Peak of the Roman Civilization

Jun 2019
17
italy
When was the peak of ancient Roman civilization?
(from all points of views: demography, economy, freedom, technology, culture...)

- the time of Cicero?
- the time of Augustus?
- the time of Seneca?
- the time of Trajan?
- the time of Marcus Aurelius?
- another time?

Please, specify why.
 
May 2012
322
Heaven
- the time of Septimus Severus is another time.Roman empire could reached to 7 million square kilometer in his period.It extended to Garama(Germa,Libya) in southern border;Dumatha in Arab,Albania(Georgia) and Caspian sea in eastern border and southern Scotland in northern border.
 
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caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,325
It all depends on what criteria you judge civilisation by. It seems peculiar to me that some regard the best period as that of Caesars the Romans thought were the best, or that mere statistics qualify a civilisation at its peak. Many Romans thought the Empire had already left the best years behind it when their government fell under the sway of individual domination, thus betraying a principle that the Roman Republic had been founded upon. It was also regarded by many of those Romans as having left behind the austere republican era civic duty and integrity. Possibly a little exaggerated, but understandable. Modern thinking almost always homes in on the mid imperial era, with prosperity, security, and expansive culture, and a great deal of urban myth. But the era of Roman learning was practically over by that time. You will often see threads praising Roman technology but pretty much all of what they exploited was grabbed wholesale from outsiders and little if any progress was made by a society that was by that stage stagnant. More than one author has pointed out that the prosperity of the imperial era was 'living off the fat of former conquests' and that the economy of the empire was slowly decaying, not least for the expense of holding games

"There are no more lions in Thessaly"
4th century AD (Thermistius)
 
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Mar 2018
840
UK
Pax Romana, the 5 good Emperors, all that sort of thing
That's certainly the canonical answer. The other answer would be around 100BC, before the endless civil wars destroyed the republican system once and for all. Personally I'd also give some consideration to Vespasian, there's some evidence that's when it was at it's wealthiest.
 
Feb 2019
518
Thrace
- the time of Septimus Severus is another time.Roman empire could reached to 7 million square kilometer in his period.It extended to Garama(Germa,Libya) in southern border;Dumatha in Arab,Albania(Georgia) and Caspian sea in eastern border and southern Scotland in northern border.
The territorial apex of the empire is usually attributed to Trajan's reign. In any case, it was certainly a more prosperous era all things considered.
 
Oct 2018
1,692
Sydney
The territorial apex of the empire is usually attributed to Trajan's reign. In any case, it was certainly a more prosperous era all things considered.
I think the issue with Severus, when it comes to questions of territorial extent, is that his campaigns in Arabia and the Sahara are not particularly well understood. Dacia was still within the empire, and although southern Mesopotamia had been lost, Severus did make important gains on the eastern frontier, such as Caucasian Albania (as Le Hoang mentioned). Of course, the question is also complicated by the fact that there weren't really hard borders in the case of the Sahara and Arabia. Rather, there were desert forts. We also have the problem of how much we really want to count southern Mesopotamia within the empire of Trajan. The conquest quickly came to be challenged and was promptly abandoned upon the accession of Hadrian. If we include it in calculations, we ought to include southern Scotland, a similarly fleeting conquest of Severus (not that southern Scotland would drastically change figures, being a relatively small conquest). Then again, Trajan also conquered parts of Arabia, and one wonders just how permanent or secure Severus' conquests in Arabia and the Sahara actually were. It's a subject I wish I knew more about.
 
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Oct 2018
1,692
Sydney
The issue of what do we regard as stable conquests also brings up the issue of whether territorial extent is a good measure of the security of the empire. Dacia was a pretty stable conquest in the second century, but by the time of third-century troubles it had become a liability. It was eating up imperial military resources that could be better employed elsewhere, thus Gallienus' decision to halve the number of units present, and Aurelian's decision to abandon the province altogether. The empire's borders were more secure after the abandonment of Dacia than they had been during the preceding decades.

Similarly, Galerius' defeat of Narseh of Persia in c. 298 won for Rome control over seven trans-Tigritanian territories, Armenia and Caucasian Iberia. Persia, which had been thoroughly chastened, was forced to accept the terms of Diocletian, and put up with the loss for nearly forty years. However, the desire to retake these territories is what led to the state of ongoing on-and-off warfare on the eastern frontier from Constantine's death in 337 to the death of Julian in 363. The warfare stopped when Julian's successor Jovian agreed to reverse the terms of Diocletian's treaty.
 
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Oct 2018
1,692
Sydney
I would disqualify the time of Marcus Aurelius, since his reign was in part characterized by the Antonine Plague and by a lengthy and not very glorious war with the Marcomanni.

The Augustan period strikes me as a good candidate. Civil war had ceased, the emperor was competent, the empire was large, the economy was strong, cultural output was strong (Vergil, Ovid, Livy, etc), the problem of what to do with the army had been solved, the city of Rome was receiving its grain rations with regularity, the climate was good (studies of climate history show that 100 BC to AD 200 was a time of exceptionally stable climate in Europe and the Middle East - warm and wet), etc.
 
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