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February 14, 2005 6:15 PM   Subscribe

Roman Emperors, there sure were a lot of them. This online encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on the autocratic rulers of Rome I have come across. It ranges from Augustus to Constantine Dragases, the last emperor in Constantinople. It doesn't include them all, but has most, including my two favorites, Basil II, the Bulgarslayer and Antonius Pius. You can also find the one least deserving of fame, the one with the silliest name and, of course, the completely batshit ones. Also on the site, maps, battles, coins and everybody's favorite subject, genealogy.
posted by Kattullus (21 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think the first sentence of this post should be in history books. Seriously.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 7:10 PM on February 14, 2005

"Beyond the Euphrates began for us the land of mirage and danger, the sands where one helplessly sank, and the roads which ended in nothing. The slightest reversal would have resulted in a jolt to our prestige giving rise to all kinds of catastrophe; the problem was not only to conquer but to conquer again and again, perpetually; our forces would be drained off in the attempt."

Emperor Hadrian AD 117-138
posted by halekon at 7:18 PM on February 14, 2005

For me, the one with the most giggle-inducing name was Pupienus.
posted by jaut at 7:43 PM on February 14, 2005

Awesome - straight to my for ongoing perusal. Thanks!
posted by freebird at 7:53 PM on February 14, 2005

Surely the silliest name belonged to Commodus, who also brought his own brand of batshit by fighting gladiators in the amphitheater -- the source of the film with Russell Crowe.

Commodus began to dress like the god Hercules, wearing lion skins and carrying a club.... His most important maneuver to solidify his claims as Hercules Romanus was to show himself as the god to the Roman people by taking part in spectacles in the amphitheater. Not only would Commodus fight and defeat the most skilled gladiators, he would also test his talents by encountering the most ferocious of the beasts. Commodus won all of his bouts against the gladiators [unlike his movie portrayal].... in 190 he renamed all the months to correspond exactly with his titles.... The legions were renamed Commodianae, the fleet which imported grain from Africa was called Alexandria Commodiana Togata, the Senate was deemed the Commodian Fortunate Senate, his palace and the Roman people were all given the name Commodianus.
posted by dhartung at 8:30 PM on February 14, 2005

Thanks Kattullus!
posted by turbodog at 9:37 PM on February 14, 2005

Excellent site.

Nice write up on my favourite emperor: Julian the Apostate
posted by login at 9:43 PM on February 14, 2005

Aside from Basil II and a couple of the Comneni, it's rather lacking as far as information on the medieval Byzantine Emperors went. I'm surprised that there's no entry for Alexius I Comnenus - I'd think having called for the intervention that became The First Crusade would be more of a fame-winner.

It's also missing anything about the palace intrigue Emperors of the Byzantine era, like Michael V Calaphates, who was run out in short order, or Romanus I Lecapenus, about whom one of the most fascinating books in Byzantine studies was written. The intrigues and politics, the double-dealing and influential women, eunuchs and church officials are enough to make your head spin.
posted by graymouser at 10:55 PM on February 14, 2005

thanks dougunderscore, I try :)

And I agree with you graymouser, there should be more Byzantines in there, but you can't have it all, I suppose. And God knows that finding information on the Byzantine Empire on the net is like trying to milk a ceramic cow. That looks like an interesting book, must try to track it down.

And you're welcome turbodog and freebird.

Whose name is the silliest is ultimately a matter of personal taste, but I've always felt that Postumus sounds like the name of some hapless legionary out of an Asterix comic. It sounds completely made up.
posted by Kattullus at 12:35 AM on February 15, 2005

The silliest name for a Roman emperor? Heliogabalus (aka "Elagabalus" on the site listed here).
posted by Davenhill at 12:38 AM on February 15, 2005

The information that was there was interesting, but I hit a few too many "pending" links. Looks to be very handy once the kinks are straightened out.

Very timely (for me) -- I've just been re-watching my "I, Claudius" DVDs and getting into the genealogies again. The show always drives me back to Seutonius. This time I've been reading up on some of the post-Neronians a bit more in depth.
posted by RavinDave at 1:35 AM on February 15, 2005

As someone whose knowledge of Roman Emperors is slight to say the most, I thank you, Kattullas, for this post. Very very interesting, even if you're not a Roman History buff.
posted by shmegegge at 2:23 AM on February 15, 2005

This will take hours. Thanks so much for this!
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:17 AM on February 15, 2005

and here's something I've been wondering, for all you history buffs out there:

How exactly do we know who was responsible for all the murders that were so commonplace among Rome's royalty?

I mean, in the Nero description I find this sentence: "Poppaea became Nero's mistress in 58 A.D., and the next year Agrippina herself was murdered, with Nero's knowledge." How do we know what Nero was aware of? Did he write in his diary, "Dear Journal. Flatulus asked if it was ok to kill Mom, and I told him to go crazy. Whatever." I mean, murder mysteries are hard to solve even when they've happened recently, and they none of our fancy-shmancy detection technology back then. I mean, we know what we do of that whole time period thanks to material evidence, propaganda, and the diligent work of contemporary historical recorders like Suetonius. Murder plots generally don't leave behind too much of any of those.

Is this a stupid question? Eh, probably, but stupid people need to know stuff, too, so don't be stingy with the knowledge.
posted by shmegegge at 4:20 AM on February 15, 2005

Great post! My recent addiction to Rome Total War has opened my eyes to this part of history.
posted by Mick at 4:26 AM on February 15, 2005

shmegegge ... I believe in Nero's case he admitted as much to the Senate, claiming he was forced to act against her as she was actively conspiring against him.

In similar cases, it may not be possible to absolutely and utterly prove something, but the circumstantial evidence can be so potent that it's hard to believe otherwise. Let me give you a concrete example. I recall that after Augustus died, Posthumus Agrippa (who was quite popular with the public) was immediately put to death. No one knows who gave the actual order. But when the guard who carried out the deed showed up in Rome to confirm it to Tiberius -- he staunchly denied giving such an order. What is significant is that he didn't pursue the matter. Just sorta let it drop quietly out of the public's radar. That isn't the reaction you'd expect from someone who didn't already know where an official inquirey would lead.

General, I've found most the Roman historians pretty good about reporting suspicious deaths. They present what is (no doubt) the common view, but very often they will soften it with flatly calling it speculation. (Of course, some of that might also be a literary device to avoid stepping on toes.)
posted by RavinDave at 4:55 AM on February 15, 2005

there should be more Byzantines in there, but you can't have it all

I don't see why not. Byzantine emperors aren't like stars (either astronomical or cinematic): it's not like there are millions of them and you have to draw the line somewhere. There were less than a hundred of them, and there's no reason they can't each have their own entry. I assume they're working on it. Anyway, great post! (And I love the maps, especially the Constantinople one -- it's hard to find decent maps of the medieval city. Here's another.)
posted by languagehat at 6:19 AM on February 15, 2005

Try John Julius Norwich's A Short History of Byzantium, or better yet, the 3 volume series it is based on. So good, I read the full 3 volume series directly after finishing the one volume abridgement, and I'm not even interested in Byzantium.

Makes those Western Roman politics look boring.
posted by QIbHom at 4:19 PM on February 15, 2005

posted by taursir at 1:50 PM on February 16, 2005

languagehat: We fans of Byzantium are used to getting the short end of the stick by now.

I got hooked by a great documentary series shown on Discovery Channel (UK) some years ago and I haven't looked back. Also by the Time-Life Great Ages of Man book about Byzantium. Now if I only could remember the title of that series. Or who that enthusiastic English guy was who presented it.

QIbHom: Ooh! Thanks for the heads up.
posted by Kattullus at 2:53 PM on February 16, 2005

now if I only could find a good book about Antonius Pius
posted by Kattullus at 3:00 PM on February 16, 2005

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