The Roman Empire ruled the known world for hundreds of years. The Roman Emperors ruled Rome for over 500 years. During those last 500 years there were 147 different emperors. Some lasted only a few days while others were able to hold and consolidate power for longer periods.
5. Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius ruled Rome from 161 – 180 A.D. His reign was anything but pleasant. He faced a revolt in Syria, an uprising of the Germanic tribes and a tribe called the Costoboci which invaded Greece. The Germanic tribes actually crossed the Alps into Italy and broke through the Roman defenses. Meanwhile the Romans and their armies were suffering from a plague outbreak. The Romans under Marcus arduously repelled the Germanic tribes and restored order in Syria and Greece. Marcus was a philosopher and a just administrator of the law. He was generally well liked by the Roman people.
Trajan ruled Rome from 98 – 117 A.D. He was a successful Roman general who eventually became emperor. His Spanish origin made him the first emperor not to come from Italy. Under his reign the public works programs were substantially enlarged. The roads network in Italy was renovated and many new bridges were built. One of his major accomplishment as emperor was his war against Dacia, a powerful kingdom in Romania. The defeat of Dacia brought huge amounts of treasure and expanded the Roman Empire. He spent the last years of his life campaigning in the East where he eventually conquered all of Mesopotamia.
Hadrian ruled Rome from 117 – 138 A.D. He established the first boundary lines for the Roman Empire. He was resposible for building “Hadrian’s wall” in northeren Britain to keep Roman Britain safe from hostile attacks from the Picts. The wall, stretching from the North Sea to the Irish Sea, was 80 Roman miles (about 73 modern miles) long, 8-10 feet wide, and 15 feet high. Parts of the wall still stand today. Hadrian was a man of wide learning, who spoke Greek more fluently than Latin, was a patron of art, literature and education, and a benefactor of the needy. He spent more time traveling throughout the empire than any other Emperor. He reformed many laws such as allowing children to inherit estates and forbid slaves from being killed by their masters.
Claudius ruled Rome from 41 – 59 A.D. He was declared emperor after his nephew, the brutal Caligula, was assassinated. Claudius suffered from ill health and was generally believed to be mentally handicapped. In spite of this he expanded the empire by conquering Britain and annexing the two client kingdoms of Thracia, making them into another province. Claudius reformed the financial affairs of the state and empire, creating a separate fund for the emperor’s private household expenses. As almost all grain had to be imported, mainly from Africa and Egypt, Claudius offered insurances against losses on the open sea, to encourage potential importers and to build up stocks against winter times of famine. He also made several judiciary reforms including legal safeguards for the weak and defenseless citizens. His first wife Valeria and her lover plotted to kill him. The plot was discovered and her lover was executed and her driven to suicide. It is believed his second wife Agrippina poisoned him with mushrooms so her son Nero could assume the throne.
Augustus ruled Rome from 27 B.C. – 14 A.D. Augustus was the first of all the Roman Emperors after defeating Marc Antony at the Battle of Actium. He establisted the first standing army of the western world which consisted of 28 legions spread throughout the empire. He also ended the civil wars and established 200 years of peace and prosperity for Rome. He changed the government, secured the borders, rebuilt the infrastructure of the city, from sewers to aqueducts, established a firefighting and police force and built and refurbished buildings. The reign of Augustus saw the boundaries of the empire extended in Spain, Asia, Pannonia, Dalmatia, and Gaul. One of his greatest achievements was the introduction of the Pax Romana or the Roman Peace. This was to insure that the empire was a much safer place to live and to make it more efficient as well.