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Alternate History: The Modern Roman Empire
Symbol Of The Empire
How The Empire Fell In Simple Terms
Surrender Of The West
The Roman Empire was the most successful European empire, both in terms of continuous land area and longevity. And understandably, trying to decipher how and why this mighty imperial juggernaut crumbled has been the subject of furious academic investigation and debate for centuries. One of the dominant themes encountered in the various works published on the subject is whether the collapse was actually inevitable. With the benefit of hindsight, it is generally possible to point to long term social or economic trends, or overwhelming external pressures to show that the Roman Empire was powerless to prevent its demise.
But was it really inevitable? In the West we tend to look upon either the sack of Rome in 410 AD by Alaric or when Odoacer deposed the last Western Emperor in 476 AD as the end of the Roman Empire. However, the Eastern half of the Empire continued to live and prosper, with Constantinople serving as the capital for another thousand years- more than twice as long as the combined Empire had been ruled from Rome. The Eastern Empire eventually became known as the Byzantine Empire, named after the ancient town of Byzantium, upon which Constantine the Great built his new capital. Yet throughout its existence, its Emperors and its people thought and referred to themselves as Romans. In them the Roman Empire lived on, with an unbroken line of Emperors until the last, Constantine XI died defending the walls of Constantinople against the Turks in 1453.
If the Empire lasted another thousand years after the city of Rome fell, then why it couldn’t it have survived another fifteen hundred or two thousand years?
In the Sixth Century AD, the Eastern Empire under Justinian the Great attempted to reconquer the Western provinces from the various Germanic tribes that had claimed them a century or so before. The North African provinces fell quickly, and a few enclaves in Southern Spain were established, but it took a gruelling twenty two year war to dislodge the Ostro-Goths from Italy. At about the same time however, a devastating plague swept through the Eastern Empire decimating large swathes of the population. As a result, Justinian experienced a huge drop in manpower, denying his army of precious reinforcements. And of course, with the drop in population, the economic base required to support the war vanished, forcing the re-conquest to grind to a disappointing halt.
The Glory Seeker
It’s with Justinian’s attempted re-conquest, where the ‘modern Roman Empire’ truly begins, the divergence point if you like. Firstly, the Ostro-Goths succumb to the armies of Justinian as quickly as the Vandals in Africa. The plague that sapped vital men and resources in the East never occurred, thus allowing the re-conquest to continue unabated. After Italy, the rest of Spain was reclaimed from the Visi-Goths, and then Gaul was reclaimed from the Franks. Within just a decade, Roman soldiers once again patrolled the Rhine and the Danube. The final territory to fall to this whole new Roman conquest was Britain. Hadrian’s Wall was rebuilt, and once more served as the Northern frontier of an Empire that spanned much of the continent.
What If The Empire Never Fell?
A Highly Recommended Link
- Roman Empire (Superpowers) - Alternative History
An alternate and modern Roman Empire.
An Alternate History
With the old Empire now reunited, the long war with the Sassanid Persians at the beginning of the seventh century AD does not drain the Empire as it did originally, and consequently allows the Empire to mount a more effective defence against the armies of Islam, that burst out of Arabia soon after the Empire agreed peace terms with Persia. The Empire still loses Syria and Palestine, due to losing the Battle of Yarmouk, but crucially they prevent the Arabs from conquering Egypt. With Europe effectively closed to them, the Islamic armies turn their attentions eastward and succeed in conquering almost all of India.
Due to the greater strength of the Empire, the Turkish migrations of the tenth century AD that eventually culminated in the destruction of the Byzantine Empire in the original timeline, were in this alternate history, unable to penetrate into Anatolia and instead turned north towards the Caucasus and Southern Russia. Eventually the Ottoman Empire establishes itself in what are today South-Eastern Europe and the Ukraine; the mighty Danube River serves as the boundary between the two Empires.
Roman Explorers ‘discovered’ the Americas in the late fifteenth century, as Columbus did in the original timeline. The explorers christen their new home ‘Americana,’ after one of the merchants that sponsored the voyage. However, only North America was colonised as population pressure back in Europe is far less acute in the alternate timeline. Native American Empires such as the Maya, Aztecs and Incas still suffer the historical nosedives in population, as a result of contact with the Europeans, but are allowed sufficient time to recover and maintain their own independent civilisations rather than being destroyed and subsumed by European culture.
In the eighteenth century, the North American colonies, known in Imperial terms as Romani Americana became increasingly frustrated with the high taxation rates imposed by the Empire, and also the level of Imperial interference by Rome. Towards the end of that century, a successful revolution spawned the creation of a new Republic, modelled on the ancient Roman Republic. The United Provinces of Americana was born
In Europe, the various Germanic tribes that traditionally lived beyond the Rhine developed into a number of small Kingdoms, very much like the Germany that existed prior to original unification in 1870 in the original timeline. Over the centuries the fortunes of these Kingdoms waxed and waned as they battled both the Empire and each other. By the mid seventeenth century, the largest state, Saxony, which already covered a wide area of Central Europe, had successfully conquered many of the smaller Germanic states, thus creating an Empire of their own. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Roman and Saxon Empires put their differences to one side in order to try to halt the Ottoman advance into Central and Western Europe.
The Imperial Palace
A Modern Roman Army
Serving The Empire
The Modern World
By the beginning of the twenty first century, the Rhine and the Danube still act as natural borders between the Roman Empire and the Saxon and Ottoman Empires respectfully. Asia Minor, known as Turkey to us is still in Roman hands and is home to a largely Greek speaking population. Egypt is also still a Roman province, despite the fact that they have lost it to the Arabian Caliphate half a dozen times over the past thousand years or so. During the course of that time, it has become home to a large Arab minority, living alongside Roman and Greek settlers. Railways criss-cross the Empire in the same way that the old Roman roads used to do. Motor vehicles and planes are relatively recent inventions, but have had a stark contrast in fortunes. Planes have become very common, both in the military and in the travel industry, although the jet engine has yet to be invented. Motor cars however, are not as common, with most Romans electing to undertake long journeys across land via train, while using motor bikes, bicycles, buses and trams for shorter journeys.
The Empire is still ruled by an Emperor, but in a more of a constitutional sense nowadays. The Senate is responsible for the day to day running of the Empire, with a Consul (the equivalent of a Prime Minister) acting as a figurehead, albeit one who is elected every four years by the Senate and the Citizens.
Speaking of Roman Citizens, the Empire has lost nothing of the decadence that characterised Ancient Rome, making the Empire far more sexually liberal than the Western World we know. Prostitution and pornography are legal and easily available. This is despite the fact that Christianity is the dominant religion of the Empire. The Pontiff, serves as the leader of the Christian Church, but is elected by the Emperor, rather than by his fellow clergymen. Therefore, the Emperor remains the highest authority in Christendom and he of course, is bound by the Constitution, thus meaning that Christianity was unable to impose strict laws upon society, as it did in our world.
However, in other ways, those living within the Empire’s borders have less personal freedoms than we would be used to. All Romans start out as Civilians, but almost all aspire to become Citizens, because once one becomes a Citizen, they can vote, run for public office, acquire property rather than rent and even have babies through the acquisition of a licence. In order to become a Citizen, a man, or woman, aged at least sixteen years must complete two years of uninterrupted service in the Armed Forces. The Empire deliberately possesses a lax attitude in relation to people wanting to terminate their National Service before the end of the two year period, to weed out the strong from the weak. Once one decides to terminate their National Service they can never enrol again.
© 2014 James Kenny