Octavianus finally returned to Rome in 29 BC, where he celebrated a three day triumph. He disbanded 40 of the 70 legions he controlled after Actium. The Senate gave him the titles Caesar, Imperator (commander-in-chief), and Princeps Civitatis (Leader of the State). Then in 27 BC the Senate gave him the honorary title Augustus (revered one), the name by which he would be known to history. This was the Beginning of the Imperial Age and the Pax Romana (Roman Peace). Augustus returned full powers to the Senate, but they refused. Instead, powers were divided. The Senate was to govern settled provinces through propraetors, while Augustus ruled provinces where troops were needed through proconsuls. Augustus kept control of Egypt as the bread basket of Rome to feed the hungry masses. Though the form of the Republic was restored, Augustus held ultimate power. He was given powers of a praetor, so that he became the head of the Roman judicial system (final appeal for Roman citizens was to the emperor). He was given consular powers so that could control the Senate. He was given tribunal powers so that he could control the assemblies. Through his title Imperator, he also controlled the legions. To run this vast empire, Augustus created a bureaucracy of civil service, and a panel of Senators to run the civil service.
For the Empire, Augustus built roads which encouraged trade and travel as well as increased the mobility of the legions. He established colonies of ex-soldiers along the borders to better protect them and pension the 40 legions he disbanded. He established an Imperial Navy to control the seas and an Imperial Postal System for greater communication. He also divided the Empire into 28 provinces, 18 of which he controlled directly. All governors, whether propraetors or proconsuls, were required to respect local laws and traditions, so long as the peoples remained loyal to Rome. The governors were also required to be more fair in the collection of taxes. Some provinces were ruled through client-kings, like Herod Agrippa of Judeah. Throughout Augustus' reign, he sent his stepson Tiberius to command the troops along the German and Dacian borders, along with Tiberius' brother Drusus. In 9 AD, however, while Tiberius was on Rhodes, the general Varrus lost 3 legions to the German leader Arminius, which ended Augustus' expansion policy beyond the Rhine.
To reinvigorate the Roman nobility, Augustus attempted to revive Roman traditions, long undermined by exposure to eastern, and especially Greek, ways. He tried to revive the ancient religion which most had abandoned to philosophy or eastern mystery religions. In Rome he built many temples to the Roman gods, including, through his general of Actium Agrippa, the Pantheon. But he also built a temple to his favorite god, the Greek Apollo on the Palatine. Through his friend Maecenas, he supported the literary arts, especially the poets Horace and Virgil, as well as the historian Livy, all of whose writings were intended to glorify Rome (Virgil's Aeneid was to be the great Roman epic about the foundation of Rome). He also tried to regulate marriage and sexual relations, hoping to repopulate the nobility decimated by the civil wars and proscriptions. He forbade divorce, required the unmarried to marry, gave special tax credits to those with 3 or more children, and made adultery illegal (it was legal to kill an adulterer). The effects of these policies, however, are doubtful. He was eventually required to exile his daughter Julia for sexual misconduct (also the love poet Ovid, though it is not known whether the events were connected). He limited the number of slaves a person could free through his will after death, but if a freedman married and had children, he became a citizen. He decreed a census of the population be taken every 10 years for the purposes of taxation. Under Augustus, peace returned to the Roman Empire and the economy revived. Small businesses opened everywhere and industries appeared using slave labor, though free and freedmen where likely to work alongside the slaves. With Augustus' reign began the Pax Romana.
Augustus died in 14 AD without a blood-related heir. Livia, it appears, had poisoned everyone in line for the throne except Germanicus, and had convinced Augustus to adopt her son Tiberius, also designate him as heir after forcing him to adopt Germanicus, who would then succeed Tiberius. Augustus didn't seem to suspect Livia's intrigues until the end, but she poisoned him as well. And Tiberius didn't want to become Emperor. He was 55, insecure, suspicious, and severe though firm. The Senate didn't trust him and mounted several conspiracies against him. When Germanicus, father of Caligula, died (perhaps through the intrigues of Tiberius), his widow Agrippina thereafter accused Tiberius of being a poisoner (a man named Piso was directly accused, and he claimed to have evidence both Tiberius and Livia were involved). Eventually Agrippina and her sons Nero and Drusus were arrested and put out of the way. Still, Tiberius tried to work well with the Senate, extending them more powers, more freedom to speak and vote as they chose (he once lost a vote). He increased the size and power of the bureaucracy as he tired of the Senate and rule. He came to depend more and more on the commander of the Praetorian Guard (the Emperor's personal bodyguard and police for the city), L. Aelius Seianus, as his right hand man. Seianus came to have designs on the throne, constitutionally or otherwise.
First, Seianus tried to marry into the royal family by seducing the wife of Tiberius' son, Drusus. After Drusus suddenly died, Seianus asked permission to marry her, but Tiberius refused and suggested he instead marry her daughter, Julia. By 26 AD, Tiberius had grown tired of Rome and the rule, and began to take extended vacations on the island of Capri in the Bay of Naples. Seianus took advantage of this, encouraging them, as it gave him a free hand in Rome. He began to plot the overthrow of Tiberius with the help of Julia, but her mother, Caligula's grandmother, Antonia, discovered the plot and wrote of it to Tiberius on Capri. Tiberius brought Caligula to Capri with him and set up Seianus' fall. He wrote a letter to the Senate and sent it with the rumor that Seianus would be designated his heir. Seianus delevered it to the Senate and waited eagerly as the Imperial seal was broken. The letter began with a long praise of Seianus and his value to Tiberius, yet it ended with an exposure of the plot and denounced Seianus as a poisoner (of Drusus) and a traitor. Seianus was dead within the hour. He was replaced with Naevius Sertorius Macro.
After this episode, Tiberius became even more paranoid. He employed informers: at least 106 denunciations were recorded, of which 48 were condemned and 12 executed. He stayed on Capri with Caligula until his death in 37 AD without a blood - related heir. Caligula was designated, though the historians recorded a story that Caligula and Macro were involved in killing Tiberius. After Tiberius' death, stories were circulated about his depraved sexual habits involving little boys and girls. It was also recorded that once, a fisherman caught a large fish and scaled the 300+ foot cliff to reach Tiberius' palace on Capri to give it to him. Tiberius had him thrown off the cliff when he found how easy it was to reach him.
In 37 AD, Gaius "Caligula" Caesar Augustus Germanicus became Emperor with Gemellus, Tiberius' grandson, as co-heir. Caligula soon had the boy beheaded by Macro for some supposed plot against him. Caligula's rule started well. He did many things to please the people, including tax reductions and games. Tiberius had been a thrifty ruler and amassed a large sum in the Imperial coffers, but hadn't paid the troops in quite some time. Caligula paid the troops with a bonus and increased the pay of the Praetorian Guard. He stopped the activities of the informers and recalled those sent into exile by Tiberius. He devoted attention to his political responsibilities and even planned an invasion of Britain to prove his military capabilities. He even settled political problems in the east. Then in September, 38 AD, he was said to have caught a nasty fever which apparently severely deranged his mind. After he recovered, he claimed his disease was in fact his transformation into a god. He spent all the money in the treasury on various entertainments. He required the Senate to pledge their lives for his and those of his sisters (Livilla, Drusilla, and Agrippina). He even required Senators to trot along beside his carriage like a client as well as kiss his feet. He was said to have intended to make his favorite race horse, Incitatus, a Senator. Caligula loved to bet on the horse races, but lost a lot of money on them (for this horse, he was said to have built a special palace complete with slaves; before races, he had soldiers patrol the neighborhood to keep absolute quiet ensuring a good night's sleep for the horse). He had Macro executed. He supposedly lived incestuously with his sisters. He spent hours in the Temple of Castor and Pollux (in the Forum) conversing with the gods (usually at night, as he couldn't sleep because of the pounding in his head). He took the sacred name Neos Helios and had statues of himself erected throughout the empire. He intended one for the Temple in Jerusalem, but the governor kept hesitating, knowing the Jews would have become enraged and he would have to kill many of them. He built a Temple for himself in Rome and appointed Incitatus as the high priest. Eventually the treasury was exhausted, and Caligula raised funds however he could. He put high taxes on everything: foods, lawsuits, porters, pimps, prostitutes, etc. He made the rich declare him as their heir, then force them to suicide. He also unleashed the informers to gain convictions for treason and then confiscate their property. He made the rich declare him their heir, and ordered them to suicide for taking so long to die. He also sent out informers to gain convictions for treason so as to confiscate the property of the accused.
His two military campaigns were a bust. When he reached the shore across the Straits from Britain, he had his soldiers collect seashells by the seashore, declared a victory over Neptune, and built a memorial lighthouse. When he approached the front line against the Germans and the Germans appeared, in terror he had his soldiers pass him back over their heads so that he would be out of danger. Finally, on January 21, 41 AD, after ntimating that the Praetorian Praefect, Cassius Caerea, was effeminate (Chaerea was one of the few soldiers who had stood against the soldiers rebelling against Germanicus, Caligula's father, on the German border in 14 AD), he and a few Senators trapped Caligula in a private passage on the Palatine hill and assassinated him. The upper class approved, but the lower class demonstrated.
After the assassination, the Palace Guards ransacked the palace and came across Caligula's uncle, Claudius. He had survived the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius and Caligula by playing the part of a fool. He was aided in this by his stuttering and nervous tic. Against his will, the Guards took him to their camp outside Rome and declared him Emperor. Eventually he accepted and the Senate concurred. After the clever Caligula, the Guards thought it would be a great joke: Claudius was chronically ill, mentally slow, given to going into trances during trials and Senate sessions, and drank and gambled heavily. He often retired from politics to study history and law. In fact, he was a decent Emperor with healthy morals and ethics.
He entrusted the bureaucracy to his freedmen, Callistus, Narcissus and Pallas. These men abused their positions and often sold government positions to the highest bidders (these positions paid in social status rather than many dollars). Claudius was married twice. His first wife was a renowned sensualist, Valeria Mesallina (she won a contest with the most famous prostitute in Rome). Eventually she was beheaded after she entered into a conspiracy with Silius to take the throne from Claudius. His second wife was Agrippina the Younger, sister of Caligula. She wanted power, like her mother, and got Claudius to declare her son, Nero (by another), heir, over his own son, Britannicus.
Claudius was generally good with the government. He never imposed on the Senate and spoke only when spoken to. He increased the numbers of the Senatorial class by enlisting wealthy men of the provinces. He relieved the Senate of some responsibilities by transferring them to the bureaucracy. Narcissus was given control of the bureaucracy and organized it into departments with rules drafted for each. Callistus headed the Department of Justice, Pallas the Department of the Treasury. The famous historian Polybius became Chief Record Keeper and Librarian.
Claudius forbade money lenders from dealing with teenagers. He built roads throughout Spain, Gaul and Britain (after he conquered it: it has been suggested that Caligula's activities in the north were in fact preparations for an invasion of Britain, but was assassinated before he could complete it, so Claudius used the opportunity instead). He built an aquaduct bringing water into Rome (still standing). He also expanded on Caesar's plans for a port-city of Rome at Ostia and began its construction (Rome imported an incredible amount of supplies everyday).
Claudius died in 54 AD, reportedly by a poisoned mushroom given him by Agrippina. Her son Nero became emperor at the age of 16, a young man of good physical health, but preferring sports, chariot racing, music and poetry to politics. He often gave musical performances or caroused at night with gangs of thugs, accosting people, visiting tabernae (bars) or the Circus Maximus where he bet on the horse races. Early, he was assisted by his mother, the Preatorian Praefect, Afranius Burrus, his magister (teacher, also a philosopher), Lucius Aenius Seneca, the Palace Director of Entertainment, Petronius, with Pallas as his Treasurer.
At first, his mother ruled for him and directed state affairs (she even struck coins with her, not Nero's, image on one side). Nero, married to Claudius' daughter Octavia, took one of Arippina's freedwomen, Acte, as a lover and angered his mother. Encouraged by Burrus and Seneca, he further angered her by dismissing Pallas, her lover. Then he poisoned Britannicus in 55 AD. In 58 AD, he set aside Acte, divorced Octavia and married Poppaea Sabina. In 59 AD, he set out to kill his mother. He built a huge pleasure barge, invited the most elite to a party and, when they were all drunk, sunk the boat: Agrippina swam the 5 miles to shore.After many other attempts, Nero sent a freedman to her home to beat her to death. In 62 AD, he replaced Burrus with Tigelinus, a fish seller and horse breeder, and gave him control of the fire department. With this, Seneca retired from politics. After a long, hot dry spell, a fire broke out in the Roman suburbs which raged for 9 days and burnt one half of Rome. The people blamed Nero and he blamed the Christians, many of whom were put to death in the Circus Maximus as criminals. He set new building codes to reduce the risk of fire and startedrebuilding Rome. In much of the ruins, he built his Golden House (where the Colosseum is now was his private lake, while nearby was a colossal statue of Nero: after his death, the lake was drained for the Colosseum, and the statue became Helios - later the name Colosseum was transferred from the statue to the Amphitheatrum of Vespasian). In 65 AD, a conspiracy was discovered against Nero and many were forced to suicide (Petronius, Seneca). In 67 - 68 AD, Nero undertook and a grand tour of Greece to compete in musical contests: he won them all (theatre doors were locked and in one case a baby was born during a performance). But Nero ignored and didn't pay the troops in 68 AD. Galba, who became the general in Germany under Caligula, bribed the Praetorian Guards to declare him Emperor. The Senate concurred and declared Nero a Public enemy. Soon after, Nero suicided.
During the years 68 - 69 AD, four Emperors declared themselves Emperors: Galba, Vitellius, Otho and Vespasian. Vespasian, a general from Egypt, emerged victorious, ending the reign of the Julio-Claudians and beginning the reign of the Provincial Emperors. This resumed the rule of the good Emperors, which lasted until 181 AD with reign ofMarcus Aurelius.
The year (68 - 69) of the four emperors came to an end when the last, Titus Flavius Vespasianus, took the throne from Egypt. He was well-educated and came from a family engaged in business. Vespasianus assumed the throne at 60, having served in various positions under Claudius, including, as general, suppressing a rebellion in Judea. He strengthened the borders by annexing territory, assigning more troops along the border and concluding a peace treaty with the Parthians. Domestically he extended citizenship in the west, weakened the Senate and expanded the bureaucracy (replacing freedmen with knights with business experience), balanced the budget by increasing taxes, and established his son, Titus, as co-regent. In Rome he began the construction of the Amphitheatrum (Colosseum). On his death-bed, he is said to have exclaimed "Behold, I think I'm becoming a god".
In 79 Vespasianus was replaced by Titus Flavius Vespasianus, the "Darling of Mankind". Titus punished informers with public floggings or banishments. He gave numerous, opulent entertainments for the people (the Amphitheatrum was inaugurated with 100 days of gladiatorial contests and beast hunts - some 5,000+ animals are said to have died during these games). On August 24/25, Vesuvius erupted burying Herculaneum and Pompeii (a description was recorded by Pliny the Younger in two letters to the historian Tacitus). In 81 he died and was deified.
Titus was replaced in September, 81, by Titus Flavius Domitianus, a sour and distrustful man. Immediately he set out to assert himself and establish an absolute monarchy (he always wore a purple toga). He also assumed divinity (after his death the Senate sought to erase his name from memory). He kept the people well-fed and -entertained with gladiatorial contests, beast hunts, a naumachia (mock naval battle held in the Amphitheatrum), chariot races, and distributions of food and money. He never raised taxes. He built for himself a huge palace on the Palatine and repaired buildings and temples destroyed during a fire under Titus. To keep the loyalty of the troops, he raised their pay. In 88, he began to employ informers. In January, 89, Antonius Saturninus bribed his troops along the German border to declare himself emperor, but the governor of Lower Germany, L. Appius Norbanus, dispatched him. Domitianus rewarded Norbanus and punished Saturninus' troops. This increased his suspicions: he increased the use informers, banished philosophers and astrologers, and finally turned on Senators and his own family (in 95, he executed his cousin, Flavius Clemens, perhaps for Christianity). In 96, Domitianus' wife, Domitia, fearing she was next, enlisted the help of a Stephanus and the Praetorian Guard to assassinate him (Stephanus pretended to have information about a plot to gain entry to his bedroom, and stabbed him as he was unrolling the scroll).
After Domitianus came the Five Good Emperors. First was M. Cocceius Nerva, a distinguished jurist and well-versed in administration, but without a reputation amongst the army. He did whatever he was asked by the Praetorian Guard (when they demanded the execution of Petronius Secundus for his role in Domitianus' assassination, it was done). In 97, a farming crisis erupted because the price of slaves increased (without new wars, there were no new slaves). Many, like Pliny the Younger, broke their estates into small plots and rented them out to tenant-farmers (coloni). Nerva adopted Trajan as his son, heir and co-regent, then died in 98.
Nerva was replaced by M. Ulpius Trajan, a man of Spanish descent. He was tolerant and courteous; the Senate gave him the title Optimus Princeps (Best Emperor). He had much military experience under Vespanianus, Domitianus and Nerva. He inspected and strengthened the borders before he entered Rome, where he was warmly received. Here he built his own Forum with a Greek/Latin library and a column depicting his victory over the Dacians. He also completed the harbor of Ostia (begun by Claudius) for Rome. He encouraged the small farmers by building roads and harbors in the empire (a bridge he built over the Tagus in Spain is still used today). Between 113 - 117, he fought the Parthians of Mesopotamia and sacked their capital at Ctesiphon. This territory was turned into provinces. Preparing to leave for Rome, he left Hadrianus in charge, then sufferred a stroke in Selinus and died in August,117.
P. Aelius Hadrianus, another Spaniard, replaced him. Hadrianus made enemies easily but inspired confidence. He was well-educated and especially loved Greek things (his nickname was Graeculus, or "Little Greek"). The empire was under revolt when he assumed the throne. He abandoned Mesopotamia. When he came to Rome, he had to appease the Senate and the people, but still they grumbled, so he left Rome. First he went to Palestine to suppress a rebellion of the Jews (some 1,000,000 were killed or enslaved by 135). Next he turned to Britain and built a wall across the north to keep back the barbarians. The loyalty of legions for him became almost a cult. Regular legions and auxiliaries trained alike. Permanent forts were established along the borders with mobile units stationed between. Throughout the empire he helped the poor, relieved distressed areas and extended citizenship to the wealthy. He added a postal service and revenue department to the bureaucracy. He also established a circuit court and a supreme court. He built a palace for himself at Tivoli (@15 miles from Rome) and a mausoleum in Rome (later turned into the Castle del' San Angelo). He rebuilt the temple built by Augustus' general Agrippa, now known as the Pantheon (the Roman temple in best condition today). After suppressing the Jewish rebellion in 135, Hadrianus retired to Tivoli. He became bored and sought death (when he asked his doctor for poison, the doctor took it himself; when he asked a slave to stab him, the slave ran away). He finally died in July of 138, and was buried in his Mausoleum.
Hadrian was replaced by Titus Aurelius Antoninus Pius (so-called because he had Hadrianus deified). Antoninus ascended the throne in the prime of life, considered an excellent choice by all. His reign was one of peace. He was of Gaulic descent. He had risen through the bureaucracy under Hadrian. When the Senate tried to damn Hadrian's name, he stopped them. He was deferential toward the Senate. He abolished the circuit courts which they so hated. He entertained the people with games, but helped the rich at the expense of the poor. He established the legal posit that a man was innocent until proven guilty. A believer in the ancient gods, he persecuted Christians who refused to worship them. His advice was sought by kings of India and China. But he let the legions on the borders grow soft, which strained the defenses after his death in 161.
M. Aelius Aurelius replaced Antoninus. He appointed Lucius Verus his co-regent. Aurelius had the best education money could buy: his elementary training was completed by private tutors; he learned rhetoric and law from the foremost scholars of the day, Cornelius Fronto and L. Volusius Maecinianus; he learned Greek from Herodes Atticus; in later life he turned to the study of Stoicism as taught by Epictetus (eventually Aurelius wrote his own philosophical work, Meditations, in Greek). He also believed in the ancient gods and allowed the persecution of Christians, who were accused of being atheists, incestuous and cannibalistic. Between 161 & 175, he sent his legions against the Parthians. Although they were successful, they brought back a plague which swept through the east, Italy and the west. This allowed the Germans to cross the Rhine and reach as far south as Italy. Aurelius was forced to enlist slaves and gladiators in the army he used to push the Germans back. In 176 he appointed his son Commodus heir, and unveiled his famous gold-leafed Equestrian Statue and a column (both still extant in Rome). Between 178 & 180, Aurelius finally defeated the Dacians (modern Yugoslavia). But then he caught a disease, perhaps the plague, and died.
The Pax Romana ended with the death of Aurelius in 181. Commodus was a vain and violent man, hated by the Roman people. He was pretentious and delegated his responsibilities to various favorites, whom he murdered when he tired of them. He was finally strangled by a muscular favorite during a wrestling match. He was replaced in 193 by Pertinax, who was killed by the Praetorian Guard. The Guard then auctioned the throne to a very rich senator, Didius Julianus. He was even more unpopular. Troops in Syria, Britain and along the Danube declared their generals emperors. Septimius Severus (193 - 211) from the Danube survived, a man of African birth. He worked to consolidate his power, so the empire enjoyed a brief period of peace. He was replaced by Caracalla and Geta, but Caracalla murdered Geta and all his followers. In 212, he extended Roman citizenship to all free men throughout the empire, erased the legal difference between Italians and provincials, between the urban and the rural. He tried to unite the Roman and Parthian empires against the barbarians through marriage. But when this fell through, he attempted war against both. This was unsuccessful and he was murdered. Soon after, the Parthians fell to the Saffavids.
After Severus, the empire fell to civil wars between generals, many from the provinces (Philip the Arab). The bureaucracy increased in size and corruption. The coinage was devalued and inflation set in. Diocletian took the throne in 284. His first act was to divide the empire into 2 halves: he took the rich east and gave the west to Maximian. Each took the title Augustus. Each then selected a Caesar, general, to serve under them. Diocletian chose Galerius and Maximian chose Constantius (father of the furture Constantine). This was called the Tetrarchy, four leaders with Diocletian the lead ruler. Each shared in the others glories, but in fact, the empire was divided into four parts (see the map). Diocletian made the bureaucracy answerable to himself to stem corruption. He reorganized the army to hold off invasions. He set wage and price controls, forced sons to take up their father's occupations to control inflation and taxes (the coloni were affixed to their land and eventually became the serfs of the Medieval Period). Christianity became increasingly popular as it emphasized a detachment from the sufferings of this world.
After Diocletian retired in 305, civil war broke out. Constantinius, the Younger (Constantine) gained control (312) and reunited the empire. He had converted to Christianity before the final battle. By the Edict of Milan, 313, he declared it an officially tolerated religion. Concerned over the pagan roots of Rome, he moved the capital east to Byzantium, renaming it Constantinople (the city was closer to the rich trade routes and more secure from barbarian invasions). After Constantine's death in 337, Rome was again split east and west. In 395, Christianity was made the official Roman religion.
To the east of the Rhine were the German tribes. Tribes were led by elected kings. The kings gave their warriors shields, javelins, food and shelters. In turn, the warriors fought as he directed. They differed in their technique, however, in that the Romans fought as well-disciplined units while the Germans fought as individuals. The kings were also in charge of justice amongst their people. While the emperors were strong, the troops were able to hold back the Germans. But the years of civil war and social degradation took its toll on the border defenses. The acceptance of Christianity, with its non-violent message, may have contributed to the final collapse. German population increased over the centuries and increasingly they looked to the warmer, more fertile lands of western Europe. Then came the Huns from the east, who forced the Germans west.
The fourth century saw the beginning of the end for the western empire. In 358, the Franks invaded northwestern Gaul. In 367, the Angles and Saxons invaded Britain. Then a group of warriors, the Huns, invaded Germania from the east. They readily defeated the Ostrogoths north of the Black Sea in 375. The Visigoths tried to avert the same fate by settling inside Roman territory. They were given official permission in 376 to cross the Danube. But in 378, the emperor changed his mind and sent an army against them. The Visigoths defeated the Romans under the Emperor Valens at Adrianople. Germans then began pouring over the borders into the west. The next Emperor, Theodosius I, reunited the empire for the last time. He was forced to deal with the German invaders, barely holding them off from the walls of Constantinople. After his death, the empire was again split east and west between his sons, Arcadius and Honorius. The Visigoths swept through the west and in 410, under Aleric, sacked the city of Rome. Then Arcadius conceded them part of Gaul and Spain. In 412 the Vandals swept through Spain. The Visigoths occupied Spain in 417. In 430, the Vandals occupied north Africa.
The Huns continued west conquering modern Romania, Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia, entering Greece in 446. Then they crossed the Rhine. The Christians called their leader, Attila, the "Scourge of God." In 451, the Romans and Germans allied against the Huns and met them near Troyes (the battle of Chalons). Though unbeaten, Attila withdrew his forces and died soon after (453). The Hun empire then collapsed. The Vandals invaded Italy from north Africa and in 455 sacked Rome. The Burgundians, Lombards and Franks later settled in the west also. Finally, a German king named Odoacer took Rome, forced the young emperor Romulus Augustus to give up the throne, and was declared king of Italy (476). He contacted the Emperor in the east and was given the title Patrician, though in fact he was an independent king. The people never recognized the collapse of the west. They still lived as they had, but with new leaders, who gave lip service to the east while enjoying regional independence. Slowly the German culture penetrated the Roman culture to create Feudal culture.
The Christian church had appeared soon after the death of Jesus in Jerusalem in 30 AD, established by his disciples and followers, like Peter. Jesus was the son of a carpenter named Joseph and his wife Mary. He is said to have been a virgin birth, and that a John the Baptist announced his coming to the Jews as the deliverer, the Messiah. After Jesus had grown and learned, he began to teach his message to the Jews. His message was simple, love and trust in God, but his interpretations of God’s laws were different from those of the Pharisees, the preservers of the laws. He reached the simple common folk, is said to have accomplished miracles, like healing the sick and even raising a man, Lazarus, from the dead. His following grew large and this angered the Pharisees, whom Jesus accused of blocking men from God. They conspired with the Roman proconsul Pilatus and he was crucified during the reign of the Emperor Tiberius.
His disciples continued to preach his message (and perform miracles) and a following grew amongst the Jews, though not very large. Persecutions began almost immediately under the Jews, but one, Paul of Taursus, converted and began to spread the message to the non-Jews (Gentiles). Persecution by Rome began under Nero, who blamed them for the fire of 64. Persecutions continued on and off, with varying degrees of intensity, until 313 when the emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan which made Christianity legal. Despite the persecutions, Christianity spread, though never with a very large body until after 313. The reasons for it attractions were many. Everyone was accepted in it regardless of rank or sex, which lent each a feeling of equality, dignity and love. Moreover there was the promise of eternal life for everyone despite their social rank or sex or previous life. It was even accepted by intellectuals, who rejected the old gods, the mystery religions and philosophies. There was also its moral code which was practical and humane, like helping the down-trodden. The martyrdoms (dying for Jesus) seemed rather to pique curiosities. It spread easily because of the common culture and languages (Greek and Latin) and easy transportation.
Its organization started simple. Churches were established in various cities and then left to grow on their own. Soon theological differences developed between these. This seems among the reasons the New Testament was recorded, so the Churches worked from a common source. The churches were led by Church Fathers. As the religion spread into the countryside, smaller churches came under the influence of the larger churches. These areas were led by bishops who appointed priests to teach and lead smaller the groups called parishes. Then bishops of larger cities were called patriarchs. As the religion spread, even larger territories (provinces, or sees) were organized and archbishops chosen to rule them. By this time women's roles declined. Eventually the archbishop of Rome claimed that Peter had made Rome the center of Christianity and claimed the title Pope, or Father of the Church (from the Greek Pappa, grandfather). This was generally accepted as Jesus had called Peter the rock of the church.
Nevertheless there were quarrels about doctrine, such as was Jesus God or a man or both? What is God? What is God's relationship to man? What is man's relationship to God? This opened the way for priests and bishops to use these arguments to their advantages. Constantine's Edict of Milan ended the persecutions, but the theological quarrels increased. Finally the Church leaders issued the Nicene Creed, 325, which defined the relation between God the Father and God the Son and the Holy Spirit: the three were one. There were still divisions like Syraic, Coptic, Arian and Nestorian sects. Some ascetics withdrew into the desert to contemplate and pray. The first monastery was established by Anthony of Alexander in 285. Missionaries like Patrick and Augustine were sent to convert the Irish and English. In 301 the Armenians had converted. After the German invasions, the Germans were converted to different sects, though they generally accepted the western Roman Catholic Church and accepted the Pope as the spiritual leader, while they usually looked to the east for the Emperor. Christianity was made the official Roman religion in 395 by the emperor Theodosius I after the previous emperor, Julian, the "Apostate", attempted to return to the old pagan religion. The Catholic Church became a prominent power in the west in years following the fall of Rome as the German and Roman cultures blended into what is known as the Medieval, or Feudal Period