Daily Life in Ancient Rome
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ANCIENT ROME @ HADRIANS
AUGUSTUS (31 B.C. - 14 A.D.)
Garrett G. Fagan
Pennsylvania State University
Augustus is arguably the single most important figure in Roman history.
In the course of his long and spectacular career, he put an end to the
advancing decay of the Republic and established a new basis for Roman government
that was to stand for three centuries. This system, termed the "Principate,"
was far from flawless, but it provided the Roman Empire with a series of
rulers who presided over the longest period of unity, peace, and prosperity
that Western Europe, the Middle East and the North African seaboard have
known in their entire recorded history. Even if the rulers themselves on
occasion left much to be desired, the scale of Augustus's achievement in
establishing the system cannot be overstated. Aside from the immense importance
of Augustus's reign from the broad historical perspective, he himself is
an intriguing figure: at once tolerant and implacable, ruthless and forgiving,
brazen and tactful. Clearly a man of many facets, he underwent three major
political reinventions in his lifetime and negotiated the stormy and dangerous
seas of the last phase of the Roman Revolution with skill and foresight.
With Augustus established in power and with the Principate firmly rooted,
the internal machinations of the imperial household provide a fascinating
glimpse into the one issue that painted this otherwise gifted organizer
and politician into a corner from which he could find no easy exit: the
problem of the succession. []
To understand Augustus, it is necessary to appreciate briefly the nature
of the Roman Revolution and, in particular, the place of Julius Caesar
within it. The Roman Republic had no written constitution but was, rather,
a system of agreed-upon procedures crystallized by tradition (the mos
maiorum, "the way of our ancestors"). Administration was carried out
by (mostly) annually elected officials, answerable to the senate (a senior
council, but with no legislative powers) and the people (who, when constituted
into voting assemblies, were the sovereign body of the state). Precedent
prescribed procedure and consensus set the parameters for acceptable behavior.
Near the end of the second century BC, however, the system started to break
down. Politicians began to push at the boundaries of acceptable behavior,
and in so doing set new and perilous precedents. Violence also entered
the arena of domestic politics. (This long process of disintegration, completed
a century later by Augustus, has been termed by modern scholars the "Roman
Revolution.") By the time of Caesar's dominance in 49-44 BC the Republic
had not been functioning effectively for at least a dozen years, some would
argue for longer. Politics had come to be dominated by violence and intimidation;
scores were settled with clubs and daggers rather than with speeches and
persuasion. Powerful generals at the head of politicized armies extorted
from the state more and greater power for themselves and their supporters.
When "constitutional" methods proved inadequate, the generals occasionally
resorted to open rebellion. Intimidation of the senate through the use
of armies camped near Rome or veterans brought to the city to influence
the voting assemblies also proved effective and was regularly employed
as a political tactic from ca. 100 BC onwards. These generals also
used their provincial commands to extract money from the locals as a way
of funding their domestic political ambitions. As the conflict in the state
wore on, popular assemblies, the only avenue for the passage of binding
legislation in the Roman Republic, routinely ended in disorder and rioting.
The senatorial aristocracy, riven by internal disputes, proved incapable
of dealing effectively with the mounting disorder, yet the alternative,
monarchy, was not openly proposed by anyone. When civil war erupted between
Pompey and Caesar in 49 BC, few could have been surprised. These two men
were the strongest personalities in the state, each in command of significant
military forces, and they were mutually antagonistic. []
Despite vanquishing his opponents in the long series of civil wars 49-45
BC, Caesar did little to address the underlying ills of the Republic. His
concerns were first and foremost the defeat in the field of his political
opponents. During these years, and following his final victory, he was
content to maintain control by a combination of the consulship and the
revived, albeit reviled, dictatorship. Extensive and excessive honors of
all sorts were also voted to Caesar by a sycophantic senate: he refused
none, save attempts to crown him king. Nevertheless, his broad disregard
for tradition and precedent, and the general air of arrogance and high-handedness
that marked Caesar's dealings with his peers, made him appear Rome's king
in all but name. To be sure, he passed various items of legislation dealing
with immediate problems (for instance, debt relief or the calendar), but
he made no serious effort to systematize his position or tackle the issues
that had generated the Roman Revolution in the first place. In fact, in
the last months of his life he was planning to leave Rome for several years
to campaign against the Parthians in the East. That the cabal of nobles
who conspired to kill Caesar included disaffected members of his own party
constitutes stark testimony as to the effects of Caesar's tactlessness.
On 15 March, 44 BC C. Julius Caesar, dictator for life, was surrounded
by the conspirators at a meeting of the senate and cut down with twenty-three
stab wounds. He died at the foot of a statue of his great rival, Pompey.
The senatorial "Liberators," covered in blood and brandishing their daggers,
rushed out to accept the gratitude of the liberated. They met with a somewhat
The people had loved Caesar, even if his recent behavior had been disappointing
The Liberators, who were led by L. Cassius Longinus and M. Junius Brutus,
held public meetings in the Forum, but the reaction of the people was equivocal
at best. The senate, meeting on March 17, vacillated and declared an amnesty
for the Liberators (inferring legitimacy for their act of tyrannicide)
while ratifying all of Caesar's acts and decreeing him a public funeral
in the Forum (inferring legitimacy for Caesar's power). It may have seemed
a workable compromise, but when Caesar's mutilated body was displayed to
the crowd and the contents of his will were made public--in which some
gardens were bequeathed to the public and an individual stipend given to
each member of the Roman people--the dam of emotion burst and rioting ensued.
The Liberators fled the city. Power seemed firmly in the hands of the pro-Caesar
camp and, in particular, in those of M. Antonius (Mark Antony), Caesar's
right-hand man. The dictator's will, however, had contained something of
a political bombshell that was to shake this situation to its foundations.
For Caesar named as his chief heir and adopted son one of his three great-nephews,
Early Life and Adoption
C. Octavius (later Augustus) was born on 23 September, 63 BC, the son of
a man from Velitrae who had reached the praetorship before dying unexpectedly
when Octavius was four. His father Octavius had earned the hand of Atia,
daughter of Caesar's sister, Julia, and this seemingly remote family link
between the young Octavius and Caesar was to play a determinative role
in shaping the rest of Octavius's life. When his grandmother Julia died
in 51 BC, Octavius delivered the eulogy at her funeral, which was his first
public appearance. []
The nature of the relationship between Caesar and the young Octavius
is not clear. Dio claims (45.1.2) that after Octavius reached maturity
(in 48 BC), Caesar took him in and began training him to be his successor.
This assertion is clearly more informed by later imperial behavior than
by Late Republican practice, and is unlikely in any case, since Caesar
was much occupied with the civil wars at this time (49-45 BC). There is
no evidence that the two actually met before Octavius was in his mid-teens,
but that the dictator noticed Octavius is hardly to be doubted. Suetonius
(Aug. 8.1) presents a more likely series of events. In 48 BC the
young Octavius was elected to the pontifical college. When Caesar celebrated
his multiple triumphs in September 46 BC, Octavius took part in the procession
and was accorded military honors. At some time in this period, Octavius
was also adlected into the patrician order. He then followed Caesar to
Spain when the latter went to fight the Pompeians at Munda (45 BC). He
earned the admiration of the dictator for the daring of his journey, which
included a shipwreck; he was to show this same daring repeatedly in future
months and years. In 44 BC Caesar nominated the magistrates several years
in advance (another shunning of tradition on Caesar's part), and the young
man was included as his Master of Horse for 43 or 42 BC. Despite these
indications of favor, it is fair to say that in the broad scheme of things
Octavius was a non-player and a political nobody in March 44 BC, when his
great-uncle was killed.
When he heard of Caesar's murder, Octavius was in Apollonia in Illyricum,
preparing to join Caesar on his Parthian campaign. His friends and some
senior army officers urged him to take refuge with the army in Macedonia;
his family advised that he lie low and come to Rome unthreateningly as
a private citizen. He opted for the latter course of action and arrived
in southern Italy, south of Brundisium. Here, he heard more details about
Caesar's death and of his own adoption. His family, now fearful for his
life, urged him to renounce the adoption and inheritance in order to secure
his personal safety. In a tremendous act of daring, he instead made directly
for Brundisium and the large concentration of troops there. []
Entrance into Politics: April 44-November 43 BC []
By virtue of his adoption, following Roman custom, Octavius now assumed
the name C. Julius Caesar Octavianus (hereafter "Octavian"). To identify
himself fully with his adoptive father and to lend his subsequent actions
a veneer of legitimacy, he simply called himself "Caesar," and is usually
so named in ancient sources. [] The name had
a tremendous pull and Octavian's use of it represents his first major political
reinvention: from unknown Octavius to Caesar, son of Caesar. Many of the
troops at Brundisium joined his cause, and as he moved toward Rome his
retinue grew in size, especially from among the ranks of veterans settled
by Caesar in Italian colonies. By mid-April, he was nearing Rome. []
Antony paid no attention, at least officially. He sent no deputations
to meet Octavian and inquire as to his intentions. Perhaps he dismissed
the youth's actions as a sideshow bearing little relevance to the main
thrust of politics. [] At that time Antony was
deeply occupied with several important matters, not the least being to
secure powerful provinces for himself while downgrading those of Cassius
and Brutus, the leaders of the Liberators. Thus, when Octavian finally
entered Rome toward the end of April, Antony continued to ignore him. Octavian
kept his cool and arranged a meeting. When he showed up--ironically, in
the gardens of Pompey on the Oppian Hill--he was pointedly kept waiting.
The ensuing exchange did not go well. [] In
subsequent weeks, Antony blocked Octavian's moves to have his adoption
officially recognized and also prevented him from standing for public office.
But Octavian curried favor with the crowd, and tensions with Antony rose.
Events around Mutina in northern Italy brought matters to a head, both
between the Caesarian camp and the Liberators and between Antony and Octavian.
Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus had been a supporter of Caesar's -- and one
of his assassins. The dictator had appointed him to the governorship of
Cisalpine Gaul (roughly the Po Valley region of modern Italy), an appointment
confirmed by the senate. The senate had also assigned Antony, consul in
44 BC, the province of Macedonia. Through tribunician legislation in June
44 BC, Antony had his command in Macedonia exchanged for that in proximate
and powerful Cisalpine Gaul. Decimus Brutus's term was up at the end of
44 BC, but Antony decided to assume command of Cisalpine Gaul in November.
Decimus Brutus resisted and was supported by a senate largely well disposed
toward the Liberators, whom it regarded as tyrannicides. []
Against this backdrop of looming crisis between the Caesarians and the
Liberators, the relationship between Antony and Octavian continued to deteriorate,
despite occasional public reconciliations. Antony accused Octavian of plotting
against him, while Octavian attempted, through agents, to undermine the
loyalty of the army that Antony was bringing to Italy from Macedonia. Antony
went to Brundisium to secure his army (things did not go well there for
him), at which juncture Octavian showed his daring once more. Despite the
risk of being branded a public enemy, he toured the Caesarian colonies
of Campania and, relying on old loyalties, raised a private army from among
Caesar's veterans, perhaps 10,000 strong. It was a vivid demonstration
of the power of the name "Caesar." Antony, meanwhile, returned to Rome
and intended to denounce Octavian to the senate when he heard that two
of his five legions from Macedonia had defected to Octavian. Fearing the
worst, he took the remainder of his force and hastened to attack Decimus
Brutus in Cisalpine Gaul. []
The situation was now highly volatile. Decimus Brutus, backed by the
senate, was resisting Antony under arms, and retired to the fortified town
of Mutina in Cisalpine Gaul. Antony had four legions, Octavian had five.
All the armed parties were mutually antagonistic. The senate, led by Cicero
in his last great political action, identified Antony as the greater threat.
Cicero and Antony were now on opposing sides, following an acrimonious
oratorical exchange in the senate that started in September 44 BC. At this
crucial juncture, then, Cicero deployed his considerable rhetorical skill
to Octavian's benefit and began to champion his cause as a foil to Antony's
power. As a result, on 1 January, 43 BC Octavian's essentially illegal
command of men under arms was legitimized with a grant of propraetorian
power. As such, Octavian continued his preparations to attack Antony, now
declared a public enemy, who had begun besieging Decimus Brutus at Mutina.
Octavian, now an official representative of the republic, led his force
into the region and moved against Antony. []
In two engagements in April, Antony was bested and fled over the Alps
to his political allies in Transalpine Gaul. Both consuls for 43 BC, however,
perished in the fighting around Mutina, and Octavian, as the senior commander
on the spot, refused to cooperate any further with Decimus Brutus, a murderer
of his father. The senators, it appears, hoped that Octavian would now
go away. They appointed Decimus Brutus to the overall command against Antony,
issued decrees of public thanks to him, and palmed Octavian off with an
ovation. When a commission to distribute land to veterans was set up, Octavian
was pointedly omitted. Smarting at such insulting treatment, Octavian bided
his time and put in requests for a consulship (with Cicero as his colleague)
and a triumph. Meanwhile, Antony was preparing to return to Cisalpine Gaul
with enormous forces gained from Caesarian commanders in Transalpine Gaul.
The situation remained unstable.[]
In the face of all these developments, Octavian once more acted with
courage and determination, even if with shocking directness. Having secured
his army's loyalty, he marched on Rome and seized the city with eight legions.
Three legions brought from outside Italy to counter him defected. Unsurprisingly,
Octavian was elected consul to replace the deceased consuls of 43 BC. He
now carried the long-delayed ratification of his adoption, paid out the
remainder of Caesar's legacy, revoked the amnesty for the Liberators, and
tried and convicted them en masse and in absentia on a single day.
Despite his control of Rome, Octavian's position was perilous. Antony was
massing huge forces in Cisalpine Gaul and, across the Adriatic, Cassius
and Brutus had taken the opportunity offered by the enmity between the
Caesarian leaders to gain control of most of the eastern empire, it might
be noted, with no great regard for either legality or scruple. []
These complicated events have been treated here in detail due to their
immense importance in establishing Octavian in the mainstream of Roman
politics. Dismissed by Antony and then by the senate as a bit player, he
proved repeatedly capable of deft and resolute action in defence of his
interests. On account of his tender years, he lacked the nexus of influential
support that most leading Roman politicians, including Antony, found essential
to their success and therefore he had to rely more on direct appeals to
the mob, his troops, and supporters of Caesar. His actions might not have
been always scrupulous or admirable, but Late-Republican politics was a
vicious and cutthroat business and few involved adhered solely to principle
(the Liberators, for instance, went about the eastern empire seizing provinces
and only had their acts ratified post factum by a compliant senate).
Octavian had only two reliable tools available to him at this early stage
in his career: his name, Caesar, and promises of bounty to the soldiers,
and he deployed both with daring and decisiveness when he had to. In the
autumn of 43 BC, he was to make his most ambitious move yet.
The Triumvirate I: Early Challenges, 43-36 BC
Shortly after Mutina, Octavian had begun showing signs of seeking a reconciliation
with Antony; now, he acted resolutely. On the pretence of preparing his
army for campaign, he moved north in November and met with his rival; while
Octavian was en route, his consular colleague had secured the repeal of
the decrees declaring Antony a public enemy. The two met, with Antony's
supporter, M. Aemilius Lepidus, on an island in a river near Bononia. Two
days of difficult negotiation produced an agreement: the three Caesarians
were to form a "Board of Three for Organizing the State" (triumviri
rei publicae constituendae) that would run for five years, until 31
December, 38 BC. Unlike the so-called "First Triumvirate" (comprised of
Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus), this "Second Triumvirate" was legally constituted
by a tribunician law, the lex Titia, passed on 27 November, 43 BC.
The triumvirs also agreed to divide the western provinces of the empire
among themselves, with Octavian drawing seemingly minor allocations in
Sardinia, Sicily, and Africa while Antony retained Cisalpine and Transalpine
Gaul, and Lepidus got Spain and Gallia Narbonensis. In effect, the Second
Triumvirate was a military junta whose decisions were made without reference
to the senate or any other traditional organ of the Roman state. []
The rule of the three got off to an inauspicious start. Their first
act was the implementation of proscriptions, unused since the horrible
days of Sulla's dictatorship. Since the property of the proscribed was
forfeited, the main motive of the triumvirs in instigating the terror appears
to have been financial, as many of their most implacable enemies were not
in Rome or Italy at all but with Brutus and Cassius in the East. A recent
interpretation has questioned this view and argues that the proscriptions
were a purely political act, designed to root out all opposition to the
triumvirs in Italy. Our sources preserve, in excruciating detail, dozens
of tragic anecdotes about the proscribed as well as the text of the chilling
proclamation announcing the proscriptions. Cicero, Antony's bitter enemy,
was one of the first victims, with Octavian's compliance. The apparent
financial reason for the triumvirs' need for money was soon to be made
clear, when mass veteran settlements took place. Thousands perished in
the chaos and mayhem that inevitably followed hard on the heels of the
Next, the Liberators had to be dealt with. After a prelude in Africa
early in 42 BC, in which a pro-senate governor was ousted by Octavian's
appointee, Antony and Octavian moved on Cassius and Brutus in the summer
and autumn of that same year. The campaign took place in the Balkans and
culminated in a double battle some weeks apart in October at Philippi in
Macedonia. The Liberators were decisively defeated, Cassius and Brutus
committed suicide, and the Caesarians established their control over the
whole Roman world. Octavian, who had not played a glorious part in the
battles, showed complete implacability in executing any and all of those
implicated in the murder of Caesar who fell into his hands. A reshuffling
of the provinces was required in light of the new situation: Antony got
the East but retained Transalpine and Narbonese Gaul; Octavian got most
of the West; Lepidus, fast being overshadowed by his more ambitious and
ruthless partners, was effectively sidelined in Africa. Following Philippi,
Antony moved east, Octavian returned to Italy, and a new polarization of
the Roman world began to manifest itself. []
In the West, Octavian faced an immediate problem: the settlement of
some 40,000 veterans in Italian communities. Veteran settlement was of
paramount concern, since it spoke to Octavian's trustworthiness as a patron
and so could influence the future loyalty of his armies. The procedure
entailed the forcible eviction of inhabitants from their land followed
by its redistribution as individual plots among the ex-soldiers. Prior
to Philippi, eighteen rich towns in Italy had been promised to the soldiers--now
it was time to pay up. Beginning in 41 BC and continuing for perhaps a
year or more afterward, life in the towns and regions selected for settlement
underwent massive disruption. It seems that the dispossessed were not compensated
for their loss, so that the whole process made Octavian enormously unpopular
in Italy. []
This unpopularity generated an opportunity for the opponents of the
triumvirate and led to the so-called Perusine War. One of the consuls of
41 BC was L. Antonius, brother of Mark Antony. Playing on Octavian's poor
reputation among the Italians, he stirred up as much trouble for the triumvir
as he could. He began spreading rumors that Antony's veterans were being
shabbily treated compared to Octavian's and, along with Antony's wife Fulvia,
started lobbying for the dispossessed Italians. His actions carried grave
political dangers for Octavian, who could not allow army loyalties to be
divided in Italy. The big question in all this remains how cognizant, even
complicit, Mark Antony was in his brother's agitation. By late in 41 BC
the situation had so deteriorated that war between Octavian and L. Antonius
in Italy was inevitable. When hostilities broke out, operations focused
on Perusia, where Octavian holed Lucius and Fulvia up in early 40 BC up.
After several months of siege, Lucius surrendered and was magnanimously
spared by Octavian, though the councilors and people of Perusia were not
so fortunate: Octavian executed the local council and gave the town over
to his soldiers to plunder. He then adjourned to Gaul, there to supervise
the transfer of the region to his own command, since the Antonian governor
had died. []
Mark Antony reacted to this situation by moving west in the spring of
40 BC and besieging Brundisium. Octavian gathered his forces and marched
south to confront him. The triumvirate appeared to be over, its two chief
members at war. However, neither army was keen for war and negotiations
produced an agreement instead, termed the "Pact of Brundisium." By means
of this agreement, Antony ceded Gaul to Octavian, relinquishing his last
foothold in the West, but was confirmed in the East. Lepidus continued
to languish in Africa. Further, Antony was married to Octavian's sister,
Octavia. (Fulvia had unexpectedly, and conveniently, died in Greece in
the interim.) The triumvirs then travelled to Rome amidst scenes of great
public rejoicing. []
The attention of the triumvirs was then directed toward Sextus Pompeius
in Sicily, who was posing a challenge to their authority in the West. Sextus,
the youngest son of Pompey, is one of the more colorful characters of the
Roman Revolution. Surviving the Pompeian defeat at Munda in 45 BC, he fought
guerilla warfare in Spain and then took to the sea as a pirate leader.
When he was recalled to Rome following Caesar's murder, he cautiously sailed
to Massilia and awaited developments. During the war at Mutina, when the
fortunes of the senate and the Liberators appeared to be in the ascendant,
he found himself appointed prefect of Rome's fleets and Italy's coastal
zones (on 20 March, 43 BC). With the establishment of the triumvirate six
months later, he seized Sicily and, as a beacon of resistance against the
triumvirs, was greatly reinforced by refugees from the proscriptions, survivors
of Philippi, those dispossessed by the veteran settlements in Italy, and
any remaining forces of republican sentiment. He beat off attempts by Octavian
to oust him from Sicily. Antony formed a pact with him, in order to make
his move against Octavian in 40 BC but, if Sextus had hoped for some concrete
reward for this service, he got none: he benefited in no way from the Pact
of Brundisium and was not officially recognized by the triumvirs. Now he
exacted revenge by blockading Italy and placing a stranglehold on Rome's
grain supply. Antony and Octavian were forced to act. Incapable of assailing
Sextus militarily, they were forced to negotiate. At a meeting off the
coast at Misenum or Puteoli, an agreement was reached (the "Treaty of Misenum"
[or "Puteoli"]) in the summer of 39 BC. This agreement saw Sextus's control
over Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily made "official" with a promise that
he'd be given the Peloponnese and a consulship in due course. Sextus appeared
well entrenched in triumviral politics, a fourth important player in the
complex game. []
The Treaty of Misenum was to have a short shelf life. Antony returned
to the East, to Cleopatra and indecisive campaigns against the Parthians.
Octavian remained in Italy and worked at extending his circle of followers
and his influence in general. Toward that end, the presence of Sextus Pompeius
was an obstacle. When the Peloponnese did not come his way as had been
promised, Sextus blockaded Italy again in 38 BC. Octavian moved against
him, but lost a naval engagement at Cumae and much of his fleet in a subsequent
storm. He now appealed to Antony for help. The two met at Tarentum in the
summer of 37 BC. Aside from Octavian's acquisition of some 120 ships from
Antony for the effort against Sextus (in return for a promise of 20,000
Italian troops for Antony's planned Parthian campaign), the meeting saw
the triumvirate renewed for a further five years. The office had expired
on 31 December, 38 BC, but none of the incumbents had paid any attention
to that inconvenient detail and continued to exercise its prerogatives
(illegally) for the first months of 37 BC. Now their power was renewed.
Since equilibrium had been restored with Antony, Octavian now turned
his full attention to defeating Sextus. Elaborate preparations, mostly
under the direction M. Vipsanius Agrippa, finally readied Octavian's fleet
for action in 36 BC. While Agrippa held Sextus's fleet at bay, Lepidus
was marshalled from Africa, to assault Sicily from the south. Another of
Octavian's generals was to converge on Italy from the northeast, while
Octavian himself would move from Campania. But ship-destroying storms and
another naval defeat for Octavian at the hands of Sextus seemed to signal
the failure of the entire operation. Agrippa, however, saved the day and
took several of Sextus's ports before engaging and destroying the rebel's
fleet at the battle of Naulochus on 3 September, 36 BC. Sextus fled east
but was murdered not long afterward. Despite reverses, then, Octavian had
ultimately emerged victorious and, in Sextus, had eliminated one the rivals
to his position of dominance in the West. Fate allowed him to neutralize
the other. Lepidus, so long in the shadows, now decided to make a play
for power. Finding himself in control of twenty-two legions in Sicily,
he defied Octavian and made demands that he quit the island for good. Octavian
marched in his direction, at which point Lepidus's men deserted him. At
an embarrassing scene in Lepidus's camp, Octavian spared his former triumviral
colleague but stripped him of his powers and confined him to house arrest
at the pleasant seaside town of Circeii. There he lived out his life unmolested
until he died, of natural causes, in 12 BC.[]
Octavian was now the unchallenged master of the Roman West. In one campaigning
season he had rid himself of the open challenge of Sextus Pompeius and
the sleeping challenge of Lepidus. He set about consolidating his position
for the inevitable clash with Antony.
The Triumvirate II: Showdown with Antony, 36-30 BC
When Octavian returned to Rome in triumph following the defeat of Sextus,
the senate naturally moved to honor him extravagantly. Among the proposed
honors was the suggestion that Octavian be named pontifex Maximinus,
pagan Rome's chief priest. Octavian refused. Lepidus, though disgraced,
was pontifex Maximinus; and it would be against established practice
for an incumbent to be stripped of this august priesthood while still alive.
Here emerges the first sign of a second major political reinvention on
Octavian's part, from avenger of Caesar and militarist revolutionary to
upholder and guardian of Roman tradition. The war against Sextus had been
tremendously difficult. Despite his popularity in some circles, Sextus
had been successfully cast as an enemy of the Roman people, the one who
threatened them with famine and starvation by cutting off grain shipments.
Conversely, Octavian had presented himself as the defender of the people's
interests. For this reason, his victory was immensely popular. It also
seems that the war caused Octavian to consider what alternative bases for
his power were available to him, and to seek new and broader platforms
of support beyond the army. His political reinvention was symbolized by
Octavian's decree that all records of his acts up to that point be burned.
He was starting over. From this perspective, the Principate may be argued
to have had its roots not with Caesar's murder in March 44 BC but with
Sextus Pompeius's defeat in September 36 BC.[]
In the East, Antony was not faring terribly well. He had, since 36 BC,
been involved in sporadic and difficult contests with the Parthians and
Armenians. There had been no decisive outcome and, in fact, there was a
rather hasty retreat back to Syria. This was all the more regrettable (in
Antony's eyes), since Octavian had been successful against Sextus and then,
in 35-33 BC, against the tribes of Illyricum. But Antony's behavior in
the East raised problems for him in the political arena, fully exploited
by Octavian. His continuing link with Cleopatra, despite his marriage to
Octavia, was among the most troublesome, and it had produced two children.
Antony also appeared to have "gone native," wearing eastern dress, with
an eastern despot as a consort, and practising eastern customs. Even more
appalling, having seized Armenia in 34 BC, Antony staged a spectacle in
Alexandria's gymnasium known since as the "Donations of Alexandria." In
this spectacle, Antony declared Cleopatra "Queen of Kings" and her son
by Caesar, Caesarion, "King of Kings"; he then divided up the eastern Roman
Empire among Cleopatra, Caesarion, and his own children. It seemed, from
an Italian perspective, that Antony was under the spell of Cleopatra, whose
ultimate goal, it was rumored, was to become Queen of Rome. Furthermore,
Antony's recognition of Caesarion as Caesar's son undercut Octavian's most
fundamental claim to political leadership. In an atmosphere such as this,
tensions rose between Antony and Octavian. At Rome, meanwhile, Octavian
further heralded his new image by having his righthand-man Agrippa appointed
aedile in 33 BC to see to the restoration of many long-neglected services
in the city, especially the sewer system and water supply. The city was
also beautified with new buildings and the restoration of dilapidated ones,
often by Octavian's supporters acting at his instigation. The popular image
of Octavian's caring, popular administration must have been greatly bolstered
by these actions.[]
The year 32 BC was a difficult one and saw Octavian and Antony finally
embark openly on the road to war. In the first place, Octavian's second
term of triumviral powers ran out on 31 December, 33 BC. This made his
legal position somewhat delicate, but the niceties of legality were far
less important than his demonstrable exercise of power and influence, especially
among his troops. Who was going to challenge him? It is interesting to
observe that Octavian immediately ceased using the title "triumvir"; Antony
did not. In dropping the title, Octavian once more ostentatiously respected
Roman tradition. As matters turned out, events at Rome were to offer Octavian
a new basis for claiming legitimate leadership of the Roman people, albeit
a non-legal one. On 1 January, 32 BC, the Antonian consul, C. Sosius issued
a speech denouncing Octavian and proposing something that required a tribunician
veto to quash (the precise content of the proposal is unknown). Octavian,
not in the city at the time, soon entered with an armed escort, convened
the senate, and denounced Antony. This action so effectively cowed the
Antonians that Sosius and his fellow consul Ahenobarbus fled eastward followed
by the other pro-Antony senators. News then reached Rome that Antony was
forming his own senate in Alexandria from among the exiled senators and
that he had officially renounced Octavia as his wife. Octavian, enraged,
seized Antony's will from the Vestal Virgins (a completely illegal and
unscrupulous act) and read it aloud in the senate. Its contents shocked
Roman sentiment: Antony wished to be buried in Alexandria, next to Cleopatra.
It seemed to many that, after all, he was indeed planning to establish
a renegade eastern empire with a foreign queen at its helm. War was declared
on Cleopatra, and traditional rituals revived to emphasize that the official
enemy was a foreigner, not a fellow Roman. As preparations for war geared
up in the summer of 32 BC, a remarkable thing happened. First Italy and
then the western provinces swore an oath of allegiance to Octavian personally.
Whether the oath was voluntary, as Augustus later claimed in his Res
Gestae, or a more carefully orchestrated piece of political theater,
Octavian could now claim to be the people's choice for the war against
Cleopatra. It was not a legal position, but it was an unassailable one.
In prospect, the war between Antony and Octavian promised to be the
largest civil conflict ever conducted by the Romans. Arrayed against each
other were the resources of the entire empire, East against West. The not
inconsiderable resources of Ptolemaic Egypt, the last surviving major Hellenistic
kingdom, were also in the mix. In the end, however, the war ended not with
a bang but with a fizzle. The massive forces moved against each other and
converged in Greece, as had Caesar and Pompey at the outset of an earlier
great conflict. The two sides encamped on the north side of the Ambracian
gulf, near the promontory of Actium.
Cleopatra's presence proved problematic for Antony, and there were defections
to Octavian. Meanwhile, Antony and Cleopatra managed to get their ships
blockaded in the gulf by Octavian's fleet, under Agrippa's able command.
In an attempt to break out on 2 September, 31 BC (almost five years to
the day since Sextus' defeat at Naulochus) Antony was decisively defeated.
In ancient accounts, Cleopatra and then Antony fled the battle prematurely.
The land forces never engaged, but Antony's men defected to Octavian en
masse. Everything had been decided in a few hours of naval warfare. []
The victory of Octavian was complete. Antony and Cleopatra fled to Egypt.
Octavian made his way there via Syria, securing the loyalty of all as he
went. Antony's forces and former supporters defected in droves. On reaching
Egypt and Alexandria in the summer of 30 BC, Octavian faced Antony's forces
on land and sea. A great battle seemed imminent -- until Antony's navy
and cavalry defected en masse before the very eyes of their general and
his infantry were defeated (1 August, 30 BC). Antony and Cleopatra committed
suicide, and passed from historical reality into the realm of romantic
legend. Octavian had Caesarion and Antony's eldest son (Antyllus) executed,
and he annexed Egypt as a province of Rome, ending the Ptolemaic period
of that country's history. He was now sole master of the entire Roman world.
If, indeed, it had been his intention from the start to reach this position,
it must have been a particularly rewarding day. For fourteen years he had
played a careful, dangerous, and patient game. Now it was time to secure
the future, for himself and for Rome.[]
From Octavian to Augustus: A New Order Established
The third and final political reinvention of Augustus was about to take
place. That the Republic needed a guiding hand was beyond doubt. The old
system had failed utterly and, if reinstated, would do so again. Even someone
as republican in sentiment as Cicero had finally admitted the need for
a "governing leader" of the state (rector). Octavian was to remain
in control, that much was clear. But how? Over the next three decades,
his position in the state was established in a complex amalgam of legal
and non-legal powers and privileges. The process was not instantaneous
nor did it adhere to a single agenda relentlessly pursued; rather, it evolved
piecemeal over time, occasionally reactionary, occasionally with foresight.
Many details remain debated or uncertain, but the overall process is clearly
discernible: it extends through two main "Constitutional Settlements" in
27 and 23 BC respectively, some refinements in 19 BC, and sporadic assignations
of numerous rights and privileges down to the granting of the ultimate
title, "Father of his Country" (Pater Patriae), in 2 BC.
In the wake of Actium,
however, there was work to be done. After taking Egypt and settling affairs
there, Octavian stayed away from Rome as he saw to the organization of
the East. For the most part, Antony's arrangements were left in place,
as long as old loyalties were suitably redirected. Octavian returned to
Rome and Italy, amid tumultuous celebrations, in August of 29 BC. Large
numbers of veterans were settled (perhaps 25 legions totalling 40,000 men
or more) both in Italy and the provinces, this time without complaint,
since the vast wealth of Egypt allowed for ample compensation. When he
entered Rome, he celebrated three triumphs over three days (over Dalmatia,
Actium, and Egypt). Legally, his difficult position of 32 BC had been bypassed
and Octavian held the consulship every year from 31 BC onwards (until 23
BC). Just as important, however, was the non-legal basis for his dominance,
later expressed by Augustus as "universal consent." The roots of this consent
must lie in the oath of 32 BC, now extended in principle, if not in practice,
to embrace the entire empire and all its armies. Octavian was, as he later
put it, "in complete control of affairs" precisely because everyone wanted
him to be and, just as significantly, because he was the last man standing.
There is political posturing in his claim to "universal consent," to be
sure, but possibly also some kernel of truth. He had ended the civil wars,
and all hopes for a peaceful future now rested with him and him alone.
In light of this, the senate and people voted him numerous honors in 29
BC, some of which Octavian judiciously refused, consonant with his image
as respecter of tradition. []
Octavian's holding continuous consulships would be insufficient as a
mode of administration in the long term, especially if, as he intended,
the old order was to be seen to be restored. He needed, somehow, to find
a firm place simultaneously within and above established norms. His position
at the head of affairs therefore needed careful consideration, and this
no doubt explains the eighteen-month gap between his return to Rome in
August 29 BC and the so-called First Constitutional Settlement of 13 January,
27 BC which, with the broadest of brush strokes, began painting the portrait
of the new order. Memories of Caesar's fate must have loomed large. Despite
that dictator's huge popularity among the masses, his complete victory
over his enemies in civil war, and the devotion of his troops, he had been
laid low by a few dozen disillusioned aristrocrats. Among the uppermost
considerations pressing on Octavian, therefore, must have been the need
to appease the sensibilities of the elite. In addition, the divided loyalties
of highly politicized armies had been a plague on the Late Republic. This
situation too would require remedying. These two issues, in fact, were
at the heart of the "First Settlement," staged in the senate on 13 January,
On that day, Octavian entered the senate and, to the shock of those
not in the know, surrendered his position and retired to private life.
The senators, possibly confused, reacted with indignance and insisted that
Octavian remain at the helm of the state. After a show of reluctance, Octavian
graciously accepted a share in the running of the state, gaining command
of Spain (except Baetica), Gaul, Syria, Cyprus, and Egypt while the senate
and people kept the rest. Within his extended provincia, granted
for ten years, Octavian could appoint legates to administer regions on
his behalf. Modern scholars have failed to reach agreement on the exact
legal status of Octavian's command over his provinces (was it by virtue
of imperium consulare or proconsulare, imperium maius
or aequum?), but the case for imperium proconsulare is the
stronger; it also had precedents, in the form of the "extraordinary commands"
of Pompey or Caesar in the Late Republic. This situation would have appealed
to Octavian's desire to appear to be maintaining traditions while also
doing nothing alarmingly new or innovative. Other honors and privileges
were also forthcoming, at a second meeting on 16 January. Here Octavian
was named Augustus, a word ringing with religious (augur) and social (auctoritas)
meaning but not suggestive of overt political dominance. C. Julius Caesar
Octavianus now became Imperator Caesar Augustus. Other honors carried more
symbolic meaning (laurels placed on the door of his house; award of the
civica for saving the lives of citizens; the "Shield of Virtues" erected
in his honor) but they were no less significant for that: they helped establish
Augustus's pre-eminent place in the state and craft the beginnings of an
Augustan ideology. By means of this settlement, Augustus was simultaneously
commander, leader, savior. []
In the summer following the settlement, Augustus left Rome to tour Gaul
and Spain. The journey kept him away from Rome until 24 BC--probably a
wise choice on his part, to be out of the public eye while the new arrangements
took root. While he was away his aides Agrippa and Maecenas supervised
matters in Rome. The summer after his return, probably in June or July,
the "Second Constitutional Settlement" was staged. At around this time
a conspiracy was unearthed and two principals, Fannius Caepio and Varro
Murena, were executed. In the absence of evidence, scholarly debate has
raged about the timing, aims, methods, and members of the conspiracy: was
the "Second Settlement" a reaction to the conspiracy, or vice versa? Or
were the events unrelated? In the end, the conclusion has to be left open,
but the case for the conspiracy's occurring after the settlement seems
the stronger, though any causative links between events remains little
more than putative. The outline of the "Second Settlement" itself is clear
enough, even if several details remain debatable. Augustus relinquished
the consulship (which he had been monopolizing since 31 BC) and was only
to take it up on two further occasions in the rest of his life, for dynastic
reasons. In return, he received an empire-wide grant of proconsular power
(imperium proconsulare) for five years. It is debated whether this
was "greater" (maius) than that of any other governor or "equal"
(aequum) to it. Five decrees found in Cyrenaica, dated to the period
6-4 BC, show Augustus intervening in the internal affairs of this province.
The implication is that his imperium overrode that of the governor
on the spot (and so was maius), though the possibility that it was
co-extensive with it must also be allowed (making the imperium aequum).
Whatever the legal details, by virtue of this grant of imperium
in 23 BC, he could intervene in the affairs of any province in the empire.
Unlike other governors, he was also given dispensation to retain his power
within the city limits of Rome (the pomerium), probably for purely
practical reasons: otherwise, every time he left the city, his proconsular
power would need to be renewed. In relinquishing the consulship, Augustus
lost certain powers and privileges within the city of Rome and its polity
(his proconsular power notwithstanding). These were now compensated for
by a grant of tribunician power (tribunicia potestas), also for
five years, that allowed him all the rights and privileges of a tribune
of the people, without actually holding that office: he could summon the
people, propose legislation, veto meetings and proposals, and so on. With
both his tribunician power and proconsular power, Augustus now had the
ability to direct affairs in every wing of domestic and foreign administration.
These two powers were long to remain the twin pillars of the Roman emperors'
legal position. []
While the major settlements of 27 and 23 BC established the bases of
Augustus's position, further refinements were necessary. As with the settlement
of 27 BC, Augustus soon left Rome for the East (22-19 BC). Before he left,
he was forced to refuse offers of the dictatorship or perpetual consulship
pressed on him by the people, who appear to have completely missed the
subtleties of the Second Settlement the year before. Over the coming years,
he received, piecemeal, some significant privileges and honors. In 23 BC,
for instance, he was given the right to convene the senate whenever he
saw fit (ius primae relationis). In 22 BC, he was appointed to oversee
Rome's grain supply (for how long is unclear). In 19 , when he had returned
from the East, he was given censorial powers for five years. When Lepidus
finally died in 13 or 12 BC, Augustus became chief priest (pontifex
Maximinus). Finally, in 2 BC, he was granted the title "Father of his
Country" (pater patriae), a title of which he was immensely proud.
It is not hard to see why, since the title placed Augustus in a relationship
with the Roman state analogous to that of a
paterfamilias over his
charges: he was to be in complete control of everything. In addition, there
was his membership of all the colleges of priests, numerous symbolic privileges
(e.g., immunity from taxes), and the matter of auctoritas. This
personal quality, impossible to translate into English with a single word,
was a combination of authority and influence derived from one's social
and political position, family, abilities, and achievements. It was, most
importantly, an informal virtue: it could not be voted to anyone by the
senate or the people. In this way, the extent of Augustus's auctoritas
reflected the extent and success of his life's work, and it helped him
get a lot of business done without constantly invoking his legally-conferred
powers. Augustus simply had to make known his preferences for matters to
transpire accordingly, so that, for instance, candidates for office whom
he favored invariably got elected. No wonder he was proud to boast that
he "surpassed all in auctoritas." []
The complex edifice of the Augustan Principate was, at heart, a sham.
But, like any successful sham, it was one that people could believe in.
Above all, there was political genius in Augustus's slow and careful acquisition
of overarching authority in every area of public life. At every step of
the way--from the oath of 32 BC through the "constitutional settlements"
and the honors and privileges conferred upon him piecemeal--he could present
himself as the passive partner. On all occasions, the senate and people
of Rome voluntarily conferred powers, privileges, and honors on him. He
sought nothing for himself; he was no Caesar. Indeed, he often expressed
reluctance to accept offices and honors that struck him as excessive, and
occasionally he refused them outright. In sharp contrast to Caesar, Augustus
constantly had one eye on aristocratic sensitivities. Furthermore, none
of his cardinal powers were conferred for life but, rather, for fixed periods
of five or (later) ten years. That these powers were never rescinded when
they came up for renewal is entirely beside the point: there was the illusion
of choice. That is what mattered. The vocabulary Augustus chose to express
his power, too, was a model of tact: "leading citizen" (princeps)
not dictator, "authoritative influence" (auctoritas) not "command"
(imperium). Throw into the equation his modest lifestyle, affable
approachability, routine consultation of the senate, and genuinely impressive
work ethic, and we have in Augustus one of the greatest and most skillfully
manipulative politicians of any nation in any age.
The Nature of the Principate and The Problem of the Succession
While his tact and the careful construction of his position shielded Augustus
from contemporary accusations of grasping ambition and lust for power,
it did bring with it an unpleasant corollary: tremendous uncertainty as
to happened when the "leading citizen" died. Technically, Augustus's position
was a particular package of powers granted to him by the senate and people,
for fixed periods. When he died, therefore, technically, it was up to the
senate and people to decide what happened next. They could appoint another
to replace Augustus, or return to the republican system of popular votes
and annual magistrates. Both of these options, however, would undoubtedly
lead to civil war. What would stop army commanders, particularly those
related to Augustus, from challenging a princeps chosen by the senators?
If there were a return to the "free republic," what would prevent a resurgence
of the chaos that had preceded Augustus? Indeed, paradoxically, Augustus's
very position had set a new precedent for what one could achieve: others
would almost certainly aspire to it, even it were officially abandoned.
In short, there was no possibility of Augustus leaving the choice of what
happened after his death to the senate and people, despite their legal
position as the source of his powers. He himself realized this. Suetonius
reports his published ambition that the new order continue after his death.
But there was a problem here, too. If, as Augustus himself claimed in his
Gestae, he really "possessed no more official power than the others
who were my colleagues in the several magistracies," then he had as little
right to appoint a successor as did a governor, or a consul, or a praetor.
Such an action would traduce tradition and smack too openly of the despised
kingship. So Augustus was in a real bind in the matter of the succession.
His solution will be familiar to Kremlinologists: the granting of signs
of preference to favored individuals, in this case drawn largely from within
the princeps' own house. In selecting members of his extended family,
Augustus was behaving entirely within the ethos of the Roman aristocracy,
for whom family was paramount. It would also ensure that the name "Caesar,"
which had been so vital in establishing Augustus's own control over the
armed forces, would remain at the head of the state. But the informal nature
of Augustus's succession arrangements, even if forced on him by the nature
of his position, opened the door to domestic turmoil and proved the single
most consistently destabilizing political factor in his reign and those
of future emperors. []
After Actium, Augustus moved on the succession problem quickly. He began
to show signs of favor to his nephew, Marcellus. He himself only had one
natural child, Julia, his daughter by his second wife, Scribonia. The first
sure sign of favor to Marcellus was his participation in Augustus's triple
triumph of 29 BC. In 25 BC, Marcellus was married to Julia, forming a closer
family link with Augustus. The following year, Marcellus became aedile
and, on Augustus's request, was granted the privilege of sitting as an
ex-praetor in the senate and of standing for the consulship ten years in
advance of the legal age. By 23 BC he was widely considered, in Velleius's
words, Augustus's "successor in power" (successor potentiae). Then,
a surprise. Augustus fell seriously ill in 23 BC. As he lay on what he
thought was his deathbed, he handed an account of the state's resources
to the consul Cn. Calpurnius Piso, and his signet ring to Agrippa. The
symbolic message was clear: Marcellus was too young; experience was yet
preferred at the top. Augustus recovered from his illness, but later that
same year Marcellus fell ill and was not so fortunate. He was nineteen
when he died and was entombed with all due pomp and ceremony in Augustus's
family mausoleum. []
The career of Marcellus, short though it was, already revealed the elements
of Augustus's methods: he was to use family links (marriage or adoption)
in conjunction with constitutional privileges (office-holding and the privilege
of standing for office early) to indicate his successor. His inspiration
appears to have been his personal experience: as Caesar had presented Octavius
to the public at his triumphs of September 46 BC, so now did Augustus display
Marcellus at his own triumphs in August 29 BC; as the senate had Octavius
granted the right to stand for the consulship ten years in advance of the
legal age in 43 BC, so Augustus had the same right granted to Marcellus
in 24 BC; and just as Caesar had bound Octavius to him by a familial link,
so now did Augustus with Marcellus's marriage to Julia (although such political
alliances through family ties had long been a staple of the Roman nobility).
Each event had its precedent; it was their combination that was significant.
Marcellus was soon replaced by Agrippa. Shortly before Marcellus's death,
Agrippa had left for the East. In the face of Marcellus's earlier preferment,
the sources abound with rumors of Agrippa's voluntary departure in high
dudgeon or of his forcible exile, but such speculations are demonstrably
without merit. Agrippa had been favored when Augustus was ill in 23 BC
and subsequently went East with a grant of imperium proconsulare,
a share in Augustus's own powers. This is not what Augustus would have
done with a man of whom he was suspicious or who had fallen in any way
from favor. Augustus had business in the East, to which he was shortly
to attend personally, and Agrippa was doubtless sent ahead to pave the
way. Maecenas, Augustus's other chief advisor and no friend of Agrippa,
is reported to have commented in 21 BC that Agrippa had now been raised
so high that either Augustus must marry him to Julia or kill him. Augustus
chose the former route. Julia was married to Agrippa in that year. Until
his death in 12 BC, Agrippa was clearly intended to be Augustus's successor.
Aside from his marriage to Julia, in 18 BC Agrippa's proconsular power
was renewed and, more significantly, he received a share of tribunician
power (renewed in 13 BC). []
By virtue of these powers and privileges, had anything happened to Augustus
in the years 21-13 BC, Agrippa would have been ideally placed to take over
the reins of government. Coins of the period 13-12 BC depict Agrippa as
virtual co-emperor with Augustus, although the latter was always the senior
partner. This straightforward interpretation of the situation in these
years has been complicated by Augustus's treatment of Agrippa and Julia's
sons, Gaius (born in 20 BC) and Lucius (born in 17 BC). When Lucius was
born, Augustus adopted them both as his own sons and they became Gaius
and Lucius Caesar. A further complication is added when the ongoing careers
of Augustus's stepsons, Tiberius and
Drusus, who were also advanced over these years, are taken into consideration.
The intent behind these labyrinthine machinations appears to have been
to create a pool of eligible candidates, headed by a frontrunner. Any other
princes as were advanced in the background are best considered as insurance
against fate or as indicators of Augustus's preferences for the third generation
of the Principate. In this way, Agrippa was to succeed Augustus, but the
adoption of Gaius and Lucius signalled Augustus's desire that one of them
succeed Agrippa (which one was to be preferred remains unclear, given subsequent
events). Tiberius and Drusus, as imperial
princes, can be expected to have enjoyed high public profiles and earned
various privileges, but they were very much on the backburner in these
years. Notions of Regency (Agrippa over Gaius and Lucius) or paired succession
(Gaius and Lucius, Tiberius and Drusus)
proposed by modern scholars seem remoter possibilities. []
Augustus's vision for the succession can be seen in action again in
12 BC, when Agrippa died. Julia, now widowed a second time, was married
to Tiberius the following year. Tiberius
was Augustus's stepson and the most senior and experienced of the "secondary"
princes in the imperial house. As such, he was a natural choice. Not long
afterward, Tiberius left for campaigns
in Germany and Pannonia, possibly with a grant of proconsular imperium.
In 7 BC he entered his second consulship and the following year his position
was made plain when he received a large commission in the East and a grant
of tribunician power. In short, between 12 and 6 BC Tiberius
was upgraded to take Agrippa's place in Augustus's scheme and was installed
to be Augustus's successor. But it was to be a rocky road indeed that led
to his eventual succession in AD 14. In 6 BC Tiberius
unexpectedly "retired" to Rhodes, despite his prominent public position.
Augustus, apparently angered by Tiberius's
action, had little choice (Drusus, Tiberius's
brother had died in Germany in 9 BC). He appears to have relied on his
increasingly robust health to see his adopted sons Gaius and Lucius Caesar
to their maturity. But fate intervened once more and both young men died,
Lucius in AD 2 and Gaius two years after that. In a burst of dynastic activity
in June of AD 4, Tiberius was rehabilitated
and adopted by Augustus, as was Agrippa Postumus (the youngest child of
Julia and Agrippa); Tiberius was constrained
to adopt his nephew Germanicus. Again,
debate has swirled around these arrangements but, following the suggestions
made above, it is probably best to avoid notions of regency or paired succcession
and see here an attempt by Augustus to re-establish a "pool" of princes
from which to draw candidates, with Tiberius
as the favored successor and Germanicus
to come behind him. The adoption of Agrippa Postumus remains puzzling,
but he was still only a teenager at the time and the move may have been
intended only to secure his prominence in future succession plans. Germanicus,
twenty years old at the time of his adoption by Tiberius,
was clearly the frontrunner for the third generation of the Principate.
Through him, also, Augustus could hope for a Julian heir to the throne,
but it is far from clear whether this remote consideration played any decisive
role in Augustus's thinking. []
The succession issue was not a happy one for the imperial house and
carried in its train some domestic tragedies. Aside from the deaths of
the various princes, Augustus banished his own daughter Julia in 2 BC and
her daughter, also named Julia, in AD 8. In AD 6-7 Agrippa Postumus was
disinherited and banished to the small island of Planasia, only to be murdered
shortly after Augustus's death. The banishment of Julia the Elder is emblematic
of this group of events. Julia's marriage to Tiberius
had not been successful and she appears to have sought solace in the arms
of various noblemen and equestrians. In 2 BC her indiscretions were brought
to Augustus's attention and, enraged, he banished her to the island of
Pandateria. She never returned to Rome. The sources unanimously ascribe
Julia's fate to her licentiousness and immorality, but modern scholars
have rightly questioned this presentation and seen instead dynastic scheming
behind Julia's actions and subsequent banishment. Whatever the actual degree
of Julia's political acumen, the informal and allusive nature of the succession
system itself was the root cause of her demise. For, in the Augustan system,
an imperial princess who had been married to no less than three indicated
favorites (Marcellus, Agrippa, and Tiberius)
and who then brought outsiders into her bed was also bringing them into
the heart of the dynasty. That could not be tolerated. That Augustus interpreted
his daughter's misdeeds in political terms, at least in part, is suggested
by the trial for treason of one of Julia's lovers, Iullus Antonius, and
his subsequent execution or suicide; others of her lovers were banished.
The same can be said for the fall of Agrippa Postumus and then of Julia
the Younger. However murky the details in each case, they can all be seen
as victims of the Augustan succession system. []
In all, then, the succession problem was a difficult one for Augustus,
and his solutions only perpetuated it for all future emperors. Despite
the internal difficulties engendered by the issue, Augustus was keen to
present a united image of the imperial house to the populace. This is best
illustrated by the "Altar of the Augustan Peace" (Ara Pacis Augustae),
dedicated in January, 9 BC, and laden with symbolic significance largely
outside the purview of this biography. For our current purposes, most important
is the presentation to the people, on the south frieze, of the imperial
family--women and children included--as a corporate entity. The message
of dynastic harmony and the promise of future stability emanating from
the imperial house is palpable. The reality, as we have just seen, was
Augustus and the Empire I: the Army
At the heart of Augustus's position in the state lay the army. It had been
a major player in the chaotic events of the Late Republic and it had carried
Augustus to power. Concern for its proper maintenance and for the effective
channelling of its loyalties was therefore one of the chief goals of the
Augustan settlement. In achieving these goals, Augustus's actions were
a rousing success, since the army was tamed as a force in imperial politics
for the better part of a century.
Augustus completed the ongoing professionalization of the Roman military
by establishing a force of 28 standing legions (three were to be lost in
Germany in AD 9), made up of volunteer recruits. For the citizen soldiers
of the legions, service was for a prescribed period (first 16, then 20
years), on a regular wage, and with fixed rewards upon discharge. After
14 BC, land grants were discontinued in favor of cash pension payments;
such payments were funded, after AD 6, by a new public treasury (the aerarium
militare). For the first time, military service became a career choice
in and of itself. Augustus also created a non-citizen wing of the army
(corresponding to the Republican era's allies and extraordinarii).
These auxiliary troops were formed into cohorts of infantry and wings (alae)
of cavalry, usually 500 or 1000 strong, sometimes under their own commanders,
sometimes under a Roman officer (an ex-centurion or tribune). Under Augustus,
auxiliary units were mostly raised as needed and disbanded when the campaign(s)
ended; some units were incorporated into the new permanent force, on terms
of service similar to those for the legionaries. Augustus also regularized
the organization and terms of service in the Roman navy and created the
praetorian guard, a personal force which he discreetly and tactfully billeted
in townships around Rome. []
Augustus was careful to channel the loyalties of this new professional
army solely in his direction. The troops' loyalty to Augustus was assured
by their taking a personal oath of loyalty to him and by his role as their
sole paymaster and guarantor of their rewards on discharge. In short, he
was their patron. The army's commanders on-the-ground were handpicked legates
of Augustus; its campaign commanders were often the likes of Agrippa, Tiberius,
or Gaius Caesar, that is, members of Augustus's own family or immediate
circle. He also kept the army busy in major campaigns in Spain, the Alpine
regions, along the Danube and Rhine rivers, across the Rhine in Germany,
and in numerous small-scale actions all along the empire's frontiers. Where
active campaigns were not prosecuted, as in Gaul or in the East, the army
was used as a means of aiding political settlements (as in the return of
the Parthian eagles in 20 BC or the meeting of C. Caesar and the Parthians
on an island in the Euphrates in AD 2) or as a garrison over local populations
(as in Gaul). While Augustus did not go so far as to station the legions
along the frontier as a defensive garrison force (as was to happen in later
ages), he at least removed them from the center of power and began the
process of keeping them in the vicinity of the frontiers. Although Augustus
appears to some scholars to have been aiming at establishing "scientific
frontiers" along the Rhine/Elbe and Danube lines, the whole issue of his
foreign policy--indeed, whether even such a policy existed--remains most
unclear. For the "scientific frontiers" view to be true, certain problematic
assumptions are requisite, not the least concerning the Romans' cartographic
capabilities and their appreciation of geographic realities well beyond
their immediate purview; it is also questionable to what degree the administration
of the empire in general adhered to clearly conceived "policy" on anything,
rather than reacting ad hoc as circumstances and local conditions dictated.
On the whole, then, we should probably avoid notions of Roman "imperial
policy" on the model of modern national policies. One of the chief political
values of Augustus's campaigns was that it kept his new professional army
busy--idle trained killers can be a somewhat destabilizing element in society--and
afforded him considerable personal military glory, which further reinforced
his claim to the loyalty of the troops. []
The importance to Augustus, as well as to the state, of his monopolization
of army loyalties is revealed in two suggestive incidents in 27 BC, when
the Augustan order was still in its infancy. At this delicate time, M.
Licinius Crassus, grandson of the great Late Republican magnate, raised
a serious problem for Augustus. As governor of Macedonia he had undertaken
successful campaigns south of the Danube in 29-28 BC and had personally
killed the enemy leader in battle. In 27 BC, then, he was awarded a triumph
but he went further: he claimed the ancient honor of
("the most honorable spoils"), awarded to a Roman commander who had slain
his counterpart with his own hand. These honors, involving the dedication
of the enemy commander's captured panoply to Jupiter Feretrius, had only
been earned on three prior occasions in all of Roman history. Since Crassus's
claim to the spolia opima would have raised Crassus into the uppermost
echelons of military glory, it had the potential to confuse the soldiers'
loyalty toward Augustus. So Augustus blocked the claim on a technicality.
Crassus held his triumph and promptly disappears from our records. (It
is unlikely that he was killed but, rather, that his public profile died
a death in the face of Augustus's displeasure, a good example, if true,
of the workings of auctoritas.) Not long afterward, another governor
proved problematic. C. Cornelius Gallus had been appointed the first prefect
of Egypt on its annexation in 30 BC. Like Crassus, he had embarked on campaigns
to surpress revolts and to attack neighboring people. He then celebrated
his successes with statues of himself and bragging inscriptions, one of
which has survived. Enraged, Augustus let it be known that he no longer
considered Gallus his friend. Charges were immediately brought and proposals
laid that Gallus be convicted in absentia, exiled, and his property
given to Augustus. His social status and political career in ruins, his
very life perhaps in danger, Gallus committed suicide (possibly in 26 BC).
Both of these men had behaved fully within the boundaries of republican
precedent but had failed utterly to appreciate a fundamental rule of the
new order: there was to be no military glory but Augustus's. In contrast,
Agrippa, for so long Augustus's right-hand man, repeatedly refused honors
and triumphs granted to him; all his victories were celebrated by Augustus.
Augustus and the Empire II: Administration
Augustus also reformed and refined the administration of the Roman empire
in many respects. In the domestic sphere, the senate had moved from being
the chief organ of the state to being a subordinate entity, an assemblage
of administrators at the disposal of Augustus. What was essential from
Augustus's viewpoint was that the senators not have this fact dangled before
their faces, hence his tact in dealing with them. Consuls, for instance,
continued to hold office annually but the need to pass the honor around
more liberally required Augustus to create "suffect" consulships, a sort
of supplementary consulship that doubled the number of men holding the
consulship per year (the suffects replaced the "ordinary" consuls, who
stepped down from office in mid-term, so there was always the traditional
pair of consuls in office at any given time). This is a good illustration
of the mixture of tradition and innovation that marks so much of Augustus's
activity. Augustus also appointed senators to newly-created positions such
as the curatorships of the aqueducts or of the public works, the prefecture
of the city, and so on. Throughout, he consulted the senate frequently
and fully and treated it with respect. More significantly, he formed an
inner "cabinet" (consilium) from the two presiding consuls, a representation
of minor magistrates, and fifteen senators chosen by lot. Nevertheless,
in Dio's revealing words, "nothing was done that did not please Caesar."
As the administration of the state became more regularized, Augustus also
drew administrators from the non-senatorial section of the elite, the equites.
A variety of new posts was created exclusively for equestrians, including
command of the praetorian cohorts and of the vigiles (firefighters),
and the important prefectures of the corn supply and of Egypt; their role
as army officers also appears to have expanded in these years. As a result,
equites benefited enormously from Augustus's rule, and that
of future emperors. Altogether, the thrust of Augustus's administrative
reforms was to create permanent, standing offices headed by longer-term
appointments where the Republican system had preferred occasional or rotating
appointments, or none at all. []
In the sphere of external affairs, many of the army's conquests were
formed into new provinces, especially along the south shore of the Danube
(Moesia, Pannonia, Noricum, and Raetia) and the Alps (Alpes Cottiae and
Maritimae). In the East and in Mauretania in North Africa, client kingdoms
and principalities were allowed to exist, sometimes in very complex arrangements,
as with the Tetrarchs in Palestine or the numerous lesser kingdoms that
dotted the interior and eastern reaches of Asia Minor. From 27 BC onward
these provinces were divided into those that fell into the vast provincia
of Augustus (the "imperial" provinces) and those that were retained by
the senate and people (the "senatorial" or "public" provinces; see above,
"From Octavian to Augutus: A New Order Established"). When the disposition
of the provinces is examined (as it stood on Augustus's death in AD 14),
it shows that the imperial territories outnumber the public ones by a factor
of almost two, and that all but one of the empire's twenty-five legions
then in service fell under the emperor's command. Further, the Cyrenaica
decrees reveal the emperor making decisions about the internal operation
of this, a public province. Such interference on Augustus's part was legitimated
by the improved imperium proconsulare granted him in the settlement
of 23 BC and brings into question any notions of joint rule by senate and
(so-called dyarchy). Ultimately, all the provinces were Augustus's concern.
Overall, it is fair to say that the provinces, whether public or imperial,
benefited enormously from Augustus's reign. Not only had he brought them
peace, he also brought them good government. Legates in imperial provinces
were appointed by Augustus for periods of three years or more depending
on local conditions, whereas proconsuls in the public provinces continued
to rotate annually. The men varied in rank from senators (proconsuls, usually
of praetorian rank, in public provinces; legates of praetorian or consular
rank in imperial ones) to equites (governing as prefects, as in
Egypt and some of the smaller, unarmed provinces). Whatever their status,
under the new order governors had no reason to extort from their provinces
the huge sums of money that Republican-era proconsuls and propraetors had
used to bankroll their domestic political careers, since the success of
those careers now depended less on victory at the polls and more on the
emperor's favor. Indeed, extortion in the provinces could be positively
dangerous, as it raised suspicions about the nature of one's ultimate ambitions.
These strictures applied no less in the public than in the imperial provinces,
since all governors were now answerable to a single source of authority
in a way they had not been under the Republic. This does not mean that
rapacious governors entirely disappeared as a breed but that, for the most
part--the disappointments of Gallus and Crassus aside--Augustus's gubernatorial
appointments were sound. We hear of no major failings in the management
of the provinces during his reign and certainly nothing on a par with the
rapacious activities of the likes of Caesar or Sulla under the Republic.
Augustus, by virtue of proconsular power, could also intervene directly
in any provincial dispute, as he did famously in Cyrenaica. Hardly surprising,
then, is the fact that of all the emperors, Augustus's image is the most
commonly found in the provinces, even long after his death. The remarkable
period of peace and prosperity ushered in by Augustus's reign is known
not only as the Pax Romana but also as the Pax Augusta. []
Augustus, as the protector and guardian of Roman tradition, also sought
to inculcate a return to that tradition by means of legislation: "by new
laws passed at my instigation, I brought back those practices of our ancestors
that were passing away in our age" (RG 8.5). Thus, for instance,
he passed laws limiting public displays of extravagance (so-called sumptuary
legislation) in the manner of the old Republican senate, and he attempted
through marriage regulations to put a cap on divorces and punish childlessness
and adultery among the elite. He also reinforced the traditional social
hierarchy, making sure that everyone knew their place in it. Minimum property
qualifications for membership of the upper orders were reinforced, and
status symbols for all the classes, especially the amorphous equestrians,
clearly established. The convergence of this sort of legislation is illustrated
by the series of laws pertaining to freed slaves, passed between 17 BC
and AD 4. In the first place, the numbers of slaves that could be informally
manumitted or freed in wills was restricted in proportion to the total
number of slaves owned. This is a piece of sumptuary regulation, limiting
overly extravagant displays of wealth and generosity in public. Second,
informally freed slaves were placed into a special class of quasi-citizenship
termed Junian Latinity that was capable of being upgraded to full citizenship
only after the Junians had proved themselves worthy; one way of achieving
worthiness was to have children. Such regulations, then, encapsulated the
Augustan attitudes toward public extravagance, maintenance of the social
hierarchy, and marriage and reproduction. In his private life, Augustus
fell short of his own ideals (witness the turmoil engendered in his family
by adultery and infidelities of all sorts), but the thrust of his social
legislation was less to regulate individuals' private behavior than to
maintain the proper outward appearance of dignitas and decency that
Augustus felt had been lost during the Late Republic. As such, it pertained
to the ruling classes of the state and hardly at all affected the commoner
on the street. []
Finally, there is the issue of the worship of Augustus. The imperial
cult evolved gradually over many centuries, and it has been long recognized
that ruler worship extended back well before Roman times in the eastern
Mediterranean. In the East, then, the worship of Augustus as a god commenced
not long after Actium. Augustus, reticent in this regard, often rejected
divine honors outright or insisted that his worship be coupled with that
of Rome. He probably had an eye on Caesar's fate in so acting. The situation
in the West, however, was more difficult. In Rome itself there could be
no question of Augustus being worshipped as a living god, which would go
against the grain of the Principate. In any case, he was already the son
of a god and the "revered one" (Augustus). A compromise solution appears
to have been to have his will (numen) or essence (genius)
recognized as divine. In Italy and out in the western provinces Augustus
did not actively block direct worship, and two major cult centers were
established at Lugdunum in Gaul and Cologne on the Rhine with altars at
each place to Rome and Augustus, maintained by officials drawn from the
local elite. In communities all across the West, in fact, altars and temples
to Rome and Augustus and to Augustus himself are attested, all staffed
by locals. Such cult centers therefore acted not only to promote unity
in the previously barbarous western provinces and to direct loyalties accordingly,
but they also facilitated the assimilation of local populations into a
Roman way of life. []
"The Augustan Age"
As Rome's pre-eminent citizen, Augustus quickly became the empire's pre-eminent
patron of the arts, and many of the people within his ambit enjoyed similar
roles. In the sphere of art and architecture, the Augustan building programme
was extensive, prompting his famous quote: "I found Rome a city of brick
and left it a city of marble." Augustus himself proudly boasted of the
dozens of building projects (constructions, restorations, and adornments)
he undertook at his own expense. These projects exclude the innumerable
acts of munificence carried out by members of his household, his inner
circle, or the elite at his instigation. Among his major monuments in the
city were his Forum (still an impressive ruin), the Ara Pacis Augustae,
and Agrippa's extensive activity in the Campus Martius, which generated
the Baths of Agrippa, the Stagnum and Euripus, the Pantheon, and the Saepta
Julia. Throughout, the Augustan style is a mixture of conservatism and
innovation and often strives for a Greek look so that it has been termed
"classicizing" in tone, which is aptly demonstrated by the way Augustus's
ageless portraits stand in sharp constrast with the sometimes brutally
frank "veristic" representations of the Late-Republican elite. []
The Augustan literary scene was also exceptionally vibrant. This is
the era of some of Rome's most famous and influential writers, including
Vergil, Horace, Ovid, Propertius, and Tibullus in poetry, and Livy in prose.
Vergil, in particular, crafted a new national epic for the Romans in the
which quickly came to replace Ennius's Annales as the poem every
schoolchild learned by heart. This great flowering of literary activity
was generated by the development of literary circles of patronage, which
had been mostly in abeyance since the second century BC. The most famous
literary, indeed artistic, patron of his day was C. Maecenas, a close associate
of Augustus from the very beginning but one who never played an active
role in politics (in contrast to Agrippa). Something of a bon vivant,
he actively supported the careers of Vergil and Horace, for instance, until
his death in 8 BC. Another circle formed around M. Valerius Messalla Corvinus,
who promoted the careers of Tibullus and Ovid. For the historian the most
intriguing question such literary circles prompt is the degree to which
the political and cultural sentiments expressed by these writers were officially
directed, and so in effect provided propaganda for the Augustan regime.
When all the evidence is weighed, there can be no question of a state-controlled
literature (on the model of media in modern totalitarian states) but there
may have been encouragement from the top to express the correct view coupled,
no doubt, with genuine gratitude and relief on the part of the patrons
and writers alike that Augustus had restored peace and stability to public
affairs. In this way, Vergil's Eclogues and Georgics can
reflect the hope Augustus brought for a restoration of peace to the Italian
countryside, while the Republican sentiments of Livy's history could be
so pronounced that Augustus jokingly termed him "my Pompeian." The point
is that both authors flourished under the regime. []
Death and Retrospective
In his later years, Augustus withdrew more and more from the public eye,
although he continued to transact public business. He was getting older,
and old age in ancient times must have been considerably more debilitating
than it is today. In any case, Tiberius
had been installed as his successor and, by AD 13, was virtually emperor
already. In AD 4 he had received grants of both proconsular and tribunician
power, which had been renewed as a matter of course whenever they needed
to be; in AD 13, Tiberius's imperium
had been made co-extensive with that of Augustus. While traveling in Campania,
Augustus died peacefully at Nola on 19 August, AD 14. Tiberius, who was
en route to Illyricum, hurried to the scene and, depending on the source,
arrived too late or spent a day in consultation with the dying princeps.
The tradition that Livia poisoned her husband
is scurrilous in the extreme and most unlikely to be true. Whatever the
case about these details, Imperator Caesar Augustus, Son of a God, Father
of his Country, the man who had ruled the Roman world alone for almost
45 years, or over half a century if the triumviral period is included,
was dead. He was accorded a magnificent funeral, buried in the mausoleum
he had built in Rome, and entered the Roman pantheon as Divus Augustus.
In his will, he left 1,000 sesterces apiece to the men of the Praetorian
guard, 500 to the urban cohorts, and 300 to each of the legionaries. In
death, as in life, Augustus acknowledged the true source of his power.
The inscription entitled "The Achievements of the Divine Augustus" (Res
Gestae Divi Augustae; usually abbreviated RG) remains a remarkable
piece of evidence deriving from Augustus's reign. The fullest copy of it
is the bilingual Greek and Latin version carved into the walls of the Temple
of Rome and Augustus at Ancyra in Galatia (for this reason the RG
used to be commonly referred to as the Monumentum Ancyranum). Other
evidence, however, demonstrates that the original was inscribed on two
bronze pillars that flanked the entrance to the Mausoleum of Augustus in
Rome. The inscription remains the only first-person summary of any Roman
emperor's political career and, as such, offers invaluable insights into
the Augustan regime's public presentation of itself. []
In looking back on the reign of Augustus and its legacy to the Roman
world, its longevity ought not to be overlooked as a key factor in its
success. People had been born and reached middle age without knowing any
form of government other than the Principate. Had Augustus died earlier
(in 23 BC, for instance), matters may have turned out very differently.
The attrition of the civil wars on the old Republican aristocracy and the
longevity of Augustus, therefore, must be seen as major contributing factors
in the transformation of the Roman state into a monarchy in these years.
Augustus's own experience, his patience, his tact, and his great political
acumen also played their part. All of these factors allowed him to put
an end to the chaos of the Late Republic and re-establish the Roman state
on a firm footing. He directed the future of the empire down many lasting
paths, from the existence of a standing professional army stationed at
or near the frontiers, to the dynastic principle so often employed in the
imperial succession, to the embellishment of the capital at the emperor's
expense. Augustus's ultimate legacy, however, was the peace and prosperity
the empire was to enjoy for the next two centuries under the system he
initiated. His memory was enshrined in the political ethos of the Imperial
age as a paradigm of the good emperor; although every emperor adopted his
name, Caesar Augustus, only a handful earned genuine comparison with him.
As always, but perhaps more so in this case, the potential bibliography
for this subject is daunting. Listed below are only the most influential
and/or recent works, the bibliographies of which can be plundered profitably
for more focused studies. The author welcomes notification of errors, omissions,
or updates. The Cambridge Ancient History, vol. 10 (2nd ed., 1996)
offers an excellent starting point for the interested reader.
Benario, H.W., "Octavian's Status in 32 BC," Chiron 5 (1975):
Birch, R.A., "The Settlement of 26 June, AD 4 and its Aftermath," CQ
31 (1981): 443-56.
Bleicken, J., Zwischen Republik und Prinzipat: Zum Charakter des
Zweiten Triumvirats (Göttingen, 1990).
________. Augustus (Berlin, 1998).
Bradley, K.R., Slaves and Masters in the Roman Empire (Oxford,
Braund, D., Augustus to Nero: A Sourcebook on Roman History 31 BC
- AD 68 (London, 1985).
Carter, J. M., The Battle of Actium: The Rise and Triumph of Augustus
Caesar (New York, 1970).
Conlin, D.A., The Artists of the Ara Pacis (Chapel Hill, 1997).
Corbett, J.H., "The Succession Policy of Augustus," Latomus 33
Crook, J., Consilium Principis: Imperial Councils and Counsellors
from Augustus to Diocletian (Cambridge, 1955).
Demougin, S., L'Ordre equestre sous les Julio-Claudiens (Rome,
Durry, M., Les Cohortes Prétoriennes (Paris, 1938).
Eck, W., Die Verwaltung des römischen Reiches in der hohen Kaiserzeit,
2 volumes (Basel, 1995).
Eder, W., "Augustus and the Power of Tradition: The Augustan Principate
as Binding Link between Republic and Empire," in Raaflaub and Toher, 71-122.
Fishwick, D., The Imperial Cult in the Latin West (Leiden, 1987).
Galinsky, K., Augustan Culture: An Interpretive Introduction
Gowing, A.M. The Triumviral Narratives of Appian and Cassius Dio
(Ann Arbor, 1992).
Gray, E.W., "The Imperium of M. Agrippa," ZPE 6 (1970): 227-38.
Gruen, E. S., "The Imperial Policy of Augustus," in Raaflaub and Toher,
395-416 (expanded on in his entry in CAH vol. 10)
Gurval, R.A., Actium and Augustus: The Politics and Emotions of Civil
War (Ann Arbor, 1995).
Hadas, M., Sextus Pompey (New York, 1930; reprint, 1966).
Issac, B., The Limits of Empire: The Roman Army in the East,
revised edition (Oxford, 1992).
Jameson, S., "Augustus and Agrippa Postumus," Historia 24 (1975):
Kaiser Augustus und die verlorene Republik, eine Ausstellung im Martin-Gropius-Bau,
Berlin, 7. Juni-14. August 1988. (Mainz, 1988).
Keppie, L., Colonisation and Veteran Settlement in Italy, 47-14 BC
________. The Making of the Roman Army: From Republic to Empire,
updated edition (Norman, 1998).
Kienast, D., Augustus: Prinzeps und Monarch (Darmstadt, 1982).
________. Römische Kaisertabelle, 2nd edition (Darmstadt,
Kolb, F., "Zur Statussymbolik im antiken Rom," Chiron 7 (1977):
Lacey, W.K., Augustus and the Principate: The Evolution of the System
Lanza, C., Auctoritas Principis (Milan, 1996).
Levick, B., "Drusus Caesar and the Adoptions of AD 4," Latomus
25 (1966): 227-44.
________. "Abdication and Agrippa Postumus," Historia 21 (1972):
________. "Julians and Claudians," Greece and Rome 22 (1975):
Lintott, A., Imperium Romanum: Politics and Administration (London,
Jones, A.H.M. Augustus (London, 1970)
Magdelain, A., Auctoritas Principis (Paris, 1947).
Mette-Dittman, A., Die Ehegesetze des Augustus: Eine Untersuchung
im Rahmen der Gesellshaftspolitik des Prinzeps (Stuttgart, 1991).
Millar, F., "The Emperor, the Senate and the Roman Provinces," JRS
56 (1966): 156-66.
________. "Triumvirate and Principate," JRS 63 (1973): 50-67.
________. The Emperor in the Roman World (London, 1977).
________. The Roman Empire and its Neighbours, 2nd edition (London,
Millar, F. and E. Segal, Caesar Augustus: Seven Aspects (Oxford,
Ostrow, S.E., "The Augustales in the Augustan Scheme," in Raaflaub
and Toher, 364-78.
Pollini, J., "Man or God: Divine Assimilation and Imitation in the Late
Republic and Early Empire," in Raaflaub and Toher, 334-63
Prince, S.R.F., Rituals and Power: The Roman Imperial Cult in Asia
Minor (Cambridge, 1984)
Raaflaub, K., and L. J. Samons II, "Opposition to Augustus," in Raaflaub
and Toher, 417-54.
________. and M. Toher (eds.), Between Republic and Empire: Interpretations
of Augustus and his Principate (Berkeley, 1990).
Ramage, E.S., The Nature and Purpose of Augustus's Res Gestae
Rawson, E., "Discrimina Ordinum: The Lex Julia Theatralis," PBSR
55 (1987): 83-114 (reprinted in her Roman Culture and Society: Collected
Papers [Oxford, 1991], 508-45).
Rich, J.W., Cassius Dio and the Augustan Settlement (Warminster,
Reinhold, M., Marcus Agrippa: A Biography (Rome, 1965).
Roddaz, J.-M., Marcus Agrippa (Rome, 1984).
Salmon, E.T., "The Evolution of Augustus's Principate," Historia
5 (1956): 456-78.
Schlüter, W. "The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest: Archaeological
Research at Kalkreise near Osnabrück," in J.D. Creighton and R.J.A.
Wilson (eds), Roman Germany: Studies in Cultural Interaction (Portsmouth,
RI, 1999), 125-59.
Shotter, D.C., Augustus Caesar (London, 1991)
Simon, E., Augustus: Kunst und Leben in Rom um die Zeitenwende
Southern, P., Augustus (London, 1998).
Syme, R., The Roman Revolution, rev. ed. (Oxford, 1952).
________. History in Ovid (Oxford, 1978).
________. The Augustan Aristocracy (Oxford, 1986).
Talbert, R.J.A., The Senate of Imperial Rome (Princeton, 1984).
Taylor, L. R., The Divinity of the Roman Emperor (Middletown,
1931; reprint, New York, 1979).
Von Premerstein, A. Vom Werden und Wesen des Prinzipate. (Munich,
Ward-Perkins, J.B., Roman Imperial Architecture, 2nd edition
Weigel, R.D., Lepidus: The Tarnished Triumvir (London, 1992).
Whittaker, C.R., Frontiers of the Roman Empire: A Social and Economic
Study (Baltimore, 1994).
Williams, G., "Did Maecenas 'Fall from Favor'? Augustan Literary Patronage,"
in Raaflaub and Toher, 258-75
Zanker, P., The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus (Ann Arbor,
NOTES (throughout the notes, items in the bibliography are referred
to in abbreviated form)
[] The chief ancient sources for the life of Augustus
(mostly available as Penguin Classics or in the Loeb Classical Library)
are: Appian B. Civ. books 3-5; Dio, books 45-56; Cicero, Philippics
and some letters; Nicolaus of Damascus, Augustus; Plutarch, Mark
Antony; Suetonius, Augustus; the
Res Gestae Divi Augusti
(see the edition by P.A. Brunt and J.M. Moore [Oxford, 1967]). Fragments
of the biography of Augustus by Nicolaus of Damascus (fl. ca. 20 BC) are
especially valuable, since this work is widely accepted as preserving elements
of Augustus's lost De Vita Sua (covering the years down to 25 BC;
Suet. Aug. 1-18 appears also to be based on this autobiography).
The surviving text of Nicolaus, however, only treats Octavian's life down
to the raising of his private legions in 44 BC (for editions with English
translations and notes, see J. Bellemore, Nicolaus of Damascus: Life
of Augustus [Bristol, 1984]; C.M. Hall, Nicolaus of Damascus: Life
of Augustus [Baltimore, 1923]). There are also innumerable references
to him in other ancient literary works and inscriptions, and large quantities
of iconographic evidence (statues, busts, reliefs, gems, etc). The number
of modern accounts is also formidable, with useful and concise introductions
to be found in Shotter, Augustus Caesar and Jones, Augustus.
More thorough and specific treatments include Bleicken, Augustus;
Kienast, Augustus; Millar and Segal,
Caesar Augustus: Seven Aspects;
Raaflaub and Toher, Between Republic and Empire; Southern,
Syme, Roman Revolution; id. History in Ovid. In the interests
of conciseness, the notes emphasize the ancient evidence; most of the secondary
studies just cited tackle the issues addressed in this article.
[] The fall of the Roman Republic has also generated
vast quantities of bibliography; see, esp., P.A. Brunt, The Fall of
the Roman Republic and Related Essays (Oxford, 1988); M. Crawford and
M. Beard, Rome in the Late Republic (Ithaca, 1985); F. Millar, The
Crowd in Rome in the Late Republic (Ann Arbor, 1998); E. Gruen, The
Last Generation of the Roman Republic (Berkeley, 1974); Syme, Rom.
[] The lack of popular enthusiasm for Caesar's naked
autocracy is reflected in a famous incident during the Lupercalia (15 February)
in 44 BC. Caesar had twice been offered a royal diadem in front of the
crowd. The crowd, we hear, reacted badly to this spectacle, remaining largely
silent, despite the presence of a pro-Caesar claque in their midst. Only
when Caesar refused the crown did the crowd cheer wildly. See Dio 44.11-12;
App. B. Civ. 2.109; Plut. Caes. 61-62. Suet. Caes.
79.2 only alludes to the incident.
[] Ancient accounts of Augustus's birth and early
life are seriously marred by fantastical prophesies of future greatness,
so that the historical reality is hard to weed out. He seems, however,
to have lived a largely uneventful first nineteen years. See Dio 45.1-2;
Suet. Aug. 1-8; Nic. Aug. 2-5; Tac. Dial. 28.5 Cicero's
letters provide the only contemporary evidence for Augustus's early career,
and are indispensable for that, but provide little information on his early
life. A note on names: Augustus was born C. Octavius, became C. Julius
Caesar Octavianus (usually abbreviated "Octavian" in modern sources) in
44 BC, and was renamed yet again as Imperator Augustus Caesar in 27 BC.
Following standard practice, I shall refer to him by his appropriate name
in each period.
[] Association with Caesar: Nic. Aug. 7-12.
Aftermath of murder: App. B. Civ. 3.9-11. Octavian seems to have
arrived in Italy in early April or late March: Cicero, in a letter from
Astura dated 11 April, inquired of Atticus how it went (Att. 14.5.3
= SB 359). Note that the influential Caesarian L. Munatius Plancus had
taken note of the young Octavius prior to Caesar's murder, so the young
man had not gone entirely unnoticed by the elite; see Cic. Fam.
[] For ancient narratives of the events here described,
see App. B. Civ. 3.11-98; Dio 45.5.1-46.52.4; Nic. Aug. 16-31;
Suetonius (Aug. 8.3-12) presents a conflated and rather confused
account. Augustus's own summary of this phase of his career (RG
1.1) is restricted to the simple and tendentious assertion he "successfully
championed the liberty of the republic when it was oppressed by the tyranny
of a faction."
[] Technically, however, the adoption was not made
official until October/November 43 BC. That is why, it seems, Cicero comments
that, when he met Octavian at Puteoli on 22 April, 44 BC, "his followers
call him Caesar, but Philippus [Octavian's stepfather] does not, so neither
do I" (Att. 14.12.2 = SB 366); the Liberator M. Junius Brutus also
refers to Octavian as "Octavius" (Cic. Ad Brut. 17.5-6, 25.1, 2,
7, 8, 11; dated June and July 43 BC). In contrast, L. Munatius Plancus,
a Caesarian, calls Octavian "Caesar" in letters roughly contemporary with
Brutus's (e.g., Cic. Fam. 10.23.6, 10.24.4-8). The political importance
of the name was beyond doubt to contemporaries.
[] Cicero first met Octavian in Naples on 19 April,
44 BC, one day after Octavian had arrived in the city (Att. 14.10.3
= SB 364). A few days later, on 22 April, he had decided that Octavian's
influence on events could not be good, since his supporters were threatening
death to the Liberators (Att. 14.12.2 = SB 366).
[] For his part, Cicero paid little attention to
Octavius, at least initially: on 12 April, 44 BC he wrote to Atticus (Att.
14.6.1 = SB 360), "As for Octavius -- it's neither here not there."
[] Appian (B. Civ. 3.14-21) puts windy speeches
into both their mouths: Octavian asks for his inheritance, Antony refuses
by claiming the money is tied up in litigation, largely spent already,
or not yet counted. In contrast, Dio (45.5.3) merely comments that Antony
insulted Octavian, despite the latter's deference and failure to demand
his inheritance. Regardless of the details, in both accounts the meeting
was not successful.
[] Cicero, in letters to Atticus dated 11 and 18
May, 44 BC (Att. 14.20.5 = SB 374, 14.21.4 = SB 375, and 15.2.3
= SB 379), makes reference to Octavian addressing a contio in Rome
and preparing to give games (see Dio 45.6.4). C. Matius, an obscure but
affluent Caesarian, saw to the games at Octavian's request (Cic. Fam.
[] See App. B. Civ. 3.27, 30; Dio 45.9.3.
[] All of this took place in October and November
44 BC, as Cicero's letters make plain (Att. 16.8.1-2 = SB 418; Fam.
12.23.2). See also App. B. Civ. 3.40-48; Dio 45.12.
[] Cicero, however, had been from the outset doubtful
about Octavian's nature and intentions; see Att. 14.12.2 = SB 366
(April 44 BC) and 16.9 = SB 419 (November 44 BC). Needless to say, it was
also to the political benefit of the Liberators and their supporters (Cicero
among them) to keep the Caesarian leadership quarrelling.
[] Cicero's speeches against Antony, called the
have survived. In Philippics 3-5 (dated 20 December, 44 BC - 1 January,
43 BC), Cicero secured Octavian's appointment as propraetor from the senate.
See also Cic. Fam. 10.28.3 (dated 2 February, 43 BC)
[] App. B. Civ. 3.49-73; Cic. Fam.
11.8.2 (Cicero to Decimus Brutus, dated late January, 43 BC), 10.30.4 (letter
from Ser. Sulpicius Galba serving with consuls at Mutina, dated 15 April,
43 BC), 10.33.3-4 (letter from C. Asinius Pollio, dated late May, 43 BC);
Cic. Phil. 14; Dio 45.12-46.38. Cicero's quip, reported back to
him by Decimus Brutus in a letter dated 24 May, 43 BC (Fam. 11.20.1)
was that "the youth [Octavian] should be praised, decorated, immortalized"
(the Latin--laudandum, ornandum, tollendum--is deliberately ambiguous:
can mean both "raise up" and "destroy").
[] App. B. Civ. 3.74-95; Cic. Fam.
11.10.2, 11.13.1, 11.14.2 (correspondence to and from Decimus Brutus, dated
May, 43 BC), 10.23.6 (letter from Plancus, dated 6 June, 43 BC). Octavian's
election to the consulship took place on 19 August (as attested in the
Cumanum, InscIt 13.2.278ff.), though his demand for the consulship
appears to have begun in June (Cic. Ad Brut. 18.3); Dio 46.39-49.
On Cassius and Brutus in the East, see App. B. Civ. 3.26, 63, 77-79,
96; Dio 47.20-36.
[] Overtures to Antony: App. B. Civ. 3.80-81.
Meeting and formation of the triumvirate: App.
B. Civ. 3.96-4.3
(Appian places the meeting at Mutina); Dio 46.54.3-55.5. Passage of the
Titia: App. B. Civ. 4.7; Dio 47.2.2. The terminal date of the
triumvirate is unequivocally established by the Fasti Colotiani.
On the legalities of the Second Triumvirate, see Bleicken,
Republik und Prinzipat; see also Millar, "Triumvirate."
[] See App. B. Civ. 4.8-9 (text of proclamation)
and 4.10-51 (anecdotes of the proscribed); see also Dio 47.9-13. Death
of Cicero: App. B. Civ. 4.19; Dio 47.8.3-4; Plut. Cic. 46-49. Plutarch
(Cic. 49.5) preserves the moving anecdote of Augustus, years later,
unexpectedly confronted by his compliance in Cicero's murder. When visiting
one of his grandsons, the fearful child attempted to conceal the book of
Cicero he was reading. Augustus took the book, read it for some time, and
gave it back to the boy saying, "A learned man, my boy, learned and a true
patriot." Dio (47.8.1), Pliny (HN 7.147), Plutarch (Ant.
21), Suetonius (Aug. 27.1), and Velleius (2.66.1-3) unite in blaming
the proscriptions mainly on Antony (and Lepidus), the former "public enemies"
out for revenge; there has to be a suspicion of pro-Augustan retroactive
finger-pointing here. (Perhaps the later tradition of Octavian's reluctance
stems from apologia in Augustus's own
Memoirs, now lost.) The final
count of the dead is given by Appian (B. Civ. 4.5) as 300 senators
and 2,000 Knights. Southern (57-59) joins Kienast (35) in arguing forcefully
that the proscriptions were motivated by the mentality of the political
purge, not financial need.
[] Africa: App. B. Civ. 4.53-56. Campaign
of Philippi: App. B. Civ. 4.86-139; Dio 47.37-49. Octavian's limited
role in the fighting: Dio 47.41.1-4; Pliny HN 7.148. Re-alignment
of the triumviral provinces: App. B. Civ. 5.3, 12; Dio 48.1.2-3.
(Cisalpine Gaul now ceased to be a province and was finally integrated
[] On the depradations of the soldiers in Italy,
see Dio 47.14.4-5. On this settlement, see Keppie, Colonisation,
58-69. On the methods and impact of veteran settlement, see ibid., 87-133.
The eighteen towns: App. B. Civ. 4.3 (Appian says the towns were
"remarkable for their wealth and fine lands and houses"). It should be
noted that where the territory of a designated veteran colony proved insufficient
for the requirements of settlement, the territory of neighboring towns
would be encroached upon, occasionally to the point of total subsumption
(e.g., Caudium, entirely absorbed by the settlement at Beneventum). Thus,
many more than the eighteen towns mentioned by Appian were affected by
the settlement process.
[] On the Perusine War, see App. B. Civ.
5.14, 30-51; Dio 48.13-14 . Antony's complicity: App. B. Civ. 5.21-22;
Dio 48.28. Execution of councilors: App. B. Civ. 5.48; Dio 48.14.3.
Acquisition of Gaul: App. B. Civ. 5.51, 53; Dio 48.20.1, 3.
[] Threatened war and "Pact of Brundisium": App.
B. Civ. 5.52-65; Dio 48.28-30.
[] Career of Sextus: App. B. Civ. 2.105,
122, 3.4, 4.25, 36-54 (passim), 83-85, bk. 5 (passim); Dio 47.36.4, 47.49.4,
48.16-20. Date of appointment of Sextus to the prefecture of the fleet:
Cic. Phil. 13.13. Sextus's pact with Antony: App. B. Civ.
5.56. "Treaty of Misenum/Puteoli": App. B. Civ. 5.67-74 (Appian
places the meeting at Puteoli); Dio 48.36-38. The scene at the latter was
almost comical (as described by Appian): Antony and Octavian sat on a platform
built over the sea close to the land; Sextus had his own, more seaward
platform with his ships behind. A narrow strip of water separated the two
platforms. Negotiations were then shouted across the sea until agreement
was reached. On Sextus Pompeius, see also Hadas, Sextus Pompey.
In Syme's view (Rom. Rev., 221), the "Peace of Puteoli enlarged
the Triumvirate to include a fourth partner," which is something of an
overstatement, given its evidently expedient nature.
[] Collapse of Misenum/Puteoli agreement and war:
App. B. Civ. 5.77-92; Dio 48.45.4-49 . "Treaty of Tarentum" and
renewal of triumvirate: App. B. Civ. 5.93-95; Dio 48.54.1-6. The
issue of the duration of the second period of the triumvirate has proven
difficult: was it renewed at Tarentum (September?, 37 BC) retroactively
from 1 January, 37 BC (to end on 31 December, 33 BC) or did it run directly
from September(?), 37 BC (to end sometime toward the end of 32 BC)? The
more convincing case is on the side of the "retroactive" view: see the
excellent summary in Benario, "Octavian's Status." See also Bleicken, Zwischen
Republik und Prinzipat, 65-82; id.,
Augustus, 269-70; W. Eder,
"Augustus and the Power of Tradition: The Augustan Principate as Binding
Link Between Republic and Empire," in Raaflaub and Toher, 97-98; Jones,
31; Kienast, 55; Southern, 94. In all likelihood, Republican legalities
played a lesser part in the considerations of the time than the observable
reality of the triumvirate's dominance and, therefore, in the actual operation
of its power; see below, n. 29. On the growth of Octavian's "party" at
this time, see Syme, Rom. Rev., 227-42.
[] Final campaign against Sextus: App. B. Civ.
5.96-144; Dio 49.1-18. Lepidus: App. B. Civ. 5.123; Dio 49.11.2-12.4;
see also Weigel, Lepidus. Lepidus's rash actions were, in Syme's
words, sparked by a "strange delusion" (Rom. Rev., 232). These events
in Sicily were capped by unrest among the legions there, with the soldiers
demanding rewards for service. Octavian discharged 20,000 of them on the
spot and promised the rest bounties after campaigns in Illyricum; see Appian
and Dio locc. citt.; Keppie, Colonisation, 69-73.
[] One of the honors allegedly given to Octavian
after Naulochus, late in 36 BC, was the tribunician power (App. B. Civ.
5.132). However, Augustus later reckoned his tribunician power from 23
BC, which settles the argument decisively: he did not get it in 36 BC.
Dio is probably correct (49.15.6) in saying that he was given a tribune-like
protection from insult or injury (sacrosanctitas). Refusal of the
pontificate: App. B. Civ. 5.131; Dio 49.15.3; Suet. Aug.
31.1. Burning of the records: App. B. Civ. 3.132.
[] Antony's wars in the East: Dio 49.19-30; Plut.
37-52. Octavian in Illyricum: App. Ill. 12-28. Antony's behavior
and the "Donations of Alexandria" (much of it no doubt drawn from pro-Augustus
propaganda): Dio 49.41, Plut. Ant. 54.3-6 (Donations); Dio 50.4-5
(behavior). Cleopatra's ambitions: Dio 50.4.1, 5.4. Rising tensions: Plut.
Ant. 54-55. Agrippa's aedileship and munificence instigated by Octavian:
Dio 49.43.1-4; Pliny HN 36.121; Roddaz, 145-57 (aedileship); Suet.
Aug. 29.4-5; Vell. Pat. 2.89.4 (munificence).
[] On the date of the expiration of the triumviral
powers, see above n. 25. It is my opinion that many modern scholars, wedded
to contemporary paradigms of legally-sanctioned government, have overstated
the importance of legalities in establishing the powers of Roman Republican
officials; precedent, ritual, and appearance were just as important, if
not more so. Certainly traditional procedures and practices were used during
the Republic to legitimate magisterial authority, but many of these niceties
had fallen by the wayside in the years since Pompey and Caesar. Time and
again in the period after Sulla extraordinary powers and privileges had
been voted to generals in recognition of their de facto supremacy. So too
now, with Octavian. Technically, his triumviral powers had lapsed. No one,
however, not even the Antonian consuls for 32 BC, C. Sosius and Cn. Domitius
Ahenobarbus, were going to point that out publicly; although the content
of Sosius's anti-Octavian speech of 1 January, 32 BC has not survived,
that he focused on the expiration of the triumviral powers is unlikely,
since the lapse applied to Antony as well. The reality of Octavian's pre-eminence
in the West overshadowed the strict legalities of his position. On ritual,
ceremony, and appearance in Republican magistracy, see D.J. Gargola,
Laws and Gods: Magistrates and Ceremony in the Regulation of Public Lands
in Republican Rome (Chapel Hill, 1995), esp. 16-24; R. Stewart, Public
Office in Early Rome: Ritual Procedure and Political Practice (Ann
Arbor, 1998). The 1 January meeting of the senate and aftermath: Dio 50.2.3-7.
Reading Antony's will: Dio 50.3.1-4.1, Plut. Ant. 58.3-4. Oath:
25.2; Dio 50.6.3-4 (where the oath is unmentioned but implicit); Suet.
Aug. 17.2. Augustus himself (RG, loc. cit.) states that the
oath was voluntary (sponte sua), but it may not have been (see Dio
and Suetonius, locc. citt.). Syme (Rom. Rev., 284) was convinced
the oath came before the denunciation of Antony in the senate and the declaration
of war and, in a rousing phrase, believed the oath "riveted the shackles
of [Italy's] servitude."
[] Campaign at Actium: Dio 50.10-35; Plut. Ant.
61-68.3; Vell. Pat. 2.84-85; Carter, Battle of Actium. The forces
on each side were monumental: about 30 legions apiece, and Antony had 500
warships to Octavian's 250 (Plut. Ant. 61). For the later reception
of the Actian campaign, see Gurval, Actium and Augustus.
[] Aftermath of Actium: Dio 51.1-17; Plut. Ant.
68.4-86. Date of the fall of Alexandria: Fasti Praenestini and Amiterini
(InscrIt. 13.2.107 and 13.2.185). Cleopatra, according to Plutarch
(Ant. 78-86.3), was taken alive by Octavian, who planned to display
at his triumph. But she had an asp smuggled into a banquet she was holding,
hidden among a plate of figs. (The asp bit her on the arm, not the breast,
according to Plutarch [Ant. 86.1-3] and Dio [51.14.1-2].) The revolt
or plot of Lepidus is a shadowy affair: Vell. Pat. 2.88; Dio 54.15.4; Suet.
[] Settling affairs in the East: Dio 51.18. Veteran
settlements: Keppie, Colonisation, 73-82. Wealth of Egypt used for
settlements: Dio 51.17.6-8. Three triumphs: Dio 51.21.6-9. "By universal
consent I was in complete control of affairs": RG 34.1. On 11 January,
29 BC the doors of the Temple of Janus in Rome were closed, symbolizing
that the entire Roman world was at peace (though Dio is quick to point
out the various wars still in progress in diverse locales): it had only
happened twice before in all of Roman history (Dio 51.20.4-5). Such a symbolic
gesture must have had a powerful effect on those who witnessed or heard
about it and reinforced the notion of Octavian as the bringer of peace.
Honors: Dio 51.19-21.
[] None of this is meant to suggest that the system
later called the Principate was, in its entirety, planned out and effected
according to a pre-ordained blueprint, but rather that Octavian, in the
run up to the First Settlement, must have given careful thought to his
position and acted accordingly. That attitude, in fact, had marked his
behavior from the very outset of his career and was encapsulated in his
favorite aphorisms, "Rush slowly" (festina lente) and "Whatever
is done well enough is done quickly enough" (sat celeriter fieri quidquid
fiat satis bene; see, for both, Suet. Aug. 25.4). These are
the mottoes of a patient and careful planner. Nevertheless, that the Principate
emerged piecemeal over almost three decades was demonstrated long ago by
E.T. Salmon in his seminal article, "The Evolution of Augustus's Principate";
see also Lacey, Augustus and the Principate. Need for a rector:
Cic. Rep. 2.51; 5.5, 6; 6.13. As consul in 28 BC, Octavian had annulled
all the "illegal" acts of the triumvirate, effectively wiping the slate
clean in that department (Dio 53.2.6); his behavior in this year, with
Agrippa as his colleague, was generally traditional, generous, and exemplary
(Dio 53.1-2). A new beginning was being heralded, support for it organized,
and its nature indicated: later, Augustus himself considered the events
of 28 and 27 BC as part of a single process of transferring "the republic
from my power to the dominion of the senate and people of Rome" (RG
[] First Settlement: Dio 53.3-17.1; RG 34.1-2;
Suet. Aug. 28.1; Vell. 2.89. "Settlement" staged: Dio 53.2.7. Division
of provinces: Dio 53.12; see also Millar, "The Emperor, the Senate and
the Roman Provinces." Debate over legal status of Octavian: Southern, 111-13.
proconsulare is more likely to have been granted for ten years than
imperium consulare, which Octavian already held by virtue of his
consulship: or was it expected he would be consul every year for the following
ten years? On the settlement, see, e.g., Bleicken, 315-42; Rich, Cassius
Dio; Southern, 111-17; Syme, Rom. Rev. 313-30.
[] Travels of Augustus: Dio 53.22.5. Illness and
recovery: Dio 53.30.3; Hor. Epist. 1.15; Pliny
Suet. Aug. 81.1. Conspiracy: Dio 54.3.2-3 (who dates the event to 22 BC,
so breaking the direct link between it and the Settlement of 23); Vell.
Pat. 2.91.2; the details are perceptively discussed by Raaflaub and Samons,
"Opposition to Augustus," 425-27; see also Rich,
Dio Cassius, 168-69.
"Second Settlement": Dio 53.32; RG 10.1; Suet. Aug. 28.1.
For the Cyrenaica decrees, see below n. 48.
[] Refusal of dictatorship et al.: Dio 54.1.3-4;
RG 5.1-2; Vell. Pat. 2.89.5; Suet. Aug. 52. Cura annonae:
Dio 54.1.3. Ius primae relationis: Dio 54.3.3. Privileges of 19
BC: Dio 54.10.3-7; RG 6.1; Suet. Aug. 27.5. "Father of the Country":
Dio 55.10.10; RG 35.1; Suet. Aug. 58. Priesthoods: RG
7.3. Auctoritas: RG 34.3; see also Cic. Off. 2.2; Magdelain,
Principis; Lanza, Auctoritas Principis; a useful overview is
now Galinsky, 10-41. Dio (55.34.2) reports that in AD 8, when he had become
too infirm to attend elections in person, Augustus would post the names
of the candidates for office he favored; it's hard to imagine such candidates
failing. Galinsky (42-79) surveys the establishment of the Principate with
emphasis on the terminology of power Augustus uses to describe it.
[] Continuity of Principate: Suet. Aug.
[] Before marrying Livia Drusilla in 39 BC, he
had been married to Clodia, stepdaughter of Antonius (PIR2
C 1057), from 43-41 BC; and then to Scribonia (PIR S 220), from
40-39 BC. Appearance at triumph: Suet. Tib. 6.4. Marriage: Dio 53.27.5.
Aedile/legal age: Dio 53.28.3. "Successor in power": Vell. Pat. 2.93.1.
"Deathbed" scene: Dio 53.30.1-2; Suet. Aug. 28.1. Death and burial
of Marcellus: Dio 53.30.4. Livia's rumored
hand in his demise (Dio 53.33.4.) is entirely unproven; that summer in
Rome was considered particularly unhealthy and death by illness was widespread
(Dio loc. cit.). Marcellus was not adopted by Augustus: the RG (21.1)
refers to him as "my son-in-law" as does Marcellus's epitaph (Braund, 27).
[] Octavius in Caesar's triumph: see n. 5. Octavius
granted right of standing early: App. B. Civ. 3.51.
[] Agrippa goes East: Dio 53.31.2-4; Pliny HN
7.149; Tac. Ann. 14.53.3; Suet. Aug. 66.3, Tib. 10.3.
Agrippa's power in the east: Gray, "Imperium of M. Agrippa." Maecenas's
quip: Dio, 54.6.5. Marriage: Dio 54.6.5; Suet. Aug. 63.1. Agrippa's
powers: Dio 54.12.4-5 (18 BC), 54.28.1 (13 BC).
[] Coins: RIC nos. 407, 408, 414. Gaius
and Lucius Caesar: Dio 54.18.1, Tac. Ann. 1.3. Tiberius and Drusus'
advancement: see DIR's Tiberius. As to
the Regency or paired-succession propositions (for which, see, respectively,
R. Seager, Tiberius [London, 1972], 18-22, 24-26, 29-38, recently
restated in Southern, 162, 168; and B. Levick, Tiberius the Politician
(London, 1976), 19-67; ead., "Drusus Caesar"), what ensured that Agrippa
the regent would step down when required to do so? What mechanisms realistically
existed for depriving an incumbent regent or princeps of his powers?
Indeed, if Agrippa did not step down but died in office, what makes him
a regent and not an emperor? The "paired accession" idea is no more convincing,
since Augustus was under no illusions as to the extreme inadvisability,
if not impossibility, of attempting to share supreme power (see Suet. Aug.
28.1): his own career as triumvir was illustration enough of that. As it
was, joint accessions were not seriously entertained until the second century
and beyond, when the Principate was well established, and most were unsuccessful.
That Augustus was blind to the danger of presenting two equally qualified
and favored candidates to the armed forces is all but inconceivable.
[] Death of Agrippa: Dio 54.28.2-3, 29. Marriage
of Tiberius and Julia: Dio 54.31.2. For more detailed discussion of these
events with reference to the ancient material involved, see the DIR's
C. and L. Caesar, Germanicus, Agrippa
Postumus. See also, Birch, "Settlement"; Levick, "Drusus Caesar"; Seager,
35-38. Germanicus, the son of Tiberius' brother Drusus, was himself a Claudian
but his marriage to Agrippina (Augustus's granddaughter) offered hope of
a Julian heir in the fourth generation.
[] Fall of Julia the Elder: Dio 55.10.12-16; Suet.
65.1, Tib. 11.4; Tac. Ann. 1.53.1; Vell. Pat. 2.100.2-5.
For the "political scheming" view, see Levick, "Julians and Claudians."
Fall of Agrippa Postumus: Dio 55.32.1-2; Suet. Aug. 65.1, 65.4;
Levick, "Abdication"; Jameson, "Augustus and Agrippa Postumus." Fall of
Julia the Younger: Suet. Aug. 19.1, 65.1.
[] For a concise account of the Roman army under
Augustus, see Keppie, Making of the Roman Army, 145-71; also Bleicken,
541-63, Jones, 110-16. On the praetorians, see Durry,
[] On Augustus's campaigns, see RG 26-27;
Keppie, loc. cit. in n. 44. On the Varan disaster, see Schlüter, "The
Battle of the Teutoburg Forest." For an overview of Augustus's "foreign
policy," see Gruen, "Imperial Policy." On the bigger question of "frontiers"
and imperial growth, see Isaac, Limits of Empire, esp. 372-418;
Whittaker, Frontiers of the Roman Empire, esp. 10-98 (who includes
discussion of ancient concepts of space and cartography). On the reactive
nature of ancient government, see Millar, Roman Empire and its Neighbours,
esp. 52-80. For the stations of the legions on Augustus's death, see n.
[] On the Crassus affair, see Dio 52.23.2-27.3;
Livy 4.19-20 (the previous awards of spolia opima were to A. Cornelius
Cossus in the late fifth century BC and M. Claudius Marcellus in 222 BC).
On Gallus, see Dio 53.23.5-24.1. The inscription (ILS 8995) is worth
quoting: "C. Cornelius Gallus, son of Cnaeus, Roman knight, appointed the
first Prefect of Alexandria and of Egypt after its kings had been defeated
by Caesar, son of a god; he [Gallus] was twice victor in pitched battles
during the Theban revolt, within 15 days, in which he defeated the enemy;
he took by assault five cities (Boresos, Coptus, Ceramice, Diospolis Magna,
and Opheium) and captured the leaders of their revolts; he led an army
beyond the cataphract of the Nile, into which region arms had not previously
been borne either by the Roman people or by the kings of Egypt; he took
Thebes, the shared fear of all the kings (of Egypt); he received ambassadors
of the Ethiopian king at Philae and received that king into his protection;
he appointed a ruler over the Ethiopian region of Triacontaschoenus. He
[Gallus] gave and dedicated this monument to the ancestral gods and the
Nile, his helper." A useful overview of both incidents is provided by Southern
(115-17). Augustus arrogated for himself victories won by his generals:
the successes of Tiberius and Drusus on the Rhine and Danube in 12 and
11 BC caused him to add two imperatorial acclamations to his titles; Tiberius
and Drusus got none (Dio 54.33.5). Agrippa refusing triumphs: Dio 53.23.4
(general modesty of Agrippa), 54.11.6 (over the Cantabri), 54.24.7 (over
[] For a useful overview of this subject, see Lintott,
Romanum, 111-28. On the
consilium, instituted between 27 and
18 BC, see Dio 53.21.3-5 (quote at 53.21.6); Suet. Aug. 35.4; Crook,
Consilium Principis. On the role of the imperial senate, see Talbert,
Senate of Imperial Rome, esp. Part Three: Functions. On suffect
consuls, see ibid., 202-7. Newly-created positions: Suet. Aug. 37.
On the equestrians, see Demougin, Ordre Equestre. The rosy picture
of imperial rule painted by Velleius Paterculus (of equestrian status)
reflects, perhaps, not only Velleius's sycophantic personality but also
a genuine sense of gratitude toward the imperial regime on the part of
his class as a whole. Note also Syme, Augustan Aristocracy.
[] Cyrenaica decrees: SEG 9 (1944) 8 = FIRA
1.68. The disposition of the empire's territories on Augustus's death was
Territory Status Type of Governor Legions
Baetica Public proconsul (ex-praetor) -
Lusitania Imperial legat. Aug. (ex-praetor) -
Tarrocensis Imperial legat. Aug. (ex-consul) 3
Narbonensis Public (23 BC) proconsul (ex-praetor) -
Aquitania Imperial legat. Aug. (ex-praetor) -
Belgica Imperial legat. Aug. (ex-praetor) -
Lugdunensis Imperial legat. Aug. (ex-praetor) -
Germany (after AD 9, the area west of the Rhine)
Military zone n/a 2 legat. Aug. (ex-consuls) 8 (4 and 4)
(Upper and Lower)
Cottian Imperial equest. pref. -
Maritime Imperial equest. pref. -
Upper Danube region
Raetia Imperial equest. pref. -
Noricum Imperial equest. pref. -
Lower Danube region/northern Balkans
Illyricum Imperial (11 BC) legat. Aug. (ex-consul) 2
Pannonia Imperial legat. Aug. (ex-consul) 3
Moesia Imperial legat. Aug. (ex-consul) 2
Macedonia Public proconsul (ex-praetor) -
Achaea Public proconsul (ex-praetor) -
Thrace Client kingdom - -
Asia Public proconsul (ex-consul) -
Bythinia-Pontus Public proconsul (ex-praetor) -
Galatia Imperial legat. Aug. (ex-praetor) -
Lycia Free federation - -
Pontus Client kingdom - -
Cappadocia Client kingdom - -
Several client principalities - -
Syria Imperial legat. Aug. (ex-consul) 4
Judaea Imperial equest. pref. -
Several client principalities - -
Egypt Imperial equest. pref. 2
Cyrenaeca Public proconsul (ex-praetor) -
Africa Public proconsul (ex-consul) 1
Mauretania Client Kingdom - -
Sicily Public proconsul (ex-praetor) -
Sardinia Imperial (AD 6) equest. pref pro legato -
Corsica Imperial (AD 6) equest. pref pro legato -
Cyprus Public (23 BC) proconsul (ex-praetor) -
Crete was part of Cyrenaeca
[] For a concise overview of Augustus's arrangement
and administration of the provinces, see Jones, 94-109. See also Bleicken,
391-438; Eck, Verwaltung, 1.83-158. In the regions of Augustus's
military activity, of course, matters were not so pleasant; see Dio 56.16.3
on the comment of Bato, leader of the Pannonian revolt of AD 6-9, that
the Romans were responsible for the war, since "you send as guardians of
your flocks not dogs or shepherds, but wolves." Sulla in the East: Plut.
12.3-9 (pilfering of Greece), 22.5 (indemnity from Mithridates), 25.2 (vast
fine extorted from Asian communities). Caesar in Spain and Gaul: Plut.
Caes. 12.4 (Spain), 29.3-4. On Augustus's image, see Zanker's seminal
work, The Power of Images.
[] There remains to be written a comprehensive
account of Augustus's legislation and social programmes; most of the standard
biographies contain pertinent chapters or sections of chapters (e.g., Jones,
131-43; Southern, 146-52). On the marriage laws, see Mette-Dittman, Ehegesetze.
On the status symbols of the equestrians, see Kolb, "Status-symbolik."
A good example of his stiffening of the social hierarchy was the regulation
of seating arrangements at spectacles by social class, enforced empire-wide:
see Suet. Aug. 44.1; Rawson, "Discrimina Ordinum." Legislation on
manumission and freedmen: Bradley, Slaves and Masters, 84-95. Augustus's
private foibles: Suet. Aug. 68-71.
[] On the imperial cult, see the still classic
study of Taylor, Divinity. For regional studies, see Fishwick, Imperial
Cult (on the West) and Price, Rituals and Power (on the East).
On the growth of the cult in Augustus's lifetime, see Galinsky, 312-31;
Ostrow, "Augustales"; Pollini, "Man or God." On the contemporary
worship of Augustus's numen, see, e.g., Hor. Epist. 2.1.15;
[] Quote: Dio 56.30.3; Suet. Aug. 28.3.
Building projects: RG 19-21, 24. Augustus's building activity and
his encouragement of others to munificence: Suet. Aug. 28.2-29.5;
Vell. Pat. 2.89.4. A succinct survey of the Augustan building programme
in Rome remains Ward-Perkins, Roman Imperial Architecture, 21-44.
On the much-studied Ara Pacis, see RG 12.2; Dio 54.25.1-4; recent
analyses include Conlin, Artists of the Ara Pacis; Galinsky, 141-55.
For a survey of the varied artistic achievements of the period, see Galinsky,
141-224; Kaiser Augustus und die verlorene Republik.
[] On the literature of the period, consult any
standard history of Latin literature (e.g., the
Cambridge History of
Classical Literature, vol. 2, ed. E.J. Kenney, ); for a concise
overview, see Galinsky, 225-87. On Maecenas, see Williams, "Did Maecenas
'Fall from Favor'?" (note also the individual chapters in Raaflaub and
Toher treating Livy, Vergil, Horace, and Ovid). For the definitive presentation
of the "state-controlled" model of Augustan literature, see Syme,
Rev., 459-75. For more moderated views, see., e.g., Galinsky, passim
(esp. 229-34). "My Pompeian": Tac. Ann. 4.34.4 (the anecdote, ironically,
appears in the context of the trial of a later historian, A. Cremutius
Cordus, charged with maiestas under Tiberius in AD 25 for praising
Brutus and Cassius in his history).
[] Withdrawal: Dio 55.33.5, 55.34.2, 56.26.2-3,
56.28.1-2; see also Southern, 181-90. Tiberius's position: Suet. Tib.
21.1; Vell. Pat. 2.121.1. Livia's alleged
involvement: Dio 56.30. Death and burial: Dio 56.29-42; Suet. Aug.
98-101. Will: Dio 56.32; Suet. Aug. 101.4.
[] Original position of the RG: RG
pr.; Suet. Aug. 101.4. ). For a recent analysis, see Ramage,
Copyright © 1999, Garrett G. Fagan. This file may be copied on the
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