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Focusing on France in the century before the outbreak of the Hundred Years War, it explores attitudes towards the contemporary institution of the western Empire, its rulers, and its place in the world. Historians have tended to assume that there was little place for a universal Empire and its would-be rulers in late-medieval thought.

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Pointing to the rapid decline in the fortunes of the Empire after the death of the Emperor Frederick II, the rediscovery of Aristotle's Politics by western Europeans, and the growing confidence - and burgeoning bureaucracy - of the kings of France and England, it is often argued that the claims to universal domination of men like the Emperor Henry VII, or indeed of popes like Boniface VIII, were becoming increasingly anachronistic, not to say a little ridiculous.

Perceptions of the Empire undoubtedly changed in this period. Yet, whether it was in the cloisters of Saint-Denis, the pamphlets of Pierre Dubois, or even the thought of Charles d'Anjou, the first Angevin king of Sicily, this book argues that the Empire and its ruler still had an important, indeed unique, role to play in a properly ordered Christian society. Roman Empire , the ancient empire, centred on the city of Rome , that was established in 27 bce following the demise of the Roman Republic and continuing to the final eclipse of the Empire of the West in the 5th century ce.

Mursili's eclipse

A brief treatment of the Roman Empire follows. For full treatment, see ancient Rome. A period of unrest and civil wars in the 1st century bc marked the transition of Rome from a republic to an empire.


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This period encompassed the career of Julius Caesar , who eventually took full power over Rome as its dictator. His reign, from 27 bce to 14 ce , was distinguished by stability and peace. Augustus established a form of government known as a principate, which combined some elements from the republic with the traditional powers of a monarchy. The Senate still functioned, though Augustus, as princeps , or first citizen, remained in control of the government.

Under Augustus, Rome began to prosper once again, and the emperor came to be looked upon as a god. Thereafter, all good emperors were worshiped as gods after death.

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Decadent , cruel men also rose to power: Caligula 37—41 and Nero 54—68 were so loathed that their reigns were struck from the official Roman records. It was during the rule of Tiberius 14—37 that Jesus Christ was crucified. Thereafter, Christians were tolerated at best—but often tortured or killed—until the reign of Constantine I — In an edict of toleration for all religions was issued, and from about Christianity was favoured by the Roman state rather than persecuted by it.

But the empire was dying.

Eclipse of Empire by Donald A. Low

The Western Empire, suffering from repeated invasions and the flight of the peasants into the cities, had grown weak compared with the East, where spices and other exports virtually guaranteed wealth and stability. When Theodosius died, in , Rome split into Eastern and Western empires.

The West was severely shaken in , when the city of Rome was sacked by the Visigoths , a wandering nation of Germanic peoples from the northeast. The fall of Rome was completed in , when the German chieftain Odoacer deposed the last Roman emperor of the West, Romulus Augustulus. During the later republic and most of the empire, Rome was the dominant power in the entire Mediterranean basin, most of western Europe , and large areas of northern Africa. The Romans possessed a powerful army and were gifted in the applied arts of law, government, city planning , and statecraft, but they also acknowledged and adopted contributions of other ancient peoples—most notably, those of the Greeks , much of whose culture was thereby preserved.

The Roman Empire was distinguished not only for its outstanding army—the foundation upon which the whole empire rested—but also for its accomplishments in intellectual endeavours. Roman law , for example, was a considered and complex body of precedents and comments, which were all finally codified in the 6th century see Justinian, Code of. Roman city planners achieved unprecedented standards of hygiene with their plumbing, sewage disposal, dams, and aqueducts.