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The Augustan Principate. The End of Imperial Expansion. Prima Porta Statue.

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the augustan principate

The Augustan Principate

The End of Imperial Expansion


“Rome’s tradition of government, down to Julius Caesar, was characterized by distributed power and multiple sources of decision. That was never to return.”J.A. Crook, Cambridge Ancient History (10, 2nd ed. [1996] 113)

aftermath of the ides renewal of civil war liberators vs caesarians
Aftermath of the IdesRenewal of Civil War (Liberators vs. Caesarians)
  • Octavian, great-nephew/adopted son of Caesar; M. Antonius, consul for 44 BCE
  • “The Second Triumvirate”: November 43 BCE (Octavian, Antony, M. Lepidus)
  • Caesarians defeat Brutus and Cassius at Philippi in Macedonia (42 BCE)
  • Antony in East; Octavian in Italy
towards renewal of civil war
Towards Renewal of Civil War
  • Antony abandons Octavia for Cleopatra VII of Egypt
  • Retirement of Lepidus (37-36 BCE)
  • Antony divorces Octavia
  • Propaganda wars between Octavian and Antony (33-32 BCE)
  • Battle at Actium (31 BCE)
  • New Province of Egypt

The Battle

Of Actium

31 BCE



And Caesarion

Make offering

to goddess


(Temple to

Hathor at


the provinces of the roman empire

The Provinces of the Roman Empire

From Republic to Principate

constitutional arrangements from octavian to augustus
Constitutional ArrangementsFrom Octavian to Augustus
  • Octavian/Augustus (born 63 BCE)
  • Triumvir (with Antony and Lepidus) for restoring the Republic
  • Consul 31-23 BCE
  • The Settlement of 27 BCE
  • The Settlement of 23 BCE
settlement of 27 bce
Settlement of 27 BCE
  • Octavian returns control of state to the Roman Senate and Roman People
  • Ten-year imperium over super-province of Egypt, Gaul, Spain, and Syria
  • Dedicatory Shield voted by Senate (valor, clemency, justice, piety)
  • Title “Augustus”
settlement of 23 bce
Settlement of 23 BCE
  • Resignation of Consulship
  • Control over elections (commendatio)
  • Appointment of Generals in Senatorial Provinces
  • Appointment of Legates in “Imperial” Provinces
  • Imperium Maius Proconsulare (“powers greater than a proconsul’s”)
  • Tribunicia Potestas (“tribunician powers”)
beneficiaries of the pax romana
Beneficiaries of the Pax Romana
  • Roman plebs: “Bread and Circuses”
  • Senatorial aristocracy: Preservation of Republican trappings and traditional honors
  • Equestrian order: secure trade and markets empire-wide
  • Partisans and Supporters: successful careers and honors (Agrippa, Maecenas)
methods of control
Methods of Control
  • Legions: reduction from about 75 to 28
  • Personal appointment of generals
  • Aerarium militare (military pension fund) from CE 6
  • Urban Control in Rome
    • Praetorian Guard (9 cohorts: 3 billeted in city; remainder in nearby towns from 27 BCE; two praetorian prefects from 2 BCE)
ideology aurea aetas moral and social legislation in the golden age
Ideology: Aurea Aetas Moral and Social Legislation in the Golden Age
  • Julian laws on marriage
    • Punishes celibates and widowers who do not remarry: ineligibility for inheritances and legacies; prohibited from public games
    • Marriages between senators and freedwomen prohibited
    • Laws against adultery
    • Laws rewarding child rearing (ius trium liberorum)
  • Restrictions on slave manumissions
    • Lex Fufia Caninia (2 BCE); Lex Aelia Sentia (CE 4)
  • Ludi saeculares: Horace composes carmen saeculare for 17 BCE
princeps and pater patriae 2 bce

Princeps andPater Patriae (2 BCE)

Augustus as Super-Patron of Roman State


“When I held my thirteenth consulship [2 BCE], the Senate, the equestrian order, and the entire Roman people gave me the title of ‘father of the country’ and decreed that this title should be inscribed in the vestibule of my house, in the Julian Senate house, and in the Augustan forum on the pedestal of the chariot which was set up in my honor by decree of the Senate.”Augustus, Res Gestae, 35

conflicting viewpoints

Conflicting Viewpoints

Assessments of Augustus’ Reign


“In my sixth and seventh consulships [28 and 27 BCE], after I had put an end to the civil wars, having attained supreme power by universal consent, I transferred the state from my own power to the control of the Roman Senate and the people. For this service of mine I received the title of Augustus by decree of the Senate, and the doorposts of my house were publicly decorated with laurels, the civic crown was affixed over my doorway, and a golden shield was set up in the Julian Senate house, which, as the inscription on this shield testifies, the Roman Senate and people gave me in recognition of my valor, clemency, justice, and devotion. After that time I excelled all in authority, but I possessed no more power than the others who were my colleagues in each magistracy.”Augustus, Res Gestae, 34


“It was said… ‘that filial duty and state necessity were merely assumed as a mask. It was really from a lust of sovereignty that [Augustus] had excited the veterans by bribery, had, when a young man and a subject, raised an army, tampered with the consul’s legions, and feigned an attachment to the faction of Pompey….Citizens were proscribed, lands divided, without so much as the approval of those who executed the deeds. Even granting that the deaths of Cassius and the Brutii were sacrifices to the hereditary enmity…still Sextus Pompey had been deluded by the phantom of peace, and Lepidus by the mask of friendship. Subsequently, Antony had been lured on by the treaties of Tarentum and Brundisium, and by his marriage with the sister, and paid by his death the penalty of a treacherous alliance. No doubt there was peace after all this, but it was a peace stained with blood.”Tacitus, Annals, 1.10