Reign of Augustus in What Essay

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" He also appointed two individuals to distribute the grain, and like all political appointments during this time period, only individuals who met with Augustus' approval had any enforcement power. Thus he gave the appearance of being concerned with the people's welfare, of not wanting to be a dictator, yet gained more political and popular power.

Augustus' power was derived from a popular, if not an electoral mandate that extended even to the histories written about him after his death. For example, in what seems like a blatant contradiction, although Augustus substantially increased the territory of Rome, it was said: "he never made war on any nation without just and due cause" by Cassius Dio. Augustus was beloved because he restored many ancient works of art, because he spoke highly of Rome's great past, and commissioned many public acts of beautification and public works. He was also willing to delegate some authority to make the city safer for the citizens, and even allowed some exercise of republican elections for local officials, as a kind of safety valve for popular discontent that might arise regarding his absolute authority: "He divided the area of the city into regions and wards, arranging that the former should be under the charge of magistrates selected each year by lot, and the latter under 'masters' elected by the inhabitants of the respective neighborhoods. To guard against fires he devised a system of stations of night watchmen, and to control the floods he widened and cleared out the channel of the Tiber." Also in keeping with the popular will, Augustus disbanded unpopular guilds, burned old debts, and used his authority in a way that was absolute but merciful in the eyes of the common Roman populace. He both honored republican tradition, and did away with republican traditions to make a show of his love of the people. The city also functioned more effectively because of his projects and his wise spending of public money, and he did allow some local elections to ensure the people's immediate needs were honored.

However, even the great Augustus met with some resistance when he tried to be overly prescriptive regarding Roman citizen's personal lives. When he became concerned about the falling Roman birthrate of legitimate citizens "he revised existing laws and enacted some new ones, for example, on extravagance, on adultery and chastity, on bribery, and on the encouragement of marriage among the various classes of citizens. Having made somewhat more stringent changes in the last of these than in the others, he was unable to carry it out because of an open revolt against its provisions, until he had abolished or mitigated a part of the penalties, besides increasing the rewards." Romans were sufficiently guarded about their sexual lives that even a popular leader like Augustus could not and would not be allowed to intrude.

Augustus would not engage in the excesses of the later Caesars like Tiberius or Nero. But his restructuring of Roman governing authority enabled these future tyrants to exercise absolute control over the empire. Rome under his watch effectively became a power governed by an emperor, not legislative authority, although the Senate still existed as a body. Augustus upon his death assumed godlike status and a month was named in his honor. This veneration in the eyes of the Roman people may have been due to Augustus, but later generations would regret this emperor-worship, when later emperors came to power who were less deserving of such praise and authority.

Works Cited

Cassius Dio. Roman History. Translated by Earnest Cary. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge:

Harvard University Press, 1927. Complete text available February 21, 2009 at

Suetonius. "Life of Augustus." Translated by J.C. Rolfe Translation. Loeb Classical Library.

Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1914. Complete text available February 21, 2009 at*.html

Suetonius, "Life of Augustus," Translated by J.C. Rolfe, Loeb Classical Library, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1914), p 165, complete text available February 21, 2009 at*.html

Cassius Dio, Roman History, Translated by Earnest Cary, Loeb Classical Library, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1927), p. 279, complete text available February 21, 2009 at

Cassius Dio, 277

Cassius Dio, p. 285

Cassius Dio, p.285

Suetonius, p. 153

Suetonius, p.171

Suetonius, p.179[continue]

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