A History of Rome (3)

What follows now is an abbreviated history of the Roman emperors up through the time of Constantine. This encompasses the entire history of the writing of both the New Testament and anything that might possibly relate to the book of Revelation and then some, at least as far as identifiable things are concerned.

This is not to say that I necessarily believe the history of Rome is accounted a full resolution within the signs of the book of Revelation, but rather that with a little insight into the historical events the reader may begin to formulate an expression concerning the meaning of some of those signs as they are incorporated within the book.

History is not and should not be a “pack of lies told of the dead,” but rather should be a chronological listing of events colored with an occasional minor inaccuracy, errant remark, or some disparate or even desperate commentary of the recorder (whether recognized or not). The study of history is identical to the study of all other topics. Each is like having shellfish for dinner – you will find nourishment, but you will have to work to get to it.

The Julians

As mentioned in the second essay, the first emperor of Rome was Gaius Julius Caesar, who reigned from BC 48 up to his assassination in 44. Some historians do not consider Julius Caesar to be the first Emperor of Rome, but he had himself, with the senate’s approval of course, crowned Imperator the year prior to his death. That seemed to most Romans to amount to his seizing power as king, when traditionally the Tribunes by appointment ran the state through the senate and the Consuls ran the military. This political situation contributed to the ill temper of those who had been his early supporters, and quickly caused his power base to erode in the last year of his life. Rome yet remained a limited republic during this transitional period and for some time into the reign of Octavian. Certainly Caesar survived longer than many of his successors of whom you will soon read. Following his death a period of civil wars ensued interspersed with limited calms that continued until the rise of Octavian.

Gaius Octavianus, commonly known as Octavius or Octavian, ruled from BC 31 to his death in 17 AD. He was the heir and the great grand nephew of Julius. Octavian was appointed as chosen successor by his adopted father and great granduncle just prior to Julius’ death in 44 BC. This troubled appointment was followed by periods of civil strife as some authorities and senators questioned both the lineage and line of succession. At this time, Octavian was the leading member of the Second (and last) Triumvirate along with Marcus Antonius and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and had become a very powerful person in his own right.

During the ensuing struggles for power, both Mark Anthony and Lepidus were defeated, as were all of the other contenders and pretenders who stood in Octavian’s path. As an example of his cunning, Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of Egypt, had conveniently committed suicide as she was faced with the end product of her own treacheries and failed attempts to gain power in Rome. Her current lover, M. Anthony, had failed in his attempt to defeat Octavian and then had also killed himself following his defeat in the Battle of Actium. Once Octavian heard the good news, he had Cleopatra’s twelve-year-old son Caesarian (father: Julius Caesar) put to death. This effectively put an end to any potential for continuing rivalries or claims coming from either the Ptolemy or the Julian lines — the possible challengers, present and possible were dead or neutralized. The Ptolemy’s power base had dated back to the division of the Macedonian empire after the death of Alexander the Great. The four generals that had finally divided Alexander’s empire were Lysimacchus, Ptolemaeus, Seleucus, and Cassander.

Octavian had no loose ends that needed tying up once his rivals were gone and his base had been secured. Although considered the most benevolent of Roman rulers he was astute and clever, a self-seeking conniving murderer. In spite of that, his reign was the longest and most peaceful of all the Roman emperors.

As Octavian consolidated his control between 27 and 31 he was granted or appointed each of the following titles by the senate: Tribune, Proconsul, Pontiff, Imperator and Caesar (or Cesar — the root of the titles Kaiser and Czar). He also was the first to be given the title of Augustus which he preferred (implying deity) and the title and notion of an imperial emperor was downplayed as the masses were yet under the delusion that Rome was still a republic and the senate not simply a rich man’s playground. In this he successfully promoted the empty role of the powerless senate as the continuing power in Rome. Anyone that did not align with him was quickly neutralized either through use of political manuvering or by the military. The ascension of Octavian to Imperator dates to BC 27 when many historians assign the beginning of the Roman Empire. Though now emperor and supreme dictator, he did not actually receive the titles of Caesar and Augustus until BC 31, hence the dates listed here.

Jesus was born during the reign of Augustus (as is recorded in Luke 2:1) although the year and exact date is unknown. Among modern scholars, the year of Jesus’ birth is generally given as BC 4 or thereabout. That date is at odds with all of the known ancient records that each list the year as occurring in 1 AD (or more correctly 749 to 750 AU) as noted previously.

It was widely accepted that Octavian was poisoned by his favorite consort Livia.