Roman Emperors

For 500 years, the Roman government was a republic where no single person held ultimate power. However, for another 500 years, Rome became an empire ruled by an emperor. Although many of the republican government offices still existed (i.e., the senators) to help run the government, the emperor was the supreme leader who was thought of as a god.

The first Emperor of Rome was Caesar Augustus, the adopted heir of Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar had a strong army and had become very powerful in Rome. When he defeated Pompey the Great in a civil war, the Roman Senate made him dictator. However, some Romans wanted the republic government back in power. In 44 BC, just one year after Caesar was made dictator, he was assassinated. Caesar's heir, Octavius, was already powerful. He took Caesar's place and eventually become the first Emperor of the new Roman Empire, marking the end of the Roman Republic.

Sometimes the Emperor was a good, strong leader who brought peace and prosperity to Rome. Read about a few of the better Roman emperors:

  • Caesar Augustus was the first Emperor. After years of civil war in Rome, his rule was a time of peace called the Pax Romana (Roman peace). He established a standing Roman army, a network of roads, and rebuilt much of the city of Rome.
  • Claudius conquered several new areas for Rome and started the conquest of Britain. He also built many roads, canals, and aqueducts.
  • Trajan ruled for 19 years, conquering many lands and increasing the wealth and size of the empire. He also constructed many lasting buildings throughout Rome.
  • Marcus Aurelius was called the Philosopher-King, considered one of history's foremost stoic philosophers.
  • Diocletian was both a good and bad emperor. Diocletian split the Roman Empire into two sections: the Eastern Roman Empire and the Western Roman Empire to make it easier to rule and defense the Empire. However, he also persecuted and killed many people, especially Christians, because of their religion.

Rome also had its share of crazy emperors, including Nero (who is often blamed for burning Rome), Caligula, Commodus, and Domitian.

Constantine the Great ruled over the Eastern Roman Empire. He was the first Emperor to convert to Christianity and started the Roman conversion to Christianity. He also changed the city of Byzantium to Constantinople, which served as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire for over 1000 years.

The two halves of the Roman Empire ended at different times. The Western Roman Empire ended in 476 AD when the German Odoacer defeated the last Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustus. The Eastern Roman Empire ended with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453 AD.

Source: Roman Emperors
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