In the Year 1, Augustus Let the Good Times Roll

The year 2000 is almost upon us, but what in the (Western) world was happening when the counting began?

As the second millennium of the Christian Era draws to an end, the editors of Time will be pondering their choice for the outstanding figure of its last year, Man of the Year A.D. 1999, to put on the cover of the appropriate issue. What if they had to add a choice for the first year of the era, Man of the Year A.D. 1? More specifically, Man of the Year A.D. 1, in the Western world, this being where the reckoning of time from the birth of Christ was invented and took hold.

In the year in which our calendar begins, one man bestrode the Western world like a colossus. He was not Shakespeare's Julius Caesar but his grandnephew Augustus, whom Caesar had named as his heir. Augustus was overlord of territory that reached from Spain to Syria. He had transformed that territory into the Roman Empire, with the reins of power securely gathered into his own hands. He put in place the machinery of government that ran it; he created the army and navy that protected its borders. He did such a good job that the Roman Empire endured for centuries after, the first two of which were the centuries of the celebrated Pax Romana, the longest period of peace the Western world would ever enjoy.

In A.D. 1, the Roman Empire, having been brought into being by Augustus less than 30 years earlier, was young and vigorous. There was peace; commerce and industry prospered; people, including the rank and file, enjoyed urban amenities and free entertainment. Rome's neighbors were quiet, except for the Germans, and the trouble they were causing would not become serious until later. The credit goes chiefly to Augustus — Man of the Year.

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