Ancestral Geneology of Raoul Ortiz Lafón

117 Generations

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.

Lafón Ancestry! 

Imagine if you will, a land of Kings, Queens, Emperors and Empresses, of Pharaohs, their Chantresses, of Knights and Fair Maidens, of golden treasure beyond your wildest imagination.... also of wars, famine, treachery, revenge, torture, execution, estate seizures and bloodlust. Imagine all of this in a fledgling era of blossoming trade, yet without any modern convenience of today, stretching back three thousand five hundred years, to a time the average lifespan was twenty-seven and fifty was considered 'old.'

This is the world which ultimately delivered Raoul Ortiz Lafón onto a spread of lands originally chartered by Spain, now independent Mexico, stretching out from the Sierra Madre as far as the eye can see in the province of Chihuahua. A world which ultimately saw him flee those lands, chased by cut-throats and vagabonds, with only his life and minor possessions to start anew. After 1919, Raoul Ortiz Lafón became Raul 'Frenchy' Lafon, a United States citizen married with issue: two daughters, six grandchildren, numerous great and great-great grandchildren, all with his roots which trace back generations of ancestors to the beginnings of empires so fantastic, so spectacular, so cataclysmic, the fabric of their stories gives rise to a history of Western Civilization one might question ever existed.

But it did exist....

While we in the West can all of us claim descendency, from the whole of European civilization in the abstract, very few can trace their exact ancestors, the rise and fall of dynasties backed by DNA analysis.

Powered By Pure Hearts does exactly this, with research into the birth, death, and marriage records, through the myriad baptismal fonts, and the established pedigrees and texts of historical geneology experts and historians.
  • Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico
  • 215 Thompson St 163 NYC 10012

Tracing back 117 generations the ancestral genealogy of Raoul Ortiz Lafón.

Originally settled in the 16th century and officially founded in 1709, Chihuahua was a prosperous colonial mining centre and a base of Spanish royal authority in the region. Mexican independence leader Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and his companions were executed in the plaza in 1811.

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Nuevo León was founded by conqueror Alberto del Canto (8th Great-grandfather of Raoul Ortiz Lafón), although frequent raids by Chichimecas, the natives of the north, prevented the establishment of almost any permanent settlements. Subsequent to the failure of del Canto to populate the area, Luis Carvajal y de la Cueva, at the head of a group of Portuguese and Spanish settlers who were of Jewish descent, requested permission from the Spanish King to attempt to settle the area which would be called the New Kingdom of León and would fail as well. It wasn't until 1596 under the leadership of Diego de Montemayor the colony became permanent. Nuevo Leon eventually became (along with the provinces of Coahuila, Nuevo Santander and Texas) one of the Eastern Internal Provinces in Northern New Spain.

The state was named after the New Kingdom of León, an administrative territory from the Viceroyalty of New Spain, itself named after the historic Spanish Kingdom of León.

The capital of Nuevo León is Monterrey, the second largest city in Mexico with over five million residents. Monterrey is a modern and affluent city, and Nuevo León has long been one of Mexico's most industrialized states.

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Anatomically modern humans first arrived in the Iberian Peninsula around 42,000 years ago. Pre-Roman peoples dwelled in the territory, in addition to the development of coastal trading colonies by Phoenicians and Ancient Greeks and the brief Carthaginian rule over the Mediterranean coastline. The Roman conquest and colonization of the peninsula (Hispania) ensued, bringing a Roman acculturation of the population. Hispania remained under Roman rule until the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the fourth century, which ushered in the migration of Germanic peoples and the Alans into the peninsula. Eventually, the Visigoths emerged as the dominant power in the peninsula by the fifth century. In the early eighth century, most of the peninsula was conquered by the Umayyad Caliphate and during early Islamic rule, Al-Andalus became the dominant peninsular power, centered in Córdoba. Several Christian kingdoms emerged in Northern Iberia, chief among them León, Castile, Aragón, Portugal, and Navarre and over the next seven centuries, an intermittent southward expansion of these kingdoms, known as Reconquista, culminated with the Christian seizure of the Emirate of Granada in 1492. Jews and Muslims were forced to choose between conversion to Catholicism or expulsion and the Morisco converts were eventually expelled. The dynastic union of the Crown of Castile and the Crown of Aragon was followed by the annexation of Navarre and the 1580 incorporation of Portugal (which ended in 1640). In the wake of the Spanish colonization of the Americas after 1492, the Crown came to hold a large overseas empire, which underpinned the emergence of a global trading system primarily fuelled by the precious metals extracted in the New World. Centralisation of the administration and further State-building in mainland Spain ensued in the 18th and 19th centuries, during which the Crown saw the loss of the bulk of its American colonies a few years after of the Peninsular War. The country veered between different political regimes; monarchy and republic, and following a devastating civil war, 1936-39, a fascist dictatorship that lasted until 1975.

The Kingdom of Castile (Reino de Castilla, Latin: Regnum Castellae) was a large and powerful state on the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages. Its name comes from the host of castles constructed in the region. It began in the 9th century as the County of Castile (Condado de Castilla), an eastern frontier lordship of the Kingdom of León. During the 10th century, its counts increased their autonomy, but it was not until 1065 that it was separated from León and became a kingdom in its own right. Between 1072 and 1157, it was again united with León, and after 1230, this union became permanent. Throughout this period, the Castilian kings made extensive conquests in southern Iberia at the expense of the Islamic principalities. The Kingdoms of Castile and of León, with their southern acquisitions, came to be known collectively as the Crown of Castile, a term that also came to encompass overseas expansion.

According to the chronicles of Alfonso III of Asturias (31st great-granduncle of Raoul Ortiz Lafón), the first reference to the name "Castile" (Castilla) can be found in a document written during AD 800. In the Al-Andalus chronicles from the Cordoban Caliphate, the oldest sources refer to it as Al-Qila, or "the castled" high plains past the territory of Alava, further south than it and the first encountered in their expeditions from Zaragoza. The name reflects its origin as a march on the eastern frontier of the Kingdom of Asturias, protected by castles, towers, or castra, in a territory formerly called Bardulia.

The County of Castile, bordered in the south by the northern reaches of the Spanish Sistema Central mountain system, was just north of modern-day Madrid province. It was re-populated by inhabitants of Cantabria, Asturias, Vasconia and Mozarab origins. It had its own Romance dialect and customary laws.
Portugal image
Portugal is the oldest continuously existing nation state on the Iberian Peninsula and one of the oldest in Europe, its territory having been continuously settled, invaded and fought over since prehistoric times. It was inhabited by pre-Celtic and Celtic peoples who had contact with Phoenicians and Ancient Greek traders, it was ruled by the Romans, followed by the invasions of the Suebi and Visigothic Germanic peoples, in turn followed by the Moors who eventually were expelled. Portugal as a country was established during the early Christian Reconquista. Founded in 868, the County of Portugal gained prominence after the Battle of São Mamede (1128). The Kingdom of Portugal was later proclaimed following the Battle of Ourique (1139), and independence from León was recognized by the Treaty of Zamora (1143).

In the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal established the first global maritime and commercial empire, becoming one of the world's major economic, political and military powers. During this period, today referred to as the Age of Discovery, Portuguese explorers pioneered maritime exploration with the discovery of what would become Brazil (1500). During this time Portugal monopolized the spice trade, divided the world into hemispheres of dominion with Castile, and the empire expanded with military campaigns in Asia. By the 18th century however, events such as the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, the country's occupation during the Napoleonic Wars, and the independence of Brazil (1822) led to a marked decay of Portugal's prior opulence. This was followed by the civil war between liberal constitutionalists and conservative absolutists over royal succession, which lasted from 1828 to 1834.

The 1910 revolution deposed Portugal's centuries-old monarchy, and established the democratic but unstable Portuguese First Republic, later being superseded by the Estado Novo authoritarian regime. Democracy was restored after the Carnation Revolution (1974), ending the Portuguese Colonial War. Shortly after, independence was granted to almost all its overseas territories. The handover of Macau to China (1999) marked the end of what can be considered one of the longest-lived colonial empires in history.

Portugal has left a profound cultural, architectural and linguistic influence across the globe, with a legacy of around 250 million Portuguese speakers around the world. It is a developed country with an advanced economy and high living standards. Additionally, it ranks highly in peacefulness, democracy, press freedom, stability, social progress, prosperity and English proficiency. A member of the United Nations, the European Union, the Schengen Area and the Council of Europe (CoE), Portugal was also one of the founding members of NATO, the eurozone, the OECD, and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries.

Basque imageBasque image

The Basque Country is the name given to the home of the Basque people. Located in the western Pyrenees, straddling the border between France and Spain on the coast of the Bay of Biscay. Euskal Herria is the oldest documented Basque name for the area they inhabit, dating from the 16th century.

Northern Basque Country
The Northern Basque Country, known in Basque as Iparralde (literally, "the northern part") is the part of the Basque Country that lies entirely within France, specifically as part of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques département of France, and as such it is also usually known as French Basque Country (Pays basque français in French). In most contemporary sources it covers the arrondissement of Bayonne and the cantons of Mauléon-Licharre and Tardets-Sorholus, but sources disagree on the status of the village of Esquiule. Within these conventions, the area of Northern Basque Country (including the 29 square kilometres (11 square miles) of Esquiule) is 2,995 square kilometres (1,156 square miles).

The French Basque Country is traditionally subdivided into three provinces:
  • Labourd, historical capital Ustaritz, main settlement today Bayonne
  • Lower Navarre, historical capitals Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and Saint-Palais, main settlement today Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
  • Soule, historical capital Mauléon (also current main settlement)
However, this summary presentation makes it hard to justify the inclusion of a few communes in the lower Adour region. As emphasized by Jean Goyhenetche, it would be more accurate to depict it as the reunion of five entities: Labourd, Lower Navarre, Soule but also Bayonne and Gramont.

Southern Basque Country
The Southern Basque Country, known in Basque as Hegoalde (literally, "the southern part") is the part of the Basque region that lies completely within Spain, and as such it is frequently also known as Spanish Basque Country (País Vasco español in Spanish). It is the largest and most populated part of the Basque Country. It includes two main regions: the Basque Autonomous Community (Vitoria-Gasteiz as capital) and the Chartered Community of Navarre (capital city Pamplona).

The Basque Autonomous Community (7,234 km²) consists of three provinces, specifically designated "historical territories":
  • Álava (capital: Vitoria-Gasteiz)
  • Biscay (capital: Bilbao)
  • Gipuzkoa (capital: Donostia-San Sebastián)
The Chartered Community of Navarre (10,391 km²) is a single-province autonomous community. Its name refers to the charters, the Fueros of Navarre. The Spanish Constitution of 1978 states that Navarre may become a part of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country if it is so decided by its people and institutions (the Disposicion transitoria cuarta or "Fourth Transitory Provision"). To date, there has been no implementation of this law. Despite demands for a referendum by minority leftist forces and Basque nationalists in Navarre, it has been opposed by mainstream Spanish parties and Navarrese People's Union; the ruling party up until 2015. The latter has repeatedly asked for an amendment to the Constitution to remove this clause.

In addition to those, two enclaves located outside of the respective autonomous community are often cited as being part of both the Basque Autonomous Community and also the Basque Country (greater region):
  • The Treviño enclave (280 km²), a Castilian enclave in Álava
  • Valle de Villaverde (20 km²), a Cantabrian exclave in Biscay
  • Navarre also holds two small administrative strips in Aragon, organised as Petilla de Aragón.

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The Romans made the region the first Roman province beyond the Alps and called it Provincia Romana, which evolved into the present name. Until 1481 it was ruled by the Counts of Provence from their capital in Aix-en-Provence, then became a province of the Kings of France. While it has been part of France for more than 500 years, it still retains a distinct cultural and linguistic identity, particularly in the interior of the region.

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Normandy was a province in the North-West of France under the Ancien Régime which lasted until the latter part of the 18th century. Initially populated by Celtic tribes in the West and Belgic tribes in the North East, it was conquered in AD 98 by the Romans and integrated into the province of Gallia Lugdunensis by Augustus. In the 4th century, Gratian divided the province into the civitates that constitute the historical borders. After the fall of Rome in the 5th century, the Franks became the dominant ethnic group in the area and built several monasteries. Towards the end of the 8th century, Viking raids devastated the region, prompting the establishment of the Duchy of Normandy in 911. After 150 years of expansion, the borders of Normandy reached relative stability. These old borders roughly correspond to the present borders of Lower Normandy, Upper Normandy and the Channel Islands. Mainland Normandy was integrated into the Kingdom of France in 1204. The region was badly damaged during the Hundred Years War and the Wars of Religion, the Normans having more converts to Protestantism than other peoples of France. In the 20th century, D-Day, the 1944 Allied invasion of Western Europe, started in Normandy. In 1956, mainland Normandy was separated into two regions, Lower Normandy and Upper Normandy, which were reunified in 2016.

Belgae and Celts, known as Gauls, invaded Normandy in successive waves from the 4th to the 3rd centuries BC. Much of our knowledge about this group comes from Julius Caesar's 'de Bello Gallico.' Caesar (64th great-granduncle of Raoul Ortiz Lafón) identified several different groups among the Belgae who occupied separate regions and lived in enclosed agrarian towns. In 57 BC, the Gauls united under Vercingetorix in an attempt to resist the onslaught of Caesar's army. Even after their defeat at Alesia, the people of Normandy continued to fight until 51 BC, the year Caesar completed his conquest of Gaul.

Below is a list of Gallic tribes, whose territories correspond to later Normandy, and their administrative centers:
  • Abrincates (Ingena, modern-day Avranches),
  • Aulerci Eburovices (Mediolanum, modern-day Evreux),
  • Baiocasses (Augustodurum, modern-day Bayeux),
  • Calates (Juliobona > modern-day Lillebonne),
  • Esuvii (*Uxisama > modern-day Exmes)
  • Lexovii (Noviomagus Lexoviorum, modern-day Lisieux),
  • Sagii (unknown name, modern-day Sées)
  • Unelli (Cosedia, modern-day Coutances),
  • Veliocasses (Rotomagus > modern-day Rouen),
  • Viducasses (Aragenuae, modern-day Vieux).

Roman Normandy

Roman theatre in Lillebonne

The bronze head of a Roman god, found in Lillebonne, in the Museum of Antiquities in Seine-Maritime

In 27 BC, Emperor Augustus (husband of Raoul Ortiz Lafón's 62nd great-grandmother) reorganized the Gallic territories by adding Calètes and Véliocasses to the province of Gallia Lugdunensis, which had its capital at Lyon. The Romanization of Normandy was achieved by the usual methods: Roman roads and a policy of urbanization.

Crises in the 3rd century and the Roman loss of Normandy

In the late 3rd century, barbarian raids devastated Normandy. Traces of fire and hastily buried treasures bear evidence to the degree of insecurity in Northern Gaul. Coastal settlements risked raids by Saxon pirates. The situation was so severe that an entire legion of Sueves was garrisoned at Constantia (in the pagus Constantinus), the administrative center of the Unelli tribe. Batavi were garrisoned at Civitas Baiocasensis (Bayeux). As a result of Diocletian's (maternal grandfather of wife of Raoul Ortiz Lafón's 51st great-granduncle) reforms, Normandy was detached from Brittany, while remaining within Gallia Lugdunensis. Christianity began to enter the area during this period: Saint Mellonius was supposedly ordained Bishop of Rouen in the mid-3rd century. In 406, Germanic and Alan tribes began invading from the West, while the Saxons subjugated the Norman coast. Eventually in 457, Aegidius established the Domain of Soissons in the area (with its seat the town of the same name Soissons, formerly the seat of the Suessiones), independent of and cut off from the Empire but with citizens nevertheless still considering themselves Roman. His son Syagrius succeeded him in 464 and remained until the kingdom was conquered in 486. Rural villages were abandoned and the remaining "Romans" confined themselves to within urban fortifications. Toponymy suggests that the various barbarian groups had installed themselves and formed alliances and federations already at the end of the 3rd century before the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476.

Frankish Normandy

Mont Saint-Michel

As early as 486, the area between the Somme and the Loire came under the control of the Frankish lord Clovis (45th great-grandfather of Raoul Ortiz Lafón). Frankish colonization did not occur on a massive scale, and is evidenced chiefly by cemeteries in Envermeu, Londinieres, Herouvillette, and Douvrend. The place names were chiefly Frankish at this time. The Franks also cut administration and military presence at the local levels. Eventually the eastern region of Normandy became a residence for Merovingian royalty.

The Christianization of the area continued with the construction of cathedrals in the principal cities and churches in minor localities. This establishment of the parishes would continue for a long time. The smaller parishes tended to be located in the plains around Caen while the rural parishes took up more space. Villagers would be buried around the local parish church up until the Carolingian era.

The Neustrian Monarchy developed in the 6th century in the isolated western regions. In the 7th century the Neustrian aristocrats founded several abbeys in the valley of the Seine: Fontenelle in 649, Jumièges about 654, Pavilly, Montivilliers. These abbeys rapidly adopted the Benedictine Rule. They came to possess great quantities of land throughout France, from which they drew considerable income. They therefore became involved in political and dynastic rivalries.

Scandinavian Invasions

Statue of Rollo (31st great-grandfather of Raoul Ortiz Lafón)

Normandy takes its name from the Viking invaders who menaced large parts of Europe towards the end of the 1st millennium in two phases (790–930, then 980–1030). Medieval Latin documents referred to them as Nortmanni, which means "men of the North". This name provides the etymological basis for the modern words "Norman" and "Normandy", with -ia (Normandia, like Neustria, Francia, etc.). After 911, this name replaced the term Neustria, which had formerly been used to describe the region that included Normandy. The other parts of Neustria became known as France (now Île-de-France), Anjou and Champagne. The rate of Scandinavian colonization can be seen in the Norman toponymy and in the changes in popular family names. Today, nordmann (pron. norman) in the Norwegian language denotes a Norwegian person.

The first Viking raids began between 790 and 800 on the coasts of western France. Several coastal areas were lost during the reign of Louis the Pious (35th great-grandfather of Raoul Ortiz Lafón) (814–840). The incursions in 841 caused severe damage to Rouen and Jumièges. The Viking attackers sought to capture the treasures stored at monasteries - easy prey considering monks were generally unable to put up much if any resistance. An expedition in 845 went up the Seine and reached Paris. The raids took place primarily in the summers, with the Vikings initially wintering in Scandinavia.

After 851, Vikings began to stay in the lower Seine valley for the winter. In January 852, they burned the Abbey of Fontenelle. The monks who were still alive fled to Boulogne-sur-Mer in 858 and then to Chartres in 885. The relics of Sainte Honorine were transported from Graville to Conflans, which became Conflans-Sainte-Honorine in the Paris region, safer by virtue of its southeasterly location. The monks also attempted to move their archives and monastic libraries to the south, but several were burned by the Vikings.

The Carolingian kings in power at the time tended to have contradictory politics, which had severe consequences. In 867, Charles the Bald (34th great-granduncle of Raoul Ortiz Lafón) signed the Treaty of Compiègne, by which he agreed to yield the Cotentin Peninsula (and probably the Avranchin) to the Breton king Salomon, on condition that Salomon would take an oath of fidelity and fight as an ally against the Vikings. After being defeated by the Franks (led by distant Lafón relative Robert I of France) at the Battle of Chartres in 911, the Viking leader Rollo (31st great-grandfather of Raoul Ortiz Lafón) and the Frankish King Charles the Simple (2nd cousin of Raoul Ortiz Lafón, 34x removed) signed the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, under which Charles gave Rouen and the area of present-day Upper Normandy to Rollo, establishing the Duchy of Normandy. In exchange, Rollo pledged vassalage to Charles and agreed to baptism. Robert I stood as godfather during Rollo's baptism. Rollo vowed to guard the estuaries of the Seine from further Viking attacks.

With a series of conquests, the territory of Normandy gradually expanded: Hiémois and Bessin were taken in 924, the Cotentin and a part of Avranchin followed in 933. That year, King Raoul of France from the Bosonid dynasty (1st cousin 33x removed, husband of Emma, daughter of Robert I of Normandy), and for whom Raoul Ortiz Lafón is namesake, was forced to give Cotentin and a part of Avranchin to William I of Normandy, essentially all lands north of the river Sélune which the Breton dukes had theoretically controlled for about the previous 70 years. Between 1009 and 1020, the Normans continued their westward expansion, taking all the land between the rivers Sélune and Couesnon, including Mont Saint-Michel, and completing the conquest of Avranchin. William I, known more by his cognomen 'The Conqueror' (and who is himself the 27th great-grandfather to Raoul Ortiz Lafón), completed these campaigns in 1050 by taking Passais. Logically, the Norman rulers (first counts of Rouen and then dukes of Normandy) tried to bring about the political unification of the two different Viking settlements of pays de Caux-lower Seine in the east and Cotentin in the west. Furthermore, Rollo re-established the archbishopric of Rouen and wanted to restore the traditional limits of his archbishopric in the west, that had always included Cotentin and Avranchin.

While Viking raiders pillaged, burned, or destroyed many buildings, it is likely that ecclesiastical sources give an unfairly negative picture: no city was completely destroyed. On the other hand, many monasteries were pillaged and all the abbeys were destroyed. Nevertheless, the activities of Rollo and his successors had the effect of bringing about a rapid recovery.

While the Scandinavian colonization was principally Danish under the Norwegian leadership of Rollo, the colonization also had a Norwegian element in the Cotentin region. For instance, the first name Barno is mentioned in two different documents before 1066 and clearly represents the "frankization" of the Old Scandinavian personal name Barni, only found in Denmark and in England during the Viking Era. It can be identified in many Norman place-names too, such as Barneville-sur-Seine, Banneville, etc. and in England: Barnby. On the other hand, the presence of Norwegians has left traces in the Cotentin:
  • indirectly: there are toponyms created with typical Celtic anthroponyms from Ireland or Scotland, which are reputed to have been occupied by Norwegian Vikings, for instance: Doncanville (Duncan) or Digulleville (Dicuil cf. Digulstonga, Iceland)
  • directly: the coastal route from the Orkney Islands down to the Cotentin peninsula is marked by rocks and cliffs with typical Norwegian names.

Swedes in Normandy

The Viking colonization was not a mass phenomenon. Nevertheless, in some areas, the Scandinavians established themselves rather densely, particularly in pays de Caux and in the northern part of the Cotentin. In fact, one can qualify the Nordic settlements in Normandy as Anglo-Scandinavian, because most of the colonists must have come after 911 as fishermen and farmers from the English Danelaw and a consequent Anglo-Saxon influence can be detected. Toponymic and linguistic evidence survives in support of this theory: for instance Dénestanville (Dunestanvilla in 1142, PN Dunstān > Dunstan) or Vénestanville (Wenestanvillam 13th century, Wynstān > Winston).

Furthermore, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions three times the possible settlement of Danes from England in Neustria:
  1. A Danish army stationed in Kent for three years finally broke up, and while some Danes stayed in England, others who owned ships sailed over the Channel to the Seine River.
  2. Later, it is told that the jarl Thurcytel (Thorketill cf. NPN Turquetil, Teurquetil), who first settled in the English Midlands, sailed to Francia in 920. 
  3. Around 1000 another Viking fleet left England for Normandy.
Archeological evidence can be added: some Anglo-Saxon swords were dredged out of the Seine River, they had probably been used by the Danes. More recently, a buried treasure hoard discovered at Saint-Pierre-des-Fleurs contained nine Anglo-Saxon coins with traces of blows to test the metal quality of the coins. The merging of the Scandinavian and native elements contributed to the creation of one of the most powerful feudal states of Western Europe. The naval ability of the Normans would allow them to conquer England and to participate in the Crusades.

Ducal Normandy 
(10th to 13th centuries)

Historians have few sources of information for this period of Norman history: Dudo of Saint-Quentin, William of Jumièges, Orderic Vitalis, Flodoard of Reims, Richerus and Wace. Diplomatic messages are the primary source of information for the succession of dukes. Rollo of Normandy was the chief – the "jarl" – of the Viking population. After 911, he was the count of Rouen. His successors gained the title Duke of Normandy from Richard II (28th great-grandfather of Raoul Ortiz Lafón). After the rise of the Capetian dynasty, they were forced to vacate the title, for there could be only one duke in Neustria, and the Robertians carried the title. These dukes increased the strength of Normandy, although they had to observe the superiority of the King of France. The dukes of Normandy did not resist the general trend of monopolizing authority over their territory: the dukes struck their own money, rendered justice, and levied taxes. They raised their own armies and named the bulk of prelates of their archdiocese. They were therefore practically independent of the French king, although they paid homage to each new monarch.

The dukes maintained relations with foreign monarchs, especially the king of England: Emma of Normandy (28th great-grandaunt of Raoul Ortiz Lafón), sister of Richard II married King Ethelred II of England. They appointed family members to positions as counts and viscounts, which came about around the year 1000. They held on to some territory in Scandinavia and the right to enter those lands by sea. The Norman dukes also ensured that their vassal lords did not get too powerful, lest they become a threat to the ducal authority. The Norman dukes thus had more authority over their own domains than other territorial princes in northern France. Their wealth thus enabled them to give large tracts of land to the abbeys and to ensure the loyalty of their vassals with gifts of fiefdoms. William's conquest of England opened up more land to the dukes, allowing them to continue these practices whilst preserving sufficient land holdings to serve as their powerbase.

The course of the 11th century did not have any strict organizations and was somewhat chaotic. The great lords made oaths of fidelity to the heir of the duchy, and were in return granted public and ecclesiastical authority. The justice system lacked a central governing body and written laws were uncommon.

The aristocracy was composed of a small group of Scandinavian men, while the majority of the Norman political leaders were of Frankish descent. At the start of the 11th century, the region was attacked by the Bretons from the West, the Germans from the East, and the people of Anjou from the South. All of the aristocrats' fidelity oaths to the Norman dukes were attributed to defending their important domains. As early as 1040, the term ‘baron’ indicated the elite knights and soldiers of the duke. On the other hand, the term ‘vassal’ does not appear in the documents from 1057 onwards. It was also in the middle of the 11th century that fiefdoms came to exist. Robert II of Normandy (28th great-grandfather of Raoul Ortiz Lafón) designated fiefdoms to counts from the dynasty and the cities so as to prevent them from getting too powerful.

Later Middle Ages

Having little confidence in the loyalty of the Normans, Philip II 'Augustus', the first King of France (step-22nd great-granduncle of Raoul Ortiz Lafón) installed French administrators and built a powerful fortress, the Château de Rouen, from 1204 to 1210, as a symbol of royal power after his capture of the Duchy from John, Duke of Normandy and King of England (22nd great-granduncle of Raoul Ortiz Lafón). Within the royal demesne, Normandy retained certain distinctive features. Norman law continued to serve as the basis for court decisions. In 1315, faced with the constant encroachments of royal power on the liberties of Normandy, the barons and towns pressed on the king the Norman Charter. While this document did not provide autonomy to the province, it protected it against arbitrary royal acts. The judgments of the Exchequer, the main court of Normandy, were declared final. This meant that Paris could not reverse a judgement of Rouen. Another important concession was that the King of France could not raise a new tax without the consent of the Normans. However, the charter, granted at a time when royal authority was faltering, was violated several times thereafter when the monarchy had regained its power.

The Duchy of Normandy survived mainly by the intermittent installation of a duke. In practice, the King of France sometimes gave that portion of his kingdom to a close member of his family, who then did homage to the king. Philippe VI (2nd cousin of Raoul Ortiz Lafón, 20x removed) made Jean, his eldest son (3rd cousin of Raoul Ortiz Lafón, 19x removed) and heir to his throne, the Duke of Normandy. In turn, Jean II appointed his heir, Charles (4th cousin of Raoul Ortiz Lafón, 18x removed), who was also known by his title of Dauphin.

In 1465, Louis XI (7th cousin of Raoul Ortiz Lafón, 15x removed) was forced by his nobles to cede the duchy to his eighteen-year-old brother Charles, as an appanage. This concession was a problem for the king since Charles was the puppet of the king's enemies. Normandy could thus serve as a basis for rebellion against the royal power. Louis XI therefore agreed with his brother to exchange Normandy for the Duchy of Guyenne (Aquitaine). Finally, to signify that Normandy would not be ceded again, on 9 November 1469 the ducal ring was placed on an anvil and smashed. This was the definitive end of the duchy on the continent.

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Francia, also called the Kingdom of the Franks (Latin: Regnum Francorum), Frankish Kingdom, Frankland or Frankish Empire (Latin: Imperium Francorum), was the largest post-Roman barbarian kingdom in Western Europe. It was ruled by the Franks during Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. After the Treaty of Verdun in 843, West Francia became the predecessor of France, and East Francia became that of Germany. Francia was among the last surviving Germanic kingdoms from the Migration Period era before its partition in 843.

The core Frankish territories inside the former Western Roman Empire were close to the Rhine and Meuse rivers in the north. After a period where small kingdoms interacted with the remaining Gallo-Roman institutions to their south, a single kingdom uniting them was founded by Clovis I (45th great-grandfather of Raoul Ortiz Lafón) who was crowned King of the Franks in 496. His dynasty, the Merovingian dynasty, was eventually replaced by the Carolingian dynasty. Under the nearly continuous campaigns of Pepin of Herstal, Charles Martel, Pepin the Short, Charlemagne, and Louis the Pious—father, son, grandson, great-grandson and great-great-grandson— (39th, 38th, 37th, 36th, and 35th great-grandfathers of Raoul Ortiz Lafón) the greatest expansion of the Frankish empire was secured by the early 9th century, and was by this point dubbed the Carolingian Empire.
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Burgundy; French: Bourgogne is a historical territory and former administrative region and province of east-central France. The province was once home to the Dukes of Burgundy from the early 11th until the late 15th century. The capital of Dijon was one of the great European centres of art and science, a place of tremendous wealth and power, and Western Monasticism. In early Modern Europe, Burgundy was a focal point of courtly culture that set the fashion for European royal houses and their court. The Duchy of Burgundy was a key in the transformation of the Middle Ages toward early modern Europe.

Upon the 9th-century partitions of the Kingdom of Burgundy, the lands and remnants partitioned to the Kingdom of France were reduced to a ducal rank by King Robert II of France in 1004. The House of Burgundy, a cadet branch of the House of Capet, ruled over a territory that roughly conformed to the borders and territories of the modern administrative region of Burgundy. Upon the extinction of the Burgundian male line the duchy reverted to the King of France and the House of Valois. Following the marriage of Philip of Valois and Margaret III of Flanders, the Duchy of Burgundy was absorbed into the Burgundian State alongside parts of the Low Countries which would become collectively known as the Burgundian Netherlands. Upon further acquisitions of the County of Burgundy, Holland, and Luxembourg, the House of Valois-Burgundy came into possession of numerous French and imperial fiefs stretching from the western Alps to the North Sea, in some ways reminiscent of the Middle Frankish realm of Lotharingia.

The Burgundian State, in its own right, was one of the largest ducal territories that existed at the time of the emergence of Early Modern Europe. It was regarded as one of the major powers of the 15th century and the early 16th century. The Dukes of Burgundy were among the wealthiest and the most powerful princes in Europe and were sometimes called "Grand Dukes of the West". Through its possessions the Burgundian State was a major European centre of trade and commerce.

The extinction of the dynasty led to the absorption of the duchy itself into the French crown lands by King Louis XI, while the bulk of the Burgundian possessions in the Low Countries passed to Duke Charles the Bold's daughter, Mary, and her Habsburg descendants. Thus the partition of the Burgundian heritage marked the beginning of the centuries-long French–Habsburg rivalry and played a pivotal role in European politics long after Burgundy had lost its role as an independent political identity.
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The Holy Roman Empire was a political entity in Western, Central and Southern Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars.

From the accession of Otto I in 962 until the twelfth century, the Empire was the most powerful monarchy in Europe. Andrew Holt characterizes it as "perhaps the most powerful European state of the Middle Age". The functioning of government depended on the harmonic cooperation (dubbed consensual rulership or konsensuale Herrschaft by Schneidmüller) between monarch and vassals but this harmony was disturbed during the Salian period. The empire reached the apex of territorial expansion and power under the House of Hohenstaufen in the mid-thirteenth century, but overextending led to partial collapse.

On 25 December 800, Pope Leo III crowned the Frankish king Charlemagne as emperor, reviving the title in Western Europe, more than three centuries after the fall of the earlier ancient Western Roman Empire in 476. In theory and diplomacy, the emperors were considered primus inter pares, regarded as first among equals among other Catholic monarchs across Europe. The title continued in the Carolingian family until 888 and from 896 to 899, after which it was contested by the rulers of Italy in a series of civil wars until the death of the last Italian claimant, Berengar I (husband of 30th great-grandaunt of Raoul Ortiz Lafón), in 924. The title was revived again in 962 when Otto I, King of Germany, was crowned emperor by Pope John XII, fashioning himself as the successor of Charlemagne (36th great-grandfather of Raoul Ortiz Lafón) and beginning a continuous existence of the empire for over eight centuries. Some historians refer to the coronation of Charlemagne as the origin of the empire, while others prefer the coronation of Otto I as its beginning. Henry the Fowler, the founder of the medieval German state (ruled 919 – 936), has sometimes been considered the founder of the Empire as well. The modern view favours Otto as the true founder. Scholars generally concur in relating an evolution of the institutions and principles constituting the empire, describing a gradual assumption of the imperial title and role.
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Dál Riata or Dál Riada (also Dalriada) was a Gaelic kingdom that encompassed the western seaboard of Scotland and north-eastern Ireland, on each side of the North Channel. At its height in the 6th and 7th centuries, it covered what is now Argyll ("Coast of the Gaels") in Scotland and part of County Antrim in Northern Ireland. After a period of expansion, Dál Riata eventually became associated with the Gaelic Kingdom of Alba.

In Argyll, it consisted of four main kindreds, each with their own chief: Cenél nGabráin (based in Kintyre), Cenél nÓengusa (based on Islay), Cenél Loairn (who gave their name to the district of Lorn) and Cenél Comgaill (who gave their name to Cowal). The hillfort of Dunadd is believed to have been its capital. Other royal forts included Dunollie, Dunaverty and Dunseverick. Within Dál Riata was the important monastery of Iona, which played a key role in the spread of Celtic Christianity throughout northern Britain, and in the development of insular art. Iona was a centre of learning and produced many important manuscripts. Dál Riata had a strong seafaring culture and a large naval fleet.

Dál Riata is said to have been founded by the legendary king Fergus Mór (Fergus the Great) in the 5th century. The kingdom reached its height under Áedán mac Gabráin (r. 574–608). During his reign Dál Riata's power and influence grew; it carried out naval expeditions to Orkney and the Isle of Man, and assaults on the Brittonic kingdom of Strathclyde and Anglian kingdom of Bernicia. However, King Æthelfrith of Bernicia checked its growth at the Battle of Degsastan in 603. Serious defeats in Ireland and Scotland during the reign of Domnall Brecc (died 642) ended Dál Riata's "golden age", and the kingdom became a client of Northumbria for a time. In the 730s the Pictish king Óengus I led campaigns against Dál Riata and brought it under Pictish overlordship by 741. There is disagreement over the fate of the kingdom from the late 8th century onwards. Some scholars have seen no revival of Dál Riatan power after the long period of foreign domination (c. 637 to c. 750–760), while others have seen a revival under Áed Find (736–778). Some even claim that the Dál Riata usurped the kingship of Fortriu. From 795 onward there were sporadic Viking raids in Dál Riata. In the following century, there may have been a merger of the Dál Riatan and Pictish crowns. Some sources say Cináed mac Ailpín (Kenneth MacAlpin) was king of Dál Riata before becoming king of the Picts in 843, following a disastrous defeat of the Picts by Vikings. The kingdom's independence ended sometime after, as it merged with Pictland to form the Kingdom of Alba.

Latin sources often referred to the inhabitants of Dál Riata as Scots (Scoti), a name originally used by Roman and Greek writers for the Irish Gaels who raided and colonized Roman Britain. Later, it came to refer to Gaels, whether from Ireland or elsewhere. They are referred to herein as Gaels or as Dál Riatans.
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Lombardy (Italian: Lombardia) is one of the twenty administrative regions of Italy. It has an extent of 23,844 km2 (9,206 sq mi) in the northern-central part of the country, and a population of about 10 million people, constituting more than one-sixth of the population of Italy. Over a fifth of the Italian gross domestic product is produced in the region.

The metropolitan area of Milan is the largest in the country, and is among the largest in the European Union. Of the fifty-eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy, eleven are in Lombardy. Virgil, Pliny the Elder, Ambrose, Gerolamo Cardano, Caravaggio, Claudio Monteverdi, Antonio Stradivari, Cesare Beccaria, Alessandro Volta, Alessandro Manzoni, and popes John XXIII and Paul VI are among those with origins in the area now known as Lombardy.

It is thought from the archaeological findings of ceramics, arrows, axes, and carved stones, that the area of current Lombardy has been settled at least since the 2nd millennium BC. Well-preserved rock drawings left by ancient Camuni in the Valcamonica depicting animals, people, and symbols were made over a time period of eight thousand years preceding the Iron Age, based on about 300,000 records.

The many artifacts (pottery, personal items and weapons) found in a necropolis near Lake Maggiore, and Ticino River demonstrate the presence of the Golasecca Bronze Age culture that prospered in Western Lombardy between the 9th and the 4th century BC.

In the following centuries Lombardy was inhabited by different peoples, among whom were the Etruscans, who founded the city of Mantua and spread the use of writing. It was seat of the Celtic Canegrate culture (starting from the 13th Century BC) and later of the Celtic Golasecca culture. Starting from the 5th century BC the area was invaded by more Celtic Gallic tribes coming from north of the Alps. These people settled in several cities including Milan, and extended their rule to the Adriatic Sea.

Celtic development was halted by the Roman expansion in the Po Valley from the 3rd century BC onwards. After centuries of struggle, in 194 BC the entire area of what is now Lombardy became a Roman province with the name of Gallia Cisalpina—"Gaul on the inner side (with respect to Rome) of the Alps".

The Roman culture and language overwhelmed the former civilisation in the following years, and Lombardy became one of the most developed and richest areas of Italy with the construction of a wide array of roads and the development of agriculture and trade. Important figures were born here, such as Pliny the Elder (in Como) and Virgil (in Mantua). In late antiquity the strategic role of Lombardy was emphasised by the temporary move of the capital of the Western Empire to Mediolanum (Milan). Here, in 313 AD, Roman Emperor Constantine (53rd great-granduncle of Raoul Ortiz Lafón) issued the famous Edict of Milan that gave freedom of confession to all religions within the Roman Empire.

Kingdom of the Lombards

For centuries, the Iron Crown of Lombardy was used in the Coronation of the King of Italy.

During and after the fall of the Western Empire, Lombardy suffered heavily from destruction brought about by a series of invasions by tribal peoples. After 540 Pavia become the permanent capital of the Ostrogothic Kingdom, fixed site of the court and the royal treausure. But the last and most effective invasion was that of the Germanic Lombards, or Longobards, whose whole nation migrated here from the Carpathian basin in fear of the conquering Pannonian Avars in 568 and whose long-lasting reign (with its capital in Pavia) gave the current name to the region. There was a close relationship between the Frankish, Bavarian and Lombard nobility for many centuries.

After the initial struggles, relationships between the Lombard people and the Gallo-Roman peoples improved. In the end, the Lombard language and culture was integrated with the Latin culture, leaving evidence in many names, the legal code and laws, and other things. The Lombards became intermixed with the Gallo-Roman population owing to their relatively smaller number. The end of Lombard rule came in 774, when the Frankish king Charlemagne conquered Pavia, deposed Desiderius, the last Lombard king, and annexed the Kingdom of Italy (mostly northern and central present-day Italy) to his newly established Holy Roman Empire. The former Lombard dukes and nobles were replaced by other German vassals, prince-bishops or marquises. The entire northern part of the Italian peninsula continued to be called "Lombardy" and its population "Lombards" throughout the following centuries.

Communes and the Empire

San Michele Maggiore, Pavia, where almost all the kings of Italy were crowned up to Frederick Barbarossa.

In the 10th century, Lombardy, although formally under the rule of the Holy Roman Empire, being included in the Kingdom of Italy, of which Pavia remained the capital until 1024, however, gradually, starting from the last decades of the 11th century was in fact divided in a multiplicity of small, autonomous city-states, the medieval communes. The 11th century marked a significant boom in the region's economy, due to improved trading and, most importantly, agricultural conditions, with arms manufacture a significant factor. In a similar way to other areas of Italy, this led to a growing self-acknowledgement of the cities, whose increasing richness made them able to defy the traditional feudal supreme power, represented by the German emperors and their local legates. This process reached its apex in the 12th and 13th centuries, when different Lombard Leagues formed by allied cities of Lombardy, usually led by Milan, managed to defeat the Hohenstaufen Emperor Frederick I (25th great-grandfather), at Legnano, but not his grandson Frederick II (22nd great-grandfather), at Battle of Cortenuova. Subsequently, among the various local city-states, a procession of consolidation took place, and by the end of the 14th century, two signoria emerged as rival hegemons in Lombardy: Milan and Mantua.

Member cities of the first and second Lombard League

Renaissance duchies of Milan and Mantua

Mantua as it appeared in 1575.

In the 15th century, the Duchy of Milan was a major political, economical and military force at the European level. Milan and Mantua became two centres of the Renaissance whose culture, with men such as Leonardo da Vinci and Mantegna, and works of art (e.g. Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper) were highly regarded. The enterprising class of the communes extended its trade and banking activities well into northern Europe: "Lombard" designated the merchant or banker coming from northern Italy (e.g. Lombard Street in London). The name "Lombardy" came to designate the whole of Northern Italy until the 15th century and sometimes later. From the 14th century onwards, the instability created by the unceasing internal and external struggles ended in the creation of noble seigniories, the most significant of which were those of the Viscontis (later Sforzas) in Milan and of the Gonzagas in Mantua. This richness, however, attracted the now more organised armies of national powers such as France and Austria, which waged a lengthy battle for Lombardy in the late 15th to early 16th centuries.

Late-Middle Ages, Renaissance and Enlightenment

The Consulta of the République Cisalpine receives the First Consul on 26 January 1802

After the decisive Battle of Pavia, the Duchy of Milan became a possession of the Habsburgs of Spain: the new rulers did little to improve the economy of Lombardy, instead imposing a growing series of taxes needed to support their unending series of European wars. The eastern part of modern Lombardy, with cities like Bergamo and Brescia, was under the Republic of Venice, which had begun to extend its influence in the area from the 14th century onwards (see also Italian Wars). Between the middle of the 15th century and the battle of Marignano in 1515, the northern part of east Lombardy from Airolo to Chiasso (modern Ticino), and the Valtellina valley came under possession of the old Swiss Confederacy.

Pestilences (like that of 1628/1630 described by Alessandro Manzoni in his I Promessi Sposi) and the generally declining conditions of Italy's economy in the 17th and 18th centuries halted the further development of Lombardy. In 1706 the Austrians came to power and introduced some economic and social measures which granted a certain recovery.

Austrian rule was interrupted in the late 18th century by the French armies; under Napoleon, Lombardy became the centre of the Cisalpine Republic and of the Kingdom of Italy, both being puppet states of France's First Empire, having Milan as capital and Napoleon as head of state. During this period Lombardy took back Valtellina from Switzerland.
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The Roman Republic (Latin: Rēs pūblica Rōmāna was a state of the classical Roman civilization, run through public representation of the Roman people. Beginning with the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom (traditionally dated to 509 BC) and ending in 27 BC with the establishment of the Roman Empire, Rome's control rapidly expanded during this period—from the city's immediate surroundings to hegemony over the entire Mediterranean world.

Denarius of 54 BC, showing the first Roman consul, Lucius Junius Brutus, surrounded by two lictors and preceded by an accensus.

Roman provinces on the eve of the assassination of Julius Caesar, 44 BC

Roman society under the Republic was primarily a cultural mix of Latin and Etruscan societies, as well as of Sabine, Oscan, and Greek cultural elements, which is especially visible in the Roman Pantheon. Its political organization developed, at around the same time as direct democracy in Ancient Greece, with collective and annual magistracies, overseen by a senate. The top magistrates were the two consuls, who had an extensive range of executive, legislative, judicial, military, and religious powers. Even though a small number of powerful families (called gentes) monopolized the main magistracies, the Roman Republic is generally considered one of the earliest examples of representative democracy. Roman institutions underwent considerable changes throughout the Republic to adapt to the difficulties it faced, such as the creation of promagistracies to rule its conquered provinces, or the composition of the senate.

Unlike the Pax Romana of the Roman Empire, the Republic was in a state of quasi-perpetual war throughout its existence. Its first enemies were its Latin and Etruscan neighbours as well as the Gauls, who even sacked the city in 387 BC. The Republic nonetheless demonstrated extreme resilience and always managed to overcome its losses, however catastrophic. After the Gallic Sack, Rome conquered the whole Italian peninsula in a century, which turned the Republic into a major power in the Mediterranean. The Republic's greatest strategic rival was Carthage, against which it waged three wars. The Punic general Hannibal famously invaded Italy by crossing the Alps and inflicted on Rome two devastating defeats at Lake Trasimene and Cannae, but the Republic once again recovered and won the war thanks to Scipio Africanus (68th great-grandfather of Raoul Ortiz Lafón) at the Battle of Zama in 202 BC. With Carthage defeated, Rome became the dominant power of the ancient Mediterranean world. It then embarked on a long series of difficult conquests, after having notably defeated Philip V and Perseus of Macedon, Antiochus III of the Seleucid Empire, the Lusitanian Viriathus, the Numidian Jugurtha, the Pontic king Mithridates VI, the Gaul Vercingetorix, and the Egyptian queen Cleopatra.

At home, the Republic similarly experienced a long streak of social and political crises, which ended in several violent civil wars. At first, the Conflict of the Orders opposed the patricians, the closed oligarchic elite, to the far more numerous plebs, who finally achieved political equality in several steps during the 4th century BC. Later, the vast conquests of the Republic disrupted its society, as the immense influx of slaves they brought enriched the aristocracy, but ruined the peasantry and urban workers. In order to address this issue, several social reformers, known as the Populares, tried to pass agrarian laws, but the Gracchi brothers (both 2nd cousins of Raoul Ortiz Lafón, 65x removed), Saturninus (grandfather of wife of 1st cousin 61x removed), and Clodius Pulcher (3rd cousin 64x removed) were all murdered by their opponents, the Optimates, keepers of the traditional aristocratic order. Mass slavery also caused three Servile Wars; the last of them led by Spartacus, a skillful gladiator who ravaged Italy and left Rome powerless until his defeat in 71 BC. In this context, the last decades of the Republic were marked by the rise of great generals, who exploited their military conquests and the factional situation in Rome to gain control of the political system. Marius (husband of 65th great-grandaunt) between 105 and 86 BC, then Sulla (husband of 1st cousin 65x removed) between 82 and 78 BC, dominated in turn the Republic; both used extraordinary powers to purge their opponents.

These multiple tensions led to a series of civil wars; the first between the two generals Julius Caesar (64th great-granduncle of Raoul Ortiz Lafón) and Pompey (1st cousin 66x removed). Despite his victory and appointment as dictator for life, Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. Caesar's heir Octavian (husband of Ortiz Lafón 62nd great-grandmother) and lieutenant Mark Antony (2nd cousin 64x removed) defeated Caesar's assassins Brutus (2nd cousin 64x removed) and Cassius (husband of first cousin 65x removed) in 42 BC, but they eventually split up thereafter. The final defeat of Mark Antony alongside his ally and lover Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, and the Senate's grant of extraordinary powers to Octavian as Augustus in 27 BC – which effectively made him the first Roman emperor – thus ended the Republic.


Rome had been ruled by monarchs since its foundation. These monarchs were elected, for life, by men who made up the Roman Senate. The last Roman monarch was named Lucius Tarquinius Superbus (colloquially known as "Tarquin the Proud") and in traditional histories Tarquin was expelled from Rome in 509 BC because his son, Sextus Tarquinius, raped a noblewoman named Lucretia (who had afterwards taken her own life). The husband of Lucretia, Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus, together with Tarquin the Proud's nephew, Lucius Junius Brutus, mustered support from the Senate and Roman army and forced the former monarch into exile to Etruria.

After this incident, the Senate agreed to abolish kingship. In turn, most of the former functions of the king were transferred to two separate consuls. These consuls were elected to office for a term of one year, each was capable of acting as a "check" on his colleague (if necessary) through the power of veto that the former kings had held. Furthermore, if a consul were to abuse his powers in office, he could be prosecuted when his term expired. Lucius Junius Brutus and Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus became first consuls of the Roman Republic (despite Collatinus' role in the creation of the Republic, he belonged to the same family as the former king and thus was forced to abdicate his office and leave Rome. He thereafter was replaced as co-consul by Publius Valerius Publicola.)

Most modern scholarship describes these events as the quasi-mythological detailing of an aristocratic coup within Tarquin's own family, not a popular revolution. They fit a narrative of a personal vengeance against a tyrant leading to his overthrow, which was common among Greek cities, and such a pattern of political vengeance was theorized by Aristotle.

Rome in Latium

Early campaigns 

According to Rome's traditional histories, Tarquin made several attempts to retake the throne, including the Tarquinian conspiracy, which involved Brutus' own sons, the war with Veii and Tarquinii and finally the war between Rome and Clusium; but none succeeded.

The "Capitoline Brutus", a bust possibly depicting Lucius Junius Brutus, who led the revolt against Rome's last king and was a founder of the Republic.

The first Roman republican wars were wars of both expansion and defense, aimed at protecting Rome itself from neighbouring cities and nations and establishing its territory in the region. Initially, Rome's immediate neighbours were either Latin towns and villages, or else tribal Sabines from the Apennine hills beyond. One by one Rome defeated both the persistent Sabines and the local cities, both those under Etruscan control and those that had cast off their Etruscan rulers. Rome defeated its rival Latin cities in the Battle of Lake Regillus in 496 BC, the Battle of Ariccia in 495 BC, the Battle of Mount Algidus in 458 BC, and the Battle of Corbio in 446 BC. However it suffered a significant defeat at the Battle of the Cremera in 477 BC wherein it fought against the most important Etruscan city of Veii; this defeat was later avenged at the Battle of Veii in 396 BC, wherein Rome destroyed the city. By the end of this period, Rome had effectively completed the conquest of their immediate Etruscan and Latin neighbours, and also secured their position against the immediate threat posed by the nearby Apennine hill tribes.

Plebeians and patricians

Beginning with their revolt against Tarquin, and continuing through the early years of the Republic, Rome's patrician aristocrats were the dominant force in politics and society. They initially formed a closed group of about 50 large families, called gentes, who monopolised Rome's magistracies, state priesthoods and senior military posts. The most prominent of these families were the Cornelii, followed by the Aemilii, Claudii, Fabii, and Valerii. The power, privilege and influence of leading families derived from their wealth, in particular from their landholdings, their position as patrons, and their numerous clients.

The vast majority of Roman citizens were commoners of various social degrees. They formed the backbone of Rome's economy, as smallholding farmers, managers, artisans, traders, and tenants. In times of war, they could be summoned for military service. Most had little direct political influence over the Senate's decisions or the laws it passed, including the abolition of the monarchy and the creation of the consular system. During the early Republic, the plebs (or plebeians) emerged as a self-organised, culturally distinct group of commoners, with their own internal hierarchy, laws, customs, and interests.

Plebeians had no access to high religious and civil office, and could be punished for offences against laws of which they had no knowledge. For the poorest, one of the few effective political tools was their withdrawal of labour and services, in a "secessio plebis"; they would leave the city en masse, and allow their social superiors to fend for themselves. The first such secession occurred in 494 BC, in protest at the abusive treatment of plebeian debtors by the wealthy during a famine. The patrician Senate was compelled to give them direct access to the written civil and religious laws and to the electoral and political process. To represent their interests, the plebs elected tribunes, who were personally sacrosanct, immune to arbitrary arrest by any magistrate, and had veto power over the passage of legislation.

Celtic invasion of Italy

By 390, several Gallic tribes were invading Italy from the north. The Romans were alerted to this when a particularly warlike tribe, the Senones, invaded two Etruscan towns close to Rome's sphere of influence. These towns, overwhelmed by the enemy's numbers and ferocity, called on Rome for help. The Romans met the Gauls in pitched battle at the Battle of Allia River around 390–387 BC. The Gauls, led by the chieftain Brennus, defeated the Roman army of approximately 15,000 troops, pursued the fleeing Romans back to Rome, and sacked the city before being either driven off or bought off.

Roman expansion in Italy

Wars against Italian neighbors

From 343 to 341, Rome won two battles against their Samnite neighbours, but were unable to consolidate their gains, due to the outbreak of war with former Latin allies.

In the Latin War (340–338), Rome defeated a coalition of Latins at the battles of Vesuvius and the Trifanum. The Latins submitted to Roman rule.

A Second Samnite War began in 327. The fortunes of the two sides fluctuated, but from 314, Rome was dominant, and offered progressively unfavourable terms for peace. The war ended with Samnite defeat at the Battle of Bovianum (305). By the following year, Rome had annexed most Samnite territory and began to establish colonies there; but in 298 the Samnites rebelled, and defeated a Roman army, in a Third Samnite War. Following this success they built a coalition of several previous enemies of Rome. However, the war eventually ended with a Roman victory in 290.
At the Battle of Populonia, in 282, Rome finished off the last vestiges of Etruscan power in the region.

Rise of the plebeian nobility

Map showing Roman expansion in Italy.

In the 4th century, plebeians gradually obtained political equality with patricians. The starting point was in 400, when the first plebeian consular tribunes were elected; likewise, several subsequent consular colleges counted plebeians (in 399, 396, 388, 383, and 379). The reason behind this sudden gain is unknown, but it was limited as patrician tribunes retained preeminence over their plebeian colleagues. In 385, the former consul and saviour of the besieged Capitol Marcus Manlius Capitolinus is said to have sided with the plebeians, ruined by the sack and largely indebted to patricians. Livy tells that Capitolinus sold his estate to repay the debt of many of them, and even went over to the plebs, the first patrician to do so. Nevertheless, the growing unrest he had caused led to his trial for seeking kingly power; he was consequently sentenced to death and thrown from the Tarpeian Rock.

Between 376 and 367, the tribunes of the plebs Gaius Licinius Stolo and Lucius Sextius Lateranus continued the plebeian agitation and pushed for an ambitious legislation, known as the Leges Liciniae Sextiae. Two of their bills attacked patricians' economic supremacy by creating legal protection against indebtedness and forbidding excessive use of public land, as the Ager publicus was monopolised by large landowners. The most important bill opened the consulship to plebeians. Other tribunes controlled by the patricians vetoed the bills, but Stolo and Lateranus retaliated by vetoing the elections for five years while being continuously re-elected by the plebs, resulting in a stalemate. In 367, they carried a bill creating the Decemviri sacris faciundis, a college of ten priests, of whom five had to be plebeians, thereby breaking patricians' monopoly on priesthoods. Finally, the resolution of the crisis came from the dictator Camillus, who made a compromise with the tribunes: he agreed to their bills, while they in return consented to the creation of the offices of praetor and curule aediles, both reserved to patricians. Lateranus also became the first plebeian consul in 366; Stolo followed in 361.

Soon after, plebeians were able to hold both the dictatorship and the censorship, since former consuls normally filled these senior magistracies. The four time consul Gaius Marcius Rutilus became the first plebeian dictator in 356 and censor in 351. In 342, the tribune of the plebs Lucius Genucius passed his leges Genuciae, which abolished interest on loans, in a renewed effort to tackle indebtedness, required the election of at least one plebeian consul each year, and prohibited a magistrate from holding the same magistracy for the next ten years or two magistracies in the same year. In 339, the plebeian consul and dictator Quintus Publilius Philo passed three laws extending the powers of the plebeians. His first law followed the lex Genucia by reserving one censorship to plebeians, the second made plebiscites binding on all citizens (including patricians), and the third stated that the Senate had to give its prior approval to plebiscites before becoming binding on all citizens (the lex Valeria-Horatia of 449 had placed this approval after the vote). Two years later, Publilius ran for the praetorship, probably in a bid to take the last senior magistracy closed to plebeians, which he won.

The Temple of Hercules Victor, Rome, built in the mid 2nd century BC, most likely by Lucius Mummius Achaicus, who won the Achaean War.

During the early republic, senators were chosen by the consuls from among their supporters. Shortly before 312, the lex Ovinia transferred this power to the censors, who could only remove senators for misconduct, thus appointing them for life. This law strongly increased the power of the Senate, which was by now protected from the influence of the consuls and became the central organ of government. In 312, following this law, the patrician censor Appius Claudius Caecus (69th great-grandfather of Raoul Ortiz Lafon) appointed many more senators to fill the new limit of 300, including descendants of freedmen, which was deemed scandalous. He also incorporated these freedmen in the rural tribes. His tribal reforms were nonetheless rescinded by the next censors, Quintus Fabius Maximus (paternal grandfather of 1st cousin of Raoul Ortiz Lafón, 68x removed) and Publius Decius Mus, his political enemies. Caecus also launched a vast construction program, building the first aqueduct, the Aqua Appia, and the first Roman road, the Via Appia.

Appius Claudius Caecus (69th great-grandfather of Raoul Ortiz Lafon)

In 300, the two tribunes of the plebs Gnaeus and Quintus Ogulnius passed the lex Ogulnia, which created four plebeian pontiffs, therefore equalling the number of patrician pontiffs, and five plebeian augurs, outnumbering the four patricians in the college. Eventually the Conflict of the Orders ended with the last secession of the plebs around 287. The details are not known precisely as Livy's books on the period are lost. Debt is once again mentioned by ancient authors, but it seems that the plebs revolted over the distribution of the land conquered on the Samnites. A dictator named Quintus Hortensius (husband of 3rd cousin of Ortiz Lafón, 64x removed) was appointed to negotiate with the plebeians, who had retreated to the Janiculum Hill, perhaps to dodge the draft in the war against the Lucanians. Hortensius passed the lex Hortensia which re-enacted the law of 339, making plebiscites binding on all citizens, while also removing any need for the Senate's prior approval. Popular assemblies were by now sovereign; this put an end to the crisis and to plebeian agitation for 150 years.

These events were a political victory of the wealthy plebeian elite who exploited the economic difficulties of the plebs for their own gain, hence why Stolo, Lateranus, and Genucius bound their bills attacking patricians' political supremacy with debt-relief measures. They had indeed little in common with the mass of plebeians; for example, Stolo was fined for having exceeded the limit on land occupation he had fixed in his own law. As a result of the end of the patrician monopoly on senior magistracies, many small patrician gentes faded into history during the 4th and 3rd centuries due to the lack of available positions; the Verginii, Horatii, Menenii, Cloelii all disappear, even the Julii entered a long eclipse. They were replaced by plebeian aristocrats, of whom the most emblematic were the Caecilii Metelli, who received 18 consulships until the end of the Republic; the Domitii, Fulvii, Licinii, Marcii, or Sempronii were as successful. About a dozen remaining patrician gentes and twenty plebeian ones thus formed a new elite, called the nobiles, or Nobilitas, many of whom are Lafón ancestors.

Pyrrhic War

Pyrrhus' route in Italy and Sicily.

Bust of Pyrrhus (husband of stepdaughter of 2nd cousin of Ortiz Lafón, 79x removed), found in the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum, now in the Naples Archaeological Museum. Pyrrhus was a brave and chivalrous general who fascinated the Romans, explaining his presence in a Roman house.

By the beginning of the 3rd century, Rome had established herself as the major power in Italy, but had not yet come into conflict with the dominant military powers of the Mediterranean: Carthage and the Greek kingdoms. In 282, several Roman warships entered the harbour of Tarentum, breaking a treaty between the Republic and the Greek city, which forbade the gulf to Roman naval ships. It triggered a violent reaction from the Tarentine democrats, sinking some of the ships; they were in fact worried that Rome could favour the oligarchs in the city, as it had done with the other Greek cities under its control. The Roman embassy sent to investigate the affair was insulted and war was promptly declared. Facing a hopeless situation, the Tarentines (together with the Lucanians and Samnites) appealed to Pyrrhus (husband of stepdaughter of 2nd cousin of Ortiz Lafón, 79x removed), the ambitious king of Epirus, for military aid. A cousin of Alexander the Great, he was eager to build an empire for himself in the western Mediterranean and saw Tarentum's plea as a perfect opportunity towards this goal.

Pyrrhus and his army of 25,500 men (with 20 war elephants) landed in Italy in 280; he was immediately named strategos autokrator by the Tarentines. Publius Valerius Laevinus, the consul sent to face him, rejected the king's negotiation offers, as he had more troops and hoped to cut the invasion short. The Romans were nevertheless defeated at Heraclea, as their cavalry were afraid of Pyrrhus' elephants. Pyrrhus then marched on Rome, likely not to besiege the city, but rather to trigger defections from Rome's Etruscan allies. However, the Romans concluded a peace in the north and moved south with reinforcements, placing Pyrrhus in danger of being flanked by two consular armies. Pyrrhus withdrew to Tarentum. His adviser, the orator Cineas, made a peace offer before the Roman Senate, asking Rome to return the land it took from the Samnites and Lucanians, and liberate the Greek cities under its control. The offer was rejected after Appius Caecus – the old censor of 312 – spoke against it in a celebrated speech, which was the earliest recorded by the time of Cicero (father-in-law of 2nd cousin of Ortiz Lafón, 66x removed). In 279, Pyrrhus met the consuls Publius Decius Mus and Publius Sulpicius Saverrio at the Battle of Asculum, which remained undecided for two days. Finally, Pyrrhus personally charged into the melee and won the battle but at the cost of an important part of his troops; he allegedly said "if we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined."

He escaped the Italian deadlock by answering a call for help from Syracuse, which tyrant Thoenon was desperately fighting an invasion from Carthage. Pyrrhus could not let them take the whole island as it would have compromised his ambitions in the western Mediterranean and so declared war on them. At first, his Sicilian campaign was an easy triumph; he was welcomed as a liberator in every Greek city on his way, even receiving the title of king (basileus) of Sicily. The Carthaginians lifted the siege of Syracuse before his arrival, but he could not entirely oust them from the island as he failed to take their fortress of Lilybaeum. His harsh rule, especially the murder of Thoenon, whom he did not trust, soon led to a widespread antipathy among the Sicilians; some cities even defected to Carthage. In 275, Pyrrhus left the island before he had to face a full-scale rebellion. He returned to Italy, where his Samnite allies were on the verge of losing the war, despite their earlier victory at the Cranita hills. Pyrrhus again met the Romans at the Battle of Beneventum. This time, the consul Manius Dentatus was victorious and even captured eight elephants. Pyrrhus then withdrew from Italy, but left a garrison in Tarentum, to wage a new campaign in Greece against Antigonus II Gonatas of Macedonia. His death in battle at Argos in 272 forced Tarentum to surrender to Rome. Since it was the last independent city of Italy, Rome now dominated the entire Italian peninsula, and won an international military reputation.

Punic Wars and expansion in the Mediterranean

First Punic War (264–241 BC)

Coin of Hiero II of Syracuse.

The Roman Republic before the First Punic War.

Rome and Carthage were initially on friendly terms; Polybius details three treaties between them, the first dating from the first year of the Republic, the second from 348. The last was an alliance against Pyrrhus. However, tensions rapidly built up after the departure of the Epirote king. Between 288 and 283, Messina in Sicily was taken by the Mamertines, a band of mercenaries formerly employed by Agathocles. They plundered the surroundings until Hiero II, the new tyrant of Syracuse, defeated them (in either 269 or 265). Carthage could not let him take Messina, as he would have controlled its strait, and garrisoned the city. In effect under a Carthaginian protectorate, the remaining Mamertines appealed to Rome to regain their independence. Senators were divided on whether to help them or not, as it would have meant war with Carthage, since Sicily was in its sphere of influence (the treaties furthermore forbade the island to Rome), and Syracuse. A supporter of war, the consul Appius Claudius Caudex (Caecus' brother and 69th great-granduncle of Raoul Ortiz Lafón) turned to one of the popular assemblies to get a favourable vote by promising plunder to the voters. After the assembly ratified an alliance with the Mamertines, Caudex was dispatched to cross the strait and lend aid.

Messina fell under Roman control quickly. Syracuse and Carthage, at war for centuries, responded with an alliance to counter the invasion and blockaded Messina; Caudex, however, defeated Hiero and Carthage separately. His successor Marcus Valerius Maximus Corvinus (father-in-law of wife of 63rd great-grandfather of Ortiz Lafón) landed with a strong 40,000 man army that conquered eastern Sicily, which prompted Hiero to shift his allegiance and forge a long lasting alliance with Rome. In 262, the Romans moved to the southern coast and besieged Akragas. In order to raise the siege, Carthage sent reinforcements, including 60 elephants -- the first time they used them -- but still lost the battle. Nevertheless, as Pyrrhus before, Rome could not take all of Sicily because Carthage's naval superiority prevented them from effectively besieging coastal cities, which could receive supplies from the sea. Using a captured Carthaginian ship as blueprint, Rome therefore launched a massive construction program and built 100 quinqueremes in only two months, perhaps through an assembly line. They also invented a new device, the corvus, a grappling engine which enabled a crew to board on an enemy ship. The consul for 260, Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Asina (70th great-granduncle of Raoul Ortiz Lafón), lost the first naval skirmish of the war against Hannibal Gisco at Lipara, but his colleague Gaius Duilius won a great victory at Mylae. He destroyed or captured 44 ships, and was the first Roman to receive a naval triumph, which also included captive Carthaginians for the first time. Although Carthage was victorious on land at Thermae in Sicily, the corvus made Rome invincible on the waters. The consul Lucius Cornelius Scipio (70th great-grandfather of Lafón, and Asina's brother) captured Corsica in 259; his successors won the naval battles of Sulci in 258, Tyndaris in 257, and Cape Ecnomus in 256.

Diagram of a corvus.

In order to hasten the end of the war, the consuls for 256 decided to carry the operations to Africa, on Carthage's homeland. The consul Marcus Atilius Regulus landed on the Cap Bon peninsula with about 18,000 soldiers. He captured the city of Aspis, repulsed Carthage's counter-attack at Adys, and took Tunis. The Carthaginians supposedly sued him for peace, but his conditions were so harsh that they continued the war instead. They hired Spartan mercenaries, led by Xanthippus, to command their troops. In 255, the Spartan general marched on Regulus, still encamped at Tunis, who accepted the battle to avoid sharing the glory with his successor. However, the flat land near Tunis favoured the Punic elephants, which crushed the Roman infantry on the Bagradas plain; only 2,000 soldiers escaped, and Regulus was captured. The consuls for 255 nonetheless won a new sounding naval victory at Cape Hermaeum, where they captured 114 warships. This success was spoilt by a storm that annihilated the victorious navy: 184 ships of 264 sank, 25,000 soldiers and 75,000 rowers drowned. The corvus considerably hindered ships' navigation, and made them vulnerable during tempest. It was abandoned after another similar catastrophe took place in 253 (150 ships sank with their crew). These disasters prevented any significant campaign between 254 and 252.

Denarius of Gaius Caecilius Metellus Caprarius (1st cousin of Ortiz Lafón, 66x removed), 125 BC. The reverse depicts the triumph of his great-grandfather Lucius, with the elephants he had captured at Panormos. The elephant had thence become the emblem of the powerful Caecilii Metelli.

Hostilities in Sicily resumed in 252, with the taking of Thermae by Rome. Carthage countered the following year, by besieging Lucius Caecilius Metellus (1st cousin of Lafón, 66x removed), who held Panormos (now Palermo). The consul had dug trenches to counter the elephants, which once hurt by missiles turned back on their own army, resulting in a great victory for Metellus, who exhibited some captured beasts in the Circus Maximus. Rome then besieged the last Carthaginian strongholds in Sicily, Lilybaeum and Drepana, but these cities were impregnable by land. Publius Claudius Pulcher (68th great-grandfather of Raoul Ortiz Lafón), the consul of 249, recklessly tried to take the latter from the sea, but he suffered a terrible defeat; his colleague Lucius Junius Pullus likewise lost his fleet off Lilybaeum. Without the corvus, Roman warships had lost their advantage. By now, both sides were drained and could not undertake large scale operations; the number of Roman citizens who were being called up for war had been reduced by 17% in two decades, a result of the massive bloodshed. The only military activity during this period was the landing in Sicily of Hamilcar Barca in 247, who harassed the Romans with a mercenary army from a citadel he built on Mt. Eryx.

Finally, unable to take the Punic fortresses in Sicily, Rome tried to decide the war at sea and built a new navy, thanks to a forced borrowing from the rich. In 242, 200 quinqueremes under consul Gaius Lutatius Catulus (non-attested great-grandfather of Lafón) blockaded Drepana. The rescue fleet from Carthage arrived the next year, but was largely undermanned and soundly defeated by Catulus. Exhausted and unable to bring supplies to Sicily, Carthage sued for peace. Catulus and Hamilcar negotiated a treaty, which was somewhat lenient to Carthage, but the Roman people rejected it and imposed harsher terms: Carthage had to pay 1000 talents immediately and 2200 over ten years, and evacuate Sicily. The fine was so high that Carthage could not pay Hamilcar's mercenaries, who had been shipped back to Africa. They revolted during the Mercenary War, which Carthage suppressed with enormous difficulty. Meanwhile, Rome took advantage of a similar revolt in Sardinia to seize the island from Carthage, in violation of the peace treaty. This stab-in-the-back led to permanent bitterness in Carthage.

Second Punic War

Principal offensives of the war: Rome (red), Hannibal (green), Hasdrubal (purple).

After its victory, the Republic shifted its attention to its northern border as the Insubres and Boii were threatening Italy. Meanwhile, Carthage compensated the loss of Sicily and Sardinia with the conquest of Southern Hispania (up to Salamanca), and its rich silver mines. This enterprise was the work of the Barcid family, headed by Hamilcar, the former commander in Sicily. Hamilcar nonetheless died against the Oretani in 228; his son-in-law Hasdrubal the Fair – the founder of Carthago Nova – and his three sons Hannibal, Hasdrubal, and Mago, succeeded him. This rapid expansion worried Rome, which concluded a treaty with Hasdrubal in 226, stating that Carthage could not cross the Ebro river. However, the city of Saguntum, located in the south of the Ebro, appealed to Rome in 220 to act as arbitrator during a stasis. Hannibal dismissed Roman rights on the city, and took it in 219. At Rome, the Cornelii and the Aemilii considered the capture of Saguntum a casus belli, and won the debate against Fabius Maximus Verrucosus (paternal grandfather of 1st Lafón cousin 66x removed) who wanted to negotiate. An embassy carrying an ultimatum was sent to Carthage, asking its senate to condemn Hannibal's deeds. The Carthaginian refused, triggering the Second Punic War.

Initially, the Republic's plan was to carry war outside Italy, sending the consuls Publius Cornelius Scipio (consul in 218 B.C. and 69th great-grandfather of Lafón) to Hispania and Tiberius Sempronius Longus to Africa, while their naval superiority prevented Carthage from attacking from the sea. This plan was thwarted by Hannibal's bold move to Italy. In May 218, he crossed the Ebro with a large army of about 100,000 soldiers and 37 elephants. He passed in Gaul, crossed the Rhone, then the Alps, possibly through the Col de Clapier (2,491 meters high). This famous exploit cost him almost half of his troops, but he could now rely on the Boii and Insubres, still at war with Rome. Publius Scipio, who had failed to block Hannibal on the Rhone, sent his elder brother Gnaeus with the main part of his army in Hispania according to the initial plan, and went back to Italy with the rest to resist Hannibal in Italy, but he was defeated and wounded near Pavia.

Lucius Aemelius Paullus III de Roma, General of the Roman Legion aka 'Paul Emile' 261–216 B.C. The 66th great-grandfather of Ortiz Lafón died at the battle of Cannae, fighting Hannibal. His son Lucius Aemilius Paullus 'Macedonicus' would later give Rome one of its greatest triumphs with a historic defeat over Macedon.

Hannibal then marched south and won three outstanding victories. The first one was on the banks of the Trebia in December 218, where he defeated the other consul Tiberius Sempronius Longus thanks to his brother Mago, who had concealed some elite troops behind the legions and attacked them from the rear once fighting Hannibal. More than half of the Roman army was lost. Hannibal then ravaged the country around Arretium to lure the new consul Gaius Flaminius into a trap, at Lake Trasimene. He had hidden his troops in the hills surrounding the lake and attacked Flaminius when he was cornered on the shore. This clever ambush resulted in the death of the consul and the complete destruction of his army of 30,000 men. In 216, the new consuls Lucius Aemilius Paullus III (66th great-grandfather of Raoul Ortiz Lafón) and Gaius Terentius Varro mustered the biggest army possible, with eight legions – some 80,000 soldiers, twice as many as the Punic army – and confronted Hannibal, who was encamped at Cannae, in Apulia. Despite his numerical disadvantage, Hannibal used his heavier cavalry to rout the Roman wings and envelop their infantry, whom he annihilated. In terms of casualties, the Battle of Cannae was the worst defeat in the history of Rome: only 14,500 soldiers escaped; Paullus was killed as well as 80 senators. Soon after, the Boii ambushed the army of the consul-elect for 215, Lucius Postumius Albinus, who died with all his army of 25,000 men in the Battle of Silva Litana.

A Carthaginian quarter shekel, perhaps minted in Spain. The obverse may depict Hannibal under the traits of young Melqart. The reverse features one of his famous war elephants.

These disasters triggered a wave of defection among Roman allies, with the rebellions of the Samnites, Oscans, Lucanians, and Greek cities of Southern Italy. In Macedonia, Philip V also made an alliance with Hannibal in order to take Illyria and the area around Epidamnus, occupied by Rome. His attack on Apollonia started the First Macedonian War. In 215, Hiero II of Syracuse died of old age, and his young grandson Hieronymus broke the long alliance with Rome to side with Carthage. At this desperate point, the aggressive strategy against Hannibal advocated by the Scipiones was abandoned in favour of delaying tactics that avoided direct confrontation with him. Its main proponents were the consuls Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, nicknamed Cunctator ("the delayer") (paternal grandfather of 1st cousin 66x removed), Marcus Claudius Marcellus (68th great-grandfather), and Quintus Fulvius Flaccus. The "Fabian strategy" favoured a slow reconquest of the lost territories, since Hannibal could not split off resources and be everywhere to defend them. Although he remained invincible on the battlefield, defeating all the Roman armies on his way, he could not prevent Claudius Marcellus from taking Syracuse in 212 after a long siege, nor the fall of his bases of Capua and Tarentum in 211 and 209.

In Hispania, the situation was overall much better for Rome. This theatre was mostly commanded by the brothers Publius and Gnaeus Scipio (1st Lafón cousins 71x removed), who won the battles of Cissa in 218, soon after Hannibal's departure, and Dertosa against his brother Hasdrubal in 215, which enabled them to conquer the eastern coast of Hispania. In 211, however, Hasdrubal and Mago Barca successfully turned the Celtiberian tribes that supported the Scipiones, and attacked them simultaneously at the Battle of the Upper Baetis, in which the Scipiones brothers died. Publius' son, the future Scipio Africanus (68th great-grandfather), was then elected with a special proconsulship to lead the Hispanic campaign. He soon showed outstanding skills as a commander, winning a series of battles with ingenious tactics. In 209, he took Carthago Nova, the main Punic base in Hispania, then defeated Hasdrubal at the Battle of Baecula the next year. After his defeat, Carthage ordered Hasdrubal to reinforce his brother in Italy. Since he could not use ships, he followed the same route as his brother through the Alps, but this time the surprise. The consuls Marcus Livius Salinator (66th great-grandfather) and Gaius Claudius Nero (2nd cousin 66x removed) were awaiting him and defeated him in the Battle of the Metaurus, where Hasdrubal died. It was the turning point of the war. The attrition campaign had indeed worked well: Hannibal's troops were now depleted; he only had one elephant left (Surus) and retreated to Bruttium (present day Calabria), on the defensive. In Greece, Rome contained Philip V without devoting too many forces by setting an alliance with the Aetolian League, Sparta, and Pergamon, which also prevented Philip from aiding Hannibal. The war with Macedon resulted in a stalemate, with the Treaty of Phoenice signed in 205.

In Hispania, Scipio continued his successful campaign at the battles of Carmona in 207, and Ilipa (now Seville) in 206, which ended the Punic threat on the peninsula. Elected consul in 205, he convinced the Senate to cancel the Fabian strategy and instead to invade Africa with the support of the Numidian king Masinissa, who had defected to Rome. Scipio landed in Africa in 204. He took Utica and then won the Battle of the Great Plains, which prompted Carthage to recall Hannibal from Italy and open peace negotiations with Rome. The talks nevertheless failed because Scipio wanted to impose harsher terms on Carthage, in order to avoid it from rising again as a threat. Hannibal was therefore sent to face Scipio at Zama. Scipio could now use the heavy Numidian cavalry of Massinissa – which had hitherto been so successful against Rome – to rout the Punic wings, then flank the infantry, as Hannibal had done at Cannae. Defeated for the first time, Hannibal convinced the Carthaginian Senate to pay the war indemnity, which was even harsher than that of 241: 10,000 talents in 50 instalments. Carthage furthermore had to give up all its elephants, all its fleet but ten triremes, all its possessions outside its core territory in Africa (what is now Tunisia), and could not declare war without Roman authorization. In effect, Carthage was condemned to be a minor power, while Rome recovered from a desperate situation to dominate the western Mediterranean.

Roman supremacy in the Greek East

Macedonia, Greece and Asia at the outbreak of the Second Macedonian War, 200 BC

Rome's preoccupation with its war with Carthage provided an opportunity for Philip V of the kingdom of Macedonia, located in the north of the Greek peninsula, to attempt to extend his power westward. Philip sent ambassadors to Hannibal's camp in Italy, to negotiate an alliance as common enemies of Rome. However, Rome discovered the agreement when Philip's emissaries were captured by a Roman fleet. The First Macedonian War saw the Romans involved directly in only limited land operations, but they ultimately achieved their objective of occupying Philip and preventing him from aiding Hannibal.

The past century had seen the Greek world dominated by the three primary successor kingdoms of Alexander the Great's empire: Ptolemaic Egypt, Macedonia and the Seleucid Empire. In 202, internal problems led to a weakening of Egypt's position, disrupting the power balance among the successor states. Macedonia and the Seleucid Empire agreed to an alliance to conquer and divide Egypt. Fearing this increasingly unstable situation, several small Greek kingdoms sent delegations to Rome to seek an alliance. The delegation succeeded, even though prior Greek attempts to involve Rome in Greek affairs had been met with Roman apathy. Our primary source about these events, the surviving works of Polybius, do not state Rome's reason for getting involved. Rome gave Philip an ultimatum to cease his campaigns against Rome's new Greek allies. Doubting Rome's strength – a reasonable doubt, given Rome's performance in the First Macedonian War – Philip ignored the request, and Rome sent an army of Romans and Greek allies, beginning the Second Macedonian War. Despite his recent successes against the Greeks and earlier successes against Rome, Philip's army buckled under the pressure from the Roman-Greek army. In 197, the Romans decisively defeated Philip at the Battle of Cynoscephalae, and Philip was forced to give up his recent Greek conquests. The Romans declared the "Peace of the Greeks", believing that Philip's defeat now meant that Greece would be stable. They pulled out of Greece entirely, maintaining minimal contacts with their Greek allies.

With Egypt and Macedonia weakened, the Seleucid Empire made increasingly aggressive and successful attempts to conquer the entire Greek world. Now not only Rome's allies against Philip, but even Philip himself, sought a Roman alliance against the Seleucids. The situation was made worse by the fact that Hannibal was now a chief military advisor to the Seleucid emperor, and the two were believed to be planning an outright conquest not just of Greece, but of Rome itself. The Seleucids were much stronger than the Macedonians had ever been, because they controlled much of the former Persian Empire, and by now had almost entirely reassembled Alexander the Great's former empire.

Roman marble bust of Scipio Africanus (68th great grandfather of Raoul Ortiz Lafón), found in the Tomb of the Scipios.

Fearing the worst, the Romans began a major mobilization, all but pulling out of recently pacified Spain and Gaul. They even established a major garrison in Sicily in case the Seleucids ever got to Italy. This fear was shared by Rome's Greek allies, who had largely ignored Rome in the years after the Second Macedonian War, but now followed Rome again for the first time since that war. A major Roman-Greek force was mobilized under the command of the great hero of the Second Punic War, Scipio Africanus, and set out for Greece, beginning the Roman–Seleucid War. After initial fighting that revealed serious Seleucid weaknesses, the Seleucids tried to turn the Roman strength against them at the Battle of Thermopylae (as they believed the 300 Spartans had done centuries earlier). Like the Spartans, the Seleucids lost the battle, and were forced to evacuate Greece. The Romans pursued the Seleucids by crossing the Hellespont, which marked the first time a Roman army had ever entered Asia. The decisive engagement was fought at the Battle of Magnesia, resulting in a complete Roman victory. The Seleucids sued for peace, and Rome forced them to give up their recent Greek conquests. Although they still controlled a great deal of territory, this defeat marked the decline of their empire, as they were to begin facing increasingly aggressive subjects in the east (the Parthians) and the west (the Greeks). Their empire disintegrated into a rump over the course of the next century, when it was eclipsed by Pontus. Following Magnesia, Rome again withdrew from Greece, assuming (or hoping) that the lack of a major Greek power would ensure a stable peace. In fact, it did the opposite.

Conquest of Greece: Achaean War

Scene of the Battle of Corinth (146 BC): last day before the Roman legions looted and burned the Greek city of Corinth. The last day on Corinth, Tony Robert-Fleury, 1870.

In 179, Philip died. His talented and ambitious son, Perseus, took the throne and showed a renewed interest in conquering Greece. With her Greek allies facing a major new threat, Rome declared war on Macedonia again, starting the Third Macedonian War. Perseus initially had some success against the Romans. However, Rome responded by sending a stronger army. This second consular army, led by Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus Consul of Rome, General of the Roman Legion (65th great-granduncle of Raoul Ortiz Lafón), and Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica Corculum, Censor, then Consul of Rome, 'Pontifex Maximus' of Roman Republic and Leader of the Senate (67th great grandfather of Lafón), decisively defeated the Macedonians at the Battle of Pydna in 168 and the Macedonians capitulated, ending the war.

Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus, Consul of Rome, General of the Roman Legion b. 224 B.C.– d. 160 B.C. The 65th great-granduncle of Raoul Ortiz Lafón was given a Triumph by Rome, with the cognomen 'Macedonicus' for use by him and his direct offspring, as was tradition.

Convinced now that the Greeks (and therefore the rest of the region) would not have peace if left alone, Rome decided to establish its first permanent foothold in the Greek world, and divided Macedonia into four client republics. Yet, Macedonian agitation continued. The Fourth Macedonian War, 150 to 148 BC, was fought against a Macedonian pretender to the throne who was again destabilizing Greece by trying to re-establish the old kingdom. The Romans swiftly defeated the Macedonians again at the second battle of Pydna.

The Achaean League, seeing the direction of Roman policy trending towards direct administration, met at Corinth and declared war "nominally against Sparta but in reality against Rome". They were swiftly defeated: in 146, the same year as the destruction of Carthage, Corinth was besieged and destroyed, which forced the league's surrender. After nearly a century of constant crisis management in Greece, which always led back to internal instability and war when she withdrew, Rome decided to divide Macedon into two new directly-administered Roman provinces, Achaea and Macedonia.

Third Punic War

'Scipio Aemilianus'

Carthage never recovered militarily after the Second Punic War, but quickly did so economically and the Third Punic War that followed was in reality a simple punitive mission after the neighbouring Numidians allied to Rome robbed and attacked Carthaginian merchants. Treaties had forbidden any war with Roman allies; viewing defense against banditry as "war action", Rome, after much debate decided to annihilate the city of Carthage, which was almost defenseless, and submitted when besieged. However, the Romans demanded complete surrender and removal of the city into the desert hinterland far from any coastal or harbour region; the Carthaginians refused. The city was then besieged, stormed, and completely destroyed by Cornelius Scipio Africanus Aemilianus 'The Younger', Consul of Rome in 134 BC, biological son of Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus, biological grandson of 2-term Consul Lucius Aemilius Paullus d. 216 B.C. and adopted grandson of legendary consul Scipio Africanus. Aemilianus 'The Younger' was a 1st cousin of Raoul Ortiz Lafón, 66 generations removed; indeed Lafón's own daughter Michele Amelia Lafon (b. 1938) was namesake and progeny of his grandfather (her 67th great-grandfather) who died in battle at Cannae.

Ultimately, all of Carthage's North African and Iberian territories were acquired by Rome. Punic Carthage was gone, but the other Punic cities in the western Mediterranean flourished under Roman rule. Carthage would eventually be rebuilt by the Romans one hundred years later as a Roman colony by order of Julius Cæsar. It flourished, becoming one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire, and the largest and most important one in Africa.

Social troubles and first civil war

Views on the structural causes of the Republic's collapse differ. One of the enduring theses is that Rome's expansion destabilized its social organization between conflicting interests; the Senate's policymaking, blinded by its own short-term self-interest, alienated large portions of society from it, who then joined powerful generals who sought to overthrow the system. Two other theses have challenged this thesis. The first notices that nobody actively sought the destruction of the republic – in fact, politicians clung ever harder to the traditional political system in its waning years, – but pins blame on the Romans' inability to conceive of alternatives to the traditional republican system. The second instead stresses the continuity of the republic: until its disruption by Caesar's civil war and the following two decades of civil war created conditions for autocratic rule and made return to the republic impossible. In this view, "civil war caused the fall of the republic, not vice versa".

A core cause of the Republic's eventual demise was the loss of elite's cohesion from c. 133 BC: the ancient sources called this moral decay from wealth and the hubris of Rome's domination of the Mediterranean. Modern sources have proposed multiple causes of elite cohesion, including wealth inequality and a growing unwillingness by aristocrats to transgress political norms, especially in the aftermath of the Social War.

The Gracchi Brothers

In the winter of 138–37, a first slave uprising, known as the First Servile War, broke out in Sicily. After initial successes, the slaves led by Eunus and Cleon were defeated by Marcus Perperna and Publius Rupilius in 132 BC.

In this context, Tiberius Gracchus (2nd cousin of Lafón, 65 generations removed), was elected plebeian tribune in 133 BC. He attempted to enact a law to limit the amount of land that any individual could own and establish a commission, on which Gracchus and members of his family would sit, distribute to public lands to poor rural plebs. The aristocrats, who stood to lose an enormous amount of money, were bitterly opposed to this proposal. Tiberius submitted this law to the Plebeian Council, but the law was vetoed by a fellow tribune named Marcus Octavius. Tiberius induced the plebs to depose Octavius from his office on the justification that Octavius acted contrary to the manifest will of the people, a position that was unprecedented and constitutionally dubious: carried to its logical end, this theory would remove all constitutional restraints on the popular will, and put the state under the absolute control of a temporary popular majority. His law was enacted and took effect, but, when Tiberius ostentatiously stood for re-election to the tribunate, he was deliberately murdered by a faction in the senate. The progressive Gracchus brothers have been compared to the American Kennedy brothers of the 20th century; a historically prescient fact: Raoul Ortiz Lafón's youngest daughter Michele Amelia Lafon, aforementioned namesake of Lucius Aemilius Paullus and his son Aemilianus, was secretary to John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1958-60.

Tiberius' brother Gaius was elected tribune ten years later in 123 and re-elected for 122. Recalling the memory of his brother, as Robert Kennedy did centuries later, he induced the plebs to reinforce rights of appeal to the people against capital extrajudicial punishments and institute reforms to improve the welfare of the people. While the ancient sources tend to "conceive Gracchus' legislation as an elaborate plot against the authority of the Senate... he showed no sign of wanting to replace the Senate in its normal functions". Amid wide-ranging and popular reforms to create grain subsidies, change jury pools, establish and require the Senate to assign provinces before elections, Gaius then proposed a law which would grant citizenship rights to Rome's Italian allies. This last proposal was not popular with the plebeians and he lost much of his support. He stood for election to a third term in 121 but was defeated. During violent protests over repeal of an ally's colonisation bill, the Senate moved the senatus consultum ultimum against him, resulting in his death, with many others, on the Aventine. His legislation (like that of his brother) survived; the Roman aristocracy disliked the Gracchi's agitation but acceded to their policies.

In 121, the province of Gallia Narbonensis was established after the victory of Quintus Fabius Maximus over a coalition of Arverni and Allobroges in southern Gaul in 123. The city of Narbo was founded there in 118 by Lucius Licinius Crassus, father-in-law to Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius, Consul of Rome, 'Pontefex Maximus' of Roman Republic, and who was 63rd great-granduncle of Raoul Ortiz Lafón.

Rise of Marius

Bust of Gaius Marius, instigator of the Marian reforms.

The Jugurthine War of 111–104 was fought between Rome and the North African kingdom of Numidia (in current-day Algeria and Tunisia). In 118, its king, Micipsa, died. He was succeeded by two legitimate sons, Adherbal and Hiempsal, and an illegitimate son, Jugurtha. Micipsa divided his kingdom between these three sons upon his death. Jugurtha, however, turned on his brothers, killing Hiempsal and driving Adherbal out of Numidia. While Jugurtha usurped the throne, Adherbal fled to Rome for assistance.

Denarius of Faustus Cornelius Sulla, 56 BC. It shows Diana on the obverse, while the reverse depicts Sulla being offered an olive branch by his ally Bocchus I. Jugurtha is shown captive on the right.

Numidia had been a loyal ally of Rome since the Punic Wars. Initially, Rome mediated a division of the country between the two brothers. However, Jugurtha eventually renewed his offensive, leading to a long and inconclusive war with Rome. He also bribed several Roman commanders (and at least two tribunes) before and during the war. His nemesis, Gaius Marius, a legate from a virtually unknown provincial family, returned from the war in Numidia and was elected consul in 107 over the objections of the aristocratic senators, relying on support from the businessmen and poor. Marius had the Numidian command reassigned to himself by plebiscite and, with the capture of Jugurtha at the end of a long campaign, ended the war; in the aftermath, the Romans largely withdrew from the province after installing a client king. Marius' victory played on existing themes of senatorial corruption and incompetence, contrasted especially against the military failure of senatorial leadership in the Cimbric war.

The Jugurthine War constituted the final Roman pacification of northern Africa, after which Rome largely ceased expansion on the continent after reaching natural barriers of desert and mountain.

The Cimbrian War (113–101) was a far more serious affair than the earlier Gallic clashes in 121. The Germanic tribes of the Cimbri and the Teutons migrated from northern Europe into Rome's northern territories, and clashed with Rome and her allies. The defeat of various aristocrats in the conflict, along with Marius' reputation for military victory, led to his holding five successive consulships with little to enable him to lead armies against the threat. At the Battle of Aquae Sextiae and the Battle of Vercellae, Marius led the Roman armies which virtually annihilated both tribes, ending the threat.

During the Cimbric war, further conflicts embroiled the Republic: a Second Servile War waged in Sicily from 104 to 101; a campaign was waged against pirates in Cilicia; Rome campaigned in Thrace, adding lands to the province of Macedonia; and Lycaonia was annexed to Rome.

First civil wars

In 91, the Social War broke out between Rome and its former allies in Italy: the main causes of the war were Roman encroachment on allied lands due to the Republic's land redistribution programmes, harsh Roman treatment of the non-citizen allies, and Roman unwillingness to share in the spoils of the empire won by Roman and Italian arms. After the assassination, in Rome, of a conservative tribune who sought to grant the Italians citizenship, the allies took up arms: most ancient writers explain the conflict in terms of demands for full citizenship; however, contemporary rebel propaganda coins indicate it may have been a primarily anti-Roman secessionist movement. The Romans, in the event, were able to stave off military defeat by conceding the main point almost immediately, tripling the number of citizens. More recent scholarship also has stressed the importance of the war on the allies in destabilising Roman military affairs by blurring the distinction between Romans and foreign enemies: "it may as well be argued that the [Social war] created the self-seeking unprincipled soldier as the converse".

Further civil conflict emerged, starting in 88. One of the consuls that year, Lucius Cornelius Sulla (husband of 1st Lafón cousin, 65 generations removed), was assigned to take an army against the Pontic king Mithridates VI (70th great-grandfather in Lafón Anatolian line). The local governor there was defeated. However, Gaius Marius induced a tribune to promulgate legislation reassigning Sulla's command to Marius. Sulla responded by suborning his army, marching on Rome (the city was undefended but politically outraged), and declaring Marius and eleven of his allies outlaws before departing east to war with Mithridates. Marius, who had escaped into exile, returned, and with Lucius Cornelius Cinna (father-in-law of 64th great-granduncle), took control of the city.

After the Marians took control of the city, they started to purge their political enemies. They elected, in irregular fashion, Marius and Cinna to the consulship of 86 B.C. Marius, however, died a fortnight after assuming office. Cinna then took control of the state: his policies are unclear and the record is muddled by Sulla's eventual victory. The Cinnan regime declared Sulla a public enemy and ostensibly replaced him in command in the east. Instead of cooperating with his replacement, which Sulla viewed as illegitimate, he made peace with Mithridates and prepared to return to Italy. By 85 BC, the Cinnans in Rome started preparations to defend the peninsula from invasion.

In 83, he returned from the east with a small but experienced army. Initial reactions were negative across the peninsula, but after winning a number of victories he was able to overcome resistance and capture the city. In the Battle of the Colline Gate, just outside Rome, Sulla's army defeated the Marian defenders and then proceeded to "run riot... killing for profit, pleasure, or personal vengeance anyone they pleased". He then instituted procedures to centralise the killing, creating lists of proscribed persons who could be killed for their property without punishment. After establishing political control, Sulla had himself made dictator and passed a series of constitutional reforms intended to strengthen the position of the magistrates and the senate in the state and replace custom with new rigid statute laws enforced by new permanent courts. Sulla resigned the dictatorship in 81 after election as consul for 80. He then retired and died 78 BC.

Sullan republic

During Sulla's civil war, Gnaus Pompeius Magnus aka 'Pompey' (1st Lafón cousin, 66 generations removed) had served as a young general under Sulla's overall command. He served the Sullan regime during a short conflict triggered by the republic's own consul, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (64th great-granduncle), in 77 BC and afterwards led troops successfully against the remaining anti-Sullan forces in the Sertorian War; he brought the war successfully to a close in 72 BC.

While Pompey was in Spain, the Republic faced agitation both foreign and domestic. The main domestic political struggle was the restoration of tribunician powers stripped during Sulla's dictatorship. After rumours of a pact between Sertorius' ostensible republic-in-exile, Mithridates, and various Mediterranean pirate groups, the Sullan regime feared encirclement and stepped up efforts against the threats: they reinforced Pompey in Spain and fortified Bithynia. In spring 73 BC, Mithridates did so, invading Bithynia.

In 73, a slave uprising started in southern Italy under Spartacus, a gladiator, who defeated the local Roman garrisons and four legions under the consuls of 72. At the head of some seventy thousand men, Spartacus led them in a Third Servile War – they sought freedom by escape from Italy – before being defeated by troops raised by Marcus Licinius Crassus. After the slaves were defeated by Crassus and then Pompey, who was returning to Rome from Spain, they bickered over who deserved credit. Although Pompey and Crassus were rivals, they were elected to a joint consulship in 70. During their consulship, they brought legislation to dismantle – with little opposition – the tribunician disabilities imposed by Sulla's constitutional reforms. They also shepherded legislation to settle the contentious matter of jury reform.

Lucius Licinius Lucullus (husband of 1st Lafón cousin, 65 generations removed), one of Sulla's most able lieutenants, had fought against Mithridates during the first Mithridatic war before Sulla's civil war. Mithridates also had fought Rome in a second Mithridatic war (83–82 BC). Rome for its part seemed equally eager for war and the spoils and prestige that it might bring. After his invasion of Bithynia in 73, Lucullus was assigned against Mithridates and his Armenian ally Tigranes the Great (69th great-grandfather of Ortiz Lafón) in Asia Minor. Fighting a war of manoeuvre against Mithridates' supply lines, Lucullus was able force Mithridates from an attempted siege of Cyzicus and pursue him into Pontus and thence into Armenia. After defeat forced the Romans from large parts of Armenia and Pontus in 67, Lucullus was replaced in command by Pompey. Pompey who had recently secured and competed an extraordinary command to rid the Mediterranean of pirates, moved against Mithridates in 66. Defeating him in battle and securing the submission of Tigranes, Mithridates fled to Crimea, where he was betrayed and killed by his son Pharnaces II (69th great-granduncle of Raoul Ortiz Lafón) in 63. Pompey remained in the East to pacify and settle Roman conquests in the region, also extending Roman control south to Judaea.

End of the Republic

First Triumvirate
A Roman marble head of Pompey. ©2022 All rights reserved

Pompey returned from the Third Mithridatic War at the end of 62 BC. In the interim, before his arrival back in Italy, the senate had successfully suppressed a conspiracy and insurrection led by a senator, Lucius Sergius Catalina, to overthrow that year's consuls. In the aftermath of the conspiracy, which was abetted by popular discontent, the Senate moved legislation to temper unrest in Italy: expanding the grain dole and implementing other much needed reforms. Pompey, landing in Brundisium, publicly dismissed his troops, indicating that no desire to follow Sulla's example and dominate the republic by force, as some conservative senators had feared. He celebrated a splendid triumph and then attempted to have his eastern settlements passed by the Senate; ratification, even with the backing of his a friendly consul, was not forthcoming due to the opposition of Lucullus, Crassus, and Cato the Younger (husband of 62nd great-grandaunt). Settlement of Pompey's veterans on lands was also received coolly and delayed.

After the election of Julius Caesar as one of the consuls of 59 BC, Pompey and Caesar, along with Crassus, engaged in a political alliance (misleadingly dubbed the First Triumvirate). The alliance proved to the great benefit of the three men: Caesar passed legislation to distribute state lands as poor relief while also providing land for Pompey's veterans; he also had Pompey's eastern settlements ratified; for Crassus, he secured relief for tax farmers and a place on agrarian commission. Caesar won, for himself, the political support needed to acquire a profitable provincial command in Gaul and secure his political future.
Attempting first to pass portions of his programme through the Senate, Caesar found the curia obstinate. He thus unveiled his alliance with Pompey and Crassus and moved his legislation before the people instead. Political opposition to the allies was immense; Caesar's co-consul in 59 BC, Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus (1st husband of Porcia Catonis Minor who was wife of Lafón 2nd cousin Brutus), along with Cato and other supporters, attempted to obstruct enactment of Caesar's legislation, forcing the allies to use intimidation and force. The obstructive tactics, producing popular indignation against Caesar and his allies, were successful and greatly weakened their popular support.

Caesar also facilitated the election of the former patrician (and Lafón 3rd cousin) Publius Clodius Pulcher to the tribunate for 58. Clodius set about depriving Caesar's senatorial enemies of two of their more obstinate leaders in Cato and Cicero. Clodius was a bitter opponent of Cicero because Cicero had testified against him in a sacrilege case. Clodius attempted to try Cicero for executing citizens without a trial during the Catiline conspiracy, resulting in Cicero going into self-imposed exile and his house in Rome being burnt down. Clodius also passed a bill that forced Cato to lead the invasion of Cyprus which would keep him away from Rome for some years. Clodius also passed a law to expand the previous partial grain subsidy to a fully free grain dole for citizens.

Map of the Gallic Wars

During his term as praetor in the Iberian Peninsula (modern Portugal and Spain), Pompey's contemporary Julius Caesar defeated two local tribes in battle. After his term as consul in 59, he was appointed to a five-year term as the proconsular Governor of Cisalpine Gaul (part of current northern Italy), Transalpine Gaul (current southern France) and Illyria (part of the modern Balkans). Not content with an idle governorship, Caesar strove to find reason to invade Gaul (modern France and Belgium), which would give him the dramatic military success he sought. When two local tribes began to migrate on a route that would take them near (not into) the Roman province of Transalpine Gaul, Caesar had the barely sufficient excuse he needed for his Gallic Wars, fought between 58 and 49.

Caesar defeated large armies at major battles 58 and 57. In 55 and 54 he made two expeditions into Britain, the first Roman to do so. Caesar then defeated a union of Gauls at the Battle of Alesia, completing the Roman conquest of Transalpine Gaul. By 50, all of Gaul lay in Roman hands.
Clodius formed armed gangs that terrorised the city and eventually began to attack Pompey's followers, who in response funded counter-gangs formed by Titus Annius Milo. The political alliance of the triumvirate was crumbling. Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (husband of 1st cousin 65x removed) ran for the consulship in 55 promising to take Caesar's command from him. Eventually, the triumvirate was renewed at Lucca. Pompey and Crassus were promised the consulship in 55, and Caesar's term as governor was extended for five years. Beginning in the summer of 54, a wave of political corruption and violence swept Rome. This chaos reached a climax in January of 52 BC, when Clodius was murdered in a gang war, by Milo (whose trial was presided over by then magistrate Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus).

In 53, Crassus launched a Roman invasion of the Parthian Empire (modern Iraq and Iran). After initial successes, he marched his army deep into the desert; but here his army was cut off deep in enemy territory, surrounded and slaughtered at the Battle of Carrhae in which Crassus himself perished. The death of Crassus removed some of the balance in the Triumvirate and, consequently, Caesar and Pompey began to move apart. While Caesar was fighting in Gaul, Pompey proceeded with a legislative agenda for Rome that revealed that he was at best ambivalent towards Caesar and perhaps now covertly allied with Caesar's political enemies. Pompey's wife, Julia (1st cousin, 65x removed), who was Caesar's daughter, died in childbirth. This event severed the last remaining bond between Pompey and Caesar. In 51, some Roman senators demanded that Caesar not be permitted to stand for consul unless he turned over control of his armies to the state, which would have left Caesar defenseless before his enemies. Caesar chose civil war over laying down his command and facing trial.

Caesar's Civil War and Dictatorship

The Tusculum portrait, a Roman sculpture of Julius Caesar, Archaeological Museum of Turin, Italy

The Curia Julia, the senate house started by Julius Caesar in 44 BC and completed by Octavian in 29 BC, replacing the Curia Cornelia as the meeting place of the Senate.

On 1 January 49, an agent of Caesar presented an ultimatum to the senate. The ultimatum was rejected, and the senate then passed a resolution which declared that if Caesar did not lay down his arms by July of that year, he would be considered an enemy of the Republic. Meanwhile, the senators adopted Pompey as their new champion against Caesar. On 7 January of 49, the senate passed a senatus consultum ultimum, which vested Pompey with dictatorial powers. Pompey's army, however, was composed largely of untested conscripts.

On 10 January, Caesar with his veteran army crossed the river Rubicon, the legal boundary of Roman Italy beyond which no commander might bring his army, in violation of Roman laws, and by the spring of 49 swept down the Italian peninsula towards Rome. Caesar's rapid advance forced Pompey, the consuls and the senate to abandon Rome for Greece. Caesar entered the city unopposed. Afterwards Caesar turned his attention to the Pompeian stronghold of Hispania (modern Spain) but decided to tackle Pompey himself in Greece. Pompey initially defeated Caesar, but failed to follow up on the victory, and was decisively defeated at the Battle of Pharsalus in 48, despite outnumbering Caesar's forces two to one, albeit with inferior quality troops. Pompey fled again, this time to Egypt, where he was murdered.

Pompey's death did not end the civil war, as Caesar's many enemies fought on. In 46 Caesar lost perhaps as much as a third of his army, but ultimately came back to defeat the Pompeian army of Metellus Scipio (1st cousin of Ortiz Lafón, 64 generations removed) in the Battle of Thapsus, after which the Pompeians retreated yet again to Hispania. Caesar then defeated the combined Pompeian forces at the Battle of Munda.

With Pompey defeated and order restored, Caesar wanted to achieve undisputed control over the government. The powers which he gave himself were later assumed by his imperial successors. His assumption of these powers decreased the authority of Rome's other political institutions.

Caesar held both the dictatorship and the tribunate, and alternated between the consulship and the proconsulship. In 48, Caesar was given permanent tribunician powers. This made his person sacrosanct, gave him the power to veto the senate, and allowed him to dominate the Plebeian Council. In 46, Caesar was given censorial powers, which he used to fill the senate with his own partisans. Caesar then raised the membership of the Senate to 900. This robbed the senatorial aristocracy of its prestige, and made it increasingly subservient to him. While the assemblies continued to meet, he submitted all candidates to them for election, as well as all bills for enactment. Thus, the group became powerless and were unable to oppose him.

Caesar's Assassination

Caesar began to prepare for a war against the Parthian Empire. Since his absence from Rome would limit his ability to install his own consuls, he passed a law that allowed him to appoint all magistrates, and later all consuls and tribunes. This transformed the magistrates from representatives of the people to representatives of the dictator.

Caesar was now the primary figure of the Roman state, enforcing and entrenching his powers. His enemies feared that he had ambitions to become an autocratic ruler. Arguing that the Roman Republic was in danger, a group of senators led by Gaius Cassius (husband of 1st Lafón cousin) and Marcus Brutus (2nd cousin of Lafón) hatched a conspiracy and assassinated Caesar at a meeting of the Senate on 15 March 44. Most of the conspirators were senators, who had a variety of economic, political, or personal motivations for carrying out the assassination. Many were afraid that Caesar would soon resurrect the monarchy and declare himself king. Others feared loss of property or prestige as Caesar carried out his land reforms in favor of the landless classes. Virtually all the conspirators fled the city after Caesar's death in fear of retaliation.

Second Triumvirate

This mid-1st-century-BC Roman wall painting in Pompeii is probably a depiction of Cleopatra VII as Venus Genetrix, with her son Caesarion as Cupid. Its owner Marcus Fabius Rufus most likely ordered its concealment behind a wall in reaction to the execution of Caesarion on orders of Octavian in 30 BC.

The civil wars that followed destroyed what was left of the Republic.
After the assassination, Caesar's three most important associates, Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony, 2nd Lafón cousin), Caesar's co-consul, Gaius Octavius (Octavian, husband of 62nd Lafón great-grandmother), Caesar's adopted son and great-nephew, and Marcus Lepidus (1st Lafón cousin 63x removed and husband of 62nd great-grandaunt), Caesar's magister equitum, formed an alliance. Known as the Second Triumvirate, they held powers that were nearly identical to the powers that Caesar had held under his constitution. As such, the Senate and assemblies remained powerless, even after Caesar had been assassinated. The conspirators were then defeated at the Battle of Philippi in 42. Although Brutus defeated Octavian, Antony defeated Cassius, who committed suicide. Brutus did likewise soon afterwards.

Following Philippi, Rome's territories were divided between the triumvirs but the agreement was fragile and could not withstand internal jealousies and ambitions. Antony detested Octavian and spent most of his time in the East, while Lepidus favoured Antony but felt himself obscured by both his colleagues. Following the defeat of Sextus Pompeius, a dispute between Lepidus and Octavian regarding the allocation of lands broke out. Octavian accused Lepidus of usurping power in Sicily and of attempted rebellion and, in 36 BC, Lepidus was forced into exile in Circeii and stripped of all his offices except that of pontifex maximus. His former provinces were awarded to Octavian.

Antony, meanwhile, married Caesar's lover, Cleopatra of Ptolemaic Egypt, intending to use the fabulously wealthy Egypt as a base to dominate Rome. The ambitious Octavian built a power base of patronage and then launched a campaign against Antony. Another civil war subsequently broke out between Octavian on one hand and Antony and Cleopatra on the other. This final civil war culminated in the latter's defeat at Actium in 31 BC; Octavian's forces would then chase Antony and Cleopatra to Alexandria, where they would both commit suicide in 30 BC.

Octavian was granted a series of special powers including sole "imperium" within the city of Rome, permanent consular powers and credit for every Roman military victory, since all future generals were assumed to be acting under his command. In 27 Octavian was granted the use of the names "Augustus", indicating his primary status above all other Romans, "Princeps", which he used to refer to himself as in public, and he adopted the title "Imperator Caesar" making him the first Roman Emperor.
The Visigoths (Latin: Visigothi, Wisigothi, Vesi, Visi, Wesi, Wisi) were an early Germanic people who, along with the Ostrogoths, constituted the two major political entities of the Goths within the Roman Empire in late antiquity, or what is known as the Migration Period. The Visigoths emerged from earlier Gothic groups, including a large group of Thervingi, who had moved into the Roman Empire beginning in 376 and had played a major role in defeating the Romans at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. Relations between the Romans and the Visigoths varied, with the two groups making treaties when convenient, and warring with one another when not. Under their first leader, Alaric I (49th great-granduncle of Raoul Ortiz Lafón), the Visigoths invaded Italy and sacked Rome in August 410. Afterwards, they began settling down, first in southern Gaul and eventually in Hispania, where they founded the Visigothic Kingdom and maintained a presence from the 5th to the 8th centuries AD.

The Visigoths first settled in southern Gaul as foederati to the Romans, a relationship that was established in 418. However, they soon fell out with their Roman hosts (for reasons that are now obscure) and established their own kingdom with its capital at Toulouse. They next extended their authority into Hispania at the expense of the Suebi and Vandals.

During their governance of Hispania, the Visigoths built several churches that survived, and left many artifacts which have been discovered in increasing numbers by archaeologists in recent years. The Treasure of Guarrazar of votive crowns and crosses are the most spectacular. In 507, however, their rule in Gaul was ended by the Franks under Clovis I (45th great-grandfather), who defeated them in the Battle of Vouillé (killing Alaric II in hand-to-hand combat). After that, the Visigoth kingdom was limited to Hispania, and they never again held territory north of the Pyrenees other than Septimania, where an elite group of Visigoths came to dominate governance, particularly in the Byzantine province of Spania and the Kingdom of the Suebi.

In or around 589, the Visigoths under Reccared I converted from Arianism to Nicene Christianity, gradually adopting the culture of their Hispano-Roman subjects. Their legal code, the Visigothic Code (completed in 654), abolished the longstanding practice of applying different laws for Romans and Visigoths. Once legal distinctions were no longer being made between Romani and Gothi, they became known collectively as Hispani.

In the century that followed, the region was dominated by the Councils of Toledo and the episcopacy, and little else is known about the Visigoths' history. In 711, an invading force of Arabs and Berbers defeated the Visigoths in the Battle of Guadalete. The Visigoth king, Roderic, and many members of their governing elite were killed, and their kingdom rapidly collapsed. This was followed by the subsequent formation of the Kingdom of Asturias in northern Spain and the beginning of the Reconquista by Christian troops under Pelagius.

They founded the only new cities in western Europe from the fall of the Western half of the Roman Empire until the rise of the Carolingian dynasty. Many Visigothic names are still in use in modern Spanish and Portuguese languages. Their most notable legacy, however, was the Visigothic Code, which served, among other things, as the basis for court procedure in most of Christian Iberia until the Late Middle Ages, centuries after the demise of the kingdom.

Nomenclature: Vesi, Tervingi, Visigoths

The Visigoths were never called Visigoths, only Goths, until Cassiodorus used the term, when referring to their loss against Clovis I in 507. Cassiodorus apparently invented the term based on the model of the "Ostrogoths", but using the older name of the Vesi, one of the tribal names which the fifth-century poet Sidonius Apollinaris (1st cousin, 48 generations removed) had already used when referring to the Visigoths. The first part of the Ostrogoth name is related to the word "east", and Jordanes, the medieval writer, later clearly contrasted them in his Getica, stating that "Visigoths were the Goths of the western country." According to Wolfram, Cassiodorus created this east–west understanding of the Goths, which was a simplification and literary device, while political realities were more complex. Cassiodorus used the term "Goths" to refer only to the Ostrogoths, whom he served, and reserved the geographic reference "Visigoths" for the Gallo-Spanish Goths. The term "Visigoths" was later used by the Visigoths themselves in their communications with the Byzantine Empire, and was still in use in the 7th century.

Europe in 305 AD

Two older tribal names from outside the Roman empire are associated with Visigoths who formed within the empire. The first references to any Gothic tribes by Roman and Greek authors were in the third century, notably including the Thervingi, who were once referred to as Goths by Ammianus Marcellinus. Much less is known of the "Vesi" or "Visi", from whom the term "Visigoth" was derived. Before Sidonius Apollinaris, the Vesi were first mentioned in the Notitia Dignitatum, a late-4th-or early-5th-century list of Roman military forces. This list also contains the last mention of the "Thervingi" in a classical source.

Although he did not refer to the Vesi, Tervingi or Greuthungi, Jordanes identified the Visigothic kings from Alaric I (49th Lafón great-granduncle) to Alaric II (3rd cousin, 48 generations removed) as the successors of the fourth-century Thervingian king Athanaric (50th great-grandfather), and the Ostrogoth kings from Theoderic the Great (husband of 45th great-grandaunt) to Theodahad (nephew of husband, of 45th great-grandaunt) as the heirs of the Greuthungi king Ermanaric. Based on this, many scholars have traditionally treated the terms "Vesi" and "Tervingi" as referring to one distinct tribe, while the terms "Ostrogothi" and "Greuthungi" were used to refer to another.

Wolfram, who still recently defends the equation of Vesi with the Tervingi, argues that while primary sources occasionally list all four names (as in, for example, Gruthungi, Austrogothi, Tervingi, Visi), whenever they mention two different tribes, they always refer either to "the Vesi and the Ostrogothi" or to "the Tervingi and the Greuthungi", and they never pair them up in any other combination. In addition, Wolfram interprets the Notitia Dignitatum as equating the Vesi with the Tervingi in a reference to the years 388–391. On the other hand, another recent interpretation of the Notitia is that the two names, Vesi and Tervingi, are found in different places in the list, "a clear indication that we are dealing with two different army units, which must also presumably mean that they are, after all, perceived as two different peoples". Peter Heather has written that Wolfram's position is "entirely arguable, but so is the opposite".


Wolfram believes that "Vesi" and "Ostrogothi" were terms each tribe used to boastfully describe itself and argues that "Tervingi" and "Greuthungi" were geographical identifiers each tribe used to describe the other. This would explain why the latter terms dropped out of use shortly after 400, when the Goths were displaced by the Hunnic invasions. Wolfram believes that the people Zosimus describes were those Tervingi who had remained behind after the Hunnic conquest. For the most part, all of the terms discriminating between different Gothic tribes gradually disappeared after they moved into the Roman Empire.

Many recent scholars, such as Peter Heather, have concluded that Visigothic group identity emerged only within the Roman Empire. Roger Collins also believes that the Visigothic identity emerged from the Gothic War of 376–382 when a collection of Tervingi, Greuthungi and other "barbarian" contingents banded together in multiethnic foederati (Wolfram's "federate armies") under Alaric I in the eastern Balkans, since they had become a multi ethnic group and could no longer claim to be exclusively Tervingian.

Other names for other Gothic divisions abounded. In 469, the Visigoths were called the "Alaric Goths". The Frankish Table of Nations, probably of Byzantine or Italian origin, referred to one of the two peoples as the Walagothi, meaning "Roman Goths" (from Germanic *walhaz, foreign). This probably refers to the Romanized Visigoths after their entry into Spain. Landolfus Sagax, writing in the 10th or 11th century, calls the Visigoths the Hypogothi.

Etymology of Tervingi and Vesi/Visigothi

The name Tervingi may mean "forest people", with the first part of the name related to Gothic triu, and English "tree". This is supported by evidence that geographic

descriptors were commonly used to distinguish people living north of the Black Sea both before and after Gothic settlement there, by evidence of forest-related names among the Tervingi, and by the lack of evidence for an earlier date for the name pair Tervingi–Greuthungi than the late third century. That the name Tervingi has pre-Pontic, possibly Scandinavian, origins still has support today.

The Visigoths are called Wesi or Wisi by Trebellius Pollio, Claudian and Sidonius Apollinaris. The word is Gothic for "good", implying the "good or worthy people", related to Gothic iusiza "better" and a reflex of Indo-European *wesu "good", akin to Welsh gwiw "excellent", Greek eus "good", Sanskrit vásu-ş "id.". Jordanes relates the tribe's name to a river, though this is probably a folk etymology or legend like his similar story about the Greuthung name.

Early origins

The Visigoths emerged from the Gothic tribes, probably a derivative name for the Gutones, a people believed to have their origins in Scandinavia and who migrated southeastwards into eastern Europe. Such understanding of their origins is largely the result of Gothic traditions and their true genesis as a people is as obscure as that of the Franks and Alamanni. The Visigoths spoke an eastern Germanic language that was distinct by the 4th century. Eventually the Gothic language died as a result of contact with other European people during the Middle Ages.

Long struggles between the neighboring Vandili and Lugii people with the Goths may have contributed to their earlier exodus into mainland Europe. The vast majority of them settled between the Oder and Vistula rivers until overpopulation (according to Gothic legends or tribal sagas) forced them to move south and east, where they settled just north of the Black Sea. However, this legend is not supported by archaeological evidence so its validity is disputable. Historian Malcolm Todd contends that while this large en masse migration is possible, the movement of Gothic peoples south-east was probably the result of warrior bands moving closer to the wealth of Ukraine and the cities of the Black Sea coast. Perhaps what is most notable about the Gothic people in this regard was that by the middle of the third century AD, they were "the most formidable military power beyond the lower Danube frontier".

Contact with Rome

Throughout the 3rd and 4th centuries there were numerous conflicts and exchanges of varying types between the Goths and their neighbors. After the Romans withdrew from the territory of Dacia, the local population was subjected to constant invasions by the migratory tribes, among the first being the Goths. In 238, the Goths invaded across the Danube into the Roman province of Moesia, pillaging and exacting payment through hostage taking. During the war with the Persians that year, Goths also appeared in the Roman armies of Gordian III (53rd great-grandfather). When subsidies to the Goths were stopped, the Goths organized and in 250 joined a major barbarian invasion led by the Germanic king, Kniva. Success on the battlefield against the Romans inspired additional invasions into the northern Balkans and deeper into Anatolia. Starting in approximately 255, the Goths added a new dimension to their attacks by taking to the sea and invading harbors which brought them into conflict with the Greeks as well. When the city of Pityus fell to the Goths in 256, the Goths were further emboldened. Sometime between 266 and 267, the Goths raided Greece but when they attempted to move into the Bosporus straits to attack Byzantium, they were repulsed. Along with other Germanic tribes, they attacked further into Anatolia, assaulting Crete and Cyprus on the way; shortly thereafter, they pillaged Troy and the temple of Artemis at Ephesus. Throughout the reign of emperor Constantine the Great (53rd great-granduncle), the Visigoths continued to conduct raids on Roman territory south of the Danube River. By 332, relations between the Goths and Romans were stabilized by a treaty but this was not to last.

War with Rome (376–382)

The Goths remained in Dacia until 376, when one of their leaders, Fritigern, appealed to the Roman emperor Valens (uncle of wife of 55th great-grandfather) to be allowed to settle with his people on the south bank of the Danube. Here, they hoped to find refuge from the Huns. Valens permitted this, as he saw in them "a splendid recruiting ground for his army". However, a famine broke out and Rome was unwilling to supply them with either the food they were promised or the land. Generally, the Goths were abused by the Romans, who began forcing the now starving Goths to trade away their children so as to stave off starvation. Open revolt ensued, leading to 6 years of plundering throughout the Balkans, the death of a Roman Emperor and a disastrous defeat of the Roman army.

The Battle of Adrianople in 378 was the decisive moment of the war. The Roman forces were slaughtered and the Emperor Valens was killed during the fighting. Precisely how Valens fell remains uncertain but Gothic legend tells of how the emperor was taken to a farmhouse, which was set on fire above his head, a tale made more popular by its symbolic representation of a heretical emperor receiving hell's torment. Many of Rome's leading officers and some of their most elite fighting men died during the battle which struck a major blow to Roman prestige and the Empire's military capabilities. Adrianople shocked the Roman world and eventually forced the Romans to negotiate with and settle the tribe within the empire's boundaries, a development with far-reaching consequences for the eventual fall of Rome. Fourth-century Roman soldier and historian Ammianus Marcellinus ended his chronology of Roman history with this battle.

'Sack of Rome by the Visigoths on 24 August 410' by JN Sylvestre 1890

Despite the severe consequences for Rome, Adrianople was not nearly as productive overall for the Visigoths and their gains were short-lived. Still confined to a small and relatively impoverished province of the Empire, another Roman army was being gathered against them, an army which also had amid its ranks other disaffected Goths. Intense campaigns against the Visigoths followed their victory at Adrianople for upwards of three years. Approach routes across the Danube provinces were effectively sealed off by concerted Roman efforts, and while there was no decisive victory to claim, it was essentially a Roman triumph ending in a treaty in 382. The treaty struck with the Goths was to be the first foedus on imperial Roman soil. It required these semi-autonomous Germanic tribes to raise troops for the Roman army in exchange for arable land and freedom from Roman legal structures within the Empire.

Reign of Alaric I

An illustration of Alaric entering Athens in 395

The new emperor, Theodosius I (53rd great-grandfather), made peace with the rebels, and this peace held essentially unbroken until Theodosius died in 395. In that year, the Visigoths' most famous king, Alaric I, made a bid for the throne, but controversy and intrigue erupted between the East and West, as General Stilicho (husband of 51st great-grandaunt Serena Arcadia) tried to maintain his position in the empire. Theodosius was succeeded by his incompetent sons: Arcadius (52nd great-grandfather) in the east and Honorius (1st cousin, 49 generations removed), in the west. In 397, Alaric was named military commander of the eastern Illyrian prefecture by Arcadius.

Over the next 15 years, an uneasy peace was broken by occasional conflicts between Alaric and the powerful Germanic generals who commanded the Roman armies in the east and west, wielding the real power of the empire. Finally, after the western general Stilicho was executed by Honorius in 408 and the Roman legions massacred the families of thousands of barbarian soldiers who were trying to assimilate into the Roman empire, Alaric decided to march on Rome. After two defeats in Northern Italy and a siege of Rome ended by a negotiated pay-off, Alaric was cheated by another Roman faction. He resolved to cut the city off by capturing its port. On August 24, 410, however, Alaric's troops entered Rome through the Salarian Gate, and sacked the city. However, Rome, while still the official capital, was no longer the de facto seat of the government of the Western Roman Empire. From the late 370s up to 402, Milan was the seat of government, but after the siege of Milan the Imperial Court moved to Ravenna in 402. Honorius visited Rome often, and after his death in 423 the emperors resided mostly there. Rome's fall severely shook the Empire's confidence, especially in the West. Loaded with booty, Alaric and the Visigoths extracted as much as they could with the intention of leaving Italy from Basilicata to northern Africa. Alaric died before the disembarkation and was buried supposedly near the ruins of Crotone (next to present day Cosenza, Calabria), under the Busento River. He was succeeded by his wife's brother, Athaulf (49th great-grandfather of Raoul Ortiz Lafón).

Death of Alaric; Visigoth tradition had their kings buried under diverted rivers to prevent graves being plundered.

Visigothic Kingdom

Europe at the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD

The Visigothic Kingdom was a Western European power in the 5th to 8th centuries, created first in Gaul, when the Romans lost their control of the western half of their empire and then in Hispania until 711. For a brief period, the Visigoths controlled the strongest kingdom in Western Europe. In response to the invasion of Roman Hispania of 409 by the Vandals, Alans and Suebi, Honorius, the emperor in the West, enlisted the aid of the Visigoths to regain control of the territory. From 408 to 410 the Visigoths caused so much damage to Rome and the immediate periphery that nearly a decade later, the provinces in and around the city were only able to contribute one-seventh of their previous tax shares.

In 418, Honorius rewarded his Visigothic federates by giving them land in Gallia Aquitania on which to settle after they had attacked the four tribes—Suebi, Asding and Siling Vandals, as well as Alans—who had crossed the Rhine near Mogontiacum (modern Mainz) the last day of 406 and eventually were invited into Spain by a Roman usurper in the autumn of 409 (the latter two tribes were devastated). This was probably done under hospitalitas, the rules for billeting army soldiers. The settlement formed the nucleus of the future Visigothic kingdom that would eventually expand across the Pyrenees and onto the Iberian peninsula. That Visigothic settlement proved paramount to Europe's future as had it not been for the Visigothic warriors who fought side by side with the Roman troops under general Flavius Aetius, it is perhaps possible that Attila (husband of 50th great-grandaunt Justa Gratia Honoria) would have seized control of Gaul, rather than the Romans being able to retain dominance.

The Visigoths' second great king, Euric (2nd cousin 49 generations removed), unified the various quarreling factions among the Visigoths and, in 475, concluded the peace treaty with the emperor Julius Nepos. In the treaty the emperor was called a friend (amicus) to the Visigoths, while requiring them to address him as lord (dominus). Though the emperor did not legally recognize Gothic sovereignty, according to some views under this treaty the Visigothic kingdom became an independent kingdom. Between 471 and 476, Euric captured most of southern Gaul. According to historian J. B. Bury, Euric was probably the "greatest of the Visigothic kings" for he managed to secure territorial gains denied to his predecessors and even acquired access to the Mediterranean Sea. At his death, the Visigoths were the most powerful of the successor states to the Western Roman Empire and were at the very height of their power. Not only had Euric secured significant territory, he and his son, Alaric II, who succeeded him, adopted Roman administrative and bureaucratic governance, including Rome's tax gathering policies and legal codes.

Greatest extent of the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse in light and dark orange, c. 500. From 585 to 711 Visigothic Kingdom of Toledo in dark orange, green and white (Hispania)

At this point, the Visigoths were also the dominant power in the Iberian Peninsula, quickly crushing the Alans and forcing the Vandals into north Africa. By 500, the Visigothic Kingdom, centred at Toulouse, controlled Aquitania and Gallia Narbonensis and most of Hispania with the exception of the Kingdom of the Suebi in the northwest and small areas controlled by the Basques and Cantabrians. Any survey of western Europe taken during this moment would have led one to conclude that the very future of Europe itself "depended on the Visigoths". However, in 507, the Franks under Clovis I defeated the Visigoths in the Battle of Vouillé and wrested control of Aquitaine. King Alaric II was killed in battle. French national myths romanticize this moment as the time when a previously divided Gaul morphed into the united kingdom of Francia under Clovis.

Visigothic power throughout Gaul was not lost in its entirety due to the support from the powerful Ostrogothic king in Italy, Theodoric the Great, whose forces pushed Clovis I and his armies out of Visigothic territories. Theodoric the Great's assistance was not some expression of ethnic altruism, but formed part of his plan to extend his power across Spain and its associated lands.

After Alaric II's death, Visigothic nobles spirited his heir, the child-king Amalaric (4th cousin, 47 generations removed), first to Narbonne, which was the last Gothic outpost in Gaul, and further across the Pyrenees into Hispania. The center of Visigothic rule shifted first to Barcelona, then inland and south to Toledo. From 511 to 526, the Visigoths were ruled by Theoderic the Great of the Ostrogoths as de jure regent for the young Amalaric. Theodoric's death in 526, however, enabled the Visigoths to restore their royal line and re-partition the Visigothic kingdom through Amalaric, who incidentally, was more than just Alaric II's son; he was also the grandson of Theodoric the Great through his daughter Theodegotho. Amalaric reigned independently for five years. Following Amalaric's assassination in 531, another Ostrogothic ruler, Theudis took his place. For the next seventeen years, Theudis held the Visigothic throne.

Sometime in 549, the Visigoth Athanagild sought military assistance from Justinian I (husband of mother-in-law of 1st cousin 48x removed)  and while this aide helped Athanagild win his wars, the Romans had much more in mind. Granada and southernmost Baetica were lost to representatives of the Byzantine Empire (to form the province of Spania) who had been invited in to help settle this Visigothic dynastic struggle, but who stayed on, as a hoped-for spearhead to a "Reconquest" of the far west envisaged by emperor Justinian I. Imperial Roman armies took advantage of Visigothic rivalries and established a government at Córdoba.

Visigothic Hispania and its regional divisions in 700, before the Muslim conquest

The last Arian Visigothic king, Liuvigild, conquered most of the northern regions (Cantabria) in 574, the Suevic kingdom in 584, and regained part of the southern areas lost to the Byzantines, which King Suintila recovered in 624. Suintila reigned until 631. Only one historical source was written between the years 625 through 711, which comes from Julian of Toledo and only deals with the years 672 and 673. Wamba was the king of the Visigoths from 672 to 680. During his reign, the Visigothic kingdom encompassed all of Hispania and part of southern Gaul known as Septimania. Wamba was succeeded by King Ervig, whose rule lasted until 687. Collins observes that "Ervig proclaimed Egica as his chosen successor" on 14 November 687. In 700, Egica's son Wittiza followed him on the throne according to the Chronica Regum Visigothorum.

The kingdom survived until 711, when King Roderic (Rodrigo) was killed while opposing an invasion from the south by the Umayyad Caliphate in the Battle of Guadalete. This marked the beginning of the Umayyad conquest of Hispania, when most of Spain came under Islamic rule in the early 8th century.

A Visigothic nobleman, Pelayo, is credited with beginning the Christian Reconquista of Iberia in 718, when he defeated the Umayyad forces in the Battle of Covadonga and established the Kingdom of Asturias in the northern part of the peninsula. According to Joseph F. O'Callaghan, the remnants of the Hispano-Gothic aristocracy still played an important role in the society of Hispania. At the end of Visigothic rule, the assimilation of Hispano-Romans and Visigoths was occurring at a fast pace. Their nobility had begun to think of themselves as constituting one people, the gens Gothorum or the Hispani. An unknown number of them fled and took refuge in Asturias or Septimania. In Asturias they supported Pelagius's uprising, and joining with the indigenous leaders, formed a new aristocracy. The population of the mountain region consisted of native Astures, Galicians, Cantabri, Basques and other groups unassimilated into Hispano-Gothic society. Other Visigoths who refused to adopt the Muslim faith or live under their rule, fled north to the kingdom of the Franks, and Visigoths played key roles in the empire of Charlemagne a few generations later. In the early years of the Emirate of Córdoba, a group of Visigoths who remained under Muslim dominance constituted the personal bodyguard of the Emir, al-Haras.

During their long reign in Spain, the Visigoths were responsible for the only new cities founded in Western Europe between the 5th and 8th centuries. It is certain (through contemporary Spanish accounts) that they founded four: Reccopolis, Victoriacum (modern Vitoria-Gasteiz, though perhaps Iruña-Veleia), Luceo and Olite. There is also a possible 5th city ascribed to them by a later Arabic source: Baiyara (perhaps modern Montoro). All of these cities were founded for military purposes and three of them in celebration of victory. Despite the fact that the Visigoths reigned in Spain for upwards of 250 years, there are few remnants of the Gothic language borrowed into Spanish. The Visigoths as heirs of the Roman empire lost their language and intermarried with the Hispano-Roman population of Spain.

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The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. During most of its existence, the empire remained the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe. The terms 'Byzantine Empire' and 'Eastern Roman Empire' were coined after the end of the realm; its citizens continued to refer to their empire simply as the Roman Empire, and to themselves as 'Romans' —a term which Greeks continued to use for themselves into Ottoman times. Although the Roman state continued and its traditions were maintained, modern historians distinguish Byzantium from its earlier incarnation because it was centered on Constantinople, oriented towards Greek rather than Latin culture, and characterised by Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

The empire in 555 under Justinian the Great, at its greatest extent since the fall of the Western Roman Empire (its vassals in pink)

Several events from the 4th to 6th centuries mark the period of transition during which the Roman Empire's Greek East and Latin West diverged. Constantine I (53rd great-granduncle of Raoul Ortiz Lafón r. 324–337) reorganised the empire, made Constantinople the capital and legalised Christianity. Under Theodosius I (53rd great grandfather r. 379–395), Christianity became the state religion, and other religious practices were proscribed. In the reign of Heraclius (44th great-grandfather r. 610–641), the empire's military and administration were restructured, and Greek was gradually adopted for official use in place of Latin. The borders of the empire fluctuated through several cycles of decline and recovery. During the reign of Justinian I (husband of mother-in-law of 1st cousin 48 generations removed r. 527–565), the empire reached its greatest extent after re-conquering much of the historically Roman western Mediterranean coast, including Africa, Italy and Rome, which it held for two more centuries. The Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628 exhausted the empire's resources, and during the early Muslim conquests of the 7th century, it lost its richest provinces, Egypt and Syria, to the Rashidun Caliphate. It then lost Africa to the Umayyads in 698, before the empire was rescued by the Isaurian dynasty.

During the Macedonian dynasty (9th–11th centuries), the empire expanded again and experienced the two-century long Macedonian Renaissance, which came to an end with the defeat by Seljuk Turks at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. Civil wars and the ensuing Seljuk invasion led to the loss of most of Asia Minor. The empire recovered during the Komnenian restoration, and by the 12th century, Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest city in Europe. The empire was delivered a mortal blow during the Fourth Crusade, when Constantinople was sacked in 1204 and the territories that the empire formerly governed were divided into competing Byzantine Greek and Latin realms. Despite the eventual recovery of Constantinople in 1261, the Byzantine Empire remained only one of several small rival states in the area for the final two centuries of its existence. Its remaining territories were progressively annexed by the Ottomans in the Byzantine–Ottoman wars over the 14th and 15th centuries. The fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453 marked the end of the Byzantine Empire. Refugees fleeing the city after its capture would settle in Italy and other parts of Europe, helping to ignite the Renaissance. The Empire of Trebizond was conquered eight years later, when its eponymous capital surrendered to Ottoman forces after it was besieged in 1461. The last of the Byzantine successor states, the Principality of Theodoro, was conquered by the Ottomans in 1475.

Early history

Constantine the Great (53rd great-granduncle) was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity and moved the seat of the empire to Byzantium, renamed Constantinople in his honour.

By the third century AD, the Roman army had conquered many territories covering the Mediterranean region and coastal regions in southwestern Europe and North Africa. These territories were home to many different cultural groups, both urban populations, and rural populations. Generally speaking, the eastern Mediterranean provinces were more urbanised than the western, having previously been united under the Macedonian Empire and Hellenized by the influence of Greek culture.

The West also suffered more heavily from the instability of the 3rd century. This distinction between the established Hellenized East and the younger Latinized West persisted and became increasingly important in later centuries, leading to a gradual estrangement of the two worlds. An early instance of the partition of the empire into East and West occurred in 286, when Emperor Diocletian (maternal grandfather of wife of 51st great-granduncle) appointed Maximian (husband of 52nd great-grandmother) as Augustus of the West. Just a few years later, in 293, Diocletian created the administrative system known as the Tetrarchy to guarantee security in all endangered regions of his empire. The empire was split into two halves, each ruled by one emperor (augustus). Each co-emperor then appointed a young colleague as caesar to share power and eventually to succeed the senior partner. Each tetrarch was in charge of a part of the empire, with the divisions based on geographic regions. This new system only lasted 20 years, as emperors quickly began fighting each other for power. The whole empire was eventually reunited by Constantine the Great in 324.

Christianisation and partition of the empire

Restored section of the Walls of Constantinople

After the death of Theodosius I in 395, the empire was again divided. The west disintegrated in the late 400s while the east ended with the fall of Constantinople in 1453.
(Green) The Western Roman Empire
(Red)The Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire

In 330, Constantine moved the seat of the empire to Constantinople, which he founded as a second Rome on the site of Byzantium, a city strategically located on the trade routes between Europe and Asia and between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Constantine introduced substantial changes to the empire's military, monetary, civil and religious institutions. In regards to his economic policies he has been accused by certain scholars of "reckless fiscality", but the gold solidus he introduced became a stable currency that transformed the economy and promoted development.

Under Constantine, Christianity did not become the exclusive religion of the state but enjoyed imperial preference since he supported it with generous privileges. Constantine established the principle that emperors could not settle questions of doctrine on their own but should instead summon general ecclesiastical councils for that purpose. His convening of both the Synod of Arles and the First Council of Nicaea indicated his interest in the unity of the Church and showcased his claim to be its head. The rise of Christianity was briefly interrupted on the accession of the emperor Julian (2nd cousin, 51 generations removed) in 361, who made a determined effort to restore polytheism throughout the empire and was thus dubbed "Julian the Apostate" by the Church. However, this was reversed when Julian was killed in battle in 363.

Theodosius I (53rd great-grandfather r. 379–395) was the last emperor to rule both the Eastern and Western halves of the empire. In 391 and 392 he issued a series of edicts essentially banning pagan religion. Pagan festivals and sacrifices were banned, as was access to all pagan temples and places of worship. The last Olympic Games are believed to have been held in 393. In 395, Theodosius I bequeathed the imperial office jointly to his sons: Arcadius in the East and Honorius in the West, once again dividing imperial administration. In the 5th century, the Eastern part of the empire was largely spared the difficulties faced by the West—due in part to a more established urban culture and greater financial resources, which allowed it to placate invaders with tribute and pay foreign mercenaries. This success allowed Theodosius II (51st great-grandfather) to focus on codifying Roman law with the Codex Theodosianus and further fortification of the walls of Constantinople, which left the city impervious to most attacks until 1204.

To fend off the Huns, Theodosius had to pay an enormous annual tribute to Attila (husband of 50th great-grandaunt). His successor, Marcian (husband of 51st great-grandaunt), refused to continue to pay the tribute, but Attila had already diverted his attention to the Western Roman Empire. After Attila's death in 453, the Hun Empire collapsed, and many of the remaining Huns were often hired as mercenaries by Constantinople.

Loss of the Western Roman Empire

After the fall of Attila, the Eastern Empire enjoyed a period of peace, while the Western Empire continued to deteriorate with the expanding migration and invasions of the barbarians, most prominently the Germanic nations. The West's end is usually dated 476 when the East Germanic Roman foederati general Odoacer deposed the Western Emperor Romulus Augustulus, a year after the latter usurped the position from Julius Nepos. In 480 with the death of Nepos, Eastern Emperor Zeno (father-in-law of 45th great-grandmother) became sole claimant to emperor of the empire. Odoacer became King of Italy and was nominally Zeno's subordinate but acted with complete autonomy, eventually providing support to a rebellion against the emperor.

Zeno negotiated with the invading Ostrogoths, who had settled in Moesia, convincing the Gothic king Theodoric (husband of 45th great-grandaunt) to depart for Italy as magister militum per Italiam ("commander in chief for Italy") to depose Odoacer. By urging Theodoric to conquer Italy, Zeno rid the Eastern Empire of an unruly subordinate (Odoacer) and moved another (Theodoric) further from the heart of the empire. After Odoacer's defeat in 493, Theodoric ruled Italy de facto, although he was never recognised by the eastern emperors as "king" (rex).

In 491, Anastasius I (48th great-granduncle), an aged civil officer of Roman origin, became emperor, but it was not until 497 that the forces of Anastasius effectively took the measure of Isaurian resistance. Anastasius revealed himself as an energetic reformer and an able administrator. He introduced a new coinage system of the copper follis, the coin used in most everyday transactions. He also reformed the tax system and permanently abolished the chrysargyron tax. The state treasury contained the enormous sum of 320,000 lb (150,000 kg) of gold when Anastasius died in 518 (roughly worth US$8.3 billion today).

Justinian dynasty

Justinian 'The Great' (husband of Empress Theodora who was mother-in-law of 1st Lafón cousin Anastasius Paulus Probus Sabinianus Pompeius de Byzantium, 48 generations removed).

General Flavius Belisarius (father-in-law of 2nd Lafón cousin 47x removed, Flavius Anastasius. Anastasius was the son of Sabinianus Pompeius mentioned above)(Mosaic from Basilica of San Vitale, 6th century).

Empress Theodora (mother-in-law of 1st cousin Sabinianus Pompeius mentioned above) and attendants (Mosaic from Basilica of San Vitale, 6th century).

Hagia Sophia built in 537, during the reign of Justinian. The minarets were added in the 15th–16th centuries by the Ottoman Empire.

The Byzantine Empire in c. 600 during the reign of Maurice. Half of the Italian peninsula and most of southern Hispania were lost, but the eastern borders expanded, gaining land from the Persians.

The Justinian dynasty was founded by Justin I (father-in-law of mother-in-law of 1st cousin 48x removed), who though illiterate, rose through the ranks of the Byzantine army to become emperor in 518. He was succeeded by his nephew Justinian I in 527, who may already have exerted effective control during Justin's reign. One of the most important figures of late antiquity and possibly the last Roman emperor to speak Latin as a first language, Justinian's rule constitutes a distinct epoch, marked by the ambitious but only partly realised renovatio imperii, or "restoration of the empire". Justinian's wife Theodora was particularly influential.

In 529, Justinian appointed a ten-man commission chaired by John the Cappadocian (husband of stepdaughter of 2nd cousin 45x removed) to revise Roman law and create a new codification of laws and jurists' extracts, known as the "Corpus Juris Civilis", or the Justinian Code. In 534, the Corpus was updated and, along with the enactments promulgated by Justinian after 534, formed the system of law used for most of the rest of the Byzantine era. The Corpus forms the basis of civil law of many modern states.

In 532, attempting to secure his eastern frontier, Justinian signed a peace treaty with Khosrau I of Persia (12th cousin, 48 generations removed), agreeing to pay a large annual tribute to the Sassanids. In the same year, he survived a revolt in Constantinople (the Nika riots), which solidified his power but ended with the deaths of a reported 30,000 to 35,000 rioters on his orders. The western conquests began in 533, as Justinian sent his general Belisarius (father-in-law of 2nd Lafón cousin 47x removed) to reclaim the former province of Africa from the Vandals, who had been in control since 429 with their capital at Carthage. Success in the war came with surprising ease, but it was not until 548 that the major local tribes were subdued.

In 535, a small Byzantine expedition to Sicily met with easy success, but the Goths stiffened their resistance, and victory did not come until 540 when Belisarius captured Ravenna, after successful sieges of Naples and Rome. In 535–536, Ostrogoth King Theodahad sent Pope Agapetus I to Constantinople to request the removal of Byzantine forces from Sicily, Dalmatia, and Italy. Although Agapetus failed in his mission to sign a peace with Justinian, he succeeded in having the monophysite Patriarch Anthimus I denounced at the Council of Constantinople, despite Empress Theodora's support and protection.

The Ostrogoths captured Rome in 546. Belisarius, who had been sent back to Italy in 544, was eventually recalled to Constantinople in 549. The arrival of the Armenian eunuch Narses in Italy (late 551) with an army of 35,000 men marked another shift in Gothic fortunes. Ostrogoth King Totila was defeated at the Battle of Taginae, and his successor Teia was defeated at the Battle of Mons Lactarius in October 552. Despite continuing resistance from a few Gothic garrisons and two subsequent invasions by the Franks and Alemanni, the war for the Italian peninsula was at an end. In 551, Athanagild, a noble from Visigothic Hispania, sought Justinian's help in a rebellion against the king, and the emperor dispatched a force under Liberius, a successful military commander. The empire held on to a small slice of the Iberian Peninsula coast until the reign of Heraclius (44th great-grandfather of Ortiz Lafón).

In the east, the Roman–Persian Wars continued until 561 when the envoys of Justinian and Khosrau agreed on a 50-year peace. By the mid-550s, Justinian had won victories in most theatres of operation, with the notable exception of the Balkans, which were subjected to repeated incursions from the Slavs and the Gepids. Tribes of Serbs and Croats were later resettled in the northwestern Balkans, during the reign of Heraclius. Justinian called Belisarius out of retirement and defeated the new Hunnish threat. The strengthening of the Danube fleet caused the Kutrigur Huns to withdraw, and they agreed to a treaty that allowed safe passage back across the Danube.

Although polytheism had been suppressed by the state since at least the time of Theodosius I in the 4th century, traditional Greco-Roman culture was still influential in the Eastern empire in the 6th century. Hellenistic philosophy began to be gradually amalgamated into newer Christian philosophy. Philosophers such as John Philoponus drew on neoplatonic ideas in addition to Christian thought and empiricism. Because of the active paganism of its professors, Justinian closed down the Neoplatonic Academy in 529. Other schools continued in Constantinople, Antioch and Alexandria, which were the centres of Justinian's empire. Hymns written by Romanos the Melodist marked the development of the Divine Liturgy, while the architects Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles worked to complete the Church of the Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia, which was designed to replace an older church destroyed during the Nika Revolt. Completed in 537, the Hagia Sophia stands today as one of the major monuments of Byzantine architectural history. During the 6th and 7th centuries, the empire was struck by a series of epidemics, which devastated the population and contributed to a significant economic decline and a weakening of the empire. Great bathhouses were built in Byzantine centres such as Constantinople and Antioch.

After Justinian died in 565, his successor, Justin II (brother-in-law of 45th great-grandfather) refused to pay the large tribute to the Persians. Meanwhile, the Germanic Lombards invaded Italy; by the end of the century, only a third of Italy was in Byzantine hands. Justin II's successor, Tiberius II (father-in-law of 3rd cousin, 44x removed), choosing between his enemies, awarded subsidies to the Avars while taking military action against the Persians. Although Tiberius' general, Maurice (father-in-law of 4th cousin, 44x removed), led an effective campaign on the eastern frontier, subsidies failed to restrain the Avars, who captured the Balkan fortress of Sirmium in 582, while the Slavs began to make inroads across the Danube.

Maurice succeeded Tiberius and intervened in a Persian civil war, placing the legitimate Khosrau II (14th cousin, 46 generations removed) back on the throne, and married his daughter Maryam (wife of 14th cousin) to him. Maurice's treaty with his son-in-law enlarged the territories of the empire to the East and allowed the energetic emperor to focus on the Balkans. By 602, a series of successful Byzantine campaigns had pushed the Avars and Slavs back across the Danube. However, Maurice's refusal to ransom several thousand captives taken by the Avars, and his order to the troops to winter in the Danube, caused his popularity to plummet. A revolt broke out under an officer named Phocas, who marched the troops back to Constantinople; Maurice and his family were murdered while trying to escape.

Shrinking borders

Early Heraclian dynasty

Battle between Heraclius and the Persians. Fresco by Piero della Francesca, c. 1452

By 650 (pictured) the empire had lost all its southern provinces, except the Exarchate of Africa, to the Rashidun Caliphate. At the same time the Slavs invaded and settled in the Balkans.

After Maurice's murder by Phocas, Khosrau used the pretext to reconquer the Roman province of Mesopotamia. Phocas, an unpopular ruler invariably described in Byzantine sources as a "tyrant", was the target of a number of Senate-led plots. He was eventually deposed in 610 by Heraclius, who sailed to Constantinople from Carthage with an icon affixed to the prow of his ship.

Following the accession of Heraclius, the Sassanid advance pushed deep into the Levant, occupying Damascus and Jerusalem and removing the True Cross to Ctesiphon. The counter-attack launched by Heraclius took on the character of a holy war, and an acheiropoieton image of Christ was carried as a military standard (similarly, when Constantinople was saved from a combined Avar–Sassanid–Slavic siege in 626, the victory was attributed to the icons of the Virgin that were led in procession by Patriarch Sergius about the walls of the city). The combined forces unsuccessfully besieged the capital between June and July. After this, the Sassanid army was forced to withdraw to Anatolia. The loss came just after news had reached them of yet another Byzantine victory, where Heraclius's brother Theodore (44th great-granduncle) heavily defeated the Persian general Shahin. Following this, Heraclius led an invasion into Sassanid Mesopotamia once again.

The main Sassanid force was destroyed at Nineveh in 627, and in 629 Heraclius restored the True Cross to Jerusalem in a majestic ceremony, as he marched into the Sassanid capital of Ctesiphon, where anarchy and civil war reigned as a result of the enduring war. Eventually, the Persians were obliged to withdraw all armed forces and return Sassanid-ruled Egypt, the Levant and whatever imperial territories of Mesopotamia and Armenia were in Roman hands at the time of an earlier peace treaty in c. 595. The war had exhausted both the Byzantines and Sassanids, however, and left them extremely vulnerable to the Muslim forces that emerged in the following years. The Byzantines suffered a crushing defeat by the Arabs at the Battle of Yarmouk in 636, while Ctesiphon fell to the Rashidun Caliphate in 637.

First Arab siege of Constantinople (674–678) and the theme system

Greek fire was first used by the Byzantine Navy during the Byzantine–Arab Wars (from the Madrid Skylitzes, Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid).

The Arabs, firmly in control of Syria and the Levant, sent frequent raiding parties deep into Asia Minor, and in 674–678 laid siege to Constantinople. The Arab fleet was finally repulsed through the use of Greek fire, and a thirty-years' truce was signed between the empire and the Umayyad Caliphate. However, the Anatolian raids continued unabated and accelerated the demise of classical urban culture, with the inhabitants of many cities either refortifying much smaller areas within the old city walls or relocating entirely to nearby fortresses. Constantinople shrank substantially from 500,000 inhabitants to just 40,000–70,000, and, like other urban centres, it was partly ruralised. The city also lost the free grain shipments in 618, after Egypt fell first to the Persians and then to the Arabs, and public wheat distribution ceased.

The void left by the disappearance of the old semi-autonomous civic institutions was filled by the system called theme, which entailed dividing Asia Minor into "provinces" occupied by distinct armies that assumed civil authority and answered directly to the imperial administration. This system may have had its roots in certain ad hoc measures taken by Heraclius, but over the course of the 7th century it developed into an entirely new system of imperial governance. The massive cultural and institutional restructuring of the empire consequent on the loss of territory in the 7th century has been said to have caused a decisive break in east Mediterranean Romanness, and that the Byzantine state is subsequently best understood as another successor state rather than a real continuation of the Roman Empire.

Late Heraclian dynasty

Constantine IV (41st Lafón great-grandfather) and his retinue, mosaic in Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe. Constantine IV defeated the First Arab siege of Constantinople.

The withdrawal of large numbers of troops from the Balkans to combat the Persians and then the Arabs in the east opened the door for the gradual southward expansion of Slavic peoples into the peninsula, and, as in Asia Minor, many cities shrank to small fortified settlements. In the 670s, the Bulgars were pushed south of the Danube by the arrival of the Khazars. In 680, Byzantine forces sent to disperse these new settlements were defeated.
In 681, Constantine IV (41st great-grandfather) signed a treaty with the Bulgar Khan Asparukh (40th great-grandfather), and the new Bulgarian state assumed sovereignty over several Slavic tribes that had previously, at least in name, recognized Byzantine rule. In 687–688, the final Heraclian emperor, Justinian II (40th great-grandfather), led an expedition against the Slavs and Bulgarians and made significant gains, although the fact that he had to fight his way from Thrace to Macedonia demonstrates the degree to which Byzantine power in the north Balkans had declined.

Justinian II attempted to break the power of the urban aristocracy through severe taxation and the appointment of "outsiders" to administrative posts. He was driven from power in 695 and took shelter first with the Khazars and then with the Bulgarians. In 705, he returned to Constantinople with the armies of the Bulgarian Khan Tervel (39th great-grandfather), retook the throne and instituted a reign of terror against his enemies. With his final overthrow in 711, supported once more by the urban aristocracy, the Heraclian dynasty came to an end.

Second Arab siege of Constantinople (717–718) and the Isaurian dynasty

The Byzantine Empire at the accession of Leo III, c. 717. Striped indicates areas raided by the Umayyads.

Gold solidus of Leo III (left), and his son and heir, Constantine V (right)

In 717 the Umayyad Caliphate launched a siege on Constantinople which lasted for one year. However, the combination of Leo III the Isaurian's (great-grandfather of husband of 37th great-grandaunt) military genius, the Byzantines' use of Greek fire, a cold winter in 717–718, and Byzantine diplomacy with the Khan Tervel of Bulgaria resulted in a Byzantine victory. After Leo III turned back the Muslim assault in 718, he addressed himself to the task of reorganising and consolidating the themes in Asia Minor. In 740 a major Byzantine victory took place at the Battle of Akroinon where the Byzantines destroyed the Umayyad army.


Constantine V

Constantine V (paternal grandfather of husband of 35th great-grandaunt) won noteworthy victories in northern Syria and also thoroughly undermined Bulgarian strength. In 746, profiting by the unstable conditions in the Umayyad Caliphate, which was falling apart under Marwan II, Constantine V invaded Syria and captured Germanikeia, and the Battle of Keramaia resulted in a major Byzantine naval victory over the Umayyad fleet. Coupled with military defeats on other fronts of the caliphate and internal instability, Umayyad expansion came to an end.

Religious dispute over iconoclasm

A Simple Cross: An example of Iconoclast art in the Hagia Irene Church in Istanbul.

The 8th and early 9th centuries were also dominated by controversy and religious division over Iconoclasm, which was the main political issue in the empire for over a century. Icons (here meaning all forms of religious imagery) were banned by Leo and Constantine from around 730, leading to revolts by iconodules (supporters of icons) throughout the empire. After the efforts of Empress Irene, the Second Council of Nicaea met in 787 and affirmed that icons could be venerated but not worshipped. Irene (mother-in-law of 35th great-grandaunt) is said to have endeavoured to negotiate a marriage between herself and Charlemagne, but according to Theophanes the Confessor the scheme was frustrated by Aetios, one of her advisors.

'May we see it with the icons BACK, please.....' (photograph by the author)

In the early 9th century, Leo V (husband of 37th great-grandaunt) reintroduced the policy of iconoclasm, but in 843 Empress Theodora (34th great-grandmother) restored the veneration of icons with the help of Patriarch Methodios. Iconoclasm played a part in the further alienation of East from West, which worsened during the so-called Photian schism when Pope Nicholas I challenged the elevation of Photios to the patriarchate.

Macedonian dynasty and resurgence (867–1025)

The Byzantine Empire, c. 867

The accession of Basil I (33rd great-grandfather) to the throne in 867 marks the beginning of the Macedonian dynasty, which ruled for 150 years. This dynasty included some of the ablest emperors in Byzantium's history, and the period is one of revival. The empire moved from defending against external enemies to reconquest of territories. The Macedonian dynasty was characterised by a cultural revival in spheres such as philosophy and the arts. There was a conscious effort to restore the brilliance of the period before the Slavic and subsequent Arab invasions, and the Macedonian era has been dubbed the "Golden Age" of Byzantium. Although the empire was significantly smaller than during the reign of Justinian I, it had regained much strength, as the remaining territories were less geographically dispersed and more politically, economically, and culturally integrated.

Wars against the Abbasids

The general Leo Phokas defeats the Hamdanid Emirate of Aleppo at Andrassos in 960, from the Madrid Skylitzes

Taking advantage of the empire's weakness after the Revolt of Thomas the Slav in the early 820s, the Arabs re-emerged and captured Crete. They also successfully attacked Sicily, but in 863 general Petronas gained a decisive victory at the Battle of Lalakaon against Umar al-Aqta, the emir of Melitene (Malatya). Under the leadership of Emperor Krum, the Bulgarian threat also re-emerged, but in 815–816 Krum's son, Omurtag, signed a peace treaty with Leo V.

In the 830s the Abbasid Caliphate started military excursions culminating with a victory in the Sack of Amorium. The Byzantines then counter-attacked and sacked Damietta in Egypt. Later the Abbasid Caliphate responded by sending their troops into Anatolia again, sacking and marauding until they were eventually annihilated by the Byzantines at the Battle of Lalakaon in 863.

In the early years of Basil I's reign, Arab raids on the coasts of Dalmatia and the siege of Ragusa (866–868) were defeated, and the region once again came under secure Byzantine control. This enabled Byzantine missionaries to penetrate to the interior and convert the Serbs and the principalities of modern-day Herzegovina and Montenegro to Christianity.

By contrast, the Byzantine position in Southern Italy was gradually consolidated; by 873 Bari was once again under Byzantine rule, and most of Southern Italy remained in the empire for the next 200 years. On the more important eastern front, the empire rebuilt its defences and went on the offensive. The Paulicians were defeated at the Battle of Bathys Ryax and their capital of Tephrike (Divrigi) taken, while the offensive against the Abbasid Caliphate began with the recapture of Samosata.

10th century military successes were coupled with a major cultural revival, the so-called Macedonian Renaissance. Miniature from the Paris Psalter, an example of Hellenistic-influenced art.

Under Basil's son and successor, Leo VI the Wise (32nd great-grandfather), the gains in the east against the enfeebled Abbasid Caliphate continued. Sicily was lost to the Arabs in 902, and in 904 Thessaloniki, the empire's second city, was sacked by an Arab fleet. The naval weakness of the empire was rectified. Despite this revenge, the Byzantines were still unable to strike a decisive blow against the Muslims, who inflicted a crushing defeat on the imperial forces when they attempted to regain Crete in 911.

The death of the Bulgarian Emperor Simeon I (father-in-law of niece of wife of 31st great-granduncle) in 927 severely weakened the Bulgarians, allowing the Byzantines to concentrate on the eastern front. Melitene was permanently recaptured in 934, and in 943 the famous general John Kourkouas continued the offensive in Mesopotamia with some noteworthy victories, culminating in the reconquest of Edessa. Kourkouas was especially celebrated for returning to Constantinople the venerated Mandylion, a relic purportedly imprinted with a portrait of Jesus.

The soldier-emperors Nikephoros II Phokas (husband of wife of 1st cousin, 32x removed, r. 963–969) and John I Tzimiskes (husband 1st cousin 32x removed, r. 969–976) expanded the empire well into Syria, defeating the emirs of northwest Iraq. Nikephoros took Aleppo in 962, and the Arabs were decisively expelled from Crete in 963. The recapture of Crete in the siege of Chandax put an end to Arab raids in the Aegean, allowing mainland Greece to flourish again. Cyprus was permanently retaken in 965, and the successes of Nikephoros culminated in 969 with the siege of Antioch and its recapture, which he incorporated as a province of the empire. His successor John Tzimiskes recaptured Damascus, Beirut, Acre, Sidon, Caesarea and Tiberias, putting Byzantine armies within striking distance of Jerusalem, although the Muslim power centres in Iraq and Egypt were left untouched. After much campaigning in the north, the last Arab threat to Byzantium, the rich province of Sicily, was targeted in 1025 by Basil II (2nd cousin, 31 generations removed), who died before the expedition could be completed. By that time the empire stretched from the straits of Messina to the Euphrates and from the Danube to Syria.

Wars against the Bulgarian Empire
Byzantine–Bulgarian wars: Byzantine–Bulgarian war of 894–896, and Byzantine–Bulgarian war of 913–927

Emperor Basil II 'The Bulgar Slayer' (r. 976–1025) was 2nd cousin of Raoul Ortiz Lafón, 31 generations removed.

The extent of the Empire under Basil II

The traditional struggle with the See of Rome continued through the Macedonian period, spurred by the question of religious supremacy over the newly Christianised state of Bulgaria. Ending eighty years of peace between the two states, the powerful Bulgarian Tsar Simeon I invaded in 894 but was pushed back by the Byzantines, who used their fleet to sail up the Black Sea to attack the Bulgarian rear, enlisting the support of the Hungarians. The Byzantines were defeated at the Battle of Boulgarophygon in 896, however, and agreed to pay annual subsidies to the Bulgarians.

Leo the Wise died in 912, and hostilities resumed as Simeon marched to Constantinople at the head of a large army. Although the walls of the city were impregnable, the Byzantine administration was in disarray and Simeon was invited into the city, where he was granted the crown of basileus (emperor) of Bulgaria and had the young Emperor Constantine VII (31st great-granduncle) marry one of his daughters (later annulled by Zoe his mother). When a revolt in Constantinople halted his dynastic project, he again invaded Thrace and conquered Adrianople. The empire now faced the problem of a powerful Christian state within a few days' marching distance from Constantinople, as well as having to fight on two fronts.

Constantine VII 'Porphyrogenitus', 4th Emperor of the Macedonian Dynasty of Byzantium, Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans (31st great-granduncle of Raoul Ortiz Lafón)

A great imperial expedition under Leo Phocas (granduncle of husband of 1st cousin 32x removed) and Romanos I Lekapenos (father-in-law of 31st great-granduncle) ended with another crushing Byzantine defeat at the Battle of Achelous in 917, and the following year the Bulgarians were free to ravage northern Greece. Adrianople was plundered again in 923, and a Bulgarian army laid siege to Constantinople in 924. Simeon died suddenly in 927, however, and Bulgarian power collapsed with him. Bulgaria and Byzantium entered a long period of peaceful relations, and the empire was free to concentrate on the eastern front against the Muslims. In 968, Bulgaria was overrun by the Rus' under Sviatoslav I, but three years later, John I Tzimiskes defeated the Rus' and re-incorporated eastern Bulgaria into the Byzantine Empire.

Bulgarian resistance revived under the rule of the Cometopuli dynasty, but Emperor Basil II (r. 976–1025) made the submission of the Bulgarians his primary goal. Basil's first expedition against Bulgaria, however, resulted in a defeat at the Gates of Trajan. For the next few years, the emperor was preoccupied with internal revolts in Anatolia, while the Bulgarians expanded their realm in the Balkans. The war dragged on for nearly twenty years. The Byzantine victories of Spercheios and Skopje decisively weakened the Bulgarian army, and in annual campaigns Basil methodically reduced the Bulgarian strongholds. At the Battle of Kleidion in 1014 the Bulgarians were annihilated: their army was captured, and it is said that 99 out of every 100 men were blinded, with the hundredth man left with one eye so he could lead his compatriots home. It is told that when Tsar Samuil saw the broken remains of his once formidable army, he went into cardiac arrest brought on by the shock, and died. By 1018, the last Bulgarian strongholds had surrendered, and the country became part of the empire. This victory restored the Danube frontier, which had not been held since the days of the Emperor Heraclius.

Relations with the Kievan Rus'

Rus' under the walls of Constantinople (860)

Varangian Guardsmen, an illumination from the Skylitzis Chronicle

Between 850 and 1100, the empire developed a mixed relationship with the Kievan Rus', which had emerged to the north across the Black Sea. This relationship had long-lasting repercussions in the history of the East Slavs, and the empire quickly became the main trading and cultural partner for Kiev. The Rus' launched their first attack against Constantinople in 860, pillaging the suburbs of the city. In 941, they appeared on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus, but this time they were crushed, an indication of the improvements in the Byzantine military position after 907, when only diplomacy had been able to push back the invaders. Basil II could not ignore the emerging power of the Rus', and following the example of his predecessors he used religion as a means for achieving political purposes. Rus'–Byzantine relations became closer following the marriage of Anna Porphyrogeneta (2nd cousin 31x removed) to Vladimir the Great in 988, and the subsequent Christianization of the Rus'. Byzantine priests, architects, and artists were invited to work on numerous cathedrals and churches around Rus', expanding Byzantine cultural influence even further, while numerous Rus' served in the Byzantine army as mercenaries, most notably as the famous Varangian Guard.

Even after the Christianisation of the Rus', however, relations were not always friendly. The most serious conflict between the two powers was an invasion of Bulgaria in 968, but several Rus' raiding expeditions against the Byzantine cities of the Black Sea coast and Constantinople are also recorded. Although most were repulsed, they were often followed by treaties that were generally favourable to the Rus', such as the one concluded at the end of the war of 1043, during which the Rus' indicated their ambitions to compete with the Byzantines as an independent power.

Campaigns in the Caucasus
Byzantine–Georgian wars; Byzantine–Seljuk wars.

Between 1021 and 1022, following years of tensions, Basil II led a series of victorious campaigns against the Kingdom of Georgia, resulting in the annexation of several Georgian provinces to the empire. Basil's successors also annexed Bagratid Armenia in 1045. Importantly, both Georgia and Armenia were significantly weakened by the Byzantine administration's policy of heavy taxation and abolishing of the levy. The weakening of Georgia and Armenia played a significant role in the Byzantine defeat at Manzikert in 1071.


Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest city in Europe throughout late antiquity and most of the Middle Ages until the Fourth Crusade in 1204.

Basil II is considered among the most capable Byzantine emperors and his reign as the apex of the empire in the Middle Ages. By 1025, the date of Basil II's death, the Byzantine Empire stretched from Armenia in the east to Calabria in southern Italy in the west. Many successes had been achieved, ranging from the conquest of Bulgaria to the annexation of parts of Georgia and Armenia, and the reconquests of Crete, Cyprus, and the important city of Antioch. These were not temporary tactical gains but long-term reconquests.

Leo VI (32nd great grandfather) achieved the complete codification of Byzantine law in Greek. This monumental work of 60 volumes became the foundation of all subsequent Byzantine law and is still studied today. Leo also reformed the administration of the empire, redrawing the borders of the administrative subdivisions (the themata, or "themes") and tidying up the system of ranks and privileges, as well as regulating the behaviour of the various trade guilds in Constantinople. Leo's reform did much to reduce the previous fragmentation of the empire, which henceforth had one centre of power, Constantinople. However, the increasing military success of the empire greatly enriched and gave the provincial nobility more power over the peasantry, who were essentially reduced to a state of serfdom.

Under the Macedonian emperors Constantinople flourished, becoming the largest and wealthiest city in Europe, with a population of approximately 400,000 in the 9th and 10th centuries. During this period, the Byzantine Empire employed a strong civil service staffed by competent aristocrats that oversaw the collection of taxes, domestic administration, and foreign policy. The Macedonian emperors also increased the empire's wealth by fostering trade with Western Europe, particularly through the sale of silk and metalwork.

Split between Orthodoxy and Catholicism (1054)

Mural of Saints Cyril and Methodius, 19th century, Troyan Monastery, Bulgaria

The Macedonian period included events of momentous religious significance. The conversion of the Bulgarians, Serbs and Rus' to Orthodox Christianity drew the religious map of Europe which still resonates today. Cyril and Methodius, two Byzantine Greek brothers from Thessaloniki, contributed significantly to the Christianisation of the Slavs and in the process devised the Glagolitic alphabet, ancestor to the Cyrillic script.

In 1054, relations between the Eastern and Western traditions of the Chalcedonian Christian Church reached a terminal crisis. Although there was a formal declaration of institutional separation on 16 July, when three papal legates entered the Hagia Sophia during Divine Liturgy on a Saturday afternoon and placed a bull of excommunication on the altar, the so-called Great Schism was actually the culmination of centuries of gradual separation.

Crisis and fragmentation

The Byzantine Empire fell into a period of difficulties, caused to a large extent by the undermining of the theme system and the neglect of the military. Nikephoros II, John Tzimiskes, and Basil II shifted the emphasis of the military divisions (τάγματα, tagmata) from a reactive, defence-oriented citizen army into an army of professional career soldiers, increasingly dependent on foreign mercenaries. Mercenaries were expensive, however, and as the threat of invasion receded in the 10th century, so did the need for maintaining large garrisons and expensive fortifications. Basil II left a burgeoning treasury upon his death, but he neglected to plan for his succession. None of his immediate successors had any particular military or political talent, and the imperial administration increasingly fell into the hands of the civil service. Incompetent efforts to revive the Byzantine economy resulted in severe inflation and a debased gold currency. The army was seen as both an unnecessary expense and a political threat. A number of standing local units were demobilised, further augmenting the army's dependence on mercenaries, who could be retained and dismissed on an as-needed basis.

The seizure of Edessa (1031) by the Byzantines under George Maniakes and the counterattack by the Seljuk Turks

At the same time, Byzantium was faced with new enemies. Its provinces in southern Italy were threatened by the Normans who arrived in Italy at the beginning of the 11th century. During a period of strife between Constantinople and Rome culminating in the East-West Schism of 1054, the Normans advanced slowly but steadily into Byzantine Italy. Reggio, the capital of the tagma of Calabria, was captured in 1060 by Robert Guiscard (26th great-grandfather), followed by Otranto in 1068. Bari, the main Byzantine stronghold in Apulia, was besieged in August 1068 and fell in April 1071.

About 1053, Constantine IX (husband of 3rd cousin, 30x removed) disbanded what the historian John Skylitzes calls the "Iberian Army", which consisted of 50,000 men, and it was turned into a contemporary Drungary of the Watch. Two other knowledgeable contemporaries, the former officials Michael Attaleiates and Kekaumenos, agree with Skylitzes that by demobilising these soldiers Constantine did catastrophic harm to the empire's eastern defences. The emergency lent weight to the military aristocracy in Anatolia, who in 1068 secured the election of one of their own, Romanos Diogenes (grandnephew of husband of 3rd cousin 32x removed), as emperor. In the summer of 1071, Romanos undertook a massive eastern campaign to draw the Seljuks into a general engagement with the Byzantine army. At the Battle of Manzikert, Romanos suffered a surprise defeat by Sultan Alp Arslan and was captured. Alp Arslan treated him with respect and imposed no harsh terms on the Byzantines. In Constantinople, however, a coup put in power Michael Doukas (stepson of grandnephew of husband of 3rd cousin 30x removed) who soon faced the opposition of Nikephoros Bryennios (father-in-law of wife of step-grandson of grandnephew of husband of 3rd cousin 30x removed) and Nikephoros III Botaneiates (husband of wife of stepson of grandnephew of husband of 3rd cousin 30x removed). By 1081, the Seljuks had expanded their rule over virtually the entire Anatolian plateau from Armenia in the east to Bithynia in the west, and they had founded their capital at Nicaea, just 90 kilometres (56 miles) from Constantinople.

Komnenian dynasty and the Crusades

Alexios I, founder of the Komnenos dynasty

After Manzikert, a partial recovery (referred to as the Komnenian restoration) was made possible by the Komnenian dynasty. During the Komnenian period from about 1081 to about 1185, the dynasty presided over a sustained, though ultimately incomplete, restoration of the military, territorial, economic, and political position of the Byzantine Empire. Although the Seljuk Turks occupied the heartland of the empire in Anatolia, most Byzantine military efforts during this period were directed against Western powers, particularly the Normans.

The empire under the Komnenoi played a key role in the history of the Crusades in the Holy Land, which Alexios I had helped bring about, while also exerting enormous cultural and political influence in Europe, the Near East, and the lands around the Mediterranean Sea under John and Manuel. Contact between Byzantium and the "Latin" West, including the Crusader states, increased significantly during the Komnenian period. Venetian and other Italian traders became resident in large numbers in Constantinople and the empire (there were an estimated 60,000 Latins in Constantinople alone, out of a population of three to four hundred thousand), and their presence together with the numerous Latin mercenaries who were employed by Manuel helped to spread Byzantine technology, art, literature and culture throughout the Latin West, while also leading to a flow of Western ideas and customs into the empire.

Alexios I and the First Crusade

The Chora Church, dating from the Komnenian period, has some of the finest Byzantine frescoes and mosaics.

The Komnenoi attained power under Alexios I in 1081. From the outset of his reign, Alexios faced a formidable attack by the Normans under Guiscard and his son Bohemund of Taranto (25th great-granduncle), who captured Dyrrhachium and Corfu and laid siege to Larissa in Thessaly. Guiscard's death in 1085 temporarily eased the Norman problem. The following year, the Seljuq sultan died, and the sultanate was split by internal rivalries. By his own efforts, Alexios defeated the Pechenegs, who were caught by surprise and annihilated at the Battle of Levounion on 28 April 1091.

The Byzantine Empire and the Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm before the First Crusade (1095–1099)

Having achieved stability in the West, Alexios could turn his attention to the severe economic difficulties and the disintegration of the empire's traditional defences. However, he still did not have enough manpower to recover the lost territories in Asia Minor and to advance against the Seljuks. At the Council of Piacenza in 1095, envoys from Alexios spoke to Pope Urban II about the suffering of the Christians of the East and underscored that without help from the West they would continue to suffer under Muslim rule. Urban saw Alexios's request as a dual opportunity to cement Western Europe and reunite the Eastern Orthodox Church with the Roman Catholic Church under his rule. On 27 November 1095, Urban called the Council of Clermont and urged all those present to take up arms under the sign of the Cross and launch an armed pilgrimage to recover Jerusalem and the East from the Muslims. The response in Western Europe was overwhelming.

Alexios had anticipated help in the form of mercenary forces from the West, but he was totally unprepared for the immense and undisciplined force that arrived in Byzantine territory. It was no comfort to Alexios to learn that four of the eight leaders of the main body of the Crusade were Normans, among them Bohemund. Since the crusade had to pass through Constantinople, however, the emperor had some control over it. He required its leaders to swear to restore to the empire any towns or territories they might reconquer from the Turks on their way to the Holy Land. In return, he gave them guides and a military escort. Alexios was able to recover a number of important cities, islands and much of western Asia Minor. The Crusaders agreed to become Alexios' vassals under the Treaty of Devol in 1108, which marked the end of the Norman threat during Alexios' reign.

John II, Manuel I and the Second Crusade

A mosaic from the Hagia Sophia of Constantinople (modern Istanbul), depicting Mary and Jesus, flanked by John II Komnenos (left) and his wife Irene of Hungary (right), 12th century

Byzantine Empire in orange, c. 1180, at the end of the Komnenian period

Alexios's son John II Komnenos succeeded him in 1118 and ruled until 1143. John was a pious and dedicated emperor who was determined to undo the damage to the empire suffered at the Battle of Manzikert half a century earlier. Famed for his piety and his remarkably mild and just reign, John was an exceptional example of a moral ruler at a time when cruelty was the norm. For this reason, he has been called the Byzantine Marcus Aurelius. During his twenty-five-year reign, John made alliances with the Holy Roman Empire in the West and decisively defeated the Pechenegs at the Battle of Beroia. He thwarted Hungarian and Serbian threats during the 1120s, and in 1130 he allied himself with German Emperor Lothair III against Norman King Roger II of Sicily.

In the later part of his reign, John focused his activities on the East, personally leading numerous campaigns against the Turks in Asia Minor. His campaigns fundamentally altered the balance of power in the East, forcing the Turks onto the defensive, while restoring many towns, fortresses, and cities across the peninsula to the Byzantines. He defeated the Danishmend Emirate of Melitene and reconquered all of Cilicia, while forcing Raymond of Poitiers, Prince of Antioch, to recognise Byzantine suzerainty. In an effort to demonstrate the emperor's role as the leader of the Christian world, John marched into the Holy Land at the head of the combined forces of the empire and the Crusader states; yet despite his great vigour pressing the campaign, his hopes were disappointed by the treachery of his Crusader allies. In 1142, John returned to press his claims to Antioch, but he died in the spring of 1143 following a hunting accident.

John's chosen heir was his fourth son, Manuel I Komnenos, who campaigned aggressively against his neighbours both in the west and in the east. In Palestine, Manuel allied with the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and sent a large fleet to participate in a combined invasion of Fatimid Egypt. Manuel reinforced his position as overlord of the Crusader states, with his hegemony over Antioch and Jerusalem secured by agreement with Raynald, Prince of Antioch, and Amalric of Jerusalem. In an effort to restore Byzantine control over the ports of southern Italy, he sent an expedition to Italy in 1155, but disputes within the coalition led to the eventual failure of the campaign. Despite this military setback, Manuel's armies successfully invaded the southern parts of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1167, defeating the Hungarians at the Battle of Sirmium. By 1168, nearly the whole of the eastern Adriatic coast lay in Manuel's hands. Manuel made several alliances with the pope and Western Christian kingdoms, and he successfully handled the passage of the crusaders through his empire.

In the East, however, Manuel suffered a major defeat in 1176 at the Battle of Myriokephalon against the Turks. Yet the losses were quickly recovered, and in the following year Manuel's forces inflicted a defeat upon a force of "picked Turks". The Byzantine commander John Vatatzes, who destroyed the Turkish invaders at the Battle of Hyelion and Leimocheir, brought troops from the capital and was able to gather an army along the way, a sign that the Byzantine army remained strong and that the defensive programme of western Asia Minor was still successful.

12th-century Renaissance

The Lamentation of Christ (1164), a fresco from the church of Saint Panteleimon in Nerezi, North Macedonia, considered a superb example of 12th-century Komnenian art

John and Manuel pursued active military policies, and both deployed considerable resources on sieges and city defences; aggressive fortification policies were at the heart of their imperial military policies. Despite the defeat at Myriokephalon, the policies of Alexios, John and Manuel resulted in vast territorial gains, increased frontier stability in Asia Minor, and secured the stabilisation of the empire's European frontiers. From c. 1081 to c. 1180, the Komnenian army assured the empire's security, enabling Byzantine civilisation to flourish.

This allowed the Western provinces to achieve an economic revival that continued until the close of the century. It has been argued that Byzantium under the Komnenian rule was more prosperous than at any time since the Persian invasions of the 7th century. During the 12th century, population levels rose and extensive tracts of new agricultural land were brought into production. Archaeological evidence from both Europe and Asia Minor shows a considerable increase in the size of urban settlements, together with a notable upsurge in new towns. Trade was also flourishing; the Venetians, the Genoese and others opened up the ports of the Aegean to commerce, shipping goods from the Crusader states and Fatimid Egypt to the west and trading with the empire via Constantinople.

In artistic terms, there was a revival in mosaic, and regional schools of architecture began producing many distinctive styles that drew on a range of cultural influences. During the 12th century, the Byzantines provided their model of early humanism as a renaissance of interest in classical authors. In Eustathius of Thessalonica, Byzantine humanism found its most characteristic expression. In philosophy, there was a resurgence of classical learning not seen since the 7th century, characterised by a significant increase in the publication of commentaries on classical works. Besides, the first transmission of classical Greek knowledge to the West occurred during the Komnenian period. In terms of prosperity and cultural life, the Komnenian period was one of the peaks in Byzantine history, and Constantinople remained the leading city of the Christian world in size, wealth, and culture. There was a renewed interest in classical Greek philosophy, as well as an increase in literary output in vernacular Greek. Byzantine art and literature held a pre-eminent place in Europe, and the cultural impact of Byzantine art on the West during this period was enormous and of long-lasting significance.

Decline and disintegration

Angelid dynasty

Byzantium in the late Angeloi period

Manuel's death on 24 September 1180 left his 11-year-old son Alexios II Komnenos on the throne. Alexios was highly incompetent in the office, and with his mother Maria of Antioch's Frankish background, his regency was unpopular. Eventually, Andronikos I Komnenos, a grandson of Alexios I, launched a revolt against his younger relative and managed to overthrow him in a violent coup d'état. Utilising his good looks and his immense popularity with the army, Andronikos marched to Constantinople in August 1182 and incited a massacre of the Latins. After eliminating his potential rivals, he had himself crowned as co-emperor in September 1183. He eliminated Alexios II and took his 12-year-old wife Agnes of France for himself.

Andronikos began his reign well; in particular, the measures he took to reform the government of the empire have been praised by historians. According to George Ostrogorsky, Andronikos was determined to root out corruption: under his rule, the sale of offices ceased; selection was based on merit, rather than favouritism; officials were paid an adequate salary to reduce the temptation of bribery. In the provinces, Andronikos's reforms produced a speedy and marked improvement. The aristocrats were infuriated against him, and to make matters worse, Andronikos seems to have become increasingly unbalanced; executions and violence became increasingly common, and his reign turned into a reign of terror. Andronikos seemed almost to seek the extermination of the aristocracy as a whole. The struggle against the aristocracy turned into wholesale slaughter, while the emperor resorted to ever more ruthless measures to shore up his regime.

Despite his military background, Andronikos failed to deal with Isaac Komnenos, Béla III of Hungary who reincorporated Croatian territories into Hungary, and Stephen Nemanja of Serbia who declared his independence from the Byzantine Empire. Yet, none of these troubles would compare to William II of Sicily's invasion force of 300 ships and 80,000 men, arriving in 1185 and sacking Thessalonica. Andronikos mobilised a small fleet of 100 ships to defend the capital, but other than that he was indifferent to the populace. He was finally overthrown when Isaac II Angelos, surviving an imperial assassination attempt, seized power with the aid of the people and had Andronikos killed.

The reign of Isaac II, and more so that of his brother Alexios III, saw the collapse of what remained of the centralised machinery of Byzantine government and defence. Although the Normans were driven out of Greece, in 1186 the Vlachs and Bulgars began a rebellion that led to the formation of the Second Bulgarian Empire. The internal policy of the Angeloi was characterised by the squandering of the public treasure and fiscal maladministration. Imperial authority was severely weakened, and the growing power vacuum at the centre of the empire encouraged fragmentation. There is evidence that some Komnenian heirs had set up a semi-independent state in Trebizond before 1204. According to Alexander Vasiliev, "the dynasty of the Angeloi, Greek in its origin, ... accelerated the ruin of the Empire, already weakened without and disunited within."

Fourth Crusade

The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople, by Eugène Delacroix (1840)

In 1198, Pope Innocent III broached the subject of a new crusade through legates and encyclical letters. The stated intent of the crusade was to conquer Egypt, the centre of Muslim power in the Levant. The crusader army arrived at Venice in the summer of 1202 and hired the Venetian fleet to transport them to Egypt. As a payment to the Venetians, they captured the (Christian) port of Zara in Dalmatia (vassal city of Venice, which had rebelled and placed itself under Hungary's protection in 1186). Shortly afterwards, Alexios IV Angelos, son of the deposed and blinded Emperor Isaac II, made contacts with the crusaders. Alexios offered to reunite the Byzantine church with Rome, pay the crusaders 200,000 silver marks, join the crusade, and provide all the supplies they needed to reach Egypt.

Crusader sack of Constantinople (1204)

The partition of the empire following the Fourth Crusade, c. 1204

The crusaders arrived at Constantinople in the summer of 1203 and quickly attacked, starting a major fire that damaged large parts of the city, and briefly seized control. Alexios III fled from the capital, and Alexios Angelos was elevated to the throne as Alexios IV along with his blind father Isaac. Alexios IV and Isaac II were unable to keep their promises and were deposed by Alexios V. The crusaders again took the city on 13 April 1204, and Constantinople was subjected to pillage and massacre by the rank and file for three days. Many priceless icons, relics and other objects later turned up in Western Europe, a large number in Venice. According to chronicler Niketas Choniates, a prostitute was even set up on the patriarchal throne. When order had been restored, the crusaders and the Venetians proceeded to implement their agreement; Baldwin of Flanders was elected emperor of a new Latin Empire, and the Venetian Thomas Morosini was chosen as patriarch. The lands divided up among the leaders included most of the former Byzantine possessions. Although Venice was more interested in commerce than conquering territory, it took key areas of Constantinople, and the Doge took the title of "Lord of a Quarter and Half a Quarter of the Roman Empire".

Empire in exile

Further information: Frankokratia
After the sack of Constantinople in 1204 by Latin crusaders, two Byzantine successor states were established: the Empire of Nicaea and the Despotate of Epirus. A third, the Empire of Trebizond, was created after Alexios Komnenos, commanding the Georgian expedition in Chaldia a few weeks before the sack of Constantinople, found himself de facto emperor and established himself in Trebizond. Of the three successor states, Epirus and Nicaea stood the best chance of reclaiming Constantinople. The Nicaean Empire struggled to survive the next few decades, however, and by the mid-13th century it had lost much of southern Anatolia. The weakening of the Sultanate of Rûm following the Mongol invasion in 1242–1243 allowed many beyliks and ghazis to set up their own principalities in Anatolia, weakening the Byzantine hold on Asia Minor. In time, one of the Beys, Osman I, created the Ottoman Empire that would eventually conquer Constantinople. However, the Mongol invasion also gave Nicaea a temporary respite from Seljuk attacks, allowing it to concentrate on the Latin Empire to its north.

Reconquest of Constantinople

The Byzantine Empire, c. 1263

The Empire of Nicaea, founded by the Laskarid dynasty, managed to effect the recapture of Constantinople from the Latins in 1261 and defeat Epirus. This led to a short-lived revival of Byzantine fortunes under Michael VIII Palaiologos, but the war-ravaged empire was ill-equipped to deal with the enemies that surrounded it. To maintain his campaigns against the Latins, Michael pulled troops from Asia Minor and levied crippling taxes on the peasantry, causing much resentment. Massive construction projects were completed in Constantinople to repair the damage of the Fourth Crusade, but none of these initiatives was of any comfort to the farmers in Asia Minor suffering raids from Muslim ghazis.

Rather than holding on to his possessions in Asia Minor, Michael chose to expand the empire, gaining only short-term success. To avoid another sacking of the capital by the Latins, he forced the Church to submit to Rome, again a temporary solution for which the peasantry hated Michael and Constantinople. The efforts of Andronikos II and later his grandson Andronikos III marked Byzantium's last genuine attempts in restoring the glory of the empire. However, the use of mercenaries by Andronikos II often backfired, with the Catalan Company ravaging the countryside and increasing resentment towards Constantinople.

Rise of the Ottomans and fall of Constantinople

The siege of Constantinople in 1453, depicted in a 15th-century French miniature

The situation became worse for Byzantium during the civil wars after Andronikos III died. A six-year-long civil war devastated the empire, allowing the Serbian ruler Stefan Dušan to overrun most of the empire's remaining territory and establish a Serbian Empire. In 1354, an earthquake at Gallipoli devastated the fort, allowing the Ottomans (who were hired as mercenaries during the civil war by John VI Kantakouzenos) to establish themselves in Europe. By the time the Byzantine civil wars had ended, the Ottomans had defeated the Serbians and subjugated them as vassals. Following the Battle of Kosovo, much of the Balkans became dominated by the Ottomans.

The Byzantine emperors appealed to the West for help, but the pope would only consider sending aid in return for a reunion of the Eastern Orthodox Church with the See of Rome. Church unity was considered and occasionally accomplished by imperial decree, but the Orthodox citizenry and clergy intensely resented the authority of Rome and the Latin Rite. Some Western troops arrived to bolster the Christian defence of Constantinople, but most Western rulers, distracted by their own affairs, did nothing as the Ottomans picked apart the remaining Byzantine territories.

Constantinople by this stage was underpopulated and dilapidated. The population of the city had collapsed so severely that it was now little more than a cluster of villages separated by fields. On 2 April 1453, Sultan Mehmed's army of 80,000 men and large numbers of irregulars laid siege to the city. Despite a desperate last-ditch defence of the city by the massively outnumbered Christian forces (c. 7,000 men, 2,000 of whom were foreign), Constantinople finally fell to the Ottomans after a two-month siege on 29 May 1453. The final Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI Palaiologos, was last seen casting off his imperial regalia and throwing himself into hand-to-hand combat after the walls of the city were taken.

Political aftermath

The Eastern Mediterranean just before the Fall of Constantinople

Flag of the late Empire under the Palaiologoi, sporting the tetragrammic cross symbol of the Palaiologos dynasty

By the time of the fall of Constantinople, the Byzantine Empire, already an empire in name only since the Fourth Crusade, had been reduced to three rump states, which were the Despotate of the Morea, the Empire of Trebizond and the Principality of Theodoro. The Morea was ruled by the brothers of Constantine XI, Thomas Palaiologos and Demetrios Palaiologos. The despotate continued as an independent state by paying an annual tribute to the Ottomans. Incompetent rule, failure to pay the annual tribute, and a revolt against the Ottomans finally led to Mehmed II's invasion of Morea in May 1460.

A few holdouts remained for a time. The island of Monemvasia refused to surrender, and it was ruled for a short time by an Aragonese corsair. When the population drove him out they obtained the consent of Thomas to place themselves under the pope's protection before the end of 1460. The Mani Peninsula, on the Morea's south end, resisted under a loose coalition of the local clans and then that area came under Venice's rule. The last holdout was Salmeniko, in the Morea's northwest. Graitzas Palaiologos was the military commander there, stationed at Salmeniko Castle. While the town eventually surrendered, Graitzas and his garrison and some town residents held out in the castle until July 1461, when they escaped and reached Venetian territory.

The Empire of Trebizond, which had split away from the Byzantine Empire just weeks before Constantinople was taken by the Crusaders in 1204, became the last remnant and last de facto successor state to the Byzantine Empire. Efforts by Emperor David to recruit European powers for an anti-Ottoman crusade provoked war between the Ottomans and Trebizond in the summer of 1461. After a month-long siege, David surrendered the city of Trebizond on 14 August 1461. Trebizond's Crimean principality, the Principality of Theodoro (part of the Perateia), lasted another 14 years, falling to the Ottomans in December 1475. Therefore, the last remnant of the Roman Empire had officially ceased to exist, after 2,228 years of Roman civilization, since the legendary Founding of Rome in 753 BC.

A nephew of the last emperor, Constantine XI, Andreas Palaiologos claimed to have inherited the title of Byzantine emperor. He lived in the Morea until its fall in 1460, then escaped to Rome where he lived under the protection of the Papal States for the remainder of his life. Since the office of the emperor had never been technically hereditary, Andreas' claim would have been without merit under Byzantine law. However, the empire had vanished, and Western states generally followed the Roman-church-sanctioned principles of hereditary sovereignty. Seeking a life in the west, Andreas styled himself Imperator Constantinopolitanus ("Emperor of Constantinople"), and sold his succession rights to both Charles VIII of France and the Catholic Monarchs.

Constantine XI died without producing an heir, and had Constantinople not fallen he might have been succeeded by the sons of his deceased elder brother, who were taken into the palace service of Mehmed II after the fall of Constantinople. The oldest boy, renamed Has Murad, became a personal favorite of Mehmed and served as beylerbey (governor-general) of the Balkans. The younger son, renamed Mesih Pasha, became admiral of the Ottoman fleet and sanjak-bey (governor) of the Province of Gallipoli. He eventually served twice as grand vizier under Mehmed's son, Bayezid II.

Mehmed II and his successors continued to consider themselves heirs to the Roman Empire. They considered that they had simply shifted their religious basis as Constantine had done before, and they continued to refer to their conquered Eastern Roman inhabitants (Orthodox Christians) as Rûm. However, this claim gradually faded away, as the Ottoman Empire assumed a more Islamic political identity. Meanwhile, the Danubian Principalities (whose rulers also considered themselves the heirs of the Eastern Roman Emperors) harbored Orthodox refugees, including some Byzantine nobles.

At Constantine's death, the role of the emperor as a patron of Eastern Orthodoxy was claimed by Ivan III, Grand Prince of Muscovy. He had married Andreas' sister, Sophia Palaiologina, whose grandson, Ivan IV, would become the first tsar of Russia (tsar, or czar, meaning caesar, is a term traditionally applied by Slavs to the Byzantine emperors). Their successors supported the idea that Moscow was the proper heir to Rome and Constantinople. The idea of the Russian Empire as the successive Third Rome was kept alive until its demise with the Russian Revolution.
Bulgars image
The Bulgars (also Bulghars, Bulgari, Bolgars, Bolghars, Bolgari, Proto-Bulgarians) were Turkic semi-nomadic warrior tribes that flourished in the Pontic–Caspian steppe and the Volga region during the 7th century. They became known as nomadic equestrians in the Volga-Ural region, but some researchers say that their ethnic roots can be traced to Central Asia. During their westward migration across the Eurasian steppe, the Bulgar tribes absorbed other tribal groups and cultural influences in a process of ethnogenesis, including Iranian, Finnic and Hunnic tribes. Modern genetic research on Central Asian Turkic people and ethnic groups related to the Bulgars points to an affiliation with Western Eurasian populations. The Bulgars spoke a Turkic language, i.e. Bulgar language of Oghuric branch. They preserved the military titles, organization and customs of Eurasian steppes, as well as pagan shamanism and belief in the sky deity Tangra.

The Bulgars became semi-sedentary during the 7th century in the Pontic-Caspian steppe, establishing the polity of Old Great Bulgaria c. 630–635, which was defeated by the Khazar Empire in 668 AD. In c. 679, Khan Asparukh conquered Scythia Minor, opening access to Moesia, and established the Danubian Bulgaria – the First Bulgarian Empire, where the Bulgars became a political and military elite. They merged subsequently with established Byzantine populations, as well as with previously settled Slavic tribes, and were eventually Slavicized, thus forming the ancestors of modern Bulgarians.

The remaining Pontic Bulgars migrated in the 7th century to the Volga River, where they founded the Volga Bulgaria; they preserved their identity well into the 13th century. The modern Volga Tatars and Chuvash people claim to have originated from the Volga Bulgars.

The first clear mention and evidence of the Bulgars was in 480, when they served as the allies of the Byzantine Emperor Zeno (474–491) against the Ostrogoths.

According to D. Dimitrov, the 5th-century History of Armenia by Movses Khorenatsi speaks about two migrations of the Bulgars, from Caucasus to Armenia. The first migration is mentioned in the association with the campaign of Armenian ruler Valarshak (probably Varazdat) to the lands "named Basen by the ancients... and which were afterwards populated by immigrants of the vh' ndur Bulgar Vund, after whose name they (the lands) were named Vanand". The second migration took place during the time of the ruler Arshak III, when "great disturbances occurred in the range of the great Caucasus mountain, in the land of the Bulgars, many of whom migrated and came to our lands and settled south of Kokh". Both migrations are dated to the second half of the 4th century AD. The "disturbances" which caused them are believed to be the expansion of the Huns in the East-European steppes. Dimitrov recorded that the toponyms of the Bolha and Vorotan rivers, tributaries of the Aras river, are known as Bolgaru-chaj and Vanand-chaj, and could confirm the Bulgar settlement of Armenia.

Bulgarian Empires

The First Bulgarian Empire (681–1018) had a significant political influence in the Balkans. In the time of Tervel (700–721) the Bulgars helped Byzantines two times, in 705 the Emperor Justinian II to regain his throne, and 717–718 defeating the Arabs during the siege of Constantinople. Sevar was the last ruler from the Dulo clan, and the period until c. 768–772 was characterized by the Byzantino-Bulgar conflict and internal crisis. In the short period followed seven rulers from the Uokil and Ugain clan. Telerig managed to establish a pacific policy with Byzantium, and restore imperial power.

During the reign of Khan Krum (803–814), the Empire doubled its size, including new lands in Macedonia and Serbia. He also successfully repelled the invading force of the Byzantines, as well defeated the Pannonian Avars where additionally extended the Empire size. In 865, during the reign of Khan Boris I (852–889), the Bulgars accepted Christianity as the official religion, and Eastern Orthodoxy in 879. The greatest expansion of the Empire and prosperity during the time of Simeon I (893–927) is considered as the Bulgarian Golden Age. However, from the time of Peter I (927–969) their power declined. The Hungarians, Kievan Rus' Slavs, as well Pechenegs and Cumans held many raids into their territory, and so weakened were eventually conquered in 1018 by the Byzantine Empire.
Kievan Rus' image
Kievan Rus' was a state in Eastern and Northern Europe from the late 9th to the mid-13th century. Encompassing a variety of polities and peoples, including East Slavic, Norse, and Finnic, it was ruled by the Rurik dynasty, founded by the Varangian prince Rurik. The modern nations of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine all claim Kievan Rus' as their cultural ancestor, with Belarus and Russia deriving their names from it. At its greatest extent in the mid-11th century, Kievan Rus' stretched from the White Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south and from the headwaters of the Vistula in the west to the Taman Peninsula in the east, uniting the East Slavic tribes.
Arsacids image
The About page is the core description of your website. Here is where you let clients know what your website is about. You can edit all of this text and replace it with what you want to write. For example you can let them know how long you have been in business, what makes your company special, what are its core values and more.

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Armenia image
The About page is the core description of your website. Here is where you let clients know what your website is about. You can edit all of this text and replace it with what you want to write. For example you can let them know how long you have been in business, what makes your company special, what are its core values and more.

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Achaemenid Dynasty image
The About page is the core description of your website. Here is where you let clients know what your website is about. You can edit all of this text and replace it with what you want to write. For example you can let them know how long you have been in business, what makes your company special, what are its core values and more.

Edit your About page from the Pages tab by clicking the edit button.
Macedon image
Macedonia, also called Macedon, was an ancient kingdom on the periphery of Archaic and Classical Greece, and later the dominant state of Hellenistic Greece. The kingdom was founded and initially ruled by the royal Argead dynasty, which was followed by the Antipatrid and Antigonid dynasties. Home to the ancient Macedonians, the earliest kingdom was centered on the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, and bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south.

Before the 4th century BC, Macedonia was a small kingdom outside of the area dominated by the great city-states of Athens, Sparta and Thebes, and briefly subordinate to Achaemenid Persia. During the reign of the Argead king Philip II (359–336 BC), Macedonia subdued mainland Greece and the Thracian Odrysian kingdom through conquest and diplomacy. With a reformed army containing phalanxes wielding the sarissa pike, Philip II defeated the old powers of Athens and Thebes in the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC. Philip II's son Alexander III 'The Great,' leading a federation of Greek states, accomplished his father's objective of commanding the whole of Greece when he destroyed Thebes after the city revolted. During Alexander's subsequent campaign of conquest, he overthrew the Achaemenid Empire and conquered territory that stretched as far as the Indus River. For a brief period, his Macedonian Empire was the most powerful in the world – the definitive Hellenistic state, inaugurating the transition to a new period of Ancient Greek civilization. Greek arts and literature flourished in the new conquered lands and advances in philosophy, engineering, and science spread throughout much of the ancient world. Of particular importance were the contributions of Aristotle, tutor to Alexander, whose writings became a keystone of Western philosophy.

Egypt imageEgypt image
Remarkably, Raoul Ortiz Lafón's ancestors are traceable by way of his Arsacid dynastic lineage through from the Greco-Roman Period, into the Late Period, farther back to the Third Intermediate Period and finally to the XIX Dynasty of the New Kingdom, and to Commander Seti, great-grandfather of Pharaoh Ramesses II, whom infamously adopted Moses.

Ramesses II, his father Seti I, grandfather Ramesses I and great-grandfather Seti are the oldest traceable ancestors of Raoul Ortiz Lafón. Seti (or 'Suti') was an ancient Egyptian soldier during the late 18th Dynasty (14th century BCE), the commander of the army, later mentioned as vizier on monuments of his son, Pharaoh Ramesses I. Seti, the forefather of the 19th Dynasty, was from a military family in the Nile Delta.

Family Tree

New Kingdom