The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 3

Author: John Rudd  | Date: B.C. 450-A.D. 12

The "Roman Peace"

To the outside world the reign of the emperors was welcome. The provinces were governed by salaried officials, whose conduct was seriously investigated. The hideous extortions and cruelties of the governors sent out in the earlier days of the Republic almost disappeared. This milder rule seemed happy in the contrast. An emperor might be a brute at home, but his personal cruelties could scarce spread over an entire world. Money for even the hugest extravagances of only one man, the provinces could supply. At first they scarce felt the drain.

For two entire centuries after Augustus had assumed power, the world flourished and apparently prospered under the"Roman peace." The ruins of Pompeii, the tale of its destruction, show how well and how lazily the upper classes and even the masses lived.1 The legions were scarce needed except for petty wars along the frontier. The defeat inflicted by the German barbarians was avenged, and the northern wilderness seems to have come very near to sharing the fate of Gaul.2 But the long campaigns were costly and apparently valueless. No taxes flowed into the treasury from the poor half-subjugated savages; and the emperor Tiberius contemptuously declared that he would leave them to fight among themselves. Another frontier strife completed the subjugation of Spain. Another added Britain to the Empire. Another made temporary conquest over Dacia and extended the Asian boundary. There were minor revolts in Gaul.

Then the Jews, roused to sudden religious frenzy and believing themselves invincible, burst into rebellion.3 Titus stormed their capital and burned their Temple. But the lesson was wasted on the stubborn, fanatical race, and sixty years later they flared out again. Roman relentlessness was roused to its fullest rage, and accomplished against them the destruction of prophecy. Their cities were razed to the ground, and the poor remnant of the race were scattered abroad. Yet, apparently imperishable, refusing to be merged with other men, they remained a people though without a country. They became what they are today, a nation of wanderers.4

One other tumult, more central and in that sense more serious, intruded on the Roman system. Just a century after the rise of Augustus, the tyrannies of his successor Nero became so unbearable that even his own senate turned against him; and he was slain, without having appointed a successor. The purely military character of the Empire was at once revealed. Different armies each upheld their own general as emperor. The claimants attacked one another in turn, and the strongest won. The turmoil lasted for only a year or so, just long enough for the distant legions to gather around Rome;the bloodshed was nothing as compared to former ages; the helpless senate acquiesced in each new proclamation of each successful army; and the rest of the world, scarce even jarred in its daily course, flowed on as before.

On the whole, then, these two hundred years were one long period of peace. It was Augustus who for the first time in centuries closed the gates of the war-god’s temple in Rome. He encouraged literature, and we have the "Augustan" age. He boasted that he found Rome built of bricks, and left it of marble. He and his successors did far more than that. They constructed roads extending from end to end of their domains. Communication became easy; a mail post was established; people began to travel for pleasure. The nations of the world intermingled freely, and discovered, for the first time on earth, that they were much alike. The universal brotherhood of man may be not even yet fully recognized and welcomed; but the first step toward its acknowledgment was taken under imperial Rome.

1See Destruction of Pompeii, page 207.

2See Germanicus in Germany, page 1.

3See Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, page 150.

4See Jews’ Last Struggle for Freedom, page 222.


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Chicago: John Rudd, "The Roman Peace," The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 3 in The Great Events by Famous Historians, ed. Rossiter Johnson (Harrogate, TN: The National Alunmi, 1926), xiii–xiv. Original Sources, accessed December 1, 2023,

MLA: Rudd, John. "The "Roman Peace"." The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 3, in The Great Events by Famous Historians, edited by Rossiter Johnson, Vol. 3, Harrogate, TN, The National Alunmi, 1926, pp. xiii–xiv. Original Sources. 1 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: Rudd, J, 'The "Roman Peace"' in The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 3. cited in 1926, The Great Events by Famous Historians, ed. , The National Alunmi, Harrogate, TN, pp.xiii–xiv. Original Sources, retrieved 1 December 2023, from