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Main References: Braund, David. Augustus to Nero: a Sourcebook on Roman History, 31 B.C. -- A.D. 68. London: Croom Helm, 1985. Buckland, W.W. A Text-book of Roman Law from Augustus to Justinian. Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1963.

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Main references

Main References:

Braund, David. Augustus to Nero: a Sourcebook on Roman History, 31 B.C. -- A.D. 68. London: Croom Helm, 1985.

Buckland, W.W. A Text-book of Roman Law from Augustus to Justinian. Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1963.

Cooley, M.G.L., ed. The Age of Augustus. Harrow: London Association of Classical Teachers, 2003.

Eck, Werner. The Age of Augustus. Malden, M.A.: Blackwell, 2003.

Galinsky, Karl, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Augustus. Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 2005.

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  • Grant, R.M. Augustus to Constantine: the Thrust of the Christian Movement into the Roman World. New York: Harper & Row, 1970.

  • Jones, A.H.M. Augustus. London: Chatto & Windus, 1970.

  • Lecky, W.E.H. History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne. London: Watts, 1946.

  • Ogilvie, R.M. The Romans and Their Gods in the Age of Augustus. London: Chatto & Windus, 1969.

Main references

  • MacMullen, Ramsay. Romanization in the Time of Augustus. New Haven: Yale U. Press, 2000.

  • Rives, J.B. Religion and Authority in Roman Carthage from Augustus to Constantine. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.

  • Severy, Beth. Augustus and the Family at the Birth of the Roman Empire. New York: Routledge, 2003.

  • Shotter, D.C.A. Augustus Caesar. London: Routledge, 1991.

  • Southern, Pat. Augustus. London: Routledge, 1998.

  • Wells, Joseph. A Short History of Rome to the Death of Augustus. London: Methuen, 1913.

  • Wells, Peter S. The Battle that Stopped Rome: Emperor Augustus, Arminius, and the Slaughter of the Legions in Teutoburg Forest. New York: W.W. Norton, 2003.

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  • On Ides of March (i.e., March 15), 44 B.C., Brutus, Cassius, and a group of conservative senators assassinated Julius Caesar

  • Comments on Julius Caesar = controversial (both positive and negative) [cf. Augustus, mostly positive]

  • Civil war and anarchy for about 14 years

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  • Octavian (62 B.C. -- A.D. 14; Caesar’s grand nephew) was only 18 years old in 44 B.C. [the later Augustus, r. 27 B.C. -- A.D. 14); realistic and practical.

  • He was a traditional politician [opposite to Caesar; perhaps learnt the lessons from Caesar, or simply different character], recruited Caesar’s veterans: (1) summer, 43 B.C., joined with Cicero and drove Mark Anthony out of Italy; (2) 42 B.C., with Mark Anthony defeated Brutus and Cassius; (3) then, by force, elected to be one of the consuls at the age of 19, then turned around and joined with Mark Anthony and killed Cicero; (4) by 33 B.C., civil war with Mark Anthony, but Octavian got the support from General Agrippa; (5) in 31 B.C., defeated Mark Anthony [with Egyptian Queen Cleopatra] at Actium [a sea battle], thus, symbolizing the complete end of Roman Republic and the civil war.

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  • On August 1, 30 B.C., Octavian entered Alexandria at the age of 33 (same as Alexander the Great’s death age; both young and brilliant); but Octavian refused to visit Alexander’s Tomb in Alexandria, saying, “True greatness lies not in conquest but in reconstruction.”

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  • Octavian, “Better a safe commander than a bold.” (cf. Alexander the Great)

  • Octavian [Augustus] began 2 years younger than Alexander, but + 43 more years to live/rule; and accomplished as peacemaker and architect of the Roman Empire.

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  • On January 16, 27 B.C., Octavian became Imperator Augustus, thus, the first Emperor of the Roman Empire; but he preferred the title, Princep (which means First Citizen), thus, his reign was also called the Principate.

  • In 12 B.C., Augustus was also the Pontifex Maximus

  • In A.D. 14, Augustus died (age 76).

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  • Augustus must have some sterling qualities to win and keep the devoted loyalty of a number of friends: General Agippa (d. 12 B.C.) was his faithful friend for 32 years; Maecenas was his faithful friend for over 50 years; and both left their fortunes to Augustus.

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  • Augustus was conservative and old-fashioned (dressing traditional Roman toga, and reviving old ceremonies): “The man who does not wish to change the existing political order is a good man.” (cf. Metternich, “Change leads not to progress, not to salvation, but to perdition; if you change anything, you will upset everything”)

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  • Augustus was modest: he lived, dressed, and ate simply; and he had no palace (cf. Hadrian’s palaces and walls, etc.); but under his reign, the Roman Empire was in peace, stability, security, prosperity, and justice, thus, “Pax Romana”(= Roman Peace).

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  • Augustus was very strict to his daughter, Julia: spinning and weaving, and Augustus married her 3 times politically to (1) young Marcellus, then (2) old Agrippa; and finally (3) Tiberius (a military genius, who became his heir and successor).

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  • Augustus was in good terms with the Senate (cf. Julius Caesar), and returned the Senate from 900 (Julius Caesar) to 600 [deleting his enemies, and/or had already controlled the Senate].

  • The Age of Augustus: there were many great poets, such as Virgil, Horace, etc., and historians, such as Tacitus, Livy, etc.

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  • Conclusion:

  • Augustus’ greatest gift was his political tact. He evidently had a passion for efficiency, but he was careful not to offend public opinion by violent changes, but to work as far as possible within established forms.

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  • Augustus was determined to rule the Empire, but he disguised his absolute powers in constitutional wrappings, and this made them acceptable to the upper classes, and established a form of government, which proved more or less stable for about 2 centuries (cf. Julius Casasr).

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  • The Roman Empire after Augustus (d. A.D. 14)

  • Tiberius, r. 14-37 (Augustus’ daughter, Julia’s 3rd husband, & adopted son/heir)

  • Despite some relatively incompetent emperors, such as Nero, r. 54-68 and Caligula, etc., the Roman system (bureaucracy) was sturdy and strong, thus, enduring and lasting with unprecedented peace and prosperity.

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  • The Five Good Emperors (for 84 years, a series of good emperors, the best, the wisest, and the most statesmanlike that the world has ever seen, set upon the Roman Emperorship:

  • Nerva (r. 96-98)

  • Trajan (r. 98-117)

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  • Hadrian (r. 117-138) [Birley, Anthony. Hadrian: The Restless Emperor; always inspecting his governors, watching his troops at their exercises; always walking or riding but not on 4 wheeled vehicle; head without cover in German snow nor Egyptian sun; building the Hadrian Wall in Northumbria, Scotland, Britain for defending against the Celts; with double characters: dignified & playful, merciful & cruel, = both admiration and fear]

  • Antoninus Pius (r. 138-161)

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  • Marcus Aurelius (r. 161-180) [a stoic philosopher, a poet, and a warrior king; Meditations and Letters of Marcus Aurelius (Penguin Classics)]

  • The empire under the rule of Marcus Aurelius was vigorous, especially shown in the swift actions and determined will in waging wars against the barbarians. Nevertheless, to some historians, it was in Marcus Aurelius’ time that symptoms of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire were exposed. (cf. Qing China) With the continuous expansion of the Roman Empire, the bureaucracy and the military force were enlarged, and expenditure increased. It was in the reign of Marcus Aurelius that the problem of financial difficulty became evident.

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  • In 180, Marcus Aurelius chose his own incompetent son: Commodus, r. 180-192 to succeed his throne, starting a century of anarchy, assassination, military despotism, civil war, coup d’etat, and economic depression, etc.

  • “A man might be a general one day, emperor the next, and dead the third.”

  • The empire was especially chaotic, confusing, and uncertain between 235 and 285 (19 emperors in 50 years; except one, all died in battle or were assassinated [i.e., violent age; previously, Augustus = golden age, 5 Good Emperors = silver age; now = age of iron and rust]).

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  • The exception: the only emperor who died in peace [deathbed] was Septimus Severus, r. 193-211: man of strength and power, but could not understand the political traditions. He increased tax to fatten his treasuries and to appease his military troops. His dying words to his son was “Enrich the soldiers and scorn the world.” (characteristic of his reign and his times).

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  • Anarchy until Diocletian, r. 284-305, Dominus et Deus (Lord and God), thus, the age of Dominate (in English). He reformed with harsh measures, suppressing inflation, etc.

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  • Constantine, r. 306-337

  • 312, Battle of the Milvian Bridge; Edict of Milan (legalizing Christianity).

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  • Symptoms of decline with internal and external problems

  • The first signs of stress: 3rd century A.D., externally, the Huns attacked northern and eastern Europe, forcing the Germans threatening the Roman Empire; and internally, (1) economically: such as inflation [coinage not to be trusted: Marcus Aurelius had already lowered the standard silver coin, Septimus Severus further increased the base metal almost to 50%; by 3rd century, Roman coin was a copper piece coated thinly with silver only], drastic drop of productive population [according to official statistics], with plagues, famines, wars, and problems in taxation, robbers by land, pirates by sea [no more Pax Romana; (2) politically: anarchy, then, military autocracy; and (3) intellectually: no more Marcus Aurelius.

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  • On the whole, optimism was declining, and pessimism was increasing.

  • Christianity (legalized then, and organized) appealed to uneducated and educated Romans alike.

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