Timeline from the roman principate to the beginning of the reformation

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27 B.C. – After having defeated Mark Antony and annexed Egypt, Octavian declares the Restoration of the Republic, and returns Rome to the power of the Senate. The Senate responds by giving Octavian the power to rule the entire Empire, and bestows on him the name Augustus. Augustus gives himself the title of princeps, or “first citizen.”

Augustus builds his mausoleum in the Field of Mars.

In the same year, Marcus Agrippa, a good friend of Augustus, builds the first version of the Pantheon (we don’t know what the first version looked like).

23 B.C. – Augustus refuses to renew his consulship. The Senate responds by giving him the powers of a consul without holding the office of consul. Augustus also already holds the powers of the tribune without being a tribune. The Senate gives him maius imperium, i.e., a “greater command” than was given to any magistrate before.

In the same year, Rome has a huge fire. Augustus decides to set up a familia publica, a band of public slaves whose job is to put out fires and repress small crime, a combination police/fire department. They are called the vigiles (watchmen). At first there are only 600, but when fires continue, Augustus increases it to 7000.

20’s B.C. – Augustus begins looking for a successor to train, but they all die before he does.

19 B.C. – Augustus pacifies all of Spain.

Afterwards, he conquers the Alpine area and the Balkan Peninsula all the way up to the Danube river.

Vergil, the author of the Aeneid, dies.

15 B.C. – 9 B.C. – Augustus conquers everything from the Rhine river up to the Elbe river in Germania.

9 B.C. – Augustus dedicates the Ara Pacis in the Field of Mars (the one where the obelisk’s shadow falls on his birthday, Sept. 23)

8 B.C. – The death of Horace (author of the Odes, the Epistles, and Satires; considered to be the second-greatest Roman poet).

Ca 4 B.C. – Jesus Christ is born in Bethlehem of Judaea.

2 B.C. – Augustus completes the Forum of Augustus, including the temple to Mars Ultor (Mars the Avenger) to commemorate his victory over the murderers of Julius Caesar.

Also, in the same year, the Senate bestows on Augustus the title Pater Patriae (Father of the Fatherland), for which Augustus is very thankful.

4 A.D. – Augustus names his stepson, Tiberius, as his successor.

6 A.D. – Augustus decides to expand even further East, in an attempt to join the borders of the Elbe with the borders of the Danube.

9 A. D. – The Battle of the Teutoburg forest. Arminius, a Roman citizen and soldier, leads a revolt of the Cherusci against Roman rule. He tricks Publius Quinctilius Varus and his three legions (XVII, XVIII, and XIX) into following him into a thick forest, and there the Cherusci utterly massacre the three legions. They become known as “the three lost legions.”

Back in Rome, Augustus decides to set the borders of the Empire at the Rhine and the Danube. Tiberius, Augustus’ heir, goes to the Rhine to try to restore order. He is successful. The Romans pull out of Germania. This has a great impact on the future of Europe, since it sets the basic divide between Romance (Latin based) languages and Germanic languages (German, English, Dutch, Flemish, and the Scandinavian languages).

Augustus bangs his head against a wall, saying, “Varus, give me back my legions!”

8 A.D. – Augustus exiles Ovid to the Black Sea for some scandal also involving Augustus’ daughter Julia, whom he also exiles.

14 A.D. – Death of Augustus, at 75 years old. His last words were, “Have I acted the comedy well?” Tiberius is the next Emperor.


Augustus had full control of the army and the treasury, as well as the power of both a consul and a tribune.

Reduced the legions from 60 to 28

The army had only 150,000 citizen soldiers and 130,000 auxiliary soldiers. With that, Rome ruled 50 million people.

Set up some provinces (Egypt, Germany, etc.) directly under his control. These were called imperial provinces, and they were taken care of by a legate of the Emperor, picked directly by Augustus, and who could be switched out whenever the emperor wished.

The other provinces remain senatorial provinces, ruled by propraetors and proconsuls (i.e., former praetors and consuls) just like in the days of the Republic. However, one big difference was that the Emperor had to approve each propretor and proconsul.

Augustus paid the officials in the provinces a regular salary (he raised money for this by imposing an inheritance tax, which made the upper classes mad). This helped prevent extortion in the collection of taxes, and made people like Roman rule, for the most part.

Rome made use of local officials as much as possible. The reward for cooperation was privileges, including Roman citizenship. The punishment for rebellion was always severe. In this way, Rome was able to rule so many provinces with a very small government, since the local peoples continued to hold their offices.

In his own words, Augustus found Rome a city of brick, and left it a city of marble. He was half right. Rome was splendid, though the living arrangements (insulae) remained pretty decrepit.

He instituted gladiatorial games on a large scale to keep the people happy.

He gave free grain to about 700,000 inhabitants of Rome.

He defined three classes: Senatorial (1 million sesterces in property), equestrian (400,000 sesterces in property), and “the lower class (everybody else that’s free).

He tried to restore public religion and morality, both of which declined during the Late Republic. E.g., he made adultery illegal and punishable (mostly by exile), he imposed a tax on bachelors, widows, and families with less than three children, etc.

He made his friend, Gaius Maecenas, in charge of finding talent to praise the Roman Empire. Maecenas found and patronized Ovid, Vergil, Horace, and Propertius.

Established the Praetorian Guard

14 – 37 A.D. – Reign of Tiberius. He had been a good general, but not so good as an emperor. He seemed a bit jaded, like he just did not care. One abuse that he brought in was the lex maiestatis, the “law of majesty”, which penalized anyone who was perceived as harming the majesty of Rome or the emperor. The last ten years of his reign, he retired to Capri (the “island of Tiberius”) and put an official named Seianus in charge of Rome. The people rejoiced when Tiberius died. They did not know what was coming next.

17 A.D. —Death of the historian Livy (author of Ab Urbe Condita).

18 A.D. – Death of Ovid in exile by the Black Sea.

30 A.D. – Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

37 – 41 A.D. – Regin of Caligula (“little boots”), the grandnephew of Tiberius. He seems to have been insane. He kidnapped his own married sister and had her live as his mistress; he declared he wanted to be a god; he said he intended to make his horse Incitatus a consul, and had it dressed in gold and purple; and he wanted to conquer Britain, so he gathered the legions on the coast of Normandy, only to recall that they had no ships prepares, so he sent his soldiers to look for seashells. He killed many people, too. The Praetorian Guard finally had enough, and they killed him, his wife, his baby daughter, and then they found his 50 year-old uncle Claudius hiding in a closet in complete fear… and they made him emperor.

41 – 54 A.D. – The reign of Claudius. He was physically handicapped, having a paralysis of some sort, and for this reason he was kept in hiding by the Emperor Augustus, and was kept alive by Caligula for amusement. But as emperor, he was quite good. He improved the Roman bureaucracy by making use of talented freedmen, which made the Senate angry, but, oh well. He raised Gauls to the rank of Senator. Also, he was the Emperor who finallu brought the Roman Empire into Britain, obtaining about the southern third present-day England. He married Julia Agrippina, who already had a son named Nero, who was the apple of her eye. Then one day Agrippina brought him a dish of mushrooms (his favorite) and he died.

54 -68 A.D. – The reign of Nero. He was 17 years old when his reign began. His tutor Seneca tried to teach him the Stoic way, and at first, things seemed to work out well. But then Nero flipped. He killed many people, including his half brother Britannicus (Claudius’ natural son). He decided that he wanted to be a great artist. He forced senatorial class officials to listen to his concerts (Vespasian, a military general, refused to go, and was banished for it). Nero eventually falls in love with Poppaea Sabina. He has her husband killed, and then marries her. Agrippina, Nero’s mother, is jealous of Poppaea, and she seduces Nero. This starts all of Rome talking, and Nero decides to kill his mother. He tries poison, then a trap-ship, but then just sends soldiers after her, who kill her.

62 A.D. – Seneca is disgusted with Nero. He retires from his tutorship.

64 A.D. – The great fire of Rome. One third of the city is burned. The people blame Nero, saying that he wanted to rebuild the city and name it after himself. It doesn’t help that Nero immediately starts building his Domus Aurea, along with a luxury lake, in one of the places that was ravaged by fire. Nero blames the Christians. Thus begins the first persecution of Christians. According to Tacitus, they are killed by being dressed in pitch and lit on fire to light the night, or by execution at the Circus of Nero (on the Vatican hill). By tradition, St. Peter the Apostle dies in this persecution (crucified upside-down at the Circus of Nero).

65 A.D. – Seneca, suspected of having been involved in a conspiracy to kill Nero, is forced to commit suicide.

66 A.D. – In Judaea, the Jews revolt, led by a man named Menahem. They capture the fortress at Masada and put up a strong fight. Nero calls Vespasian back from banishment, and sends Vespasian and Vespasian’s son Titus to Judaea to quell the revolt. He keeps Vespasian’s other son Domitian back at the palace for “collateral”.

66 A.D. – Death of Petronius, author of the Satyricon (remember the werewolf story).

67 A.D. – The martyrdom of St. Paul, who is beheaded by the sword, since he is a Roman citizen.

68 A.D. – Nero is living a life of complete luxury and squalor, with huge orgies on little boats on his lake. Included among his scandals is his marriage to men on two occasions. Galba, a general in Spain, as well as other army officials have had enough. They march to Rome and surround the palace. Nero’s bodyguards all leave him. He eventually commits suicide, saying “What an artist the world is losing in me.”

69 A.D. – The Year of the Four Emperors. Galba ousts Nero. Back in Judaea, Vespasian hears about this, and sends his son Titus to Rome to congratulate the new emperor. But before Titus arrives, Otho kills Galba. Then Vitellius kills Otho. This makes Vespasian mad, and he wars against Vitellius and wins, and makes himself the new emperor.

70 A.D. – The destruction of Jerusalem. Since Vespasian is the new emperor, Titus has been continuing the campaign in Judaea. He completely destroys Jerusalem, including the temple. This is the end of the temple; it has never been rebuilt. The Jews of Jerusalem are scattered about the Empire. They are forbidden to live in Jerusalem for a long time. The temple treasures are brought back to Rome (see the Arch of Titus, in the Roman Forum, where there is a relief sculpture of the soldiers running off with the Menorah) and both the treasures and Jewish slaves are used to start building the Colosseum (Vespasian had drained Nero’s lake to start building Rome’s largest amphitheater).

In general, Vespasian does a good job of restoring the economy, which had been squandered by Caligula and Nero. He does this by taxing everything, including urine (which was used to bleach togas).

79 A.D. Death of Vespasian. His son Titus is Emperor.

79 A.D. – The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum are utterly wiped out, yet preserved for ever, not to be discovered again until the late 1700’s. Pliny the Elder, author of the Natural History (a 37-volume encyclopedia) died in the event, trying to save people.

80 A.D. – The inauguration of the Colosseum.

80 A.D. – The Pantheon burns down.

81 A.D. – Death of Titus. Domitian takes his place.

81 – 96 A.D. – The reign of Domitian. He is an insecure, ruthless emperor. He killed many people on trumped up charges. He caused his own sister’s death when he forced her to get an abortion. He persecuted Christians. Eventually, he was assassinated by some house servants.

96 – 98 A.D.—The reign of Nerva. He was elected by the Senate. But he was very old. He had no son, so he adopted the Spanish general Trajan as his son (who was not even born in Italy). He keeps him as a kind of apprentice emperor.

98 A.D. – 117 A.D. – The reign of Trajan. Under him, the Empire reached its widest extent ever, since he conquered Dacia (beyond the Danube, modern-day Romania), Mesopotamia, England up to the border with Scotland, part of Arabia, and the rest of North Africa (the part immediately south of Spain). But he was also a great administrator. He lent money to poor families at low-interest rates, he gave public funds to farmers, he gave free grain to those who needed it. He also built a new Forum, with the famous “markets of Trajan” which included little stalls where people would come every morning to sell their goods. He had no son, so he adopted Hadrian.

120 A.D. – The death of Tacitus, author of the Annals, the Histories, and the Germania, one of our main sources for this period.

117 – 138 A.D.—The reign of Hadrian. He took a more defensive policy. He gave Mesopotamia back to the Parthians, since he knew Rome couldn’t maintain it. In exchange, he got trading rights, particularly regarding the Silk Road. He built a wall at the Empire’s northern border in England, and build fortifications covering the gap between the Rhine and the Danube. He travelled a lot, visiting every province personally, and promoting good people when he was in each one. He adopts Antoninus Pius as his successor.

118 – 125 A.D.—Hadrian rebuilds the Pantheon. His Pantheon is still standing today, and is still marveled at by engineers and architects.

130 A.D. – Death of Suetonius, author of On the Lives of the Twelve Caesars, another one of our main sources on this period.

138 – 161 A.D. – Reign of Antoninus Pius. He is considered by some to have been the best of the Five Good Emperors. He mostly stayed in Rome, and had a reputation for impartial justice and equity. He also tried to involve the Senate in politics more than any other emperor had done. He adopted Marcus Aurelius as his successor.

161 – 180 A.D. – Reign of Marcus Aurelius, the “philosopher king.” He is called that because he is one of the main authors on Stoic philosophy, in his book Meditations. Depsite this, he had a particular disliking of Christianity, and increades persecution in his reign. He was often engaged in defensive battles in Pannonia (modern day Hungary). He died near the Danube river. And he had a son.

168 A.D. – Death of Ptolemy, author of the Almagest (about the movements of the stars and planets) and about 600 other works.

180 – 192 A.D. – Reign of Commodus. His was a reign of terror. His palace was filled with prostitutes and boys. He killed his own sister. He personally fought in the gladiatorial games. Finally, the prefect of the Praetorian Guard hired a wrestler named Narcissus to kill him.

193 A.D. – The Praetorian Guard made an old man named Pertinax emperor. He didn’t want the job. While he ruled (for 87 days), he tried to cut the Praetorian Guard’s pay, realizing that they had too much power. The Praetorian Guard hacked him to pieces. Then they offered the Empire to the highest bidder.

193 A.D. – Didius Julianus wins the bid at 25,000 sesterces per guardsman. Back on the Danube frontier, Septimius Severus hears about all this, and has had enough. He comes back to Rome and one of his men kills Didius Julianus.

193 – 211 A.D.—Reign of Septimius Severus. He knows that the army is power. He increases the soldiers’ pay by one third.

198 A.D. – Septimius Severus attacks the Parthians in Mesopotamia and reconquered Northern Mesopotamia for Rome.

208 A.D. – In the Persis Plateau, a young man named Ardashir succeeds his father as priest. He is disgusted that the Parthians lost to the Romans, and starts to incite a rebellion against the Parthian Arsacid (that’s just what the Parthian king was called). It soon catches on.

211 A.D. – Septimius Severus dies, saying “Keep the army happy, and don’t give a d---- about anything else.”

211 – 217 A.D. – Reign of Caracalla. He is important for mainly two reasons: He built the hugest bath complex Rome had ever seen, most of which is still standing today; and he extended Roman citizenship to every free person in the Empire.

224 A.D. – Ardashir overthrows the Parthian Empire, and begins a new Empire, which we call the Sassanid Empire (named after Ardashir’s grandfather Sassan).

230 A.D. – Ardashir and the Sassanids attack Mesopotamia. The new emperor, Alexander Severus has to attack him. But while the Romans and the Sassanids are draining each other’s resources, the barbarians in the North begin to get ideas.

235 A.D. – The Alamanni, barbarians in Germany, attach Rome’s Rhine border. Alexander Severus is too busy fighting the Sassanids in the East, so he decides to bribe the Alamanni into peace. He raises money for this by cutting his army’s pay. They don’t like this, and they soon do him in.

235 – 284 A.D. – General period of Roman chaos (until the reign of Diocletian). Rome has all kinds of problems. Constant civil war, with emperor killing emperor; famine; a discontented army; barbarians and Roman soldiers plundering poor farmers; poor farmers deciding it’s not worth it, so they turn to a life of crime; the farms return to wilderness; the Tiber floods; huge inflation; cheap coins; small pox; etc. Worst of all, the barbarians break loose:

251 A.D. -- The Goths show up from Southern Russia, and start to attack the Balkans and Greece. In the process, they slaughter the army of the Emperor Decius (now the first emperor to die in battle against the barbarians).

The Alamanni come back, and break out of the little gap between the Rhine and the Danube and overrun Gaul.

The Franks show up in Gaul, and overrun Spain and Britain.

259 – 269 A.D.—A soldier named Postumus is disgusted with Rome’s inability to deal with the barbarians. He fights them himself, and reconquers Gaul, Britain and Spain—for himself. He declares himself “Gallic Emperor.” He is killed by his own men in 269 A.D.

260 A.D. – The Sassanid king Shapur captures the Roman Emperor Valerian. This is a huge scandal to the Roman people. He dies in prison.

Valerian’s son, Gallienus is now emperor. He does not know what to do. He makes a deal with a Romanized Syrian King named Odenathus, of Palmyra, to take care of the East. Odenathus actually manages to push back the Sassanids, and stays faithful to Rome. But then he died…

267 A.D. – Odenathus’ wife Zenobia is not like her husband… she rebels from Roman rule. She proclaims herself independent ruler of Syria.

268 A.D. – Gallienus is murdered by his soldiers. Under him, the Roman denarius had reached a low of being 95% copper, with just a silver overlay.

270 A.D. -- Zenobia manages to conquer Egypt and Asia Minor (Turkey) as well. Between Postumus and Zenobia, Rome has only one small Empire left, which consists of Italy, North Africa, and Illyria (Croatia).

But in the same year, Aurelian becomes emperor.

272 A.D. – The Emperor Aurelian goes on the offensive. He defeats queen Zenobia, brings her back to Rome and makes her walk in chains in his triumphal procession. He also regains the Western Empire (which was easy after Postumus died). The Senate gives him the title restitutor orbis (restorer of the world). He also built the Aurelian wall, a huge wall that increased Rome’s size, and is still standing today. But it is a bad sign… since the 3rd century B.C., Rome has never needed to build a wall since her enemies never would have had a possibility of making it close to Rome. Times are bad.

275 A.D. – Aurelian is murdered by his secretary. Civil wars and chaos follow, until…

284 A.D. – The army in Nicomedia (Asia Minor) declares Diocletian Emperor.

284 A.D. – The army in Nicomedia (Asia Minor) declares Diocletian Emperor. He is a new kind of emperor. Imitating the Sassanid Persians, he wears purple and becomes very hard to reach (a “dio nascosto”); he requires people to kneel and kiss his feet when they enter his presence; he enlists the help of many kinds of palace officials (including eunuchs, another Persian custom).

285 A.D. – Diocletian names Maximian as his Caesar.

286 A.D. – Diocletian divides the Empire into East and West, and makes it a Tetrarchy. Maximian is raised to the rank of co-Augustus, and takes care of the West, with his capital at Milan. Diocletian takes care of the East, with his capital at Nicomedia. Each Augustus has a Caesar (junior emperor) under him: Galerius is Diocletian’s, Constantius Chlorus is Maximian’s. Both were officially adopted by their respective Augusti, and both married the Augusti’s daughters.

-During his reign, Diocletian makes the Roman army larger and more mobile (about 500,000 soldiers). The army itself is led by a palace official, the “master of the soldiers”, who later on will take on more and more significace. Diocletian also makes use of cavalry a lot more (another idea he may have got from the Sassanids.

-Diocletian has to deal with huge debt. He mints coins, reorganizes taxes. Finally, he makes it so that the curiales (tax collectors) have to pay personally for the difference if their yield to the Empire is too low. This makes it so that people try to quit that job, but Diocletian forces it on families. He forces other jobs on families, too, making it so that many families are essentially stuck in their jobs.

-Diocletian reorganizes the administration of the Empire: East and West, each divided into two prefectures each, which are composed of dioceses (12 total), which consist of provinces (100 total; these provinces are much smaller and more manageable than the large provinces before Diocletian, which prevents provincial governors from getting too powerful).

302 A.D. – Diocletian freezes wages and prices. This does not work well, as it was impossible to enforce, and a huge black market sprang up.

Feb 23, 303 A.D.—The Christian Church in Nicomedia is burned to the ground. The next day, and edict is published declaring all Churches to be closed, and that all Sacred Books must be burned.

Another edict follows which requires clergy to offer sacrifice to pagan gods, followed by another which requires all Christians to do so. Finally, at the suggestion of Galerius, Diocletian imposes the death penalty for those who refuse to obey. Thousands die without trial, inlcuding some within Diocletian’s own palace. An entire town in Phrygia was wiped out.

May 1, 305 A.D.—Diocletian announces that he and Maximian will retire. The Caesars take over as Augusti, and they in turn must name new Caesars, who must not be their own sons. Constantius Chlorus chooses Severus, and Galerius chooses Maximinus Daia. However, Constantius Chlorus’ son, Constantine, is well-loved by his father. He has been in the palace of Galerius for safekeeping, but Constantius demands to have him by his side, or else civil war. Galerius sends Constantine to Constantius Chlorus, who at this moment is fighting the Britons (in Britain).

306 A.D. – Constantius Chlorus dies, and the soldiers in Britain spontaneously declare Constantine (who has been an excellent leader in battle) as Emperor.

In the same year, Maxentius, the son of the retired Emperor Maximian, usurps power in the city of Rome (since Constantine is the son of an Augustus, he figures that he himself should have a chance, too).

307 A.D. – Maximian defeats and murders Severus (the legitimate Caesar) for his son. Then he meets with the other emperors, and they all declare that Maxentius is an illegitmate usurper. Maximian agrees,and goes to battle against his own son.

308 A.D. – Maxentius defeats his own father in battle. Maximian resigns (again), and a man named Licinius is appointed Caesar in the East.

311 A.D.—Galerius dies. During his final illness, he repeals the persecutions, realizing that Christianity is only growing stronger, and he asks the Christians to pray for him.

312 A.D. – Constantine defeats Maxentius at the battle of the Milvian Bridge (“In hoc signo vinces”) and marches into Rome. The Senate builds the Arch of Constantine to commemorate him.

313 A.D. – Constantine meets Licinius in Milan. Constantine declares the Edict of Milan, which makes Christianity legal and tolerated in the Empire.

313 A.D. – Licinius deposes Maximinus Daia, becoming the only emperor in the East.

320 A.D.—Apparently Licinius revives some persecution of Christians.

324 A.D. – Constantine defeats Licinius. While he’s in the east, he lays the foundation for a new city at the ancient Greek colony of Byzantium, on the Bosporus. The new city will be named after him: Constantinople.

325 A.D. – Constantine convokes the Council of Nicea to determine the truth between Arianism (Jesus is not God) and Catholicism (Jesus is God). The Council decides that the orthodox opinion is that Jesus is God (it’s a little late, however, since the Arians have already sent missionaries to the Germanic tribes, and most of them have already converted to Arian Christianity: the Ostrogoths, the Visigoths, the Vandals, etc.)

326 A.D. – Constantine builds St. Peter’s Basilica. Also, Constantine’s mother, St. Helena, finds the true cross in Jerusalem, and also finds the spot of the Holy Sepulchre and the Birth of our Lord. Constantine builds a basilica in both spots.

328 A.D.—St. Helena dies.

Constantine aslo builds the other basilicas of Rome.

330 A.D. – Constantinople is finished. Constantine moves in.

337 A.D. – Constantine is baptized, then dies.

After Constantine’s death, the Empire splits again into East and West between Constantine’s sons. From this point on, the Roman Empire will be usually in two parts (East and West), although there will be a few times when politically it is one, i.e., ruled by one Emperor. But culturally, the two are changing very much: the East is slowly turning into the Byzantine Empire, and the West is going to become more and more Germano-Roman.

Ca. 375 A.D. – A fierce, horse-riding, nomadic tribe in the steppes of Asia called the Huns suddenly moves West. The defeat first the Alans, then the Ostrogoths.

376 A.D. – The Visigoths ask permission from the Eastern Emperor Valens (364-378) to cross the Danube river and settle on Roman territory to escape the Huns. Valens says yes (how do you stop 40,000 people from crossing the frozen Danube?) But then the Romans treat the Visigoths terribly, extorting high prices for the basic necessities of life. Some people even trade their own children for grain.

378 A.D.—The Visigoths revolt. The Emperor Valens goes out to meet them at the Battle of Adrianople, but the Visigoths win. The Emperor Valens himself dies in the battle.

The new Emperor Theodosius (379-395) makes peace with the Visigoths, and gives them a small parcel of land in Northern Greece. But they soon will outgrow it. Theodosius also made Christianity the only legal religion of the Empire. Although he was in favor of Christianity, he was not always a good Christian:

390 A.D.—Theodosius slaughters 7000 people on the city of Thessalonica, claiming that they were rebellious. Because of this event, when Theodosius visits Milan, St. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, refuses to let Theodosius enter the cathedral, and demands that the Emperor do public penance. Theodosius obeys. This shows how the Catholic Church is growing in influence.

395 A.D. – Theodosius dies. During his last year, the Empire was united under him. It now divides among his two sons: Arcadius takes the East, Honorius (the pansy) takes the West.

395 – 401 A.D. – The Visigoths move West, led by their chief, Alaric.

402 A.D.—Honorius, fearful for his life, moves the capital of the West to a more internal location, i.e., from Milan to Ravenna. He is Emperor, but the one really in charge is Stilicho, a half-Vandal, half-Roman Master of the Soldiers. Stilicho stops the advance of Alaric numerous times: first in North Italy, then at the Danube River. Alaric can’t seem to beat him. However, in doing this, Stilicho moved troops from the Rhine frontier to the Danube frontier. This left the Rhine unguarded.

Dec. 31st, 406 A.D. – The Great Rhine Crossing: A huge group of Germanic tribes crosses the frozen, unguarded Rhine into Roman territory: the Vandals, the Alans, the Suevi, the Burgundians, etc.

408 A.D. – Honorius is jealous of Stilicho. He murders him.

408 A.D.—Alaric is now bold, since his enemy Stilicho is now dead. He lays siege to the city of Rome itself.

409 A.D.—Due to pressure from the Visigoths, the Vandals move down into Spain.

410 A.D.—Alaric comes back to Rome, but this time, he doesn’t just besiege it: he sacks it for three days. This is the first time this has happened since the Celts did it in 390 B.C.

410 A.D. – Honorius removes all the Roman troops from Britain. When the Roman people in Britain asks who will protect them, he says, “Take care of yourselves.” The Angles and Saxons and Jutes soon move into Britain from modern-day Denmark. End of Roman Empire in Britain.

410 A.D.—Alaric dies. His brother-in-law Ataulf (modern Adolph) takes over as chief of the Visigoths. He marries Honorius’ sister, Galla Placidia (despite Honorius’ forbidding it).

412 A.D. – Ataulf is murdered. A Visigoth named Vallia takes over. He wants to be on Emperor Honorius’ good side, so he returns Galla Placidia to the emperor, and helped the emperor as an ally in a war against the Vandals in Spain. In return, the emperor granted him the area of Tolosa (modern-day Toulouse, southern France) to be his own kingdom. This is the first Germanic Kingdom: the Kingdom of the Visigoths in Southern France. End of Roman Empire in Southern France.

The Visigoths quickly begin to expand their kingdom into Spain (officially Roman territory, but overrun by the Vandals).

420’s A.D.—A new Master of the Soldiers, Aetius, has a new strategy: he makes alliances with some barbarian tribes to fight other barbarian tribes, always trying to keep the balance of power between all the tribes.

429 A.D. – The Vandals choose a crippled genius named Gaiseric as their leader. They all move out of Spain into North Africa. They quickly run through North Africa, plundering and looting all the way. The Visigothic Kingdom now includes Spain. End of the Roman Empire in Spain.

430 A.D. – St. Augustine dies, as the Vandals approach his city.

437 A.D. – Aetius makes an alliance with the current chief of the Huns, named Attila (the Huns have settled in modern-day Hungary, with their capital on the Tisza river). Aetius uses the Huns against the Burgundians, in North Italy/Switzerland. The Huns crush the Burgundians, but Aetius prevents them from killing them. Instead, he allows the Burgundians to settle in the area of Switzerland, at Geneva. The beginning of the Burgundian Kingdom.

After this victory, Attila realizes how awesome he is, and decides to go on his own. He begins by killing his brother Bleda, to become sole leader of the Huns.

439 A.D. – Carthage is conquered by the Vandals. The Vandals set up North Africa as a base for exploitation and piracy in the Mediterranean. They are the first Germanic tribe to take to the seas. They forced priests and bishops into heavy-labor slavery. This is partly because they are Arian, and the people of North Africa were Catholic.

442 A.D. – Aetius, the Master of the Soldiers, gives official recognition to the Vandal Kingdom in North Africa. The Vandal Kingdom is established in North Africa, Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica. End of the Roman Empire in all of these lands (this is a huge blow to Rome, since North Africa was where Rome got most of its grain from).

443 A.D.—Attila decides that he wants to plunder the Eastern Roman Empire (the richer half). He burns Naissus (the birthplace of Constantine), then Sardica (modern-day Sofia, Bulgaria). Just outside of Constantinople, the Emperor Theodosius II (408-450 A.D.) pays him off 6000 pounds of gold, as well as a promise of 2100 pounds of gold a year from then on to keep the Huns away.

447 A.D. – Attila decides to try to take Constantinople again. But there is a plague in Constantinople, caused by a number of natural disasters (mostly earthquakes) that they’ve experienced in the last four years. On the way down, the Huns kill monks and nuns mercilessly. Constantinople sends a Gothic general, Arnegisclus, to try to stop him, but the Huns beat his army easily. Then the Huns suddenly turn back, perhaps afraid of the plague.

Attila wants to attack the Western Roman Empire. An excuse presents itself when the sister of the Emperor Valentinian III (West, 425-455 A.D.), Honoria, asks Attila to save her from a marriage to a boring Senator that the Emperor is forcing on her (she had misbehaved with palace steward, who was immediately executed). As a sign that it was really her sending the message, Honoria had sent Attila her engagement ring. Attila misunderstands her intentions, and demands from Valentinian half of the Western Empire as a dowry for his marriage to Honoria. Valentinian refuses, and so Attila uses that as the excuse to attack the West.He overruns Gaul. He destroys cities left and right (Paris was apparently saved by St. Genevieve, who convinced Attila to leave).

451 A.D. – Aetius and a coalition of Germanic allies (including the Visigoths and the Franks under Merovich) meet Attila and the Huns at the Battle of tha Cataulanian Plain. The Roman forces win, after a day-long battle. This is the last great victory of the Western Roman Empire. Attila flees back to Hungary.

452 A.D. – Attila tries to take Italy. He sacks the Northern City of Aquileia. The citizens there have to move to a lagoon nearby. Thus is born the city of Venice. Attila continues on to Rome, but he is met at Lake Bolsena by Pope Leo I. The two men talk, and Attila leaves.

453 A.D. – Attila the Hun marries a German girl named Ildico. He dies on the wedding night. The huge Hunnish Empire (extending from Germany to the border with China) immediately dissolves upon his death.

455 A.D.—Valentinian III dies. The Vandals sack Rome.

Sept. 4th, 476 A.D.—Odoacer, a Germanic Master of the Soldiers, tells the young Emperor Romulus Augustulus to step down. He does. Italy becomes the Kingdom of Odoacer, subject to the Byzantine (Eastern) Empire. End of the Roman Empire in the West.

The Eastern Emperor, Zeno (474-491 A.D.) is not happy with Odoacer having Italy. He has his own problems, however. Since the Huns have been dissolved, the Ostrogoths are now free, and they have been threatening to attack Constantinople. Then Zeno gets an idea: he offers to Theodoric, the chief of the Ostrogoths, the chance to conquer Italy for the Eastern Roman Empire. Theodoric accepts.

481 A.D. – The fifteen year-old chief of the Salian Franks, Clovis, the grandson of Merovich (who had fought Attila the Hun) succeeds in uniting all the Frankish tribes in Northern France.

493 A.D. – Theodoric succeeds in conquering all of Italy. However, he keeps it for himself. The beginning of the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy. Theodoric rules his kingdom well: it is a perfect blend of Roman and Germanic culture. However, he is a little suspicious of people later in his life: he is Arian, and he is caught right between the Catholic Pope in Rome, the Catholic Emperor in Constantinople, and now…

496 A.D. – Clovis of the Franks converts to Catholicism and is baptized. This makes the Franks the first Germanic Kingdom to be Catholic, and not Arian. As such, they win the recognition and favor of the Pope and the Bishops. He is crowned King by Bishop Remigius at Rheims. The beginning of the Frankish Kingdom in North France. This event is why France used to be known as “the eldest daughter of the Church.”

507 A.D.—King Clovis beats the Alemanni in battle, thus conquering West Germany for the Franks. Then he defeats the Visigoths in South France and a little in North Spain. He moves the capital of the Franks from Soissons to Paris.

Breakdown of the Germanic Kingdoms:

Visigoths: Most of Spain, and some of Southern France

Vandals: North Africa, Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica.

Burgundians: Switzerland, Southeastern France.

Ostrogoths: Italy

Franks: Most of France, Western Germany, Northern Spain.

511 A.D.—Clovis (Frank) dies.

525 A.D.—Way over in Arabia, a group of Ethiopian Christians (who were mostly Monophysite, i.e., they believed that Christ was one mixed up God/human nature) attack the Southern Arabian Kingdom of Saba (the only kingdom in Arabia, since they were the only ones who had any riches: farmland and incense. They had been there since 750 B.C.). This Kingdom was ruled by a Jew named Dhu Nawas, who was paid by the Sassanids. The Byzantine Empire paid the Ethiopian Christians to attack them, since they were trying to get at the Sassanids. The Ethiopians conquer Saba, but in the process, destroy the dam there, and the whole area loses its crops for lack of water afterwards, and is reduced to poverty, like most of Arabia. Now the only locations of prosperity in Arabia are the oases on the Silk Road, such as Mecca and Yathrib.

The Ethiopians eventually build a beautiful cathedral in Saba.

526 A.D.—Theodoric (Ostrogoth) dies. His grandson is the next in line to be king, but he’s too young, so the boy’s mother, Theodoric’s widowed daughter Amalasuntha, takes over as regent. She is afraid, and she asks the emperor of the East, Justinian (527-565 A.D.) for assistance. Justinian promises he will help her if ever the need arise.

529 A.D.—The great Eastern Emperor Justinian commissions the jurist Trebonian to begin compiling the Corpus Iuris Civilis. This lawcode became the basis for all law in Europe throughout the Middle Ages, and it is still the inspiration for modern Civil Law, one of the three main types of law in the world, holding sway in Continental Europe, Louisiana, and elsewhere. Justinian’s Corpus would eventually contain four volumes: the Codex (his compilation of court decisions into a code of law), the Digest (the opinions of expert jurists), the Institutes (general legal principles), and the Novels (laws made after the beginning of the compilation, kind of like an appendix of what’s new).

532 A.D.—The Nika Riots. Charioteer factions revolt in the city of Constantinople, and threaten the life of the the Emperor and the Empress (Theodora) themselves. Justinian thinks about fleeing, but Theodora convinces him to wait it out. Eventually, peace is restored.

533 A.D.—Justinian has a dream of a united Roman Empire once again. So he sends his excellent general, Belisarius, with only 18,000 soldiers, to North Africa. Belisarius quickly conquers the Vandals, and North Africa becomes part of the Byzantine Empire. End of the Vandal Kingdom.

535 A.D.—Back in Italy, Amalasuntha marries her cousin, who then murders her. Justinian remembers his promise, and so he sends Belisarius into Italy.

535-552 A.D.—The war of Justinian (Belisarius) against the Ostrogoths for control of Italy. Belisarius lands in Naples and takes it, and then takes Rome, but it takes much longer to finally take Ravenna. Eventually, the forces of Justinian win. But in the process, Italy has been ravaged. Crops were destroyed, cities were razed, and it is like a wasteland. But it is now part of the Byzantine Empire, which is the only Roman Empire there is right now. End of the Ostrogothic Kingdom.

537 A.D. – Justinian consecrates the glorious cathedral of the Hagia Sophia.

565 A.D. – Justinian dies.

568 A.D.—The Lombards invade Italy and take it. Italy is now the Lombard Kingdom. It is no longer in the hands of the Byzantine Empire.

570 A.D.—Back in Arabia, a group of Arabs from Mecca comes and desecrates the Ethiopian Cathedral in Saba (they urinate in it). For revenge, the Ethiopians gather an army and some elephants, and decide to move North to attack Mecca. When they get there, they are defeated without a fight: some say because of plague, some say because of a sandstorm, some say because of birds who drop rocks from Hell on them. At any rate, the Battle of the Elephant is seen as divine intervention by Allah, for in the same year, in the city of Mecca, is born Muhammed. Before he was born, his father, Abdulla, died. Muhammed is sent by his mother to live with Bedouins in the desert for character building.

Ca. 575 A.D.—Muhammed’s mother dies. He goes to the care of his grandfather.

Ca. 577 A.D.—Muhammed’s grandfather dies. Muhammed passes into the care of his uncle, Abu Talib, a moderately successful merchant of Mecca.

Ca. 562 A.D.—Muhammed accompanies Abu Talib on a trip to Damascus (Syria). Abu Talib leaves him in the care of Nestorian monks in Bostra. The monks have an Egyptian style monasticism, which includes prayer 7 times a day, with kneelings and prostrations, which the young Muhammed probably watched. One monk, named Bahira, tells him that he will be a great prophet and that he must reject idolatry and paganism.

Ca. 595 A.D. – The 25 year-old Muhammed is hired to lead the caravans of a semi-wealthy merchant woman named Khadija, who is 40 years old. Then, they get married. They have four daughters and two sons, but the sons die.

610 A.D.—While making a regular retreat on Mount Hira, Muhammed hears a voice behind him say, “Recite!” Thus begins his revelations, which will later be compiled in the Qur’an (the “Recitation”). The basic message is: there is one God, Allah (the Lord), and He alone must be worshipped. Idolatry must be rejected, and so must all shirk (association, i.e., making anything or anyone else equal to God). And believers must care for the poor.

613 A.D. – After a monk-relative of Khadija’s tells Muhammed that the revelations are from God, Muhammed begins spreading his message. First, there are converts from his own family, but there is one from outside his family: the merchant Abu Bakr. Most of Mecca, however, especially the Umayyad family, is unhappy with the message, since it demands that everyone give 2.5% of profit to the poor, and since if idolatry stops, people will stop coming to visit the Ka’ba in Mecca, a 12-foot high box that contained a Black Stone of unknown origin and 360 idols (Muslims believe the stone was given to Abraham by the Angel Gabriel, and that the Ka’ba was built by Abraham and Ishmael). But Muhammed’s message does spread on the Silk Road, especially to the Northern town of Yathrib.

622 A.D.-- The Hijra (“Flight”) of Muhammed from Mecca to Yathrib. In Mecca, the Umayyads had started a campaign of public ridicule of Muhammed, and his life was even threatened. The people of Yathrib extended an invitation to live with them. This event is significant for two reasons: 1. The Muslim calendar is marked from this year (hence, they use A.H., Anno Hegirae, “in the year of the Hijra”). 2. Yathrib’s name was changed to Medina, which means “City” (i.e., the city of the prophet).

In Medina, Muhammed continues to receive revelations, which take on a more and more specific nature, often involving direct commands to Muhammed for specific actions. People start to write down the revelations (these writings would later be compiled into the Qur’an). The Five Pillars begin to be developed.

The Five Pillars of Islam:

Shahadah – the Profession of Faith: “There is one God, Allah, and Muhammed is His prophet.”

Salah—Prayer five times a day, facing Mecca (at first, Muhammed said Jerusalem, but later he said Allah commanded Mecca), including public prayer at noon on Friday.

Zakat—2.5% of one’s profit must be given to charity (later, this is imposed as a tax in Muslim countries)

Sawm—the observance of the fast during the month of Ramadan: No food or water from sunrise to sunset (Ramadan is the month when Muhammed first began to receive revelations)

5. Hajj—the mandatory pilgrimage to Mecca for every able-bodied adult Muslim.

624 A.D.—Muhammed has been living off of others, which is considered shameful. So at the command of Allah, he begins to make a living for himself and his followers by raiding caravans. At the Battle of Badr, Muhammed and a band of 300 followers defeat the armed guard of 950 men defending a caravan worth 50,000 dinars (but the caravan itself escaped). This causes a huge boost in morale for Muhammed and his men.

627 A.D. – The Battle of the Ditch: the people of Mecca are angry at Muhammed, and they approach Medina with a force of 10,000 armed men. Muhammed digs numerous ditches blocking every approach to Medina. The Meccan forces cannot get close, and, running out of provisions, they return home in shame. After this event, numerous Bedouin tribes switch loyalties to Muhammed. Muhammed negotiates for permission to make the pilgrimage to the Ka’ba unharmed. Each time he goes to Mecca, he gains more followers.

630 A.D. – Muhammed returns to Mecca with 10,000 followers. He cleanses the Ka’ba of all its idols, but maintains the pilgrimage tradition. Almost all of Arabia comes under his leadership, either by paying zakat, or by converting to Islam.

June 8, 632 A.D.—Muhammed dies. Ali (son of Abu Talib, cousin of Muhammed, and husband of Muhammed’s daughter Fatima) claims the right of succession, but the people settle on Abu Bakr, who had took Muhammed into his house during his final sickness and had also led the religious services at the Ka’ba while Muhammed was sick. Abu Bakr becomes the first caliph of Islam.

634 A.D. – Abu Bakr spent two years of his reign re-uniting Arabia after many people left Islam because Muhammed died. Then, after succeeding, he died. The next caliph was Umar ibn Al-Khattab. He sees expansion and Jihad (struggle) as his mission.

635 A.D.—Umar’s forces siege and take Damascus in Syria. This is Byzantine territory.

636 A.D. –The Battle of Yarmuk. The Byzantine army (50,000 soldiers) meets the Arab forces (25,000 armed men). The Arabs win, perhaps aided by a sandstorm. Antioch and Aleppo both fall quickly afterward.

637 A.D.—Jerusalem falls to the Muslims.

637 A.D.—The Battle of Al-Qadisiya. Islamic forces begin taking over the territory of the Sassanids. Soon, Ctesiphon, the Sassanid capital falls, and all of Persia becomes Islam.

639 A.D.—Muslim forces enter Egypt.

642 A.D.—Alexandria fall, and Egypt becomes Muslim.

644 A.D. – Umar dies, poisoned by a Persian slave. Uthman becomes the Third Caliph. He is part of the Umayyad family. He quickly conquers Armenia, Asia Minor, and Bactria. The Muslim Empire reaches all the way East to the border with India.

655 A.D. –Due to the corruption and wealth and nepotism of his family, Uthman is killed by a rebellious band from Egypt. Ali (the cousin) becomes the 4th Caliph.

657 A.D. – The Battle of Siffin—Muawiya, the cousin of Uthman, thinks that Ali has not done enough to avenge the death of Uthman. He sets up his own parallel caliphate in Damascus. The two forces do battle at Siffin, but Muawiya wins by putting pages of the Qur’an on the spears of his men so that Ali’s men could not attack. The two make a treaty. This offends the Kharijites, a sect of Islam that believes that personal holiness is necessary for the caliph. The Kharijites are already angry at the Umayyads for their corruption, and Ali’s treaty seems like a capitulation.

661 A.D. – Ali is killed by a Kharijite with a poisonous dagger. Muawiya is the next caliph. He makes the moves the capital to Damascus.

Ali has left two sons. His oldest son, Hasan, is taken out of the game by Muawiya, who offers him a rich palace and a harem. He spends the rest of his life in luxury, reportedly having divorced and married 90 women.

Ali’s second son is Husayn. He stays in Iraq and is involved with rebellious forces against the Umayyads.

The Umayyad Dynasty and the Development of the Islamic Empire: Changes

-conquer Turkestan, Afghanistan, all the way up to China.

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