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The Augustan Principate
The End of Imperial
“Rome’s tradition of government,
down to Julius Caesar, was
characterized by distributed power
and multiple sources of decision.
That was never to return.”
J.A. Crook, Cambridge Ancient History
(10, 2nd ed. [1996] 113)
Aftermath of the Ides
Renewal of Civil War
(Liberators vs. Caesarians)
Octavian, great-nephew/adopted son of
Caesar; M. Antonius, consul for 44 BCE
“The Second Triumvirate”: November 43
BCE (Octavian, Antony, M. Lepidus)
Caesarians defeat Brutus and Cassius at
Philippi in Macedonia (42 BCE)
Antony in East; Octavian in Italy
Towards Renewal of Civil War
Antony abandons Octavia for Cleopatra
VII of Egypt
 Retirement of Lepidus (37-36 BCE)
 Antony divorces Octavia
 Propaganda wars between Octavian and
Antony (33-32 BCE)
 Battle at Actium (31 BCE)
 New Province of Egypt
The Battle
Of Actium
31 BCE
to goddess
(Temple to
Hathor at
The Provinces of the Roman
From Republic to Principate
Constitutional Arrangements
From Octavian to Augustus
Octavian/Augustus (born 63 BCE)
 Triumvir (with Antony and Lepidus)
for restoring the Republic
 Consul 31-23 BCE
 The Settlement of 27 BCE
 The Settlement of 23 BCE
Settlement of 27 BCE
Octavian returns control of state to the
Roman Senate and Roman People
 Ten-year imperium over super-province
of Egypt, Gaul, Spain, and Syria
 Dedicatory Shield voted by Senate (valor,
clemency, justice, piety)
 Title “Augustus”
Settlement of 23 BCE
Resignation of Consulship
Control over elections (commendatio)
Appointment of Generals in Senatorial
Appointment of Legates in “Imperial”
Imperium Maius Proconsulare (“powers greater
than a proconsul’s”)
Tribunicia Potestas (“tribunician powers”)
The Augustan Settlement and
the Roman Peace (pax Romana)
27 BCE-CE 14
Cui Bono?
Beneficiaries of the Pax Romana
Roman plebs: “Bread and Circuses”
 Senatorial aristocracy: Preservation of
Republican trappings and traditional
 Equestrian order: secure trade and
markets empire-wide
 Partisans and Supporters: successful
careers and honors (Agrippa, Maecenas)
Methods of Control
Legions: reduction from about 75 to 28
Personal appointment of generals
Aerarium militare (military pension fund) from
CE 6
Urban Control in Rome
 Praetorian Guard (9 cohorts: 3 billeted in
city; remainder in nearby towns from 27
BCE; two praetorian prefects from 2 BCE)
Ideology: Aurea Aetas
Moral and Social Legislation in the Golden Age
Julian laws on marriage
 Punishes celibates and widowers who do not
remarry: ineligibility for inheritances and legacies;
prohibited from public games
 Marriages between senators and freedwomen
 Laws against adultery
 Laws rewarding child rearing (ius trium liberorum)
Restrictions on slave manumissions
 Lex Fufia Caninia (2 BCE); Lex Aelia Sentia (CE 4)
Ludi saeculares: Horace composes carmen saeculare for
17 BCE
Princeps and
Pater Patriae (2 BCE)
Augustus as Super-Patron of
Roman State
“When I held my thirteenth consulship [2
BCE], the Senate, the equestrian order, and
the entire Roman people gave me the title of
‘father of the country’ and decreed that this
title should be inscribed in the vestibule of
my house, in the Julian Senate house, and in
the Augustan forum on the pedestal of the
chariot which was set up in my honor by
decree of the Senate.”
Augustus, Res Gestae, 35
Conflicting Viewpoints
Assessments of Augustus’ Reign
“In my sixth and seventh consulships [28 and 27 BCE], after I
had put an end to the civil wars, having attained supreme power
by universal consent, I transferred the state from my own
power to the control of the Roman Senate and the people. For
this service of mine I received the title of Augustus by decree of
the Senate, and the doorposts of my house were publicly
decorated with laurels, the civic crown was affixed over my
doorway, and a golden shield was set up in the Julian Senate
house, which, as the inscription on this shield testifies, the
Roman Senate and people gave me in recognition of my valor,
clemency, justice, and devotion. After that time I excelled all in
authority, but I possessed no more power than the others who
were my colleagues in each magistracy.”
Augustus, Res Gestae, 34
“It was said… ‘that filial duty and state necessity were merely
assumed as a mask. It was really from a lust of sovereignty that
[Augustus] had excited the veterans by bribery, had, when a young
man and a subject, raised an army, tampered with the consul’s
legions, and feigned an attachment to the faction of
Pompey….Citizens were proscribed, lands divided, without so much
as the approval of those who executed the deeds. Even granting that
the deaths of Cassius and the Brutii were sacrifices to the hereditary
enmity…still Sextus Pompey had been deluded by the phantom of
peace, and Lepidus by the mask of friendship. Subsequently, Antony
had been lured on by the treaties of Tarentum and Brundisium, and
by his marriage with the sister, and paid by his death the penalty of a
treacherous alliance. No doubt there was peace after all this, but it
was a peace stained with blood.”
Tacitus, Annals, 1.10