The Pax Romana (“Roman Peace”) was a political slogan of great importance. It was introduced after the civil wars, fought for power in the republic, but not immediately after the Battle of Actium in 31 BC.
The continued fighting took place in Hispania (the Roman name for the Iberian Peninsula) and the region of Alps. The “Roman Peace” was delayed and could first start in 27 BC. It ended when Emperor Marcus Aurelius died in 180 CE.
The empire, which during the first and second century AD had the largest territorial extent, was prosperous and peaceful; its power was stable, military expansion of Rome was limited to a minimum and warfare banished to the frontiers protected by the army and and warfare was banished.
During the Pax Romana, the Empire was inhabited by approx. 70 million people.
Monuments to the empire’s prosperity such as powerful buildings, aqueducts that survived to modern times, roads, and archaeological finds show technical skills of the people in the Roman Empire.
The Pax Romana contributed to the empire’s prosperity; it was time when the frontiers were protected by the army and warfare was banished. The Roman roads were full of merchants and traders on their way to new markets. Rome traded with the Han Dynasty through the Silk Road and economic expansion increased the Empire’s wealth in form of taxes and duties.
But there was also another aspect that cast a negative light on this important historical era and the popularity of Rome.
Cruelty of mass slavery, extremely brutal gladiatorial entertainments and plenty of practices of bad (even mad) emperors such as mentally unstable Caligula, Roman emperor in 37 AD who declared himself a god.
Eventually, Caligula’s bizarre and cruel behavior resulted in his assassination by his own guards, only a few years later, in 41 AD. Another, evil tyrant and controversial emperor during Pax Romana was Nero, who misused his political power, had his mother killed, executed many Christians and all people who disagreed with him. This infamous ruler committed suicide in 68 AD.
Among some “good Emperors”, born outside Rome were Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius, who expanded Rome’s borders, better controlled distant parts of the empire.
The era of the Pax Romana did not change conditions for poor people, who lived in poverty, despite all of the wealth of the Roman Empire. There was a huge gap between rich and poor, even if the Romans tried to hide both poverty and unemployment.
People had no choice; they had to live under Roman rule whether they liked it or not. They were conquered and “the conquered were given ‘Roman Peace’ whether they liked it or not, and the method was through the use or threat of military force, wielded ruthlessly and savagely – Tacitus’ desolation called peace,” writes Adrian Goldsworthy states in his book “ Pax Romana: War, Peace and Conquest in the Roman World“.
However, the fact still remains that “when Rome collapsed Europe sank into the Dark Ages, literacy and learning all but forgotten,” continues Goldsworthy, “and there was warfare and violence of every sort where once there had been peace…”
Written by – A. Sutherland AncientPages.com Staff Writer
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