The Pax Romana: The Roman Peace

The Pax Romana which translates to Roman Peace, was a 200-year period in Roman history associated with great peace, stability, and economic prosperity spanning from 27 BCE. to 180 CE. The Roman Republic had not seen an era of peace this long in their history, this was also the height of the Roman Empire when it transitioned from Kingdom to empire. 

This period was ushered in by Gaius Octavian, Julius Caesar’s grandnephew to whom he left his wealth to after his assassination. Octavian assumed the title of Augustus, the great ruler, after emerging victorious against Mark Antony in 31 BCE. 

Augustus established the form of government now known as principate, which meshed elements from the Republic that were already in place with the traditional power of a monarchy. He proclaimed himself Princeps or the First Senator to appease the other senators. 

Augustus retained say in almost all political decisions. The Roman population had grown to over 70 million, increasing the need for common rule, law, and justice. Augustus established a civil service to police the land, along with creating a uniform Rule of Law. He introduced a common currency and secured travel and trade throughout the empire and Mediterannean Sea, ridding the water of pirates. This move stabilized much of the outer regions of Rome and introduced elevated levels of economic growth. 

The new invention of concrete came at the perfect time for Augustus. Roman infrastructure was expanding exponentially with new and improved roads. Concrete was used as a building material and caused a boom in the construction economy. Expanding infrastructure with safer travel made trade with the further regions of the empire much easier via the Mediterrannean and concrete roads. Romans sailed east to gather skills, crafts, and spices, allowing greater opportunity and wealth accessibility. Profits were made and incomes were raised to reflect that. Rome was at an all-time high.

With the economy booming and increased stability to more social classes, an emphasis was placed on family and life. Families could stay together, quality of life improved and overall life expectancy improved during Pax Romana.

Ideas travelled as fast as goods during the Pax Romana. Goods, ideas, and Roman culture flowed east and west along trade routes. The culture of Rome was becoming what we know it as today, The arts were booming with new creativity, muses, and influences. Histories of Rome were published by the writers Livy and Tacitus. Artists and sculptors produced mosaics, statues, and paintings daily. Craftsmen and artisans built large palaces, amphitheaters, entertainment centers, and arenas with massive basin arenas dug into the center where crowds would gather to watch 3,000 men mimic sea battles on real seafaring vessels. 

There was one main flaw in the Empire under the Principate, the transfer of power. There was no written law to detail the transfer of power. When an emperor passed there was always the possibility of succession, civil war, or crisis. Power was peacefully passed on during the reign of the “Five Good Emperors”. However, when Marcus Aurelius, the the last of these “good emperors”, died in 180 CE, the Pax Romana came to an end. 

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