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Old February 2nd, 2011, 09:50 PM   #1
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Difference between: Rome/Roman Empire/Holy Roman Empire


Hello, this is my first post and as you can see by this question, I'm historically inclined. What is the difference between Rome, the Roman Empire, and the Holy Roman Empire (or any other "Rome" territories that may exist that I don't know of)? A "general knowledge", yet slightly in-depth answer would be appreciated. Many thanks.
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Old February 2nd, 2011, 10:06 PM   #2

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Welcome to Historum, mdenham2.

Well as for Rome and the Roman Empire: Rome was founded along the banks of the Tiber, traditionally in 753 BC by the brothers Romulus and Remus. After the expulsion of the last king of Rome in 509 BC, it became a Republic. The Roman Republic had conquered most of Italy as well as Sicily and bits of Spain by the end of the 3rd Century BC. Under a succession of great warlords (a number of Scipios, Marius, Sulla, Julius Caesar, Pompey, etc.) Asia minor, Greece, parts of the Balkans and Syria, Numidia, Spain, and Gaul/France were all brought into the Republic.

The Roman Republic was a troubled state in the 1st Century BC. The Romans spent most of that century fighting each other; the wars between Sulla and Marius, Caesar and Pompey, and Octavian, Antony, and Cleopatra (the last independent Ptolemaic ruler of Egypt) have become the stuff of legend. It had become obvious that the "Republic" was no longer a state of Italian warrior-farmers content to serve under the guidance of senators and consuls. The great names of this period were strong, ambitious, and often cruel leaders with armies of devoted professional soldiers.

The last of these great warlords, Octavian, became the master of the Roman world after defeating Antony and Cleopatra at Actium in 31 BC, and incorporating Egypt into Rome's territories. By this point, the Republic was a sprawling state full of diverse cultures spanning three continents - already an effective Empire. Octavian took the names Augustus (divine one) and Princeps (first man) and becam the singular ruler of Rome. The soldiers had saluted him as imperator, implying the ultimate war-leader. It is from the word imperator that we get "empire"; though the Romans did not take to calling their state an empire overnight. Augustus was an absolute ruler, but he was subtle about it, as were his immediate successors.

Though its fortunes waxed and waned on account of civil wars and plagues, the Roman Empire expanded into Britain, Dacia, and parts of the Middle East over the course of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Centuries AD. It was not until the middle of the 3rd Century that Roman fortunes seriously began to decline, but under a series of emperors who proved themselves as generals and reformers, the Empire survived the turn of the 4th Century.

At the end of the 4th Century, the Empire was divided into two - the Western and the Eastern Empire. The Western Empire was troubled by incompetent rulers, Hunnish, Vandal, and Gothic incursions, and depleted manpower and resources. In 476 the Gothic warlord Odoacer dethroned the young boy who was currently recognized as the Western Emperor. This date has been traditionally regarded as the fall of the Roman Empire. Roman culture persisted in the west long afterwards - namely in the form of the Catholic Church and the Latin language.

The Eastern Empire continued to exist - and actually enjoyed a comeback - after the "fall" of its Western counterpart. In the 7th Century it was weakened by wars with the Persians and newly-emergent Arab armies, and it adopted Greek as its official language. Whether the Eastern Roman Empire was basically "Greek" or "Roman" in nature has been the source of many a heated argument on this forum. Either way, the Eastern Roman Empire continued to exist until 1453, when it fell to the Ottomans. At least one tiny successor state held out another eight years. You may know the Eastern Empire by the name "Byzantine Empire"; I don't use that name but it is a matter of personal opinion and conviction.

Voltaire best summed the Holy Roman Empire up by saying that "it was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire", but there are other posters around here that will be better qualified to tell you about it.

I hope some of that helped.
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Old February 2nd, 2011, 10:52 PM   #3

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For your benefit mdenham2 take a look at this Wiki summary of the Holy Roman Empire, which people can either concur or disagree with. Personally I would only add that Charlemagne was granted the (original) title partly because the Pope wanted to try and nominate a 'Western Empire' again as the old Eastern Roman Empire (Orthodox) was still plugging away very strongly in Constantinople much to his chagrin. Western sources later started calling the Eastern Empire 'Bizantine', a term that at least one Bizantium-loving historian is adamant they never used themselves.

Holy_Roman_Empire Holy_Roman_Empire
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Old February 3rd, 2011, 03:39 AM   #4

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I've literally just started studying the Holy Roman Empire. Give me a few weeks.
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Old February 3rd, 2011, 03:31 PM   #5
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Thanks everybody, especially Salah ad-Din--that helped a lot.
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Old February 3rd, 2011, 03:44 PM   #6

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Salah ad-Din View Post
The last of these great warlords, Octavian, .......
Are you sure he was a warlord and as well the last of those?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Salah ad-Din View Post
The Western Empire was troubled by incompetent rulers, Hunnish, Vandal, and Gothic incursions, and depleted manpower and resources.
I don't agree, that they were incompetent. that would be a too simple answer


Quote:
Originally Posted by Salah ad-Din View Post
In 476 the Gothic warlord Odoacer dethroned the young boy who was currently recognized as the Western Emperor. This date has been traditionally regarded as the fall of the Roman Empire.
It is not completely clear what he was, but he was definitely no Goth. Perhaps he was called a Scirian and Rugian and as a member of the unknown Turkilingi, which some interpretate as Thuringii. there are scientists who are of the opinion, that Odoacer and the Saxon Odovacrius are the same person.
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Old February 3rd, 2011, 04:57 PM   #7
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Welcome, Mdenham2.

The triple falsehood:
Quote:
Ce corps qui s'appelait et qui s'appelle encore le saint empire romain n'était en aucune manière ni saint, ni romain, ni empire.

This agglomeration which was called and which still calls itself the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.
François-Marie Arouet (aka Voltaire); Essai sur l'histoire générale et sur les mœurs et ll'espritdess nations, Chapter 70 (1756).
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Old February 3rd, 2011, 05:08 PM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnincornwall View Post
Western sources later started calling the Eastern Empire 'Bizantine', a term that at least one Bizantium-loving historian is adamant they never used themselves.
That would be correct.
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Old February 3rd, 2011, 05:15 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnincornwall Click the image to open in full size.
Western sources later started calling the Eastern Empire 'Bizantine', a term that at least one Bizantium-loving historian is adamant they never used themselves.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kirialax View Post
That would be correct.
In fact, I'm not aware of any single historian that may have ever pretended the opposite; the term "Byzantium" with this anachronic sense was actually introduced by H. Wolf in 1557, more than a century after the Roman Empire had finally disappeared.
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Old February 3rd, 2011, 07:24 PM   #10

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Originally Posted by sylla1 View Post
In fact, I'm not aware of any single historian that may have ever pretended the opposite; the term "Byzantium" with this anachronic sense was actually introduced by H. Wolf in 1557, more than a century after the Roman Empire had finally disappeared.
Well, one could argue totally ineffectively referencing the uses of the term "Byzantium" or "Byzantine" in Byzantine literature. They are present only on account of classicism by the authors, however, and have no bearing on how the Byzantines viewed themselves.
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