In the second century of the Christian Aera, the empire of
Rome comprehended the fairest part of the earth, and the most
civilized portion of mankind. The frontiers of that extensive
monarchy were guarded by ancient renown and disciplined valor.
The gentle but powerful influence of laws and manners had
gradually cemented the union of the provinces. Their peaceful
inhabitants enjoyed and abused the advantages of wealth and
luxury. The image of a free constitution was preserved with
decent reverence: the Roman senate appeared to possess the
sovereign authority, and devolved on the emperors all the
executive powers of government.