Pax Romana

roughly 200-year-long period in Roman history

Pax Romana ("Roman Peace") was a roughly 200-year period of relative peacefulness experienced by the Roman Empire after the end of the Final War of the Roman Republic and before the beginning of the Crisis of the Third Century. It is traditionally dated as commencing from the accession of Caesar Augustus, founder of the Roman principate, in 27 BC and concluding in 180 AD with the death of Marcus Aurelius, the last of the "Five Good Emperors". Since it was inaugurated by Augustus with the end of the Final War of the Roman Republic, it is sometimes called the Pax Augusta. During this period of about two centuries, the Roman Empire achieved its greatest territorial extent and its population reached a maximum of up to 70 million people.

There is no peace but the Pax Romana, a "peace" maintained by violence and threat of violence, by the greed of the privileged and the oppression of the weak and the lowly. —Allan Boesak

Quotes

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  • There is no peace but the Pax Romana, a "peace" maintained by violence and threat of violence, by the greed of the privileged and the oppression of the weak and the lowly. ... The people of God knew, however, that this was no true peace. The peace and prosperity of the Roman empire depended on the continued oppression and enslavement of almost 95 percent of the population of the known world. The "peace" was meant for the privileged, the top 5 percent who dwelt in the palaces and courts of Rome.
  • The golden age of Roman military might came during the 200 years that followed Augustus’ accession in 27 BC. This age was known as the Pax Romana – a time where (by the standards of the day) Rome could offer exceptional stability, peace and opportunities for prosperity to those who lived under its aegis. It was able to do so because it paid collectively to be protected by the most dangerous army on earth. The Pax Romana frayed and began to unravel after the death of the philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius in AD 180. For several decades during the third century crisis engulfed the empire, with periods during which it split into three blocs, entertained dozens of emperors, and nearly collapsed altogether – a fate that tested almost to destruction the resolve and capability of the Roman military. Yet by the time of the fourth and early fifth centuries AD, Romans still prided themselves on their armed forces, now increasingly professionalized and posted around the frontiers of the emperor (the ‘limes’), protecting the fringes of civilization from the incursions of barbarian peoples; ensuring that by and large, despite its divisions and fractures, its power-struggles and internal feuds, the empire held firm.
    • Dan Jones, Power and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages (2021), p. 21
  • God is not simply power, as most people were inclined to think. God is love, and he manifests himself in the dialectics of an impotent love. ... The emperor is not God. Jesus desacralizes that kind of power and its claim to be the absolute mediation of God. The pax romana is not the kingdom of God. The political organization of Rome might dazzle the world with its power, but it was oppressive; hence there was nothing sacred or divine about it. ... In Jesus' eyes God's ultimate historical word is love, whereas the ultimate historical word of power in the human world is oppression. Jesus' journey to the cross is a trial dealing with the authentic nature of power.
    • Jon Sobrino, Christology at the Crossroads (1978), p. 369

See also

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