He steered Rome from a time of civil war and anarchy to a period of civility and prosperity. He took the title: Princeps, or first amongst equals (i.e. The Benevolent Dictator.) It’s hard in the end to judge what he did. These were such different times that they cannot be judged from 2010. Women were given away by men like commodities. People were executed. Children were executed. It’s so hard to process what it must have been like in 44 BC. Despite his participation in the debauchery and the executions and the battles where blood was spilled by many, there was an overwhelming reverence for Augustus which is what the title Augustus means: the revered one. Some people, in fact, believe that the Pax Romana brought to the people of Rome is the basis for the Anno Domini and is an allegory to Augustus. Perhaps this is because of his brilliant image campaign. Perhaps public opinion would have been different for Augustus if the common folks knew of what he did behind closed doors. Lord Acton once gave us a famous quote: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Augustus achieved absolute power.
Timeline Part 4 – Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus 63 BC – AD 14
He considered nothing more incumbent on him then to avenge his uncle’s death and maintain the validity of his enactments. – Suetonius
When Julius Caesar was killed there was a vacuum in the heart of the Empire. There was much uncertainty and there was unrest in the streets. Immediately, political jockeying was underway to see who would or could take over the Republic. Most held their ambitions close to the vest as no one could be trusted and confidence in the wrong soul would be met swiftly with murder.
It was Marc Antony that read Julius Caesar’s will to the people of Rome in the open square of the forum. He left gifts to the people of Rome but left his fortune and his legions to his nephew Octavius. If you’re wondering who Octavius is, you’ll have to keep up with his name changes. Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus was born Gaius Octavius Thorinus. When he was at this young age, he was referred to as Octavius. He would later go by the name Octavian, and eventually end up as Augustus. Don’t sweat it if you have trouble remembering his name, you’re not the only one who had never heard of him; the crowd that came from the rural outskirts of the city to hear Antony read Julius Caesar’s last will and testament did not know Octavius either. The people of Rome knew little about this 18 year old man they were about to hear speak.
Octavius had spent a year with his uncle on campaign in Spain and had also travelled east back to Greece with him. He was still in Greece when he had heard of his uncle’s murder. His mother had pleaded with him not to get involved in the murderous captivity of Roman politics after she had heard of his inheritance. He didn’t listen. He immediately set sail for Rome. It was a tough thing to do because the chance of being killed in Roman politics was very real and very probable; especially for an 18 year old.
Mark Antony had been appointed as one of the Consuls that would be in charge of the Senate after Julius Caesar’s death. The conspirators responsible for Julius Caesar’s death had fled Rome as the people in the city badly wanted justice from them by way of execution. Many politicians feared that Marc Antony was seeking power as dictator at this point. The Senate’s plan was to embrace the young Octavius and rally behind him to thwart Antony’s ambitions. Perhaps they thought they would be able to joystick the young man to their will and also get public support because the public loved Julius Caesar so much and would embrace his young nephew.
In Cicero’s Ten Speeches, he remarks about the Senate’s plan to elevate Octavius’ political status and then use him to their will:
We must praise the boy, we must honor him, we must remove him – Cicero
Dang if these aren’t some of the nicest folks in ancient Rome. Remind me again how far politics has come over 2,000 years later. Ah, but these middle aged Senators in their infinite wisdom would soon find that they had under estimated the young Octavius.
When Octavius accepted his great uncle’s inheritance, he took the name Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus but he would be referred to as Octavian. Octavian addressed the Senate promising to exploit the popularity brought to him through his uncle’s name and offered his newly inherited army to the Senate to protect Rome from further anarchy and dictatorship. In return, Octavian demanded legitimacy. The Senate then, ignoring precedent, made the teenager a Senator. Now that the Senate had chosen their side, the political warfare began. The same type of political shit flinging we see today took place. It was at this point Cicero unleashed a major smear campaign against Marc Antony. Below are some quotes from Cicero lambasting Antony and some of Antony’s quips back toward Cicero.
But let us pass over these things: they are the proofs of a more robust improbity: let us speak rather of the vilest kind of vulgarity. You with that gorge of yours, with those lungs, with that had swallowed so much wine at Hippias’ wedding that you were forced to vomit in the sight of the Roman people. In the conduct of Roman business, it would be disgraceful even to belch. But he vomited and filled his own lamp with morsels of food reeking of wine. – Cicero
Here is another quote from Plutarch who is expounding, or rather recanting, what Cicero wrote in Phillipics:
Antony, backed by a vote of the Senate that Dolabella should be put down by force of arms,went down and attacked him, killing some of his, and losing some of his own men; and by this action lost his favor with the commonality, while with the better class and with all well conducted people his general course of life made him, as Cicero says, absolutely odious, utter disgust being excited by his drinking bouts at all hours, his wild expenses, his gross amours, the day spent in sleeping or walking off his debauches,and the night in banquets and at theaters, and in celebrating the nuptials of some comedian or buffoon. It is related that, drinking all night at the wedding of Hippias, the comedian, on the morning, having to harangue the people, he came forward,over charged as he was, and vomited before them all, one of his friends holding his gown for him. Sergius, the player, was one of the friends who could do most with him; also Cytheris, a woman of the same trade, whom he made much of, and who, when he went his progress, accompanied him in a litter, and had her equipage, not in anything inferior to his mother’s; while every one, moreover, was scandalized at the sight of the golden cups that he took with him, fitter for the ornaments of a procession than the uses of a journey, at his having pavilions set up, and sumptuous morning repasts laid out by river-sides and in groves, at his having chariots drawn by lions, and common women and singing girls quartered upon the houses of serious fathers and mothers of families. – Plutarch
So as Antony is rightfully being painted as a pitiful drunk, he quips back about Octavian saying:
Julius Caesar demanded sexual favors from Octavian as the price of his adoption. – Antony
Antony is implying that there is only one reason Octavian was adopted: because Julius Caesar was a pederast and Octavian was his favorite boy toy. Remember that given the customs of the Greeks and Julius Caesar’s own history of such behavior makes this a very plausible accusation. And, these people aren’t so nice when the gloves come off.
Cicero fires back:
How uncivilized, how crude, he has heaped on Octavian filthy charges drawn from memory of his own indecency and licentiousness. – Cicero
I can just imagine Bill O’Reilly back in the Roman Days trying to put all this into a no spin zone for his team. Essentially the political playbill hasn’t changed much in this regard. Cicero was able to paint Antony as a drunk unfit to rule and it worked. Negative campaign ads have been used for at least 2,000 years as evidenced here, but this hasn’t changed much in the 10,000 years before that either I’m sure. This is politics 101 and this is the second oldest profession. It was Ronald Reagan who said: “politics is the second oldest profession, but it’s dirtier than the oldest.”
And while these events might seem theatrical to someone like me or you that has disengaged from this mud slinging arena of politics, these words inflict real pain upon the people saying them and the people receiving them. The wounds inflicted are not easily healed in a human lifetime. These people will die enemies much as they still do today. Family dynasties would even bear these axes to grind across generations. In fact, as I pursue this want of Roman History, the Caesar dynasty to me seems so distorted by the historical records we’re presented with. If you use the hard evidence of archeology and economics (in this case metal coins and concrete structures) and if you use science, which is the great arbiter of truth, light is being shed on how Caligula and Nero may not have been nearly as demonic or unintelligent as they’re described in the historical texts we have today. There were so many political motivations to tarnish and undermine their power and reputation [even posthumously] which may have simply been a move to better paint the next family that was trying to rise into power once they got there. It was the Flavian dynasty that took over after the Caesar dynasty and maybe they thought it wise to rewrite history a little bit. My friend Bruce always says that the people who win the war get to write the history books for the kids. Remember, when you’re Emperor, you can command historical re-writes. But it’s just my hunch and I digress…
At this point the legions loyal to Caesar (i.e. Octavian) battled the legions of Antony in northern Italy. Octavian’s armies were victorious in the ensuing two battles, but Antony escaped unharmed. The Senate was pleased with themselves and believed they had just saved the Republic. They had derailed Antony’s ambition but they still hadn’t understood fully the power of Octavian’s ambition. You also have to wonder at this point if the motivations of this war were legitimate or if Antony and Octavian conspired together to give that appearance. I say this because it would not be hard to believe considering the next triumvirate would be formed soon afterward as you shall see in the coming paragraphs.
Essentially as Octavian finished the battle with Antony and prepared to head back to Rome, he was in a very similar position as Julius Caesar was in 49 BC. If you disband your army before entering the city, the aristocratic wolves will have you for lunch. If you use your army to take over by force you at least have a chance to retain your power. At the young age of only 19 years, Octavian would march in and use his loyal army to change the history of the Republic.
Octavian turned his legions south to march on Rome as if it were an enemy state. He sent Centurions ahead to let them know his intentions of declaring him Consul. One Centurion is said to have shown an aristocrat the hilt of his sword remarking: “make Octavian consul or this will.”
As the Senate came to terms that they had been quickly out maneuvered by a nineteen year old, many historians consider Octavian’s next move brilliant. Octavian turned to his recent enemy to make a political alliance. He forms the Second Triumvirate with Marc Antony. Man this fucker is good at wielding his big ambition. He knew all along that if and when these cards played out like he hoped, he was going to end up smoking Antony out anyway. Talk about using the lemons you have to make lemon aid! Perhaps this is why the term Caesar is so prolific throughout every language. Kaiser, Czar, Caesar!!!!
Augustus and Antony had common interests: They both wanted to avenge Julius Caesar’s death and their armies wanted them to be together because they had already fought together previously. Together they would divide and conquer any opposition to their rule. The first thing they did was to write hundreds of death proscriptions for any aristocrats that opposed them. Antony made sure that the slanderous Cicero was among them. Octavian himself signed the death warrants of his former allies. These people were very forthright in their goal driven killings for power.
Octavian was young and ruthless in this campaign avenging his great uncle. He and Antony moved their armies east to Greece to the battle of Phillipi to fight Brutus and Cassius. At this point the two men knew that they were only acting as temporary partners while they had a common interest. [Need to look up that Arabic proverb about two enemies being friends when they have a common enemy.] They divided the empire into east and west with Antony taking the wealthy eastern province and Octavian the west. They both knew that eventually they would fight each other for total control.
Backing up a little bit… The point I was making earlier was: how do we know that Octavian and Marc Antony weren’t in cahoots already before they fought in Northern Italy? Doesn’t it seem entirely possible that their alliance had some forethought? Historians always seem to take for gospel the fight between Octavian and Antony in Northern Italy. Perhaps they missed yet another of Octavian’s brilliant moves of getting out of the city because the accounts of the fight between Octavian and Antony could have been greatly exaggerated. Octavian could have been laughing that up over the next fifty years of his life if he fooled the historians writing that story. Those writers would never want to admit how wrong they had it because they got caught with their pants down. That’s always the best kind of burn… When you got so smoked and you didn’t even realize it and would never admit to it. It’s the ultimate fuck you. Because remember, Octavian’s next move was to sign death warrants for all those people who thought they were in alliance with him. These are harsh double-crosses and again I find this plausible.
The next chapter in Octavian’s life would be Actium. He is quoted as saying: “I conquered at Actium”. In Rome, Octavian began to consolidate his power. In 39 BC, he married the well born Scribonia. But he quickly tired of his wife. Despite the political value of her family, and shortly after the birth of their daughter Julia, he ended the marriage. Another quote from Octavian about Scribonia from Suetonius’ 12 Caesars:
I divorced her because I could not bear the way she nagged me. – Octavian
The following year, Octavian met and fell in love with a young woman named Livia. The 19 year old livia was already married with a child named Tiberius and was pregnant with another. But like Uday or Qusay, a dictator doesn’t have to worry himself with those trivialities… He forced her husband to end his marriage. Perhaps Octavian was truly in love because, against the norms of the time, there was no political gain to be had by this marriage. This is supreme confidence of power and your ability to wield it: I want that girl; simple as that and I don’t give a fuck if she’s already married. He would stick with Livia for the rest of his life.
And perhaps his marriage also was made in haste to reconcile differences with Antony. Octavian offered his sister Julia as a gift to Antony. Antony really didn’t care though because he was Lady Gaga over Cleopatra VII. Remember Antony and Cleopatra go back to when Julius Caesar was chasing after Pompey. Maybe Antony had been bangin’ Cleopatra all along on the sly… I mean he would have been right there with Julius Caesar when they were having their affair on the Nile. You could also look at this from the viewpoint that Cleopatra was just once again spreading her charm (and legs) to climb the ladder of power. She had done it before and Antony was a very powerful man. No one knew at the time that the young Octavian would conquer in the end and claim the Mediterranean as his own lake. Antony says of Cleopatra VII: “she was rich, sensual, cunning”.
Cleopatra wanted Antony to focus his military force on Egypt creating a new empire on the Nile delta. Antony saw benefit in Cleopatra’s money. He could use Egypt’s wealth to hold Octavian at bay. At this point Antony dispatches Octavian’s sister Julia back to Rome humiliated. He doesn’t even divorce Julia before he decides to marry Cleopatra.
What Antony may never have realized was that his lust for Cleopatra was going to be the pivot point about which Octavian would be able to secure backing of the Senate. Antony rubbed a little salt into the situation as well declaring that Caesar’s son Caesarian by Cleopatra should have been the rightful heir to Caesar’s name, power, and fortune.
Who would not weep when he sees and hears what Antony has become? Now he has abandoned his whole ancestral way of life to embrace alien and barbaric customs, he has abandoned us, his fellow countrymen, our laws and his father’s gods. He’s either blind to reason or mad. For I have heard and believe that he has been bewitched by that accursed woman [meaning Cleopatra of course]. Henceforth, let no one consider him to be a Roman citizen but rather, an Egyptian. – Octavian
Immediately, Antony loses diginitas in Rome. The Senate aligns with Octavian. I sometimes have a hard time understanding the aristocracy because the Senate always has this undercurrent of power yet Octavian had just proscribed death warrants for Senators that went against him. Doesn’t it seem logical that they are rubber stamping Octavian’s directives under duress? Isn’t the Senate’s power somewhat warped in this sense? Or was it more like modern day Washington DC in the sense that the president only has so much power given that the Senate needs to support him?
Octavian kept up the campaign against Antony proclaiming that Antony planned on moving the capital to Egypt. This was in essence true. This plays well to the Roman populous as well. Octavian is able to froth up the crowds very easily by demonizing Antony and relating him to things that they can easily understand: foreign kings, foreign women, barbarians. It’s textbook fear mongering by the politicians of today. As I write this, it’s October 9, 2010 a month before the midterm elections. There are fear mongering commercials that play on people’s paranoias the same way 2,000 years later. I’ve seen commercials in the fall of 2010 that tell me I should be afraid of Obama, I should be afraid of Mexican immigrants, and a million other things that should make me afraid.
Having secured the popular sentiment, Octavian prepares for war. He would spend the next four years preparing a fleet and set sail in 31 BC. The great war between Octavian and Antony would come to a head on the west coast of Greece at Actium. Agrippa, one of Octavian’s generals won the sea battle at Actium, but it was at great cost. The author Seneca remarked that the naval battle at Actium had left the waters stained red with Roman Blood. Antony fled to Egypt defeated and demoralized. He took his own life. Octavian’s great rival was dead.
Cleopatra was fearful for her life too. She made pleads to Octavian and reminded him of her past love for Julius Caesar, but Octavian was unmoved. He planned to parade her through the streets of Rome in triumph. But, it was not to be. When Cleopatra heard of such plans she took her own life as well by the bite of an asp. Octavian then ordered the death of her teenage son Caesarian. [put that famous painting of Cleopatra’s suicide here]
Now, the entire wealth of Egypt belonged to Rome. Egypt was the richest country in the world so now Rome was obviously abundant in wealth.
Post Actium – The New World Order
The power wielded for a time by Pompeius and Crassus was before long transferred to Caesar, and the military supremacy of Antonius and Lepidus passed into the hands of Augustus, who found the State exhausted by civil war, and goverened it nominally as Princeps, actually as Emperor- Tacitus.
At this point Octavian is 33 years old and moves back to Rome in 31 BC. He has adopted regal power. He must tread carefully and balance what he has learned from his uncle Julius but do one better. He knows that his odds of assassination have gone up with his new power. This I see as a careful balancing act. It is not much different than the power structure of today in a sense. As I have made parallel again and again, Rome is similar to Washington DC in this regard. The president is in charge, but look at what a mess of aristocrats seek to supplant him and obstruct his power. Rome is simultaneously similar and dissimilar to Washington in carrying on this equilibrium ever seeking to prove Le Chatilier’s principle is just as applicable to politics as it is chemistry.
The most fascinating thing to be observed at this point is that Octavian is no longer exhibiting the image of a ruthless and “ugly” leader as he had to be before Actium. He now dons a completely different mask after Actium as the benevolent guy; as the guy who all along has wanted nothing more than peace. The people had just endured an entire century of civil war and power struggles amongst their aristocratic elites. They craved peace and stability. They were ripe to swallow up this type of rhetoric from a leader and Octavian knew it; he gave them the image they craved. It was Hannah Arendt that once said “the most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution”.
The republic was not ready for a dictator or emperor. Octavian had to give the semblance of Republican rule even though he was pulling all the strings. Four years after Actium, Octavian makes a move considered to be his master stroke: he relinquishes his power before the Senate.
Octavian says to the Senate:
The fact that it is in my power to rule over you for life is evident. But, I am mild by nature and have no desire to dominate. The power I hold now, I lay down. Allow me to live out my life in peace. – Octavian
The Senate was dumbfounded by the request. They had no choice but to refuse his resignation lest Rome fall right back into civil war. By saying they needed Octavian, he had garnered the power he was seeking but had made them think that it was their choice. Like his uncle, he made a brilliant move to manipulate and pacify the minds of the populous and the Senate by getting them to think that it was their decision and not his own. If you were to look up ‘manipulation’ in the dictionary, it would be surprising if it didn’t say “See Augustus”.
Octavian assumes a new title he calls Princeps which means first amongst equals. This is a non-threatening way of saying I’m first bitch and you can suck it – no I’m kidding – but the title obviously worked to do what Octavian had hoped to do. And he did use the title Princeps as a facade to shield himself from the truth that he was dictator. Once again, this is not much different than the GOP in the USA funding the Tea Party through subterfuge and saying that the Tea Party is a new political movement and not just astroturfing that’s connected to the same Republican money. The truth is in the money because the money doesn’t lie… And the money says the Tea Party is a new wrapper on the same old party. And, that’s exactly what Octavian was doing. He was doing one thing and proclaiming to do another; he was feverishly working on consolidating his power behind the innocuous facade of the Tea Party…er..um…I mean…Princeps title.
His first move to consolidate power was to tighten his grip on the military. As commander and chief of the military, he moved to make the Praetorian Guards his own personal body guards which started a precedent for subsequent emperors. There were 28 legions in the Roman army and they would now be subject to two year terms of duty to stifle any sort of political ambition; pretty clever move.
The next precaution to stifle political ambition was to hand pick the generals and governors for the provinces from Octavian’s personal friends and family.
The purpose of this decision, as he explained it, was that the Senate should enjoy without anxiety the fairest territories in the empire, while he should confront the dangers. But the real object of this arrangement was that the Senators should be unarmed and unprepared for war while he possessed arms and controlled the troops. – Cassius Dio
Then to galvanize popular sentiment, Octavian initiates a building campaign. He sets out to improve Rome’s infrastructure by cleaning the river Tiber and building many new buildings. A visible restoration took place. Quickly, nearly 100 temples were restored. This restoration gave people an intangible feeling of goodness; it does cost money, however. For example, here in Detroit, a restoration would be wonderful, but we haven’t just conquered Egypt. That’s the difference in sustaining this type of economy. That’s what I’m working diligently to understand (i.e. how to lay down rules for an economy that doesn’t need war, murder, or have corruption due to intoxication from power). Octavian’s restoration project was a visible gesture of goodwill to the public.
Within 5 years the benefits of peace were being felt across the empire and people relished the end of civil war. Even Octavian’s political enemies were embraced with a system of rewards and privileges. This is the paradox of the Roman economy in which everything is easy and hunky dory when you smoke out another civilization and steal their wealth. These moves only score Octavian more appreciation from the Senate that was once very uneasy with him. The reward system is considered genius in by many historians. It is at this point the name Augustus is conferred upon Octavian. This begins the Pax Romana or Roman peace.
Augustus demanded unquestioned loyalty. In return, he offered peace and stability and law and safety to all citizens. Augustus displayed frugality as a leader. He ate the same food as ordinary Roman citizens. He slept on the same type of bed. Here is a quote from Suetonius about how Augustus lived his life as a common man:
LXXVI. He ate sparingly (for I must not omit even this), and commonly used a plain diet. He was particularly fond of coarse bread, small fishes, new cheese made of cow’s milk , and green figs of the sort which bear fruit twice a year . He did not wait for supper, but took food at any time, and in any place, when he had an appetite. The following passages relative to this subject, I have transcribed from his letters. “I ate a little bread and some small dates, in my carriage.” Again. “In returning home from the palace in my litter, I ate an ounce of bread, and a few raisins.” Again. “No Jew, my dear Tiberius, ever keeps such strict fast upon the Sabbath , as I have to-day; for while in the bath, and after the first hour of the night, I only ate two biscuits, before I began to be rubbed with oil.” From this great indifference about his diet, he sometimes supped by himself, before his company began, or after they had finished, and would not touch a morsel at table with his guests. – Suetonius
Augustus maintained this image of a simple lifestyle until the end of his days. He liked his wife to spin wool and weave clothes and be like the Romans of old and maintain the old roman virtues. This image was, however, not quite sincere. Augustus made sure a youthful simplistic image of him was sent to the ends of all the Roman provinces: busts, statues, coins, &c. were sent to Spain, Greece, Judea and Gaul. His iconography was that of a god. He consistently presents an image of godlike stature. Like a god, from Actium onward, Augustus portends to have no age. It is around this time, around his 40th year, that the summer month of August is named after him. People made sacrifices to his health and well being as if he were a god.
Augustus maintains this image to influence a campaign to return all of Rome back to its virtues of old. In essence, he’s using this image as a tool for social control to lead by example, even though the example he’s setting is solely smoke and mirrors. It’s a classic hypocrisy that you’ve heard again and again: do as I say, not as I do. He’s taking on the status of a god and saying that you mere mortals should try to emulate me; it’s classic authoritarianism. He gives tax cuts to men and women who marry and bear children. He makes it harder to get divorced. He writes:
“It is through men who live their lives in this way that the Romans in future years will become a mighty people. How imperative it is if the rest of the world is to obey you that there should be a flourishing race of ours” – Augustus
Behind this supposed mask of morality was hypocrisy. Suetonius speaks of Augustus taking manly liberties with the wives and daughters of other men. One particular thing Augustus had was a fancy for deflowering young virgins. This was while he was in his forties and lasts until the end of his days. It is said that he had these young girls brought to the palace in droves; all of this while his public image remained unblemished.
Here is a quote from Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars describing how Augustus took his liberties with any woman he wanted whenever he wanted. Suetonius also quotes from Augustus’ letters as he mentions so nonchalantly how the friend he is writing to is just as guilty for taking the same type of liberties by listing out by name 4 women that his buddy was cheating on his wife with:
LXVII. That he was guilty of various acts of adultery, is not denied even by his friends; but they allege in excuse for it that he engaged in those intrigues not from lewdness, but from policy, in order to discover more easily the designs of his enemies, through their wives. Mark Antony, besides the precipitate marriage of Livia, charges him with taking the wife of a man of consular rank from the table, in the presence of her husband into a bed-chamber, and bringing her again to the entertainment, with her ears very red, and her hair in great disorder: that he divorced Scibonia, for resenting too freely the excessive influence which one of his mistresses had gained over him: that his friends were employed to pimp for him, and accordingly obliged both matrons and ripe virgins to strip, for a complete examination of their persons, in the same manner as if Thoranius, the dealer in slaves, had them under sale. And before they came to an open rupture, he writes to him in a familiar manner, thus: “Why are you changed toward me? Because I lie with a queen? She is my wife. Is this a new thing for me, or have I not done so for these nine years? And do you take freedoms with Drusilla only? May health and happiness so attend you, as when you read this letter, you are not in a dalliance with Tertulla, Terentilla, Rufilla, or Salvia Titiscenia, or all of them. What matters it to you where, or upon whom, you spend your manly vigour?” – Suetonius (with quotes from Augustus’ letters)
There is more hypocrisy to this image Augustus was trying to portray: we learn from Suetonius about Augustus’ predilection for young virgins as his age advanced. There was indeed a whole clandestine network of operatives that would round these girls up, stolen and ripped from their families, to service the emperors fancy in the waning years of his rule. It had been written that his teeth had been rotting out for the last few decades of his life. Imagine your horror as a father, having guards show up at your door to take your young daughter from your house so she could be raped by this man with a rotting mouth. Then, consider again the plausibility by which the term Anno Domini might give allegory to Augustus.
In his advancing age, Augustus had to find a worthy successor. Augustus had brought an end to the Republic. He was king in all but name. His next ambition was to create a dynasty that would inherit his wealth and power. The most dangerous thing an imperator can do is name a successor. By doing so, your power is imparted to that person and the sucking up begins in earnest. Augustus knows this and thereby would not put his eggs in one basket. Once again he wisely opts for an alternative means of succession: he builds up a group of people behind himself. This way, no one knows which way he’s leaning and everyone, including the people in line to power must constantly stay on their toes. It’s very much like the modern day game show Donald Trump’s – Apprentice.
Unfortunately, Augustus’ wife Livia had born him no children. His only daughter, Julia, from a previous marriage was the key to the dynasty that lay subsequent to his rule. Augustus married her to his close friend Agrippa to hopefully net some grandchildren. Agrippa was 24 years Julia’s senior. They had five children. Two of whom, Gaius and Lucius were adopted by Augustus.
When Agrippa died, Augustus hastily passed Julia on to her step brother Tiberius. She finally rebelled and disgraced her father. Julia took to whoring around the town at this point to lash back at her father. She held orgies in the forum and slept with key men hoping to hurt dad’s reputation. She openly violated her father’s rules concerning adultery (as did he we should remember!) and Augustus exiled her to an island for five years where she would be allowed no male visitors and no wine. So basically he ruined her Jersey Shore lifestyle. It is posited that Livia engineered Julia’s downfall in order to line up the next power broker in Rome to be her son Tiberius. Perhaps Livia told Augustus of Julia’s orgies in the forum.
The two grandsons Augustus adopted, Gaius and Lucius, both died young. In AD 9 three Roman legions were attacked and destroyed by Germanic tribes. This bothered Augustus very much in his advancing age. It was something that loomed in his thoughts and made him miserable and unhappy in his waning years. In AD 5 Augustus adopted his stepson Tiberius as his son thus establishing a dynasty. In AD 14 Augustus became ill and summoned his family to him. Unlike most emperors to follow him, Augustus died peacefully in his bed. He was 76 years old. At his funeral, an eagle was released symbolizing the ascent of his spirit to heaven. Soon after his death he was declared a god; again I say Anno Domini.
In essence what Augustus did was this: he established a new world order by transforming the republic of Rome into a monarchy. He established a judicial system and defense system that would allow the provincials around the Mediterranean to go on about their business knowing that a solid system was in place. He set the tone for future emperors to follow his footsteps for the next 500 years. His legacy in image was nothing short of the greatest and most powerful man to have ever led the free world. His character in reality was nothing like that of his image. It is hard for us to even comprehend in 2010 what kind of place ancient Rome would be. It is impossible to reconcile all this wealth, opulence, art, and education with these behaviors that seem so treacherous. This is a Rome where rules were in place that outlined how children should be executed. The rules said that virgin girls were not allowed to be executed. So, the executioner would debauch the young girls in order to make it legal to execute them. This was standard protocol! Those last sentences are hard to comprehend at all. They are even more difficult to understand in the midst of all the so called nobility of Roman aristocrats.
So this chapter in this Timeline series of posts comes to a close. With Augustus’ passing, we move toward the waning part of the Caesarian Dynasty. Covering the emperors Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero is difficult for me because I find the historical texts through this time period to be a crock of shit. It is mostly Flavian Dynasty funding that paid for the historical writings through the next chapter in this Timeline and a lot of things written about Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero seem to be embellished with a negative slant. I will have to contemplate how to write the next chapters, but contemplate I will. Look for Timeline post# 5 in the coming months.