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The Pax Romana (Roman Peace) was a period of relative peace and stability across the Roman Empire which lasted for over 200 years, beginning with the reign of Augustus (27 BCE - 14 CE). The aim of Augustus and his successors was to guarantee law, order, and security within the empire, even if this meant separating it from the rest of the world and defending, or even expanding, its borders through military intervention and conquest.
Throughout the existence of both the Roman Republic and Empire, the borders of Rome continually expanded. Besides the initial territorial conquests after the Punic Wars, the eternal city added land in the Balkans, Middle East, and North Africa. Later, they would move westward into Gaul, Spain and northward into Germany and Britain. Through the triumphs of Caesar, Augustus, Claudius, and Marcus Aurelius, Rome became one of largest empires that had ever existed, greater than that of Persia, Assyria, and even challenging that of Alexander the Great. However, a territory that large caused many difficulties, many of them costly - riots, rebellions and insurrections were rampant. The solution to many of these problems came under the astute leadership of Emperor Augustus - it was called the Pax Romana or Roman Peace.
Augustus Becomes Emperor
The death of the “dictator for life” Julius Caesar on the Ides of March 44 BCE brought chaos to the Republic. Attempts to revive the old triumvirate ultimately failed. Octavian, the young adopted son of Caesar, hunted down his “father's” assassins and defeated the other claimants to the throne (Mark Antony and Marcus Amelius Lepidus), securing for himself the leadership of Rome and so an empire was born. Augustus, as he would now be known, would usher in an unprecedented era of prosperity and stability; the disorder of the previous years was wiped away.
The reign of Augustus from 27 BCE to 14 CE brought peace and security to both politics and trade.
The Roman Senate granted Augustus almost unlimited powers, bringing reform to both the city and provinces. He became the “first citizen” or princeps, thus initiating the principate. The Senate granted him and his successors certain powers for life: namely imperium maius, extreme authority over the provincial governors, and tribunicia potestas or tribune of the plebs, the authority to call an assembly of the people to enact laws. With these newly generated powers, he could veto the actions of the magistrates and, in order to control those around him, he controlled the imperial patronage. His reign would bring peace and security to both politics and trade - something that many Romans, in the city as well as in the provinces, had long desired. However, peace would come at a steep price. This Augustan Peace, a peace that brought relative quiet, would last for almost two hundred years.
The Empire Expands
While the Rome Augustus inherited was vast by any definition of the word, he chose to aggressively add even more territory with expansion and conquest in all directions, especially westward and along the Rhine. Likewise, these new provinces, as well as those that had been acquired during the Republic, were forced to affirm their allegiance to Rome and recognize Roman authority. Augustus would return home from Spain and Gaul a hero, and to symbolize this success, the Senate commissioned, in July of 13 BCE, the erection on the Campus Martius of the Ara Pacis Augustus or the Altar of Augustan Peace - what would be called the foremost display of Augustan art. Dedicated on January 1, 9 BCE, it contained sculptured reliefs, a religious mural depicting the imperial family, and a frieze portraying various Roman values: peace, harmony, duty, decency and wealth - pax, concordia, pietas, humanitas and copia.
Augustus Manages Rome & the Empire
To many in and around Rome, the new emperor appeared to be a micromanager, fully utilizing all of the powers he had been granted. Distrusting the independence of the provincial governors or proconsuls, he travelled the empire extensively, and with him went a new army (he commanded 23 legions), a professional army. To maintain their loyalty he paid them well in both money and land (something his successors followed) with each and every man swearing an oath to support and protect the emperor. With an increased army, revolts - like those in Gaul or along the northern borders - were easily quelled. And, to safeguard himself and prevent his own Ides of March, Augustus created his own bodyguard the Praetorian Guard.
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The ever-growing empire and expanded army took a toll on the empire's limited treasury. To solve this problem Augustus ordered a complete census of the resources in all of the provinces as well as among its citizenry, creating a “framework for assessment” to impose taxes. The aim was not only to maintain internal order but also to extract resources through taxation even though these demands were often made on limited resources. And to safeguard the tax revenue from possibly unscrupulous governors, Augustus centralized the treasury on the Capitol in Rome. Although there was an occasional protest, many believe that his close supervision of the both the city and provinces was justified, and while some people - primarily slaves and freedmen who worked the land — were excluded from any political participation, the empire remained relatively free of civil conflict. Even the seas were cleared of pirates, enabling the expansion of trade. New roads - over fifty thousand miles of them - made communication easier. Rome was made great again.
One place that benefitted most from the Pax Romana was the city of Rome itself. Among his many reforms, Augustus provided for protection against possible fire (a common Roman condition), famine, and flood (the Tiber was prone to overflow its banks). He supervised the city's grain supply, water, and roads which had been a function of the aediles. The city police force was enlarged to quell riots and crime in city. He made attempts to restore traditional moral values such as rebuilding decaying temples. Although the Senate still served only as advisory body, he reduced its number and although the popular assemblies approved of his reforms, they soon became obsolete, for Augustus was the law.
A Lasting Peace
Regardless as it might appear, the Roman people understood and valued the peace and security that Augustus's new order brought to the empire. To them he became a god, and from this worship emerged the Imperial Cult. Henceforth, an emperor would (with only a few exceptions) be deified after his death. Although there still existed an occasional rebellion (Christians would oppose the Cult, for example), the empire remained largely at peace.
The emperors who followed Augustus maintained the Augustan Peace by reducing conflict, expanding the borders, and maintaining harmony at home. However, the legions of Rome were not always so warmly received, and to those who resisted, the cost of peace was high. In his On Britain and Germany, the historian Tacitus, who lived in the 1st century CE, wrote about the Roman conquest of Britain. He quoted Calgacus, a Briton leader, addressing his men,
We, the choice flower of Britain, were treasured in her most secret places. Out of sight of subject shores, we kept even our eyes free from the defilement of tyranny…to-day the boundary of Britain is exposed; beyond us lies no nation, nothing but waves and rocks and the Romans, more deadly still than they, for you find in them an arrogance which no reasonable submission can elude.
Calgacus continued, “They are unique in being as violently tempted to attack the poor as the wealthy. Robbery, butchery, rapine, the liars call Empire; they create desolation and call it peace.”
Despite these challenges, the Pax Romana would continue through the years, often despite the arrogance and inabilities of some of Augustus's successors. Emperor Claudius would finally succeed in Britain. Vespasian and his son Titus would secure the Middle East; however, Emperor Hadrian (117 – 138 CE) would call an end to expansion and fix the northern borders by building a wall and fortifications in Britain and along the Rhine. In the late 3rd century CE, plague and invasions devastated the empire, and cracks began to appear. After the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180 CE and the appearance of his heir Emperor Commodus, the concept of Pax Romana, after almost two hundred years, became an afterthought.
With the demise of the Republic, the government was in ruin. Emperor Augustus had gained political and military control and built an empire. He secured the borders, stabilized the economy, and brought a sense of peace. Augustus was quoted as saying, “I found a city of brick and left it one of marble.” - this quote could easily be expanded to include the entire empire.
Pax Romana was the peace and consequent potential development brought by inclusion in the Roman empire. The lex Iulia de Vi Publica outlawing the carrying of weapons except when hunting or travelling was probably enforced in Britain. This did not abolish brigandage or invasion, but helped create stability.
Alan Simon Esmonde Cleary
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Violence. The story so far
27 B. C. - 180 A. D. The period known as the Pax Romana.
How Octavian became Augustus and founded the Pax. Deanne Winnat, University of Central Arkansas. Octavian was Julius Caesar's grand nephew, adoptive son and heir. He was as fascinating as he was controversial. Octavian deserves consideration as the most important figure in Roman history.
Being Caesar's heir meant little being Marc Antony's friend meant everything. At the age of 19, along with Antony and Lepidus, Octavian formed the second Triumvirate ruling Rome, each taking a region to control. Rivalries arose and Octavian defeated all of his political rivals for power. He recovered the treasures that Antony had acquired from Caesar. Octavian took the name of Augustus in 17 BCE when the Senate asked him to rule Rome . He then ruled for the next 45 years.
"There were two key factors to Augustus' success as a ruler. They were his use of the army, which was under his complete control, and the Republican institutions, which he never did away with. When Augustus came to power, he had a completely loyal army supporting him and any actions he chose to take. Learning from the last one hundred years of history, he decided not to take the route that others before him, such as Sulla, and even that of Julius Caesar, had taken. Instead, he chose to create the illusion that peace had been restored to the Republic and that the Republic was once again intact. That fact alone is why the institutions of the Republic were never done away with, but made superficial to the actual running of the government.
"Under the rule of Augustus, many facets of the government ran very smoothly, thus indicating that Rome was at peace. War was a distant thing, confined only to the most rugged frontiers. Thanks to the huge amounts of wealth from Egypt that were kept by Augustus after the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra, Augustus was able to throw elaborate feasts, festivals and celebrations for the people of Rome, to further the notion that peace had well and truly been achieved."
". The vast Roman Empire included all lands around the Mediterranean Sea and most of Northwest Europe. Roman life was comfortable for many. Cities had water and sewage systems, theaters, and public baths. The wealthy had villas with central heating systems."
Rome led the world in the areas of government, law, engineering, and literature. For example, the Roman alphabet was adopted as the Western standard and followers of Jesus established Christianity which spread through the Roman world.
Pax Romana was not peace all the time everywhere as the following illustrates.
Augustus Caesar and the Pax Romana The History Guide provides a readable account of Pax Romana. It begins:
In practice, a series of emperors used Octavian's enlightened means of governance. The Pax Romana was not totally peaceful, but Rome itself was largely safe and orderly even though the question of succession rose again and again. Relatively speaking, Pax Romana was the most peaceful two centuries of human history. Human frailty brought this period to an end it is still with us.
"The Twelve Caesars" by Gore Vidal provides the flip side of Caesar.
Ameer Ali, thug, killer of dozens, led a gang that killed over 700 people in India, lived a dichotomous life. He was at once angel to his family and monster and terrorist to unwary travelers in India. His life affirms Vidal's wisdom and insight.
The Siege of Jerusalem 70 CE, Josephus.
A superpower in its day, Rome put the development of its citizens ahead of conquest. This was enabled by active defense of its borders. Rome's neighbors benefited from the Pax Romana as much as did Rome.
By analogy, the period between 1865 and 2001, was a Pax Americana in the sense that mainland Americans, like the Romans before them, enjoyed peace and security at home. In large measure, we still do.
Pax Romana happened in spite of human nature, not because of any particular traits of character or temperament of the Romans. Nevertheless, the mere fact that a relatively peaceful period lasted two centuries in spite of human nature gives us hope in our time.
Since Rome was able to achieve this exceptional history, we can hope that similar is our future. Not identical, for the neighbors of Rome were not peaceful. Still why can we not think of the UN behaving like Augustus, doing for the world what Augustus did for Rome? Human nature is all that stands in the way.
Are we going to resign ourselves to violence as a way of life?
Or are we going to do something about the Nature / Nuture complex that seems to drive us to violence?
Given the above, one of the ironic trends during the Pax Romana was that Christianity was widely persecuted throughout the Roman empire. Although the spread of the Imperium Romanum was associated with the idea of Pax Romana, the Pax Romana in its turn was also associated with the compulsory recognition of the Roman emperor cult, in spite of all the religious tolerance which we know the Romans to have exercised. ⎜] In spite of this however the overriding trend was the growth and mission of the Church of Christ, and its ultimate victory as the Roman Empire was eventually Christianized.
Also, despite the term the period was not without armed conflict, as Emperors frequently had to quell rebellions. Both border skirmishes and Roman wars of conquest also happened during this period. Trajan embarked on a series of campaigns against the Parthians during his reign and Marcus Aurelius spent almost the entire last decade of his rule fighting against the Germanic tribes. Nonetheless the interior of the Empire remained largely untouched by warfare. The Pax Romana was an era of relative tranquility in which Rome endured neither major civil wars, such as the perpetual bloodshed of the third century AD, nor serious invasions, or killings, such as those of the Second Punic War three centuries prior.
The Roman Republic was gone. In its place, the government of Rome was now a dictatorship, under the leadership of an emperor. The first Roman emperor was Augustus, the adopted son of Julius Caesar. He was emperor for 45 years. This was the beginning of the Pax Romana or Roman Peace. This is a very misleading title. There wasn't really peace.
Rome continued to expand the empire, mostly through conquest. Rome itself was still beset by criminals and sometimes riots. It is called the Pax Romana because the empire itself was stable. The people knew that there was an emperor to run things and Roman legions to take care of wars and riots. They didn't have to worry about somebody coming in and conquering Rome and destroying their beautiful city.
Many of Rome's most spectacular and huge construction projects were built during this time period, the period we call the Roman Empire. Thousands of miles of roads were built to keep the empire united. Art, literature and theatre flourished and grew. Rome was at its height.
A Forgotten Episode in the History of Interreligious Dialogue
One often gets the impression that the history of Interreligious Dialogue (with the capital “I” and “D” standing for a specific social setting rather than a theoretical concept) is told in the form of hagiography, starting with “mystical figures” such as Akbar the Great or the Emirs of Granada, going on to the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religion in Chicago as its founding “Council of Jerusalem” and leading up to “present-day saints” such as Hans Küng, the Dalai Lama, and Mother Maya.
Like all hagiographies, this kind of history is highly selective and written with a particular audience in mind. There is, however, an important history of interreligious encounters that is generally excluded from the hagiography—a history that does not focus exclusively on shining examples and peaceful saints, a history that includes failure and dissent as well as understanding and comprehension, a history that has to be rediscovered in order to grasp the structures, potentials and losses of Interreligious Dialogue more completely.
Another Episode in the History of Interreligious Dialogue
A few weeks ago, digging into the Archive-materials for my research project on religious NGOs inside the context of the United Nations, I stumbled over one episode of this “other” history.
This episode deserves the special attention of the Contending Modernities project because it brings together all its main subjects: Catholicism, because this episode was centered around the Catholic student organization Pax Romana Islam, because Muslim scholars played an integral part in the episode and, last but not least, the Secular, inasmuch as the history is closely linked to the context of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The episode took place in Manila in the year 1960. From January 2nd to 9th in that year, Pax Romana organized a conference in Manila under the theme of “The Present Impact of the Great Religions of the World upon the Lives of the People in the Orient and Occident.”
Pax Romana, or the International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs (ICMICA), invited several distinguished scholars of diverse religious and national backgrounds to comment on the theme of the conference. These scholars included Olivier Lacombe, Professor of Sanskrit and Indology from the Sorbonne S. B. Das Gupta, Head of the Department of Modern Languages, Calcutta Simon Greenberg, among other things founding President of American Jewish University Hendrik Kraemer, at the time with the Ecumenical Institute of the World Council of Churches in Bossey, Switzerland Raimon Pannikar, who later became professor for religious studies at the University of California-Santa Barbara Mahmud Husain, Head of the Department of International Relations at the University of Karachi as well as Pakistan’s Minister of Education and Osman Yahia, editor of the works of the Muslim mystic Ibn ‘Arabi.
Catholic Students…Inspired by Luther
The beginnings of the story of Manila 1960 actually date back to 1958. They were recounted by Ramon Sugranyes de Franch, who served as the first Secretary General of the ICMICA, from 1947 to 1961, and who, as it happens, died just a few weeks ago in February 2011. In the telling of Sugranyes de Franch:
Dans ce domaine [des Nations Unies], la page la plus intéressante s’est ouvert le jour où le Directeur général de l’UNESCO, Luther Evans, ‘in spite of my nage’—comme il l’a dit plaisamment—, est venu à un congres catholique (celui de Vienne) pour nous demander d’aider l’UNESCO à réaliser une partie primordiale de son projet majeur Orient-Occident (Ramon Sugranyes de Franch, Pax Romana: Son histoire, in: Urs Altermatt and Ramon Sugranyes de Franch, Pax Romana 1921-1981, – Gründung und Entwicklung -, Fribourg 1981, p. 31-48, here: 43).
So, in 1958 the parting Secretary-General of UNESCO with the name of Luther Evans was succeeded by Vittorino Veronese, a former Vice-President of Pax Romana as UNESCO Secretary-General. As he departed, he asked an international Catholic lay movement to organize an inter-religious encounter to take place in the wider context of an effort to foster reconciliation in the midst of the Cold War. This constellation was surprising indeed.
A Three-Fold Surprise
First, this proposal was formulated in a period when most UN institutions, including UNESCO, were reluctant to deal with questions of religion—so reluctant that Luther Evans needed to engage Pax Romana as a partner in order to “outsource” the conference on religion he dreamed of organizing. From this point of view, Manila represents a general shift in the orientation of international organizations— a shift towards the recognition of religious topics that began in the periphery of the United Nations system and preceded later developments by many years.
Second, the Manila meeting occurred four years before the establishment of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Non-Christians, which was renamed the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in 1988 into the Secretariat for Non-Christians). In other words, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, a Roman Catholic organization was not an obvious candidate for hosting an inter-religious encounter. Pax Romana was a logical choice only because of its unique status and remarkable links with the United Nations system.
Third, beyond the boundaries of the Holy See, Catholic organizations—such as those that were members of the “Conference of International Catholic Organizations—were among the first non-state organizations to be active in the institutions of the United Nations. Among these Catholic NGOs, Pax Romana was one of the best known and most active. This helps explain why American scholar Luther Evans chose Pax Romana as the critical institutional partner for launching his interreligious project.
But it was more than the mere occurrence of Manila 1960 that was significant. What was said and done at Manila was also important. So… What did happen?
To answer this question, one needs to return to the distinction with which I began: the distinction between the official story and the unofficial story. Specifically, one must distinguish between the official story of Manila 1960, told in the published proceedings of the conference, and the unofficial story, buried in the archives of the Pax Romana in Fribourg, Switzerland. That unofficial story will be the subject of a future post.
The Pax Romana
“Certainly! Let me tell you about Pax Romana. Pax Romana is derived from Latin and it means ‘Roman Peace.’ It started in 27 B.C and lasted till 180 A.D, that is about 206 years. It was established by Julius Caesar’s son, Augustus.
Before Augustus Caesar’s reign, Rome had a civil war. Under the reign of Augustus, peace prevailed because of the order in the country. Over 6,000 soldiers were stationed at the places most likely to rise in conflict. This period of peace brought on a period of growth in the arts, science and technology.”
“What happened after the peace period ended and how did it end?” asked Rohan.
Sir Dig-A-Lot answered, “Well, instead of continuing to focus on protecting their borders Romans started fighting one another again. By this time, many powerful kings in the neighborhood existed. They took advantage of the internal conflict in Rome. They invaded Rome and caused great destruction.
By 400 AD Rome was completely destroyed and overrun by outsiders such as Germans, Visigoths, Slavs, Huns, Persians, etc. Many historians believe that 476 AD was the official date of the fall of the Roman empire.”
“I think 206 years of peace is an achievement worth talking about. Thanks for telling me this story,” Rohan thanked Sir Dig-A-Lot.
“No problem, Rohan. Now sleep tight!” Sir Dig-A-Lot bid Rohan good bye with the promise of another story another night.
The Pax Romana - 27 BCE
Pax means peace in Latin and that was the goal of Emperor Augustus Caesar's chosen successor. Augustus was able to take complete control of the Roman Empire and end destructive civil wars that had damaged the Empire. By concentrating on the internal affairs of the Empire and spending less time on expansion, Augustus was able to begin a new period of advancement. For nearly 200 years Western civilization would experience its longest era of peace. The Pax Romana or Roman Peace became a reality.
During the Pax Romana people throughout the Roman Empire experienced a historically tranquil period of time. Farmers could plant their crops with confidence that raiders would not destroy their homes and steal their agricultural products. People could travel and trade throughout the Empire with protection from the Roman government and military. The people of Europe became Romanized.
By instituting consistent laws the Romans established the conditions under which cities could grow and prosper. Merchants, artisans, engineers, and builders could employ their trades and crafts with reasonable assurance that their labor would be rewarded and that their products were safe from theft and destruction.
Although most people, in modern Western civilizations, would not want to live under an emperor and would not accept tyranny, many historians believe that the Pax Romana was a time of relative happiness and contentment.
Vishnu. Vaishnavism is the sect within Hinduism that worships Vishnu, the preserver god of the Hindu Trimurti (the Trinity), and his many incarnations. Vaishnavites regard him to be eternal and the strongest and supreme God .
Jesus Christ: With 2.2 billion Christians, Jesus Christ, the central figure of Christianity is the most worshipped God in the world, today. Unlike any human, he lived in the heavens before he was born on earth. He is considered to be God’s first creation who then helped in creating everything else.