Pax Romana

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Roman Empire at its greatest extent with the conquests of Trajan

Pax Romana (Latin for "Roman peace", also Pax Augustus ) was the long period of relative tranquillity throughout the Mediterranean world in the first and second centuries AD in the Roman Empire. Its period was from approximately 27 BC to 180 AD, or from the reign of Augustus (27 BC–AD 14) to that of Marcus Aurelius (AD 161–180).

Augustus laid the foundation for this period of concord, which also extended to North Africa and Persia. The empire protected and governed individual provinces, permitting each to make and administer its own laws while accepting Roman taxation and military control.[1]

Origin of the term

The concept of Pax Romana was first presented by Edward Gibbon, who proposed a period of moderation and peace under Augustus and his successors and argued that generals bent on expansion (e.g. Germanicus, Agricola and Corbulo) were checked and recalled by the Emperors during their victories. He lists the Roman conquest of Britain under Claudius and the conquests of Trajan as exceptions to this policy of moderation and places the end of the period at the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180 AD, despite the conclusion of peace by the latter's son Commodus later in the same year.

"Pax Christiana" - Pax Romana as a Divine Will

The Doxastikon for Vespers of the Nativity, ascribed to the ninth-century nun Kassia, proclaims a direct connection between the world-empire of Rome and the recapitulation of humanity in Christ. Pax Romana is thus made to coincide with Pax Christiana[2]:

When Augustus reigned alone upon earth, the many kingdoms of men came to end: and when Thou wast made man of the pure Virgin, the many gods of idolatry were destroyed. The cities of the world passed under one single rule; and the nations came to believe in one sovereign Godhead. The peoples were enrolled by the decree Caesar; and we, the faithful, were enrolled in the Name of the Godhead, when Thou, our God, wast made man. Great is Thy mercy: Glory to Thee.[3]

In addition, the early fourth century Church father Eusebius of Caesarea writes that by the express appointment of God, two roots of blessing, the Roman empire, and the doctrine of Christian piety, sprang up together for the benefit of men:

When that instrument of our redemption, the thrice holy body of Christ, which proved itself superior to all Satanic fraud, and free from evil both in word and deed, was raised, at once for the abolition of ancient evils, and in token of his victory over the powers of darkness; the energy of these evil spirits was at once destroyed. The manifold forms of government, the tyrannies and republics, the siege of cities, and devastation of countries caused thereby, were now no more, and one God was proclaimed to all mankind. At the same time one universal power, the Roman empire, arose and flourished, while the enduring and implacable hatred of nation against nation was now removed: and as the knowledge of one God, and one way of religion and salvation, even the doctrine of Christ, was made known to all mankind; so at the self-same period, the entire dominion of the Roman empire being vested in a single sovereign, profound peace reigned throughout the world. And thus, by the express appointment of the same God, two roots of blessing, the Roman empire, and the doctrine of Christian piety, sprang up together for the benefit of men.[4]


Given the above, one of the main ironic trends during the Pax Romana was that Christianity was widely persecuted throughout the Roman empire.

In addition, despite the term, the period was not without armed conflict, as Emperors frequently had to quell rebellions. Both border skirmishes and Roman wars of conquest also happened during this period. Trajan embarked on a series of campaigns against the Parthians during his reign and Marcus Aurelius spent almost the entire last decade of his rule fighting against the Germanic tribes.

Nonetheless the interior of the Empire remained largely untouched by warfare. The Pax Romana was an era of relative tranquility in which Rome endured neither major civil wars, such as the perpetual bloodshed of the third century AD, nor serious invasions, or killings, such as those of the Second Punic War three centuries prior. During the Pax Romana the system of roads was greatly improved, the Roman alphabet became the basis for the western world alphabet, and aqueducts brought water from the mountains to Roman cities.[5]

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