Augustus Caesar

Augustus Caesar

Augustus Caesar

Augustus Caesar

Synopsis

Including more coverage of the social and cultural aspects of this complex character's reign together with an expanded guide to further reading, the second edition of this successful book takes the most recent research in the field into account and reviews the evidence in order to place Augustus firmly in the context of his own times.

Excerpt

History has seen Augustus Caesar as Rome’s first emperor, who brought the city and the empire from the chaos of civil war to a system of ordered and stable government. Of the two names by which he is most commonly known, one (Augustus) was granted him by the senate and people in January 27 BC in recognition of his perceived achievements. The other (Caesar) was his family name, inherited as a result of his adoption by Julius Caesar. Both names came to be used as parts of the nomenclature of emperors and their designated successors. Augustus’ own career was taken as the standard for successful government; many of those who came after him—for example, Vespasian (69–79) and Hadrian (117–138)—attempted to set their own reigns on course by indicating that his would be the model for their conduct of government.

Augustus’ achievements were seen by many at the time and later as momentous: ‘he restored the republic’ represented a general perception of what Augustus had done—not that he was unwise enough ever to have made that claim directly himself. In fact, the Latin term respublica (‘the public concern’) continued to be used in antiquity to refer to the government of Augustus and his successors; the term principatus (‘principate’), though used in antiquity, is a relatively modern way of distinguishing between the government of Rome before and after the battle of Actium (31 BC). For contemporaries, if the Augustan years were ‘the republic’, then what went before was ‘the old republic’.

In a state which acknowledged the significance of aristocratic birth as a qualification for government, Augustus’ credentials were not all that impressive. He was born in 63 BC as Gaius Octavius; his grandfather was a banker, of equestrian (rather than senatorial) standing, and came from the town of Velitrae, some twenty-five miles . . .

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