Augustus Essay, Research Paper
Octavian Augustus (63 B.C 14 A.D) is known as the first, and one of the greatest Roman emperors of our time. Octavian enables the long, peaceful time of the Pax Romona by changing Rome from its fragile state, to one of the most powerful empires. At this time, Rome is using the method of a republican government, but Augustus comes up with an entirely new method of governing the empire. This relies on the traditional ways of politics, which his great-uncle Caesar ignored. Octavian s government is strong enough to withstand weak emperors who mismanage the Empire. In the words of biographer Fergus Millar, His changes proved to be the cornerstone of the greatest empire the world has ever seen (Millar 17). Augustus becomes such a successful emperor due to his intelligence, courage, and determination, as well as the army he creates, and the fact that he realizes the importance of the traditional republican forms of government. He was both a culmination of the old order, last of the mighty generals, and the beginning of something entirely new (Scarre 16). Because of this, Augustus succeeds in an almost impossible task, and manages to be the greatest emperor of Rome, as well as the first.
The wisdom and personality of Augustus helps him gain his popularity with the people. He was unusually handsome and exceedingly graceful at all periods of his life, though he cared nothing for personal adorement. He was so far from being particular about the dressing of his hair, that he would have several barbers working at the same time, and as for his beard he now had it clipped and then shaved, while at the very same time he would either be reading or writing something. He is greatly involved with the arts, and literature, and contributed a lot to the Roman culture. One of his architectural contributions is the Temple of Mars. He promised to make this offering to the gods once he tracks down his great-uncle s murderers. When the temple is finished, Augustus uses the temple as his military headquarters. After all, Mars is the god of war. The temple also serves as a public meeting place in the center of Rome. Here the people of Rome can shop and gossip while they also admire their emperor s generosity. Augustus generosity is also seen through his love for the game of dice. He often provided his guests with the money to place bets (Clarke 13). Augustus is also very tolerant of criticism. Many criticize Augustus as he attempts to bring back the old style of government. But, without his patience and tolerance, he would not be able to succeed as an emperor of such a large empire.
Chris Scarre, Chronicle of the Roman Emperors ( London: Thames and Hudson Ltd, 1995) 16.
He also has a good sense of humour, and a liking for phrases such as quicker than you can cook an asparagus (Clarke 29). Unlike following emperors, such as Tiberius, Augustus regularly attends senate meetings, as well as social gatherings. Augustus has set a model for many soon to follow emperors such as Titus. One of the keys to his success is to win the popularlity of the people. He did this by hosting games, and social events. Also, on occasion, Augustus distributes gifts to the people of Rome. He also has a fondness for writing. According to Daniel Cohen, We know that he wrote an autobiography in 13 volumes, taking his life story up to the times of the Cantabrian War (26-25 B.C), but nothing of it has survived (Cohen 23). Because of his wisdom and knowledge, and his contributions to society and culture, Augustus was able to be a well- accomplished emperor.
Augustus has no desire for military glory, although he wishes to stabilize Rome, after many years of civil wars. So, he creates the official borders of the empire, and then reduces the size of the army. With the army not as large as it once was, Rome is not as intimidating. The purpose is to put an end to the fighting, instead of creating more wars. So, Augustus creates a permanent and professional army, which is always ready for action. Since the Roman empire is so large, it needs extra troops incase of surprise attacks. Traditionally, these extra troops were sent home when they are not needed. Augustus realizes that this is inefficient and dangerous. It s inefficient because all of the training is put to waste once they are dismissed; and it is dangerous because these men have military training and are armed. Therefore they could just as easily attack the Romans as defend their empire. Augustus military success can be seen in the battle between him and Marc Antony. Antony s eastern expedition fails when he is defeated by Augustus. Much of Augustus military knowledge comes from his great-uncle, Julius Caesar. Once Caesar becomes the victor of the first triumvirate, he goes on to conquer the Asia Minor. When he arrives from his victory, he says the three famous words which sums up his victory, Veni, Vidi, Vici. Which is Latin for I came, I saw, I conquered (Charlesworth 56).
Traditionally, Rome is ruled by two consuls, together with representatives of the ordinary people. The consuls are elected each year from the senate a system deliberately designed to stop one man from becoming too powerful. Julius Caesar has ignored this system. Augustus, however prefers the old ways which wins him the support of many of his great-uncle s enemies. But Augustus remembers the fact that Caesar is assassinated because of the amount of power he had. So by 31 B.C, Augustus resigns. Four years later, faced by war and starvation, the Senate elects Augustus as Consul for life. Although this went against all of Rome s traditions of government, the Romans realize just how much they need his wisdom and political skills. This exemplifies the importance and status that Augustus holds. Unlike Caesar who had 900 members in the senate, Augustus reduces the number down to 600 to ensure that all senators who are present deserve their place in the senate. He receives the name Augustus , a word meaning sacred or revered. This became the title used by all later emperors. Augustus preferred the term Princeps or first citizen , although he retained the title Imperator to underline his position as supreme commander.
Augustus is not only the first emperor of Rome, but the greatest. He created a vision A new Rome with the virtues of the old (Cohen 54). He brings Rome from constant civil wars into the Golden age of Rome, known as Pax Romana. Pax Romana didn t end when he died, it continued many years to come. The structure which Augustus builds is so strong, that it is able to survive through weak emperors such as Caligula and Nero. Octavian successfully turns himself into an emperor without suffering the fate of his great-uncle Caesar. He controlled the army, and was able to please the people of Rome. Once he was in a position of power, he changed the government not only to benefit himself, but also to benefit the Empire.
M.P Charlesworth , The Roman Empire ( New York: Oxford University Press) 66.
Augustus is also so influential that eventually, most Romans did not mind that they were no longer a republic. But like every empire, sooner or later the great Roman Empire would fall as well. But none of the empires will compare to impact Rome has left us the Rome which Augustus created.