18 centuries of Roman Empire

A Cartography by Howard Wiseman.

Text and maps copyright Howard Wiseman 2002-2019.
Last updated: 20 September 2019


1790 years, to be exact. The Roman Empire began in 338 BC, when the city of Rome (a republic) imposed its direct rule upon the former league of Latin cities. It ended in 1453, as the last Roman Emperor, Constantine XI, died defending the walls of New Rome against the Turks. Not to my knowledge has any other state had a continuous existence for this long; the nearest would perhaps be Japan (arguably since about 400 A.D.).

Over these 18 centuries the fortunes of the Empire have waxed and waned greatly. However, for about the middle 3/4 of this time, from 146 BC to 1204 AD,  it was without doubt the greatest and wealthiest power in the northern Mediterranean. Below are some small maps which give an idea of the Empire's changing territorial extent (including client states) over this period of greatness.

Those who thought the Roman Empire ended with the barbarian invasions of the 5th century will no doubt be surprised by the last three of the above maps. Those having more familiarity with mediaeval history will probably be surprised more at my audacity for representing all the territories in these maps as part of the Roman Empire(s). I justify myself later.

The centrepiece of this web site is a series of 19 maps of the Roman Empire, roughly every century, from its beginning in 338 BC to its end almost 18 centuries later, with commentaries. One might wonder why I created this site, given that there is already a truly marvellous website, "Rome and Romania" (http://www.friesian.com/romania.htm) by Dr. Kelly Ross. This has a similar series of maps (and much more), but with twice as many (every 50 years). However my maps are different in a number of ways:
1. I have chosen the dates very carefully to emphasize the waxing and waning of the Empire's fortunes.
2. I show the Western ("Holy") Roman Empire alongside the Eastern ("Byzantine") Roman Empire.
3. I also have numerous other maps which present different perspectives on the Roman Empire, its predecessors, rivals, descendants and supplanters.

This site is organized into the following pages:

The Roman Empire -- what I mean by this. (2002).

19 Maps of the Roman Empire over 18 centuries. (2002; updated 2011).

5 "summary" Maps of the Empire for the period 146 BC -- 1204 AD. (2002; updated 2011).

10 "comparison" Maps of "successor" Empires (Ottoman, Hapsburg, Napoleonic, Fascist, Greek). (2002; updated 2007).

3 "perspective" Maps of the wider Eurasian world in 116, 755, and 1288. (2002).

The Ages of the Roman Empire --- a discussion. (2002).

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empires --- a parallel treatment of East and West with 18 maps. (2003; updated 2011).

The Dragon and the Eagle --- a parallel treatment of Britons and Byzantines in 8 joint maps. (2005; updated 2010).

18 Centuries of Empire: the Greek Perspective --- Alexander, Cleopatra, Diocletian, Heraclius etc. in 10 maps. (2007; updated 2011).

Empires Strike Back --- the six epochs when Imperial powers returned to dominate the ancient lands of Rome (2009; updated 2019).


Return to Howard Wiseman's History Page