An Empire Across Three Continents

In the Roman Empire, the King, army and the Senate were the key elements of administration. Succession to the throne was based on family descent as well as adoptive succession; for example, Augustus adopted Tiberius. The Senate existed in Rome during the Republic period and the Senators were from aristocratic families. Emperor Gallienus (253- 68 AD) forbade the Senators from serving in military. The regime of Augustus was established in 27 BCE. Augustus claimed to be the ‘leading citizen’, not the absolute ruler. The Augustan Age brought prosperity to the empire. The urban centres located on the shores of Mediterranean Sea were the principal centres of the Roman administration; Carthage, Alexandria and Antioch were the biggest cities. Throughout the second and third centuries, the provincial upper classes supplied the cadre to govern the provinces and to command the armies. In 3rd century, Shapur I, an Iranian ruler tried to annihilate Roman army of 6000 soldiers. The Roman Empire flourished in the trade of wheat, olive oil and wine. Wine and olive oil were transported in the containers called ‘amphorae’. Slavery was deeply rooted in the Roman society since ancient period. Even Christianity in Rome did nothing against slavery. Global shortage of silver affected the currency system of the empire. Constantine introduced a new coin Solidus of weight 4½ gm of gold. In Rome, Christianity took roots around 4th and 5th century AD. Bishops tried to enforce Christianity with much more vigor by the 6th century. ‘Black death’ resulted in the decline of population. Series of Germanic tribes or rather tribal confederacies moved against the Danube and Rhine frontiers in Rome and occupied the empire. By 642 AD, large parts of Sasanian and Roman Empires were occupied by the Arabs.

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