prospectiva imperialia Nr. 1 [25.02.2013]
DE IMPERATORIBUS ROMANIS
An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Rulers
Augustus (31 B.C. – 14 A.D.)
[Additional entry on this emperor’s life is available in DIR Archives]
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 different reception.
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, C. Octavius.
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 proscriptions.[]
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 maximus, pagan Rome’s chief priest. Octavian refused. Lepidus, though disgraced, was pontifex maximus; 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, 27 BC.[]
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 corona 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 imperium 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 maximus). 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 princeps 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 Res 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 rather different.
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 spolia opima („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, the 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 princeps (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 Aeneid, 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): 301-9.
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, 1987).
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 (1974): 87-97.
Crook, J., Consilium Principis: Imperial Councils and Counsellors from Augustus to Diocletian (Cambridge, 1955).
Demougin, S., L’Ordre equestre sous les Julio-Claudiens (Rome, 1988).
Durry, M., Les Cohortes Prétoriennes (Paris, 1938).
Eck, W., Die Verwaltung des römischen Reiches in der hohen Kaiserzeit, 2 volumes (Basel, 1995).
W. Eck, The Age of Augustus (Oxford: Blackwell’s, 2003)
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 (Princeton, 1996).
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): 287-314.
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 (London, 1983).
________. 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, 1996).
Kolb, F., „Zur Statussymbolik im antiken Rom,“ Chiron 7 (1977): 239-59.
Lacey, W.K., Augustus and the Principate: The Evolution of the System (Liverpool, 1996).
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): 674-97.
________. „Julians and Claudians,“ Greece and Rome 22 (1975): 29-38.
Lintott, A., Imperium Romanum: Politics and Administration (London, 1993).
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, 1981).
Millar, F. and E. Segal, Caesar Augustus: Seven Aspects (Oxford, 1984).
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 (Stuttgart, 1987).
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, 1990).
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 (Munich 1986).
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, 1937).
Ward-Perkins, J.B., Roman Imperial Architecture, 2nd edition (Hammondsworth, 1981).
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, 1988).
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, Augustus; 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. Rev.
[] 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. 10.24.5
[] 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).
[] 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. 11.28.6).
[] 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 Philippics, 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: tollere 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 Feriale 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 lex 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, Zwischen 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 into Italia.)
[] 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.
[] 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. Ant. 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, Lands, 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: RG 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 her 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. Aug. 19.1.
[] 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 34.1).
[] 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. Imperium 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 HN 25.77; 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, Auctoritas 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.
[] 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).
[] 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 Tiberius, C. and L. Caesar, Germanicus, Agrippa Postumus. See also, Birch, „Settlement“; Levick, „Drusus Caesar“; Seager, Tiberius, 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. Aug. 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, Cohortes Prétoriennes, esp. 65-89.
[] 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. 48.
[] 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 the Bosporus).
[] For a useful overview of this subject, see Lintott, Imperium 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.
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. Sulla 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; Ovid Trist. 3.8.13.
[] 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, Rom. 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.
Copyright © 1999, Garrett G. Fagan. This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents, including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.
Comments to: Garrett G. Fagan
Updated: 5 July 2004
Unveränd. Zweitpubl. v. Garrett G. Fagan: Augustus (31 B.C. – 14 A.D.), in: De Imperatoribus Romanis. An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Rulers [05.07.2004], http://www.roman-emperors.org/auggie.htm