While Rome was pre-eminent at the dawn of the Christian era, its expansionist momentum was beginning to stall. The Parthians inflicted a crushing defeat in 53 BCE, the German tribes in 9 CE and Cush would prove too troublesome to subdue. The Han in China were also suffering from imperial overreach; during the civil strife ensuing from the usurpation of the throne by Wang Mang (9–23), the Xiongnu, a northern pastoralist people who threatened China’s frontier, invaded. India was uneasily partitioned between several kingdoms vying for dominance, with the Meghavahannas of the eastern seaboard perhaps, at that moment, the most powerful. In the Americas, Teotihuacan was arguably the world’s largest city outside of the Roman or Chinese empires and a vibrant Zapotec city-state existed at Monte Alban. In Peru, the Nazca and Moche were at their peak and the mysterious Mojo flourished in Bolivia’s Andean foothills.
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