Extension of Rome?

May 2018
749
Michigan
#1
When we talk about the legacy of Ancient Rome, we usually mean the Western Roman Empire. While that ostensibly "fell" in 476 AD, the Byzantines could claim both legal, and practical, successor-ship to a line of Roman "Emperors" starting with Augustus (Octavian). However, what would be the most legitimate successor state, in the legal if not practical sense, to ancient Rome? The Holy Roman Empire has a certain claim of legitimacy in that regard, and that wouldn't be "overthrown" until Napoleon himself. Within even the primitive legal terms of the period, is there any successor state to Byzantium that could claim even the most flimsy ties to the legitimacy of Augustus (Octavian) in the dynastic sense that even Byzantium was an extension of that legacy?
 
Jan 2016
1,137
Victoria, Canada
#2
Not sure what you're really asking here, to be honest. No one claimed to be Emperor of the Romans because they were a descendent of Augustus (who was actually considered the second Basileus/Autokrator of the Romans by the Byzantines, after Caesar), and the Roman state itself was never really defined in a specific sense in its own laws, outside of being the representative institution -- the "power/authority" (imperium, arche) or "common/public thing" (res publica, pragmata, koinon) -- of the Roman people, with the purpose of promoting their common good. In that capacity, the last independent representative state of the Roman people would have probably been the Empire of Trebizond, which fell in 1461, even if its rulers had given up their claims to be full "Emperors of the Romans" in the late-13th century, restricting themselves to "all the East" (of Romania, presumably, given that they sometimes also separately mention the Georgians/Laz). Some sort of case in that sense might also be made for the Roman Republic of 1798-9, but the Romans it claimed to represent were simply the inhabitants of Rome, who had broken off from the wider Roman population over 1000 years earlier (and were a tiny minority of the Republic's population, at that), so even aside from the complete lack of continuity and being a French puppet-state its status as a representative state of "the Romans", in the national sense seen in Roman legal texts, is quite dubious, and the same goes for the Republic of 1849.
 
Last edited:
Jan 2010
4,439
Atlanta, Georgia USA
#3
The Holy Roman Empire was primarily a German/Northern Italian Empire.

Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, made an attempt to revive the original Roman Empire from his base in The Two Sicilies in the 13th Century but died before he could accomplish that.

My opinion is that the Byzantine Empire was the legitimate successor to Rome but it died when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.
 
Feb 2019
686
Serbia
#6
We had a similar thread quite recently:

What is the true third Rome ?

Anyway, I will repeat myself from that thread and say that Napoleon's France kind of came the closest as they were a proper Empire ruled by an Emperor, had the possession of the city of Rome and had most of the historical territory of the Western Empire as well as more territory outside of it.
 
Mar 2016
1,199
Australia
#7
We had a similar thread quite recently:

What is the true third Rome ?

Anyway, I will repeat myself from that thread and say that Napoleon's France kind of came the closest as they were a proper Empire ruled by an Emperor, had the possession of the city of Rome and had most of the historical territory of the Western Empire as well as more territory outside of it.
Indeed, the Napoleonic Empire was probably the closet that the (Western) Roman Empire ever came to being restored - it consisted of most of the same territory, was ruled by an emperor, had a lingua franca (French), had a universal set of laws, had the city of Rome and the Pope under its jurisdiction, etc, and additionally Napoleon saw himself as a modern-day Roman Emperor, from giving his armies golden eagles, to his naming conventions (senate, consuls, etc)., and even to his buildings (e.g. the triumphal arches).
 
Dec 2018
93
Cheyenne
#9
Imagine 500 years from now a parliamentary democracy arises in Mexico and claims to be the successor to the United States of America. That's how I feel when people consider the Holy Roman Empire or any other state to be the legitimate successor to the Western Roman Empire that was ruled by Latins under Latin law and tradition.
 

Theodoric

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
2,814
#10
When we talk about the legacy of Ancient Rome, we usually mean the Western Roman Empire. While that ostensibly "fell" in 476 AD, the Byzantines could claim both legal, and practical, successor-ship to a line of Roman "Emperors" starting with Augustus (Octavian). However, what would be the most legitimate successor state, in the legal if not practical sense, to ancient Rome? The Holy Roman Empire has a certain claim of legitimacy in that regard, and that wouldn't be "overthrown" until Napoleon himself. Within even the primitive legal terms of the period, is there any successor state to Byzantium that could claim even the most flimsy ties to the legitimacy of Augustus (Octavian) in the dynastic sense that even Byzantium was an extension of that legacy?
The idea of "Roman Emperors" and an "Imperial Period" is anachronistic and has no basis in the reality that the Romans experienced: only as a means to make it simpler for modern people to relate to and understand. They didn't have such designations, certainly no such office that began with Octavian. The Romans treated Octavian primarily as the second Caesar, not the first Emperor. Additionally, the concept of Empire is not something that began with Octavian, but was always a feature of Roman civilization according to the Romans of his time, and the generations leading up to it. No doubt Cato the Elder considered the Romans to be an Imperial force over 150 years earlier.

Legally speaking, the Western Roman Empire began with Diocletian, not Augustus. Its establishment as a bit of an independent administration from the East came during the control of Flavius Stilicho during the era of Honorius beginning in 395 AD. After 476 AD the Western Roman Empire didn't fall, again that's a recent idea established just a bit over 200 years ago. What actually occurred was a change of administrative heads - as the actual Western Emperor was pointless - this also is not the first time the authority of Constantinople had taken command of the Empire (Honorius's father Theodosius had done similarly), the difference is that no independent Western Emperor was listed later on. The 476 date as the end of the Romans was an enlightenment idea. The reality of the Romans was that what we call the Byzantine Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire was simply just "The Roman Empire" after 476, controlling both East and West or without either East or West designations. The Roman civilization evolved, the Franks were Federates, and the Holy Roman Empire was a rebellion against the Byzantines by the Pope with the cooperation of Charlemagne (and again later on).

Is the "Holy Roman Empire" legitimate? We can argue either way, but the answer is that they thought so. Voltaire can complain all he wants.

As far as the person in the world with the most legitimacy to the role of Augustus, it would be the Pontifex Maximus - a title held by Caesar and Augustus and all the Roman Emperors up to Theodosius the Great, after which the title passed to the Roman Catholic Popes, and the current Pope still holds that title. Legally, the Pope is the most legitimate Emperor of Rome.
 
Last edited:
Likes: Picard

Similar History Discussions