Augustus

Augustus

Augustus

Augustus

Synopsis

Despite his talent for self-promotion, the character of the emperor Augustus is rarely revealed and as such makes this biography unique in its presentation of Augustus the man. Pat Southern chronologically traces the life, works and times of the emperor, presenting ideology and events from his point of view to provide a compelling depiction of an extraordinary man, who was the guiding light in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire.

Excerpt

This is a book about a man-an extraordinary man who might not have become extraordinary if he had not lived in extraordinary times. No biography can be written without taking into account the social, economic and political background and the times through which the individual lived, but Augustus poses several particular problems. Despite his talent for self-advertisement his character is only rarely revealed. Portraits of him abound, most of them contemporary and some of them reverential and posthumous, but in all of these portraits he is perpetually young and vigorous, never allowed to age even when he reached his seventies. Thus the real person was deliberately veiled, screened from public scrutiny by an orchestrated façade that was not necessarily false, but which was tailored to circumstances, and adapted accordingly when circumstances changed. The longevity of the man himself and his early entry into political life automatically ensure that the subject will be a large one, and this is compounded by the fact that Octavian-Augustus did not simply act against a background, or within the confines of the political development of the state; for most of his life he was the embodiment of the state. This means that a biography must also become a history of the transformation of the Republic into the Empire, a task which would require many years and at least 20 volumes to complete properly. Full debate of all issues is impossible in one volume, and would become monotonous or even misleading. As the saying goes 'L'art d'ennuyer est l'art de tout dire'. The phrase loses some of its panache in translation, but none of its meaning: 'the way to bore people is to say everything'.

The amount of modern literature is staggering-around 250 items in a bibliography published in the 1970s, and a vast growth has taken place since then. Most of the papers and books dealing with the Augustan age are quite specialised, covering one or two aspects of political, social or economic history, suggesting solutions for specific problems, or describing particular works of art or literature, and their relevance to political themes. The entire corpus is too vast to survey, though in fairness, Kienast can be said to have achieved it in his book on Augustus, with clear text and monumental references. The author makes no claims to the sort of completeness

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