The Roman Revolution

The Roman Revolution

The Roman Revolution

The Roman Revolution

Excerpt

The subject of this book is the transformation of state and society at Rome between 60 B.C. and A.D. 14. It is composed round a central narrative that records the rise to power of Augustus and the establishment of his rule, embracing the years 44-23 B.C. (chapters vii-xxiii). The period witnessed a violent transference of power and of property; and the Principate of Augustus should be regarded as the consolidation of the revolutionary process. Emphasis is laid, however, not upon the personality and acts of Augustus, but upon his adherents and partisans. The composition of the oligarchy of government therefore emerges as the dominant theme of political history, as the binding link between the Republic and the Empire: it is something real and tangible, whatever may be the name or theory of the constitution.

To that end, the space (and significance) allotted to the biographies of Pompeius, Caesar and Augustus, to warfare, to provincial affairs and to constitutional history has been severely restricted. Instead, the noble houses of Rome and the principal allies of the various political leaders enter into their own at last. The method has to be selective: exhaustive detail cannot be provided about every family or individual. Even so, the subject almost baffles exposition. The reader who is repelled by a close concatenation of proper names must pass rapidly over certain sections, for example the two chapters (v and vi) that analyse the composition of the Caesarian party in the form of a long digression.

No less than the subject, the tone and treatment calls for explanation. In narrating the central epoch of the history of Rome I have been unable to escape from the influence of the historians Sallust, Pollio and Tacitus, all of them Republican in sentiment. Hence a deliberately critical attitude towards Augustus. If Caesar and Antonius by contrast are treated rather leniently, the reason may be discovered in the character and opinions of the historian Pollio--a Republican, but a partisan of Caesar and of Antonius. This also explains what is said about Cicero and about Livy. Yet, in the end, the Principate has to be accepted, for the Principate, while abolishing political freedom, averts civil war and preserves the non-

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