A Conversation for Augustus - Roman Emperor (63 BC - 14 AD)

Enjoyed that

Post 1


I know it is difficult to select just the right balance of material, but I think you could have added:

- Something about Varus.
- Some family stuff: the deaths of Germanicus and Titus; disgrace of Julia.
- You mention his proconsular power, but you don't really discuss the true basis of his authority. The role of "emperor" is really a later invention and princeps doesn't mean that at all. Augustus's power rested on his tribunate and from something called, if I have it right, imperium proconsulare maius which was where his proconsular powers came from. In all honesty, I can't remember the distinction between the two as both rendered the holder inviolable, gave the right of veto and the right to enact capital punishment. But I remember them as distinct positions.

Enjoyed that

Post 2


Thanks for your comments, manolan. I'm glad you enjoyed it!smiley - smiley

Allow me to respond to your comments.

I'm but an amateur historian and so my knowledge isn't great, hence some possible gaps in the information. I pray you'll forgive me, though I could certainly see the point in the inclusion of the deaths of Germanicus and Titus and the disgrace of Julia. You'll find, though, that the death of Germanicus is discussed in more detail in my Claudius entry: I determined that it would have more relevance there because the two were brothers and Germanicus's death impacted Claudius considerably. It's difficult to know what to repeat and what not to throughout five entries.

My Latin dictionary gives 'princeps' as 'chief, leader, prince, emperor'. Whether or not it means 'emperor' in the sense of 'one who presides over an empire', the meaning of absolute power is clear. Surely that is what matters? It seems odd from the amateur's perspective not to call Augustus an emperor when he is considered the first of a line of Roman emperors - though I have to confess that the finer details of the Roman legal system have always eluded me.smiley - winkeye

Once again, thanks for reading!smiley - ok

Enjoyed that

Post 3

lovely fish

Your both so great~
Well I'm not familiar with Roman.
Could you tell me what does 'Varus¡¯ mean?

Enjoyed that

Post 4


Publius Quinctilius Varus was perhaps most famous as the leader of the three legions that were lost in battle against Germanic tribes under Augustus's reign.

There's more info here:

Enjoyed that

Post 5

lovely fish

It's very kind of you~~~~
Thank you !
Thank you so much!smiley - alesmiley - bubblysmiley - teasmiley - cakesmiley - choc

Enjoyed that

Post 6


Actually, I think I may be confusing myself with all Augustus's heirs apparent. I may have been thinking of Gaius and Julius. But then there's Marcellus, etc....

On the subject of the basis of Augustus's power, I am on firmer ground, though I wouldn't say I know all the facts.

The term princeps is short for Princeps Senatus and denotes the leader of the Senate. The princeps had the right to speak first and organised senate sessions. The reason your dictionary gives the sense "emperor" is that Emperors generally held this title and it came to be associated with the role. But you have to be careful about using a dictionary because it will give meanings that span all sorts of usages. I'm sure "augustus" would also have the sense "emperor", but it doesn't mean that either. I don't think the princeps had any other authority or power.

Augustus achieved absolute power by a very clever balancing act, as you said. He was offered the titles of dictator (a formal title in the Roman Republic and not quite what we use the term to mean now) and, I think, rex (king). But both of these would have been unpopular. In particular, dictator had been perverted by Sulla and Julius Caesar (look up references to Cincinnatus if you want to understand the behaviour expect of a dictator in the old Republic).

Instead, in the first settlement, he accepted Proconsular powers over the Western Empire and the titles of "Augustus" (venerable) and "Princeps". He retained the consulship and it was from this and the proconsular powers that his authority derived.

However, when he resigned the consulship, he retained consular power and it was this action that led to the second settlement. This was the one that established the role that we now call Emperor (it was NOT called that then). The word we most directly associate with Emperor is "imperator" and that really meant "commander".

In the second settlement, he accepted tribunician powers (powers similar to those of a tribune of the people - tribunus plebis - but since a patrician could not hold that position, they just gave him the powers: tribunicia potestas). These were very significant since they included personal inviolability, the right of intercession in the business of a magistrate (most Roman positions are "magistracies") and the right to put someone to death for interfering with the execution of his powers.

Reading up on this now, it would seem that he also acquired the powers of a "censor", but I don't remember that from my prevoius reading. The two most important of these were the right to supervise public morals and the right to determine the membership of the Senate. I had just assumed he did these two things by virtue of his other powers, but this makes more sense.

He also received "imperium" within the city, which meant that all troops in the City were under his authority.

Finally, he was granted "imperium proconsulare maius". This means he had authority over all the proconsuls. This gave him the right to interfere in any Roman privince.

Theoretically, all these powers derived from the Senate and Augustus was subservient to them, but that is his genius: he took absolute power without abolishing the structure that already existed.

Enjoyed that

Post 7


Thanks for that, manolan!smiley - applause

I did come across some of this in my reading, but decided to keep it small so that the entry would be understandable to the beginner.

Key: Complain about this post

More Conversations for Augustus - Roman Emperor (63 BC - 14 AD)

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more