The entry of Roman emperors into the Danube thematic regions begins properly with Julius Caesar.Caesar in a technical sense was not an emperor, but his assumption of the title “Dictator for Life” made him one in all but the specific title.Among Caesar’s military accomplishments the conquest of the two Gauls (one on either side of the Alps) stands out in history.However this causes one to lose sight of the third province in his mandate, Illyricum.Illyricum for the Romans of Caesar and Augustus’ time stretched from the Adriatic to the Danube and eastward towards western Bulgaria, just the Danube territory under discussion in this proposal.Caesar probably made inspection tours of his third province, and his command resulted in the foundation of Roman colonies at Salona near Split and Narona at the mouth of the Neretva river.Caesar and after him the first emperor Augustus laid the foundations for the continued advance of the Romans to the Danube.The colonies and the later grants of municipal rights of limited self government to indigenous communities, in either case authorized by a given emperor, created nodal points for the diffusion of Roman civilization.

Historical Growth

The diffusion of Roman culture, along with the military advance to the Danube and the consolidation of Roman territorial gains, continued under successive emperors in the first century A.D.The second emperor Tiberius, drawing on his military experience by the Sava and Danube rivers under Augustus directed his legions to major road building projects in the region, including the Trans Balkan Highway and the Danube via militaris through the Iron Gate gorge.The Danube fleet was probably established in his reign also.The emperor Claudius, almost the last of Augustus’ line, moved the legionary garrison up to Danube bases and repaired the via militaris on the river itself.Domitian, the last of the Flavian dynasty of emperors, also repaired the Danube road and himself led the Roman armies against Decebalus and the Dacians north of the Danube.He probably made his base at Sirmium.For various reasons, Domitian did not annex territory from the Dacians but at least he put a temporary stop to their destructive raids on Roman territory.

The culmination of the first and defining phase of Roman occupation of the Danube corridor was directed by the first non-Italian emperor Trajan in the early second century.Trajan himself was on the Danube on several occasions, including directing the campaigns in two successful Dacian wars against Decebalus.His base was probably with a legion at Viminacium, but he certainly was involved with road construction and repair in the Iron Gate gorge and the construction of the great bridge across the Danube near Kladovo in 105 between the two Dacian wars. The final result of Trajan’s aggressive military policy was the annexation of Decebalus’ kingdom as the new Dacian provinces north of the Danube.Along with the annexation proceeded the establishment of legionary bases, the foundation of colonies for retired soldiers, Roman exploitation of Dacian mineral resources, especially the gold mines, and the construction of a unique battle monument near the Black Sea.

Influence on European History and Heritage

The Roman Empire and the actions of the emperors who directed it laid the foundations of urbanism, administrative structure and law for the medieval and modern European societies which followed.The Roman Empire promoted religious toleration, and guided retention of ethnic identity along with a universal rule of law and rights of citizenship.Later European culture witnessed the recurring Roman influences on artistic traditions, town planning and architecture.The Renaissance in fact can be characterized as a return to some of the cultural norms established by the Roman Empire in the theme regions and western Europe.

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