The Roman Empire - In The First Century
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On The Frontiers
At the height of the Roman Empire, a quarter of the world’s population lived under Roman law.

This made the empire one of the most culturally diverse societies ever seen. Initially regarded as inferior, foreign citizens were eventually admitted to the highest ranks of Roman society.

Under Emperor Trajan, the Roman Empire reached its peak. It stretched from the Middle East to northern Britain and from Egypt to Germany.

Pax Romana

Under the “Pax Romana”, meaning “the peace of Rome”, inhabitants of conquered lands were not automatically considered Roman citizens. But they were subject to Roman laws and paid Roman taxes. Some of these paid for public utilities, like roads and waterworks – being part of the empire did have some advantages.

While local inhabitants behaved themselves and paid their taxes, they were allowed to continue with their local customs and religions, as long as these did not directly violate or compromise Roman law.

Client kings

To help Rome govern its provinces, it often appointed “client kings”. These would decide on local or religious matters that did not require Roman input. This arrangement did not always work. For instance, the head of the Iceni tribe in Britain was a client king, but after his death, his wife, Boudicca, led a rebellion that almost defeated the Romans in Britain.

The trial of Jesus shows how the use of client kings worked. Jesus was first brought before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judaea, on charges of treason – a crime against Roman law.

After hearing the evidence, Pilate found no proof of treason. He considered the case to be a religious dispute and passed it on to Herod, a client king. Herod could rule on accusations of blasphemy against the Jewish religion. However, the death sentence could only be used under Roman law, so Herod passed this back to Pilate, who ordered Jesus’ crucifixion.

Promoting new talent

A major change in the Pax Romana came under the rule of the Emperor Claudius. For a long time, the Senate had resisted new blood among its membership, especially foreign blood. Claudius was much more prepared to allow conquered peoples to become Roman citizens than his predecessors had been.

In 48 AD, he took this a step further, arguing that men from Gaul (now modern France) should be admitted to the Senate, claiming it was the smart and right thing to do. He was opposed by the Senators. One claimed that Claudius “was determined to see all Greeks, Gauls, Spaniards and Britons wearing the toga."

In the end, Claudius won. It was an important move towards integrating the many countries of the empire and one that would ultimately see Trajan, a foreign born general, take the throne.

Where to next:
Enemies and Rebels – Boudicca & Britain
Religion in Ancient Rome – Jesus

Related Links:

  Boudica & Britain
The Roman Empire

Republic to Empire

Age of Augustus

Years of Trial

Empire Reborn


Social Order
- Patricians
- Senators
- Equestrians
- Plebians
- Slaves & Freemen
- Soldiers
- Women
- On The Frontiers

Life in Roman Times


Enemies and Rebels


The Roman Empire - In The First Century