It is generally acknowledged that the Roman Empire reached its geographical zenith during Trajan's reign. Listening to the highly interesting History of Rome podcast I didn't notice any major territorial losses at least until Severus who seemed in fact to have enlarged the empire.
How does the extent of the Roman empire under Trajan compare to that under Severus? What territories were lost or abandoned after Trajan?
Answering my own question: Wikipedia has interesting graphics comparing the extend of the empire under the two emperors. Although the maps are not of the same size (Trajan's is slightly larger) there is very little to choose from between them. Current Iraq is missing but there are additional conquests in Scotland, Africa and Arabia.
From Historum.com (author Sylla1):
"Contrary to common belief, the maximal extension of this empire was reached not during the little more than two years (114-116) of nominal military occupation of the Parthian Mesopotamia & Armenia, which were never "romanized". The maximal effective extension of the Roman Empire was under Severus I, when large portions of land of Mesopotamia, North Africa and the trans-Danubian border were acquired in a more stable (centuries-long) way, i.e. they were regularly romanized. For some months under this ruler (208-211) most of Caledonia was militarily occupied too; naturally, it was never romanized either."
The empire was at its greatest extent under Trajan.
Borders of the Roman Empire on Wikipedia is poorly sourced, but a few maps are useful:
So, who added or created imperial provinces?
- 106 AD - Arabia, formerly the Kingdom of Nabataea, it was annexed without resistance by Trajan (imperial propraetorial province)
- 107 AD - Dacia "Trajana" (the Romanian regions of south-eastern Transylvania, the Banat, and Oltenia), conquered by Trajan in the Dacian Wars (imperial proconsular province). Divided into Dacia Superior and Dacia Inferior in 158 by Antoninus Pius. Divided into three provinces (Tres Daciae) in 166 by Marcus Aurelius: Porolissensis, Apulensis and Malvensis (imperial procuratorial provinces). Abandoned by Aurelian in 271.
- 103/114 AD Epirus Nova (in western Greece and southern Albania), Epirus was originally under the province of Macedonia. It was placed under Achaia in 27 BC except for its northernmost part, which remained part of Macedonia. It became a separate province under Trajan, sometime between 103 and 114 AD and was renamed Epirus Nova (New Epirus) (imperial procuratorial province).
- 114 AD - Armenia, annexed by Trajan, who deposed its client king. In 118 Hadrian restored this client kingdom
- 116 AD - Mesopotamia (Iraq) seized from the Parthians and annexed by Trajan, who invaded the Parthian Empire in late 115. Given back to the Parthians by Hadrian in 118. In 198 Septimius Severus conquered a small area in the north and named it Mesopotamia. It was attacked twice by the Persians (imperial praefectorial province).
- 116 AD - Assyria, Trajan suppressed a revolt by Assyrians in Mesopotamia and created the province. Hadrian relinquished it in 118.
Under Septimius Severus
- 193 AD - Numidia, was separated from Africa Proconsularis by Septimius Severus (imperial propraetorial province).
- 194 AD - Syria Coele and Syria Phoenice, Septimius Severus divided Syria into these two units in the north and the south respectively. Imperial provinces (proconsular and propraetorial respectively).
Illustratively animated here:
Src: EmperorTigerstar: "The History of the Romans: Every Year" - Youtube
Note that Roman expansion and colonisation attempts for example into Germania are just left white and several other outward campaigns are not depicted above as well. Particularly in the East very faint patches of light colour pop up from time to time. Not easy to spot but adequate to illustrate the effect.
Why the difference between territory mapped as Trajan's empire and all the swathes of land conquered under Severus?
It is just the other way around as presented here so far: what Trajan conquered Hadrian either gave up or stabilised effectively. The Romans rode out to fight regularly, and sometimes even won. But forward lines of defense, client kingdoms and dependent areas are not the same thing as a regular province, fully under imperial jurisdiction and fully integrated over a long time. Incursions were possible, coming from the outside in and sometimes being defeated, pacified, integrated - or slowly chipping away a bit of imperial authority after Trajan.
While the amount of territory under Roman military control might be a bit bigger under Severus, the established borders of the empire were not.
Src: WP - Severus
The frontier of Roman Africa (dark tan) in the late 2nd century AD. Septimius Severus expanded the Limes Tripolitanus dramatically (medium tan), even briefly holding a military presence (light tan) in the Garamantian capital Garama in 203. Much of the initial campaigning success was achieved by the legate of Legio III Augusta, Quintus Anicius Faustus.
Septimius Severus died in York in February 211, leaving the conquest of Scotland incomplete. One of his sons murdered the other and returned to Rome to claim the Empire, but was himself murdered some six years later. Hadrian's Wall continued as the Roman frontier in Britain, and Scotland remained unconquered.
- Rebecca Jones: "Scotland's African Emperor", Archaeology/History, Historic Environment Scotland, 18. Oct 2017.
The overall assessments are certainly not rosy:
Besides, he had expanded the entire army, not merely in the Rome garrison and by raising three legions: new auxiliary regiments were formed. His frontier policy demanded more troops, for he was indeed a propagator imperii. In Africa there was a new forward line, in Mauretania, Numidia and Tripolitania; in the east two new provinces beyond the Euphrates, extension of Syria down the river and into the desert, extension of Arabia. Perhaps-it is now doubted-he pushed the eastern limits of Dacia out beyond the Aluta. He very decisively altered the shape of the empire, weighting it much more towards the east (and to a lesser extent his native 'deep South'). The long-term effects of this are not negligible. At the end of his life he was in the far west, trying to repeat the conquests of Agricola. That part of his policy was aborted by his death. Still, the British campaign, manifestly intended to conquer the whole island, could be dismissed as motivated solely by 'desire for glory' with more justice than the annexations beyond the Euphrates to which Dio applied this judgement. Mesopotamia and the other extensions of territory in the east were worth more to Rome than Caledonia, as Caracalla recognised. Caracalla also tried to tackle the Alamanni -perhaps his father should have dealt with the northern frontiers, rather than succumb to the lure of the fabled island.
Given the chaos into which the empire descended in the third century, and the contrast, grim in many respects, between the Antonine era and the new world that was to emerge, it is not surprising that Septimius Severus has been pilloried. His was by far the longest reign of any emperor between the death of Marcus in 180 and the accession of Diocletian in 284. 'The contemporaries of Severus, in the enjoyment of the peace and glory of his reign, forgave the cruelties by which it had been introduced', wrote Gibbon. 'Posterity, who experienced the fatal results of his maxims and example, justly considered him as the principal author of the decline of the Roman empire.' Such a verdict, in the fifth chapter of the mammoth work, may seem over-hasty (Gibbon was to find other villains, such as Constantine, in later pages). But the decline set in soon enough, even if the fall was long postponed. Was it Septimius' doing?
- Anthony R.Birley: "Septimius Severus. The African Emperor", Routledge: London, New York, 1971.
If we look at the amount of control the Romans wielded over the fabled Caledonia, we see quite a low contrast to the most strikingly Wikipedia page in bold colours.
How many soldiers Albinus took from Britain is debated. He pre- sumably did not remove all of them, and would probably have arranged for the protection of the cities and the coasts in case he was driven back to the island. What he did on the northern British frontier is problematic; a few factors seem to point to a large-scale evacuation of Hadrian's Wall: firstly, it could be argued that there was trouble in Britain as a result of the withdrawal of troops, followed by the expedition that Severus undertook in Britain from 208 to 211 to restore order in the north of England and to subdue Scotland, but the fact that there was no Imperial activity on this scale for over a decade rather negates the urgency of the affair. Secondly, archaeological investigations reveal that Severus undertook large-scale repairs to Hadrian's Wall; and thirdly, the Wall garrisons of the late second century are not represented in the lists of units which are known for the third century, all of which makes it seem as though all the troops had been removed and then new ones reinstated. Detractors accuse Albinus of stripping the garrison of Britain to the bone to provide a large enough army with which to face Severus. The three British legions and the auxiliary troops would not provide anything like the numbers he needed, even if he took all of them across the channel. But Britain was not totally lost after Albinus' expedition, so it is assumed that he left some sort of garrison there, and then augmented his army by recruiting more men in Gaul.
- Pat Southern: "The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine", Routledge: London, New York, 2001.
To recapitulate with maps of varying accuracy:
Caledonia/Scotland cannot really count as it was of too sparse an interest to be romanised. The African conquests of Severus were of dubious value and also temporary.
Mesopotamia and Armenia are a special case. While the acquisitions of Trajan were immediate, officially lost, and perhaps should not really be counted at all, it is said the Severus made Roman Mesopotamia a permanent Roman province.
That is somewhat true, only that it was in a constant zone of conflict and, furthermore the new province has the name of the old, but by far not its extent. It is geographically quite different to claim 'to be in possession of Mesopotamia' when at one time this gets to the shores of the Euphrates, includes Babylon and reaches of to the Gulf, or if you touch the Tigris in modern Syria and Turkey and declare it be the same in name and substance, despite being quite a bit smaller to begin with and with ever changing territorial borders.
What territories were lost or abandoned after Trajan? - History
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Before it was buried by the sands of the Sahara Desert, Timgad was a thriving colony of the Roman Empire. This bustling city was built by the Romans in their African territory — its grid layout a reflection of Roman urban planning at the time.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Timgad was abandoned and forgotten. It wasn't until 1,000 years later that its ruins, largely preserved by the desert, were rediscovered. Indeed, the ruins of Timgad are so well-preserved that some visitors call it the Algerian Pompeii.
Explore the stunning remains of this once-bustling ancient metropolis.
The etymology for “Roma” is uncertain. Roman mythology derived the name from Romulus, the legendary founder and first king of the Roman Kingdom, the period preceding the First Republic. The word may be of Etruscan origin, as “Ruma” was one of the Etruscan gens (clan, tribe), and “Rumon” was the Etruscan name for the Tiber River.
The modern Roman state is formally known as the "Senate and People of the Union of the Roman Republics," which was adopted after the reorganization of the former Roman Federation after the First Act of Autonomy and the 1961 Constitution. The name directly referred to the legendary name "Senate and People of Rome" used by the First Republic, the First Empire, the Second Republic, and the pre-1130 period of the Second Empire. Although the modern Roman state's legislature included the Assembly, the upper-house that represented member republics, the current name implied it is the democratically-elected federal Senate that represented the citizens of the entire Union.
6.3 QUESTIONS TO GUIDE YOUR READING
- In what ways did the geography and topography of Rome and the Roman Empire impact the history of the ancient Roman world?
- What are the different periods of Roman history, and what are the chief defining characteristics of each period?
- What primary sources are available for the study of Roman history, and what are the limitations of these sources?
- What were the stages of Roman expansion?
- What were the key civic conflicts and civil wars of the Roman Republic? What did each of these conflicts demonstrate about the changing nature of Roman politics?
- When and why did the Roman Republic fall? What were some key differences between the Roman Republic and the Age of Augustus?
- What are some of the primary sources about the early Christians? What was revolutionary about early Christianity, from the Roman perspective?
- What were some of the problems with which areas in the periphery of the Roman Empire had to deal in the second century CE?
- What were the problems that the Roman Empire faced during the third-century crisis, and how did Diocletian attempt to resolve these?
- What changes did the Roman Empire experience in the fourth century CE, and what were the causes of these changes?
- How did the Romans’ view of Rome in Late Antiquity differ from their view of Rome in earlier periods?
Roman Republic vs. Parthia
When Pompey took charge of the war in the East, he re-opened negotiations with Phraates III they came to an agreement and Roman–Parthian troops invaded Armenia in 66/65 BC, but soon a dispute arose over Euphrates boundary between Rome and Parthia. Pompey refused to recognize the title of “King of Kings” for Phraates, and offered arbitation between Tigranes and the Parthian king over Corduene. Finally, Phraates asserted his control over Mesopotamia, except for the western district of Osroene, which became a Roman dependency. A sculpted head (broken off from a larger statue) of a Parthian wearing a Hellenistic-style helmet, from the Parthian royal residence and necropolis of Nisa, Turkmenistan, 2nd century BCE. / Image via Wikimedia Commons
In 53 BC, Crassus led an invasion of Mesopotamia, with catastrophic results at the Battle of Carrhae, Crassus and his son Publius were defeated and killed by a Parthian army under General Surena. The bulk of his force was either killed or captured of 42,000 men, about half died, a quarter made it back to Syria, and the remainder became prisoners of war.  Rome was humiliated by this defeat, and this was made even worse by the fact that the Parthians had captured several Legionary Eagles. It is also mentioned by Plutarch that the Parthians found the Roman prisoner of war that resembled Crassus the most, dressed him as a woman and paraded him through Parthia for all to see. This, however, could easily be Roman propaganda. Orodes II, with the rest of the Parthian Army, defeated the Armenians and captured their country. However, Surena’s victory invoked the jealousy of the Parthian king, and he ordered Surena’s execution. Following Surena’s death, Orodes II himself took command of the Parthian army and led an unsuccessful military campaign into Syria. The Battle of Carrhae was one of the first major battles between the Romans and Parthians.
The following year, the Parthians launched raids into Syria, and in 51 BC mounted a major invasion led by the crown prince Pacorus and the general Osaces they besieged Cassius in Antioch, and caused considerable alarm in the Roman provinces in Asia. Cicero, who had been chosen governor of adjacent Cilicia for that year, marched with two legions to lift the siege.  Pacorus fell back, but was ambushed in his retreat by Cassius near Antigonea and Osaces was killed. 
During Caesar’s civil war the Parthians made no move, but maintained relations with Pompey. After his defeat and death, a force under Pacorus came to the aid of the Pompeian general Caecilius Bassus, who was besieged at Apamea Valley by the Caesarian forces. With the civil war over, Julius Caesar elaborated plans for a campaign against Parthia, but his assassination averted the war. During the ensuing Liberators’ civil war, the Parthians actively supported Brutus and Cassius, sending a contingent which fought with them at the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC. Parthia, its subkingdoms, and neighbors in 1 AD. / Image by Thomas Lessman Wikimedia Commons
After that defeat, the Parthians under Pacorus invaded Roman territory in 40 BC in conjunction with Quintus Labienus, a Roman erstwhile supporter of Brutus and Cassius. They swiftly overran Syria, and defeated Roman forces in the province all the cities of the coast, with the exception of Tyre admitted the Parthians. Pacorus then advanced into Hasmonean Judea, overthrowing the Roman client Hyrcanus II and installing his nephew Antigonus (40–37 BC) in his place. For a moment, the whole of the Roman East was captured to Parthians. The conclusion of the second Roman civil war was soon to bring about a revival of Roman strength in Western Asia. 
Meanwhile, Mark Antony had already sent Ventidius to oppose Labienus who had invaded Anatolia. Soon Labienius was driven back to Syria by Roman forces, and, though his Parthian allies came to his support, he was defeated, taken prisoner and then put to death. After suffering a further defeat near the Syrian Gates, the Parthians withdrew from Syria. They returned in 38 BC, but were decisively defeated by Ventidius and Pacorus was killed. In Judea, Antigonus was ousted with Roman help by the Idumean Herod in 37 BC. 
With Roman control of Syria and Judaea restored, Mark Antony led a huge army into Caucasian Albania (just east of Armenia), but his siege train and its escort were isolated and wiped out, while his Armenian allies deserted. Failing to make progress against Parthian positions, the Romans withdrew with heavy casualties. In 33 BC Antony was again in Armenia, contracting an alliance with the Median king against both Octavian, and the Parthians, but other preoccupations obliged him to withdraw, and the whole region passed under Parthian control. 
Territorial Expansion of the Roman World
The Italian peninsula was inhabited principally by several native tribes before the Greeks settled there and the Etruscans rose to prominence sometime after 800 B.C.E. The Greeks founded several city-states in the south of the peninsula and in Sicily, and the Etruscans rose to power on the western coast where they brought their culture to the Latin peoples settled in small villages along the Tiber River. Here, three centuries later, a prosperous urban centre called Rome would emerge. Rome flourished under the Etruscans but the Latin population resented sovereign Etruscan rule and joined with other indigenous tribes in a rebellion. The revolution of 509 B.C.E., which dethroned the Etruscan king and drove his people from Rome, marks the beginning of the Roman Republic that would see Rome rise to dominance around the Mediterranean. The Roman Republic continued until 31 B.C.E. when it was replaced by the Roman Empire that would last well into the fifth century C.E.
Beginning in 437 B.C.E., with the defeat and annexation of neighbouring towns, and over the course of the next two centuries, Rome gradually expanded its territory and political dominance over the peninsula. Even though Rome had a superior army, it was not immune to attack. In 390 B.C.E, Celts swept down from the Po River valley and captured and sacked Rome. Recovering quickly from this defeat, Rome went on to successful future campaigns and by 235 B.C.E., after almost incessant warfare with its neighbouring Etruscan and Italian city-states, all of the Italian peninsula south of the Po Valley was conquered.
Rome’s successful conquest of the Italian peninsula created a strong military ethos and provided the Roman state with considerable manpower. When the unification of the peninsula brought Rome into conflict with Carthage, a major power that monopolized western Mediterranean trade from Northern Africa, Rome was inclined to enter into war. Rome built up a fleet and in the three Punic Wars between 264 and 146 B.C.E., defeated the Carthaginian navy. From Carthage, Rome acquired the territories of Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Spain and Numidia (modern Tunisia) and extended its dominance to all of the western Mediterranean.
Expansion into the eastern Mediterranean was achieved between 230 and 133 B.C.E. Initially, Rome intervened in the east to protect itself from possible threat and to protect the Greek city-states from territorial advances. Rome did not annex any territory at first, treating Greece and Asia Minor as protectorates, but when the stability of the Aegean was again threatened in 179 B.C.E., Rome changed its policy and conquered Macedon. The Romans opted for direct rule in the east in part because successful warfare brought vast riches for the state, and honour and power to military leaders. Complete Roman rule was established in the east in 133 B.C.E. when flourishing Asia Minor was bequeathed to Rome.
Rome’s success in its territorial expansion can be credited to its military superiority and to its policy of absorbing conquered peoples. Rome did not enforce absolute subjection, for local governments, traditions and laws were respected, and conquered subjects were encouraged to identify their well-being with Roman success. Rome achieved this by granting full rights of citizenship to its nearest neighbours, and partial citizenship or ally status to other subjects. All of Rome’s subjects had to pay taxes and provide military service in wartime, but it was understood in these arrangements that partial citizenship and ally status would eventually result in full citizenship, especially for those who became Romanized.
Expansion during the Late Roman Republic (133 – 31 B.C.E.)
Military glory was highly prized in Rome. Wars continued to be fought and the frontiers of the Roman World were gradually extended outward as a result. During the last century of the Republic, Roman generals won victories in northern Africa and in southern France, where upon a Roman colony was settled in Narbonne and a road built to link Italy with Spain. By 80 B.C.E., Syria was conquered and the province of Asia was established. After 66 B.C.E., additional territory was conquered further east where new provinces were founded and Jerusalem was conquered. In areas where Roman expansion seemed problematic, client kingdoms were established. In exchange for relative autonomy, these client states helped defend the empire from foreign attack. At a later date, after years of living under Roman dominion, these client kingdoms would be easily incorporated into the empire without a war having been waged. Between 58 and 50 B.C.E., Julius Caesar defeated the Celtic Gauls, thus conquering a large area corrsponding to modern France and Belgium. Gaul would be divided into four provinces: Narbonensis, Aquitania, Belgica and Lugdunensis. Caesar’s campaigns spread Roman language and civilization far beyond the Italian peninsula.
Expansion during the Early Roman Empire (31 B.C.E. – C.E. 180)
When the Roman Republic came to an end, the territorial frontiers of the Roman state were poorly defined, but Augustus, Rome’s first emperor (r. 27 B.C.E. – C.E. 14), led campaigns that extended Roman influence to the natural boundaries defined by desert, sea, ocean and river. His armies conquered all of North Africa, and territory reaching as far east as the Red Sea and the Black Sea, as far west as the Atlantic and north to the great rivers of central Europe: the Rhine and the Danube. These rivers provided the northern frontier to the new provinces of Raetia, Noricum and Pannonia that today encompass Switzerland and Austria. To the east, the Danube provided the northern limit to the new provinces of Pannonia and Moesia that encompass parts of present-day Slovenia, Hungary and Bulgaria. The Rhine and the Danube, the northern frontier of the Roman World, would prove to be the fatal weak link in Rome’s defences by the fifth century. As early as C.E. 9, when attempting to make territorial gains north of this frontier, Augustus suffered the only defeat of his many military campaigns German tribes annihilated three Roman legions in the Teutoburg Forest in northwestern Germany. Augustus, now at the end of his reign, decided against further expansion and urged his successor to do the same.
Although Augustus’ advice was heeded for several years, the next century did see the incorporation of client kingdoms, and the successful annexation of Britain in C.E. 43 and of the Agri Decumates, a triangle of territory at the junction of the Rhine and Danube frontiers, in C.E. 74. Not all was well within the empire, however, and revolts and uprisings within Roman provinces forced Rome to redirect some of its troops from the Rhine and Danube frontiers to the rebellious areas. This move left the northern frontiers ill-defended and open to border raids. Rome responded to this threat by strengthening the frontier defences with additional legions.
Under Emperor Trajan (r. 98 – 117), the Roman state reached its greatest extent. Client kingdoms on the eastern frontier were incorporated and new provinces created. As well, Dacia was conquered so as to distance hostile tribes from the dangerous Danube frontier. Emperor Hadrian (r. 117 – 138) opposed territorial expansion but kept the army at full strength, and built fortified boundaries across Britain (known thereafter as Hadrian’s Wall) and between the Rhine and Danube Rivers. His next two successors faced rebellions in many of the borderlands and terrible assaults against the frontiers. The Danube frontier collapsed and Germanic invaders, pressed on from behind by the southward migration of other Germanic tribes, crossed the northern provinces and raided northern Italy. When the frontiers were once again secure, some invaders were settled along the Danube with land grants in exchange for military service in defence of the Empire’s frontiers.
 Legacy of Decebalus
Decebalus is considered a national hero in Romania and has been portrayed in numerous literary works, movies (e.g. Dacii, directed by Sergiu Nicolaescu), sculptures, etc. His first known portrait has been preserved on Trajan's Column, the commemorative stone column completed in 113. Trajan's Column depicts the key moments of the last two wars between Dacia and the Roman Empire in carved bas relief. During the 1990s, a team of sculptors carved a 40-meter tall statue of Decebalus from a stone outcrop near the city of Orşova, Romania.
As the Roman Republic expanded, it reached a point at which the central government in Rome could not effectively rule the distant provinces. Communications and transportation were especially problematic, given the vast extent of the Empire. News of invasion, revolt, natural disaster, or epidemic outbreak was carried by ship or mounted postal service, often requiring much time to reach Rome, and for Rome's orders to be realized in the province of origin. For this reason, provincial governors had de facto rule in the name of the Roman republic. Prior to the establishment of the Empire, the territories of the Roman Republic had been divided among the Second Triumvirate, composed of Octavian, Mark Antony, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. Antony received the provinces in the East: Achaea, Macedonia and Epirus (roughly modern Greece and Macedonia), Bithynia, Pontus and Asia (roughly modern Turkey), Syria, Cyprus, and Cyrenaica. These lands had previously been conquered by Alexander the Great thus, much of the aristocracy was of Greek origin. The whole region, especially the major cities, had been largely assimilated into Greek culture, Greek often serving as the lingua franca.
Octavian, on the other hand, obtained the Roman provinces of the West: Italia (modern Italy), Gaul (modern France), Gallia Belgica (parts of modern Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg), and Hispania (modern Spain and Portugal). These lands also included Greek and Carthaginian colonies in the coastal areas, though Celtic tribes such as Gauls and Celtiberians were culturally dominant. Lepidus received the minor province of Africa (roughly modern Tunisia). Octavian soon took Africa from Lepidus, while adding Sicilia (modern Sicily) to his holdings. Upon the defeat of Mark Anthony, a victorious Octavian controlled a united Roman Empire. While the Roman Empire featured many distinct cultures, all were often said to experience gradual Romanization. While the predominantly Greek culture of the East and the predominantly Latin culture of the West functioned effectively as an integrated whole, political and military developments would ultimately realign the Empire along those cultural and linguistic lines.
Minor rebellions and uprisings were fairly common events throughout the Empire. Conquered tribes or cities would revolt, and the legions would be detached to crush the rebellion. While this process was simple in peacetime, it could be considerably more complicated in wartime, as for example in the Great Jewish Revolt. The main enemy in the West was arguably the Germanic tribes behind the rivers Rhine and Danube. Augustus had tried to conquer them but ultimately pulled back after the Teutoburg reversal.
The Parthian Empire, in the East, on the other hand, was too remote and powerful to be conquered. Any Parthian invasion was confronted and usually defeated, and the Parthians similarly repelled some attempts of Roman invasion, but, even after successful wars of conquest, such as those implemented by Trajan and Septimius Severus, those distant territories were forsaken to prevent unrest and also to ensure a more healthy and lasting peace with the Persians.
Controlling the western border of Rome was reasonably easy, because it was relatively near and also because of the disunity between the Germanic foes, but controlling both frontiers at the same time during wartime was difficult. If the emperor was near the border in the East, chances were high that an ambitious general would rebel in the West and vice versa. This wartime opportunism plagued many ruling emperors, and indeed paved the road to power for several future emperors.
Under the reign of the Emperor Diocletian, the political division of the Roman Empire began. In 285, he promoted Maximian to the rank of Augustus (Emperor) and gave him control of the Western regions of the Empire. In 293, Galerius and Constantius Chlorus were appointed as their subordinates (Caesars), creating the First Tetrarchy. This system effectively divided the empire into four major regions and created separate capitals besides Rome as a way to avoid the civil unrest that had marked the 3rd century. In the West, the capitals were Maximian's Mediolanum (now Milan) and Constantius' Trier. In the East, the capitals were Sirmium and Nicomedia. On 1 May 305, the two senior Augusti stepped down, and their respective Caesars were promoted to Augusti and appointed two new Caesars, thus creating the Second Tetrarchy.
The four Tetrarchs based themselves not at Rome but in other cities closer to the frontiers, mainly intended as headquarters for the defence of the empire against bordering rivals (notably Sassanian Persia) and barbarians (mainly Germanic, and an endless procession from the eastern steppe many nomadic or elsewhere chased tribes) at the Rhine and Danube.
End of the Tetrarchy in the West
The system of the Tetrarchy quickly ran aground when the Western Empire's Constantius died unexpectedly in 306, and his son Constantine was proclaimed Augustus of the West by the legions in Britain. A crisis followed as several claimants attempted to rule the Western half. In 308, the Augustus of the East, Galerius, arranged a conference at Carnuntum which revived the Tetrarchy by dividing the West between Constantine and a newcomer named Licinius. Constantine, however, was far more interested in conquering the whole empire.
Through a series of battles in the West, Constantine stabilized the western part of the Roman Empire by 314, and began to compete with his eastern rivals for sole control of a reunified state. The naval battle fought at Byzantium in 313 A.D. ruins his invasion plans for the East, however, which remained halved between Licinius and Maximinus.
Most Interesting Lost Cities Of The World
Exploring places that were once significant centers of trade, economy, and culture but lost their significance with the passing centuries tells us mysterious stories of the bygone days. Here is the list of the lost cities of the world, starting with domestic sites followed by international hidden gems. Read on to know the interesting facts about the lost cities of the world:
- Kalibangan – Rajasthan
- Lothal – Gujarat
- Dwarka – Gujarat
- Sanchi – Madhya Pradesh
- Vijayanagara – Hampi
- Mohenjo-daro – Sindh
- Taxila – Rawalpindi
- Caral – Barranca
- Machu Picchu – Cusco
- Calakmul – Campeche
- Lagunita – Yucatán
- Göbekli Tepe – Örencik
- Troy – Çanakkale
- Mesa Verde – Colorado
- Skara Brae – Orkney
- Pompeii – Campania
- Leptis Magna – Khoms
- Helike – Achaea
- Heracleion – Alexandria
- Petra – Ma’an Governorate
1. Kalibangan – Rajasthan
The unique fire altars and the world’s earliest attested ploughed field are what make Kalibangan so important among the other lost cities of the world.
Location: Hanumangarh, Rajasthan
Established in: 3700 BC
Abandoned in: 1750 BC
Discovered in: 1919 AD by Luigi Pio Tessitori, an Italian Indologist, who was doing work on Ram Charit Manas by Tulsidas
2. Lothal – Gujarat
Arguably the most important excavated city among the long lost cities of the world, Lothal still shows the brilliance of city-planning and organised structures during the times of the Indus Valley Civilisation. This is amongst the famous lost ancient cities in India.
Location: Saragwala Village in Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Established in: 3700 BC
Abandoned in: 1900 BC
Discovered in: 1954 AD
3. Dwarka – Gujarat
The submerged city of Lord Krishna is one of the mythical lost cities. The present-day Dwarka is claimed to be the 7th city, with first 6 submerged off its coast in the Arabian Sea. Archaeologists, however, have only succeeded in recovering ruins that date back to the 15th century BC.
Established in: 1500 BC (estimated)
Abandoned in: 1443 BC (estimated)
Discovered in: 1983 AD
4. Sanchi – Madhya Pradesh
Sanchi is the most famous historical places in India. It is famous for the Greco-Buddhist-styled Sanchi stupas and the Ashoka pillar that was erected during the time of Emperor Ashoka. One of the lost cities of the ancient world, it was later rediscovered in the 19th century.
Location: Sanchi Town, Madhya Pradesh
Established in: 300 BC
Abandoned in: 1300 AD
Discovered in: 1818 AD by British General Taylor
5. Vijayanagara – Hampi
Though archaeologists have successfully found remains that found date back to around 300 BC, the entire excavated city of Vijayanagar in Hampi belongs to the time of the empire by the same name. However, even the Hindu legend of Ramayana has mentioned Hampi by the name of Kishkinda – the realm of the monkey gods. This is one of the most popular lost ancient cities of the world.
Location: Hampi, Karnataka
Established in: 1336 AD
Abandoned in: 1565 AD
Discovered in: 1800 AD by Colonel Colin Mackenzie
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6. Mohenjo-daro – Sindh
Listed among the ancient lost cities of the world, Mohenjo Daro was long lost until its discovery in 1922. Excavations revealed it to be one of the largest cities of Indus Valley Civilisation and one of the earliest urban settlements in the world. The use of fire-burnt bricks to make organised structures and the marvelous planning are what make the city so famous. And of all the buildings & ruins unearthed, the structure of the Great Bath is the most famous.
Location: Sindh, Pakistan
Established in: 2500 BC
Abandoned in: 1900 BC
Discovered in: 1922 by R. D. Banerji, an officer of the Archaeological Survey of India
7. Taxila – Rawalpindi
Image Source Taxila or Takshashila finds its mention in Indian & Greco-Roman literary sources and in the accounts of two Chinese Buddhist pilgrims, Faxian & Xuanzang. It was India’s largest seat of learning. According to the Hindu epic of Ramayana, Takshashila was founded by King Bharat who was Lord Rama’s brother. The city is said to be named Bharata’s son Taksha, its first ruler. However, excavations could not prove its relation to anything predating 600 BC.
Location: Rawalpindi, Pakistan
Established in: 600 BC
Abandoned in: 500 AD
Discovered in: 1863 AD by Sir Alexander Cunningham
8. Caral – Barranca
Caral was believed to be the oldest urban center in the Americas until older sites like Bandurria in Peru were discovered. No battlements, no weapons, and no mutilated bodies have been found from the excavation sites. So, the long lost city is believed to be home to a gentle society that was involved in commerce, music, and pleasure.
Location: Supe Valley, Barranca Province, Peru
Established in: 2600 BC
Abandoned in: 2000 BC
Discovered in: 1905 but were quickly forgotten due to lack of artifacts before Paul Kosok rediscovered it in 1948
9. Machu Picchu – Cusco
Built as an estate for emperor Pachacuti, Machu Pichhu is the most iconic structure of the Inca civilisation. However, the structure could serve the dynasty for only about a century and was abandoned at the time of the Spanish conquest. In a worldwide poll of 2007, it was voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Location: Cusco Region, Peru
Established in: 1450 AD
Abandoned in: 1532 AD – 1572 AD
Discovered in: 1911 AD by American historian Hiram Bingham
10. Calakmul – Campeche
The Maya archaeological site of Calakmul was the seat of the Snake Kingdom. Literally meaning City of the Two Adjacent Pyramids, it had 2 very tall pyramids and hundreds of small structures.
Location: Campeche, Mexico
Established in: 7th century when Kaan dynasty relocated here
Abandoned in: 9th century
Discovered on: 29th December 1931 by biologist Cyrus L. Lundell
11. Lagunita – Yucatán
It wasn’t long ago that the long lost cities of Lagunita and Tamchen from the Maya civilisation were finally discovered in the jungles of Mexico. The discovery was made after reviewing aerial photographs of the area.
Location: Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico
Established in: 300 BC
Abandoned in: 700 AD – 1000 AD
Discovered in: August 2014 by Ivan Sprajc – associate professor at the Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts – following the descriptions of Swiss archaeologist Eric Von Euw who visited the site in 1970s
12. Göbekli Tepe – Örencik
Göbekli Tepe, the oldest known temple of the world, pre-dates the pottery neolithic era. Many circular & oval structures were discovered atop a hill. Evidence later proved that these structures weren’t used for domestic purposes, rather primarily for religious purposes.
Location: Örencik, Turkey
Established in: 9600 BC
Abandoned in: 7300 BC
Discovered in: 1963 AD
13. Troy – Çanakkale
Troy and Trojan War were only discussed in Greek legends for long until the city’s discovery in late 19th century. One of the formerly mythical lost cities, Troy not only finds mention in poetry works of Homer & others but also was made into a great adventure war film in 2004.
Location: Tevfikiye, Çanakkale Province, Turkey
Established in: 3000 BC
Abandoned in: 500 AD
Discovered in: 1870 by the famous archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann
14. Mesa Verde – Colorado
A National Park & and a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site, Mesa Verde protects some of the best preserved Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites in the US. It is best known for the Cliff Palace, which is considered to be the largest cliff dwelling in North America.
Location: Southwestern Colorado, USA
Established in: 1190 AD
Abandoned in: 1300 AD
Discovered in: 1988 AD by cowboys Richard Wetherill and Charlie Mason
15. Skara Brae – Orkney
Older than Stonehenge and Great Pyramids, Skara Brae is known as the Sottish Pompeii because it is very well preserved. It was a stone-built Neolithic settlement on the largest island in the Orkney archipelago of Scotland that was discovered following severe storms during 1850 to mid-1920s.
Location: Bay of Skaill on the west coast of Mainland, Orkney, Scotland
Established in: 3180 BC
Abandoned in: 2500 BC
Discovered in: 1850 AD
16. Pompeii – Campania
Pompeii is one of the ancient lost cities of Roman empire that was destroyed and buried under a thick layer of volcanic ash after the massive eruption of Mount Vesuvius. When the site was discovered, the objects that were recovered were found to be preserved due to the lack of air & moisture beneath the layer of ash.
Location: Province of Naples, Campania district, Italy
Established in: 7th century BC
Abandoned in: 79 AD following the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius
Discovered in: 1748 by the Spanish military engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre
17. Leptis Magna – Khoms
The erstwhile prominent Roman city, Leptis Magna is known to be one of best preserved Roman ruins in the Mediterranean. The excavated site has well-preserved remains of theatre, amphitheatre, market place, gates, Arch of Septimius Severus, and more.
Location: Khoms, Libya
Established in: 7th century BC
Abandoned in: 7th century AD
Discovered in: Early 1920s by Italian archaeologists
18. Helike – Achaea
Helike used to be an ancient Greek city that was once submerged by tsunami around 373 BC. The World Monuments Fund had included the place in the list of 100 most endangered sites. This submerged town was amongst the biggest targets for underwater archaeology.
Location: Achaea, Greece
Abandoned in: 373 BC when it got submerged following a tsunami
Discovered in: 2001 by Helike Society that was formed after multiple previous discoveries that suggested the existence of the city
19. Heracleion – Alexandria
The Lost City of Heracleion in Egypt was searched for years around the enormous area of the Abu Qir Bay. French archaeologist Franck Goddio encountered the site submerged almost 6.5 km off the coast of Alexandria. The underwater ruins here include 64 ships, 700 anchors, 16-feet long standing statues, and remains of the majestic temple of the god Amun-Gereb. Visiting the site is amongst the popular things to do in Egypt.
Location: Alexandria, Egypt
Established in: 12th century BC or before
Abandoned in: 2nd century AD or 3rd century AD probably because of tremors that were followed by the liquefaction of the silts on which it was built
Discovered in: 2000 by by the French underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio
20. Petra – Ma’an Governorate
Petra Caves is an archaeological city located in southern Jordan. Served to be a prominent center during ancient times, today, the place serves to be the symbol of Jordan. Originally the site was known as Raqmu and was inhabited in 7000 BC.
Location: Ma’an Governorate, Jordan
Established in: 312 BC
Abandoned in: 663 AD when Arabs conquered the region, following the major earthquakes of 363 AD & 551 AD
Discovered in: 1812 AD by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt
Boy, aren’t we glad that these ancient lost cities of the world have been rediscovered! So, what’s holding you back? Plan a holiday now and visit these beautiful places. You can also get your itinerary optimized according to your preferences and try vacationing like never before!
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Ctesiphon. Image credit: travellerkhan/Wikimedia.org
Some of the world’s earliest civilizations were located in ancient Mesopotamia in Western Asia. Today, this region forms parts of Syria, Kuwait, Iraq, and Turkey. In the 6th century, one of its greatest cities was Ctesiphon, which was located about 20 miles outside of Baghdad. It was conquered by Rome, and then by the Byzantine Empire. In 637 AD, it was captured by the Muslims during the Islamic conquest of Persia. There is little left of Ctesiphon, aside from the Ṭāq Kisrā. This large, vaulted hall is regarded as a king’s former palace many believe that the ancient city was the inspiration for the city of Isbanir mentioned in the Thousand and One Nights folk tales.
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