|“||To seek to keep the established constitution unchanged argues a good citizen and a good man.||”|
—Gaius Julius Caesar Alexander Augustus
|“||A remarkable thing it would be if all under heaven was united by a son of heaven and reforged to reflect its greater half.||”|
—Emperor Huan of China
The Julian Dynasty
Caesarion Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire, died in 5 A.D., leaving the country to his son and heir, Regulus. By carefully creating an informal code of rules and precedents, Augustus was able to do this without too much opposition. However, Regulus was not able to maintain the illusion of having a complete republican mandate, and small but noticeable criticism emerged over the apparent installation of a monarchy. Regardless, Regulus faced no domestic opposition for his reign and thus was able to focus on expansion. The main target was Germania, and the expeditions past the Rhine River were immensely successful until 9 A.D., when three legions were lost in an ambush by Germanic warriors. Infuriated, Regulus demanded that the Rhine remain the border, although he authorized several punitive expeditions to avenge the defeat and recover the legionary eagles. Smaller campaigns in inner Illyria, Pannonia and Rhaetia were much more successful, pacifying these regions. The client kingdoms of Cappadocia and Judea were also integrated during his rule.Regulus was succeeded by his son Gaius in 27 A.D., continuing the established method of succession. Gaius was more popularly known as Caligula, in reference to the small army boots he wore when he attended military events with his father. Aware of both the military successes and setbacks of his father and grandfather, Caligula aimed to expand the empire wherever possible, yet avoided powerful enemies like Germania or Persia in fear of another disaster. In a bold move, he went beyond the raids of his great-grandfather Julius Caesar, launching a full military invasion of Britannia and succeeding in conquering a sizeable beachhead. For his victory, Caligula was given a triumph in Rome and the Senate rewarded him with the title of Britannicus in commemoration. In addition, Caligula annexed the client state of Mauretania and built the first network of fortifications in Africa to deter Phazanian nomads. Punitive expeditions against them were not successful in the long term. Finally, the revolt of Boudica, a prominent Briton noblewoman, was put down in 60 A.D. after much difficulty and destruction, calming much of the northernmost province.
Caligula died of illness in 51 A.D., leaving the throne to his young son Sextus. Because of his young age, Sextus was constantly manipulated by other members of the imperial court, resulting in gridlocked government and a weakened ability to react to external threats, namely raids along its borders. Conspiracies arose, both by ambitious nobles who wanted imperial power for themselves and republican idealists who thought the position of emperor went to far. In 53 A.D., Sextus was smothered to death in his sleep by agents loyal to the scheming governor Otho, who proclaimed himself emperor and forced the Senate to recognize him.
The Turmoil and the Sergian Dynasty
Otho's claim was not accepted by most of the Roman Empire and only came about because of his promises to the Praetorian Guard. Weakened by no connection to the Julian dynasty and an uprising by pro-Republican forces, Otho was unable to consolidate his position. Unwilling to serve him, the legions on the Germanic border proclaimed their governor, Vitellius, to be the legitimate emperor. Soon afterwards, the legions of Illyria proclaimed the governor of Eprius, Lucius Sergius Fidenas, as the new emperor. Vitellius reached Rome first and had Otho killed. Rather than address the dangers that still threatened the empire, Vitellius spent large sums of money on feasts and parades, angering the Praetorians who he had promised higher wages. Fidenas' forces easily defeated those of Vitellius and he was executed. Fidenas then rooted out and eliminated any remaining Republican conspirators, led by the defected Praetorian officer Sejanus and the senator Piso.
Fidenas spent the remained of his reign consolidating his power and persecuting any conspiracies that still lingered. In addition, he oversaw minor expansion into northern Britannia and southern Caledonia, bringing more territory into the Empire. Finally, he commanded the effort, carried out by his son, that pacified the province of Judea following a minor revolt there by Jews agitated by taxation disputes. In the aftermath, sections of Jerusalem were razed to the ground but the great temple was spared after Agrippa II Herod, the local Jewish leader, made an impassioned plea that desecrating the temple would make things worse. Lucius, Fidenas' son, acknowledges this and allowed Agrippa to form a local faction to govern the province in conjunction with the imperial governor provided there were no tax issues in the future. Lucius would succeed his father to the throne when Fidenas died in 71 A.D. and maintained the agreement.Lucius was an even more popular emperor than his father for many reasons. He oversaw and approved campaigns into Caledonia and Hibernia, widening Roman understanding of these distant lands even though conquest of them remained elusive. In addition, he approved the construction of the Sergian Amphitheatre for the citizens of Rome to enjoy, hosting many days worth of games upon its completion. Finally, Lucius commanded disaster relief for the citizens affected by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the lesser fire of Rome, donating generous amounts of his own money towards those efforts. When Lucius died in 84 A.D. he was mourned by much of Rome and popularly acclaimed as the "people's emperor".
Caius, Lucius' younger brother, took to the throne in order to head off a succession crisis similar to the Turmoil. Lucius' only son was an infant when Lucius died and rather than step out of the way and risk another civil conflict, Caius took the throne as a sort of regency. With no children of his own, perhaps due to infertility, Caius would raise his nephew to be the best emperor that he could be and maintain the internal stability of the empire. Several nobles and senators had doubts about Caius' intentions, but nonetheless fulfilled them dutifully. Caius died in 94 A.D., leaving the throne to his nephew Gnaeus Sergius Orata, who would rule for the rest of the century and beyond.
Persia remained under the control of the Arsacid dynasty of Parthia. Badly weakened by the campaign of the Roman general Crassus in the previous century, the Arsacids aimed to repair themselves following the Sack of Ctesiphon and the loss of northern Mesopotamia. The Persians managed to avoid complete destruction after a crushing victory at the Battle of Tagrit in 34 B.C., killing the Roman general Marcus Antony and destroying four legions. Rather than take advantage of that victory and try their hand against Rome, the Arsacids used the new Roman reluctance to campaign against major enemies to pursue their own political and economic expansion in Arabia and India. Romano-Persian trade wars through their Arabian proxies, especially after the Roman vassalization of Sabaea, was the main form of competition for this century.
Contrary to the Roman and Chinese empires, India lay disunited and leaderless for this century. Centralized statehood collapsed in northeastern and central India, stalling any development in those areas. Over time, the Kushans pushed further into those areas and consolidate their power, but it would take considerable time for them to centralize into a single state. In the south, trade amongst the Tamil kingdoms was high, resulting in trade routes that stretched from Arabia to China, bringing wealth to all three areas. Intellectual transfer was not substantial at this time, although religious ideas, especially Hinduism, began to reach Indochina and Nusantara, gaining small numbers of converts.
Curbing the Eunuchs and Instability
The Qiang Dynasty had undergone a period of decline after considerable expansion. The growth of eunuchs in palace affairs began to limit the ability of the Qiang to respond to internal and external threats. Internal trade began to stagnate over time and occasional strife along the Korean and Vietnamese borders weakened Qiang control over those areas. This would change with the ascension of Emperor Huan in 78 A.D., who worked diligently to address these flaws and stop the decline of the Qiang Dynasty.
Although young, the new emperor had most of the eunuchs in the imperial palace purged in order to put an end to their influence. Most of the eunuchs were driven out and replaced, with the worst offenders executed and only a small handful retained. Numerous imperial officials were likewise purged, reforming the bureaucracy of the empire and improving administration. Emperor Huan was able to accomplish this and avoid overthrow or assassination because of his close relationship with the army generals, something that his predecessors sorely lacked. In addition to these actions, Emperor Huan reformed the economy, changing the standard of weights for the country as well as redefining the content and production of silver coinage. New trade missions abroad also helped to revitalize the previously flagging economy.
The Great Campaigns
In addition to his domestic reforms, Emperor Huan did not balk at the idea of continued expansion of the Chinese state system. With the border under disarray on all sides, Huan took it upon himself to restore outsider respect to China and establish firm borders. The first target of his was the border of the south, which had been recently, though barely, pacified following the failed revolt of the Vietnamese Trung sisters. The region, under the province of Jiaozhi, was placed under martial law and all measured were taken to assimilate the region into China. Fortresses were constructed in order to ensure future rebellions would be deterred. Northern Vietnam would remain under Chinese dynastic control for another few hundred years.Turning north, Huan reaffirmed the tributary status of the Xiongnu confederations that was established by previous Qiang emperors. During the troubling years of eunuch interference and Qiang weakness, many of the Xiongnu began to disregard this status and some even began to raid into the Chinese interior yet again. A show of military strength was sufficient to convince many Xiongnu to return to tributary status, and the few that refused were eliminated. Following this success, Emperor Huan succeeded in one of his great ambitions, completely conquering the Korean peninsula and its remaining three kingdoms by 99 A.D. Administered as the Lelang Commandery, the victory brought the Chinese state to its farthest position east for thousands of years.
Finally, the Tocharian cities of the western frontier needed to be reinforced. These cities were of paramount importance to the Chinese government, as much wealth flowed across the early Silk Road that went through the Tarim Basin cities. At the head of a large army, Emperor Huan set out for the west intent on making these cities a formal province within China and firmly controlling the western trade routes in order to drastically improve China's economic strength. By constructing many watchtowers and fortresses along these trade routes and establishing garrisons in the Tocharian cities despite local discontent, the region was largely pacified and raids by nearby tribes were sharply reduced.
AnahuacIn the south, the Mayan city-states and the Zapotec state continued to squabble for control of the region, with neither side really gaining the advantage. The Zapotec were in steady decline, but the inability of the Maya to congregate and form a unified state hindered their ability to take advantage of Zapotec weakness. Far to the north, the city-state of Teotihaucan began to assert itself over the surrounding countryside, exacting tribute from neighboring weaker cities. By the end of the century, the Totonac dynasty that controlled the city had completed construction of the great Pyramid of the Sun, the largest pyramid and temple complex in the region. In addition, the population of Teotihuacan, one of the most diverse of the region, was also the largest. With ample resources at its disposal, the leaders of Teotihuacan looked to the south as their main target.
In Peru, the dominant culture of this time remained the Nazca culture, which occupied a short section of coast and interior. During this time period the famous Nazca Lines were constructed, believed to be religious symbols. However, either because the Nazca were not united or because of other limiting factors, the Nazca did not expand much beyond their initial territory, only making small incursions towards the south overtime.