Map of the known world in the year A.D. 50
Map of the known world in the year A.D. 50

The First Century in Review

Pax Romana

The first century is part of an era known as the Pax Romana because the Roman Empire was so overwhelmingly powerful that we almost had world peace. This era is generally considered to have begun in 29 B.C. when Caesar Augustus (aka Octavian) returned to Rome after defeat Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) and Cleopatra VII Philopator. Augustus went on to become the first Roman Emperor in 27 B.C. This is a dull period in military history although there were conflicts outside of the Roman Empire and occasional strife within.

A.D. 1

The first year of the first century began on a Monday (go figure), but January 1st was the first day only if you go by the Julian Calendar. More accurately, the year began on January 3rd. We will use the correct month/day throughout this website, referring to the Julian Calendar when necessary to avoid confusion. The Julian Calendar is used by historians, but it is not precise enough to be used by astronomers who need very accurate measurements of time for their calculations.

A.D. stands for Anno Domini, or Year of Our Lord. The year Anno Domini roughly translates to “The First Year of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” There is no year 0. The previous year was 1 B.C.

Revolts against the Roman Empire spread across Germany.[1]

A.D. 2

The Armenians, encouraged by the Parthians, revolted against the Romans. Gaius Caesar launched an invasion.

The first census is completed in China. The population is reported to be 59,594,978 people in 12,233,062 households.[2]

A.D. 3

Sunday, September 7 (September 9 JC): Roman Emperor Augustus’s grandson and heir to the throne, Gaius Caesar, was treacherously and severely wounded when invited into the fortress of Artiga, Armenia to talk to the rebel leader. He captured the city after intense fighting, but resigned his command and began to return to Italy.[3]

A.D. 4

Thursday, February 19 (February 21 JC): Gaius Caesar died in Lycia while returning to Italy.[4] Tiberius was summoned to Rome by Emperor Augustus, adopted as his son, and named heir to the throne. Agrippa Postumus was also adopted and named heir.

Tiberius began his campaign in Germany. It extended all the way to the Weser River. In December, he left his army near the source of the Lippe River and returned to Rome.[5]

A.D. 5

Tiberius returned to Germany in early Spring. In a combined naval and land operation, he made it as far as the Elbe River, conquering Germania Inferior.[6]

A.D. 6

Tiberius was trying to catch the Marcomanni under King Maroboduus in a pincer movement when a revolt broke out in Dalmatia. The rebels united under Bato the Daesitiate and the revolt quickly spread to Pannonia. A Roman army of perhaps 100,000 men was gathered at Siscia. It included 10 legions, 70 cohorts of auxiliaries, 10 squadrons of cavalry, 10,000 veterans, voluntarii, and Thracian cavalry. Rather than try to defeat the rebels in a great battle, he divided his army into multiple corps to reoccupy the Roman military posts, burn the surrounding farms, and starve the rebels into submission.[7]

A.D. 7

In order to placate the people of Rome demanding a swift & decisive victory, Augustus sent the young, bold, and highly popular Germanicus to Pannonia where he was swiftly, decisively defeated, and nearly killed in an ambush by the rebels. Tiberius calmly continued his strategy of slowly wearing down the rebels through starvation.[8]

A.D. 8

Tiberius’s patience paid off as the rebels in Pannonia began to lay down their arms. Tiberius treated those who capitulated reasonably.[9]

A.D. 9

The insurrection in Pannonia came to an end at the beginning of the year. In October, Tiberius won a victory that ended The Great Illyrian Revolt. Five days after the good news came they horrific news that 3 Roman Legions where annihilated at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest, and General Publius Quinctilius Varus had committed suicide to escape capture. It was one of the worst catastrophes in Roman military history, and all of Germania from the Rhine to the Elbe was in revolt.[10]

A.D. 10

Tiberius addressed some disturbances in Gaul. As the Germans did not cross the Rhine, there were no conflicts.[11]

A.D. 11

Tiberius invaded Germany with great caution, engaging mostly in plunder. He also taught the brash young Germanicus how to balance boldness and prudence. Meanwhile, back in Rome, Emperor Augustus would bash his head against the wall and cry out, “Varus! Varus! Give me back my legions!”[12]

A.D. 12

Tiberius receives authority over every Roman province and legion equal to that of Emperor Augustus.[13]

A.D. 13

Monday, April 1 (April 3 JC): Emperor Augustus finalizes his will, cementing Tiberius’s position for sole leadership of the Roman Empire.[14]

A.D. 14

Sunday, August 17 (August 19 JC): Emperor Augustus died. Tiberius became the sole Emperor of Rome in September.[15]

A.D. 15

Germanicus attacked the Bructeri (a Germanic tribe), defeated them, and recovered the eagle of Legio XIX (the 19th Legion) that was lost when they were slaughtered at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest. He also found the bones of the soldiers of the 3 lost legions on the spot where they had died, and he buried them. Arminius, victor of the Battle of Teutoburg Forest, retreated to the ground of his choosing: a plain with a thick forest on one side and a spongy morass on the other. Arminius continued to withdraw, luring the Romans to advance. At the right moment, Arminius’s hand-picked men burst out of the forest on to Germanicus’s exposed flank and drove his army toward the morass. Germanicus brought up his reserves and was able to fight the battle to a draw. In unfamiliar, difficult terrain, and with Winter approaching, Germanicus decided to have his army fall back to the Rhine & Ems Rivers.[16]

A.D. 16

Germanicus won a great victory over Arminius at the Battle of Idistaviso immediately followed by another victory at the Battle of the Angrivarian Wall.


Footnotes:

[1] J.C. Tarver, Tiberius the Tyrant, (Westminster: Archibald Constable and Co., 1902), p.231.

[2] William K. Klingaman, The First Century: Emperors, Gods and Everyman, (n.p.: Harper-Collins, 1990), p.56.

[3] Victor Ehrenberg and A.H.M. Jones, Documents illustrating the reigns of Augustus & Tiberius, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955), p.39.

[4] Ehrenberg and Jones, Documents illustrating the reigns of Augustus & Tiberius, 39.

[5] Tarver, Tiberius the Tyrant, 231-232.

[6] Tarver, Tiberius the Tyrant, 232.

[7] Guglielmo Ferrero, The Greatness And Decline Of Rome, Volume 5, (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1909), p.309-313.

[8] Ferrero, The Greatness And Decline Of Rome, Volume 5, 317.

[9] Ferrero, The Greatness And Decline Of Rome, Volume 5, 318.

[10] Ferrero, The Greatness And Decline Of Rome, Volume 5, 322.

[11] Philip Smith, A History of the World from the Earliest Records to the Present Time, Volume III: From the Triumvirate of Tiberius Gracchus to the Fall of the Roman Empire, (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1866), p.353.

[12] Smith, A History of the World from the Earliest Records to the Present Time, Volume III: From the Triumvirate of Tiberius Gracchus to the Fall of the Roman Empire, 353.

[13] Andrew Pettinger, The Republic in Danger: Drusus Libo and the Succession of Tiberius, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), p.236.

[14] Pettinger, The Republic in Danger: Drusus Libo and the Succession of Tiberius, 151.

[15] Pettinger, The Republic in Danger: Drusus Libo and the Succession of Tiberius, 236-237.

[16] Colonel G.B. Malleson, C.S.I., Ambushes and Surprises, (London: W.H. Alan & Co., 1885), p.86-87.