Caesar Augustus: Gifted Statesman or Ruthless Ruler

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Heather Eichholz |Instructor Dr. Francis Brown |

history 333: History of Greece and Rome| Caesar Augustus: Gifted Statesman or Ruthless Ruler|

“Imperator Caesar Augustus, to give him his proper title”, was the founder of the Roman Empire and is often seen as one of the greatest pivotal figures to the history of Rome. Pivotal for multiple contributions that enhanced life in Rome. He created the denarius, a silver coin that made trade between different parts of the empire much easier.  Trade also became faster when Augustus eliminated all taxed goods which merged the Roman lands into one large economic empire.  He created faster transportation between cities by beginning a program of highway construction. Concrete was also discovered under Augustus and made the architecture of extravagant buildings easier and cost effective, while he was able to have them covered with marble so that the city looked like an empire of treasures. The last important contribution to the Pax Romana Augustus made was setting up the civil service.  This service was open to anybody of all ranks.  The civil service institution took care of Rome’s grain supply, road repairs, the postal system, and all the other daily work of running the empire. Under Augustus great accomplishments and advancements were made that added to the flourishing of the Roman Empire. Yet in researching Augustus one must pose the question, was he truly a great leader with love of Rome at the heart of his decisions or masterfully manipulative at achieving what he wanted? Or could he possibly accomplish both? In many ways, Augustus left a deeper imprint on the world than Julius Caesar ever did. Despite being a total out and out imperialist (in my opinion), he understood the concept of institutions and drove them forward. Yet the man, Caesar Augustus, remains a figure of shadows that gets lost behind the details of his achievements and propaganda of the time. Caesar Augustus can arguably be said to be the father of Western Civilization due to the fact that we still utilize concepts on which he built Roman government. The fact that no one really knew what Augustus’s linage was or who the genuine Caesar Augustus was granted him the best weapon for reinventing himself and the government of Rome. Augustus’s life is intermingled with other “larger-than-life personalities like: the brilliant and charming Julius Caesar; the ruthless Cleopatra, who is often said to have used sex as an instrument of policy; the idealistic assassin Brutus; the intelligent drunkard Mark Antony; the dour Tiberius”, and numerous others who will all contribute to the actions and decisions of the man called Caesar Augustus. I wonder if Augustus lived a century earlier or even later if he would have been a figure of historical debate and fascination. After all our surroundings and socio-economic environment play a large role in whom we become. Part of what makes Augustus such a formidable character in antiquity is his missing childhood years, myths surrounding him, the name changes throughout his public career, and the apparent success that created the Roman Empire. For these reasons it is important in our understanding of Caesar Augustus to understand something about his background and how he came into the position of “Caesar”. For his link to the title of “Caesar” is the key element that contribute to his formative years. Though, there are some disagreements between scholars as to the facts surrounding what little we know about his childhood and family linage.

Background of Caesar Augustus
Caesar Augustus, born Gaius Octavius around September 23rd or 24th, there is some scholarly disagreement on this date and most scholars lean toward the 23rd as the rightful date, in the year 63 BC in Rome “in the consulship of Cicero and Antonius. The Octavii were an old and wealthy family of Velitrae, a little town some twenty-five miles southeast of Rome.” Some scholars disagree...
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