Readings on the Imperators


Lives of Illustrious Men


Cassius Dio


Res Gestae

Lives of Illustrious Men


The first reading for this unit is taken from a book of mini-biographies of ‘Illustrious Men’ written probably in the fourth century CE – much later than the events narrated.  Throughout the Roman Empire there was a fashion for shorter versions of great literary works.  These are often called epitomes or brevaria.  Basically ancient “spark-notes”:  how to look smart and know the basics without having to actually read all those long classic books.

 I give you a selection of intertwined lives from the period.  Only Marius, Sulla, and Pompey could be called Imperators.

**Gaius Marius, who was consul seven times, was born in humble circumstances at Arpinum and discharged the duties of the highest offices in order. He became a lieutenant to Metellus in Numidia and obtained the consulship by making accusations. He captured Jugurtha and drove him before his chariot in his triumph. In the next year, when he was made consul without seeking the office, he conquered the Cimbri in Gaul at Aquae Sextiae and the Teutones in Italy in the Raudian Plain, and because of his victories over these peoples he celebrated a triumph. In his sixth successive consulship, supported by a “senatus consultum” he killed the seditious Apuleius and Glaucia, the former a plebian tribune and the latter a praetor. At the time when the Sulpician Bill provided that he should take over Sulla’s province, he was de­feated in battle by Sulla and so concealed himself in the swamp of Minturnae. Found and imprisoned, he terrified the Gallic assassin sent in against him by the forcefulness of his facial expression. He obtained a boat and crossed to Africa, where he remained in exile for a long time. Afterwards, when he was recalled in the tyranny of Cinna, he made up an army by breaking open the prisons and avenged his injury by slaughtering his enemies. In his seventh consulship, as some say, he committed suicide.

Gaius Marius, son of Marius, seized the consulship at the age of twenty-seven. His mother wept at such a pre­mature public office. Marius, as cruel as his father, armed, besieged the Senate House, slaughtered his enemies, and hurled their bodies into the Tiber. While preparing for war against Sulla, he rested in the open air at Sacriportus, exhausted from sleeplessness and work. During his absence, he was defeated; and he shared in the flight, not the battle. He took refuge in Praeneste, where he was besieged by Lucretius Afella. He attempted to flee by a passage underground, but when he learned that everything was guarded, he offered himself to Pontius Telesinus [= a leader of the Samnites, an Italian people at war with the Romans] to be killed.

THE EXTREMELY dissolute Lucius Cornelius Cinna devastated the republic with the most vicious cruelty. In his first consulship, stopped by his colleague Octavius from making a law about recalling exiles and deprived of honor, he fled the city and, after summoning the slaves to freedom, defeated his adversaries. He killed Octavius and seized the Janiculum [= a hill at Rome, west of the Tiber, near the Vatican today]. He made himself consul a second and third time. In his fourth consulship, when he was preparing war against Sulla, he was stoned to death by the army at Ancona because he was too cruel.

FLAVIUS FIMBRIA, the fiercest of Cinna’s accomplices, went to Asia as a lieutenant to the consul Valerius Flaccus. Discharged because of dissension, he bribed the army and saw to it that its leader was killed. He himself took up the insignia of command, entered the province, and drove Mithridates from Pergamum. He ordered that Troy be burned because the city had opened its gates too slowly; the temple of Minerva remained undamaged and its preservation was interpreted by all as an act of divine majesty. In the same place, Fimbria struck with an axe the chiefs of the military. Soon he was besieged by Sulla at Pergamum; deserted by his army, which had been bribed, he killed himself.

MARCUS AEMILIUS SCAURUS was a nobleman, but a poor one, for his father, although a patrician, carried on traffic in charcoal because of his poverty. He himself at first was uncertain whether to seek public offices or become a banker; but his skillful eloquence gained him glory. At first in Spain he earned the corniculum [=horn-shaped ornament awarded for bravery]; he served in Sardinia under Orestes. As aedile, he was more interested in administering justice than in exhibiting the games. As praetor, he was opposed to Jugurtha but was corrupted by his money. As consul, he passed laws about expenses and the voting rights of the sons of freedmen. He ordered Publius Decius, the praetor, who was seated as he himself passed by, to get up, and he ripped his clothing and broke his curule chair ( = symbol of his office); he decreed that no one should go to Decius to obtain justice. As consul, he defeated the Ligurians and the Taurisci and celebrated a triumph over them. As censor, he constructed the Aemilian Way and built the Mulvian Bridge. His authority was so great that Opimius took up arms against Gracchus, and Marius against Glaucia and Saturninus, because of Scaurus’ advice in private. He forbade his own son to come into his presence because he had deserted his post; because of this shame, the son killed himself. In his old age, Scaurus was accused by Varius, the plebian tribune, of supposedly compelling their allies and Latium to take up arms. Scaurus made this reply to the people: “Varius of Verona says that Aemilius Scaurus forced the allies to arms. Scaurus denies it. Which one do you think should be believed?”


coin with image of curule chair and fasces

LUCIUS APULEIUS SATURNINUS, a seditious plebian tribune, in order to obtain the favor of the soldiers of Marius, proposed a law which provided that each veteran receive one hundred acres of land in Africa. His colleague Baebius protested, but Saturninus drove him off by inciting the people to throw stones. He broke the curule chair of the praetor Glaucia because Glaucia had diverted part of the people by administering justice on the very day when he himself was holding a meeting; he did this in order to appear more a friend of the people. He secretly incited a certain freedman to pretend that he was the son of Tiberius Gracchus. Sempronia was brought into court to give proof of this, but neither by entreaties nor by threats could she be persuaded to acknowledge as genuine this disgrace of the family.

After the murder of his political rival Aulus Nonius, Saturninus, chosen plebian tribune again, granted land in Sicily, Achaia, and Macedonia to new colonists; the gold which was obtained by the guile or crime of Caepio he directed toward the purchase of new land. He deprived of water and fire anyone who did not swear to obey his laws. Many nobles opposing this law shouted out when there was a crash of thunder [= a bad omen = the god’s must disapprove]. Saturninus said: “If you don’t shut up, it will soon hail.” Metellus Numidicus preferred exile rather than taking the oath.

Saturninus, chosen plebian tribune for the third time, in an effort to make his accomplice Glaucia praetor, arranged the murder of Glaucia’s rival Memmius in the Campus Martius. Marius, armed by the decree of the Senate ordering the consuls to take precautions lest the state suffer any harm, pursued Saturninus and Glaucia to the Capitol and blockaded them. After a very clever trick of cutting the waterlines, he accepted their surrender. Marius’ word of honor to the men was not kept; Glaucia’s neck was broken, and Apuleius fled to the Curia, where he was killed by rocks and tiles hurled from above. A certain senator named Rabirius carried his head around at banquets for a joke.

LUCIUS LICINIUS LUCULLUS, noble, eloquent, and wealthy, in his quaestorship gave the most magnificent public show. With Murena’s assistance in Asia, he won over to the consul Sulla the fleet of Mithridates and Ptolemy, king at Alexandria. As praetor, he administered Africa most justly. Sent against Mithridates, he freed his colleague Cotta from blockade at Chalcedon. He relieved Cyzicus from siege. He destroyed Mithridates’ forces by the sword and by starvation and drove Mithridates from his kingdom, that is, from the Pontus. Lucullus with great success again defeated Mithridates, who had joined forces with Tigranes, king of Armenia. He was preoccupied with appearance; he was inflamed especially by a love of statues and paintings. When he later went out of his mind and began to act foolishly, he was put into the care of his brother Marcus Lucullus.

**CORNELIUS SULLA was called Felix (=Blessed) because of his good fortune. As a very young boy, he was being carried by his nurse when a woman met them and said, “Hail child, lucky for yourself and your republic.” An immediate search was made for the woman who had said this, but she could not be found. As Marius’ quaestor, he received Jugurtha from Bocchus as prisoner. Lieutenant in the war against the Cimbri and Teutones, he rendered outstanding assistance. As praetor, he admin­istered justice to the citizens and governed the province of Cilicia. In the Social War, he defeated the Samnites and the Hirpines. He prevented Marius from destroying the monuments of Bacchus. As consul, he obtained Asia by lot and routed Mithridates at Orchomenus and Chaeronea [= one is very close to the other], conquered his commander Archelaus at Athens, seized the harbor Piraeus, and on his journey defeated the Medes and Dardanians. Later, when his command was transferred to Marius by the Sulpician bill, Sulla returned to Italy, bribed the armies of his adversaries, drove Carbo from Italy, defeated Marius at Sacriportus and Telesinus at the Colline Gate. At the death of Marius at Praeneste, he conferred upon himself by decree the name “Lucky”, i.e. Felix. He was the first to put forth the proscription lists. In the Public Villa he killed nine thousand who had surrendered.

He increased the number of priests and reduced the power of the tribunes. When the republic had been set in order, he lay down his dictatorship; and then he retired and withdrew to Puteoli, where he died from a sickness called phthiriasis.


L Sull(a) Feli(x) Dic(tator) from 80 BCE

MITHRIDATES, king of Pontus, born from the seven Persians, had great strength of mind and body so that he could manage six yoked horses and speak the language of fifty nations. While the Romans were at variance with one another in the Social War, Mithridates drove Nicomedes out of Bithynia and Ariobarzanes out of Cappadocia. He sent a letter through all Asia ordering a slaughter of all Romans on a certain day; and this was accomplished. He seized Greece and all the islands with the exception of Rhodes. Sulla defeated him in battle and captured his fleet because of the treason of Arche­laus; he routed and crushed Mithridates himself at the town Dardanus and would have captured him if he had not preferred to arrange any kind of peace and hurry against Marius. Lucullus then routed him as he resisted at Cabira (a central stronghold in Pontus itself). Mithridates afterwards was defeated by Pompey in a night battle and fled to his kingdom; besieged in a tower by his son Pharnaces in a popular uprising, he took poison. When he drank it with little effect because he had strengthened his body against poisons by many previous antidotes, he called back the Gallic assassin Sithocus, who had been sent against him and frightened off by the forcefulness of his facial expression. The trembling assassin was assisted in the killing by Mithridates himself.

**GNAEUS POMPEIUS MAGNUS (= Pompey), following the party of Sulla in the civil war, was especially esteemed by Sulla because of his actions. Without war, he recovered Sicily from those proscribed. He seized Numidia from Hiarba and restored it to Massinissa. He celebrated a triumph at the age of twenty-six. When Lepidus wished to repeal the ordinances of Sulla, Pompey, a private citizen, banished him from Italy. Sent to Spain as praetor in place of the consuls, he defeated Sertorius. Later, he subdued the pirates in forty days. He forced Tigranes to surrender and Mithridates to poison. Then, with wonderful good luck in his affairs, he caused great terror of himself as he advanced among the Albanians, Colchians, Heniochians, Caspians, and Hiberians in the north and the Parthians, Arabians, and Jews in the east. He was the first to reach the Hyrcanian Sea, the Red Sea, and the Arabian Sea. Later, in the division of the empire of the world, Crassus obtained Syria; Caesar, Gaul; and Pompey, Rome.

After the death of Crassus, Pompey ordered Caesar to disband his army but was driven from the city when Caesar approached prepared for battle. Defeated at Pharsalia, he fled to Ptolemy at Alexandria. Septimius, an ·officer of Ptolemy, stabbed Pompey in the side with a sword in the sight of Pompey’s wife and children. The head was cut from the lifeless body; such an action had been unknown before this time. The rest of the body, thrown into the Nile and burned on a funeral pile by Servius Codrus, was buried in a tomb with this inscription: Here lies Pompey the Great. Pompey’s head, wrapped with an Egyptian covering, was presented along with a ring to Caesar by Achillas, an attendant of Ptolemy. Caesar could not keep back tears, and he took care that the head was burned with many very costly perfumes.


MAGNUS / PRO CO(N)S(UL); head of Africa and Pompey riding in Triumph


Select Poems referring to the Imperators

Valerius Catullus was from a wealthy equestrian family from Verona (founded as Roman colony in 89 BCE). He lived in Rome and mingled with the Roman political elite of his day. He died sometime shortly before Caesar’s dictatorship.

His poetry represents the free ribald speech possible in the republic right up to the eve of Caesar’s dictatorship.

Overall his poetry takes love, sex, rivalries and invective as its key themes.

What follows is explicitly and implicitly sexual, rude and often derogatory: it was intended to offend/shock by its author.

The first poem below is not particularly political other than the suggestion in the second line that the senators (~old men) are gossiping about their affair.  I include it here because it is the most famous of Catullus’ poems and the following (11) refers back to it.


Let us live, my Lesbia, and love,

And the rumors of the stern old men

Let us value all at just one penny!

Suns may set and rise again;

By us, when once the brief light has set,

An eternal night must be slept.

Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred,

Then another thousand, then a second hundred,

Then yet another thousand, then a hundred;

Then when we have counted up many thousands,

Let us shake them all up, lest we know,

Or lest some evil man be able to envy

When he knows how many kisses there were.


Lesbia – his pet name for his lover, a reference to Sappho whom he imitates.  Lesbia is believed to be Clodia, an exceptionally powerful woman of a powerful senatorial family.

eternal night –  death

shake them all up – perhaps a reference to an abacus or other method of calculation using physical counters.

lest some evil man be able to – this verges on superstitious: there were common beliefs that if someone knew the exact number of something or other precise details they could case evil spells.


Furius and Aurelius, companions of Catullus,
whether he penetrates the furthest of the Indians,
where shore is beaten far resounding
eastern wave

whether into the Hyrcanians or the gentle Arabs,
or the arrow-carrying Parthians,
whether to the smooth delta colored by the
seven fold Nile

whether he will go across the great Alps,
seeing the great monuments of Caesar,
the Gallic Rhine or those monstrous men,
the furthest Britons

you who are prepared to do all this
and whatever else the will of heaven brings,
announce to my girl a few
words, not good!

Let her live and let her flourish with her adulterers,
whom having embraced 300 of them at the same time,
she owns and keeps them,
truly loving none of them, but repeatedly breaks
the groins of all of them;

nor, let her no longer look back for my love as before,
which by her fault, has fallen,
just like the farthest flower of the field
has been killed by a passing plow!


Penetrates – yes, this is supposed to sound sexual

Monuments – no necessarily literal, but instead his deeds themselves are metaphoric memorials

Let her live – a reference to the earlier poem

Plow – another sexual metaphor, perhaps suggesting that her new lovers can have her: he had her first!


Who can see this and endure it?

–Except someone who is shameless: a glutton and a gambler!

Mamurra has all that the long-haired Gaul once had in value, as well as that of farthest Britain.

Cinaedus Romulus, will you see, and suffer, these things?

And now, that man, arrogant and affluent beyond measure

will walk through everyone’s bedroom,

just as a white dove or Adonis?

Cinaedus Romulus, will you see, and suffer, these things?

YOU are shameless: a glutton and a gambler!

Is this why, oh inimitable imperator,

you were on that farthest island of the west?

So that this fucked-out prick of yours could gobble up everything 200 and 300 times over?

What is this but perverse generosity?

Has he not achieved enough gluttony?

First squandered was his good inheritance,

Second the plunder from the Black Sea, Third

that of Spain, as the gold-bearing Tagus river knows.

Now the Gauls and Briton are afraid!

Why do you caress this nasty man? What can he do?

Besides devour a greasy inheritance?

Is this why, oh most pious of citizens,

Oh father- and son-in-law, you’ve ruined EVERYTHING?!


Cinaedus – I’ve left this untranslated.  It’s a complicated sexual insult.  “man-whore-slut” covers many of the same connotations.  Although sometimes it’s used more to carry the connotations of “pervy-faggot”.

Cinaedus Romulus – maybe Caesar, maybe Pompey, maybe intentionally ambiguous which is meant!

Adonis – remember from Theocritus 15: human lover of Aphodite

that farthest island of the west = Britain

Black Sea = an allusion to Pompey’s eastern campaigns and organization of the region as Roman provinces c. 63BCE?

Spain = likely a reference to Caesar’s campaigns of 61BCE which he used to pay off his own debts, but Pompey from 58 BC had been governing Spain by proxy!

father- and son-in-law – Pompey married Julia, Caesar’s daughter in 59.  She will die in 54BCE throwing the relationship of the two men and all of Rome back into conflict.


Otho’s “head” is a puny nothing.

And I would think the filthy

Backwoods thighs of Hirrus

Or Libo’s plain and simple farts

(if not all these things) would

turn off you and Fufidius

—that old leftover!—

May my trite little lines

sting you again, oh inimitable imperator!


Otho, Hirrus, Libo, Fufidius are all minor politicians and “cronies” of Caesar and/or Pompey

oh inimitable imperator – notice the parallel with poem 29

“head” – yes, a sexual double meaning

Thighs – intercourse conducted by pushing the penis through the closed thighs of the partner was a stereotypical sexual practice


Beautifully it comes together for the shameless Cinaedii
Mamurra and Caesar the pervert
No wonder: Like stains
–one from the city and the other from Formia—
set fast, they cannot be washed out:
Equally diseased, they are twins,
on one little bed both are educated,
one as greedy an adulterer as the other:
allied rivals even for little girls.
Beautifully it comes together for the shameless Cinaedii


Cinaedii – I’ve left this untranslated.  It’s the plural of the insult we already met in the earlier poem.


 I am not really keen, Caesar, to wish to pander to you,
Nor to know whether you are a hero or a villain.

Cassius Dio

Book 44.7-20

An account of the assassination of Julius Caesar by a Roman senator living in the late Second Century CE writing a history of Rome in Greek.

7 2 When they had begun to honour Julius Caesar (now Dictator), it was with the idea, of course, that he would be reasonable; but as they went on and saw that he was delighted with what they voted, — indeed he accepted all but a very few of their decrees, — different men at different times kept proposing various extravagant honours, some in a spirit of exaggerated flattery and others by way of ridicule. 3 At any rate, some actually ventured to suggest permitting him to have intercourse with as many women as he pleased, because even at this time, though fifty years old, he still had numerous mistresses. Others, and they were the majority, followed this course because they wished to make him envied and hated as quickly as possible, that he might the sooner perish. 4 And this is precisely what happened, though Caesar was encouraged by these very measures to believe that he should never be plotted against by the men who had voted him such honours, nor, through fear of them, by any one else; and consequently he even dispensed henceforth with a body-guard. For nominally he accepted the privilege of being watched over by the senators and equites, and so dismissed the guard he had previously had.

8 Indeed, when once they had voted to him on a single day an unusually large number of these honours of especial importance, — which had been granted unanimously by all except Cassius and a few others, who became famous for this action, yet suffered no harm, whereby Caesar’s clemency was conspicuously revealed, — they then approached him as he was sitting in the vestibule of the temple of Venus in order to announce to him in a body their decisions; 2 for they transacted such business in his absence, in order to have the appearance of doing it, not under compulsion, but voluntarily. And either by some heaven-sent fatuity or even through excess of joy he received them sitting, which aroused so great indignation among them all, not only the senators but all the rest, that it afforded his slayers one of their chief excuses for their plot against him. 3 Some who subsequently tried to defend him claimed, it is true, that owing to an attack of diarrhoea he could not control the movement of his bowels and so had remained where he was in order to avoid a flux. They were not able, however, to convince the majority, since not long afterwards he rose up and went home on foot; 4 hence most men suspected him of being inflated with pride and hated him for his haughtiness, when it was they themselves who had made him disdainful by the exaggerated character of their honours. After this occurrence, striking as it was, he increased the suspicion by permitting himself somewhat later to be chosen dictator for life.

9 When he had reached this point, the men who were plotting against him hesitated no longer, but in order to embitter even his best friends against him, they did their best to traduce him, finally saluting him as king, a name which they often used also among themselves. 2 When he kept refusing the title and rebuking in a way those who thus accosted him, yet did nothing by which it would be thought that he was really displeased at it, they secretly adorned his statue, which stood on the rostra, with a diadem. 3 And when the tribunes, Gaius Epidius Marullus and Lucius Caesetius Flavius, took it down, he became violently angry, although they uttered no word of abuse and moreover actually praised him before the populace as not wanting anything of the sort. For the time being, though vexed, he held his peace.

10 1 Subsequently, however, when he was riding in from the Alban Mount and some men again called him king, he said that his name was not “Rex” (= the Latin word for king, but also a common name) but Caesar; but when the same tribunes brought suit against the first man who had termed him king, he no longer restrained his wrath but showed great irritation, as if these very officials were really stirring up sedition against him. 2 And though for the moment he did them no harm, yet later, when they issued a proclamation declaring that they were unable to speak their mind freely and safely on behalf of the public good, he became exceedingly angry and brought them into the senate-house where he accused them and put their conduct to the vote. 3 He did not put them to death, though some declared them worthy even of that penalty, but he first removed them from the tribuneship, on the motion of Helvius Cinna, their colleague, and then erased their names from the senate. Some were pleased at this, or pretended to be, thinking they would have no need to incur danger by speaking out freely, and since they were not themselves involved in the business, they could view events as from a watch tower. 4 Caesar, however, received an ill name from this fact also, that, where he should have hated those who applied to him the name of king, he let them go and found fault with the tribunes instead.

11 1 Another thing that happened not long after these events proved still more clearly that, although he pretended to shun the title, in reality he desired to assume it. 2 For when he had entered the Forum at the festival of the Lupercalia and was sitting on the rostra in his gilded curule chair, adorned with the royal apparel and resplendent in his crown overlaid with gold, Antony with his fellow-priests saluted him as king and binding a diadem upon his head, said: “The people offer this to you through me.” 3 And Caesar answered: “Jupiter alone is king of the Romans,” and sent the diadem to Jupiter on the Capitol; yet he was not angry, but caused it to be inscribed in the records that he had refused to accept the kingship when offered to him by the  people through the consul. It was accordingly suspected that this thing had been deliberately arranged and that he was anxious for the name, but wished to be somehow compelled to take it; consequently the hatred against him was intense. 4 After this certain men at the elections proposed for consuls the tribunes previously mentioned, and they not only privately approached Marcus Brutus and such other persons as were proud-spirited and attempted to persuade them, but also tried to incite them to action publicly.


coin with curule chair with laurel wreath “CAESAR DIC PER”

12 1 Making the most of his having the same name as the great Brutus who overthrew the Tarquins, they scattered broadcast many pamphlets, declaring that he was not truly that man’s descendant; for the older Brutus had put to death both his sons, the only ones he had, when they were mere lads, and left no offspring whatever. 2 Nevertheless, the majority pretended to accept such a relationship, in order that Brutus, as a kinsman of that famous man, might be induced to perform deeds as great. They kept continually calling upon him, shouting out “Brutus, Brutus!” and adding further “We need a Brutus.” 3 Finally on the statue of the early Brutus they wrote “Would that thou wert living!” and upon the tribunal of the living Brutus (for he was praetor at the time and this is the name given to the seat on which the praetor sits in judgment) “Brutus, thou sleepest,” and “Thou art not Brutus.”

13 1 Now these were the influences that persuaded Brutus to attack Caesar, whom he had opposed from the beginning in any case, although he had later accepted benefits from him. He was also influenced  by the fact that he was both nephew and son-in‑law of that Cato who was called Uticensis, as I have stated. And his wife Portia was the only woman, as they say, who was privy to the plot. 2 For she came upon him while he was pondering over these very matters and asked him why he was so thoughtful. When he made no answer, she suspected that she was distrusted on account of her physical weakness, for fear she might reveal something, however unwillingly, under torture; hence she ventured to do a noteworthy deed. 3 She secretly inflicted a wound upon her own thigh, to test herself and see if she could endure torture. And as soon as the first intense pain was past, she despised the wound, and coming to him, said: “You, my husband, though you trusted my spirit that it would not betray you, nevertheless were distrustful of my body, and your feeling was but human. But I found that my body also can keep silence.” 4 With these words she disclosed her thigh, and making known the reason for what she had done, she said: “Therefore fear not, but tell me all you are concealing from me, for neither fire, nor lashes, nor goads will force me to divulge a word; I was not born to that extent a woman. Hence, if you still distrust me, it is better for me to die than to live; otherwise let no one think me longer the daughter of Cato or your wife.” 14 1 Hearing this, Brutus marvelled; and he no longer hid anything from her, but felt strengthened himself and related to her the whole plot. 2 After this he obtained as an associate Gaius Cassius, who had also been spared by Caesar and moreover had been honoured with the praetorship; and he was the husband of Brutus’s sister. Next they proceeded   to get together all the others who were of the same mind as themselves and these proved to be not a few in number. 3 There is no need to give a full list of the names, for I might thus become wearisome, but I cannot omit to mention Trebonius and Decimus Brutus, who was also called Junius and Albinus. 4 For these joined in the plot against Caesar, notwithstanding that they also had received many benefits at his hands; Decimus, in fact, had been appointed consul for the next year and had been assigned to Hither Gaul.

15 1 They came very near being detected for two reasons. One was the number of those who were privy to the plot, although Caesar would not receive any information about anything of the sort and punished very severely those who brought any news of the kind. 2 The second reason was their delay; for they stood in awe of him, for all their hatred of him, and kept putting the matter off, fearing, in spite of the fact that he no longer had any guard, that they might be killed by some of the men who were always with him; and thus they ran the risk of being discovered and put to death. 3 Indeed, they would have suffered this fate had they not been forced even against their will to hasten the plot. For a report, whether true or false, got abroad, as reports will spread, that the priests known as the Quindecemviri (=15-men who consulted sacred books written by the Sibyl, a priestess of Apollo) were spreading the report that the Sibyl had said the Parthians would never be defeated in any other way than by a king, 4 and were consequently going to propose that this title be granted to Caesar. The conspirators believed this to be true, and because a vote would be demanded of the magistrates, among whom were Brutus and Cassius, owing to the importance of the measure, and they neither dared to oppose it nor would submit to remain silent, they hastened forward their plot before any business connected with the measure should come up.

16 1 It had been decided by them to make the attempt in the senate, for they thought that there Caesar would least expect to be harmed in any way and would thus fall an easier victim, while they would find a safe opportunity by having swords instead of documents brought into the chamber in boxes, and the rest, being unarmed, would not be able to offer any resistance. 2 But in case anyone should be so rash, they hoped at least that the gladiators, many of whom they had previously stationed in Pompey’s Theatre under the pretext that they were to contend there, would come to their aid; for these were to lie in wait somewhere there in a certain room of the peristyle. So the conspirators, when the appointed day was come, gathered in the senate-house at dawn and called for Caesar.

17 1 As for him, he was warned of the plot in advance by soothsayers, and was warned also by dreams. For the night before he was slain his wife dreamed that their house had fallen in ruins and that her husband had been wounded by some men and had taken refuge in her bosom; and Caesar dreamed he was raised aloft upon the clouds and grasped the hand of Jupiter. 2 Moreover, omens not a few and not without significance came to him: the arms of Mars, at that time deposited in his house, according to ancient custom, by virtue of his position as high priest, made a great noise at night, and the doors of the chamber where he slept opened of their own accord. 3 Moreover, the sacrifices which he offered because of these occurrences were not at all favourable, and the birds he used in divination forbade him to leave the house. Indeed, to some the incident of his golden curule chair seemed ominous, at least after his murder; for the attendant, when Caesar delayed his coming, had carried it out of the senate, thinking that there now would be no need of it.

18 1 Caesar, accordingly, was so long in coming that the conspirators feared there might be a postponement, — indeed, a rumour got abroad that he would remain at home that day, — and that their plot would thus fall through and they themselves would be detected. Therefore they sent Decimus Brutus, as one supposed to be his devoted friend, to secure his attendance. 2 This man made light of Caesar’s scruples and by stating that the senate desired exceedingly to see him, persuaded him to proceed. At this an image of him, which he had set up in the vestibule, fell of its own accord and was shattered in pieces. 3 But, since it was fated that he should die at that time, he not only paid no attention to this but would not even listen to someone who was offering him information of the plot. He received from him a little roll in which all the preparations made for the attack were accurately recorded, but did not read it, thinking it contained some indifferent matter of no pressing importance. 4 In brief, he was so confident that to the soothsayer who had once warned him to beware of that day he jestingly remarked: “Where are your prophecies now? Do you not see that the day which you feared is come and that I am alive?” And the other, they say, answered merely: “Ay, it is come but is not yet past.”

19 1 Now when he finally reached the senate, Trebonius kept Antony employed somewhere at a distance outside. 2 For, though they had planned to kill both him and Lepidus, they feared they might be maligned as a result of the number they destroyed, on the ground that they had slain Caesar to gain supreme power and not to set free the city, as they pretended; and therefore they did not wish Antony even to be present at the slaying. As for Lepidus, he had set out on a campaign and was in the suburbs. 3 When Trebonius, then, talked with Antony, the rest in a body surrounded Caesar, who was as easy of access and as affable as any one could be; and some conversed with him, while others made as if to present petitions to him, so that suspicion might be as far from his mind as possible. 4 And when the right moment came, one of them approached him, as if to express his thanks for some favour or other, and pulled his toga from his shoulder, thus giving the signal that had been agreed upon by the conspirators. Thereupon they attacked him from many sides at once and wounded him to death, 5 so that by reason of their numbers Caesar was unable to say or do anything, but veiling his face, was slain  with many wounds. This is the truest account, though some have added that to Brutus, when he struck him a powerful blow, he said: “Thou, too, my son?”

20 1 A great outcry naturally arose from all the rest who were inside and also from those who were standing near by outside, both at the suddenness of the calamity and because they did not know who the assassins were, their numbers, or their purpose; and all were excited, believing themselves in danger. 2 So they not only turned to flight themselves, every man as best he could, but they also alarmed those who met them by saying nothing intelligible, but merely shouting out the words: “Run! bolt doors! bolt doors!” 3 Then all the rest, severally taking up the cry one from another, kept shouting these words, filled the city with lamentations, and burst into the workshops and houses to hide themselves, even though the assassins hurried just as they were to the Forum, urging them both by their gestures and their shouts not to be afraid.


A coin struck by Brutus after the assassination: EID MAR = ides of March


Life of Augustus

Suetonius (c.69-122CE) wrote biographies of the first twelve emperors.  Under Trajan he served as director of the imperial archives and under Hadrian he was the emperor’s secretary.

THE OCTAVIANS, by all accounts, were famous in ancient Velitrae. An ‘Octavian Street‘ runs through the busiest part of the city, and an altar is shown there consecrated by one Octavius, a local commander. Apparently news of an attack by a neighbouring city reached him while he was sacrificing a victim to Mars; snatching the intestines from the fire, he offered them only half-burned, and hurried away to win the battle. The Velitraean records include a decree that all future offerings to Mars must be made in the same fashion, the carcase of every victim becoming a perquisite of the Octavians.

2. King Tarquinius Priscus admitted the Octavians, among other plebeian families, to the Roman Senate, and though Servius Tullius awarded them patrician privileges, they later reverted to plebeian rank until eventually Julius Caesar made them patricians once more. Gaius Rufus was the first Octavian elected to office by the popular vote — he won a quaestorship. His sons Gaius and Gnaeus fathered two very different branches of the family, Gnaeus’s descendants held all the highest offices of state in turn; but Gaius’s branch, either by accident or choice, remained simple knights until the entry into the Senate of that Gaius Octavius who became famous as Augustus’s father. Augustus’s great-grandfather had fought as a colonel under Aemilius Papus in Sicily during the Second Punic War. His grandfather, who enjoyed a comfortable income, was apparently content with a municipal magistracy, and lived to an advanced age. These historical details are not derived from Augustus’s own memoirs, which merely record that he came of a rich old equestrian family, and that his father had been the first Octavian to enter the Senate. Mark Antony wrote scornfully that Augustus’s great-grandfather had been only a freedman, a rope-maker from the neighbourhood of Thurii; and his grandfather, a money-changer. This is as much information as I have managed to glean about Augustus’s family history.

3. I cannot believe that Gaius Octavius, the father, was also a money-changer who distributed bribes among the voters in the Campus and undertook other electioneering services. He was certainly born rich enough to achieve office without having to engage in such practices; and proved a capable administrator. After his praetorship, he became governor of Macedonia, and the Senate commissioned him to pass through Thurii on his way there and disperse a group of outlawed slaves who, having fought under Spartacus and Catiline, were now terrorizing the district. He governed Macedonia courageously and justly, winning a big battle in Thrace, mainly against the Bessians; and letters survive from Cicero reproaching his brother Quintus, then proconsular governor of Asia, for inefficiency, and advising him to make Octavius his model in all diplomatic dealings with allies.

4. Gaius died suddenly on his return to Rome, before he could stand as a candidate for the Consulship. He left three children: Octavia the Elder, Octavia the Younger, and Augustus. The mother of Octavia the Elder was Ancharia; the other two were his children by Atia, daughter of Marcus Atius Balbus and Julius Caesar’s sister Julia. Balbus’s family originated in Aricia, and could boast of many ancestral busts of senators; his mother was also closely related to Pompey the Great. Balbus served first as praetor, and then with a Commission of Twenty appointed under the Julian Law to divide estates in Campania among the commons. Mark Antony likewise tried to belittle Augustus’s maternal line by alleging that his greatgrandfather Balbus had been born in Africa, and kept first a perfumery and then a bake-house at Aricia. Cassius of Parma similarly sneers at Augustus as the grandson of a baker and a money-changer, writing in. one of his letters:

‘Your mother’s flour came from a miserable Arician bakery, and the coin-stained hands of a Nerulian moneychanger kneaded it.’

[Compare the invectives found in Catullus’ poetry above!]

5. Augustus was born just before sunrise on 23 September, while Cicero and Gaius Antonius were Consuls, at Ox Heads, in the Palatine district; a shrine to him, built soon after his death, marks the spot.

[A few sentences removed.]

6. In the country mansion, near Velitrae, which belonged to Augustus’s grandfather, a small room, not unlike a butler’s pantry, is still shown and described as Augustus’s nursery; the local people firmly believe that he was also born there. Religious scruples forbid anyone to enter except for some necessary reason, and after purification. It had long been believed that casual visitors would be overcome by a sudden awful terror; and recently this was proved true when, one night, a new owner of the mansion, either from ignorance or because he wanted to test the truth of the belief, went to sleep in the room. A few hours later he was hurled out of bed by a supernatural agency and found lying half-dead against the door, bedclothes and all.

7. [a paragraph cut]

Later he adopted the surname Caesar to comply with the will of his mother’s uncle, the Dictator; and then the title Augustus, after a motion to that effect had been introduced by Munatius Plancus.

Some senators wished him to be called Romulus, as the second founder of the City; but Plancus had his way.

He argued that ‘Augustus‘ was both a more original and a more honourable title, since sanctuaries and all places consecrated by the augurs are known as ‘august‘ — the word being either an enlarged form of auctus, implying the ‘increase’ of dignity thus given such places, or a worn-down form of the phrase aviuw gestus gustus-ve, ‘the behaviour and appetite of birds’, which the augurs observed. Plancus supported his point by a quotation from Ennius’s Annals:

‘When glorious Rome had founded been, by augury august.’

8. At the age of four Augustus lost his father. At twelve he delivered a funeral oration in honour of his grandmother Julia, Julius Caesar’s sister. At sixteen, having now come of age, he was awarded military decorations when Caesar celebrated his African triumph, though he had been too young for overseas service. Caesar then went to fight Pompey’s sons in Spain; Augustus followed with a very small escort, along roads held by the enemy, after a shipwreck, too, and in a state of semi-convalescence from a serious illness. This energetic action delighted Caesar, who soon formed a high estimate of Augustus’s character.

Having recovered possession of Spain, Caesar planned a war against the Dacians and Parthians, and sent Augustus ahead to Apollonia, in Illyria, where he spent his spare time studying Greek literature. News then came that Caesar had been assassinated, after naming him his heir, and Augustus was tempted, for awhile, to put himself under the protection of the troops quartered near by. However, deciding that this would be rash and injudicious, he returned to Rome and there entered upon his inheritance, despite his mother’s doubts and the active opposition of his step-father, Marcius Philippus the ex-Consul. Augustus now took command of the Army, and governed the Empire: first with Mark Antony and Lepidus as his colleagues; next, for nearly twelve years, with Antony alone; finally by himself for another forty-four years.

9. After this brief outline of Augustus’s life, I shall fill in its various phases; but the story will be more readable and understandable if, instead of keeping chronological order, I use subject headings and begin with the civil wars that he fought.

There were five campaigns in all; associated respectively with the geographical names of Mutina, Philippi, Perugia, Sicily, and Actium. Those of Mutina and Actium were against Mark Antony; that of Philippi against Brutus and Cassius; that of Perugia against Antony’s brother Lucius; that of Sicily against Sextus Pompey, son of Pompey the Great.

10. The underlying motive of every campaign was that Augustus felt it his duty, above all, to avenge Caesar and keep his decrees in force. On his return from Apollonia, he decided to punish Brutus and Cassius immediately; but they foresaw the danger and escaped, so he had recourse to the law and prosecuted them for murder. Finding that the officials who should have celebrated Caesar’s victory with public Games did not dare to carry out their commission, he undertook the task himself. Because stronger authority was needed to implement his other plans, Augustus announced his candidature for a tribuneship of the people- death had created a vacancy- although neither a patrician nor a senator, and thus doubly disqualified from standing. Mark Antony, one of the two Consuls, on whose assistance Augustus had particularly counted, opposed this action and denied him even his ordinary legal rights, except on payment of a heavy bribe. Augustus therefore deserted the popular party and went over to the aristocrats, well aware that they hated Antony, who was now besieging Decimus Brutus at Mutina and trying to expel him from the province to which he had been appointed by Caesar with the Senate’s approval. On the advice of certain aristocrats, Augustus actually engaged assassins to murder Antony and, when the plot came to light, spent as much money as he could raise on enlisting a force of veterans to protect himself and the Constitution. The Senate awarded him praetorian rank, gave him the command of this army, and instructed him to join Hirtius and Pansa, the two new Consuls, in the relief of Mutina. Augustus brought the campaign to a successful close within three months, after fighting a couple of battles. According to Antony, he ran away from the first of these and did not reappear until the next day, having lost both his charger and his purple cloak. But it is generally agreed that in the second engagement he showed not only skill as a commander but courage as a soldier: when, at a crisis in the fighting, the standard-bearer of his legion was seriously wounded, Augustus himself shouldered the Eagle and carried it for some time.

11. Because Hirtius fell in battle, and Pansa later succumbed to a wound, a rumour went about that Augustus had engineered both deaths with the object of gaining sole control over their victorious armies after Antony’s defeat. Pansa certainly died in such suspicious circumstances that Glyco, his physician, was arrested on a charge of poisoning the wound; and Aquilius Niger goes so far as to assert that in the confusion of battle Augustus despatched Hirtius with his own hand.

12. However, when Augustus heard that Mark Antony had been taken under Lepidus’s protection and that the other military commanders, supported by their troops, w ere coming to terms with these two, he at once deserted the aristocratic party. His excuse was that some of them had contemptuously called him ‘the boy’, while others had not concealed their view that, once publicly honoured, he should be done away with- to avoid having to pay his veterans and himself what they expected. Augustus showed regret for this temporary defection from the popular cause by imposing a heavier fine on the Nursians than they could possibly meet, and then exiling them from their city; they had offended him by erecting a monument to fellow-citizens killed at Mutina, with the inscription:

‘Fallen in the cause of freedom!’

13. As member of a triumvirate consisting of Antony, Lepidus, and himself, Augustus defeated Brutus and Cassius at Philippi, though in ill-heath at the time. In the first of the two battles fought he was driven out of his camp, and escaped with some difficulty to Antony’s command. After the second and decisive one he showed no clemency to his beaten enemies, but sent Brutus’s head to Rome for throwing at the feet of Caesar’s divine image; and insulted the more distinguished of his prisoners. When one of these humbly asked for the right of decent burial, he got the cold answer: ‘That must be settled with the carrion-birds.’ And when a father and his son pleaded for their lives, Augustus, it is said, told them to decide which of the two should be spared, by casting lots. The father sacrificed his life for the son, and was executed; the son then committed suicide; Augustus watched them both die. His conduct so disgusted the remainder of the prisoners, including Marcus Favonius, a well-known disciple of Cato’s, that while being led off in chains they courteously saluted Antony as their conqueror, but abused Augustus to his face with the most obscene epithets.

The victors divided between them the responsibilities of government. Antony undertook to pacify the eastern provinces if Augustus led the veterans back to Italy and settled them on municipal lands. However, Augustus failed to satisfy either the landowners, who complained that they were being evicted from their estates; or the veterans, who felt entitled to better rewards for their service.

14. At this point Lucius Antonius felt strong enough, as Consul and brother of the powerful Mark Antony, to raise a revolt. Augustus forced him to take refuge in the city of Perugia, which he starved into surrender, but only after being twice exposed to great danger. On the first occasion, before the revolt broke out, he had found a private soldier watching the Games from one of the seats reserved for knights, and ordered his removal by an attendant; when Augustus’s enemies then circulated a rumour that the offender had been tortured and executed, an angry crowd of soldiers began to demonstrate at once and Augustus would have lost his life had not the missing soldier suddenly reappeared, safe and unhurt. On the second occasion Augustus was sacrificing close to the walls of Perugia, during the siege, when a party of gladiators made a sortie and nearly cut off his retreat.

15. After the fall of the city Augustus took vengeance on crowds of prisoners and returned the same answer to all who sued for pardon or tried to explain their presence among the rebels. It was simply: ‘You must die!’

According to some historians, he chose 300 prisoners of equestrian or senatorial rank, and offered them on the ides of March at the altar of the God Julius, as human sacrifices.

Augustus fought, it is said, because he wished to offer his secret enemies, and those whom fear rather than affection kept with his party, a chance to declare themselves by joining Lucius Antonius; he would then crush them, confiscate their estates, and thus manage to pay off his veterans.

16. The Sicilian war, one of his first enterprises, lasted for eight years .’ It was interrupted by two storms that wrecked his fleets-in the summer, too — and obliged him to rebuild them; and by the Pompeians’ success in cutting his corn supplies, which forced him to grant a popular demand for an armistice. At last, however, he got his new ships into fighting condition, with 30,000 freed slaves trained as oarsmen, and formed the Julian harbour at Baiae by letting the sea into the Lucrine and Avernan lakes. Here he exercised his crews all one winter and, when the sailing season opened, defeated Sextus Pompey off the Sicilian coast between Mylae and Naulochus; although on the eve of the battle he fell so fast asleep that his staff had to wake him and ask for the signal to begin hostilities. This must have been the occasion of Mark Antony’s taunt:

‘He could not even stand up to review his fleet when the ships were already at their fighting stations; but lay on his back and gazed up at the sky, never rising to show that he was alive until his admiral Marcus Agrippa had routed the enemy.’

Augustus has been taken to task for crying out, when he heard that his fleets were sunk:

‘I will win this war, whatever Neptune may do!’

and for removing the god’s image from the sacred procession at the next celebration of Games in the Circus. It would be safe to say that the Sicilian was by far his most dangerous campaign. He once landed an army in Sicily and was sailing back to Italy, where the bulk of his forces were stationed, when the Pompeian admirals Demochares and Apollophanes suddenly appeared and he just managed to escape them with a single ship. He was also nearly captured in Calabria: as he walked along the road to Reggio by way of Epizephyrian Locri, he saw a flotilla of two-oared naval vessels heading for the shore and, not realizing that they were Pompeians, went down to greet them on the beach. Afterwards, while hurriedly escaping inland by narrow, winding paths, he faced a new danger. Some years previously he had proscribed the father of Aemilius Paulus, an officer of his staff, one of whose slaves, now seeing a good opportunity to pay off an old score, tried to murder him.

Lepidus, the third member of the triumvirate, whom Augustus had summoned from Africa to his support, thought himself so important as the commander of twenty legions that, when Sextus Pompey had been beaten, he violently demanded the highest place in the government. Augustus deprived him of his legions and, though successfully pleading for his life, Lepidus spent what was left of it in permanent exile at Circei.

17. Eventually Augustus broke his friendship with Mark Antony, which had always been a tenuous one and in continuous need of patching; and proved that his rival had failed to conduct himself as befitted a Roman citizen, by ordering the will he had deposited at Rome to be opened and publicly read. It listed among Antony’s heirs the illegitimate children fathered by him on Cleopatra. Nevertheless, when the Senate outlawed Antony, Augustus allowed all his relatives and friends to join him under safe conduct, including Gaius Sosius and Titus Domitius, the Consuls of the year. He also excused Bologna, a city traditionally dependent on the Antonian family, from rallying to his side as the rest of Italy was doing. Presently he defeated Antony in a sea-battle off Actium, where the fighting went on so long that he spent the whole night aboard his flagship.


a coin used to pay Antony’s Roman soldiers: Cleopatra and a ship prow; Antony and a regal Armenian tiara

In winter-quarters on Samos, after this victory, Augustus heard the alarming news of a mutiny at Brindisi among troops whom he had picked from every corps in the Army. They were demanding the bounties due to them and an immediate discharge. He returned to Italy, but ran into two storms: the first between the headlands of the Peloponnese and Aetolia; the second off the Ceraunian Mountains. Some of his galleys went down on both occasions; the rigging of his own vessel carried away and her rudder split. He stayed no more than twenty-seven days at Brindisi, just long enough to pacify the mutineers; then took a roundabout route to Egypt by way of Asia Minor and Syria, besieged Alexandria, where Antony had fled with Cleopatra, and soon reduced it. At the last moment Antony sued for peace, but Augustus ordered him to commit suicide and satisfied himself that he had obeyed by inspecting the corpse. He was so anxious to save Cleopatra as an ornament for his triumph that he actually summoned Psyllian snake-charmers to suck the poison from her self-inflicted wound, supposedly the bite of an asp. Though he allowed the lovers honourable burial in the same tomb, and gave orders that the mausoleum which they had begun to build should be completed, he had the elder of Antony’s sons by Fulvia dragged from the image of the God Julius, to which he had fled with vain pleas for mercy, and executed. Augustus also sent cavalry in pursuit of Caesarion, Julius Caesar’s bastard son by Cleopatra; and killed him when captured. However, he spared Cleopatra’s children by Antony, brought them up no less tenderly than if they had been members of his own family, and gave them the education which their rank deserved.

18. About this time he had the sarcophagus containing Alexander the Great’s mummy removed from the Mausoleum at Alexandria and, after a long look at its features, showed his veneration by crowning the head with a golden diadem and strewing flowers on the trunk. When asked

‘Would you now like to visit the Mausoleum of the Ptolemies?’

he replied:

‘I came to see a King, not a row of corpses.’

Augustus turned the kingdom of Egypt into a Roman province; and then, to increase its fertility and its yield of grain for the Roman market, set troops to clean out the irrigation canals of the Nile Delta which had silted up after many years’ neglect. To perpetuate the glory of his victory at Actium, he founded a city close to the scene of the battle and named it Nicopolis — or ‘City of Victory’ — and made arrangements for the celebration of Games there every five years. He also enlarged an ancient local temple of Apollo, and embellished his camp with trophies taken from Antony’s fleet, consecrating the site jointly to Neptune and Mars.


Augustus ‘ Son of a God’; ‘Egypt Defeated’ with a crocodile

[two chapters cut]

21. Either as a local commander, or as commander-in-chief at Rome, Augustus conquered Cantabria, Aquitania, Pannonia, Dalmatia, and the whole of Illyricum, besides Raetia and the Alpine tribes known as Vindelicians and Salassians. He also checked the raids of the Dacians, inflicting heavy casualties on them — three of their generals fell in action; drove all the Germans back across the Elbe, except the Suebians and Sigambrians, who surrendered and agreed to settle in Gallic territory near the Rhine; and pacified other tribes who gave trouble.

Yet Augustus never wantonly invaded any country, and felt no temptation to increase the boundaries of Empire or enhance his military glory; indeed, he made certain barbarian chieftains swear in the Temple of Avenging Mars that they would faithfully keep the peace for which they sued. In some instances he tried to bind them to their oaths by demanding an unusual kind of hostage, namely women; well aware that barbarians do not feel bound to respect treaties secured only by male hostages. But he let them send acceptable substitutes as often as they pleased. Even when tribes rebelled frequently or showed particular ill-faith, Augustus’s most severe punishment was to sell as slaves the prisoners he took, ordering them to be kept at some distance from their own country and not to be freed until thirty years had elapsed.

Such was his reputation for courage and clemency that the very Indians and Scythians — nations of whom we then knew by hearsay alone — voluntarily sent ambassadors to Rome, pleading for his friendship and that of his people. The Parthians also were ready to grant Augustus’s claims on Armenia and, when he demanded the surrender of the Eagles captured from Crassus and Mark Antony’s lieutenants, not only returned them but offered hostages into the bargain; and once, because several rival princes were claiming the Parthian throne, announced that they would elect whichever candidate he chose.

22. The gates of the Temple of Janus on the Quirinal, which had been closed no more than twice since the foundation of Rome, he closed three times during a far shorter period, as a sign that the Empire was at peace on land and at sea. He enjoyed a triumphal ovation after Philippi, and again after his Sicilian successes — and celebrated three full triumphs for his victories won in Dalmatia, off Actium, and at Alexandria.

23. He suffered only two heavy and disgraceful defeats, both in Germany, the generals concerned being Lollius and Varus. Lollius’s defeat was ignominious rather than of strategic importance; but Varus’s nearly wrecked the Empire, since three legions with all their officers and auxiliary forces, and the general staff, were massacred to a man. When the news reached Rome, Augustus ordered the Guards to patrol the City at night and prevent any rising; then prolonged the terms of the provincial governors, so that the allies should have men of experience, whom they trusted, to confirm their allegiance. He also vowed to celebrate Games in honour of Jupiter Greatest and Best as soon as the political situation improved; similar vows had been made during the Cimbrian and Marsian Wars. Indeed, it is said that he took the disaster so deeply to heart that he left his hair and beard untrimmed for months; he would often beat his head on a door, shouting:

‘Quinctilius Varus, give me back my legions!’

and always kept the anniversary as a day of deep mourning.

24. Augustus introduced many reforms into the Army, besides reviving certain obsolete practices, and exacted the strictest discipline. He grudged even his generals home-leave, and granted this only during the winter. When a Roman knight cut off the thumbs of his two young sons to incapacitate them for Army service, Augustus had him and his property publicly auctioned; but, realizing that a group of tax-collectors were bidding for the man, knocked him down to an imperial freedman-with instructions that he should be sent away and allowed a free existence in some country place. He gave the entire Tenth Legion an ignominious discharge because of their insolent behaviour, and when some other legions also demanded their discharge in a similarly riotous manner, he disbanded them, withholding the bounty which they would have earned had they continued loyal. If a company broke in battle, Augustus ordered the survivors to draw lots, then executed every tenth man (etymological origin of our word “decimate”, literally ‘to kill a tenth’), and fed the remainder on barley bread instead of the customary wheat ration.

Company commanders found absent from their posts were sentenced to death, like other ranks, and any lesser dereliction of duty earned them one of several degrading punishments — such as being made to stand all day long in front of general headquarters, sometimes wearing tunics without sword-belts, sometimes carrying ten-foot poles, or even sods of turf — as though they had been private soldiers whose task it was to measure out and build the camp ramparts.

25. When the Civil Wars were over, Augustus no longer addressed the troops as ‘Comrades in Arms’, but as just ‘Soldiers’; and had his sons and step-sons follow suit. He thought ‘Comrades in Arms’ too flattering a term: consonant neither with military discipline, nor with peacetime service, nor with the respect due to himself and his family. Apart from the City fire-brigades, and militia companies raised to keep order during food shortages, he enlisted freedmen in the Army only on two occasions. The first was when the veteran colonies on the borders of Illyricum needed protection; the second, when the Roman bank of the Rhine had to be held in force. These soldiers were recruited, as slaves, from the households of well-to-do men and women, and then immediately freed; but he kept them segregated in their original companies, not allowing them either to mess with men of free birth or to carry arms of standard pattern.

Most of the decorations with which Augustus rewarded distinguished conduct in the field were valuable silver and gold medallions or collars, rather than mural crowns — so-called because traditionally earned by the first man who scaled an enemy wall. These crowns he awarded as rarely as possible and with due regard to merit; private soldiers sometimes won them. Marcus Agrippa earned the right to fly a blue ensign in recognition of his naval victory, off Sicily. The only fighting men whom Augustus held ineligible for decorations were generals who had already celebrated triumphs, even though they might have fought beside him and shared in his victories; he explained that they themselves had the right to confer such awards at their discretion. The two faults which he condemned most strongly in a military commander were haste and recklessness, and he constantly quoted such Greek proverbs as

‘More haste, less speed,’


‘Give me a safe commander, not a rash one,’

and the Latin tag:

‘Well done is quickly done.’

It was a principle of his that no campaign or battle should ever be fought unless more could clearly be gained by victory than lost by defeat; and he would compare those who took great risks in the hope of gaining some small advantage to a man who fishes with a golden hook, though aware that nothing he can catch will be valuable enough to justify its loss.

26. Among the public appointments and honours conferred on Augustus before he was officially old enough to receive them were some extraordinary ones granted him for life. At the age of twenty he created himself Consul, marched on Rome as though it were an enemy city, and sent messengers ahead in the name of his army to demand that the appointment should be confirmed. When the Senate hesitated to obey, one Cornelius, a company commander, opened his military cloak, displayed the hilt of his sword, and boldly said:

‘If you do not make him Consul, this will!’

Nine years later Augustus undertook his second consulship, and his third after another two years. Having held the next nine in sequence, he declined any more for as many as seventeen years; then demanded a twelfth term, and two years later a thirteenth-but only because he wanted to be holding the highest available office when his adopted sons, Gaius and Lucius Caesar, successively came of age. He held his sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth consulships for a full year each, and the remainder for nine months, or six, or four, or three- except for the second; that was the occasion of his seating himself on the curule chair in front of the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter early on New Year’s Day, and resigning his office to a substitute a few hours later. He was absent from Rome at the beginning of his fourth consulship, which found him in Asia; of his fifth, which found him in Samos; and of his eighth and ninth, when he was visiting Tarragona.

27. For ten years Augustus remained a member of the Triumvirate commissioned to reorganize the Government, and though at first opposing his colleagues’ plan for a proscription, yet, once this had been decided upon, carried it out more ruthlessly than either of them. They often relented under the pressure of political influence, or when the intended victims appealed for pity; Augustus alone demanded that no one was to be spared, and even added to the list of proscribed persons the name of his guardian Gaius Torranus, who had been an aedile at the same time as his father Octavius. Julius Saturninus has more to say on this subject: when the proscription was over and Marcus Lepidus, in an address to the House, justified the severe measures that had been taken but encouraged the hope that greater leniency would now be shown, since enough blood had been shed, Augustus spoke in a quite opposite sense.

‘I consented to close the list,’ he said, ‘on condition that I should be allowed a free hand in future.’

Later, however, he emphasized his regret for this rigorous attitude by creating Titus Vinius Philopoemen a knight — Philopoemen had, it appears, secretly harboured his patron who was on the list of the proscribed.

Under the Triumvirate, many of Augustus’s acts won him the hatred of the people. Once, for instance, while addressing a soldiers’ assembly at which a crowd of civilians were also present, he saw a Roman knight named Pinarius transcribing his speech; and had him stabbed there and then as taking too close an interest in the proceedings. Again, a spiteful comment by Tedius Afer, Consul-Elect, on some act of Augustus’s, provoked him to such frightful threats that Afer committed suicide by jumping from a height. There was also the case of Quintus Gallius the praetor who, while paying Augustus his respects, clutched a set of writing-tablets underneath his robe. Augustus suspected that he had a sword, but dared not have him searched on the spot, for fear of being mistaken; so presently ordered an officer’s party to drag him away from the tribunal. Gallius was tortured as if he were a slave; and though he confessed to nothing, Augustus himself tore out his eyes and sentenced him to death. In his own account of the incident, however, Augustus records that Gallius asked for an audience, attacked him unexpectedly, and was removed to prison; that, being then banished from Italy, he disappeared on the way to his place of exile, but whether he was shipwrecked or ambushed by bandits, nobody knew.

The commons awarded Augustus life-long tribunician power, and once or twice he chose a colleague to share it with him for a five-year period. The Senate also voted him the task of supervising public morals and scrutinizing the laws-another lifelong appointment. Thus, although he did not adopt the title of Censor, he was privileged to hold a public census, and did so three times, assisted by a colleague on the first and third occasions, though not the second.

28. Twice Augustus seriously thought of restoring the Republican Constitution: immediately after the fall of Antony, when he remembered that Antony had often accused him of being the one obstacle to such a change; and again when he could not shake off an exhausting illness. He then actually summoned the chief Officers of State, with the rest of the Senate, to the Palace and gave them a faithful account of the military and financial state of the Empire. On reconsideration, however, he decided that to divide the responsibilities of government among several hands would be to jeopardize not only his own life, but national security; so he did nothing. The results were almost as good as his intentions, which he expressed from time to time and even published in an edict:

‘May I be privileged to build firm and lasting foundations for the Government of Rome. May I also achieve the reward to which I aspire: that of being known as the author of the best possible Constitution, and of carrying with me, when I die, the hope that these foundations will abide secure.’

And, indeed, he achieved this success, having taken great trouble to prevent his political system from causing any individual distress.

Aware that the City was architecturally unworthy of her position as capital of the Roman Empire, besides being vulnerable to fire and river floods, Augustus so improved her appearance that he could justifiably boast:

‘I found Rome built of sun-dried bricks; I leave her clothed in marble.’

He also used as much foresight as could have been expected in guarding against future disasters.

29. Among his larger public works three must be singled out for mention: the Forum dominated by the Temple of Avenging Mars; the Palatine Temple of Apollo; and the Temple of Jupiter the Thunderer on the Capitoline Hill. He built his Forum because the two already in existence could not deal with the recent great increase in the number of law-suits caused by a corresponding increase in population; which was why he hurriedly opened it even before the Temple of Mars had been completed. Public prosecutions and the casting of lots for jury service took place only in this Forum. Augustus had vowed to build the Temple of Mars during the Phillipi campaign of vengeance against Julius Caesar’s assassins. He therefore decreed that the Senate should meet here whenever declarations of war or claims for triumphs were considered; and that this should be both the starting point for military governors, when escorted to their provinces, and the repository of all triumphal tokens when they returned victorious. The Temple of Apollo was erected in the part of his Palace to which, the soothsayers said, the God had drawn attention by having it struck with lightning. The colonnades running out from it housed Latin and Greek libraries; and in his declining years Augustus frequently held meetings of the Senate in the nave, or revised jury lists there. A lucky escape on a night march in Cantabria prompted him to build the Temple of Jupiter the Thunderer: a flash of lightning had scorched his litter and killed the slave who was going ahead with a torch. Some of Augustus’s public works were undertaken in the names of relatives: such as the colonnade and basilica of his grandsons Gaius and Lucius; the colonnades of his wife Livia and his sister Octavia; the theatre of his nephew Marcellus. He also often urged leading citizens to embellish the City with new public monuments or to restore and improve ancient ones, according to their means. Many responded: thus the Temple of Hercules and the Muses was raised by Marcius Philippus; that of Diana by Lucius Cornificius; the Hall of Liberty by Asinius Pollio; the Temple of Saturn by Munatius Plancus; a theatre by Cornelius Balbus; an amphitheatre by Statilius Taurus; and a variety of magnificent buildings by Marcus Agrippa.

30. Augustus divided the City into districts and wards; placing the districts under the control of magistrates annually chosen by lot, and the wards under supervisors locally elected. He organized stations of night-watchmen to alarm the fire brigades; and, as a precaution against floods, cleared the Tiber channel which had been choked with an accumulation of rubbish and narrowed by projecting houses. Also, he improved the approaches to the City: repaving the Flaminian Way as far as Ariminium, at his own expense, and calling upon men who had won triumphs to spend their prize money on putting the other main roads into good condition.

Furthermore, he restored ruined or burned temples, beautifying these and others with the most lavish gifts: for instance, a single donation to Capitoline Jupiter of 16,000 lb of gold, besides pearls and precious stones to the value of 500,000 gold pieces.

31. Finally, on assuming the office of Pontifex Maximus (=chief priest) vacated by the death of Marcus Lepidus — he could not bring himself to divest his former colleague of it, even though he were an exile — Augustus collected all the copies of Greek and Latin prophetic verse then current, the work of either anonymous or little-known authors, and burned more than two thousand. He kept only the Sibylline Books, and edited even these before depositing them in two gilded cases under the pedestal of Palatine Apollo’s image. Since official negligence had allowed the Calendar, reformed by Julius Caesar, to fall into confusion, he put it straight again; and while doing so renamed the month of Sextilis ‘August’ (although he had been born in September), because it was during Sextilis that he had won his first Consulship and his most decisive victories. He increased the priesthood in numbers and dignity, and in privileges, too, being particularly generous to the College of Vestal Virgins. However, when the death of a Virgin caused a vacancy in this College, and many citizens busily tried to keep their daughters’ names off the list of candidates — one of whom would be chosen by lot — Augustus took a solemn oath that if any of his grand-daughters had been of eligible age he would have proposed her.

He also revived certain obsolescent rites and appointments: the augury of the Goddess Safety, the office of Flamen Dialis (a priesthood of Jupiter), the Lupercalian Festival, the Secular Games, and the Cross-Roads Festival. But at the Lupercalia he forbade any boys to run who had not yet shaved off their first beards; and at the Secular Games no young people might attend a night performance unless accompanied by an adult relative. The images of the Cross-Road gods were to be crowned twice a year, with wreaths of spring and summer flowers.

Next to the Immortals, Augustus most honoured the memory of those citizens who had raised the Roman people from small beginnings to their present glory; which was why he restored many public buildings erected by men of this calibre, complete with their original dedicatory inscriptions, and raised statues to them, wearing triumphal dress, in the twin colonnades of his Forum. Then he proclaimed:

‘This has been done to make my fellow-citizens insist that both I (while I live), and my successors, shall not fall below the standard set by those great men of old.’

He also transferred Pompey’s statue from the hall in which Julius Caesar had been assassinated to a marble arch facing the main entrance of the Theatre.

32. Many of the anti-social practices that endangered public peace were a legacy of lawlessness from the Civil Wars; but some were of more recent origin. For example, bandit parties infested the roads armed with swords, supposedly worn in self-defence, which they used to overawe travellers — whether free-born or not — and force them into slave-barracks built by the landowners. Numerous so-called ‘workmen’s guilds’, in reality organizations for committing every sort of crime, had also been formed. Augustus now stationed armed police in bandit-ridden districts, had the slave-barracks inspected, and dissolved all workmen’s guilds except those that had been established for some time and were carrying on legitimate business. Since the records of old debts to the Public Treasury had become by far the most profitable means of blackmail, Augustus burned them; also granting title-deeds to the occupants of City sites wherever the State’s claim to ownership was disputable. When persons had long been awaiting trial on charges that were not pressed, and therefore continued to wear mourning in public-with advantage to nobody, except their gleeful enemies — Augustus struck the cases off the lists and forbade any such charge to be renewed unless the plaintiff agreed to suffer the same penalty, if he lost the case, as the defendant would have done. To prevent actions for damages, or business claims, from either not being heard or being prorogued, he increased the legal term by another thirty days — a period hitherto devoted to public games in honour of distinguished citizens. He added a fourth inferior division of jurors to the three already existing; these so-called ‘Ducenarii’ — meaning men whose estates were valued at 2,000 gold pieces — judged cases which involved only small monetary claims. The minimum age for enrolment in a jury was reduced from thirty-five to thirty years; but, observing a general movement to evade jury service, he grudgingly granted each of the four divisions in turn one year’s exemption, and closed all courts throughout the months of November and December.

33. Augustus proved assiduous in his administration of justice, often remaining in Court until nightfall; and, if he happened to be unwell, would have his litter carried up to the tribunal. Sometimes he even judged cases from his sick-bed in the Palace. As a judge he was both conscientious and lenient: once, to save a man who had obviously committed parricide from being sewn up in a sack- with a dog, a cock, a snake, and a monkey to typify the four different vices that had led him to this crime — he is said to have asked the accused: ‘I may assume, of course, that you did not kill your father?’

On another occasion the witnesses to a forged will were punishable under the Cornelian Law but, besides the usual two tablets for recording their verdict of ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’, Augustus handed the jurors a third, for acquitting any of the accused whose signature had, in their opinion, either been obtained by false pretences or attached in error. Every year he referred to the City Praetor cases in which Roman citizens had exercised their right of appeal; foreigners’ appeals would be handled by particular ex-Consuls whom he had appointed to protect nationals of the province concerned.

34. The existing laws that Augustus revised, and the new ones that he enacted, dealt, among other matters, with extravagance, adultery, unchastity, bribery, and the encouragement of marriage in the Senatorial and Equestrian Orders. His marriage law being more rigorously framed than the others, he found himself unable to make it effective because of an open revolt against several of its clauses. He was therefore obliged to withdraw or amend certain penalties exacted for a failure to marry; to increase the rewards he offered for large families; and to allow a widow, or widower, three years’ grace before having to marry again. Even this did not satisfy the knights, who demonstrated against the law at a public entertainment, demanding its repeal; whereupon Augustus sent for the children whom his grand-daughter Agrippina had borne to Germanicus, and publicly displayed them, some sitting on his own knee, the rest on their father’s- and made it quite clear by his affectionate looks and gestures that it would not be at all a bad thing if the knights imitated that young man’s example. When he then discovered that bachelors were getting betrothed to little girls, which meant postponing the responsibilities of fatherhood, and that married men were frequently changing their wives, he dealt with these evasions of the law by shortening the permissible period between betrothal and marriage, and by limiting the number of lawful divorces.

35. The Senatorial Order now numbered more than 1,000 persons, some of whom were popularly known as the ‘Orcus Men’. This was really a name for ex-slaves freed in the masters’ wills, but had come to describe senators who had bribed or otherwise influenced Mark Antony to enrol them in the Order on a pretence that Julius Caesar, before he died, had chosen them for this honour. The sight of this sad rabble, wholly unworthy of office, decided Augustus to restore the Order to its former size and repute by two new acts of enrolment. First, each member was allowed to nominate one other; then Augustus and Agrippa together reviewed the list and announced their own choice. When Augustus presided on this second occasion he is said to have worn a sword and a steel corselet beneath his tunic, with ten burly senatorial friends crowding around him. According to Cremutius Cordus, the senators were not even then permitted to approach Augustus’s chair, except singly and after the folds of their robes had been carefully searched. Though shaming some of them into resignation, he did not deny them the right to wear senatorial dress, or to watch the Games from the Orchestra seats, or to attend the order’s public banquets. He then encouraged those selected for service to a more conscientious (and less inconvenient) discharge of their duties, by ruling that each member should offer incense and wine at the altar of whatever temple had been selected for a meeting; that such meetings should not be held more than twice a month — at the beginning and in the middle — and that, during September and October, no member need attend apart from the few whose names were drawn by lot to provide a quorum for the passing of decrees. He also arranged that privy councillors should be chosen by lot every six months, their duty being to study the drafts of bills which would later be laid before the House as a whole. During debates of critical importance Augustus shelved the custom of calling on members in order of seniority, and instead singled out speakers arbitrarily; this was intended to make all present take an alert interest in proceedings and feel responsible for constructive thought, instead of merely rising to remark: ‘I agree with the last speakers.’

36. Among Augustus’s other innovations were: a ban on the publication of Proceedings of the Senate; a statutory interval between the conclusion of City magistracies and their holders’ departure to appointments abroad; a fixed mule-and-tent allowance to provincial governors, replacing the system by which they contracted for these necessities and charged them to the Public Treasury; the transference of the Treasury from the control of City quaestors to that of ex-praetors or praetors; and the ruling that a Board of Ten, instead of the ex-quaestors, should convoke the so-called Centumviral Court — an ancient tribunal, now consisting of 180 members, that met in the Julian Basilica.

37. To give more men some experience of governmental duties he created new offices dealing with the upkeep of public buildings, roads and aqueducts; the clearing of the Tiber channel; and the distribution of grain to the people — also a Board of Three for choosing new senators, and another for inspecting the troops of knights, whenever this was needed. He also revived the long obsolete custom of appointing Censors; increased the number of praetors; and requested not one colleague but two whenever he held a consulship. The Senate, however, refused this last plea: everyone shouting that it was sufficient detraction from his supreme dignity to acknowledge even a single colleague.

38. Augustus showed equal generosity in recognizing strategic skill, by letting full triumphs be voted to more than thirty of his generals, and triumphal regalia to an even larger number.

Senators’ sons were now encouraged to familiarize themselves with the administration; they might wear purple-striped gowns immediately upon coming of age and attend meetings of the House. ‘Mien their military careers began, they were not merely given colonelcies in regular legions, but the command of cavalry squadrons; and Augustus usually appointed two to the command of each squadron, thus ensuring that no senior officer lacked experience in this arm of the service.

He frequently inspected the troops of knights, and revived the long-forgotten custom of making them ride in procession; yet he withdrew the spectators’ right of challenging knights to dismount while the parade was in progress; and those who were so old or infirm that they would look ridiculous, if they took part, might now send their riderless mounts to the starting point and report to Augustus on foot. Later, all knights over thirty-five years of age who did not wish to retain their chargers, were excused the embarrassment of publicly surrendering them.

39. With the assistance of ten senators, Augustus cross-examined every knight on his personal affairs. Some, whose lives proved to have been scandalous, were punished; others were degraded; but in most cases he was content to reprimand culprits with greater or less severity. The luckiest were those whom he obliged merely to take the tablets handed them, and read his censure in silence where they stood. Knights who had borrowed money at a low rate of interest, in order to invest it at a higher, earned Augustus’s particular displeasure.

40. If insufficient candidates of the required senatorial rank presented themselves for election as tribunes of the people, Augustus nominated knights to fill the vacancies; but allowed them, when their term of office had expired, either to remain members of the Equestrian order or to become senators, whichever they preferred. Since many knights had lost so much money during the Civil Wars that they no longer possessed the property qualification of their rank, and therefore refrained from taking their seats in the fourteen rows reserved for the Order at the Circus, he announced that they were not liable to punishment under the law governing theatres — which protected anyone who had once been a knight, or who was a knight’s son.

Augustus revised the roll of citizens, ward by ward; and tried to obviate the frequent interruptions of their trades or businesses which the public grain-distribution entailed, by handing out tickets, three times a year, valid for a four months’ supply; but was implored to resume the former custom of monthly distributions, and consented. He also revived the traditional privilege of electing all the City magistrates, not merely half of them (he himself had been nominating the remainder), and attempted to suppress bribery by the imposition of various penalties; besides distributing on Election Day a bounty of ten gold pieces from the Privy Purse to every member both of the Fabian tribe — the Octavian family were Fabians — and of the Scaptian tribe, which included the Julians. His object was to protect the candidates against demands for further emoluments.

Augustus thought it most important not to let the native Roman stock be tainted with foreign or servile blood, and was therefore very unwilling to create new Roman citizens, or to permit the manumission of more than a limited number of slaves. Once, when Tiberius requested that a Greek dependant of his should be granted the citizenship, Augustus wrote back that he could not assent unless the man put in a personal appearance and convinced him that he was worthy of the honour. When Livia made the same request for a Gaul from a tributary province, Augustus turned it down, saying that he would do no more than exempt the fellow from tribute — ‘I would far rather forfeit whatever he may owe the Privy Purse than cheapen the value of the Roman citizenship.’ Not only did he make it extremely difficult for slaves to be freed, and still more difficult for them to attain full independence, by strictly regulating the number, condition, and status of freedmen; but he ruled that no slave who had ever been in irons or subjected to torture could become a citizen, even after the most honourable form of manumission.

Augustus set himself to revive the ancient Roman dress and once, on seeing a group of men in dark cloaks among the crowd, quoted Virgil indignantly:

‘Behold the Romans, conquerors of the world, all clad in togas!’

and instructed the aediles that no one should ever again be admitted to the Forum, or its environs, unless he wore a toga and no cloak.

41. His generosity to all classes was displayed on many occasions. For instance, when he brought the treasures of the Ptolemies to Rome at his Alexandrian triumph, so much cash passed into private hands that the interest rate on loans dropped sharply, while real estate values soared. Later, he made it a rule that whenever estates were confiscated and the funds realized by their sale exceeded his requirements, he would grant interest-free loans for fixed periods to anyone who could offer security for twice the amount. The property qualification for senators was now increased from 8,000 to 12,000 gold pieces, and if any member of the Order found that the value of his estate fell short of this, Augustus would make up the deficit from the Privy Purse. His awards of largesse to the people were frequent, but differed in size: sometimes it was four gold pieces a head, sometimes three, sometimes two and a half; and even little boys benefited, though hitherto eleven years had been the minimum age for a recipient. In times of food shortage he often sold grain to every man on the citizens’ list at a very cheap rate; occasionally he supplied it free; and doubled the number of free money-coupons.

42. However, to show that he did all this not to win popularity but to improve public health, he once sharply reminded the people, when they complained of the scarcity and high price of wine, that:

‘Marcus Agrippa, my son-in-law, has made adequate provision for thirsty citizens by building several aqueducts.’

Again, he replied to a demand for largesse which he had, in fact, promised: ‘I always keep my word.’ But when they demanded largesse for which no such promise had been given, he issued a proclamation in which he called them a pack of shameless rascals, and added that though he had intended to make them a money present, he would now tighten his purse-strings. Augustus showed equal dignity and strength of character on another occasion when, after announcing a distribution of largesse, he found that the list of citizens had been swelled by a considerable number of recently freed slaves. He gave out that those to whom he had promised nothing were entitled to nothing, and that he refused to increase the total sum; thus the original beneficiaries must be content with less. In one period of exceptional scarcity he found it impossible to cope with the public distress except by expelling every useless mouth from the City, such as the slaves in the slave-market, all members of gladiatorial schools, all foreign residents with the exception of physicians and teachers, and a huge crowd of householdslaves. He writes that when at last the grain supply improved:

I had a good mind to discontinue permanently the supply of grain to the City, reliance on which had discouraged Italian agriculture; but refrained because some politician would be bound one day to revive the dole as a means of ingratiating himself with the people.’

Nevertheless, in his handling of the food problem he now began to consider the interests of farmers and corn merchants as much as the needs of city dwellers.

43. None of Augustus’s predecessors had ever provided so many, so different, or such splendid public shows. He records the presentation of four Games in his own name and twenty-three in the names of other City magistrates who were either absent or could not afford the expense. Sometimes plays were shown in all the various City districts, and on several stages, the actors speaking the appropriate local language; and gladiators fought not only in the Forum or the Amphitheatre, but in the Circus and Enclosure as well; or the show might, on the contrary, be limited to a single wild-beast hunt. He also held athletic competitions in the Campus Martius, for which he put up tiers of wooden seats; and dug an artificial lake beside the Tiber, where the present Caesarean Grove stands, for a mock sea-battle. On these occasions he posted guards in different parts of the City to prevent ruffians from turning the emptiness of the streets to their own advantage. Chariot races and foot races took place in the Circus, and among those who hunted the wild beasts were several volunteers of distinguished family. Augustus also ordered frequent performances of the Troy Game by two troops, of older and younger boys; it was an admirable tradition, he held, that the scions of noble houses should make their public debut in this way. When little Gaius Nonius Asprenas fell from his horse at one performance and broke a leg, Augustus comforted him with a golden torque and the hereditary surname of ‘Torquatus’. Soon afterwards, however, he discontinued the Troy Game, because Asinius Pollio the orator attacked it bitterly in the House; his grandson, Aeserninus, having broken a leg too.

Even Roman knights sometimes took part in stage plays and gladiatorial shows until a Senatorial decree put an end to the practice. After this, no person of good family appeared in any show, with the exception of a young man named Lycius; he was a dwarf, less than two feet tall and weighing only 17 lb but had a tremendous voice. At one of the Games Augustus allowed the people a sight of the first group of Parthian hostages ever sent to Rome by leading them down the middle of the arena and seating them two rows behind himself. And whenever a strange or remarkable animal was brought to the City, he used to exhibit it in some convenient place on days when no public shows were being given: for instance, a rhinoceros in the Enclosure; a tiger on the stage of the Theatre; and a serpent nearly ninety feet long in front of the Comitium, where popular assemblies were held.

Once Augustus happened to be ill on the day that he had vowed to hold Games in the Circus, and was obliged to lead the sacred procession lying in a litter; and when he opened the Games celebrating the dedication of Marcellus’s Theatre, and sat down in his curule chair, it gave way and sent him sprawling on his back. A panic started in the Theatre during a public performance in honour of Gaius and Lucius; the audience feared that the walls might collapse. Augustus, finding that he could do nothing else to pacify or reassure them, left his own box and sat in what seemed to be the most threatened part of the auditorium.

44. He issued special regulations to prevent the disorderly and haphazard system by which spectators secured seats for these shows; having been outraged by the insult to a senator who, on entering the crowded theatre at Puteoli, was not offered a seat by a single member of the audience. The consequent Senatorial decree provided that at every public performance, wherever held, the front row of stalls must be reserved for senators. At Rome, Augustus would not admit the ambassadors of independent or allied kingdoms to seats in the orchestra, on learning that some were mere freedmen. Other rules of his included the separation of soldiers from civilians; the assignment of special seats to married commoners, to boys not yet come of age, and, close by, to their tutors; and a ban on the wearing of dark cloaks, except in the back rows. Also, whereas men and women had hitherto always sat together, Augustus confined women to the back rows even at gladiatorial shows: the only ones exempt from this rule being the Vestal Virgins, for whom separate accommodation was provided, facing the praetor’s tribunal. No women at all were allowed to witness the athletic contests; indeed, when the audience clamoured at the Games for a special boxing match to celebrate his appointment as Pontifex Maximus, Augustus postponed this until early the next morning, and issued a proclamation to the effect that it was the Chief Pontiff’s desire that women should not attend the Theatre before ten o’clock.

45. He had a habit of watching the Games from the upper rooms of houses overlooking the Circus, which belonged to his friends or freedmen; but occasionally he used the Imperial Box, and even took his wife and children there with him. Sometimes he did not appear until the show had been running for several hours, or even for a day or more; but always excused his absences and appointed a substitute president. Once in his seat, however, he watched the proceedings intently; either to avoid the bad reputation earned by Julius Caesar for reading letters or petitions, and answering them, during such performances; or just to enjoy the fun, as he frankly admitted doing. This enjoyment led him to offer special prizes at Games provided by others, or give the victors valuable presents from the Privy Purse; and he never failed to reward, according to their merits, the competitors in any Greek theatrical contests that he attended. His chief delight was to watch boxing, particularly when the fighters were Italians — and not merely professional bouts, in which he often used to pit Italians against Greeks, but slogging matches between untrained roughs in narrow City alleys.

To be brief: Augustus honoured all sorts of professional entertainers by his friendly interest in them; maintained, and even increased, the privileges enjoyed by athletes; banned gladiatorial contests if the defeated fighter were forbidden to plead for mercy; and amended an ancient law empowering magistrates to punish stage-players wherever and whenever they pleased — so that they were now competent to deal only with misdemeanours committed at games or theatrical performances. Nevertheless, he insisted on a meticulous observance of regulations during wrestling matches and gladiatorial contests; and was exceedingly strict in checking the licentious behaviour of stage-players. When he heard that Stephanio, a Roman actor, went about attended by a page-boy who was really a married woman with her hair cropped, he had him flogged through all the three theatres — those of Pompey, Balbus, and Marcellus — and then exiled. Acting on a praetor’s complaint, he had a comedian named Hylas publicly scourged in the hall of his own residence; and expelled Pylades not only from Rome, but from Italy too, because when a spectator started to hiss, he called the attention of the whole audience to him with an obscene movement of his middle finger.

46. After thus improving and reorganizing Rome, Augustus increased the population of Italy by personally founding twenty-eight veteran colonies. He also supplied country towns with municipal buildings and revenues; and even gave them, to some degree at least, privileges and honours equalling those enjoyed by the City of Rome. This was done by granting the members of each local senate the right to vote for candidates in the City Elections; their ballots were to be placed in sealed containers and counted at Rome on polling day. To maintain the number of knights he allowed any township to nominate men capable of taking up such senior Army commands as were reserved for the Equestrian Order; and, to encourage the birth-rate of the Roman commons, offered a bounty of ten gold pieces for every legitimate son or daughter whom a citizen could produce, on his tours of the City wards.

…many paragraphs cut…

62. As a young man he was betrothed to the daughter of Publius Servilius Isauricus, but on his reconciliation with Mark Antony, after their first disagreement, the troops insisted that they should become closely allied by marriage; so, although Antony’s step-daughter Claudia — borne by his wife Fulvia to her ex-husband Publius Clodius — was only just nubile, Augustus married her; however, he quarrelled with Fulvia and divorced Claudia before the union had been consummated. Soon afterwards he married Scribonia, both of whose previous husbands had been ex-consuls, and by one of whom she had a child. Augustus divorced her, too, ‘because,’ as he wrote, ‘I could not bear the way she nagged at me’ — and immediately took Livia Drusilla away from her husband, Tiberius Nero, though she was pregnant at the time. Livia remained the one woman whom he truly loved until his death.

63. Scribonia bore him a daughter, Julia; but to his great disappointment the marriage with Livia proved childless, apart from a premature birth. Julia was betrothed first to Mark Antony’s son and then to Cotiso, King of the Getans, whose daughter Augustus himself proposed to marry in exchange; or so Antony writes. But Julia’s first husband was Marcellus, his sister Octavia’s son, then hardly more than a child; and, when he died, Augustus persuaded Octavia to let her become Marcus Agrippa’s wife — though Agrippa was now married to one of Marcellus’s two sisters, and had fathered children on her. At Agrippa’s death, Augustus cast about for a new son-in-law, even if he were only a knight, eventually choosing Tiberius, his step-son; this meant, however, that Tiberius must divorce his wife, who had already given him an heir.

64. Julia bore Agrippa three sons — Gaius, Lucius, and Agrippa Postumus; and two daughters — Julia the Younger, and Agrippina the Elder. Augustus married this Julia to Lucius Paulus whose father, of the same name, was Censor; and Agrippina to Germanicus — the son of Octavia’s daughter Antonia by Tiberius’s younger brother Drusus. He then adopted Gaius and Lucius, and brought them up at the Palace; after buying them from Agrippa at a token sale — touching the scales three times with a bronze coin in the presence of the City praetor. He trained his new sons in the business of government while they were still young, sending them as commanders-in-chief to the provinces when only consuls-elect. The education of his daughter and grand-daughters included even spinning and weaving; they were forbidden to say or do anything, either publicly or in private, that could not decently figure in the imperial day-book. He took severe measures to prevent them forming friendships without his consent, and once wrote to Lucius Vinicius, a young man of good family and conduct:

‘You were very ill-mannered to visit my daughter at Baiae.’

[Baiae = seaside resort with hot springs on the bay of Naples, a favorite of Rome’s elite]

 Augustus gave Gaius and Lucius reading, swimming and other simple lessons, for the most part acting as their tutor himself; and was at pains to make them model their handwriting on his own. Whenever they dined in his company he had them sit at his feet on the so-called lowest couch; and, while accompanying him on his travels, they rode either ahead of his carriage, or one on each side of it.

65. His satisfaction with the success of this family training was, however, suddenly dashed. He found out, to his misfortune, that the Elder and the Younger Julia had both been indulging in every sort of vice; and banished them. When Gaius then died in Lycia, and Lucius eighteen months later at Marseilles, Augustus publicly adopted his remaining grandchild, Agrippa Postumus and, at the same time, his step-son Tiberius; a special bill to legalize this act was passed by a people’s court, consisting of thirty lictors under the Chief Pontiff.

Yet he soon disinherited Postumus, whose behaviour had lately been vulgar and brutal, and packed him off to Sorrento in disgrace. When members of his family died Augustus bore his loss with far more resignation than when they disgraced themselves. The deaths of Gaius and Lucius did not break his spirit; but after discovering his daughter Julia’s adulteries, he refused to see visitors for some time. He wrote a letter about her case to the Senate, staying at home while a quaestor read it to them. He may even have considered her execution; at any rate, hearing that one Phoebe, a freedwoman in Julia’s confidence, had hanged herself, he cried: ‘I should have preferred to be Phoebe’s father!’ Julia was forbidden to drink wine or enjoy any other luxury during her exile; and denied all male company, whether free or servile, except by Augustus’s special permission and after he had been given full particulars of the applicant’s age, height, complexion, and of any distinguishing marks on his body — such as moles or scars. He kept Julia for five years on the prison island of Pandataria before moving her to Reggio in Calabria, where she received somewhat milder treatment. Yet nothing would persuade him to forgive his daughter; and when the Roman people interceded several times on her behalf, earnestly pleading for her recall, he stormed at a popular assembly:

‘If you ever bring up this matter again, may the gods curse you with daughters as lecherous as mine, and with wives as adulterous!’

While in exile Julia the Younger gave birth to a child, which Augustus refused to let the father acknowledge; it was exposed at his orders. Because Agrippa Postumus’s conduct, so far from improving, grew daily more irresponsible, he was transferred to the island of Planasia, and held there under military surveillance. Augustus then asked the Senate to pass a decree making Postumus’s banishment permanent; but whenever his name, or that of either Julia, came up in conversation he would sigh deeply, and sometimes quote a line from the Iliad:

‘Ah, never to have married, and childless to have died!’

referring to them as ‘my three boils‘ or ‘my three running sores‘.

66. Though slow in making friends, once Augustus took to a man, he showed great constancy and not only rewarded him as his qualities deserved, but even condoned his minor shortcomings. Indeed, it would be hard to recall an instance when one of Augustus’s friends fell from favour: apart from Salvidienus Rufus and Cornelius Gallus, two nobodies whom he promoted, respectively, to a consulship and the Egyptian prefecture. Rufus, who had taken part in a plot, was handed over to a Senatorial Court and sentenced to death; Gallus, who had shown ingratitude and an envious nature, was at first merely denied access to the Palace, or the privilege of living in any imperial province; but charges were later brought against him, and he, too, died by order of the Senate. Augustus commended the loyal House for feeling as strongly as they did on his behalf, but complained with tears of the unfortunate position in which he was placed: the only man in Rome who could not punish his friends merely by an expression of disgust for them — the matter must always be taken further. However, as I say, the cases of Rufus and Gallus were exceptional. Augustus’s other friends all continued rich and powerful so long as they lived, despite occasional coolnesses; each ranking among the leaders of his Order. It will be enough to mention in this context his annoyance at Marcus Agrippa’s show of impatience and at Maecenas’s inability to hold his tongue. Agrippa had felt that Augustus was not behaving as warmly towards him as usual, and when Marcellus, not himself, became the second man at Rome, resigned all his offices and went off to Mytilene in Asia Minor; Maecenas was guilty of confiding a state secret to his wife Terentia — namely that Murena’s conspiracy had been disclosed.

Augustus expected the affection that he showed his friends to be warmly reciprocated even in the hour of death. For, although nobody could call him a legacy-hunter-indeed, he could never bear to benefit under the will of a man personally unknown to him — yet he was almost morbid in his careful weighing of a friend’s death-bed tributes. His disappointment if they economized in their bequests to him, or failed to make at least some highly complimentary mention of his name, was only too apparent; nor could he repress his satisfaction if they remembered him with loving gratitude. But whenever any testator, of whatever Order, left him either legacies or shares in promised inheritances, Augustus at once resigned his rights in favour of the man’s grown-up sons or daughters, if he had any; and, in the case of minors, kept the money until the boys came of age or the girls married, whereupon he handed it over, increased by the accumulated interest.

67. Augustus behaved strictly but kindly towards his dependants and slaves, and honoured some of his freedmen, such as Licinius, Celadus, and others, with his close intimacy. A slave named Cosmus, who had complained of him in the vilest terms, was punished merely by being put in irons. Once, when Augustus and his steward Diomedes were out walking together and a wild boar suddenly charged at them, Diomedes took fright and dodged behind his master. Augustus later made a joke of the incident, though he had been in considerable danger, preferring to call Diomedes a coward than anything worse — after all, his action had not been premeditated. Yet, when one Polus, a favourite freedman, was convicted of adultery with free-born Roman matrons, Augustus ordered him to commit suicide; and sentenced Thallus, an imperial secretary, to have his legs broken for divulging the contents of a dispatch — his fee had been twenty-five gold pieces. And because Gaius Caesar’s tutor and attendants used their master’s sickness and subsequent death as an excuse for arrogant, greedy behaviour in the province of Asia, Augustus had them flung into a river with weights tied around their necks.

68. As a young man Augustus was accused of various improprieties. For instance, Sextus Pompey jeered at his effeminacy; Mark Antony alleged that Julius Caesar made him submit to unnatural relations as the price of adoption; Antony’s brother Lucius added that, after sacrificing his virtue to Caesar, Augustus had sold his favours to Aulus Hirtius, the Governor-General of Spain, for 3,000 gold pieces, and that he used to soften the hair on his legs by singeing them with red-hot walnut shells. One day at the Theatre an actor came on the stage representing a eunuch priest of Cybele, the Mother of the Gods; and, as he played his timbrel, another actor exclaimed:

‘Look, how this cinaedus’ finger beats the drum!’

Since the Latin phrase could also mean:

‘Look how this cinaedus’ finger sways the world !’

the audience mistook the line for a hint at Augustus and broke into enthusiastic applause.

[see notes of the Catullus passage above to understand what cinaedus means.]

69. Not even his friends could deny that he often committed adultery, though of course they said, in justification, that he did so for reasons of state, not simple passion — he wanted to discover what his enemies were at by getting intimate with their wives or daughters. Mark Antony accused him not only of indecent haste in marrying Livia, but of hauling an ex-consul’s wife from her husband’s dining-room into the bedroom — before his eyes, too! He brought the woman back, says Antony, blushing to the ears and with her hair in disorder.

Antony also writes that Scribonia was divorced for having said a little too much when ‘a rival’ got her claws into Augustus; and that his friends used to behave like Toranius, the slave-dealer, in arranging his pleasures for him — they would strip mothers of families, or grown girls, of their clothes and inspect them as though they were up for sale. A racy letter of Antony’s survives, written before he and Augustus had quarrelled privately or publicly:

‘What has come over you? Do you object to my sleeping with Cleopatra? But we are married; and it is not even as though this were anything new — the affair started nine years ago. And what about you? Are you faithful to Livia Drusilla? My congratulations if, when this letter arrives, you have not been in bed with Tertullia, or Terentilla, or Rufilla, or Salvia Titisenia — or all of them. Does it really matter so much where, or with whom, you perform the sexual act?’

70. Then there was Augustus’s private banquet, known as ‘The Feast of the Divine Twelve’, which caused a public scandal. The guests came dressed as gods or goddesses, Augustus himself representing Apollo; and our authority for this is not only a spiteful letter of Antony’s, which names all the twelve, but the following well-known anonymous lampoon:

Those rogues engaged the services
Of a stage manager;
So Mallia found six goddesses
And six gods facing her!

Apollo’s part was lewdly played
By impious Caesar; he
Made merry at a table laid
For gross debauchery.

Such scandalous proceedings shocked
The Olympians. One by one
They quit and Jove, his thunders mocked,
Vacates the golden throne.

What made the scandal even worse was that the banquet took place at a time of food shortage; and on the next day people were shouting:

‘The Gods have gobbled all the grain!’


‘Caesar is Apollo, true — but he’s Apollo of the Torments’ —

this being the god’s aspect in one City district. Some found Augustus a good deal too fond of expensive furniture, Corinthian bronzes, and the gaming table. While the proscriptions were in progress someone had scrawled on the base of his statue:

I do not take my father’s line;
His trade was silver coin, but mine
Corinthian vases —

the belief being that he enlarged the proscription lists with names of men who owned vases of this sort.

During the Sicilian War another rhyme was current:

He took a beating twice at sea,
And threw two fleets away.
So now to achieve one victory
He tosses dice all day.

71. Augustus easily disproved the accusation (or slander, if you like) of prostituting his body to men, by the decent normality of his sex-life, then and later; and that of having over-luxurious tastes by his conduct at the capture of Alexandria, where the only loot he took from the Palace of the Ptolemies was a single agate cup — he melted down all the golden dinner services. However, the charge of being a womanizer stuck, and as an elderly man he is said to have still harboured a passion for deflowering girls — who were collected for him from every quarter, even by his wife!

Augustus did not mind being called a gambler; he diced openly, in his old age, too, simply because he enjoyed the game — not only in December, when the licence of the Saturnalia justified it, but on other holidays, too, and actually on working days. That this is quite true a letter in his own handwriting proves:

My dear Tiberius,
… we had the same company for dinner, except that Vinicius and the elder Silius were also invited; and we gambled like old men all through the meal, and until yesterday turned into to-day. Anyone who threw the Dog — two aces — or a six, put a silver piece in the pool for each of the dice; and anyone who threw Venus — when each of the dice shows a different number — scooped the lot.

Arid another letter runs: My dear Tiberius,

We spent the five-day festival of Minerva very pleasantly keeping the gaming table warm by playing all day long. Your brother Drusus made fearful complaints about his luck, yet in the long run was not much out of pocket. He went down heavily at first, but we were surprised to see him slowly recouping most of his losses. I lost two hundred gold pieces; however, that was because, as usual, I behaved with excessive sportsmanship. If I had dunned every player who had forfeited his stakes to me, or not handed over my legitimate winnings when dunned myself, I should have been at least five hundred to the good. Well, that is how I like it: my generosity will gain me immortal glory, you may be sure!

And to his daughter Julia he wrote:

Enclosed please find two and a half gold pieces in silver coin: which is the sum I give each of my dinner guests in case they feel like dicing or playing ‘odd and even’ at table.

72. Augustus’s other personal habits are generally agreed to have been unexceptionable. His first house, once the property of Calvus the orator, stood close to the Roman Forum at the top of the Ringmakers’ Stairs; thence he moved to what had been Hortensius’s house on the Palatine Hill. Oddly enough, his new palace was neither larger nor more elegant than the first; the courts being supported by squat columns of peperino stone, and the living-rooms innocent of marble or elaborately tessellated floors. There he slept in the same bedroom all the year round for over forty years; although the winter climate of Rome did not suit his health. Whenever he wanted to be alone and free of interruptions, he could retreat to a study at the top of the house, which he called ‘Syracuse’ — perhaps because Archimedes of Syracuse had a similar one — or ‘my little workshop’. He would hide himself away either here or else in a suburban villa owned by one of his freedmen; but, if he fell ill, always took refuge in Maecenas’s mansion. He spent his holidays at seaside resorts, or on some island off the Campanian coast, or in country towns near Rome, such as Lanuvium, or Palestrina, or Tivoli — where he often administered justice in the colonnades of Hercules’s Temple. Such was his dislike of all large pretentious country houses that he went so far as to demolish one built by his grand-daughter Julia on too lavish a scale. His own were modest enough and less remarkable for their statuary and pictures than for their landscape gardening and the rare antiques on display: for example, at Capri he had collected the huge skeletons of extinct sea and land monsters popularly known as ‘Giants’ Bones’; and the weapons of ancient heroes.

73. How simply Augustus’s palace was furnished may be deduced by examining the couches and tables still preserved, many of which , would now hardly be considered fit for a private citizen. He is said to have always slept on a low bed, with a very ordinary coverlet. On all but special occasions he wore house clothes woven and sewn for him by either Livia, Octavia, Julia, or one of his grand-daughters. His gowns were neither tight nor full, and the purple stripe on them was neither narrow nor broad; but his shoes had rather thick soles to make him look taller. And he always kept a change of better shoes and clothes at hand; he might be unexpectedly called upon to appear in an official capacity.

74. He gave frequent dinner parties, very formal ones, too; paying strict attention to social precedence and personal character. Valerius Messala writes that the sole occasion on which Augustus ever invited a freedman to dine was when he honoured Menas for delivering Sextus Pompey’s fleet into his power; and even then Menas was first enrolled on the list of free-born citizens. However, Augustus himself records that he once invited an ex-member of his bodyguard, the freedman whose villa he used as a retreat. At such dinner parties he would sometimes arrive late and leave early, letting his guests start and finish without him. The meal usually consisted of three courses, though in expansive moods Augustus might serve as many as six. There was no great extravagance, and a most cheerful atmosphere, because of his talent for making shy guests, who either kept silent or muttered to their neighbours, join in the general conversation. He also enlivened the meal with performances by musicians, actors, or even men who gave turns at the Circus — but more often by professional story-tellers.

75. Augustus spared no expense when celebrating national holidays and behaved very light-heartedly on occasion. At the Saturnalia, for instance, or whenever else the fancy took him, he whimsically varied the value of his gifts. They might consist of rich clothing and gold or silver plate; or every sort of coin, including specimens from the days of the early monarchy, and foreign pieces; or merely lengths of goat hair cloth, or sponges, or pokers, or tongs — all given in return for tokens inscribed with misleading descriptions of the objects concerned.

At some dinner parties he would also auction tickets for prizes of most unequal value, and paintings with their faces turned to the wall, for which every guest present was expected to bid blindly, taking his chance like the rest: he might either pick up most satisfactory bargains, or throw away his money.

76. In this character sketch I need not omit his eating habits. He was frugal and, as a rule, preferred the food of the common people, especially the coarser sort of bread, whitebait, fresh hand-pressed cheese, and green figs of the second crop; and would not wait for dinner, if he felt hungry, but ate anywhere. The following are verbatim quotations from his letters:

I had a snack of bread and dates while out for my drive to-day . . . and: On the way back in my litter from King Numa’s Palace on the Sacred Way, I munched an ounce of bread and a few hard-skinned grapes.

and again:

My dear Tiberius,
Not even a Jew fasts so scrupulously on his sabbaths , as I have done to-day. Not until dusk had fallen did I touch a thing; and that was at the baths, before I had my oil rub, when I swallowed two mouthfuls of bread.

This failure to observe regular mealtimes often resulted in his dining alone, either before or after his guests; but he came to the dining hall nevertheless and watched them eat.

77. Augustus was also a habitually abstemious drinker. During the siege of Mutina, according to Cornelius Nepos, he never took more than three cups of wine-and-water at dinner. In later life his limit was a pint; if he ever exceeded this he would deliberately vomit. Raetian was his favourite, but he seldom touched wine between meals; instead, he would moisten his throat with a morsel of bread dunked in cold water; or a slice of cucumber or the heart of a young lettuce; or a sour apple off the tree, or from a store cupboard.

78. After luncheon he used to rest for a while without removing clothes or shoes; one hand shading his eyes, his feet uncovered. When dinner was over he would retire to a couch in his study, where he worked late until all the outstanding business of the day had been cleared off; or most of it. Then he went to bed and slept seven hours at the outside, with three or four breaks of wakefulness. If he found it hard to fall asleep again on such occasions, as frequently happened, he sent for readers or story-tellers; and on dropping off would not wake until the sun was up. He could not bear lying sleepless in the dark with no one by his side; and if he had to officiate at some official or religious ceremony that involved early rising — which he also loathed — would spend the previous night at a friend’s house as near the venue as possible. Even so, he often needed more sleep than he got, and would doze off during his litter journeys through the City if anything delayed his progress and the bearers set the litter down.

…Many paragraphs cut…

93. Augustus showed great respect towards all ancient and long established foreign rites, but despised the rest. Once, for example, after becoming an adept in the Eleusinian Mysteries at Athens, he judged a case in which the privileges of Demeter’s priests were questioned. Since certain religious secrets had to be quoted in the evidence, he cleared the court, dismissed his legal advisers and settled the dispute in camera. On the other hand, during his journey through Egypt he would not go out of his way, however slightly, to honour the divine Apis bull; and praised his grandson Gaius for not offering prayers to Jehovah when he visited Jerusalem.

94. At this point it might be well to fist the omens, occurring before, on and after the day of Augustus’s birth, from which his future greatness and lasting good fortune could clearly be prognosticated. In ancient days part of the city wall of Velitrae had been struck by lightning and the soothsayers prophesied that a native Velitraean would one day rule the world. Confidence in this prediction led the citizens to declare immediate war against Rome, and to keep on fighting until they were nearly wiped out; only centuries later did the world-ruler appear in the person of Augustus.

According to Julius Marathus, a public portent warned the Roman people some months before Augustus’s birth that Nature was making ready to provide them with a king; and this caused the Senate such consternation that they issued a decree which forbade the rearing of any male child for a whole year. However, a group of senators whose wives were expectant prevented the decree from being filed at the Treasury and thus becoming law — for each of them hoped that the prophesied King would be his own son.

Then there is a story which I found in a book called Theologumena, by Asclepias of Mendes. Augustus’s mother, Atia, with certain married women friends, once attended a solemn midnight service at the Temple of Apollo, where she had her litter set down, and presently fell asleep as the others also did. Suddenly a serpent glided up, entered her, and then glided away again. On awakening, she purified herself, as if after intimacy with her husband. An irremovable coloured mark in the shape of a serpent, which then appeared on her body, made her ashamed to visit the public baths any more; and the birth of Augustus nine months later suggested a divine paternity. Atia dreamed that her intestines were carried up to Heaven and overhung all lands and seas; and Octavius, that the sun rose from between her thighs.

Augustus’s birth coincided with the Senate’s famous debate on the Catilinarian conspiracy, and when Octavius arrived late, because of Atia’s confinement, Publius Nigidius Figulus the astrologer, hearing at what hour the child had been delivered, cried out:

‘The ruler of the world is now born.’

Everyone believes this story.

Octavius, during a subsequent expedition through the wilder parts of Thrace, reached a grove sacred to Father Dionysus, where he consulted the priests about his son’s destiny. After performing certain barbaric rites, they gave him the same response as Figulus; for the wine they had poured over the altar caused a pillar of flame to shoot up far above the roof of the shrine — a sign never before granted except to Alexander the Great when he sacrificed at that very altar. That night Octavius had another dream: his son appeared in superhuman majesty, armed with the thunderbolt, sceptre, and regal ornaments of Jupiter Greatest and Best, crowned with a solar diadem, and riding in a belaurelled chariot drawn by twelve dazzlingly white horses.

Gaius Drusus records that, one evening, the infant Augustus was placed by the nurse in his cradle on the ground-floor, but had vanished by daybreak; at last a search party found him lying on the top of a lofty tower, his face turned towards the rising sun. Once, when he was just learning to talk at his grandfather’s country seat, the frogs broke into a loud chorus of croaking: he told them to stop, and it is locally claimed that no frog has croaked there since. On a later occasion, as he sat lunching in a copse beside the Appian Way, close to the fourth mile-stone, an eagle, to his great surprise, swooped at him, snatched a crust from his hand, carried it aloft — and then, to his even greater surprise, glided gently down again and restored what it had stolen.

Quintus Catulus, after rededicating the Capitol, dreamed two dreams on successive nights. First, Jupiter Greatest and Best beckoned to one of several noblemen’s sons who were playing near his altar, and slipped an image of the Goddess Rome into the fold of his gown. Then Catulus dreamed that he saw the same boy sitting in the lap of Capitoline Jupiter he tried to have him removed, but the God countermanded the order because the boy was being reared as the saviour of Rome. Next day, Catulus met Augustus, looked at him with startled eyes — they had never met before — and pronounced him the identical boy of his dreams. Another version of Catulus’s first dream is that a crowd of noblemen’s children were begging Jupiter for a guardian; the God then pointed to one of them, saying: ‘Whatever you need, ask him!’, lightly touched the boy’s mouth and conveyed a kiss from them to his own lips.

On a New Year’s Day, Cicero escorted Julius Caesar, as Consul, to the Capitol and happened to tell his friends what he had dreamed the night before: a boy of noble features; let down from Heaven by a golden chain, stood at the Temple door, and was handed a whip by Capitoline Jupiter At that moment, Cicero’s eye caught Augustus, whom his grand-uncle Caesar had brought to the ceremony but whom few of those present knew by sight. He cried: ‘There goes the very boy!’

When Augustus celebrated his coming of age, the seams of the senatorial gown which Caesar had allowed him to wear split and it fell at his feet. Some of the bystanders interpreted the accident as a sign that the senatorial order itself would some day be brought to his feet.

As Julius Caesar was felling a wood near Munda in Spain to clear a site for his camp, he noticed a palm-tree and ordered it to be spared, palm-fronds being a presage of victory. The tree then suddenly put out a new shoot which, a few days later, had grown so tall as to overshadow it. What was more, a flock of doves began to nest in the fronds, although doves notoriously dislike hard, spiny foliage. This prodigy was the immediate reason, they say, for Caesar’s desire that his grand-nephew, and no one else, should succeed him.

At Apollonia, Augustus and Agrippa together visited the house of Theogenes the astrologer, and climbed upstairs to his observatory; they both wished to consult him about their future careers. Agrippa went first and was prophesied such almost incredibly good fortune that Augustus expected a far less encouraging response, and felt ashamed to disclose his nativity. Yet when at last, after a deal of hesitation, he grudgingly supplied the information for which both were pressing him, Theogenes rose and flung himself at his feet; and this gave Augustus so implicit a faith in the destiny awaiting him that he even ventured to publish his horoscope, and struck a silver coin stamped with Capricorn, the sign under which he had been born.

95. When he returned to Rome from Apollonia at news of Caesar’s assassination, the sky was clear of clouds, but a rainbow-like halo formed around the sun; and suddenly lightning struck the tomb of Caesar’s daughter, Julia the Elder. Then, when he first took the auspices as Consul, twelve vultures appeared, as they had appeared to Romulus at the foundation of the City; and the livers of all the sacrificial victims were seen to be doubled inwards at the bottom — an. omen which, experts in soothsaying agreed, presaged a wonderful future for him.

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  1. 99. On the day that he died, Augustus frequently inquired whether rumours of his illness were causing any popular disturbance. He called for a mirror, and had his hair combed and his lower jaw, which had fallen from weakness, propped up. Presently he summoned a group of friends and asked: ‘Have I played my part in the farce of life creditably enough?’ adding the theatrical tag:

If I have pleased you, kindly signify
Appreciation with a warm goodbye.

Then he dismissed them, but when fresh visitors arrived from Rome, wanted to hear the latest news of his grand-daughter Livilla, who was ill. Finally, he kissed his wife with: ‘Goodbye, Livia: never forget whose husband you have been!’ and died almost at once. He must have longed for such an easy exit, for whenever he had heard of anyone having passed away quickly and painlessly, he used to pray: ‘May Heaven grant the same euthanasia to me and mine!’ The only sign that his wits were wandering, just before he died, was his sudden cry of terror: ‘Forty young men are carrying me off!’ But even this may be read as a prophecy rather than a delusion, because forty Praetorians were to form the guard of honour that conveyed him to his lying-in-state.

100. Augustus died in the same room as his father Octavius. That was 19 August 14 A.D., at about 3 p.m., the Consuls of the year being Sextus Pompey and Sextus Appuleius. Before the close of the following month he would have attained the age of seventy-six. Senators from the neighbouring municipalities and veteran colonies bore the body, in stages, all the way from Nola to Bovillae — but at night, owing to the hot weather — laying it in the town hall or principal temple of every halting place. From Bovillae, a party of Roman knights carried it to the vestibule of the Palace at Rome.

The senators vied with one another in proposing posthumous honours for Augustus. Among the motions introduced were the following: that his funeral procession should pass through the Triumphal Gate preceded by the image of Victory from the Senate House, and that boys and girls of the nobility should sing his dirge; that on the day of his cremation iron rings should be worn instead of gold ones; that his ashes should be gathered by priests of the leading Colleges; that the name ‘August’ should be transferred to September, because Augustus had been born in September but had died in the month now called August; and that the period between his birth and death should be officially entered in the Calendar as ‘the Augustan Age’.

Though the House as a whole decided not to pay him such excessive honours, he was given two funeral eulogies — by Tiberius from the forecourt of Julius Caesar’s Temple, and by Tiberius’s son Drusus from the original Rostrum — after which a party of Senators shouldered the body and took it to a pyre on the Campus Martius, where it was burned; and an ex-praetor actually swore that he had seen Augustus’s spirit soaring up to Heaven through the flames. Leading knights, barefoot, and wearing unbelted tunics, then collected his ashes and placed them in the family Mausoleum. He had built this himself forty-two years previously, during his sixth consulship, between the Flaminian Way and the Tiber; at the same time converting the neighbourhood into a public park.

101. Augustus’s will, composed on 3 April of the previous year, while Lucius Plancus and Gaius Silius were Consuls, occupied two note-books, written partly in his own hand, partly in those of his freedmen Polybius and Hilarion. The Vestal Virgins to whose safekeeping he had entrusted these documents now produced them, as well as three rolls, also sealed by him. All were opened and read in the House. It proved that he had appointed Tiberius and Livia heirs to the bulk of his estate, directing that Tiberius should take two-thirds and adopt the name ‘Augustus’, while Livia took the remaining third and adopted the name ‘Augusta’. If either of these two beneficiaries could not, or would not, inherit, the heirs in the second degree were to be Tiberius’s son Drusus, entitled to one-third of the reversion; and Augustus’s great-grandson Germanicus, with his three sons, jointly entitled to the remainder. Many of Augustus’s relatives and friends figured among the heirs in the third degree. He also left a bequest of 400,000 gold pieces to the Roman commons in general; 35,000 to the two tribes with which he had family connections; ten to every Praetorian guard; five to every member of the City companies; three to every legionary soldier. These legacies were to be paid on the nail, because he had always kept enough cash for the purpose. There were other minor bequests, some as large as 200 gold pieces, which were not to be settled until a year after his death because:

‘… my estate is not large; indeed, my heirs will not receive more than 1,500,000 gold pieces; for, although my friends have bequeathed me some 14,000,000 in the last twenty years, nearly the whole of this sum, besides what came to me from my father, from my adoptive father, and from others, has been used to buttress the national economy.’

He had given orders that ‘should anything happen’ to his daughter Julia, or his grand-daughter of the same name, their bodies must be excluded from the Mausoleum. One of the three sealed rolls contained directions for his own funeral; another, a record of his reign, which he wished to have engraved on bronze and posted at the entrance to the Mausoleum; the third, a statement of how many serving troops were stationed in different parts of the Empire, what money reserves were held by the Public Treasury and the Privy Purse, and what revenues were due for collection. He also supplied the names of freedmen and slave-secretaries who could furnish details, under all these heads, on demand.


This what Augustus wrote about himself for his own Mausoleum in Rome.  It was also copied on monuments throughout the Roman world and translated into Greek.  Our most intact copy comes from the Temple of Augustus and Roma in Ankara, Turkey.


Reconstruction of what Augustus’ Mausoleum in Rome may have looked like

A copy below of the deeds of the divine Augustus, by which he subjected the whole wide earth to the rule of the Roman people, and of the money which he spent for the state and Roman people, inscribed on two bronze pillars, which are set up in Rome.

1. In my nineteenth year, on my own initiative and at my own expense, I raised an army with which I set free the state, which was oppressed by the domination of a faction. For that reason, the senate enrolled me in its order by laudatory resolutions, when Gaius Pansa and Aulus Hirtius were consuls (43 B.C.E.), assigning me the place of a consul in the giving of opinions, and gave me the imperium. With me as propraetor, it ordered me, together with the consuls, to take care lest any detriment befall the state. But the people made me consul in the same year, when the consuls each perished in battle, and they made me a triumvir for the settling of the state.

2. I drove the men who slaughtered my father into exile with a legal order, punishing their crime, and afterwards, when they waged war on the state, I conquered them in two battles.

3. I often waged war, civil and foreign, on the earth and sea, in the whole wide world, and as victor I spared all the citizens who sought pardon. As for foreign nations, those which I was able to safely forgive, I preferred to preserve than to destroy. About five hundred thousand Roman citizens were sworn to me. I led something more than three hundred thousand of them into colonies and I returned them to their cities, after their stipend had been earned, and I assigned all of them fields or gave them money for their military service. I captured six hundred ships in addition to those smaller than triremes.

4. Twice I triumphed with an ovation, and three times I enjoyeda curule triumph and twenty one times I was named emperor. When the senate decreed more triumphs for me, I sat out from all of them. I placed the laurel from the fasces in the Capitol, when the vows which I pronounced in each war had been fulfilled. On account of the things successfully done by me and through my officers, under my auspices, on earth and sea, the senate decreed fifty-five times that there be sacrifices to the immortal gods. Moreover there were 890 days on which the senate decreed there would be sacrifices. In my triumphs kings and nine children of kings were led before my chariot. I had been consul thirteen times, when I wrote this, and I was in the thirty-seventh year of tribunician power (14 A.C.E.).

5. When the dictatorship was offered to me, both in my presence and my absence, by the people and senate, when Marcus Marcellus and Lucius Arruntius were consuls (22 B.C.E.), I did not accept it. I did not evade the curatorship of grain in the height of the food shortage, which I so arranged that within a few days I freed the entire city from the present fear and danger by my own expense and administration. When the annual and perpetual consulate was then again offered to me, I did not accept it.

6. When Marcus Vinicius and Quintus Lucretius were consuls (19 B.C.E.), then again when Publius Lentulus and Gnaeus Lentulus were (18 B.C.E.), and third when Paullus Fabius Maximus and Quintus Tubero were (11 B.C.E.), although the senateand Roman people consented that I alone be made curator of the laws and customs with the highest power, I received no magistracy offered contrary to the customs of the ancestors. What the senate then wanted to accomplish through me, I did through tribunician power, and five times on my own accord I both requested and received from the senate a colleague in such power.

7. I was triumvir for the settling of the state for ten continuous years. I was first of the senate up to that day on which I wrote this, for forty years. I was high priest, augur, one of the Fifteen for the performance of rites, one of the Seven of the sacred feasts, brother of Arvis, fellow of Titus, and Fetial.

8. When I was consul the fifth time (29 B.C.E.), I increased the number of patricians by order of the people and senate. I read the roll of the senate three times, and in my sixth consulate (28 B.C.E.) I made a census of the people with Marcus Agrippa as my colleague. I conducted a lustrum, after a forty-one year gap, in which lustrum were counted 4,063,000 heads of Roman citizens. Then again, with consular imperium I conducted a lustrum alone when Gaius Censorinus and Gaius Asinius were consuls (8 B.C.E.), in which lustrum were counted 4,233,000 heads of Roman citizens. And the third time, with consular imperium, I conducted a lustrum with my son Tiberius Caesar as colleague, when Sextus Pompeius and Sextus Appuleius were consuls (14 A.C.E.), in which lustrum were counted 4,937,000 of the heads of Roman citizens. By new laws passed with my sponsorship, I restored many traditions of the ancestors, which were falling into disuse in our age, and myself I handed on precedents of many things to be imitated in later generations.

9. The senate decreed that vows be undertaken for my health by the consuls and priests every fifth year. In fulfillment of these vows they often celebrated games for my life; several times the four highest colleges of priests, several times the consuls. Also both privately and as a city all the citizens unanimously and continuously prayed at all the shrines for my health.

10. By a senate decree my name was included in the Saliar Hymn, and it was sanctified by a law, both that I would be sacrosanct for ever, and that, as long as I would live, the tribunician power would be mine. I was unwilling to be high priest in the place of my living colleague; when the people offered me that priesthood which my father had, I refused it. And I received that priesthood, after several years, with the death of him who had occupied it since the opportunity of the civil disturbance, with a multitude flocking together out of all Italy to my election, so many as had never before been in Rome, when Publius Sulpicius and Gaius Valgius were consuls (12 B.C.E.).

11. The senate consecrated the altar of Fortune the Bringer-back before the temples of Honor and Virtue at the Campanian gate for my retrn, on which it ordered the priests and Vestal virgins to offer yearly sacrifices on the day when I had returned to the city from Syria (when Quintus Lucretius and Marcus Vinicius were consuls (19 Bc)), and it named that day Augustalia after my cognomen.

12. By the authority of the senate, a part of the praetors and tribunes of the plebs, with consul Quintus Lucretius and the leading men, was sent to meet me in Campania, which honor had been decreed for no one but me until that time. When I returned to Rome from Spain and Gaul, having successfully accomplished matters in those provinces, when Tiberius Nero and Publius Quintilius were consuls (13 B.C.E.), the senate voted to consecrate the altar of August Peace in the field of Mars for my return, on which it ordered the magistrates and priests and Vestal virgins to offer annual sacrifices.

13. Our ancestors wanted Janus Quirinus to be closed when throughout the all the rule of the Roman people, by land and sea, peace had been secured through victory. Although before my birth it had been closed twice in all in recorded memory from the founding of the city, the senate voted three times in my principate that it be closed.

14. When my sons Gaius and Lucius Caesar, whom fortune stole from me as youths, were fourteen, the senate and Roman people made them consuls-designate on behalf of my honor, so that they would enter that magistracy after five years, and the senate decreed that on thatday when they were led into the forum they would be included in public councils. Moreover the Roman knights together named each of them first of the youth and gave them shields and spears.

15. I paid to the Roman plebs, HS 300 per man from my father’s will and in my own name gave HS 400 from the spoils of war when I was consul for the fifth time (29 B.C.E.); furthermore I again paid out a public gift of HS 400 per man, in my tenth consulate (24 B.C.E.), from my own patrimony; and, when consul for the eleventh time (23 B.C.E.), twelve doles of grain personally bought were measured out; and in my twelfth year of tribunician power (12-11 B.C.E.) I gave HS 400 per man for the third time. And these public gifts of mine never reached fewer than 250,000 men. In my eighteenth year of tribunician power, as consul for the twelfth time (5 B.C.E.), I gave to 320,000 plebs of the city HS 240 per man. And, when consul the fifth time (29 B.C.E.), I gave from my war-spoils to colonies of my soldiers each HS 1000 per man; about 120,000 men i the colonies received this triumphal public gift. Consul for the thirteenth time (2 B.C.E.), I gave HS 240 to the plebs who then received the public grain; they were a few more than 200,000.

16. I paid the towns money for the fields which I had assigned to soldiers in my fourth consulate (30 B.C.E.) and then when Marcus Crassus and Gnaeus Lentulus Augur were consuls (14 B.C.E.); the sum was about HS 600,000,000 which I paid out for Italian estates, and about HS 260,000,000 which I paid for provincial fields. I was first and alone who did this among all who founded military colonies in Italy or the provinces according to the memory of my age. And afterwards, when Tiberius Nero and Gnaeus Piso were consuls (7 B.C.E.), and likewise when Gaius Antistius and Decius Laelius were consuls (6 B.C.E.), and when Gaius Calvisius and Lucius Passienus were consuls (4 B.C.E.), and when Lucius Lentulus and Marcus Messalla were consuls (3 B.C.E.), and when Lucius Caninius and Quintus Fabricius were consuls (2 B.C.E.) , I paid out rewards in cash to the soldiers whom I had led into their towns when their service was completed, and in this venture I spent about HS 400,000,000.

17. Four times I helped the senatorial treasury with my money, so that I offered HS 150,000,000 to those who were in charge of the treasury. And when Marcus Lepidus and Luciu Arruntius were consuls (6 A.C.E.), I offered HS 170,000,000 from my patrimony to the military treasury, which was founded by my advice and from which rewards were given to soldiers who had served twenty or more times.

18. From that year when Gnaeus and Publius Lentulus were consuls (18 Bc), when the taxes fell short, I gave out contributions of grain and money from my granary and patrimony, sometimes to 100,000 men, sometimes to many more.

19. I built the senate-house and the Chalcidicum which adjoins it and the temple of Apollo on the Palatine with porticos, the temple of divine Julius, the Lupercal, the portico at the Flaminian circus, which I allowed to be called by the name Octavian, after he who had earlier built in the same place, the state box at the great circus, the temple on the Capitoline of Jupiter Subduer and Jupiter Thunderer, the temple of Quirinus, the temples of Minerva and Queen Juno and Jupiter Liberator on the Aventine, the temple of the Lares at the top of the holy street, the temple of the gods of the Penates on the Velian, the temple of Youth, and the temple of the Great Mother on the Palatine.

20. I rebuilt the Capitol and the theater of Pompey, each work at enormous cost, without any inscription of my name. I rebuilt aqueducts in many places that had decayed with age, and I doubled the capacity of the Marcian aqueduct by sending a new spring into its channel. I completed the Forum of Julius and the basilic which he built between the temple of Castor and the temple of Saturn, works begun and almost finished by my father. When the same basilica was burned with fire I expanded its grounds and I began it under an inscription of the name of my sons, and, if I should not complete it alive, I ordered it to be completed by my heirs. Consul for the sixth time (28 B.C.E.), I rebuilt eighty-two temples of the gods in the city by the authority of the senate, omitting nothing which ought to have been rebuilt at that time. Consul for the seventh time (27 B.C.E.), I rebuilt the Flaminian road from the city to Ariminum and all the bridges except the Mulvian and Minucian.

21. I built the temple of Mars Ultor on private ground and the forum of Augustus from war-spoils. I build the theater at the temple of Apollo on ground largely bought from private owners, under the name of Marcus Marcellus my son-in-law. I consecrated gifts from war-spoils in the Capitol and in the temple of divine Julius, in the temple of Apollo, in the tempe of Vesta, and in the temple of Mars Ultor, which cost me about HS 100,000,000. I sent back gold crowns weighing 35,000 to the towns and colonies of Italy, which had been contributed for my triumphs, and later, however many times I was named emperor, I refused gold crowns from the towns and colonies which they equally kindly decreed, and before they had decreed them.

22. Three times I gave shows of gladiators under my name and five times under the name of my sons and grandsons; in these shows about 10,000 men fought. Twice I furnished under my name spectacles of athletes gathered from everywhere, and three times under my grandson’s name. I celebrated games under my name four times, and furthermore in the place of other magistrates twenty-three times. As master of the college I celebrated the secular games for the college of the Fifteen, with my colleague Marcus Agrippa, when Gaius Furnius and Gaius Silanus were consuls (17 B.C.E.). Consul for the thirteenth time (2 B.C.E.), I celebrated the first games of Mas, which after that time thereafter in following years, by a senate decree and a law, the consuls were to celebrate. Twenty-six times, under my name or that of my sons and grandsons, I gave the people hunts of African beasts in the circus, in the open, or in the amphitheater; in them about 3,500 beasts were killed.

23. I gave the people a spectacle of a naval battle, in the place across the Tiber where the grove of the Caesars is now, with the ground excavated in length 1,800 feet, in width 1,200, in which thirty beaked ships, biremes or triremes, but many smaller, fought among themselves; in these ships about 3,000 men fought in addition to the rowers.

24. In the temples of all the cities of the province of Asia, as victor, I replaced the ornaments which he with whom I fought the war had possessed privately after he despoiled the temples. Silver statues of me-on foot, on horseback, and standing in a chariot-were erected in about eighty cities, which I myself removed, and from the money I placed goldn offerings in the temple of Apollo under my name and of those who paid the honor of the statues to me.

25. I restored peace to the sea from pirates. In that slave war I handed over to their masters for the infliction of punishments about 30,000 captured, who had fled their masters and taken up arms against the state. All Italy swore allegiance to me voluntarily, and demanded me as leader of the war which I won at Actium; the provinces of Gaul, Spain, Africa, Sicily, and Sardinia swore the same allegiance. And those who then fought under my standard were more than 700 senators, among whom 83 were made consuls either before or after, up to the day this was written, and about 170 were made priests.

26. I extended the borders of all the provinces of the Roman people which neighbored nations not subject to our rule. I restored peace to the provinces of Gaul and Spain, likewise Germany, which includes the ocean from Cadiz to the mouth of the river Elbe. I brought peace to the Alps from the region which i near the Adriatic Sea to the Tuscan, with no unjust war waged against any nation. I sailed my ships on the ocean from the mouth of the Rhine to the east region up to the borders of the Cimbri, where no Roman had gone before that time by land or sea, and the Cimbri and the Charydes and the Semnones and the other Germans of the same territory sought by envoys the friendship of me and of the Roman people. By my order and auspices two armies were led at about the same time into Ethiopia and into that part of Arabia which is called Happy, and the troops of each nation of enemies were slaughtered in battle and many towns captured. They penetrated into Ethiopia all the way to the town Nabata, which is near to Meroe; and into Arabia all the way to the border of the Sabaei, advancing to the town Mariba.

27. I added Egypt to the rule of the Roman people. When Artaxes, king of Greater Armenia, was killed, though I could have made it a province, I preferred, by the example of our elders, to hand over that kingdomto Tigranes, son of king Artavasdes, and grandson of King Tigranes, through Tiberius Nero, who was then my step-son. And the same nation, after revolting and rebelling, and subdued through my son Gaius, I handed over to be ruled by King Ariobarzanes son of Artabazus, King of the Medes, and after his death, to his son Artavasdes; and when he was killed, I sent Tigranes, who came from the royal clan of the Armenians, into that rule. I recovered all the provinces which lie across the Adriatic to the east and Cyrene, with kings now possessing them in large part, and Sicily and Sardina, which had been occupied earlier in the slave war.

28. I founded colonies of soldiers in Africa, Sicily, Macedonia, each Spain, Greece, Asia, Syria, Narbonian Gaul, and Pisidia, and furthermore had twenty-eight colonies founded in Italy under my authority, which were very populous and crowded while I lived.

29. I recovered from Spain, Gaul, and Dalmatia the many military standards lost through other leaders, after defeating te enemies. I compelled the Parthians to return to me the spoils and standards of three Roman armies, and as suppliants to seek the friendship of the Roman people. Furthermore I placed those standards in the sanctuary of the temple of Mars Ultor.

30. As for the tribes of the Pannonians, before my principate no army of the Roman people had entered their land. When they were conquered through Tiberius Nero, who was then my step-son and emissary, I subjected them to the rule of the Roman people and extended the borders of Illyricum to the shores of the river Danube. On the near side of it the army of the Dacians was conquered and overcome under my auspices, and then my army, led across the Danube, forced the tribes of the Dacians to bear the rule of the Roman people.

31. Emissaries from the Indian kings were often sent to me, which had not been seen before that time by any Roman leader. The Bastarnae, the Scythians, and the Sarmatians, who are on this side of the river Don and the kings further away, an the kings of the Albanians, of the Iberians, and of the Medes, sought our friendship through emissaries.

32. To me were sent supplications by kings: of the Parthians, Tiridates and later Phrates son of king Phrates, of the Medes, Artavasdes, of the Adiabeni, Artaxares, of the Britons, Dumnobellaunus and Tincommius, of the Sugambri, Maelo, of the Marcomanian Suebi (…) (-)rus. King Phrates of the Parthians, son of Orodes, sent all his sons and grandsons into Italy to me, though defeated in no war, but seeking our friendship through the pledges of his children. And in my principate many other peoples experienced the faith of the Roman people, of whom nothing had previously existed of embassies or interchange of friendship with the Roman people.

33. The nations of the Parthians and Medes received from me the first kings of those nations which they sought by emissaries: the Parthians, Vonones son of king Phrates, grandson of king Orodes, the Medes, Ariobarzanes, son of king Artavasdes, grandson of king Aiobarzanes.

34. In my sixth and seventh consulates (28-27 B.C.E.), after putting out the civil war, having obtained all things by universal consent, I handed over the state from my power to the dominion of the senate and Roman people. And for this merit of mine, by a senate decree, I was called Augustus and the doors of my temple were publicly clothed with laurel and a civic crown was fixed over my door and a gold shield placed in the Julian senate-house, and the inscription of that shield testified to the virtue, mercy, justice, and piety, for which the senate and Roman people gave it to me. After that time, I exceeded all in influence, but I had no greater power than the others who were colleagues with me in each magistracy.

35. When I administered my thirteenth consulate (2 B.C.E.), the senate and Equestrian order and Roman people all called me father of the country, and voted that the same be inscribed in the vestibule of my temple, in the Julian senate-house, and in the forum of Augustus under the chario which had been placed there for me by a decision of the senate. When I wrote this I was seventy-six years old.


Written after Augustus’ death.

1. All the expenditures which he gave either into the treasury or to the Roman plebs or to discharged soldiers: HS 2,400,000,000.

2. The works he built: the temples of Mars, of Jupiter Subduer and Thunderer, of Apollo, of divine Julius, of Minerva, of Queen Juno, of Jupiter Liberator, of the Lares, of the gods of the Penates, of Youth, and of the Great Mother, the Lupercal, the state box at the circus, the senate-house with the Chalcidicum, the forum of Augustus, the Julian basilica, the theater of Marcellus, the Octavian portico, and the grove of the Caesars across the Tiber.

3. He rebuilt the Capitol and holy temples numbering eighty-two, the theater of Pompey, waterways, and the Flaminian road.

4. The sum expended on theatrical spectacles and gladatorial games and athletes and hunts and mock naval battles and money given to colonies, cities, and towns destroyed by earthquake and fire or per man to friends and senators, whom he raised to the senate rating: innumerable.