View Poll Results: Who was the Best Roman Emperor?

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  • Augustus (reigned 27 B.C. to 14 A.D.)

    28 30.43%
  • Claudius (r. 41 - 54 A.D.)

    4 4.35%
  • Vespasian (r. 69 - 79 A.D.)

    5 5.43%
  • Trajan (r. 98 - 117 A.D.)

    9 9.78%
  • Hadrian (r. 117 - 138 A.D.)

    3 3.26%
  • Antoninus Pius (r. 138 - 161 A.D.)

    1 1.09%
  • Marcus Aurelius (r. 161 - 180 A.D.)

    22 23.91%
  • Diocletian (r. 284 - 305 A.D.)

    6 6.52%
  • Constantine I (sole Emperor 324 - 337 A.D.)

    5 5.43%
  • Theodosius I (r. 379 - 395 A.D.)

    0 0%
  • Justinian I (r. 527 - 565 A.D.)

    4 4.35%
  • Heraclius (r. 610 - 641 A.D.)

    2 2.17%
  • Leo III (r. 717 - 741 A.D.)

    0 0%
  • Basil II (r. 976 - 1025 A.D.)

    3 3.26%
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Thread: Best Roman Emperor

  1. #1
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    Best Roman Emperor

    Who was the best Roman Emperor? If anyone has any questions about the Emperors listed, just post them. My choice is Augustus. He was an able military commander, as demonstrated in his successful execution of the civil wars that followed Julius Caesar's death. Certainly the prudence of Augustus was not easily excelled. He also initiated numerous buildings and public works throughout the Empire. His reign was long, prosperous, and glorious!

    Hail Caesar!
    Last edited by Bulgaroctonus; 04 Dec 05, at 00:34.

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    A Nietszchian admiring a Tyrant, how unexpected. He slammed home the last nail in the Republican coffin.

    This said, I chose M. Aurelius.

    I have a question for you: Why are you focusing on the Empire? Why don't you ask who the best Consul was? Or the Best Senator? Or Best Praetor?
    Last edited by Praxus; 04 Dec 05, at 00:56.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Praxus
    A Nietszchian admiring a Tyrant, how unexpected. He slammed home the last nail in the Republican coffin.
    Remember, Nietzsche wrote glowingly of Napoleon. Do you think the Ubermensch rules through committee? Nietzsche's ideas are not so easily democratic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Praxus
    This said, I chose M. Aurelius.
    I can see why you chose him, the supposed 'Philosophic Emperor'. Fair enough, he is my second choice. I admire him not for his philosophical writings. Instead, I admire his tireless military devotion to the Roman state. He spent 8 out of his 19 years as Emperor fighting the German tribes. If only he had a better successor!

    Quote Originally Posted by Praxus
    I have a question for you: Why are you focusing on the Empire? Why don't you ask who the best Consul was? Or the Best Senator? Or Best Praetor?
    Might as well focus on the Empire as much as anything else. Of course the other categories you suggested might make good polls, but I decided to do Empire for now. Also, the best Emperors far excelled the best senator, praetor, or consul. At heart I am an imperialist. What can I say? I long for the days of glory and Empire! The Emperors evoke greater awe than the other Roman bureacrats, and it is their names that come down to us in the present age.

    Additionally, the Empire composes a greater part of the Roman society's existence as a free entity. The Republic extended from 510 to 27 B.C., while the Empire lasted from 27 B.C. to 1453 A.D.

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    Augustus or Marcus Aurelius. Constantine the Great is also up there. A better question would be which one was the most depraved.
    "The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world. So wake up, Mr. Freeman. Wake up and smell the ashes." G-Man

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    Quote Originally Posted by leibstandarte10
    Augustus or Marcus Aurelius. A better question would be which one was the most depraved.
    Well, depravity was not one the leading characteristics of either men. Depravity belongs foremost to Caligula and Nero. However, if I had to pick, I'd say Augustus was more depraved. I say this because no one can outdo Marcus Aurelius in prudence and foresight, after all he did write The Meditations.

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    HKHolic Senior Contributor leib10's Avatar
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    Oh no, not between the two, but of all the Roman Emperors.
    "The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world. So wake up, Mr. Freeman. Wake up and smell the ashes." G-Man

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    Quote Originally Posted by leibstandarte10
    Oh no, not between the two, but of all the Roman Emperors.
    Caligula.

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    HKHolic Senior Contributor leib10's Avatar
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    Caligula, Nero, and Commodus were all pretty bad, to name a few.
    "The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world. So wake up, Mr. Freeman. Wake up and smell the ashes." G-Man

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    Might as well focus on the Empire as much as anything else. Of course the other categories you suggested might make good polls, but I decided to do Empire for now. Also, the best Emperors far excelled the best senator, praetor, or consul. At heart I am an imperialist. What can I say? I long for the days of glory and Empire! The Emperors evoke greater awe than the other Roman bureacrats, and it is their names that come down to us in the present age.
    The Emperors don't evoke much awe in me, nor did they evoke much awe in the Founding Fathers. George Washington's favorite play was Cato by Joseph Addison. It was the story of Marcus Porcius Cato the Younger, a Stoic, and Republican who fought to the bitter end in Africa against Julius Caesar. When all was lost, he read Plato, then took out his sword and killed himself. He could not bear to live in a world where he was a slave to a tyrant. They held in awe, such men as Marcus Brutus, who commited tyrannicide against Caesar. In that time the history of the Empire was viewed largely as irrelivent or at best, an example of what to prevent. This love of the Caesars is primarily a recent phenomenon.

    What you think of a man is directly related to your philosophical outlook. So speak for yourself. Re-examine your ideas.
    Last edited by Praxus; 04 Dec 05, at 03:04.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Praxus
    The Emperors don't evoke much awe in me, nor did they evoke much awe in the Founding Fathers. George Washington's favorite play was Cato by Joseph Addison. It was the story of Marcus Porcius Cato the Younger, a Stoic, and Republican who fought to the bitter end in Africa against Julius Caesar. When all was lost, he read Plato, then took out his sword and killed himself. He could not bear to live in a world where he was a slave to a tyrant. They held in awe, such men as Marcus Brutus, who commited tyrannicide against Caesar. In that time the history of the Empire was viewed largely as irrelivent or at best, an example of what to prevent. This love of the Caesars is primarily a recent phenomenon.
    In my view, Caesar was murdered by jealous underlings that coveted and resented his power. Julius Caesar was a brilliant general, a populist (at least ostensibly), and an able administrator. The fact is, the Republic was never very democratic. It was ruled by the optimates , a corrupt, elitist, and ossified group of nobles. When the Gracchi did try to introduce democratic reforms, the aristocracy killed them. When the Republic ended, it wasn't as if some great egalitarian system died with it. The Republic had long outgrown its usefulness and was only a burden on the expansion of Roman power. The Senate behaved just like the depraved Emperors, the only difference being that its corruption was spread among many people.

    I tire of idealistic interpretations of people like Cato and Brutus, and all those heros of the old Republic. Cato killed himself because he was inept and lost to Caesar. Caesar was stronger and smarter than Cato, and forced Cato into a position of intolerable weakness. The only reason people like Cato and Brutus didn't want to be subject to a 'tyrant' is because they preferred their own fairly despotic oligarchy. Everyone acts for self-interest, and dressing up people like Brutus and Cato only hides the true motives of their actions.

    Brutus was simply a traitor to Caesar. It is important to note that Brutus served Pompey, the man who had killed Brutus' own father. So much for filial piety! After the disaster of the Battle of Pharsalus, Brutus wrote Caesar with apologies and Caesar immediately forgave him. Caesar accepted him into his inner circle and made him governor of Gaul when he left for Africa in pursuit of Cato and Metellus Scipio. In the next year (45 BC), Caesar nominated him to be a praetor. For all of Caesar's mercy and graciousness, Brutus killed him.

    Also, after Caesar was killed, the whole of Rome rose up against the conspirators, who were not viewed as the saviours of Rome. Cassius, Brutus, and all those other dogs robbed Rome and history of one of the world's greatest leaders. Imagine if Caesar had gone on to conquer Parthia and beyond as he had plans to do.

    Dante considered Brutus to be the epitome of shameful betrayal, and in his Inferno section of the Divine Comedy (Inferno, XXXIV, 64-67), portrayed Brutus being chewed, but never consumed, by Satan, along with Judas Iscariot and Cassius at the very lowest level of Hell.

    Anyway, who cares? I take satisfaction in knowing that Brutus only achieved a pathetic delaying action. Augustus took power and that was that. The triumph of strength over useless conservatism and scheming.

    Quote Originally Posted by Praxus
    What you think of a man is directly related to your philosophical outlook. So speak for yourself. Re-examine your ideas.
    I do speak for myself. Of course we have philosophical differences. I don't think I need to re-examine my ideas. You seem to be a classical egalitarian and idealist, surely a product of the French Enlightenment, and that's just fine. On the other hand, I am not an egalitarian or necessarily a believer in Enlightenment ideas, and I am certainly not an idealist. I like concentration of power in the hands of single skilled ruler, "Enlightened despotism."

    Remember that I made my WAB debut on the thread "If You Were Supreme Dictator."

    Hail Caesar!
    Last edited by Bulgaroctonus; 04 Dec 05, at 04:57.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bulgaroctonus
    In my view, Caesar was murdered by jealous underlings that coveted and resented his power. Julius Caesar was a brilliant general, a populist (at least ostensibly), and an able administrator. The fact is, the Republic was never very democratic. It was ruled by the optimates , a corrupt, elitist, and ossified group of nobles. When the Gracchi did try to introduce democratic reforms, the aristocracy killed them. When the Republic ended, it wasn't as if some great egalitarian system died with it. The Republic had long outgrown its usefulness and was only a burden on the expansion of Roman power. The Senate behaved just like the depraved Emperors, the only difference being that its corruption was spread among many people.
    The Republic was never Democratic, nor did I ever claim it to be. It is in fact a mixture of Aristocracy, Democracy, and Diarchy. The Plebians from the time of the second punic war to the end of the Republic could actually become senators and consuls of Rome, in case you were unaware. Furthermore they had their own section of Government - the popular assembly. This assembly was quite powerful as was shown by their capacity to raise the Master of Horse to the same level as Dictator during the 2nd Punic War. Of course there was corruption, some of it good, and some of it bad, but that is an invalid means of comparison, because this corruption existed under the Empire, and perhaps even to a greater degree.

    Oh and please demonstrate how exactly Brutus was a "Jealous Underling". No ancient source ever makes that claim, so I am wondering how you or some modern "historian" came up with it.

    I tire of idealistic interpretations of people like Cato and Brutus, and all those heros of the old Republic. Cato killed himself because he was inept and lost to Caesar. Caesar was stronger and smarter than Cato, and forced Cato into a position of intolerable weakness. The only reason people like Cato and Brutus didn't want to be subject to a 'tyrant' is because they preferred their own fairly despotic oligarchy. Everyone acts for self-interest, and dressing up people like Brutus and Cato only hides the true motives of their actions.
    If he was inept or not is quite irrelivent. And no, not everybody acts in their self-interest. Brutus and Cato did act in their rational self-interest by desiring the death of a tyrant.

    It's easy to sweep away the Republic as some corrupt oligarch, it also happens to be wrong.

    Brutus was simply a traitor to Caesar. It is important to note that Brutus served Pompey, the man who had killed Brutus' own father. So much for filial piety! After the disaster of the Battle of Pharsalus, Brutus wrote Caesar with apologies and Caesar immediately forgave him. Caesar accepted him into his inner circle and made him governor of Gaul when he left for Africa in pursuit of Cato and Metellus Scipio. In the next year (45 BC), Caesar nominated him to be a praetor. For all of Caesar's mercy and graciousness, Brutus killed him.
    Just because a tyrant treats you well does not change the fact that he is a tyrant.

    I do speak for myself. Of course we have philosophical differences. I don't think I need to re-examine my ideas. You seem to be a classical egalitarian and idealist, surely a product of the French Enlightenment, and that's just fine. On the other hand, I am not an egalitarian or necessarily a believer in Enlightenment ideas, and I am certainly not an idealist. I like concentration of power in the hands of single skilled ruler, "Enlightened despotism."
    I believe you do. Read Atlas Shrugged or OPAR (Objectivism the Philosophy of Ayn Rand).
    Last edited by Praxus; 04 Dec 05, at 16:45.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Praxus
    The Republic was never Democratic, nor did I ever claim it to be. It is in fact a mixture of Aristocracy, Democracy, and Diarchy. The Plebians from the time of the second punic war to the end of the Republic could actually become senators and consuls of Rome, in case you were unaware.
    I am aware. Statistically, that almost never happened. The amount of aristocratic and military bureaucrats far outstrips the few peasant rulers. And don't mention Cincinnatus.

    Quote Originally Posted by Praxus
    Furthermore they had their own section of Government - the popular assembly. This assembly was quite powerful as was shown by their capacity to raise the Master of Horse to the same level as Dictator during the 2nd Punic War. Of course there was corruption, some of it good, and some of it bad, but that is an invalid means of comparison, because this corruption existed under the Empire, and perhaps even to a greater degree.
    I am aware of the occasional plebeian triumphs, but I am sure you are also aware of the immense number of aristocratic rulers. The eternal equation, wealth=power, found great expression in Republican Rome. As I said below, I'm not inherently against corruption, I don't like it because it decreases effectiveness. However, I dislike the last decades of the Republic, when it became a plaything in the hands of any general with an army. The Pax Romana was the most orderly and efficient period in Roman, and maybe European, history. Of course, the Empire had its long bouts of depravity. However, the fact that in 1025

    Oh and please demonstrate how exactly Brutus was a "Jealous Underling". No ancient source ever makes that claim, so I am wondering how you or some modern "historian" came up with it.



    Quote Originally Posted by Praxus
    If he was inept or not is quite irrelivent.
    If Cato had won the war, he wouldn't be killing himself.

    Quote Originally Posted by Praxus
    And no, not everybody acts in their self-interest.
    I'll certainly cross swords on that point, everyone does act in self-interest. Philosophy thread arise! [****led roar in the background ---- "Yes, master"]

    Quote Originally Posted by Praxus
    Brutus and Cato did act in their rational self-interest by desiring the death of a tyrant.
    No, that was their irrational appeasement of their rigid moral and ethical code of politics. First, Cato died before Caesar was even dead. Secondly, Brutus achieved nothing in the death of Caesar. He only allowed Augustus to rise and inaugurate an imperial system that lasted in a powerful position for more than a millenium. Brutus' 'rational self-interest' would have been to stay Caesar's friend and reap the benefits of a golden age.

    Did they actually think they would beat Caesar in the end? After Pompey was so hesitant at Dyrrachium?

    Quote Originally Posted by Praxus
    It's easy to sweep away the Republic as some corrupt oligarch, it also happens to be wrong.
    The Republic did its job for a while, but it was corrupt. The Empire was also fairly corrupt. However, what I am concerned with is efficiency, military strength, and political cohesion. The Republic was operating quite well until people like Marius and Sulla started going at it. It was evident that there was so much power flowing into Rome that the warring generals were going to take the thing down. What people like Brutus didn't realize is that someone like Caesar was essential to keep the Roman world together. If it hadn't been Caesar, it would have been someone else, perhaps Pompey.

    For all of the paltry plebeian achievements, the Republic was an oligarchy. Rememeber that massive participation from the provinces in the senate didn't start until the Imperial period.

    Of course, the Senate could have gone the way of British history, and maintained the power of the representative body, but I find it unlikely.

    "If father had had his way, the Empire would be torn apart. You do see that? Don't you?"

    "It takes an Emperor to rule an Empire"

    Quote Originally Posted by Praxus
    I believe you do. Read Atlas Shrugged or OPAR (Objectivism the Philosophy of Ayn Rand).
    I understand you have a different worldview than mine. I won't be reading Ayn Rand anytime soon. If you can do it briefly, what is it about my ideas that you think is in error?
    Last edited by Bulgaroctonus; 05 Dec 05, at 05:22.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bulgaroctonus
    I am aware. Statistically, that almost never happened. The amount of aristocratic and military bureaucrats far outstrips the few peasant rulers. And don't mention Cincinnatus.


    I am aware of the occasional plebeian triumphs, but I am sure you are also aware of the immense number of aristocratic rulers. The eternal equation, wealth=power, found great expression in Republican Rome. As I said below, I'm not inherently against corruption, I don't like it because it decreases effectiveness. However, I dislike the last decades of the Republic, when it became a plaything in the hands of any general with an army. The Pax Romana was the most orderly and efficient period in Roman, and maybe European, history. Of course, the Empire had its long bouts of depravity. However, the fact that in 1025
    Actually in Ancient Rome, patrician!=aristocrat. There were many plebeien families dominant in politics, such as the Licinii and the Porcii while there were patrician families, such as the Sergii or the Julii until Caesar's father, who were out of power. The few "new men" who weren't from the military like Cicero were obscenely rich landowner's whose families had never before been in involved in politics. They still had the same interests (keeping their money) as the rest of the noble families.


    Oh and please demonstrate how exactly Brutus was a "Jealous Underling". No ancient source ever makes that claim, so I am wondering how you or some modern "historian" came up with it.
    Maybe Marcus Brutus wasn't, but Cassius, Trebonius, Decimus Brutus, Casca...


    No, that was their irrational appeasement of their rigid moral and ethical code of politics. First, Cato died before Caesar was even dead. Secondly, Brutus achieved nothing in the death of Caesar. He only allowed Augustus to rise and inaugurate an imperial system that lasted in a powerful position for more than a millenium. Brutus' 'rational self-interest' would have been to stay Caesar's friend and reap the benefits of a golden age.
    I'd say it was more their desire to keep the top heavy distribution of wealth in Rome.

    For all of the paltry plebeian achievements, the Republic was an oligarchy. Rememeber that massive participation from the provinces in the senate didn't start until the Imperial period.
    The plebians who were actually succesful had the same interests as the rest of the oligarchy, preserving the dominant social and economic status of wealthy landowners (e.g. taking all of the Ager Publicus, using only slave labor, tax farming the provinces, no taxes inside of Italy) The ones who wanted to help the poor were killed.
    "Its true, we add insult to injury, but... you add the injury"
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bulgaroctonus
    I am aware. Statistically, that almost never happened. The amount of aristocratic and military bureaucrats far outstrips the few peasant rulers. And don't mention Cincinnatus.
    One example disproves the blanket assertion that you made.

    I am aware of the occasional plebeian triumphs, but I am sure you are also aware of the immense number of aristocratic rulers. The eternal equation, wealth=power, found great expression in Republican Rome. As I said below, I'm not inherently against corruption, I don't like it because it decreases effectiveness. However, I dislike the last decades of the Republic, when it became a plaything in the hands of any general with an army. The Pax Romana was the most orderly and efficient period in Roman, and maybe European, history. Of course, the Empire had its long bouts of depravity. However, the fact that in 1025
    In what manner was the Empire the most "orderly and efficient period in Roman... history"?

    I'll certainly cross swords on that point, everyone does act in self-interest. Philosophy thread arise! [****led roar in the background ---- "Yes, master"]
    People tend to act in their interest, but they don't always act in their own interest. For example, Muslim Americans giving money to terrorist organizations whether they wish to believe it or not, is not in their interest. It doesn't matter what they think in this respect, what matters is the truth.


    No, that was their irrational appeasement of their rigid moral and ethical code of politics. First, Cato died before Caesar was even dead. Secondly, Brutus achieved nothing in the death of Caesar. He only allowed Augustus to rise and inaugurate an imperial system that lasted in a powerful position for more than a millenium. Brutus' 'rational self-interest' would have been to stay Caesar's friend and reap the benefits of a golden age.
    The Byzantine Empire is not Roman! Calling them Roman is like calling us British. Furthermore , Longevity is not an accurate measurement of a society.


    The Republic did its job for a while, but it was corrupt. The Empire was also fairly corrupt. However, what I am concerned with is efficiency, military strength, and political cohesion. The Republic was operating quite well until people like Marius and Sulla started going at it. It was evident that there was so much power flowing into Rome that the warring generals were going to take the thing down. What people like Brutus didn't realize is that someone like Caesar was essential to keep the Roman world together. If it hadn't been Caesar, it would have been someone else, perhaps Pompey.
    When the Roman Republic was just a few cities and their allies back in the 4th Century, they were sacked by the Gauls and yet still came out more powerful then before. The Roman Republic was under attack in the first Punic War and became more powerful then before. The Republic had over 100,000 men out of a population not many times larger then that annihilated in the second Punic War, but after several years they had a more powerful army then ever before, and brought the war to Spain and North Africa.

    The Roman Republic kept rising and rising in strength until it was destroyed. The Empire grew in strength for 200 years, then started to decay. In fact by the 150's the population of the western portion started to decrease.

    If you want to talk about military efficacy look at the Roman Republic. The Empire never fought anyone on the level of Hannibal.

    I agree to an extent that power does have a tendency to corrupt. But the primary cause of negative corruption is a moral decay. So I would argue that the death of the Republic was caused by the decay of morality and civic virtue. Of this, Caesar was just a symptom. Just because he lived in a decadent period does not give him the right to usurp the Republic and declare himself dictator for life.

    For all of the paltry plebeian achievements, the Republic was an oligarchy. Rememeber that massive participation from the provinces in the senate didn't start until the Imperial period.
    No, it wasn't an oligarchy.

    I understand you have a different worldview than mine. I won't be reading Ayn Rand anytime soon. If you can do it briefly, what is it about my ideas that you think is in error?
    Why? You don't consider her a "real" philosopher? Do yourself a favor and read it. I'm not going to go through everything that is wrong with what you believe.
    Last edited by Praxus; 05 Dec 05, at 21:55.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Praxus
    One example disproves the blanket assertion that you made.
    In response I will say that the paltry plebeian achievements, which were far outweighed by patrician achievements, constitute no trend that aids your general argument that the Republic did incorporate large amounts of plebeian opinion. My initial statement was neve meant to be interpreted as rigidly as a mathematical clause (i.e. where one counter-example disproves the entire rule). My statement was a simplification of an overwhleming trend of the Roman republic: the preponderance of wealthy people in power. I believe it is this trend that negates many of the idealistic interpretations of that period.

    Quote Originally Posted by Praxus
    In what manner was the Empire the most "orderly and efficient period in Roman... history"?
    First, I have to apologize for the unedited roughness of the last post. I had corrected it, but for some reason my corrections did not show up. My point was that in 1025 the Eastern Empire still controlled the lands from the Euphrates to the Danube, and was quite powerful. I meant this as a sign that the Empire's centralized rulership was crucial to its success through the turbulent centuries of 641 - 814.

    Moving on. You did not include the full quote above. I said that the Pax Romana (27 B.C. - 180 A.D.) was the most orderly and efficient period in Roman history, not the full imperial period.

    The Pax Romana was superior to many, if not all the Republican periods for several reasons. For a majority of the time and esepcially from 96-180 AD, the Empire was ruled by eminently skilled men. Gibbon himself, I believe it is in the closing paragraphs of Chapter 3 (Volume I), called the age of the Antonines (which can be equated to the period of 98-180) as the fairest age of mankind. I will check my copy at home, since I have all six volumes, and find the exact quote for you.

    The Pax Romana was largely devoid of civil wars, the only large exception being the tumult that followed the death of Nero (The Year of Four Emperors). We all know that in the closing century of Republican rule, the roman realm experienced serious civil wars and contests between ruling generals. It was during the Republic that people like Sulla could march an Army into Rome and massacre political enemies.

    The Pax Romana also saw a growth in buliding, industry, and trade. Almost all of the Empires most famous and enduring bulidings were buildd during this period (aqueducts, roads, bridges, new cities, ampitheatres, etc.) Augustus was probably the greatest builder of Roman history, his famous quote being, "I found Rome a city of brick, and left it a city of marble." Or at least it was something of that order.

    The military achievements of the Roman Peace were also significant, although most of the Roman domain had been conquered under Republican armies. What we see in the Pax though is a greater deal of efficiency and order. Especially when talented people like Augustus or Vespasian were in power, the army was under talented central rule. The Emperors could coordinate goals and move men around like never before.

    At this time, I have to stop the reply, since I'm posting from school and I am pressed for time. I'll respond to the rest of your points this evening.

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