Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine

Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine



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Written for a general audience, Ten Caesars is filled with vivid descriptions of historical moments and nuanced presentations of ten different emperors. Barry Strauss' engaging narrative style and focus on framing each Caesar with his historical context results in a book with a panoply of unique characters, including the Caesars, military generals, and many women.

In Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine, Barry Strauss tells the story of ten notable Roman leaders. Strauss is a Professor of History and Classics at Cornell University, holding an MA and PhD from Yale University. Moreover, he published many other well-received articles and books on the subject of Roman history. As such, he is highly qualified to narrate the history of ten Roman emperors. Scholars are trained to be analytical, critical, and meticulous, and so when they write books for general audiences, they are often erudite and informative but also dry, unengaging, and monotonous. Strauss, though, is different.

From beginning to end, Strauss’ storytelling captured my attention with vivid descriptions of historical moments and nuanced presentations of the Caesars. He accomplishes these feats by carefully showing how each individual Caesar interacted with his social, political, cultural, and religious environment in unique ways. In doing so, he unveils a new character through each chapter. This is notable because historical figures too often become flattened, one-dimensional characters, one the same as another. Strauss avoids this type of characterization, writing a refreshing narrative instead.

His narrative weaves together various characters who themselves develop and serve to link distinct chapters together. For example, Plotina, the wife of Trajan, is characterized as a notable wife: “Even an ancient writer who is sometimes critical of Plotina considers her behavior throughout Trajan’s reign to have been above reproach” (157). In the next chapter about Hadrian, Strauss explores how she served as a sort of surrogate mother who herself was a student of Epicurean philosophy. Throughout two chapters, Plotina is developed and characterized as a unique individual who shaped and was shaped by Hadrian and Trajan. As such, her character is relatable.

Strauss artfully frames each Caeser within his respective social, political, familial, and religious world.

Moreover, as a consequence of understanding the Caesars as part of their historical environments, Strauss spends a significant amount of time exploring how women played significant roles in shaping Roman history. Sometimes they influenced history directly, such as Helena, mother of Constantine, who was sent to Jerusalem in order to locate keys sites where Jesus lived and direct the building of new churches in the city, other times their influence is indirect, such as with Livia, mother of Tiberius, who, with her unusual wealth as a woman, acted behind the scenes to influence political decisions. In any case, women are clearly important to history in Ten Caesars.

I highly recommend Barry Strauss’ Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine. The style of writing is both informative and engaging, erudite and captivating. Though focused on individual Caesars, he artfully frames each Caeser within his respective social, political, familial, and religious world, permitting him to narrate a story with a panoply of three-dimensional characters and events. As someone who does not specialize in Roman history, my only hesitation about the book is the degree to which the narrative constructed by Strauss fits within the critical historical scholarship. That caveat aside, Ten Caesars is an excellent addition for individuals or libraries seeking books with an engaging and informative history. Likewise, the various chapters could be helpful course content aimed at teaching students how to read secondary sources.


List of Roman emperors

The Roman emperors were the rulers of the Roman Empire dating from the granting of the title of Augustus to Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus by the Roman Senate in 27 BC, after major roles played by the populist dictator and military leader Julius Caesar. Augustus maintained a facade of Republican rule, rejecting monarchical titles but calling himself princeps senatus (first man of the council) [1] and princeps civitatis (first citizen of the state). The title of Augustus was conferred on his successors to the imperial position. The style of government instituted by Augustus is called the Principate and continued until reforms by Diocletian. The modern word 'emperor' derives from the title imperator, which was granted by an army to a successful general during the initial phase of the empire, the title was generally used only by the princeps. For example, Augustus' official name was Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus.

The territory under command of the emperor had developed under the period of the Roman Republic as it invaded and occupied much of Europe and portions of northern Africa and western Asia. Under the republic, regions of the empire were ruled by provincial governors answerable to and authorised by the Senate and People of Rome. During the republic, the chief magistrates of Rome were two consuls elected each year consuls continued to be elected in the imperial period, but their authority was subservient to that of the emperor, and the election was controlled by the emperor.

In the late 3rd century, after the Crisis of the Third Century, Diocletian formalised and embellished the recent manner of imperial rule, establishing the so-called Dominate period of the Roman Empire. This was characterised by the explicit increase of authority in the person of the emperor, and the use of the style dominus noster 'our lord'. The rise of powerful Barbarian tribes along the borders of the empire and the challenge they posed to defense of far-flung borders and unstable imperial succession led Diocletian to divide the administration geographically of the Empire in 286 with a co-Augustus.

In 313, Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor, issued the Edict of Milan along with Licinius that granted freedom in the worship of Christianity. In 330, he established a second capital in Byzantium, which he renamed Constantinople. For most of the period from 286 to 480, there was more than one recognised senior emperor, with the division usually based in geographic terms. This division was consistently in place after the death of Theodosius I in 395, which historians have dated as the division between the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire. [2] However, formally the Empire remained a single polity, with separate co-emperors in the separate courts. The fall of the Western Roman Empire, and so the end of a separate list of emperors below, is dated either from the de facto date of 476 when Romulus Augustulus was deposed by the Germanic Herulians led by Odoacer or the de jure date of 480, on the death of Julius Nepos, when Eastern emperor Zeno ended recognition of a separate Western court. In the period that followed, the Empire is usually treated by historians as the Byzantine Empire governed by the Byzantine emperors, although this designation is not used universally, and continues to be a subject of specialist debate today. [3]

In the 7th century reign of Heraclius, the Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628 saw much of Rome's eastern territory lost to the Sasanian Empire, recovered by Heraclius, and then lost permanently to Arab Muslim conquests after the death of Muhammad and establishment of Islam. The Sasanian Empire was conquered by the Rashidun Caliphate, ending the Byzantine-Sasanian Wars.

The line of emperors continued until the death of Constantine XI Palaiologos during the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, when the remaining territories were captured by the Ottoman Empire under Mehmed II. [4] The Ottoman dynasty carried on using the title of Caesar of Rome.

Counting all individuals to have possessed the full imperial title, including those who did not technically rule in their own right (e.g. co-emperors or minors during regencies), this list contains 194 emperors and 3 ruling empresses, for a total of 197 monarchs.


Customer reviews & ratings

Mr. Strauss has an easy reading style. He also has excellent command of the subject matter. It is no simple task to write a book which is essentially a collection of biographies and still maintain some degree of continuity. Strauss does that well. As always, the author often goes out of his way in an attempt to establish the importance of female actors when often the facts do not support his claim. This to some extent detracts from his overall credibility. Otherwise, a quality work which is recommended for those who seek an informative overview of the most significant emperors of the Roman Empire.

This book has a fascinating and potentially engrossing subject matter. Ancient Rome is a particular interest of mine, though mainly focused on the Republic and immediately succeeding years, so I was very familiar with Octavian/Augustus. The succeeding Emperors kind of all blended together. This was an opportunity to flesh out those Emperors and increase my understanding of the period from 14 A. D. to 350 A. D. Unfortunately, this book was a huge disappointment. First, it was so shallow as to be almost useless. Second, it contains so much conjecture and supposition, without any supporting documentation, as to be virtually meaningless. Finally, the writing style of the author is so informal and, at times, inappropriate as to be extremely irritating. For example, the author says that one of Marcus Aurelius's aides got “chewed out”. Chewed out? Really? I was shocked to learn that the author had published numerous other “histories”. This book reads like a self-published work, it is so poorly written. As an aside, the author has a particularly irritating habit of misusing the concept of “end notes”. On numerous occasions, he references historical personages without naming them. Instead, you have to reference the end notes to even find out the name of the person referenced. Why not just put their name in the text? It almost seems like the author knows he needs end notes to support the academic credentials of the work. However, the text is so “general” and basic conjecture, there is no supporting reference to justify an end note. What to do? Generate bogus end notes by simply placing the name of referenced personages in the end notes instead of the text. This has to be one of the silliest things I've ever seen.

While I did learn a bit from this, and reinforced some things I already knew, the history was overall fairly disappointing. It is very shallow, and focused entirely on the emperors and only minimally covering anything broader going on in the Roman Empire. Well, not focused entirely on the emperors strangely, every chapter also has sections on the emperor's wife and mother, sometimes completely speculative sections in the cases where nothing about them is known. Too much is scratched out and not backed up. How many times can Strauss write, "Emperor X was a good administrator, and divided his attention between the military and politics, but not failing to promote Roman art and culture"? Utterly generic, unsupported and therefore vacuous, sentences like this are repeated for most of the emperors.

While I did learn a bi.

While I did learn a bit from this, and reinforced some things I already knew, the history was overall fairly disappointing. It is very shallow, and focused entirely on the emperors and only minimally covering anything broader going on in the Roman Empire. Well, not focused entirely on the emperors strangely, every chapter also has sections on the emperor's wife and mother, sometimes completely speculative sections in the cases where nothing about them is known. Too much is scratched out and not backed up. How many times can Strauss write, "Emperor X was a good administrator, and divided his attention between the military and politics, but not failing to promote Roman art and culture"? Utterly generic, unsupported and therefore vacuous, sentences like this are repeated for most of the emperors.


Ten Caesars : : Roman Emperors From Augustus to Constantine

Augustus, the Founder -- Tiberius, the Tyrant -- Nero, the Entertainer -- Vespasian, the Commoner -- Trajan, the Best Prince -- Hadrian, the Greek -- Marcus Aurelius, the Philosopher -- Septimius Severus, the African -- Diocletian, the Great Divider -- Constantine, the Christian.
"Bestselling classical historian Barry Strauss tells the story of three and a half centuries of the Roman Empire through the lives of ten of the most important emperors, from Augustus to Constantine. Barry Strauss's Ten Caesars is the story of the Roman Empire from rise to reinvention, from Augustus, who founded the empire, to Constantine, who made it Christian and moved the capital east to Constantinople. During these centuries Rome gained in splendor and territory, then lost both. The empire reached from modern-day Britain to Iraq, and gradually emperors came not from the old families of the first century but from men born in the provinces, some of whom had never even seen Rome. By the fourth century, the time of Constantine, the Roman Empire had changed so dramatically in geography, ethnicity, religion, and culture that it would have been virtually unrecognizable to Augustus. In the imperial era Roman women--mothers, wives, mistresses--had substantial influence over the emperors, and Strauss also profiles the most important among them, from Livia, Augustus's wife, to Helena, Constantine's mother. But even women in the imperial family faced limits and the emperors often forced them to marry or divorce for purely political reasons. Rome's legacy remains today in so many ways, from language, law, and architecture to the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. Strauss examines this enduring heritage through the lives of the men who shaped it: Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Vespasian, Trajan, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus, Diocletian and Constantine. Over the ages, they learned to maintain the family business--the government of an empire--by adapting when necessary and always persevering no matter the cost. Ten Caesars is essential history as well as fascinating biography"-- Provided by publisher.
"Best-selling historian and classicist Barry Strauss tells the story of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire through the lives of ten of its most important emperors, from Augustus to Constantine"-- Provided by publisher.

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PUBLISHED
New York : Simon & Schuster, 2019.
Year Published: 2019
Description: 410 pages : illustrations 24 cm
Language: English
Format: Book


Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine - History

About Ten Caesars

Amazon names Ten Caesars one of best books of 2019

Bestselling classical historian Barry Strauss tells the story of three and a half centuries of the Roman Empire through the lives of ten of the most important emperors, from Augustus to Constantine.

The grandeur and the decadence, the cunning and the brutality, the surprising prominence of imperial women in a man’s world, and the practical wisdom that allowed Rome to maintain its rule over millions for centuries before finally losing its grip in the West: it’s all there in one book.

Order Ten Caesars online! Get your copy from Amazon.com (an Amazon best-of-the-month pick), or from Barnes & Noble.

Simon & Schuster has published a brief video about the book as a part of their ‘History in Five’ series.

During these centuries Rome gained in splendor and territory, then lost both. The empire reached from modern-day Britain to Iraq, and gradually emperors came not from the old families of the first century but from men born in the provinces, some of whom had never even seen Rome. By the fourth century, the time of Constantine, the Roman Empire had changed so dramatically in geography, ethnicity, religion, and culture that it would have been virtually unrecognizable to Augustus.

In the imperial era Roman women—mothers, wives, mistresses—had substantial influence over the emperors, and Strauss also profiles the most important among them, from Livia, Augustus’s wife, to Helena, Constantine’s mother. But even women in the imperial family faced limits and the emperors often forced them to marry or divorce for purely political reasons.

Rome’s legacy remains today in so many ways, from language, law, and architecture to the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. Strauss examines this enduring heritage through the lives of the men who shaped it: Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Vespasian, Trajan, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus, Diocletian and Constantine. Over the ages, they learned to maintain the family business—the government of an empire—by adapting when necessary and always persevering no matter the cost. Ten Caesars is essential history as well as fascinating biography.

“An exceptionally accessible history of the Roman Empire. . . . Much of TEN CAESARS reads like a script for Game of Thrones. . . .This superb summation of four centuries of Roman history, a masterpiece of compression, confirms Barry Strauss as the foremost academic classicist writing for the general reader today.”
—Andrew Roberts, The Wall Street Journal

“To cover 360-odd years in a similar number of pages means going at quite a lick. . . .The strength of this approach is that it offers perspective. All too often books on Rome, like literary grand tourists, revisit the familiar sites, lingering over the naughty Neros, the effective armies and the efficient bureaucracy. But, as Strauss shows, Rome was far more complex and far more interesting than that. . . . Enlightening.”
—Catherine Nixey, The New York Times Book Review

“The term ‘good read’ is too often, even promiscuously, applied to new books. But the Ten Caesars is more than worthy of the term. Both classics scholars and armchair historians will find it rewarding. It is, truly, a good read.”
Chris Timmers, Washington Examiner

“Strauss has mastered a vivid narrative line, a practiced skill at demystifying the past… Readers will learn a lot from his book and the fables will make the lessons a bit sweeter along the way.”
—Steve Donoghue, Christian Science Monitor

“Stepping into the shoes of a god isn’t easy, as historian Barry Strauss makes dramatically clear in a new book that traces the biographies of 10 of the men who succeeded Julius Caesar, deified by the Roman Senate. But megalomania may have been an asset as well as the defining characteristic of Rome’s emperors,”
Linda Glaser, Cornell Chronicle

Traveling to Europe on Spring Break? “Get some insight into that ruin you’re looking at with Strauss’s history page-turner, which brings to life Rome’s rulers.”
Amy Alipio, National Geographic

“Ten Caesars, subtitled Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine, gives to its reader a good idea of just how horrid the classical world was even at its best. … Strauss’s book often reads more like an account of battles for control of a mafia than a work about the politics of a viable state.”
James Barasel, Catholic Herald

“Citing numerous primary and secondary sources and providing modern analogies to convey complex relationships and ruling styles, this captivating narrative breathes new life into a host of transformative figures.”
Publishers Weekly

“Lively biographies of the 10 best-known emperors of Rome.”
Kirkus Reviews

“No one knows the secrets, the curses, the power and the glory of the Imperial families of Rome better than Barry Strauss. His Ten Caesars is captivating—essential reading for Romanophiles and for everyone who seeks to understand the most formidable personalities of the Roman Empire.”
—Adrienne Mayor, author of The Amazons and The Poison King

“In a single volume, Barry Strauss delivers the near-impossible: a straightforward, factual, insightful survey of the vast and turbulent history of Rome’s emperors from Augustus to Constantine. Any reader, from novice to expert, will arrive at the final page with a clearer understanding of the men (and sometimes women) who oversaw the shifting fortunes of Rome for over three hundred years.”
—Steven Saylor, author of The Throne of Caesar and the New York Times bestseller Roma: The Novel of Ancient Rome

“’Ten Caesars’ is very readable and anyone with an interest in Roman history will find it enjoyable reading that summarizes effectively a fascinating period of time.”
-Richard Weigel, Bowling Green Daily News

“Ten Caesars is an excellent and eminently readable introduction to this era, but it will also reward those who already have an interest in Roman history by making them think again about the characters of these rulers and the men and women around them.”
– Adrian Goldsworthy, The New Criterion

“I highly recommend Barry Strauss’ Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine. The style of writing is both informative and engaging, erudite and captivating.”
– Will Hart Brown, Ancient History Encyclopedia

“You’d be unlikely to find a more trustworthy, captivating account of the empire than what Mr. Strauss provides us with here you can tell that it’s all meticulously researched.”
– Lou at avidreadersretreat.blogspot.com

“A wild, thoroughly enjoyable ride through four centuries of imperial rule.”
– Bob Duffy, Washington Independent Review of Books

“Get a copy of Strauss’s book and find out how he sifts the evidence. …there’s a very good chance … that you’ll wind up talking with friends about it in coming weeks. And that’s a very strong endorsement for any new book.”
– David Crumm, Readthespirit.com

“Astounding to think that these are real people: you couldn’t make up these characters. … manages to give an overview of more than 300 years of one of the most successful & important empires the world has ever known. Read this & feel like a Roman expert. Highly recommended.”
– A.J. Sefton, Book Blog

“I highly enjoyed Ten Caesars by Barry S. Strauss. … I almost couldn’t stop reading it. I’ll even go as far to say that it’s one of my favorite books of 2019 so far, especially in the nonfiction genre. … it was just a great book that was really enjoyable.”
– Bookfever


Best roman emperors

Gaius Julius Caesar , Augustus (born Gaius Octavius) and Constantine ( Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus) are three of the most salient figures in western history. These three men are clearly among the most influential emperors and political leaders in the history of Rome.

Julius Caesar's Achievements

Julius Caesar (100 BC &ndash 44 BC) was born in the Julii patrician family and became one of the greatest military leaders in history, whose victories in the Gallic Wars allowed Rome to extend its territories to the English Channel and the Rhine. He initiated the invasion of Britain and built the first bridges across the Rhine. Julius Caesar was also instrumental in the demise of the Roman Republic and the emergence of the Roman Empire. After his victory in the civil war he was appointed "perpetual dictator". Julius Caesar is also famous for his assassination and his links with other historical figures such as Pompey, Vercingetorix, Mark Anthony and Cleopatra.

Other achievements and facts about Julius Caesar:

  • Whilst still very young, he refused to divorce his wife as requested by the famous military dictator of Rome, Sulla. As a consequence he had to flee from Rome.
  • He was successively appointed Tribune, Aiedil, Praetor and Consul.
  • Julius Caesar formed the famous Triumvirate with Crassus and Pompey. Caesar ruled the West, Crassus the East and Pompey the South.
  • He led an army of 40,000 Roman soldiers in the expedition to Gaul and it took him 9 years to conquer it.
  • Caesar defeated the Helvetii and Suevi in 58 BC. It is estimated than 430,000 people, including women and children, were killed when Caesar defeated the Germanic armies and drove them beyond the Rhine in 55BC.
  • Caesar's armies crossed the Rhine twice in retaliation campaigns against the Suevi and the Eburones.
  • Julius Caesar invaded England twice.
  • After the death of Crassus, the tensions between Caesar and Pompey mounted, and a civil war erupted. Against the mandate of the Senate, Caesar crossed the Rubicon River with his Army in order to take control of Rome. That is the time when he uttered the famous phrase "alea iacta est" (the die is cast).
  • Caesar killed the Senators who followed Pompey and defeated him in the battle of Pharsalus.
  • Caesar conducted successful campaigns in Egypt, Asia Minor, North of Africa and Hispania.
  • Caesar was a brilliant orator and author of prose.

Watch this documentary about Julius Caesar

Augustus's Achievements

Augustus (63 BC &ndash1 4 AD) became the first emperor of Rome after the assassination of his great-uncle Julius Caesar. His reign initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana. Augustus dramatically enlarged the Empire, annexing Egypt, Dalmatia, Pannonia, Noricum, and Raetia, expanded possessions in Africa, expanded into Germania, and completed the conquest of Hispania. He reigned for 41 years during which he reformed the Roman system of taxation, developed networks of roads, established a standing army and the Praetorian Guard, created official police and fire-fighting services for Rome, and rebuilt much of the city.

Other achievements and facts about Augustus:

  • Gaius Octavius Thurinus was adopted by his great-uncle Julius Caesar and then took the name Gaius Julius Caesar. Later the senate awarded him the honorific Augustus ("the illustrious one").
  • He formed the Second Triumvirate with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, Mark Antony and ordered the killing of all supporters of Caesar's assassins.
  • Caesar Augustus and Mark Antony defeated Brutus and Cassius in the Battle of Phillipi.
  • Lepidus was demoted after offending Augustus. Mark Antony opposed Augustus but his forces and those of his ally Cleopatra were defeated at the Battle of Actium.
  • Augustus ordered the execution of Cesarion, the son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar, and Mark Antony's eldest son to prevent further threats to his rule.
  • He was elected "Imperator" and the month August was named in his honor.
  • The economy, arts and agriculture flourished during his rule. He completed an ambitious building program which had been initially planned by Julius Caesar's. It is claimed that 83 temples were built or restored in one year.
  • Augustus passed laws to increase birth rates, including incentives to families with over three children and penalized adultery and childless marriages.
  • He promoted the ideal of the superior Roman civilization and worked to expand the Roman Empire. During Caesar Augustus's reign, Northern Hispania, the Alpine regions of Raetia and Noricum, Pannonia, Illyricum were conquered. He also extended the territories in Africa to the south and east and incorporated Judea to the province of Syria.

Watch the Age of Augustus documentary

Constantine's Achievements

Constantine "the Great" (272 AD &ndash 337 AD) was hailed as the new Augustus, senior emperor of the west, by his troops during the military campaign in Britannia. After emerging victorious from a series of civil-wars he later became the emperor of both the Western and Eastern parts of the empire. Constantine enacted many administrative, financial, social, and military reforms to strengthen the empire and established his residence in Byzantium, which he named Constantinople. Constantine legalized Christianity and became the first Christian emperor.

Other achievements and facts about Augustus:

  • Constantine was the son of a Roman military officer, Constantius Chlorus, and Helena, his consort. Helena, later Saint Helena, is credited for having had an important role in influencing the religiosity of Constantine.
  • Constantine was educated in the court of the emperor Diocletian, where he learnt Greek and philosophy and witnessed the "Great Persecution" of Christians.
  • Constantine was proclaimed Augustus in Eboracum (York) and initially ruled over Britania, Gaul and Hispania.
  • He drove back to the north the tribes of Picts and pushed Frank invaders to the east of the Rhine. He reconstructed military bases and roads.
  • After defeating Maxentius in the Battle of Milvian Bridge, Constantine became the undisputed ruler of Western Roman Empire.
  • Constantine militarily defeated his brother-in-law Licinius in the Battle of Chrysopolis and became the sole Emperor of the Roman Empire.
  • He founded the city of Constantinople in 324 AD.
  • Constantine had his son Crispus and his second wife Fausta executed for political reasons.
  • Constantine undertook important administrative reforms in order to maintain social order and cohesion in the empire.
  • Constantine professed Christianity and ended the persecutions of Christians in Rome.

Watch this History Channel documentary on Constantine the Great

Observing the history of Rome, which of the of these three leaders deserves higher praise? Which deeds and achievements made them so important? Alternatively tell us which other Roman figure can rival them in terms of legacy.

Vote to see result and collect 1 XP. Your vote is anonymous.
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Ten Caesars

Bestselling classical historian Barry Strauss delivers “an exceptionally accessible history of the Roman Empire…much of Ten Caesars reads like a script for Game of Thrones” (The Wall Street Journal)—a summation of three and a half centuries of the Roman Empire as seen through the lives of ten of the most important emperors, from Augustus to Constantine.

In this essential and “enlightening” (The New York Times Book Review) work, Barry Strauss tells the story of the Roman Empire from rise to reinvention, from Augustus, who founded the empire, to Constantine, who made it Christian and moved the capital east to Constantinople.

During these centuries Rome gained in splendor and territory, then lost both. By the fourth century, the time of Constantine, the Roman Empire had changed so dramatically in geography, ethnicity, religion, and culture that it would have been virtually unrecognizable to Augustus. Rome’s legacy remains today in so many ways, from language, law, and architecture to the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. Strauss examines this enduring heritage through the lives of the men who shaped it: Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Vespasian, Trajan, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus, Diocletian, and Constantine. Over the ages, they learned to maintain the family business—the government of an empire—by adapting when necessary and always persevering no matter the cost.

Ten Caesars is a “captivating narrative that breathes new life into a host of transformative figures” (Publishers Weekly). This “superb summation of four centuries of Roman history, a masterpiece of compression, confirms Barry Strauss as the foremost academic classicist writing for the general reader today” (The Wall Street Journal).


Lessons of the Caesars: Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine.

"The Roman Empire is like a mirror in which we see reflected the brutal, vulgar, powerful yet despairing image of our technological civilization," wrote W. H. Auden in 1952. "What fascinates and terrifies us about the Roman Empire is not that it finally went smash but that. it managed to last for four centuries without creativity, warmth or hope." Somehow, this stagnant regime managed to endure and prosper. Cornell historian Barry Strauss shows how, and hints at why. Even the "mad" emperors had a method: formally paper over regime changes and informally imbibe new customs, gods, and elites.

Critics of empire from Cato to Rousseau disparage the Romans for assimilating foreign mores, yet historians from Polybius to Plutarch note that Rome grew by emulation. "The Romans" became "masters of the world," Montesquieu writes, because "having fought successfully against all peoples, they always gave up their own practices as soon as they found better ones."

Continuing this republican tradition were ten Caesars of Strauss's title, the pivotal figures of Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Vespasian, and Trajan, as well as Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus, Diocletian, and Constantine. The Caesars knew, Strauss shows, that imperial success meant enlarging what it meant to be Roman. When Octavian, the future Augustus, defeated Mark Anthony in the dying days of the Republic, Strauss writes, "Apollo, the god of reason," slew "Hercules, the symbol of might." Rational empire had usurped rivalrous valor.

Modifying republican traditions was the price paid for easier ways of life. Augustus conserved institutions but altered their ends, refreshing outward forms with new matter. In time, lowly bureaucrats upstaged proud nobles, provincials became citizens, while new capitals and deities arose.

The Pax Romana, holding sway over millions, eventually reaching from today's Britain to Iraq, needed maintenance. Tiberius supplied that. Hated, dull, yet effective, this tyrannical administrator secured the throne, debilitated patricians, and halted territorial expansion. As the empire settled for retrenchment, his efficient bureaucracy replaced turbulent republican politics. With borders preserved but not enlarged, traditional desires for glory in the hearts of now tamed citizens were sublimated.

Autocratic populist Nero tried entertaining this ennui away. Notorious for his cruelty, incontinence, and pride, he nonetheless built, patronized, and amused. But pomp and circumstance left opulent subjects unconsoled. Amid bacchanalian spectacles, Nero underrated the latent swagger in his subjects: revolts ended the reign of this last patrician Julio-Claudian ruler, who ended his own life. Elites hated, yet successors emulated, this fiendish showman.

After the "Year of the Four Emperors" in AD 69, Vespasian ascended to supreme power by unearthing, per Tacitus, "the secret of empire": namely, that "an emperor can be made elsewhere than in Rome." In Rome he steadied treasuries, disciplined armies, and sponsored construction of the Colosseum. A popular soldier improved by power, Vespasian showed that being Caesar took more than bloodlines. Meanwhile, Rome elevated provincials in growing numbers to greater ranks.

The empire's Golden Age under the "five good emperors" began when Nerva adopted Trajan. This Spanish general became the first provincial emperor. With half his reign spent on campaigns, he conquered Dacia, then Parthia. The greatest Roman conqueror since Julius Caesar, Trajan maximized Rome's geographical reach. Like Alexander the Great, he desired India, sighing: "I should certainly have crossed over to the Indi, too, if I were still young." But India was a bridge too far, as was Parthia. Dacia proved to be the empire's last major acquisition.

Trajan's successor, Hadrian, was said to be "always in all things changeable," by turns excellent prince, ridiculous sophist, or jealous tyrant. He saw a commonwealth where Trajan saw a superpower. He journeyed to acculturate territories, not expand them. This wanderer remade his empire without locality. Endlessly visiting army posts, he built three thousand miles of frontier fences, showing that Rome no longer wanted to, nor could, conquer.

So Romans ventured in philosophy. The philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius held that Logos governs nature, so moral men may live as brothers. Yet he faced the drawbacks of cosmopolitanism in the forms of frontier wars, plague spread by trade, foreign invasion, as well as internal dissension and revolt. Imperial fragilities called for stoicism.

Safe emperors and firm frontiers, likewise, called for ready, loyal, and foreign armies. After bureaucracy had gentrified Italians, military crises ultimately ended civilian rule. So the African emperor-to-be Severus entered Rome with many legions and few Italian ties. Ending a civil war, this lifelong politician fattened his army until he begot runaway inflation. Dying, the proto-caudillo told his sons, "Be harmonious, enrich the soldiers, and scorn all other men."

They ignored the first part, for Rome needed brutal soldiers for renewal. Consider Diocletian, a rugged Balkan warrior. Knowing little of Rome, Diocletian was still thoroughly Roman, for his home, the army, was "Rome." As that name no longer simply signified a geographic place, Diocletian split the Roman government, East and West, under a tetrarchy of fellow Balkan generals. He disempowered Rome the city before freely retiring. Finished as imperial capital, Rome still signified metaphysical horizons.

A warlord, like Severus and Diocletian, Constantine refounded Rome--the empire, not the city--as a second Augustus. Leading his soldiers, he interpreted a solar halo as a sign of Christ and later dreamed that Jesus presented the labarum to be painted on his men's shields ahead of the Battle at Milvian Bridge. After victories in Asia Minor, he openly favored Christianity. A Caesar of faith, Constantine established the formerly persecuted. Having united the empire, he tried uniting the Church through the Council of Nicaea.

His new namesake capital upstaged both Rome and Jerusalem. A ruler stuck between antiquity and Christendom, this administrative and military reformer, and dynastic founder, also made Sunday the Sabbath, Christ lord of Rome, and Constantinople a city that would soon become Europe's largest. Constantine refounded Rome by its old playbook: adapt old veneers to new things.

When the Ostrogoth chieftain Odoacer seized Italy and Rome, senators sent the imperial symbols to Constantinople. Later, Justinian ascended to the purple in the East and reconquered the Mediterranean. Administrator, legislator, general, and builder, he bravely led church and state against great crises. The empire lived on in Justinian, his court the last to speak in Latin. As Constantinople stood another nine hundred years, Rome did not fall. It had moved east.

The Caesars, Strauss shows, turned a waning republic into an empire for them to sustain, reform, and refound. His colorful depictions in relaxed prose hit the right themes: adaptable institutions, pragmatic emperors, Roman globalization, and eastward trends. "The real Rome," Strauss argues, is found less in Cicero's speeches or Tacitus's writings than in savvy emperors adopting "new blood and new gods" and making "tough choices and strategic retreats," for "to survive as an empire, the Romans were willing to do whatever it took."

Yet that is not the whole story. Gibbon erred in blaming Christianity, but he was right to emphasize moral causes of Roman decline. "Perishing of its own greatness," the twentieth-century historian Ronald Syme wrote, "the Empire gave no scope for the display of civic virtue": in order "to abolish war and politics," the price was that "there could be no great men anymore." The empire persisted through practices of cultural adoption and institutional adaptation that secured survival without nobility.

Despite their earthly greatness, the Caesars hungered for spiritual achievements that merely institutional accomplishments could not satisfy. Yet by universal laws, the Roman Empire prepared the ancient spirit to receive Christianity. Cultural variety endured beneath legal uniformity, and after the western empire fell, converted nations blended local traditions with what was learned from Rome. In this way, western nations benefited from the collapse of imperial rule. While Chinese rule in East Asia built a legacy of hegemonic power, the failure of Rome in western Europe generated a balance of free states sharing a common civilization but administering their own affairs. This is what the Romans did for us.

Unlike monolithic regimes, Rome had what Remi Brague terms an eccentric culture. "To be Roman is to experience the ancient as new," Brague writes, "as something renewed by its transplantation in new soil" that "makes the old a principle of new developments." This eccentricity is our inheritance--creative, warm, and hopeful.


Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine - History

Ten Caesars

Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine

Description

Bestselling classical historian Barry Strauss delivers &ldquoan exceptionally accessible history of the Roman Empire&hellipmuch of Ten Caesars reads like a script for Game of Thrones&rdquo (The Wall Street Journal)—a summation of three and a half centuries of the Roman Empire as seen through the lives of ten of the most important emperors, from Augustus to Constantine.

In this essential and &ldquoenlightening&rdquo (The New York Times Book Review) work, Barry Strauss tells the story of the Roman Empire from rise to reinvention, from Augustus, who founded the empire, to Constantine, who made it Christian and moved the capital east to Constantinople.

During these centuries Rome gained in splendor and territory, then lost both. By the fourth century, the time of Constantine, the Roman Empire had changed so dramatically in geography, ethnicity, religion, and culture that it would have been virtually unrecognizable to Augustus. Rome&rsquos legacy remains today in so many ways, from language, law, and architecture to the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. Strauss examines this enduring heritage through the lives of the men who shaped it: Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Vespasian, Trajan, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus, Diocletian, and Constantine. Over the ages, they learned to maintain the family business—the government of an empire—by adapting when necessary and always persevering no matter the cost.

Ten Caesars is a &ldquocaptivating narrative that breathes new life into a host of transformative figures&rdquo (Publishers Weekly). This &ldquosuperb summation of four centuries of Roman history, a masterpiece of compression, confirms Barry Strauss as the foremost academic classicist writing for the general reader today&rdquo (The Wall Street Journal).

Praise For Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine&hellip

&ldquoAn exceptionally accessible history of the Roman Empire. . . . Much of TEN CAESARS reads like a script for Game of Thrones. . . .This superb summation of four centuries of Roman history, a masterpiece of compression, confirms Barry Strauss as the foremost academic classicist writing for the general reader today.&rdquo
&mdash Andrew Roberts

&ldquoTo cover 360-odd years in a similar number of pages means going at quite a lick. . . .The strength of this approach is that it offers perspective. All too often books on Rome, like literary grand tourists, revisit the familiar sites, lingering over the naughty Neros, the effective armies and the efficient bureaucracy. But, as Strauss shows, Rome was far more complex and far more interesting than that. . . . Enlightening.&rdquo
&mdash Catherine Nixey

&ldquoNo one knows the secrets, the curses, the power and the glory of the Imperial families of Rome better than Barry Strauss. His Ten Caesars is captivating&mdashessential reading for Romanophiles and for everyone who seeks to understand the most formidable personalities of the Roman Empire.&rdquo
&mdash Adrienne Mayor, author of The Amazons and The Poison King

"In a single volume, Barry Strauss delivers the near-impossible: a straightforward, factual, insightful survey of the vast and turbulent history of Rome&rsquos emperors from Augustus to Constantine. Any reader, from novice to expert, will arrive at the final page with a clearer understanding of the men (and sometimes women) who oversaw the shifting fortunes of Rome for over three hundred years."
&mdash Steven Saylor, author of The Throne of Caesar and the New York Times bestseller Roma: The Novel of Ancient Rome

&ldquoStrauss has mastered a vivid narrative line, a practiced skill at demystifying the past. . . . Readers will learn a lot from his book and the fables will make the lessons a bit sweeter along the way.&rdquo
&mdash Steve Donoghue


The emperors from Augustus to Commodus can be organised into one large family tree.

Augustus
63 BC – 27 BC – AD 14 [1]
Tiberius Claudius Nero
85–33 BC [2]
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa
63–12 BC [3]
Julia the Elder
39 BC – AD 14 [4]
Tiberius
42 BC – AD 14–37 [4]
Nero Claudius Drusus
38–9 BC [5]
Lucius Aemilius Paullus
d. 14
Julia the Younger
19BC – AD28 [6]
Agrippina the Elder
14 BC – AD 33
Germanicus
16 BC – AD 19 [7]
Claudius
10 BC – 41-54 [7]
Marcus Torquatus Aemilia Lepida
4 BC – AD 53
Vespasian
9-69-79
Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo
7–67
Caesonia
6–41
Caligula
12-37-41
Agrippina the Younger
15–59
Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus
17 BC – AD 40
Drusus Caesar Aemilia Lepida Manius Aemilius Lepidus
Junia Calvina
15–79
Lucius Vitellius the Younger
16–69
Vitellius
15-69-69
Domitian
51-81-96
Domitia Longina
53–130
Galba
3BC – AD 68-69
Aemilia Lepida
Ulpia Marcus Ulpius Traianus
30–100
Marcia
33–100
Marcia Furnilla Titus
39-79-81
Nerva
30-96-98
Cocceia Titianus Otho
32-69-69
Poppaea Sabina
30–65
Nero
37-54-68
Publius Aelius Hadrianus Afer Trajan
53-98-117
Ulpia Marciana
48–112
Salonina Matidia
68-119
Hadrian
76-117-138
Vibia Sabina
80–137
Rupilia
87–138
Marcus Annius Verus Faustina the Elder
100–141
Antoninus Pius
86-138-161
Marcus Aurelius
121-161-180
Faustina the Younger
125–175
Commodus
161-180-192
Lucilla
148–182
Lucius Verus
130-161-169

The emperors from Pertinax to the beginning of the Crisis can be organised into one large dynasty (see Severan dynasty family tree), one smaller family and two unrelated emperors.

Pertinax
126-192-193
Didius Julianus
133-193-193
Septimius Severus
145-193-211
Julia Domna
160–217
Julia Maesa
165–224
Macrinus
165-217-218
Caracalla
188-198-217
Geta
189-209-211
Julia Soaemias
180–222
Julia Avita Mamaea
180–235
Diadumenian
r. 218
Elagabalus
203-218-222
Alexander Severus
208-222-235

The emperors during the fifty-year period of the Crisis can be organised into seven families and seven unrelated emperors, although no family held power for more than fifteen years.

Maximinus Thrax
173-235-238
Gordian I
159-238-238
Pupienus
178-238-238
Balbinus
165-238-238
Gordian II
192-238-238
Antonia Gordiana
b. 201
Philip the Arab
204-244-249
Decius
201-249-251
Trebonianus Gallus
206-251-253
Aemilianus
210-253-253
Gordian III
225-238-244
Valerian
200-253-260
Herennius Etruscus
227-251-251
Hostilian
230-251-251
Volusianus
r. 251–253
Claudius Gothicus
213-268-270
Quintillus
220-270-270
Gallienus
218-253-268
Aurelian
214-270-275
Tacitus
200-275-276
Florianus
r. 276
Probus
232-276-282
Carus
230-282-283
Carinus
r. 283–285
Numerian
r. 283–284

The emperors from the founding of the Dominate in 284, in the West until 476 and in the East until 518, can be organised into one large dynasty plus ten unrelated emperors.


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