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, from approximately 27 BC to 180 AD, or from the reign of Augustus to that of Marcus Aurelius.
Theological connections have been drawn by the Church fathers between the Pax Romana, and the Divine Providence of God which is thought to have effected it and worked through it, in order to facilitate the spread of the Gospel of Christ and the true peace of God on earth, or Pax Christi. The prophecy in Isaiah referring to the coming of the Lord on earth refers to Jesus Christ as the "Prince of Peace" in these terms:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. His name will be called the Angel of Great Counsel, for I shall bring peace upon the rulers, peace and health by Him. Great shall be His government, and of His peace there is no end. His peace shall be upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order and establish it with righteousness and judgment, from that time forward and unto ages of ages. The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this.
The concept of Pax Romana was first presented by English historian Edward Gibbon, who proposed a period of moderation and peace under Augustus and his successors.
The Age of Augustus was celebrated by the poets (especially Virgil) as a new era–the dawn of the age of gold. The empire was expanding in every area: law, culture, arts, humanities, military might, religious revival. The economy boomed, the temples were full–any and every new cult had opportunity to erect a temple in Rome. Reform was in the air–reform of manners–reform of religion–reform of the republic.
Augustus laid the foundation for this period of concord, which also extended to North Africa and Persia. Gibbon 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.
The Pax Romana witnessed the great Romanization of the western world, including the spread of the legal system that brought law and order to the provinces, and which forms the basis of many western court systems today. The arts and architecture flourished, along with commerce and the economy. The networks of good and safe roads and sea routes was greatly improved, there were free movements of peoples and mixing of cultures, as well as tolerance of foreign cults. The Roman alphabet became the basis for the western world alphabet, and aqueducts brought water from the mountains to Roman cities.
Pax Romana as a Divine Will (Pax Christi)
Doxastikon for Vespers of the NativityDoxastikon 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 Christi:
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.
Eusebius of Caesarea
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.
The early third century father Origen of Alexandria similarly identifies the Divine Providence of God working through the Pax Romana in order to effect the spread of the Gospel of Christ and the true peace of God on earth or Pax Christi.
For righteousness has arisen in His days, and there is abundance of peace, which took its commencement at His birth, God preparing the nations for His teaching, that they might be under one prince, the king of the Romans, and that it might not, owing to the want of union among the nations, caused by the existence of many kingdoms, be more difficult for the apostles of Jesus to accomplish the task enjoined upon them by their Master, when He said, "Go and teach all nations." Moreover it is certain that Jesus was born in the reign of Augustus, who, so to speak, fused together into one monarchy the many populations of the earth. Now the existence of many kingdoms would have been a hindrance to the spread of the doctrine of Jesus throughout the entire world; not only for the reasons mentioned, but also on account of the necessity of men everywhere engaging in war, and fighting on behalf of their native country, which was the case before the times of Augustus, and in periods still more remote,...How, then, was it possible for the Gospel doctrine of peace, which does not permit men to take vengeance even upon enemies, to prevail throughout the world, unless at the advent of Jesus a milder spirit had been everywhere introduced into the conduct of things?
It may also be noted that later on in the Roman Empire, major codifications of Roman law such as the Codex Theodosianus (AD 438), and the Codex Justianianus (AD 529-534) saw the introduction of Christian principles formalized into law.
Given the above, one of the main ironic trends during the Pax Romana was that Christianity was widely persecuted throughout the Roman empire. However in spite of this the overriding overall trend was the growth and victory of the Church of Christ.
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.
- Christianization: Early Christianity (pre-Nicaean)
- Christianization: Late Antiquity (4th-6th centuries) (Christianization of the Roman Empire).
- ↑ The Orthodox Study Bible. St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology. Elk Grove, California, 2008. Isaiah 9:5-6.
- ↑ James T. Dennison, Jr. Pax Romana, Pax Christi: Luke 2:1-20. The Online Journal of Biblical Theology. April 23, 1987.
- ↑ "Pax Romana." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica 2009 Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2009.
- ↑ Pax Romana at UNRV History
- ↑ Seyoon Kim. "An Appreciation of Pax Romana." in: Christ and Caesar: The Gospel and the Roman Empire in the Writings of Paul and Luke. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Sept. 15 2008. pp.179.
- ↑ Pax Romana at Conservapedia.
- ↑ Dimitri E. Conomos. Byzantine Hymnography and Byzantine Chant. Hellenic College Press: Brookline, Massachsetts, 1984. pp.10
- ↑ Eusebius Pamphilus of Caesarea. Oration in Praise of the Emperor Constantine Pronounced on the Thirtieth Anniversary of His Reign. Ch.16, 3-4. The Early Church Fathers (38 Vols.)
- ↑ Origen. Against Celsus. Book 2, Ch.30. The Early Church Fathers (38 Vols.)
- Dimitri E. Conomos. Byzantine Hymnography and Byzantine Chant. Hellenic College Press: Brookline, Massachsetts, 1984.
- Eusebius Pamphilus of Caesarea. Oration in Praise of the Emperor Constantine Pronounced on the Thirtieth Anniversary of His Reign. Ch.16, 3-4. The Early Church Fathers (38 Vols.)
- Origen. Against Celsus. Book 2, Ch.30. The Early Church Fathers (38 Vols.)
- "Pax Romana." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica 2009 Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2009.
- James T. Dennison, Jr. Pax Romana, Pax Christi: Luke 2:1-20. The Online Journal of Biblical Theology. April 23, 1987.
- Seyoon Kim. "An Appreciation of Pax Romana." in: Christ and Caesar: The Gospel and the Roman Empire in the Writings of Paul and Luke. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Sept. 15 2008. pp.177-179. ISBN 978-0802860088
- Pax Romana at Wikipedia.
- Pax Romana at Conservapedia.
- Pax Romana at UNRV History.