Pax Romana: Peace During War

Updated on January 18, 2018
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ata1515 is a student of history, focusing on the modern, medieval, and ancient histories of Europe.

Coin from Antioch labeled Pax Augusta
Coin from Antioch labeled Pax Augusta

Peace Through War

Pax Romana or Pax Augusta refers to a period of time at the end of the Civil Wars until the Crisis of the Third Century in which the Romans saw a golden age. It was a time of prosperity and stability for the Roman people, and indeed for many of the people in the Mediterranean world.

Though peace and stability was attained for the Romans and their allies, it did not extend to the people outside of the Roman borders. Unlike the average modern reader, the Roman mind developed in a world of violence, insecurity and chaos.

In the Roman mindset peace was not the absense of war. Peace was achieved with total victory over all potential enemies. From the modern viewpoint this immediately throws the Pax Romana into question, but it does not change the effects of the Roman method.

Map of the Roman Provinces under Trajan
Map of the Roman Provinces under Trajan

Battles of the First Century

Despite the appearance of peace, Augustus made war in Hispania, Dalmatia, Raetia, Noricum, Syria, Africa, the Rhineland and Pannonia. This amounted at various times to having armies on every border of the Roman Empire. Yet despite the armies deployed from home, contemporaries considered it a time of peace.

This was because Italia was safe. Near Italia was safe. Greece was almost untouched by war or threat of war. Much of the Roman Empire was clear of hazards for the average citizen, and this was because the war was being taken to the barbarians rather then facing them as they came.

Augustus did not have to expand the Roman armies to achieve his military goals, because the enemies of Rome had been reduced to positions of little threat. These expeditions launched in the first century were punitive measures aimed at finishing off old grudges held by the Roman people.

Unto History

The Pax Romana has formed the concept for the rest of history as a societal aspiration. Each society wants to reach a point where their homeland is untouchable and their enemies laid low. From the Europeans to the Americas, every state seeks to establish its own form of the Pax Romana, even as it is redefined to match the needs of the society that builds it.

Further Reading

Everitt, Anthony Augustus: The Life of Rome’s First Emperor

Richardson, John S. The Romans in Spain

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