With the exception of the title chosen (which is informative but rather dull and generic), this is a terrific essay. It utilizes many primary sources to make its argument, and it has a strong and specific thesis at the end of the introduction. The structure of the essay is abundantly clear, and each paragraph has a topic sentence to guide the information within that part of the essay. It is a good idea in this kind of essay to always provide a page number anytime that a source is cited, so that the reader can check the source for him/herself. Western Civilization Take-Home Mid-Term, Question 1 Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus, born Octavius, could be considered one of the ancient worlds most powerful and productive leaders. In my opinion he was certainly the greatest ruler of Rome, if not then he is close behind his great uncle Julius Caesar. Augustus is notable for his diplomacy and generosity as emperor. Unlike previous rulers, he incorporated the citizens and senators of Rome into the growing empire. With his unique approach to governing Augustus was able to maintain power and expand the vastness of the Roman empire under his rule for several decades, eventually earning himself the title Pater Patriae or “Father of the Fatherland”. Augustus was not an experienced military leader nor was he an established philosophical thinker prior to his reign. The question is how did he become the leader of the western world and maintain his power without the excessive use of brute force against Romans. He did this through a cool use of intellect by satisfying the needs of citizens, gaining military support, provincial support, and satisfying the egos of the nobles and the influential senate.
Octavius maintained a false sense of modesty to appear as human as possible. He states in Res Gestae Divi Augusti “...Though the Roman senate and people unitedly agreed that I should be elected the sole guardian of the laws and morals with supreme authority, I refused to accept any office offered to me which was contrary to the traditions or our ancestors.” (Weisner p. 88) He did not want to use the title of dictator, king, or emperor but initially he went as princeps meaning first citizen. Later he used the term imperatorand earned the title Augustus and Caesar. He also was known as divi filius or “son of a god”. Another name, and perhaps the most emotional one would be the title “Father of thy Country” which was bestowed upon him in a speech by Valerius Messala. Messala stated, “Good fortune and divine favor attend thee and thy house, Caesar Augustus; for thus we feel that we are praying for our country and hapiness for our city. The senate in accord with the Roman people hails thee ‘Father of thy Country‘.” (Weisner p.84) In Dio Cassius’ Roman History it is described how Augustus earned his name. “...the name Augustus was at length bestowed upon him by the senate and by the people...He took the title Augustus, signifying that he was more than human; for all most precious and sacred objects are termed augusta.” (Weisner p.87)
One of the first steps that Augustus took to ensure his rise to power was to gain control of the military. This was a process that took a few steps in itself. He claims in his own Res Gestae Divi Augusti that he “raised an army by means of which I liberated the Republic, which was oppressed by the tyranny of a faction.” (Weisner p.88) A passage from Tacitus’ Annals describes that “[He] enticed the soldiers with gifts” (Weisner p.87) trying to gain their loyalty. With the title of imperator he was able to control the military without being a commander himself. Augustus was open to the help of other generals as long as they followed his command and final order. Another key use of the military was the creation of the Roman police and the Praetorian Guard or Augustus’ personal guard.
The military was a key necessary to maintaining control over Rome. However another, perhaps even more important factor, was the cooperation of the senate. The senate had control of Rome for many many years prior to Caesar. The balance of power between the previous head of state in Rome and the senate had at most times not been evenly distributed. A clear example is the assassination of Julius Caesar where Brutus, among other senators, was displeased with the amount of power that Caesar had acquired and the lack of influence they had on the republic. The amazing thing is that Augustus was able to convince the senate to praise him without ever enforcing it upon them. An important move that Augustus made was the division of the empire between himself and the Roman senate. He strategically controlled the frontier “To check any would-be Caesar.” (Noble p.144) Also, Augustus controlled Egypt, which was acquired by the battle of Actium against the forces of Marc Antony, due to its ample supply of grain. The rest of the Roman territory was controlled by the senate. The two seperate bodies did work together at some points. For instance in a decree in which he was called to the senate to observe the writing and passing of concerning extortion. The decree was one of the many laws that Augustus did establish. The main point of this particular decree states that those who are accused of extortion in their province must be brought before the senate in Rome where they will be given a representative and argue their case. The judges would have to make their decision within thirty days. Those who are involved in the case are exempt from public service except for public worship. The clever Augustus for many years would consult the senate on many topics of interest, but his motive was to control the whole of Rome himself.
Eventually the senate lost a vast majority of its powers. Dio Cassius reflects on this in his Roman History. “The offices established by the laws...are maintained even now...; but the entire direction and administration is absolutely in accordance with the wishes of the one in power at the time.” (Weisner p.85) He speaks of the power that comes with being imperator and how those who follow in this line are entitled to the same privileges. The singular person in power has the right to many positions and decisions that include “the [construction] of levies, collect funds, declare war, make peace, and rule foreigners and citizens alike everywhere and always-even to the extent of being able to put to death both equitesand senators inside the pomerium-and all the other powers once granted to the consuls and other officials possessing independent authority.” (Weisnerp.86) Dio Cassius seems to reflect on how, not necessarily Augustus but those who followed him and were perhaps less deserving, held too much power and could control the way of Roman life. He implies that the senate, just as subjectable to corruption and greed, may have been more of the peoples voice. The senate still functioned after Augustus established himself, but with less power. He would chose specific senators and magistrates to advise him and he also chose senators that would sit in the senate chambers. The rest were still elected by the people.
A noted factor that Augustus used to maintain power was the use of money. Even though at one point, according to Dio Cassius, he separated his private funds from his public he still controlled much of Rome’s finances. He claims in Res Gestae Divi Augusti that he assisted the treasury four times with his own savings. “...,transferring to those in charge of the treasury 150,000,000 sesterces.” (Weisner p.88) Also he states “...I transferred out of my own patrimony 170,000,000 sesterces to the soldiers’ bonus fund...” (Weisner p.88)
Another group of people that Augustus needed to appease were the citizens of Rome. A key group to convince was the nobles. When Augustus was rising to power the nobles, as written in Annals “...[were ready] for slavery, the higher they were raised in wealth and offices, so that aggrandized by the revolution, they preferred the safety of the present to the perils of the past.” (Weisner p.87) These men were looking for money and power without a fight, and with Augustus in command that is what they received. As for the rest of the citizens of Rome they were well taken care of. The empire expanded and prospered under the rule of Augustus. Land expanded which meant the expansion of trade as well. Augustus took care of the citizens by building roads as seen on maps. A few decades after the death of Augustus the roads had flourished numerous times over what they were before he rose to power. The citizens were provided with protection and security along with entertainment and a higher standard of living. The masses were provided with numerous gladiator games and athletic events which Augustus boasts about in his Res Gestae Divi Augusti. Also theatre existed as well, such as the ampitheater Augusta Raurica in modern day Switzerland (which I had the distinct pleasure of visiting in April) that was inhabited and utilized during his lifetime. Great monuments like the Arch of Augustus were erected along with monuments in honor of Augustus.
The citizens of Rome praised him. In the City of Narbonne they created a holiday in which six men would sacrifice an animal each at an alter erected in honor of Augustus, and then they would provide the city with incense and wine on four days marking important events in Augustus’ life. Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus was perhaps the greatest Roman to ever live. He rose to power and maintained it. He took care of his citizens in the empire, and then proceeded to spread the empire. He may be viewed as power hungry as most leaders are, The fact of the matter remains, he did not ask for his titles: they were given to him.