusal of Romans to fight. As a result, the state resorted to hiring barbarians who cared little about Roman traditions.
2nd century economy
At its height in the 2nd century, one positive contribution in the direction of Roman civilization was the privileges of Roman citizenship, especially in 212 CE, when Caracalla gave Roman citizenship to every free inhabitant in the empire. This provided some unity of the people. Second was Romanization through the army, whose military camps became centers for the spread of the Latin language and Roman institutions and ways of thought and conduct. It encouraged the development of trade and local production, as well as urban centers. Also, cities experienced Romanization. For example, by 200 CE, the upper classes everywhere in the empire were Romanized, creating a unity in the culture.
The most positive development that occurred was Roman law. The study and codification of law, as well as the classification and compilation of basic legal principles established standards of justice that are recognizable today, such as being innocent until proven guilty. Essentially, the identification of the law of natuions with natural law led to natural rights.
Trade was also prosperous in the early empire. This trade enabled the importation of grain to feed the population, thus keeping them happy. Also, manufacturing and industry were at their high point in Italy. Stilll, agriculture remained the underlying basis of Roman prosperity. It still consisted of the Latifundia, worked by tenant farmers called coloni, who paid rent in labor, produce, and sometimes cash. Trade also increased the desire for luxury items, which caused a steady drain of gold and silver coins.
Aside from the Golden Age of Latin Literature, a Silver Age also occurred a century and a half after Augustus. This included Seneca, who stressed the basics of Stoicism, Tacitus, who contributed his Annals and the Histories, as well as Germania, and Juvenal, who wrote five books of satire. This period positively contributed rhetoric training and clever literary expressions.
In architecture, a positive contribution occurred through the use of concrete for the first time and curvilinear forms. This would enable the construction of massive buildings and roads.
Medicine was contributed to this period through the Greeks, many of which were slaves that served as doctors. This transformed the paterfamilia view of remedies and let to scientific medicine, which entered the Roman world in the third century BCE. Doctors were initially used in the army, but later, they were used by imperial officials and their families. This established public hospitals and doctors attached to gladiatorial schools as well, such as Galen, who became the court physician to Aurelius. Specialists also began to develop.
An extremely negative aspect towards Roman civilization was the development of gladiatorial shows. Although public entertainment was provided to keep the masses happy, it caused the development of an uncaring attitude. There were only two concerns, “Bread and Circuses.” Furthermore, the gladiatorial shows showed that slaughter was important in Roman culture. The gladiatorial shows caused extinction of several animals and demonstrated the bloodthirsty nature of the Roman people.
Aside from negative man-made spectacles, the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius was a negative impact on Roman development. It caused the burial of Pompeii and several other communities to become submerged under a mud flow.
The use of slaves was a negative impact on society as it caused unemployment among the free population. Because they worked high-status jobs, as well as were used on landed estates, they were used over the free. However, their numbers began declining Augustus’ defensive imperial policy and manumission.
- Women also took a more active role in society. This contributed to the future development of Roman civilization because women, such as Livia, Agripppina, etc. influenced politics. As the paterfamilias weakened, women were able to gain property rights, attend public spectacles, and operate businesses.
- Infanticide was a negative development that led to the declining birthrate. Roman laws were aimed at raising the number of children; yet, people continued killing them off.
The most positive development that occurred, but was viewed as very negative, was the development of Christianity. Although Augustus attempted to restore the pantheon of Greco-Roman gods, ritual, and introduced his imperial cult, mystery cults and religions were still present. Also, religions were tolerated. One was Judaism, which, after being placed under Roman direction, experienced divisions from within between the Sadduccees, Pharisees, Zealots, and Essenes. This is where the roots of Christianity are.
Jesus/ Paul/ Persecution
Jesus of Nazareth began preaching during the conflict in Judaea about the Kingdom of God and loving one another. However, he was seen as a revolutionary and killed. Although he died, he lived on in stories by word of mouth. Furthermore, Paul, a Jewish Roman citizen, further spread Christianity to not only Jews, but Gentiles. This led to the spread and development of Christian communities and churches. These communities were operated by both men and women. Although at first tolerated, eventually, Romans began to see Christianity as a threat and resorted to persecuting them. The martyrdom of these Christians did not diminish, but rather strengthened the religion, as their blood was the “seed of the Church” in the second and third centuries. The development of bishops created a hierarchy within the church, making it more organized. Although the emperor Decius attempted to persecute them systematically (calling them forward to worship the imperial cult), eventually, during the reign of Diocletian, it became too strong to eradicate.
During Diocletian’s reign, he created a new administrative system for a restructured empire. He created a tetrarchy, in which four rulers existed. The empire contained almost one hundred districts grouped into twelve dioceses, grouped into four prefectures, and divided into two parts, east and west, each ruled by an Augustus and Caesar. Because the obvious failure of one emperor proved dire in several circumstances, Diocletian resorted to two rulers per divided area. He also issued an edict establishing maximum wages and prices for the entire empire, which failed. Still, his attempts at a more administrative and organized empire positively contributed to the development of Roman civilization.
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