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The High Empire, A.D. 96-180
“If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy, and prosperous, he would, without hesitation name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus.” Gibbon, 1776

Literary sources embarrassingly sparse for such an important period Dio, books 67-72
But these are only in epitome (abbreviation)

“Lives” of the Scriptores Historiae Augustae
But the Augustan History and its supposed writers are the subject of great controversy Perhaps a “forgery” dating to A.D. 395

Pliny the Younger, letters and Panegyric (to Trajan) M. Aurelius, Meditations Fantastic variety of archaeological evidence Monuments, inscriptions, coins . . .


32. The High Empire


32. The High Empire


The High Empire 2 . sacrificed to them 11/30/2007 32. Cocceius Nerva Apparently the first emperor freely chosen by the Senate But had Petronius Secundus and Domitia Longina already made an arrangement with him? Background Old senatorial family Jurist But began his career under Nero.D. 98 before Trajan had even come to Rome Adoption Myth: the “good” emperors of the High Empire did not rely on fortune and heredity but adopted the best man for the job as their successor Nerva adopted Trajan out of military necessity Subsequent emperors did not have sons and adopted nearest male relatives or sons-in-law 11/30/2007 32. A. 96-98 The “election” of M. their commander. held three consulships (including one under Domitian!) Praetorian revolt Demanded vengeance for Domitian Petronius Secundus.11/30/2007 Nerva.D. Ulpius Traianus “Trajan” was commander of the Rhine legions A successful general and popular with the military Gave Nerva military support he needed Nerva died in A. The High Empire 4 32. The High Empire 3 The Adoption of Trajan Nerva adopted M.

D. Ulpia Marciana (sister). The High Empire 3 . Media 11/30/2007 32. A. Mesopotamia.11/30/2007 Trajan. the Consilium Principis Reputation for justice and good government Dante’s Paradiso Trajan and his women Pompeia Plotina (wife). Matidia (niece) A conquering emperor Dacian wars Annexation of Arabia (modern Jordan and Sinai) Parthian Wars Temporary conquest of Armenia. Caesar Nerva Traianus Augustus First emperor from outside of Italy (came from Latin colony in Spain) Brought great military expertise and interest to the position Formalized imperial council. 98-117 Imp. The High Empire 5 Conquests of Trajan 32.

and. Greek and Latin Libraries. a basilica (columned hall used in this period largely as a law court. a victory column. The High Empire 4 . eventually.11/30/2007 Baths of Trajan Forum of Trajan Included a public square. a Temple to Trajan. statue and portrait galleries. 32.

11/30/2007 Artists’ conceptions of the interior of the Basilica Ulpia from the Forum of Trajan Sculpted friezes from the Column of Trajan celebrating his victories in Dacia 32. The High Empire 5 .

The High Empire 6 .D. “Son of the Star” Fierce Jewish resistance. practices First emperor with a beard! Peripatetic emperor. but negotiates a return of Armenia and Mesopotamia to Parthia Centralized bureaucracy perfected Completed equestrian cursus. some documentary evidence and archaeological evidence Most rabbis did not endorse the “Messiah” leader. keeps Dacia. graded pay Philhellene Interested in Greek philosophy and culture . omitted “the army and I are well” to Senate 11/30/2007 32. and. Aelia Capitolina. .11/30/2007 Accession of Hadrian Trajan died before succession plans were final Pompeia Plotina and the other womenfolk insisted the adoption of Hadrian took place before Trajan expired Hadrian was related to Trajan (somewhat distantly) by blood and marriage 11/30/2007 32. A. spends most of his time outside of Rome and Italy Visits all the legions and most of the provinces Story of the widow seeking justice Hadrian’s Wall in Scotland Bar Kokhba Revolt Attempt to establish a colony. . er. The High Empire 12 32. 117–138 Eastern withdrawals—return to kleinreich? Empire overextended. on the site of Jerusalem Little to no literary evidence. The High Empire 11 Hadrian.

11/30/2007 Pantheon: Originally built by Augustus’ friend Marcus Agrippa. rebuilt as a domed structure by the emperor Hadrian The Pantheon today 32. The High Empire 7 .

11/30/2007 Cross sections and plan of the Pantheon 32. The High Empire 8 .

L. dies Adopts Antoninus He is married to Faustina. the emperor diligent and attentive Legal developments. there were revolts throughout the empire and trouble was brewing on the northern frontiers 11/30/2007 32. The High Empire 9 . public works and social welfare However . Aelius Caesar.D. Despite the positive portrayal (in both ancient and modern sources). A. .11/30/2007 Hadrian’s Succession Plans No son with Vibia Sabina First adopted heir. portray the empire at peace. SHA. Antoninus never left Italy once he became emperor Sources. . niece of Vibia Sabina and descended from Trajan’s womenfolk Antoninus Pius. esp. 138–161 Gains honorific cognomen Pius for pushing deification through for Hadrian Hadrian was unpopular with the Senate by the end of his reign Positive relations with the Senate Reign of “Routine Administration” Unlike Hadrian. The High Empire 18 32.

divus et diva Upper left: Antoninus Pius and Faustina the Elder. Rome. The High Empire 10 . who received the title Augusta (before Marcus was Augustus!) L. with addition of a Renaissance church within the colonnade. A. c.11/30/2007 Antoninus and Faustina. Roman forum. Faustina the Younger. lower left: Temple of Antoninuds and Faustina. married M. in turn. Another Ideal Adoption? Hadrian had arranged succession for two generations Required Antoninus Pius to adopt both the future Marcus Aurelius and the son of the dead L. A. 161. 141. c. Aelius Caesar (afterwards known as L. above: “Apotheosis of Antoninus Pius and Faustina” from the base of the Column of Antoninus.D.D. Verus. Aurelius’ daughter Lucilla 32. Verus) M. Aurelius also married Antoninus’ daughter.

Only M. A. A. the title Augustus. the Marcomanni and Quadi Revolt of Cassius. marking him as senior emperor External threats Marcus stayed in the West to deal with growing German threats Verus went East to face the Parthians Delegated most of the fighting to experienced commanders. The High Empire 11 .D. 161–169 Dual emperors Both held tribunicia potestas. esp. Aurelius was Pontifex Maximus. imperium maius.D. 175 Cassius killed by his own troops Faustina died soon afterwards 11/30/2007 32.D. Verus. 161–180 and L. including one Avidius Cassius.11/30/2007 The Final Picture of the “Good Emperors” and the Adoption Myth M. governor of Syria Verus’ sudden death Marcus left to face growing threats. etc. A. The High Empire 22 32. Aurelius.

11/30/2007 Marcus’ Years Alone A Stoic emperor A devoted adherent of this school of philosophy. “To Himself” Philosophic reflections while fighting in the German wars Rome increasingly overstretched. The High Empire 23 Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius 32. financially and militarily Commodus proclaimed as heir Soon after Cassius’s revolt to forestall future usurpers Received all powers and title Augustus Break with the principle of adoption? Earlier “good” emperors had not had a choice Marcus died while still fighting the Quadi and Marcomanni 11/30/2007 32. Pros Heauton. actually lived it! (contrast with Seneca) Wrote Meditations in Greek while campaigning In Greek. The High Empire 12 .

c. A. Aurelius. 176. 180-192. Column of M. 32. Left: Submission of barbarians to M.11/30/2007 Marcus Aurelius victorious . above: scenes from the German Wars. The High Empire 13 . . c. Aurelius.D. Rome.D. A. . from a triumphal arch.