Augustus and the Family at the Birth of the Roman Empire

Augustus and the Family at the Birth of the Roman Empire

Augustus and the Family at the Birth of the Roman Empire

Augustus and the Family at the Birth of the Roman Empire

Synopsis

In this lively and detailed study, Beth Severy examines the relationship between the emergence of the Roman Empire and the status and role of this family in Roman society. The family is placed within the social and historical context of the transition from republic to empire, from Augustus' rise to sole power into the early reign of his successor Tiberius. Augustus and the Family at the Birth of the Roman Empire is an outstanding example of how, if we examine "private" issues such as those of family and gender, we gain a greater understanding of "public" concerns such as politics, religion and history. Discussing evidence from sculpture to cults and from monuments to military history, the book pursues the changing lines between public and private, family and state that gave shape to the Roman imperial system.

Excerpt

Antony and Cleopatra died in August of 30 B.C.E., formally ending the conflict between Antony and Octavian's forces and almost twenty years of intermittent civil war in the Roman state. the developed government of the empire, however, with a set of roles for an emperor and his family, did not then spring fully formed from Octavian's mind like some sort of political Athena. Rome had not seen a single dominant military leader since Julius Caesar over a decade earlier, and his example had ended in assassination. No one could foresee the form and consequences of Octavian's leadership in the next few years, not even Octavian himself. in fact, many of his actions in the succeeding forty years of his life, and the actions and responses of those around him, can be interpreted as a series of attempts to understand, define, and present his relationship with the state.

In the previous chapter, we outlined the practical functions and cultural associations of the Roman family in the republican period that I will argue Octavian and his contemporaries drew on both to administer the empire and to understand his role in that administration. However, no evidence of a paternal role for Octavian, let alone any form of public role for his family, can be found in the first ten to fifteen years after his victory over Antony. in fact, the women of his family became less prominent than during the crises of the late republic and triumviral period. Thus, the beginnings of Octavian's self-presentation as a victor and leader did not move directly toward what I term a family model of government.

Even so, the manner in which Octavian transformed himself into Augustus did affect what came later. in this chapter, we will thus analyze his first major set of reforms and the first refashioning of his own public image – a restoration of law and order in the form of a restoration of the res publica. What happened during the Caesarian and triumviral periods, or, more precisely, how that period of civil conflict was understood in its immediate aftermath, formed a critical context for this restoration. This chapter will thus focus first on how the renamed Augustus and his contemporaries presented that tumultuous . . .

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