The Roman Empire at the peak: under Traianus or Severus?

Apr 2018
726
France
The question seems easy, but it is not. For example, for me it is not clear if Dumata and Hegra were already annexed at Traianus' time.

Do you have good sources that can solve this doubt and provide a fair estimation of the empire in the two periods?


Thank you :)
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,676
Cornwall
It is fairly easy and there's plenty of previous discussion here for you to search.

Trajan and all the '5 good Emperors' thing. All downhill from there!!
 
Apr 2018
726
France
I'm talking about the maximum territorial expansion.

Generally it is accepted that was reached during Traianus time, but the expansion during Severus time could have been even greater, considering the advance in Africa. Probably it depends on the difference of territory controlled in Saudi Arabia.
 

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,939
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
The Wikipedia list of largest empires list the largest extent of the Roman Empire as in 117 under Trajan. It says the size was 5,000,000 square kilometers or 1,930,000 square miles - somewhat rounded figures. That is about 3.36 percent of the total land area of the Earth.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_empires

Wikipedia's sources for that size are given as:

East-West Orientation of Historical Empires and Modern States | Turchin | Journal of World-Systems Research

https://www.jstor.org/stable/1170959?origin=crossref&seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

However, I have read claims that the Roman Empire was larger in the reign of Septimius Severus than in the reign of Trajan.

Here is an example:

https://rambambashi.wordpress.com/2009/07/01/common-errors-24-trajan/

However, it doesn't give the area in square miles or square kilometers of the Roman Empire in either 202 or 212.

This answer here lists 48 modern countries that once were partially or totally part of the Roman Empire. However, Yugoslavia is listed, and it split into Serbia and Montenegro after the answer was given, making 49, or 50 with Kosovo.

https://www.quora.com/Which-present-day-countries-are-successor-states-of-the-Roman-Empire

This site lists, 48, including Yugoslavia, so now it would also be 49, or 50 with Kosovo.

https://www.chess.com/clubs/forum/view/which-modern-day-countries-did-the-roman-empire-comprise-of

This answer lists 48 countries, including Yugoslavia, so now it would also be 49, or 50 with Kosovo.

https://www.reference.com/history/countries-were-roman-empire-bb0b32370f9fe987#
 

Guaporense

Ad Honorem
Mar 2011
5,047
Brazil
One could actually argue that Rome's peak west to east extension was after they defeated the Seleucids in 190 BC as the Seleucids became a Roman protectorate, although they were only officially "annexed" as a province 130 years later. Hence, Rome's total dominion spanned Iberian peninsula to the border of India for a few decades after 190 BC. Of course, if you only include territories that were formally annexed then it's Trajan's.

This video is quite clear on the matter:

 
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Apr 2018
979
Upland, Sweden
Since this is a really boring and technical question (for me, since I don't know enough technical details :D) if you are just looking at the extent of territorial expansion I am going to change the premises: Ever heard the expression "Mind over matter"? I believe Empires and the size of their territories work the same way.

Isn't there a strong case to be made for the idea that the romans reached their real mental peak under Tiberius when they conquered Britannia (having previously started there decline under Augustus (but it was 1,3 steps forward 1 backward) from then on? Sure, Trajan conquered Dacia, and the Parthians. What the hell else did he do? Hadrian gave up Mesopotamia and Dacia turned out to be evacuated quite rapidly. The only real "new" defensible and major conquest that actually held for any major period of time after Augustus failed in Germania was Britain. It was all the symbolic glories of middle age from there on, really. :cool:
 
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Jan 2016
1,139
Victoria, Canada
under Tiberius when they conquered Britannia
Claudius conquered Britain, not Tiberius.

Sure, Trajan conquered Dacia, and the Parthians. What the hell else did he do? Hadrian gave up Mesopotamia and Dacia turned out to be evacuated quite rapidly.
Dacia was a province for a little under 170 years, and it was about as rich as Roman Britain, if not more so; Dacia was quite an advanced society, even constructing their own aqueducts to supply the capital. I don't think lasting two and a half times longer than the Soviet Union counts as "quite rapidly".

It was all the symbolic glories of middle age from there on, really.
The symbolic glories of increasing prosperity, the construction of infrastructure on a monumental scale through the Empire, and political stability? Those seem a little more than "symbolic" to me.
 
Apr 2018
726
France
One could actually argue that Rome's peak west to east extension was after they defeated the Seleucids in 190 BC as the Seleucids became a Roman protectorate, although they were only officially "annexed" as a province 130 years later. Hence, Rome's total dominion spanned Iberian peninsula to the border of India for a few decades after 190 BC. Of course, if you only include territories that were formally annexed then it's Trajan's.

This video is quite clear on the matter:

That timelapse is not perfect. For example, in 117 roman conquests in Dacia were greater and included lands in Moldavia, beyond the Carpathians.

Under Nero Bosporan Kingdom was annexed (and then made again a client state)

The Banat was evacuated only after Aurelian retreat from Dacia (273 Ad).

Marcus Aurelius conquests in Marcomannia and Sarmatia are not included.

Severus conquests in Africa are not included.

Generally, the Roman Empire in the East was greater than showed, including territory in Saudi Arabia, for example Dumata and Hegra are not showed.


So, that timelapse is not a good basis for discussing. I have found a more accuraate timelapse here:

https://www.romanempire.cloud/history?l=IT&MapType=TIMELAPSE&TimelapseBy=PERIOD

And, on wikipedia it is possible to found several extensions for the roman empire at the peak, from 6 to 5 km2. But this doesn't solve the doubt and increase it.
For example, I think it is really difficult to say that Ottoman Empire was greater than Roman Empire, but this wikipedia page:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_empires
say the opposite (Ottoman Empire: 5.2 km2, Roman Empire: 5km2), despite the fact that Ottoman Epmpire in that years (1683) was only a subset of the Roman Empire and it did not controlled a lot of Roman Lands (as Italy, France, Spain, part of Morocco, England and Wales, Part of Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria).
 
Apr 2018
979
Upland, Sweden
Claudius conquered Britain, not Tiberius.
Sorry, I was drunk. I knew that, really.

Dacia was a province for a little under 170 years, and it was about as rich as Roman Britain, if not more so; Dacia was quite an advanced society, even constructing their own aqueducts to supply the capital. I don't think lasting two and a half times longer than the Soviet Union counts as "quite rapidly".



The symbolic glories of increasing prosperity, the construction of infrastructure on a monumental scale through the Empire, and political stability? Those seem a little more than "symbolic" to me.
Wasn't Dacia abandoned/ reconquered a number of times? Oh well, I suppose you're probably right. So much for my theory.

Still, I believe there is some truth in the fact that if you want to date the real "high point" of the Empire, you need to take the more spiritual aspects that define its collective attitude to itself and its surroundings in mind. Mommsen thought Rome lost its soul with the fall of the Republic after all, so its contentious...
But you are right I probably underestimated the post-Augustan gloom. I just think there is something terribly symbolic about the Romans essentially being thrown out from Germania, by one of their most primitive competitors, never to return. Its the first real clash with the Roman self image of unvanquishable conquerors, even if it was just dark and dirty Germania.