The Roman Empire was one of the most famous periods in the history of Ancient Rome. It was a time when Rome was ruled by an emperor who had supreme power, who, at least at the beginning, officially ruled by "will of the Senate". During its height, the Pax Romana—or Roman Peace—ruled roughly a quarter of the ancient world's population, and its territory stretched over an amount of land comparable to that of the modern day United States. The Empire followed on from the Roman Republic and lasted until 286 AD, when it was divided into the Eastern Roman Empire and the Western Roman Empire.
After decades of civil war amongst dictators and triumvirates, Octavian of the former Second Triumvirate defeated his rival Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium and over the course of a few more years, gradually persuaded the Senate to grant him the status of Rome's first emperor. Octavian then renamed himself Augustus and led Rome with fair success. Intrigues over his succession proved common during his reign; Mark Antony's sons, and those of Augustus's old friend, Marcus Agrippa, both had claims to the throne. Neither, however, succeeded in claiming it. For the son of Augustus's wife, Julia, had been the one to seize it with the help of his mother's playing hand. When Augustus mysteriously died in 14 AD, this man, Tiberius, came to the throne. Tiberius's reign, however, was marked by tyranny and persecution, as well as ineffective administration. More disappointing still was when Tiberius's successor, Caligula, came to throne after the former emperor's death in 37 AD. Although Caligula's rule proved short, his turbulent rule still stuns history to this day. He even humiliated the Senate to the point where he threatened to make a horse the consul of Rome. His mental health in particular, proved again and again to be questionable. Ultimately, Caligula and most of his family were assassinated in 41 AD. Luckily, Caligula's successor and only spared family member, Claudius, proved to be a capable emperor, conquering Britain in 43 AD. Like Augustus, however, Claudius was vulnerable to an unstable succession; this being realized in 54 AD, when he was succeeded by yet another tyrant known as Nero. Nero commonly invested in extravagant projects and forced roman citizens to listen to him playing his lyre. So infamous were his lyre concerts that a myth came about that spoke of Nero playing his lyre while Rome burned. Although this wasn't entirely true, it was fact that he had been ruling when Rome suffered its Great Fire in 64 AD. After having built his lavish palace with ruins of the fire, Rome's discontent for him at last exploded in 68 AD, when he, under pressure, committed suicide. With no clear successor, Rome's generals made quick opportunity for the emperor's throne.
The Year of the Four Emperors and the Flavian DynastyEdit
Four emperors arose to power in the one year of 69 AD. The first three, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, were all deposed or killed in conspiracies between each other. The fourth one, however, succeeded in establishing a solid, long-lasting dynasty. His name was Vespasian and his rule saw the beginning of the construction of the Colosseum, as well as effective financial reforms, and the conquest of Judea. When Vespasian died in 79 AD, his renowned general and son, Titus, succeeded him. In the two years Titus was emperor, he offered relief to the victims of the volcanic disaster at Pompeii and completed the Colosseum. Titus's natural death in 81 AD brought his half-brother, Domitian, to the head of the Empire. Domitian continued financial reforms and waged numerous wars, and expanded the vast majority of the Empire's frontier bulwarks. Seeing himself as an enlightened despot, Domitian did also come
to consult an oracle on what he thought would be a glorious fate for himself. Instead, he was told he would be assassinated one day. Now leery and slightly paranoid, Domitian pursued a more totalitarian approach and propagated a good public and military name for himself. His far less kindly treatment, however, towards political and senate rivals made him viewed as being tyrannical. As a result, this publicly charismatic leader met his true death to the hands of aristocratic distaste in 96 AD. The Senate then took charge and appointed Domitian's former advisor,Nerva, to the position of Emperor.