The Success of Augustus - Dissemination of Christianity - Division of the Empire

During a period of nearly three centuries after the death of Augustus, the Empire remained, so far as political arrangements were concerned, pretty nearly as he had left it; and the history of Rome during these centuries is little more than an account of the personal characters of the successive emperors. Some of these seem to have been specimens of the utmost depravity to which human nature could attain; others were men of great mind, and worthy of their station. At first, the Empire was inherited as a birthright by those who could claim descent from Augustus; but in the end, the real patrons of the sovereign dignity were the armies, and especially the praetorian cohorts. To raise favorite generals to the purple, and afterwards to murder them for the sake of the donations which it was customary to receive in the case of a new accession, became the pastime of the various armies; and sometimes it happened that there were several emperors at the same time, different armies throughout the Empire having each appointed one. The effect of these military appointments was to raise to the highest dignity of the state men born at a distance from Rome, and who, spending their lives in the camp, entertained no affection for the city of the Caesars. Meanwhile, under all the emperors alike, the great family of nations incorporated under the Roman rule were daily advancing towards that condition out of which modern society was to arise. The reader, however, must imagine for himself the toil and bustle of the successive generations of Celts, Spaniards, Greeks, Africans, and Asiatics, who were born and buried during these three important centuries in which. modern civilization was cradled; all that we can give here is a chronological list of the emperors during that period:

Augustus from 30 B.C. to 14 A.D.
Tiberius 14 - 37
Caligula 38 - 41
Claudius 41 - 54
Nero 54 - 68
Galba, Otho, Vitellius 68 - 70
Vespasian 70 - 79
Titus 79 - 81
Domitian 81 - 96
Nerva 96 - 98
Trajan 98 - 117
Hadrian 117 - 138
Antonius Pius 138 - 161
Marcus Antoninus 161 - 180
Commodus 180 - 192
Pertinax 193
Septimius Severus 193 - 211
Caracalla 211 - 217
Heliogabalus 218 - 222
Alexander Severus 222 - 235
Julius Maximinus 235 - 238
Gordian 238 - 243
Philip 243 - 249
Decius 249 - 251
Gallus 251 - 253
Valerian and Gallienus 253 - 260
Gallienus 261 - 268
Aurelius 268 - 270
Aurelianus 270 - 275
Tacitus 275 - 276
Florian 276
Probus 276 - 282
Carus 282 - 284
Diocletian & Maximian 284 - 305

The only facts connected with the reigns of these emperors which need be noticed here are, that in the reign of Claudius, Britain was added to the Roman dominion; that under the great Trajan, the Empire was still farther extended; and that under Caracalla, the Roman franchise was extended to all the free inhabitants of the Empire, The vices of such emperors as Caligula, Nero, Commodus, Caracalla, and Heliogabalus, may pass unnoticed, as may also the military achievements of some of the later emperors. The reign of Diocletian, however (A. D. 248-305), constitutes an epoch in the history of the Empire. Finding the unwieldy mass too great for the administration of a single individual, he divided it between himself and his colleague Maximian, assigning to Maximian the western or Latin speaking nations, and retaining the East in his own hands. Under each emperor there was to be a royal personage called Caesar, who was to govern part of that emperor's section of the Empire, and afterwards succeed him in the chief dignity. This arrangement did not last long; and after various subdivisions of the Empire, and struggles between emperors and Caesars, the whole was reunited under Constantine the Great (A. D. 306337). Under this remarkable man Christianity was established as the religion of the Empire.

During the three centuries which had elapsed between the crucifixion of Christ - which took place in the nineteenth year of the reign of Tiberius and the accession of Constantine to the supreme government of the whole Empire, the new religion had been silently but surely spreading it self; first among the Jews, then among the Greek or eastern, and lastly among the Latin or western Gentiles. It had been subjected to numerous persecutions, some local, and others general, over the whole Empire but had, nevertheless, made such progress, that it is calculated that in Constantine's reign about a twentieth part of the whole population of the Empire were professed Christians, while even over the nineteen-twentieths who continued in polytheism, the indirect influence of Christianity had been immense. Led to embrace Christianity himself, although with a considerable tincture of polytheistic superstition, Constantine gave his imperial recognition to the already fully-organized ecclesiastical system of the Christians, with its churches, presbyters, bishops, metropolitans. The civil ban having thus been removed from the profession of Christianity, it began to prevail in form, as it already did in fact, over the heterogeneous polytheism of the Empire.

Another important act of Constantine's reign, besides his proclamation of toleration for Christianity (A. D. 321), was his removal of the seat of empire from Rome to Constantinople. Not long after this was effected, Constantine died at the age of sixty, leaving the Empire divided among his three sons. One of them, Constantius, ultimately acquired the whole, and transmitted it to his successors; but in the year 895, Theodosius, one of these successors, effected a permanent separation between the East and the West. From that date, the history of Rome divides itself into two distinct histories - that of the Western or Latin and that of the Eastern or Greek empire. The latter protracted its existence till A. D. 1453, when Constantinople was taken by the Turks: the former crumbled to pieces much earlier, before the attacks of the northern barbarians, who finally destroyed it in. 476.