Pax Romana

Pax Romana

Overview
Pax Romana was the long period of relative peace and minimal expansion by military force experienced by the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. Since it was established by Caesar Augustus it is sometimes called Pax Augusta. Its span was about 207 years (27 BC to 180 AD).

The Pax Romana, or Roman Peace, is a Latin term referring to the Empire in its glorified prime.
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Encyclopedia
Pax Romana was the long period of relative peace and minimal expansion by military force experienced by the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. Since it was established by Caesar Augustus it is sometimes called Pax Augusta. Its span was about 207 years (27 BC to 180 AD).

Origins of the term


The Pax Romana, or Roman Peace, is a Latin term referring to the Empire in its glorified prime. From the end of the Republican civil wars, beginning with the accession of Augustus in 27 BC, this era in Roman history lasted until 180 AD and the death of Marcus Aurelius. Though the use of the word 'Peace' may be a bit misleading, this period refers mainly to the great Romanization of the western world. The Roman legal system, which forms the basis of many western court systems today, brought law and order to the provinces. The Legions patrolled the borders with success, and though there were still many foreign wars, the internal empire was free from major invasion, piracy, or social disorder on any grand scale. The empire, wracked with civil war for the last century of the Republic and for years following the Pax Romana, was largely free of large-scale power disputes. Only the year 69 AD, the so-called 'Year of the Four Emperors' following the fall of Nero and the Julio-Claudian line, interrupted nearly 200 years of civil order. Even this was only a minor hiccup in comparison to other eras. The arts and architecture flourished as well, along with commerce and the economy.

The concept of Pax Romana was first described by Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon was an English historian and Member of Parliament...

 in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, in Chapter Two. Gibbon proposed a period of moderation under Augustus and his successors and argued that generals bent on expansion (e.g. Germanicus
Germanicus
Germanicus Julius Caesar , commonly known as Germanicus, was a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and a prominent general of the early Roman Empire. He was born in Rome, Italia, and was named either Nero Claudius Drusus after his father or Tiberius Claudius Nero after his uncle...

, Agricola
Gnaeus Julius Agricola
Gnaeus Julius Agricola was a Roman general responsible for much of the Roman conquest of Britain. His biography, the De vita et moribus Iulii Agricolae, was the first published work of his son-in-law, the historian Tacitus, and is the source for most of what is known about him.Born to a noted...

 and Corbulo
Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo
Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo was a Roman general and a brother-in-law of the emperor Caligula.-Descent:Corbulo was born in Italy into a senatorial family...

) were checked and recalled by the Emperor
Emperor
An emperor is a monarch, usually the sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the female equivalent, may indicate an emperor's wife or a woman who rules in her own right...

s during their victories favouring consolidation ahead of further expansion. Gibbon lists the Roman conquest of Britain under Claudius
Claudius
Claudius , was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy...

 and the conquests of Trajan
Trajan
Trajan , was Roman Emperor from 98 to 117 AD. Born into a non-patrician family in the province of Hispania Baetica, in Spain Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of emperor Domitian. Serving as a legatus legionis in Hispania Tarraconensis, in Spain, in 89 Trajan supported the emperor against...

 as exceptions to this policy of moderation and places the end of the period at the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180 AD, despite the conclusion of peace by the latter's son Commodus
Commodus
Commodus , was Roman Emperor from 180 to 192. He also ruled as co-emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius from 177 until his father's death in 180. His name changed throughout his reign; see changes of name for earlier and later forms. His accession as emperor was the first time a son had succeeded...

 later in the same year. During the Pax Romana, the area of Roman rule expanded to about five million square kilometres (two million square miles).

Pax Romana, according to Gibbon, would have ended with Commodus himself, whose dispendious excesses and despotic misrule destabilised central Roman politics amidst the chaos of the Germanic invasions
Marcomannic Wars
The Marcomannic Wars were a series of wars lasting over a dozen years from about AD 166 until 180. These wars pitted the Roman Empire against the Marcomanni, Quadi and other Germanic peoples, along both sides of the upper and middle Danube...

 of the Rhine-Danube frontier. Commodus's assassination led to a succession crisis, the so-called Year of the Five Emperors
Year of the Five Emperors
The Year of the Five Emperors refers to the year 193 AD, in which there were five claimants for the title of Roman Emperor. The five were Pertinax, Didius Julianus, Pescennius Niger, Clodius Albinus and Septimius Severus....

, which culminated in the ascension of a soldier-emperor, Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus , also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of...

, who, despite giving the Empire a peaceful reign, was accused by Gibbon of catalysing the Crisis of the Third Century
Crisis of the Third Century
The Crisis of the Third Century was a period in which the Roman Empire nearly collapsed under the combined pressures of invasion, civil war, plague, and economic depression...

, a period of economic, political and military crisis that, together with the Germanic invasions and the rise of the Sassanid Persian Empire in the East, almost led the Empire to collapse.

Beginnings of relative peace


The Pax Romana started after Octavion (Augustus) beat Marc Anthony in the Battle of Actium. He became princeps, or "first citizen". Lacking a good precedent of successful one-man rule, Augustus created a junta of the greatest military magnates and stood as the front man. By binding together these leading magnates in a coalition, he eliminated the prospect of civil war. The Pax Romana was not immediate, despite the end of the civil wars, because fighting continued in Spain and in the Alps. Nevertheless, Augustus closed the Gates of Janus
Gates of Janus
In Roman history and legend, the Gates of Janus were opened when Rome went to war and shut when the whole Roman world was at peace. According to Livy 1.19 the second king of Rome, Numa Pompilius, decided to distract the early, warlike Romans from their violent ways by instilling in them awe and...

 (the Roman ceremony to mark world Peace) three times, first in 29 BC and again in 25 BC. The third closure is undocumented, but Inez Scott Ryberg (1949) and Gaius Stern (2006) have persuasively dated the third closure to 13 BC with the Ara Pacis ceremony. At the time of the Ludi Saeculares in 17 BC the concept of Peace was publicized, and in 13 BC was proclaimed when Augustus and Agrippa jointly returned from pacifying the provinces. The Ara Pacis ceremony was no doubt part of this announcement.

Augustus faced a problem making peace an acceptable mode of life for the Romans, who had been at war with one power or another continuously for 200 years. Romans regarded peace not as an absence of war, but the rare situation that existed when all opponents had been beaten down and lost the ability to resist. Augustus' challenge was to persuade Romans that the prosperity they could achieve in the absence of warfare was better for the Empire than the potential wealth and honor acquired when fighting a risky war. Augustus succeeded by means of skillful propaganda. Subsequent emperors followed his lead, sometimes producing lavish ceremonies to close the Gates of Janus, issuing coins with Pax on the reverse, and patronizing literature extolling the benefits of the Pax Romana.

Similar terms


Given the prominence of the concept of Pax Romana, historians have coined variants of the term to describe systems of relative peace that have been established, attempted or argued to have existed. Such times have been credited to the British Empire during the 19th century. Some variants include:
  • Pax Americana
    Pax Americana
    Pax Americana is an appellation applied to the historical concept of relative peace in the Western hemisphere and, later, the Western world, resulting from the preponderance of power enjoyed by the United States of America starting around the turn of the 20th century...

  • Pax Britannica
    Pax Britannica
    Pax Britannica was the period of relative peace in Europe when the British Empire controlled most of the key maritime trade routes and enjoyed unchallenged sea power...

  • Pax Hispanica
    Pax Hispanica
    The Pax Hispanica refers to a period of twenty-three years coinciding with renewed Spanish ascendancy in Europe , when Spain achieved European stability after various conflicts with the Kingdom of France, the Kingdom of England and the Dutch United Provinces.Peace was achieved by several...

  • Pax Mongolica
    Pax Mongolica
    The Pax Mongolica is a Latin phrase meaning "Mongol Peace" coined by Western scholars to describe the stabilizing effects of the conquests of the Mongol Empire on the social, cultural, and economic life of the inhabitants of the vast Eurasian territory that the Mongols conquered in the 13th and...

  • Pax Ottomana
    Pax Ottomana
    Pax Ottomana is a term used to describe the economic and social stability attained in the conquered provinces of the Ottoman Empire, which, at the height of the Empire's power during the 16th and 17th centuries, applied to lands in the Balkans, Anatolia, the Middle East, North Africa and the...

  • Pax Sinica
    Pax Sinica
    Pax Sinica is the time of peace in East Asia, maintained by Chinese hegemony, usually the period of rule by the Han Dynasty, Tang Dynasty, early Song Dynasty, Yuan Dynasty, Ming Dynasty and early Qing Dynasty...

  • Pax Sovietica
  • Pax Syriana
    Pax Syriana
    Pax Syriana is a term used in the study of international relations in the Western Asia, usually pertaining to efforts by Syria to influence its neighbors, particularly Lebanon. The idea behind Pax Syriana is that Syria, through diplomacy and military strength, could secure peace in Lebanon...


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