(continued from  11/08/07)

I. FIRST EMPIRE, "ROME," 27 BC-284, 310 years

The "First Empire" is what often would be considered the entire history of the "Roman Empire." It is definitely the end of the Ancient World. If "Rome" means paganism, bizarre Imperial sex crimes, and the Pax Romana, then this would indeed be it. A later Empire that is Christian, more somberly moralistic, and more beset with war, sounds like a different civilization, which it is, and isn’t. That the earlier civilization didn’t "fall" but merely became transformed is a truth that both academic and popular opinion still hasn’t quite come to terms with. If the decadence of pagan religion and despotic emperors was going to be the cause of the "fall" of Rome, then it certainly should have fallen in the Crisis of the Third Century. That it didn’t would seem almost like a disappointment to many. But the greatest of the 3rd century Emperors, like Aurelian, don’t get popular books, movies, and BBC television epics made about them. They begin to pass into a kind of historical blind spot. The Pax Romana seems real enough in certain places, but there were not many reigns without some major military action. As long as these were remote from Rome, people would have thought of it as peace. Once Aurelian rebuilt the walls around Rome, things had obviously changed.

A. "PRINCIPATE," 27 BC-235, 261 years 1. JULIO-CLAUDIANS

C. (Octavius) Julius Caesar Octavianus Augustus27 BC-14 AD

defeat of Varus by Arminius,

destruction of three legions, abandonment of Germany,
9 AD

Tiberius I
Ti. Claudius Nero14-37

C. (Julius) Caesar (Germanicus)37-41

Claudius I
Ti. Claudius Drusus41-54

Invasion of Britain, 43

(L. Domitius Ahenobarbus) Nero Claudius Drusus


Ser. Sulpicius Galba68-69

M. Salvius Otho69

A. Vitellius69 This is the period that fits everybody’s main idea of the "Roman Empire." Caligula and Nero, and Robert Graves’s version of Claudius, are objects of endless fascination, moralizing, guilty pleasure, and not-so-guilty pleasure. Whatever these emperors were actually like, this approach began with the Romans themselves, with Suetonius’s list of Tiberius’s sexual perversions, lovingly reproduced in Bob Guccione’s movie Caligula (1979, 1991). Whether Tiberius was really guilty of anything of the sort is anyone’s guess, but we don’t hear much in the way of such accusations about subsequent Emperors, except for a select few, like Caracalla and Elagabalus. Meanwhile, Augustus had secured the Rhine-Danube frontier, and Claudius conquered most of Britain. Augustus originally wanted an Elbe-Danube frontier, but his forces were caught in a catastrophic ambush and destroyed. The Romans gave up on the Elbe permanently. Only Charlemagne, by the conquest of Saxony, would secure what Augustus had wanted. The shadow of the Republic persisted during this period, as Augustus adapted Republican forms to his own concentration of absolute power, and someone like Claudius could still dream of restoring the Republic. The year 69 pretty much ended these dreams, since the first free-for-all scramble for the throne revealed that the army, and only the army, would determine who would be Emperor. Strangely enough, despite the occasional anarchy, this would be a source of strength for the Empire, since it always did the best with successful soldiers at its head. Unsuccessful soldiers faced the most merciless reality check (whether killed by the enemy or by their own troops); but purely civilian Emperors, like , could endure one disaster after another without their rule necessarily being endangered.

 The family of the Julio-Claudians seems like one of the most complicated in history. The  chart presented bellow  eliminates many people in the family to focus on the descent and relation of the Emperors. Caligula and Nero are descendants of Augustus, through his daughter Julia (from his first marriage); but Claudius and Nero are also descendants of Mark Antony, who of course committed suicide, shortly before Cleopatra, rather than be captured after his defeat by Augustus.

The use of crowns to indicate the emperors is at this point anachronistic, but it is convenient. The crown for Christian Roman Emperors, which of course will not occur until Constantine, is shown with a nimbus, like deified earlier Emperors, because they are always portrayed with halos, like Saints, and are said to be the "Equal of the Apostles."


Masinissa  c.215-149                                                                                       Gauda  105-?

 Gulussa &
Mastanabal 149-c.145                                                                                      Hiempsal II   c.88-c.50

Micipsa     149-118                                                                                          Juba I           c.50-46 

Adherbal &
Hiempsal I  118-116                                                                                        Juba II          c.30 BC-c.22 AD

Jugurtha  118-105                                                                                           Ptolemy         c.22 AD-40 

War with Romans, 112-106                                                                              Roman Province
 No less that four foreign cultures have been planted into North Africa over the centuries. The Kingdom of Numidia was originally promoted by Rome as an ally against the Carthaginians. In the Second Punic War (218-201), Masinissa went from fighting effectively for Carthage to an alliance with Rome. His cavalry is largely what enabled Scipio Africanus to defeat Hannibal at Zama in 202. He was then supported by the Romans in eliminating his Numidian rivals. However, when he wanted to marry the wife of the great Numidian king Syphax, the Cathaginian princess Sophonisba, the Romans demanded that she be handed over to them. Masinissa enabled her to poison herself instead. Rome supported Masinissa the rest of his life. He died shortly before Carthage itself was exterminated in 146. Numidian allies thus enabled Rome to overthrow the first foreign culture in North Africa, the Phoenician (or "Punic" to the Romans). The Numidians then, of course, discovered what being an "ally" of Rome really meant, and war resulted as later Kings tried to preserve their independence — especially the War of Jugurtha (112-105). Like the native kingdoms of Anatolia, Numidia was soon converted into a Roman province, opening the way for the introduction of a Latinate culture. If no other events had intervened, North Africa today would probably boast its own Romance language, like Spanish or French. This, however, was not to be. The Vandals interrupted Roman rule, but not long enough to make any lasting difference, if Islam had not soon arrived. When it did, this became the most durably planted foreign culture, with a large colonial element, as the Fatimid Caliphs of Egypt later directed an invasion of ethnic Arab tribes — in revenge for North African defection from the Fatimids, and from the Shi’ite cause. The last culture planted was that of France, beginning with the occupation of Algeria in 1830. Eventually, something like 30% of the population of Algeria was French colonials, who began to fight as the era of de-colonization threatened their position. This brought about the fall of the French Fourth Republic in 1958. Interestingly, the two greatest French Existentialist writers and philosophers were on opposite sides of the issue. Jean Paul Sartre had become a dogmatic Marxist who demanded Algerian independence at any cost, while Albert Camus, whose most famous book, The Stranger, is set in Algeria, could not so easily dismiss the poor French farmers who had lived in Algeria for nearly a century — Camus also suspected that Sartre’s doctrinaire leftism concealed a bit of collaboration with the Germans in World War II. The return of Charles de Gaulle to power in 1958 ushered in harsh medicine about Algeria. De Gaulle decided that France should cut her losses, and the colony was abruptly granted independence in 1962. This began a bitter exodus of the French colonials and the nauseating torture and massacre of all those Algerians who were associated with the colonial regime. The cycle of terrorism continues even today, as leftist ideology has collapsed into an unhappy civil conflict between military rule and Islamic fundamentalism, and frightened Algerians have increasingly fled….to France. Unfortunately, the French economy, with stupifying labor law, has created national double digit unemployment, far higher in the heavily Moslem immigrant community, which is then supported by the French welfare state in public housing projects that have become virtual No Man’s Lands outside many French cities. The idle and resentful unemployed then turn to….Islamic fundamentalism.


Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. Department of Philosophy, Los Angeles Valley College


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