At the beginning of what we call the Christian era, the Roman empire was the world, and Augustus Caesar was the political master of that world. He was not anxious to make a display of monarchical power, but kept up the forms of the old republican government. There was the senate, but it simply voted as Augustus wished, and magistrates were appointed as he directed. He had the substance, if not the show, of supreme power.
This world of Augustus’s was bounded on the north by the British Channel, the North Sea, the Rhine, the Danube, and the Black Sea; on the east by the Euphrates and the Desert of Syria; on the south by the Desert of Sahara, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The empire was nearly three thousand miles in extent from east to west, and one thousand miles from north to south.
The divisions of the empire were Italy, and twenty-seven provinces, ruled by the appointees of the emperor or senate.
Two languages prevailed. Local dialects remained, but the Greek language was the language of commerce and of polite intercourse in all places. West of the Adriatic the Latin was more generally spoken than the Greek. It was the language of the courts and the camps, for the laws were in Latin, and military officers were generally from Italy.
There was a standing army of 340,000, which Augustus commanded absolutely. Decisions of peace and war rested with the emperor, or imperator, as he was called.
“Of people there were probably about 100,000,000 in the vast empire ruled by Augustus, and not less than 50,000,000 of these were in a condition of slavery. Of the other half, but a small portion enjoyed the rights of ‘citizens'”
Rome was the capital of this empire, a city of 2,500,000 population, inclosed [sic] by twenty miles of massive walls. Augustus boasted that he found the city brick and left it marble.
He and his successors erected theaters, public baths, and provided costly amusements, and caused the people to forget that they had lost their political liberty.
But the Augustan period was the golden age of Roman literature. Literary men were patronized by the rich, who collected large libraries, and literary works were the topic of conversation in society. Philosophers, poets, historians, and law writers found ready sale for their works. Scribes who multiplied copies of the works were found in great numbers. Travel from part to part of the empire was facilitated by the splendid Roman roads, many of which endure to the present time. The age of Augustus was a time of peace, though of course an “armed peace.”
From the time of Augustus, the history of Rome is not that of the people, but of the emperors. Of the sixty-two from Caesar to Constantine, forty-two were murdered, three committed suicide, two abdicated or were forced to abdicate, one was killed in rebellion, one was drowned, one died in war, one died, it is not known how, and not more than eleven died a natural death.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.