Augustus Ceasar Essay Research Paper Two of

Augustus Ceasar Essay, Research Paper

Two of the most destructive problems facing the late Roman Republic were

the instability and disunity caused by incessant civil wars. Rome’s rapid

expansion, after the Punic Wars, resulted in socioeconomic changes that

permanently divided the state. Both aristocratic and plebeian parties sought

total control of Rome and tried to destroy each other. Civil war was the

continuation of party politics by other means. Consequently, the power of the

military became supreme. Control of Rome’s armies steadily shifted away from

the legitimate government to the generals because the soldiers began to give their

allegiance to their generals rather than to the civil authorities. On dismissal

from military service, the legionnaires had no farms to return to, and they

depended entirely on whatever land and money their generals could provide since

the government was unwilling or unable to supply veterans with livelihoods.

Thus, the generals became autonomous centers of power. The general who

dominated the strongest army ruled the state. Repeated power struggles of

these military strongmen ignited more civil wars that further undermined the

stability and unity of the late Roman Republic.

Augustus saw how divisive to the Roman polity civil war was. He understood

that control of the legions by the civil government was necessary for the

establishment of peace and order throughout the Roman Empire. He wanted to

reorganize and institute changes in the military to assure that it would not rise

again in support of some triumphant general to challenge the legitimacy of the

state. Since warfare within the Empire was eliminated, the role of the

legions changed. Its main objectives consisted in protecting the borders from

foreign foes and pacifying conquered lands through the gradual introduction of

the Roman language, law, administration, and engineering. Augustus’ priority was

to reduce the number of the legions from 60 to 28, settling in the process more

than 100,000 veterans in colonies in Italy, Africa, Asia, and Syria. While

proscription financed previous resettlement efforts, the vast wealth of Egypt,

which he seized after Antony’s defeat, subsidized Augustus’ massive

resettlement program. He raised the troops’ salary and regularized the payment

of pensions, which consisted of land and money, to veterans. Augustus, thus,

reduced the old threat of soldiers giving their allegiance to wealthy generals

rather than to the state. He also standardized the length of military service.

The Roman legion became a professional, long service force with an esprit de

corp that earlier legions did not have. Each legion was commanded by an officer

of senatorial rank whom Augustus personally appointed, and the legionnaires

pledged their allegiance to Augustus as commander-in-chief. Furthermore,

Augustus recruited soldiers from the Roman provinces. These auxiliary troops

were granted Roman citizenship upon completion of military service, and they

became important agents of Romanization because the provinces now had a share

in the defense of the Empire. In addition, Augustus raised a new military force,

the 9,000-strong Praetorian Guard, to act as personal bodyguards of the

Emperor and to specifically protect the city of Rome from all enemies, foreign

or domestic. He also created a police force for the city, which then had a

population of more than 1,000,000. This measure greatly reduced the crime

rate and the frequency of public riots, both of which were constant problems.

Another problem plaguing the late Roman Republic was the constant revolt

of the provinces because of corruption and mismanagement. Under the early

Republic, the appointed provincial governors served short terms. Many of these

politically appointed governors were either inexperienced or incompetent, so

corruption and fiscal mismanagement were common practices. The greed of

these governors was so intolerable that the populace of one province forced the

imperial tax collectors to drink molten gold. Augustus reformed the provincial

administrative system by creating an imperial civil service whose members

came from a pool of capable administrators that he hand-picked himself. These

new governors were given long terms of office in order to have ample time to

implement long-term reforms. In order to curb corruption, Augustus saw to it

that the governors were compensated fairly for their work. He rewarded those

who did well and demoted those who did poorly. Collected taxes went directly to

the imperial treasury, and Augustus made sure that a certain portion of the

revenues was allocated for the improvement of the provinces and not end up in

the pockets of corrupt tax collectors. Augustus overhauled the inefficient tax

system by ordering a detailed census of all the provinces ( the same census that

forced Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem) to find out how many people should

pay taxes. He also gave the provincial inhabitants the chance to voice their

grievances and the certainty that their complaints were taken seriously by Rome.

The constant civil wars during the late Roman Republic ruined the riches of

Italy and the provinces. The state found itself intermittently short of funds.

The main financial problem facing Augustus was how to raise money for military

wages and pensions. This financial problem was partly solved when Augustus

acquired Egypt as his personal possession. All the wealth of Egypt went directly

to the imperial treasury. In turn, Augustus directly controlled the imperial

treasury. So, there was uniformity in the disbursement of funds. He also

created new taxes to boost the government’s income: a sales tax, an inheritance

tax that was mandatory for all Roman citizens, and a tax on the manumission of

slaves. Periodic censuses over the whole Empire were taken to obtain accurate

data for tax collection.

Augustus also aimed to stop the decline of Roman morals, a product of the

decadence caused by economic change, by enacting social reforms. The Lex Julia

de maritis ordinandis prohibited celibacy and childless marriages. It was made

compulsory for Roman citizens to get married. Special benefits, like tax breaks,

were established for couples with children. This law had the added advantage of

replacing the decimated Roman population that was lost during the numerous civil

wars. To handle the issue of adultery, which the Romans then practiced

extensively, Augustus enacted Lex Julia de adulteriis that made adultery a

punishable crime. He also passed laws that restricted luxury and extravagance.

In addition, Augustus placed special significance on the traditional religion of

Rome. He believed that prosperity and peace in the state relied on the faithful

fulfillment of religious duties to the gods. This traditional belief he expressed

by restoring temples and joining the sacred college of pontiffs and augurs, and he

eventually became pontifex maximus. Augustus became not only the secular head

of Roman Empire but the religious leader as well.


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