Pony Queen Jace

History Thread!

365 posts in this topic

13 hours ago, Pony Queen Jace said:

You can go fuck yourself.

Rome endured until 1453, but in the East. :P

:dunno: Good grief -- I should fuck myself because YOU have so decided?

You might think of the Greeks, who would say it wasn't Rome but Greek -- it was the Mongols and Ottomans that called it Rum -- and the Mongols well knew of western Rome and the Pope-- at least Kublai did.  So the Greeks would probably tell you to fuck yourself.  But of course, what would mere Greeks know of the history of Rome and Constantinople, where they spoke and wrote Greek for all their administration and practiced the Greek Orthodox faith.

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30 minutes ago, Zorral said:

"Imperial Mines and Quarries in the Roman World: Organizational Aspects 27 BC-AD 235" by Alfred Michael Hirt 

What. How does production in the Principate Era of the Roman Empire relate to city-building after the 5th century? 

31 minutes ago, Zorral said:

Never before or since did the Church own so much land and gold as in the 6th century.

The Church was one of the few points of continuity in the former western Empire. As for the gold and silks  - that's what I was talking about. Hence my point about what trade remained consisting mainly of high-value, low-volume goods. It's the collapse of the bulk trade (and trade volumes in general) that were a sign of the fall of the western Empire. 

 

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1 hour ago, Zorral said:

:dunno: Good grief -- I should fuck myself because YOU have so decided?

You might think of the Greeks, who would say it wasn't Rome but Greek -- it was the Mongols and Ottomans that called it Rum -- and the Mongols well knew of western Rome and the Pope-- at least Kublai did.  So the Greeks would probably tell you to fuck yourself.  But of course, what would mere Greeks know of the history of Rome and Constantinople, where they spoke and wrote Greek for all their administration and practiced the Greek Orthodox faith.

You can go DOUBLE FUCK A TREE!

I DON'T HAVE AN ARGUMENT ANYMORE I'M JUST HAVING FUN YELLING!!!! :o

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1 hour ago, Zorral said:

:dunno: Good grief -- I should fuck myself because YOU have so decided?

You might think of the Greeks, who would say it wasn't Rome but Greek -- it was the Mongols and Ottomans that called it Rum -- and the Mongols well knew of western Rome and the Pope-- at least Kublai did.  So the Greeks would probably tell you to fuck yourself.  But of course, what would mere Greeks know of the history of Rome and Constantinople, where they spoke and wrote Greek for all their administration and practiced the Greek Orthodox faith.

Yelling aside, the Byzantines calling themselves Romaioi doesn't count for you? Their language and culture may have been predominantly Greek, but politically and in their self-identification there is little doubt that they took pride in being Rome's direct successor. Especially when it comes to mere labels, like calling themselves Romans. Therefore I have to assume that if you took a time machine back to Constantinople to walk around and the call the people there Greeks, they'd just think you are a stupid foreigner of the barbaric west who has no idea what he's talking about.

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One of the things I've learned is that the the communities that study these centuries are as divided as historians are about our own history.  The primary dividing line is: the Western Roman Empire declined and fell sometime in the 5th century which ushered in four centuries of barbarian invasions, no taxation and no commerce, the end of cities and civilization which were replaced by endless warfare vs. the Western Roman Empire that transformed, regenerated and transitioned into something new, dynamic and vital, incorporating the forms and structures of the old western empire while creating new things that better suited itself.  Nor were there great barbarian invasions beyond, perhaps that of Attila's, which was defeated by a coalition of Other Barbarians who had transformed quite some time ago into Gallo-Romans -- and commerce and manufacture boomed particularly in the north, east and south to the Black Sea and Bosphorus, which brought luxury, expensive goods and coins (as well as mints) to all these cities that didn't lose their populations.

One of the players in this history field, James J. O'Donnell,  characterizes this division of the field of Late Antiquity - Early Medieval History as the Reformers vs. the Counter-Reformationists. * The Counter-Reformationists believe the Western Roman Empire fell and ushered in the Dark Ages.  The Reformers look hard at material history and what archeology has revealed in the last 50 years, particularly in the more northern reaches, including both the British Isles and the Nordic regions, and see a burgeoning of trade and commerce, and cities neither losing population and, in fact new cities founded to deal with their trade.

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10 minutes ago, Toth said:

Yelling aside, the Byzantines calling themselves Romaioi doesn't count for you? Their language and culture may have been predominantly Greek, but politically and in their self-identification there is little doubt that they took pride in being Rome's direct successor.

Yes this makes sense, and furthermore it's disingenuous to think of Byzantine and Western Rome as different entities. We say they are, for reasons of clarity. They both changed somewhat over time, as part of a gradual process. However, there is no doubt that the Roman Empire endured in the east until the Arab conquests finally defeated them.

To say the Eastern Empire wasn't eastern because their lingua franca was Greek, not Latin, is also foolish. Rome changed gradually many times and it was always multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural. Almost as soon as they began to conquer the Italian peninsula they stopped being ethnically and linguistically Latin and became a amalgamation of many cultures.

It wasn't just a "label," either. Just as the China of the Qin was almost completely different to the China of the Zhou, they were still the same empire. Just as Cleopatra ruled an almost completely different Egypt to the people who built the pyramids, their state was still the same. The Ptolemaic conquest of Egypt didn't wave a magic wand and change the nature of the people they'd conquered, and the state itself endured even as the people ruling it changed.

To the Romans themselves, there was no "East" and "West" in the Empire. That came as a legacy of too few people trying to rule too large an area. It didn't help that the Mediterranean was a large barrier to easy communication. In the Persian Empire, although it was massive, communication wasn't as hard because it was all spiralling outward from a central position where no place was very far away from the capital of Ctesiphon. For Rome, there were huge supply line problems, further compounded by the fact that the Rhine river was a very long frontier. And it was right next to the Danube River, another very long frontier.

So the "East" and "West" were seen as administrative divisions with no fixed borders that helped administer. In practice, they tended to become rivals, but they weren't meant to function in this way.

Diocletian even tried to formalise the administration with the tetrarchy, which made four emperors ruling three zones each out of twelve.

Even the decision to have Greek in the East and Latin in the West predates the Eastern Empire. Romans had already been doing this from almost as soon as they conquered their eastern provinces. The reason they made Latin the language of trade and commerce in the West was because it was a pragmatic decision based on the fact that they were unifying disparate cultures and their language was the only one common to all areas (since they'd conquered them). In the east, Greek was already an established language of trade, thanks to Alexander's conquests, especially in Egypt - their most important eastern holding. Most elite Romans spoke Greek anyway, so it was easy enough to continue the practice there.

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50 minutes ago, Zorral said:

The primary dividing line is: the Western Roman Empire declined and fell sometime in the 5th century which ushered in four centuries of barbarian invasions, no taxation and no commerce, the end of cities and civilization which were replaced by endless warfare vs. the Western Roman Empire that transformed, regenerated and transitioned into something new, dynamic and vital, incorporating the forms and structures of the old western empire while creating new things that better suited itself.

That's a false dichotomy. The "collapse" folks don't think it was the "end of cities" (outside of Britain and perhaps northern Gaul in the 5th century), but cities did drastically shrink even where they didn't die out in the former western Empire. 

What replaced it were the barbarian kingdoms. They had their virtues, but there's no question in my mind that what was the former western Roman Empire was poorer, lower-populated, less interconnected, and less of a "state" than what had come before by 600 CE. 

50 minutes ago, Zorral said:

Nor were there great barbarian invasions beyond, perhaps that of Attila's, which was defeated by a coalition of Other Barbarians who had transformed quite some time ago into Gallo-Romans -- and commerce and manufacture boomed particularly in the north, east and south to the Black Sea and Bosphorus, which brought luxury, expensive goods and coins (as well as mints) to all these cities that didn't lose their populations.

"Great" is doing a lot of work here. The Vandals for example probably had (very optimistic high estimate) 10,000-ish men of fighting capability and maybe up to 30,000 people in general when you count their family members. These weren't swarming hordes, but they did frequently numbers in the thousands and bigger. And in the case of Britain, for a long time they thought the claims of mass invasion by what was nebulously called the "Anglo-Saxons" were overrated, and it was just "elite replacement". The genetic data shows otherwise - there really was a massive migration of folks into Britain over decades. 

As for the rest, well, I said earlier that the eastern Roman Empire didn't fall in this period. It boomed, at least after the Hunnic Empire disintegrated following Attila's death. 

50 minutes ago, Zorral said:

including both the British Isles and the Nordic regions

That's completely incorrect when it comes to describing 5th century Britain. 

RE: Yukle

I'll second this. The eastern half of the Empire always spoke Greek, even when Latin was the official language of government. It's another point of continuity with the pre-existing empire even after the western half collapsed. 

 

 

Edited by Fall Bass

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8 minutes ago, Fall Bass said:

"Great" is doing a lot of work here. The Vandals for example probably had (very optimistic high estimate) 10,000-ish men of fighting capability and maybe up to 30,000 people in general when you count their family members.

It is an interesting quirk of history that the Romans of the first and second centuries fought in significantly larger battles and wars than almost all medieval states, isn't it?

The armies of the Hundred Years War mobilised perhaps 100,000 people over more than a century. The Macromannic Wars fought between Rome and Germanian coalitions were fought over a couple of decades and saw something like a quarter million people moving across the Rhine frontier, back and forth.

In the case of the Vandals, it's further complicated by the fact that they were often fighting "Roman" legions who were essentially mercenaries, many of them ethnic Vandals. At the time the Franks overran Gaul, Rome was ruled (in all but name) but their magister militum Flavius Stilicho, who was an ethnic Vandal. His forces were overwhelmingly Germanic auxiliaries and a Hunnic bodyguard.

And this is before taking into account a plague (probably smallpox) that swept through the Roman and Persian Empires at least three times from 100 to 400 CE. Really, any Roman of the Antonine Era would have been stunned to know that their western provinces would fall in part (there was obviously a lot more going wrong, too) due to invasions from forces about the size of what they would normally hold in reserve during a single battle against a routine foe.

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As far as I know, recent evidence points to the Plague of Justinian not being smallpox, but bubonic plague - the first known occurrence of yersinia pestis.

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3 hours ago, theguyfromtheVale said:

As far as I know, recent evidence points to the Plague of Justinian not being smallpox, but bubonic plague - the first known occurrence of yersinia pestis.

Yes. The plagues I refer to are the Antonine Plagues, about 400 years before that. I said 100 to 400CE, well before the Justinian plague.

It's hard to know if it was smallpox before then, as there are only written accounts so far. The descriptions seem to match smallpox, as does the casualty rate.

Edited by Yukle

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On ‎2‎/‎10‎/‎2018 at 3:14 PM, Zorral said:

Actually, later scholarship refutes much of this, particularly the part about long distance trade.  This is based particularly from the work of archeology, which has been added to historical research only quite recently, beginning only late in the 1980's.

The sixth century was bad for population across the board due to a series of epidemics / plagues.  But new cities and centers were created, but not as long-lasting, archeological digs have shown, because they used other materials than stone and Roman concrete.

The more one looks into archeological studies that incorporate historical research and vice versa, the more difficult it is to dismiss their conclusions entirely and out-of-hand.

Too many, particularly those who aren't scholars, are still basing all their arguments on works and conclusions arrived at in the 1920's and 1930's, and even the nineteenth century.

I don't think there's much doubt that the living standards and population of 5th/6th century Britain fell off a cliff.  The fact that there are scarcely any records for the period must tell its own story.  So, far as we know, there was nothing built in stone in England from about 400 AD until the 670's, when Escomb Church was constructed.  And, Escomb Church is a very primitive stone building.  So far as archeologists can tell, the towns were either abandoned, or else shrank down to very tiny settlements. Even for the lower classes, the end of mass production and trade in pottery, glassware, tiles, etc. would have meant a lower level of existence.

And, what took place in Britain most likely took place in the poorer, more far-flung parts of Western Empire, like Southern Germany.  The Life of St. Severinus recounts events in Noricum (now Austria) in the 470's and 480's.  Civil administration disappeared, soldiers were disbanded for lack of pay, towns that were under threat had to be evacuated, and eventually, Odoacer resettled much of the population further South.

All of this is, however, compatible with a higher standard of living continuing in Italy, Southern Gaul, and parts of Spain.

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12 hours ago, Yukle said:

It is an interesting quirk of history that the Romans of the first and second centuries fought in significantly larger battles and wars than almost all medieval states, isn't it?

The armies of the Hundred Years War mobilised perhaps 100,000 people over more than a century. The Macromannic Wars fought between Rome and Germanian coalitions were fought over a couple of decades and saw something like a quarter million people moving across the Rhine frontier, back and forth.

In the case of the Vandals, it's further complicated by the fact that they were often fighting "Roman" legions who were essentially mercenaries, many of them ethnic Vandals. At the time the Franks overran Gaul, Rome was ruled (in all but name) but their magister militum Flavius Stilicho, who was an ethnic Vandal. His forces were overwhelmingly Germanic auxiliaries and a Hunnic bodyguard.

And this is before taking into account a plague (probably smallpox) that swept through the Roman and Persian Empires at least three times from 100 to 400 CE. Really, any Roman of the Antonine Era would have been stunned to know that their western provinces would fall in part (there was obviously a lot more going wrong, too) due to invasions from forces about the size of what they would normally hold in reserve during a single battle against a routine foe.

I do wonder if the vast numbers quoted for armies in the Republic are exaggerated.

The Empire had about 300,000 soldiers overall in the Fist Century, perhaps rising to 500,000 by the Fourth, but they covered a huge area.  It would be very unusual to have more than 15-20,000 fighting in any single battle, and indeed, it would have been hard for a commander to control bigger numbers on the battlefield.  That's much closer to the size of some medieval armies.  Medieval States rarely had standing armies, but they did have large numbers of men who were used to handling weapons and fighting in formation, and could be formed into armies quite quickly.

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22 hours ago, Zorral said:

:dunno: Good grief -- I should fuck myself because YOU have so decided?

You might think of the Greeks, who would say it wasn't Rome but Greek -- it was the Mongols and Ottomans that called it Rum -- and the Mongols well knew of western Rome and the Pope-- at least Kublai did.  So the Greeks would probably tell you to fuck yourself.  But of course, what would mere Greeks know of the history of Rome and Constantinople, where they spoke and wrote Greek for all their administration and practiced the Greek Orthodox faith.

When the Turks finally made it over the collapsed rubble that were the legendary walls of Constantinople the Sultan called himself Caesar of Rome.

That's about as clear a snapshot as you're going to get about how others saw this fictional 'Byzantine' state you insist upon.

And just to be clear, I was fucking with you the other day. I'm playful. :)

19 hours ago, Yukle said:

It is an interesting quirk of history that the Romans of the first and second centuries fought in significantly larger battles and wars than almost all medieval states, isn't it?

The armies of the Hundred Years War mobilised perhaps 100,000 people over more than a century. The Macromannic Wars fought between Rome and Germanian coalitions were fought over a couple of decades and saw something like a quarter million people moving across the Rhine frontier, back and forth.

In the case of the Vandals, it's further complicated by the fact that they were often fighting "Roman" legions who were essentially mercenaries, many of them ethnic Vandals. At the time the Franks overran Gaul, Rome was ruled (in all but name) but their magister militum Flavius Stilicho, who was an ethnic Vandal. His forces were overwhelmingly Germanic auxiliaries and a Hunnic bodyguard.

And this is before taking into account a plague (probably smallpox) that swept through the Roman and Persian Empires at least three times from 100 to 400 CE. Really, any Roman of the Antonine Era would have been stunned to know that their western provinces would fall in part (there was obviously a lot more going wrong, too) due to invasions from forces about the size of what they would normally hold in reserve during a single battle against a routine foe.

You're a smartypants. Jace is interested in your opinions on Stilicho, as his story runs parallel to that of the fully separating Eastern Empire I have found wildly different takes on the man. I understand that it is the 'newer' line of thinking that he was a positive figure as opposed to the Vandalizing Vandal most Ancient scholars describe?

I'll point out that M'boy Belisarius more or less erased that ethnic group from history.

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8 hours ago, SeanF said:

I do wonder if the vast numbers quoted for armies in the Republic are exaggerated.

The Empire had about 300,000 soldiers overall in the Fist Century, perhaps rising to 500,000 by the Fourth, but they covered a huge area.  It would be very unusual to have more than 15-20,000 fighting in any single battle, and indeed, it would have been hard for a commander to control bigger numbers on the battlefield.  That's much closer to the size of some medieval armies.  Medieval States rarely had standing armies, but they did have large numbers of men who were used to handling weapons and fighting in formation, and could be formed into armies quite quickly.

I recently read Mary Beard's SPQR in which she references the often-cited army number of 40,000 and how it may simply be the Roman equivalent of or code for "large" or "vast".

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15 minutes ago, Astromech said:

I recently read Mary Beard's SPQR in which she references the often-cited army number of 40,000 and how it may simply be the Roman equivalent of or code for "large" or "vast".

Counting at the time of battle  would have been a lot of guess-work, for sure. Even if they weren't simply using a number like "40,000" as a stand-in for "huge",  any army-in-the-battle estimates either would have been larger than reality (figuring in desertions)  or bigger (if you want to count the camp followers that were a ubiquitous presence for most pre-modern armies). 

I love that book, especially her willingness to point out where some of the figures and information we have involve a lot of guess-work, or aren't necessarily supported by the archaeology and other historical evidence. There's so much we just don't have any written accounts of, especially the origins of the Roman Republic (although we've learned a lot from the archaeological evidence). 

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40 minutes ago, Fall Bass said:

Counting at the time of battle  would have been a lot of guess-work, for sure. Even if they weren't simply using a number like "40,000" as a stand-in for "huge",  any army-in-the-battle estimates either would have been larger than reality (figuring in desertions)  or bigger (if you want to count the camp followers that were a ubiquitous presence for most pre-modern armies). 

I love that book, especially her willingness to point out where some of the figures and information we have involve a lot of guess-work, or aren't necessarily supported by the archaeology and other historical evidence. There's so much we just don't have any written accounts of, especially the origins of the Roman Republic (although we've learned a lot from the archaeological evidence). 

It was a very interesting read. Loved the early chapters on the founding and the early republic and Beard's treatment of Roman society and culture throughout. How Romans thought is just as interesting the major events.

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9 hours ago, SeanF said:

I do wonder if the vast numbers quoted for armies in the Republic are exaggerated.

 

1 hour ago, Astromech said:

I recently read Mary Beard's SPQR in which she references the often-cited army number of 40,000 and how it may simply be the Roman equivalent of or code for "large" or "vast".

 

53 minutes ago, Fall Bass said:

Counting at the time of battle  would have been a lot of guess-work, for sure. Even if they weren't simply using a number like "40,000" as a stand-in for "huge",  any army-in-the-battle estimates either would have been larger than reality (figuring in desertions)  or bigger (if you want to count the camp followers that were a ubiquitous presence for most pre-modern armies). 

I do love that book. :)

She does say that it's not that the numbers are necessarily wrong, just that the figures are often written by people who aren't experts in military, and therefore wouldn't know. Caesar is an obvious exception, yet his own records are hardly accurate since he tended to say he defeated enemies of three and a half billion cavalry with nothing but six naked legionaries, two slingshots and a lame donkey.

On the other hand, there is nonetheless extensive evidence that Rome's military was huge. Their remaining permanent barracks around their old frontiers, all now in ruins, support the idea that a legion was between 4,000 and 6,000 people. Archaeological sites have been found of some battles, especially in Germania, that support the idea of battles of tens of thousands (but whether that's 10,000 or 50,000 is hard to tell).

The Romans obsessed with the logistics of their legionaries, and they weren't just soldiers, they were also skilled labourers. They'd hold a frontier not only with strength of arms, but with infrastructure of roads, aqueducts and horse-mail systems to keep everything in battle ready mode. These projects took them surprisingly short periods of time to establish, as did the colonies they'd setup in new provinces. There is evidence suggesting their struggles with supplying these men at all times. This would therefore require a workforce of tens of thousands - as well as the legionaries still guarding and fighting.

There's a lot of evidence showing that Roman Emperors obsessed with keeping their armies supplied. They were essentially military dictators who geared their entire economy to supplying their armies. When you gear your tax revenue into the singular focus of equipping an army, it's not so hard for that army to become huge.

Marcus Aurelius' struggles against the Germanians stemmed in part because the population increases over the Rhine meant that the Romans no longer had larger numbers of forces on their side of the Rhine to spook any invasion. Of course, legionaries were trained to fight in such a way that they could hold off larger numbers, but there was a limit to how far they could go. This would support the theory that the armies they were fighting were huge - but of course, we'll never know with any certainty.

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3 hours ago, Pony Queen Jace said:

You're a smartypants. Jace is interested in your opinions on Stilicho, as his story runs parallel to that of the fully separating Eastern Empire I have found wildly different takes on the man. I understand that it is the 'newer' line of thinking that he was a positive figure as opposed to the Vandalizing Vandal most Ancient scholars describe?

I'll point out that M'boy Belisarius more or less erased that ethnic group from history.

Stilicho was definitely a competent leader, but he wasn't perfect. It's a pity that he faced emerging racism from Roman elites who began to shield away their fighting-age men and didn't help his cause. There are even times when Stilicho had to pay the toll to pass through key Italian passageways through the Alps - which as a Roman citizen leading a Roman army, he was meant to be exempt from.

Romans had always been fighting with multi-ethnic armies. Stilicho didn't change that, he just continued what was already happening. BUT, and this is a big BUT (lulz), the Gothic and Germanic migrants were not required to fight under Roman command, nor told to adhere to Roman laws, nor broken into smaller parties and spread across established Roman colonies. He did the best with what he had: a not entirely loyal army of kind-of mercenaries.

But he was also too focused on taking back control of the Eastern Empire. His claims that he should control Illyricum (the Balkans) was fair enough as Italy was invaded twice under his watch and that was the region controlling access to the Alps from the east. But his decision to divert attention to the east as the Rhine began to crumble led to a flood of Frankish warriors that Rome literally never turned back.

When all is said and done, though, the rot had set in before Stilicho ever took power. He extended the West, but it was only ever a life support for a failing institution. Competent, surely, and he would have done better had he not faced racism from Roman elites for being a Vandal, but it's hard to see how anyone could have corrected a few decades of bad policy. Rome was lucky to survive the Crisis of the Third Century, but in the West it probably never truly recovered.

What do you think?

Edited by Yukle

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3 hours ago, Yukle said:

There's a lot of evidence showing that Roman Emperors obsessed with keeping their armies supplied. They were essentially military dictators who geared their entire economy to supplying their armies. When you gear your tax revenue into the singular focus of equipping an army, it's not so hard for that army to become huge.

That's why I think of the post-Crisis of the Third Century Empire as a military dictatorship. The Roman Army essentially devoured the defunct Principate, although it wasn't a total take-over (most of the much expanded bureaucracy were civilians, and the Army was still "only" 50-90% of the Empire's budget depending on wartime conditions). 

One of the big problems with the Roman Empire was that it never really seemed to develop good institutions necessary for a monarchy (such as good regencies and solid succession without usurpations). 

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10 minutes ago, Fall Bass said:

One of the big problems with the Roman Empire was that it never really seemed to develop good institutions necessary for a monarchy (such as good regencies and solid succession without usurpations). 

There's an understatement!

From the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180CE until the abdication of Diocletian in 305, 24 Emperors died violent deaths, almost all to murder in one form or another.

Tacitus and Numerian's deaths were unclear, but of the remaining emperors, it was death by murder, death in battle or death by suicide.

The only ones who didn't were Setimius Severus and Valerian, who died of old age (the latter in Persian captivity), Trebonianus Gallus and Claudius Gothicus, who both died of disease, and - if the stories are true, which apparently they are - Carus was struck by lightning.

That's 24 violent deaths, 5 due to natural causes and 2 where we don't know. Not exactly a stable succession plan. :P

Edited by Yukle

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