Did Augustus restore the Roman Republic in 27BC?
Julius Caesar is perhaps the most well known in the history of Roman Emperors, yet there is no denying that his reign was filled with controversy, no reason more so than his devious rise to power and his mischievous ways of suppressing the senate. There is no doubt that in ruling as a Dictator; Caesar lost the support of the Roman people, who had fought for freedom against an Etruscan King, a role in which Caesar was playing. His death in 44BC coincided with what many believe to be the year in which the Republic completely its eventual ‘fall’ that it had been plummeting to since 133BC, and it is only by looking at the differences in the end of his reign to that of Augustus’ in 27BC that we can get a true idea of the extent to which he restored the Republic. Rome in 27BC and the years following, was more like a Republic in the people’s eyes, than it had been in other a 100 years, and Octavian as Augustus was at the forefront of this. Nevertheless, one has to assess to what extent Rome was once again a Republican state, as Augustus possessed many, if not even more, of the same powers that Julius Caesar had at his disposal, and that is the reason others say that he was similar, if not more of a Dictator than Caesar was, yet achieved power and support from those around him with them believing he was solely attempting to restore Rome to its Republican form.
Augustus himself believed he was owed a lot by Rome for his achievements while the city was under his unofficial command. Engraved on two bronze pillars in Rome, Augustus portrayed his ‘divine’ achievements. In section 34, he focuses specifically on 27BC, he states how he gave control of Rome back to its people and, in essence, restoring the republic to the way they wanted it. To add to this, under the name Octavian, he had already extinguished Civil Wars, and defeated Marc Anthony and Cleopatra in battle. Yet, as stated above, to recognize the true extent to which he restores the republic in 27BC, the causes of its decline and a conclusion of the state of Rome in that time must be distinguished. The fall of the Republic can be summed up in four main steps gathered between the years 133BC to 44Bc. First and foremost, the rise of popular tribunes caused a problem. The Gracchus brothers exploited the powers of the Plebeian tribuneship to seize power in Rome. This was the beginning of the Republics decline as though they had the most power in Rome, their political followings were not very popular, and consequently, it resulted in them both being killed through urban mob violence fomented by the aristocracy. Following this, the rise of private armies contributed to the Republics decline. Roman generals where now trying to recruit private armies who were more loyal to themselves than they were to that of the state. As a result of the increase of private armies was the first Civil War. The victor of this Civil War, Sulla, claimed in light of his victory that he would attempt to impose a reactionary political reform as ‘Dictator vei publicae constituendae’ – Dictator for the purpose of restoring the Republic, which suggests that even then the Republic was in a bad way. Yet contrary to his initial belief the title of Dictator went against what the Romans were looking for in their Republic.
59BC saw the first triumvirate in Roman history, with three men joining together, combining their influence to seize complete power in Rome, Pompey, Crassus and Caesar. Though it was perceived at first that all were willing to share power, individually they each wanted to rule as a sole dictator. All were in powerful positions, yet no one had gained full popularity. Pompey had his own loyal private army but was incapable of delivering on his promises of land, among other things. Crassus meanwhile had managed to benefit from Sulla’s rise to power, and became the richest man throughout Rome, yet was widely unpopular among...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document