Lecture 18: The Post-Augustan Julio-Claudian Emperors (14-41 CE).

Lecture 18, Thursday November 13th 2019

Julio-Claudian Emperors

Augustus 27 BCE – 14 CE
Tiberius 14 – 37 CE
Gaius ‘Caligula’ 37 – 41 CE
Claudius 41 – 54 CE
Nero 54 – 68 CE

Death of Augustus: 19 August 14 CE

Suetonius (Life of Augustus 99): …calling for a mirror, he had his hair combed and his falling jaws set straight. After that, calling in his friends and asking whether it seemed to them that he had played the comedy of life fitly, he added the tag:

“Since well I’ve played my part, all clap your hands
And from the stage dismiss me with applause.”

Then he sent them all off, and while he was asking some newcomers from the city about the daughter of Drusus, who was ill, he suddenly passed away as he was kissing Livia, uttering these last words: “Live mindful of our wedlock, Livia, and farewell,” thus blessed with an easy death and such a one as he had always longed for. For almost always on hearing that anyone had died swiftly and painlessly, he prayed that he and his might have a like euthanasia, for that was the term he was wont to use. He gave but one single sign of wandering before he breathed his last, calling out in sudden terror that forty men were carrying him off. And even this was rather a premonition than a delusion, since it was that very number of soldiers of the praetorian guard that carried him forth to lie in state. [100] He died in the same room as his father Octavius, in the consulship of two Sextuses, Pompeius and  Appuleius, on the fourteenth day before the Kalends of September at the ninth hour, just thirty-five days before his seventy-sixth birthday.

Murder of Augustus?

Tacitus* (Annales 1.5): …the illness of Augustus began to take a graver turn; and some suspected foul play on the part of his wife.

*Tacitus (c. 56 – 120 CE): senator and Roman historian. His Annales, published c. 110-120 CE (during reign of Trajan, 98 – 117 CE), examined the reigns of the Julio-Claudians up till death of Nero in 68 CE.

Dio Cassius (56.30): So Augustus fell sick and died. Livia incurred some suspicion in connexion with his death, in view of the fact that he had secretly sailed over to the  island to see Agrippa and seemed about to become completely reconciled with him.  For she was afraid, some say, that Augustus would bring him back to make him sovereign, and so smeared with poison some figs that were still on trees from which Augustus was used to gather the fruit with his own hands; then she ate those that had not been smeared, offering the poisoned ones to him At any rate, from this or some other cause he became ill, and sending for his associates, he told them all his wishes, adding finally: “I found Rome of clay; I leave it to you of marble.”  He did not thereby refer literally to the appearance of its buildings, but rather to the strength of the empire. And by asking them for their applause, after the manner of the comic actors, as if at the close of a mime, he ridiculed most tellingly the whole life of man.

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 11.37.45 AM.pngScreen Shot 2018-04-15 at 11.40.13 AMScreenshots of I, Claudius ep 4 “Poison is Queen”. Livia, played by Siân Phillips, contemplates the figs (38:38); Augustus, played by Brian Blessed, on his death bed looks at Livia (39:07).

Apotheosis of Augustus (14 CE)

Dio Cassius (56.42): Such was the eulogy read by Tiberius. Afterwards the same men as before took up the couch and carried it through the triumphal gateway, according to a decree of the senate. Present and taking part in the funeral procession were the senate and the  equestrian order, their wives, the praetorian guard, and practically all the others who were in the city at the time. When the body had been placed on the pyre in the Campus Martius, all the priests marched round it first; and then the knights, not only those belonging to the equestrian order but the others as well, and the infantry from the garrison ran round it; and they cast upon it all the triumphal decorations that any of them had ever received from him for any deed of valour.  Next the centurions took torches, conformably to a decree of the senate, and lighted the pyre from beneath. So it was consumed, and an eagle released from it flew aloft, appearing to bear his spirit to heaven. When these ceremonies had been performed, all the other people departed; but Livia remained on the spot for five days in company with the most prominent knights, and then gathered up his bones and placed them in his tomb…[46] At the time they declared Augustus immortal, assigned to him priests and sacred rites, and made Livia, who was already called Julia and Augusta, his priestess; they also permitted her to employ a lictor when she exercised her sacred office. On her part, she bestowed a million sesterces upon a certain Numerius Atticus, a senator and ex-praetor, because he swore that he had seen Augustus ascending to heaven after the manner of which tradition tells concerning Proculus and Romulus [see lecture 3 for apotheosis of Romulus].  A shrine voted by the senate and built by Livia and Tiberius was erected to the dead emperor in Rome, and others in many different places, some of the communities voluntarily building them and others unwillingly. Also the house at Nola where he passed away was dedicated to him as a precinct. While his shrine was being erected in Rome, they placed a golden image of him on a couch in the temple of Mars Ultor, and to this they paid all the honours that they were afterwards to give to his statue.

Imperial succession


The Gemma Augustea (‘Augustan gem-stone’) depicts the transfer of power from Augustus to Tiberius in 14 CE. Early 1st c. CE. Carved from a piece of onyx, 7½ x 9 inches. Below: erection of a trophy by Roman soldiers; bottom left and bottom right: human captives, slaves of war. Representation of the erection of a trophy for Tiberius in 12 CE in victory over the Germans. This motif was represented again and again on public and private monuments, stressing military strength. Above: crowning of Augustus, in the guise of Jupiter (eagle at his feet). Roma sits next to him. Between Augustus and Roma, sign of zodiac, Capricorn; referring (?) to the date he was called Augustus (Jan. 16 27 BCE). Upper left: Tiberius arrives on a chariot, already designated as next emperor. Image: James Steakley (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia. Watch this short video (4 mins) from the Getty Villa which shows how ancient craftsmen carved gemstones.

Ramage & Ramage (2015: 145): “The gem, slightly trimmed since antiquity and remounted in a modern setting, was cut from a piece that had two veins: a dark bluish colour below and white on the upper layer. By controlling the depth of carving, the artist cut the figures out of a white vein, and removed the stone down to the blue layer to make the background.”

Tiberius: Rome’s dark prince (14 – 37 CE)

CL 102 Spring 2018-career of Tiberius[CL 102 Spring 2018-career of Tiberius printable pdf]

Tiberius’ voluntary exile to Rhodes (6 BCE – 2 CE)

Suetonius (Life of Tiberius 10, 13): …though in the prime of life and health, he suddenly decided to go into retirement and to withdraw as far as possible from the centre of the stage; perhaps from disgust at his wife, whom he dared neither accuse nor put away, though he could no longer endure her; or perhaps, avoiding the contempt born of familiarity, to keep up his prestige by absence, or even add to it, in case his country should ever need him. Some think that, since the children of Augustus were now of age, he voluntarily gave up the position and the virtual assumption of the second rank which he had long held, thus following the example of Marcus Agrippa [see Suet. Aug. 66], who withdrew to Mytilene when Marcellus began his public career, so that he might not seem either to oppose or belittle him by his presence. This was, in fact, the reason which Tiberius himself gave, but afterwards. At the time he asked for leave of absence on the ground of weariness of office and a desire to rest; and he would not give way either to his mother’s urgent entreaties or to the complaint which his step-father openly made in the senate, that he was being forsaken. [13]…With Augustus’ consent therefore Tiberius was recalled, but on the understanding that he should take no part or active interest in public affairs.

Tiberius becomes emperor (14 CE)

Suetonius (Life of Tiberius 24): Though Tiberius did not hesitate at once to assume and to exercise the imperial authority, surrounding himself with a guard of soldiers, that is, with the actual power and the outward sign of sovereignty, yet he refused the title for a long time, with barefaced hypocrisy now upbraiding his friends who urged him to accept it, saying that they did not realise what a monster the empire was, and now by evasive answers and calculating hesitancy keeping  the senators in suspense when they implored him to yield, and fell at his feet. Finally, some lost patience, and one man cried out in the confusion: “Let him take it or leave it.” Another openly voiced the taunt that others were slow in doing what they promised, but that he was slow to promise what he was already doing. At last, as though on compulsion, and complaining that a wretched and burdensome slavery was being forced upon him, he accepted the empire, but in such fashion as to suggest the hope that he would one day lay it down. His own words are: “Until I come to the time when it may seem right to you to grant an old man some repose.”

  • 14 CE: two mutinies by Roman legions stationed on the Rhine and Danube (Tac. Ann. 1.16-23), put down by Drusus (bio son) and Germanicus (adopted son)
  • 15-16 CE: campaigns in Germania by Germanicus inconclusive and expensive
  • 16 CE: conspiracy against Tiberius by M. Scribonius Drusus Libo = first treason trial conducted by the senate; Tacitus describes it at length (Annales 2.27-32) to demonstrate an evil that would dominate political life
  • 17-24 CE: revolts in Africa under Tacfarinas
  • 21 CE: revolt of Gallic Treveri and Aedui who were in heavy debt
  • 19 CE: death of Germanicus in Syria — suspicion that he had been poisoned by Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso (gov. of Syria; cos. with Tiberius in 7 BCE) by Tiberius’ command so that Tiberius’ bio son, Drusus, could be emperor; extraordinary funeral honours granted to Germanicus by senate (Tacitus, Annales 2.83)

The trial of Piso de maiestate (20 CE)

Beth Severy (2000: 319): “Tacitus provides in the Annales the specific historical background. Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, appointed governor of Syria by Tiberius in 17 CE, quarreled with Tiberius’ adopted son Germanicus, who had been given supervisory command of Roman forces in the east (Ann. 2.43, 2.55, 2.57, 2.69). When Piso was replaced as governor, he briefly left his province, only to return in armed conflict against his gubernatorial successor (2.74.2, 2.80-81). At about the same time, in 19 CE, Germanicus died, and rumors accused Piso of poisoning him (2.69-71, 2.73.5-6). The death of an imperial heir, the procession of his widow [Agrippina] and children to Rome (2.75), an outbreak of armed civil conflict, and ongoing rumors created quite a public stir (2.82; cf. Suet. Calig. 5).”

Tacitus (Annales 2.69): After this, Piso left for Seleucia, awaiting the outcome of the sickness which had again attacked Germanicus. The cruel virulence of the disease was intensified by the patient’s belief that Piso had given him poison; and it is a fact that explorations in the floor and walls brought to light the remains of human bodies, spells, curses, leaden tablets engraved with the name GERMANICUS, charred and blood-smeared ashes, and others of the implements of witchcraft by which it is believed the living soul can be devoted to the powers of the grave. At the same time, emissaries from Piso were accused of keeping a too inquisitive watch upon the ravages of the disease.

An example of a Roman lead curse tablet (1st c. BCE) now in the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum. Curses could be inscribed on almost any material, but lead is the most common. The tablet (left: JHUAM 2011.01) was rolled together with four others and pierced through with an iron nail (right: JHUAM 2011.06). A Latin name for a curse is defixio which means ‘to pin down’. For more details, see Johns Hopkins. Image: Johns Hopkins. 130 curse tablets have been found at Bath (England).

Definition of maiestas (Oxford Classical Dictionary): “maiestas: used as an abbreviation for the crime maiestas minuta populi Romani, ‘the diminution of the majesty of the Roman people’…By Tiberius’ reign prosecutions for maiestas might be brought before not only the quaestio maiestatis (see quaestiones) but either the senate, sitting under the presidency of the emperor or consuls, or the emperor himself (Tacitus Annales 3. 10–12). Condemned persons were increasingly liable to the death sentence with no opportunity given to retire into exile; their property was confiscated for the imperial state treasury and their names were obliterated from public record (damnatio memoriae). Since it was even permitted to prosecute those who were dead, one could not be sure of escaping the last two consequences by committing suicide…Information was laid and prosecutions brought by individuals (senators, where the senate was the court used). Certain men came to make a profession of this, being rewarded with at least a quarter of the accused man’s property, if they secured condemnation, and were labelled delatores. Charges of maiestas were increasingly frequent under Tiberius and after 23 CE disfigured his reign.”

s c de pisone patre.jpgSenatus consultum de Cn. Pisone patre. Bronze tablet inscribed with the decree of the senate condemning Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso (December 10th 20 CE). Piso had been accused of the murder by poisoning of Germanicus and of maiestas and took his own life on 8 December 20 CE. CIL II², 5, n. 900. Found near Seville, Spain. Six copies of these transcripts have been found in southern Spain in recent years. We also have the Tabula Hebana (found in Italy, 1947) and Tabula Siarensis (found in 1982, Spain) containing decrees enumerating honours for Germanicus. The trial of Piso is dramatized by the historian, Tacitus (Ann. 3.11-18). Image: The Roman Law Library, by Y. Lassard & A. Koptev. For the Latin and English of this text, see Potter-Damon 1999.

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 6.08.35 PM.pngScreenshots of I, Claudius ep 5 “Some Justice”. Sejanus, played by Patrick Stewart, confronts Piso (30:33).

The rise and fall of Sejanus (23-31 CE)

  • Lucius Aelius Sejanus: an equestrian with family ties to prefects of Egypt and consuls, became commander of the praetorian guard by 15 CE
  • 23 CE: concentrated the praetorian guard in barracks at the porta Viminalis, Rome; brought together into the same camp all of the urban cohorts which had previously been dispersed througout the city
  • 23 CE: after the death of Tiberius’ son, Drusus (by Sejanus’ poison: Tac. Ann. 4.8; Dio Cassius 57.22), Sejanus gained great influence with Tiberius, who was so attached to him that he referred to him publicly as the “partner” of his toils (socius laborum, Tac. Ann. 4.2)
  • 25 CE: Sejanus asked to marry the widow of Tiberius’ son (Drusus), Livilla; Tiberius refused because of Sejanus’ low birth (Tac. Ann. 4.3, 4.8-11; Dio Cassius 57.22.2)
  • 26 CE: Tiberius retires to Campania, shutting himself away on the island of Capri, which he would virtually never leave again 
  • 29 CE: Sejanus arranged for the exile of Agrippina (the elder — daughter of Julia + Agrippa; widow of Germanicus) and her children; she starved to death in 33 CE on the island of Pandateria — she was survived by one son, the future emperor Gaius ‘Caligula’; and three daughters: Agrippina the younger, Julia Drusilla, Julia Livilla
  • 31 CE: Sejanus is appointed consul with Tiberius. Tiberius, from Capri, brings about Sejanus’ downfall. In Tiberius’ autobiography (Suet. Tib. 61), he claims that he punished Sejanus for plotting against children of Germanicus. Dio Cassius (58.4) says that Tiberius realized Sejanus could declare himself emperor at any moment. Sejanus is executed, as are his followers, and his young children. Sejanus suffers a damnatio memoriae (Varner 2004: 92)

Capri.netView from the ruins of Tiberius’ villa (Villa Iovis) on modern Capri, an island off the south side of the Gulf of Naples in the Campanian region of Italy. Image: capri.net.

Retreat from public life

  • 31-37 CE: Tiberius governs from Capri, encouraging the practices of informers (delatores) in maiestas cases — many maiestas trials take place
  • Tiberius dies March 37 CE at Misenum. He is not deified, but cremated and placed in the Mausoleum (Suet. Gaius 13). There is no clear plan for succession.


Marble portrait bust of Caligula with paint residue (left), 1st c. CE. Plaster replica (right) trying to reconstruct ancient paint. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen. Image: public domain via Wikimedia.

Rise of Emperor Gaius ‘Caligula’ (37-41 CE)

Suetonius (Life of Gaius 9): His surname Caligula* he derived from a joke of the troops, because he was brought up in their  midst in the dress of a common soldier. To what extent besides he won their love and devotion by being reared in fellowship with them is especially evident from the fact that when they threatened mutiny after the death of Augustus and were ready for any act of madness, the mere sight of Gaius unquestionably calmed them.

*Caligula = “Little Boots” (though singular in number, i.e. “little boot”). Caliga = half-boot worn by soldiers.

  • Caligula = son of Agrippina the elder + Germanicus; since Agrippina was granddaughter of Augustus + Germanicus son of Antonia the younger, Caligula was related by blood to both Augustus + Mark Antony
  • Suetonius (Gaius 51) attributes his behaviour to mental illness: “He was sound neither of body nor mind” (Suet. Gaius 50).
  • Caligula made his horse a priest (Dio Cassius 59.28.6); Suetonius (Gaius 55) tells us that this horse was called “Swifty” (Incitatus), that Caligula built Swifty a house, gave him slaves, and planned to make him consul
  • Tiberius “Gemellus“, son of Drusus (Tiberius’ son) was in Tiberius’ will made heir jointly with Caligula. The senate annulled the will, Caligula adopted Tiberius Gemellus and had him hailed as princeps iuuentutis (Suet. Gaius 15), but Caligula had him killed in the first year of his reign
  • Caligula drew up a battle line on the shore of the English Channel, ‘and when no one knew or could imagine what he was going to do, he suddenly bade them gather sea-shells and fill their helmets and the folds of their gowns, calling them “spoils from the Ocean, due to the Capitol and Palatine.”‘ (Suet. Gaius 46)
  • According to Suetonius (Gaius 24), “he lived in habitual incest with all his sisters”, especially Drusilla

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Screenshots of I, Claudius ep 8 “Zeus, by Jove!”. Caligula, played by John Hurt (aka Ollivander in Harry Potter films), prepares to remove the fetus from the womb of Drusilla, played by Beth Morris (48:23; 48:33). Mary Beard on this scene: “the most shockingly memorable scene of the whole series is the appearance of Caligula’s bloody face in full screen – having just (off screen!) ripped the foetus of his own child out of his pregnant sister’s body and eaten it, in imitation of the god Jupiter, who in Roman myth had done much the same. This incident was a complete figment of the screenwriter’s imagination, but it captures horribly well the image of this ghastly emperor.”

Assassination (January 24, 41 CE)

Suetonius (Life of Gaius 58): From this point there are two versions of the story: some say that as he was talking with the boys, Chaerea came up behind, and gave him a deep cut in the neck, having first cried, “Take that,” and that then the tribune Cornelius Sabinus, who was the other conspirator and faced Gaius, stabbed him in the breast. Others say that Sabinus, after getting rid of the crowd through centurions who were in the plot, asked for the watchword, as soldiers do, and that when Gaius gave him “Jupiter,” he cried “So be it,” and as Gaius looked around, he split his jawbone with a blow of his sword.  As he lay upon the ground and with writhing limbs called out that he still lived, the others dispatched him with thirty wounds; for the general signal was “Strike again.”

Further reading: 


Lecture 17: The Augustan family.

Lecture 17, Tuesday 12th November 2019

Picking up from Lecture 13.

Via Labicana Augustus (after 12 BCE)

Marble statue of veiled Augustus as pontifex maximus, from the Via Labicana, Rome. 1st c. CE.  Augustus became pontifex maximus in 12 BCE (Augustus, Res Gestae 10). Images: public domain via wikimedia.

Ramage & Ramage (2015: 126): “Whenever a Roman is shown with his toga drawn over his head, it signifies that he is represented in the role of a priest. In this case, Augustus is shown as the pontifex maximus, the most important priest, a position held for life. This had been an elected post in the Republic, but under his rule, and henceforth, it was a position taken on by the emperor, and it became a standard part of his titles. Eventually, in the 5th century CE, the title passed to the popes.”

The Ara Pacis (13-9 BCE)

Ara_Pacis_(SW).jpgThe Ara Pacis Augustae — “Altar of Augustan Peace” — in its modern setting in the Museo dell’Ara Pacis in Rome designed by the American architect Richard Meier. The altar, made of Carrara/Luna marble, was erected in the northern Campus Martius, voted in 4th July 13 BCE by the senate (according to Augustus’ Res Gestae 12) to commemorate his safe return from Gaul and Spain, and dedicated 30th January 9 BCE, the birthday of Augustus’ wife, Livia (Ovid Fasti 1.709-722). An acanthus frieze binds the whole design in unity. Image: “Rabax63” (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Wikimedia.

ara pacis plan.jpgAerial plan of the Ara Pacis. Text overlay by Čulík-Baird based on Pollini ap. Tuck 2016: 121; base image: “Augusta 89” (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia.


Detail of frieze on the east side of Ara Pacis. A seated female figure, variously interpreted as Mother Earth (tellus), Peace (pax), Venus, Ceres, or Italy, with two babies in her lap. Sheep and cow rest beneath her. Representations of fresh water, air, and sea (indicated by tipped over water jug left, billowing drapery, and waves at right). Image: Manfred Hedye (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia.

Ara_Pacis_Aeneas-Numa_(14727962756)Detail of frieze on the west side of the Ara Pacis. Numa Pompilius or Aeneas sacrificing a sow. The white sow with 30 piglets is a sign that shows Aeneas that he has found the site of Rome in Vergil’s Aeneid 8. A small shrine in the rocky hill in the background with two seated male divinities. Numa/Aeneas wears a Greek cloak (himation) drawn over his head like a toga to indicate him acting as a priest; two wreathed youths assist him in the sacrifice. Image: “Amphipolis” (CC-BY-SA-2.0) via Wikimedia.

Ara_Pacis_relieve_Roma_01Detail of frieze on the south side of the Ara Pacis, showing individuals believed to be Agrippa, Livia, and Tiberius. Strong visual connection to the 5th c. BCE Parthenon frieze at Athens. Unlike the so-called Altar of Ahenobarbus, this relief shows women and children. Image: Miguel Hermoso Cuesta (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia.

“I Colori dell’Ara Pacis”, published by Musei in Comune Roma 2010. Colour reconstructions are projected onto the surface of the Ara Pacis.

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3D model of the Ara Pacis by Matthew Brennan.

Livia, wife of Augustus (b. 58 BCE, d. 29 CE)

  • Octavian marries Livia in 38 BCE while she’s 6 months pregnant with Nero Drusus, the second child of Tiberius Claudius Nero (d. 33 BCE), whom Octavian made divorce Livia. They never have a biological child together. 

Suetonius (Life of Augustus 62-63): “…he took to wife Mark Antony’s stepdaughter Claudia, daughter of Fulvia by Publius Clodius, although she was barely of marriageable age; but because of a falling out with his mother-in‑law Fulvia, he divorced her before they had begun to live together. Shortly after that he married Scribonia, who had been wedded before to two ex-consuls, and was a mother by one of them. He divorced her also, “unable to put up with her shrewish disposition,” as he himself writes, and at once took Livia Drusilla from her husband Tiberius Nero, although she was with child at the time; and he loved and esteemed her to the end without a rival. [63] By Scribonia he had a daughter Julia, by Livia no children at all, although he earnestly desired issue. One baby was conceived, but was prematurely born.”

Dio Cassius (48.34): “he was already beginning to be enamoured of Livia also, and for this reason divorced Scribonia the very day she bore him a daughter.”

Dio Cassius (48.43-44): Caesar married Livia. [44] She was the daughter of Livius Drusus, who had been among those proscribed on the tablet and had committed suicide after the defeat in Macedonia, and the wife of Nero, whom she had accompanied in his flight, as has been related. And it seems that she was in the sixth month with child by him. At any rate, when Caesar was in doubt and enquired of the pontifices whether it was permissible to wed her while pregnant, they answered that if there was any doubt whether conception had taken place the marriage should be put off, but if this was admitted, there was nothing to prevent its taking place immediately. Perhaps they really found this among the ordinances of the forefathers, but certainly they would have said so, even had they not found it. Her husband himself gave the woman in marriage just as a father would… Later, when the woman was now living with Caesar, she gave birth to Claudius Drusus Nero. Caesar both acknowledged him and sent him to his real father, making his entry in his memoranda: “Caesar returned to its father Nero the child borne by Livia, his wife.” Nero died not long afterward and left Caesar himself as guardian to the boy and to Tiberius. Now the populace gossiped a great deal about this and said, among other things, “The lucky have children in three months”; and this saying passed into a proverb.

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Portraits of Livia. 1) mid to late 30s BCE, marble. Livia is represented with “a new coiffure with no precursors in the ancient world — the nodus hairstyle — in which a section of hair is arranged in a nodus or roll over the forehead. The rest of the hair is brushed back in loose waves over the ears and fastened in a bun at the back of the head” (Diana Kleiner I, Claudia 1996: 53). Image: Baltimore, Walters Art Gallery. 2) onyx cameo, height: 2.5 inches. Late 1st c. BCE/1st c. CE. Image: Rijksmuseum. 3) early 1st c. CE, marble. Arsinoe, Egypt. Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek, Copenhagen. Image: Flickr. 4) Livia on the south wall of the Ara Pacis, which mirrors the image of Tellus/Pax. 5) Siân Phillips as Livia in the 1976 BBC television adaptation of I, Claudius.

Diana Kleiner (I, Claudia 1996: 53): “In these portraits, Livia is depicted as a serene beauty with almond-shaped eyes and a small rounded mouth. Her prominent aquiline nose is also accentuated. There is in these portraits little indication, even in Livia’s later years, of the aging process. This was in keeping with the Augustan ideal of an eternal youthfulness for portraiture of men and women that was based on the images of youthful male athletes and goddesses.”

  • Livia was called princeps femina — “the female princeps” by Ovid (Letters from the Black Sea 3.1.125)
  • from 35 BCE, Livia (and Octavia) received sacrosanctitas (inviolability) — gave the women independence, the ability to act without a male guardian, and the protection as though of public office (Dio Cassius 49.38.1)
  • Livia occupied a special place in the theater as though she were a Vestal Virgin (Tac. Ann. 4.16) and was granted a ceremonial carriage (carpentum)
  • 9 BCE on death of son Drusus she was granted right of ius trium liberorum, rights given to mother of at least three children (Dio Cassius 55.2.5-6)
  • as priestess of the deified Augustus (after his death), she was given a lictor (special attendants of magistrates with imperium) — Dio Cassius 56.46.1-2
  • named mater patriae — “mother of the country” at her death (Dio Cassius 58.2.3); Augustus had been called pater patriae in 2 BCE (Suet. Aug. 58); she was deified in 41 CE

Augustus: man or god?

30 BCE: Octavian’s name inserted into the hymn of the Salii (Augustus, Res Gestae 10

30 BCE: libations are made to his genius at public and private banquets by senatorial decree (Dio Cassius 51.19.7)

30 BCE: Octavian appears as Pharoah in Egypt. Temple of Dendur to Isis, Osiris, Pediese, Pihor (15 BCE) which is now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, shows Augustus in the traditional iconography of Egyptian Pharoah. Augustus is depicted making offerings to Isis, Osiris, Horus.

30/29 BCE: in response to requests from Greek cities, Octavian agrees that Roman citizens will worship the Goddess Rome (Dea Roma) and the deified Caesar; the Greeks will worship Octavian and Rome at Pergamum, Nicomedia, Ephesus, Nicaea (Dio Cassius 51.20.6-8)

28 BCE: Temple of Apollo on the Palatine (Suet. Aug. 29.1), attached to his house (Suet. Aug. 29.3) — in its portico there was a statue of Octavian; cf. many explicit connections between Augustus and Apollo: dinner party of the 12 gods where Aug. dressed up as Apollo (Suet. Aug. 70)

27 BCE: Mytilene (Greek island of Lesbos) votes a whole series of honours for Augustus: temple, priests, games, statues, monthly sacrifices on the day of Augustus’ birth — decrees announcing all this set up at Rome and all around the mediterranean, at Pergamum, Actium, Brundisium, Tarraco, Massilia, and Antioch in Syria (IGR IV 39, see Zanker 1990: 304)

26-25 BCE: altar to Augustus at Tarraco (Tarragona), Spain (Zanker 1990: 304); a palm tree miraculously grew from this altar (Quintilian 6.3.77); a temple to Augustus was built there in 15 CE after his death (Tacitus Annales 1.78)

12 BCE: Pledge by Drusus (Aug.’s stepson) of an altar at Lugdunum (Lyon) to Rome and Augustus; consecrated 10 BCE (Dio Cassius 54.32.1, Livy Per. 139)

8 BCE: the Roman month ‘Sextilis’ is renamed ‘Augustus’ because this is the month in which he made his greatest victories (Suet. Aug. 31.2, Dio Cassius 55.6.6)

2 BCE: evidence of the flamines Augustales (‘priests of Augustus’) appear in inscriptions

Dendur 15 BCE.jpg

Temple of Dendur to Isis, Osiris, Pediese, Pihor (15 BCE) which is now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, shows Augustus in the traditional iconography of Egyptian Pharoah. Augustus is depicted making offerings to Isis, Osiris, Horus. Image: Metropolitan Museum in New York.

R.6294 Lugdunum

Dupondius (copper alloy coin), 12-14 CE. RIC I (2) Augustus 237. Obverse (left): head of Tiberius, laureate. Text: TI.CAESAR.AVGVST.F.IMPERAT.VII. Reverse (right): front of the Altar of Lugdunum decorated with the corona civica between two laurels, flanked by nude male figures. Victories on columns, facing each other. On the altar itself two shrines for Roma and Augustus; alongside, perhaps, busts of the imperial family. This coin type was minted in large quantities for an unusually long time. Image: British Museum.

Problems in the family

CL 102 Spring 2018-Augustus' heirs.jpg

[CL 102 Spring 2018 Augustus’ heirs printable pdf] 

1024px-MaisonCarrée.jpegThe Maison Carrée, a limestone temple in ancient Nemausus, modern Nîmes, begun late 1st c. BCE. Image: public domain via Wikimedia.  

Ramage & Ramage (2015: 116): “It was begun in the late first century BCE. The inscription across the front dedicates the building to Augustus’ grandsons, Gaius and Lucius Caesar, called the ‘princes of youth.’ The letters are gone but Jean François Séguier, an 18th-century scholar reconstructed the words from the holes where the pins to hold the bronze letters had been inserted. It is today one of the best surviving Roman buildings anywhere, and has been highly influential on later architecture. Once again we find the Etruscan tradition in the high podium, frontal stairs, front porch, and engaged columns on the sides and back. Here the capitals are Corinthian.”

Julia and Julia

  • Augustus’ marriage laws (18 BCE + 9 CE) criminalized adultery
  • Julia the Elder (daughter of Augustus) in 2 BCE was charged with multiple adulteries and sent into exile (Velleius Paterculus 2.100.3; Pliny NH 7.149) — Velleius gives a list of five adulterers, all with noble Republican names, including Iullus Antonius (son of Mark Antony); Julia was initially sent to the island of Pandateria (Tacitus Annales 1.53, Dio Cassius 55.10.14)
  • Julia the Younger (daughter of Julia) was also exiled for adultery in 8 CE, suspected of an affair with D. Silanus (Tacitus Annales 3.24.5); Augustus refused to allow Julia’s child, born in exile, to be raised (Suet. Aug. 65). The poet, Ovid, who was also exiled in 8 CE, writes that it was because of carmen (poem) and error (a mistake), Tristia 2.207. Tristia 2.103ff. claims he saw something unwittingly.

Suetonius (Life of Augustus 65): But at the height of his happiness and his confidence in his family and its training, fortune proved fickle. He found the two Julias, his daughter and granddaughter, guilty of every form of vice, and banished them. He lost Gaius and Lucius within the span of eighteen months, for the former died in Lycia and the latter at Massilia. He then publicly adopted his third grandson Agrippa and at the same time his stepson Tiberius by a bill passed in the assembly of the curiae; but he soon disowned Agrippa because of his low tastes and violent temper, and sent him off to Surrentum. He bore the death of his kin with far more resignation than their misconduct. For he was not greatly broken by the fate of Gaius and Lucius, but he informed the senate of his daughter’s fall through a letter read in his absence by a quaestor, and for very shame would meet no one for a long time, and even thought of putting her to death. At all events, when one of her confidantes, a freedwoman called Phoebe, hanged herself at about that same time, he said: “I would rather have been Phoebe’s father.” After Julia was banished, he denied her the use of wine and every form of luxury, and would not allow any man, bond or free, to come near her without his permission, and then not without being informed of his stature, complexion, and even of any marks or scars upon his body. It was not until five years later that he moved her from the island to the mainland and treated her with somewhat less rigour. But he could not by any means be prevailed on to recall her altogether, and when the Roman people several times interceded for her and urgently pressed their suit, he in open assembly called upon the gods to curse them with like daughters and like wives. He would not allow the child born to his granddaughter Julia after her sentence to be recognized or reared. As Agrippa grew no more manageable, but on the contrary became madder from day to day, he transferred him to an island and set a guard of soldiers over him besides. He also provided by a decree of  the senate that he should be confined there for all time, and at every mention of him and of the Julias he would sigh deeply and even cry out: Would that I ne’er had wedded and would I had died without offspring”* and he never alluded to them except as his three boils and his three ulcers.

*adaptation of Homer, Iliad 3.40, where Hector says to Paris that it would have been better if Paris had never been born or had died unmarried

Suetonius (Life of Augustus 101): He gave orders that his daughter and his granddaughter Julia should not be put in his Mausoleum, if anything befell them.

Macrobius (Saturnalia 2.5.9): Julia the elder — “I never take on a passenger unless the ship is full” (trans. A. Richlin)

Further Reading:

  • Amy Richlin (2014) “Julia’s Jokes, Galla Placidia, and the Roman Use of Women as Political Icons,” in Arguments with Silence: Writing the History of Roman Women. pp 81-109. Available online via BU library.
  • Diana Kleiner (1996) “Imperial Women as Patrons of the Arts in the Early Empire,” in I, Claudia. Women in Ancient Rome. pp28-41. [Mugar library: N5763 .I25 1996]
  • Gwynaeth McIntyre (2016) A Family of Gods: The Worship of the Imperial Family in the Latin West. Available online via jstor.

Lecture 16: Vergil Aeneid. 9-12.

Lecture 16, Thursday 7th November 2019

Look out for the following motifs/symbols: FLAME/FIRE, FURY, GOLD, WOUND, SNAKE. How do these motifs signal the dark side of empire?

Synopsis of Vergil’s Aeneid Books 6-9 from Williams (1996):

Book 9. In the absence of Aeneas, Turnus the Rutulian achieves great deeds. The sally from the Trojan camp by Nisus and Euryalus ends in their death, and Turnus breaks into the Trojan camp, but in his pride and self-confidence fails to open the gates for his forces to join him, and escapes by jumping into the Tiber.”

Book 10. Aeneas returns with Pallas and the fighting continues. Turnus seeks out Pallas and kills him, arrogantly boasting over him and stripping off his sword-belt. Aeneas in violent anger and guilt rages over the battlefield, and kills many of his opponents, including Lausus, young son of Mezentius, and Mezentius himself.

Book 11. The funeral for Pallas is described; a truce is made for burial of the dead, but shortly the fighting is resumed, and the heroic deeds and death of the Italian warrior-maiden Camilla are described.

Book 12. A single combat is arranged between Turnus and Aeneas; but the truce is broken and Aeneas is wounded. The scene shifts to Olympus where the discord is settled on the divine plane when Juno accepts defeat on condition that the Italians shall be the dominant partners in the Trojan-Italian stock from which the Romans will be born. Aeneas pursues Turnus as Achilles had pursued Hector, and wounds him. Turnus begs for mercy, but Aeneas, seeing the sword-belt of Pallas on Turnus’ shoulder, kills him in vengeance.”


Aeneid Book 9:

9.1-76: Juno sends Iris to tell Turnus to make war. Turnus sets fire to the Trojan fleet.

9.77-122: Trojan ships, made from pine trees sacred to Cybele, are turned into nymphs.

9.154: “They won’t mistake us for the Greeks.”

9.182: The love of Nisus and Euryalus: “Love bound those two; they dashed to war together.”

9.314-449: Nisus and Euryalus (from book 5) fight the Latins brutally, and are themselves killed.

9.450-502: The Latins carry the heads of Nisus and Euryalus impaled on spears. Euryalus’ mother learns about the death of her son.

9.431-437: “He spoke, but couldn’t stop a spear from ramming
Through Euryalus’ ribs and splitting his white chest.
Dying, he thrashed. His lovely limbs and shoulders
Poured streams of blood; his neck sank limply down,
Like a purple flower severed by the plow;
He fainted into death, like a poppy bending
Its weary neck when rain weighs down its head.”

— simile based on Homer Iliad 8.306f. and Catullus 11.21f.: “Let her no more, as once look for my passion, | which through her fault lies fallen like some flower at the field’s edge, after the passing ploughshare’s | cut a path through it.”

9.444-449: “He was stabbed through and through and hurled himself
On his dead friend, to find his rest and peace.
Lucky pair! If my song has any power,
You’ll never be forgotten, while the children
Of Aeneas live below the steadfast rock
Of the Capitol, and a Roman father reigns.”

9.465-467: “And — piteous sight — they even raised the heads
Of Nisus and Euryalus on spear ends,
and marched behind them, shouting.”

9.503-89: Full-scale attack on Trojan camp. Invocation of muse (9.575: Calliope, muse of epic poetry) for telling the slaughters of Turnus.

9.590-671: Ascanius kills a boasting warrior with an arrow. Apollo appears to Ascanius, tells him he must stop fighting.

9.672-818: The Trojan camp is breached. Turnus is closed into the Trojan camp. Instead of opening the gate, Turnus focuses on his own personal glory. Turnus jumps into the Tiber, rejoining his army.

Aeneid 10:

10.1-117: Mount Olympus. Jupiter wants to end the conflict. Venus and Juno each make their case.

10.11-13: Jupiter —  “The time will come for battle. Don’t invoke it.
Wild Carthage will one day send devastation
Through shattered Alps against the Roman walls.”

10.96-117: Jupiter refuses to take a side. The fates will find a way.

10.146-307: Return of Aeneas, accompanied by Etruscan forces, led by Tarchon, and Evander’s son, Pallas. 10.163-213: Invocation of muses for catalogue of Etruscan allies.

10.160-162: “…Close at his left side
Pallas asked about the stars, guides of that dim voyage,
And Aeneas’ sufferings on land and sea.”

10.215-259: Aeneas encounters the nymphs that were once ships.

10.260-286: Aeneas lifts his shield high and Trojans shout in joy. Light flashes from his shield like a comet or Sirius, the dog-star.

10.308-361: Battle begins. Both sides see success.

10.362-438: Pallas kills the enemy. Lausus and Pallas are kept from each other by fate.

10.439-509: Turnus and Pallas fight in single combat. Pallas is killed. Turnus takes the armour. Vergil predicts Turnus’ regret.

10.510-605: Aeneas’ rage, violence, ruthfulness.

10.606-688: Mount Olympus. Juno is allowed to protect Turnus, temporarily. Phantom Aeneas. Angry Turnus on a boat.

10.689-768: Mezentius enters battle.

10.769-832: Aeneas and Mezentius fight in single combat. Aeneas wounds Mezentius. Aeneas kills Lausus, Mezentius’ son, then Mezentius.

10.812: fallit te incautum pietas tua — “your PIETAS deceives you without you knowing”

Aeneid 11:

11.1-99: Aeneas dedicates spoils of Mezentius to Mars. Funeral procession for Pallas’ body.

1.78-82: “He heaped up spoils from the Laurentian battle
And had them taken in a long procession,
Along with spears and mounts the boy had plundered.
He’d bound the hands of captives — offerings
To the dead, for blood to sprinkle on the flames.”

11.100-138: Twelve day truce between Trojans and Latins.

11.139-181: Pallas’ body reaches Pallanteum. Evander’s grief.

11.182-224: The dead are buried on both sides. Debate both for and against Turnus.

11.225-295: An embassy sent to Diomedes by the Latins (in book 8) receives a negative response.

11.296-335: Latin council. Latinus proposes peace.

11.336-375: Latin council. Drances supports Latinus’ peace proposal. Highly rhetorical.

11.376-444: Latin council. Turnus calls Drances a coward, proposes single combat with Aeneas.

11.445-497: Aeneas moves to attack. Turnus arms himself for battle.

11.498-531: Camilla warrior queen of Volsci offers to help Turnus. Camilla is part mythical being (protected by Diana, 11.532; able to skim over fields of growing corn without bruising the shoots, 7.808), part ferocious warrior, closely linked to Turnus in her power and her impetuosity (11.502, 11.507, 11.648, 11.664, 11.709, 11.762). The line which describes her death (11.831) will be repeated as the last line of the Aeneid (12.952).

11.507-509: “Turnus stared at the formidable girl:
‘You’re Italy’s glory! Could I ever thank you
Or decently repay you?”

11.532-596: Goddess Diana speaks to nymph Opis, telling the folkstory of Camilla’s life and lamenting Camilla’s imminent death. Opis is to avenge Camilla’s coming death.

11.597-647: Cavalry battle.

11.648-724: Camilla is described as an Amazon (11.648). Camilla kills her enemies expertly.

11.725-67: Tarchon rallies Etruscans. Arruns the Ligurian stalks Camilla.

11.768-835: Camilla is transfixed by gorgeous armour of a Trojan priest. 11.782: “On fire with a woman’s love of plunder.” Arruns kills Camilla. Camilla tells Acca that Turnus should take her place in the battle.

11.836-915: Camilla is avenged. The Latins are besieged. Nightfall ends the battle.

Aeneid 12:

12.1-112: Latins are defeated. Turnus tells Latinus he will fight Aeneas in single combat. Amata begs him not to. Turnus arms himself. Aeneas arms himself.

12.113-215: Both sides line up to watch the fight. Juno tells Juturna, nymph and sister of Turnus, that she can do no more herself, but authorizes Juturna to do what she can.

12.216-310: Juturna disguised, makes the Rutulians uneasy. A bird omen convinces them to intervene and attack. Fighting breaks out.

12.311-382: Aeneas tries to stop his men but is wounded by an arrow from an unknown source. Turnus leads the Rutulians, fighting resumes.

12.383-440: Aeneas, wounded, is brought to camp. The physician Iapyx can’t remove the arrow head. Venus intervenes with potions, the wound heals. Aeneas arms for battle.

fresco with wounded Aeneas, House of Siricus in Pompeii, first century CE.

Roman wall painting with wounded Aeneas, House of Siricus in Pompeii (VII.1.47), 1st century CE. Based on Aeneid 12.398. Ascanius weeps next to Aeneas while Iapyx tries to pull the arrow head from his thigh with a forceps. Venus appears with healing herbs in her left hand. Image: Barbara McManus, Vroma.

12.441-499: Rutulians are terrified of Aeneas, who pursues Turnus and only Turnus. Juturna disguises herself as Turnus’ charioteer and keeps Turnus away from Aeneas. Aeneas attacks enemies indiscriminately.

12.500-553: Both Aeneas and Turnus deal death around them.

12.554-592: Venus inspires Aeneas to attack the Latin capital. The city panics.

12.593-613: Amata despairs at the attack and kills herself.

12.614-96: Turnus hears the city’s lament. Juturna tries to make him stay away from Aeneas. Turnus is resolved to fight Aeneas. News is brought about Amata.

12.697-790: Aeneas and Turnus fight. They each lose a weapon which is restored by Juturna and Venus respectively.

12.791-842: Olympus. Jupiter tells Juno to stop. She agrees but wants the Latins to keep their language and dress, not become Trojans. Jupiter agrees, and says that the Romans will worship Juno especially.

12.843-886: Jupiter sends a fury as an owl to terrify Turnus. Turnus is helpless, as though in a dream. Juturna laments and leaves battlefield.

12.887-952: Aeneas threatens Turnus. Turnus fears only the gods. Aeneas wounds Turnus, who begs for mercy. Aeneas is about to grant mercy when he sees Pallas’ belt. Aeneas furiously kills his suppliant enemy.


Lecture 15: Vergil Aeneid. 5-8.

Lecture 15,  Tuesday November 5th 2019

Look out for the following motifs/symbols: FLAME/FIRE, FURY, GOLD, WOUND, SNAKE. How do these motifs signal the dark side of empire?

Synopsis of Vergil’s Aeneid Books 5-9
from Williams (1996):

Book 5. The Trojans return to Sicily and celebrate funeral games for Aeneas’ father, Anchises, who had died there a year earlier [Aeneas mentions this in Book 3.710-715]. Juno causes Trojan women to set fire to the ships, but the fire is quenched by Jupiter. On the last stage of the journey the helmsman Palinurus is swept overboard by the god, Sleep.”

Book 6. The Trojans reach Italy at Cumae, and Aeneas descends with the Sibyl to the underworld in order to consult the ghost of his father Anchises. The future heroes of Roman history pass in a pageant before him, and he returns to the upper world in resolution.”

Book 7. The Trojans reach the Tiber, and are hospitably welcomed by King Latinus, who recognises that Aeneas is the stranger referred to in an oracle as the destined husband of his daughter Lavinia. She is already betrothed to Turnus the Rutulian, and Juno again intervenes to ensure that Turnus will fight the Trojans. War breaks out, and the book ends with a catalogue of the Italian forces assisting Turnus.”

Book 8. Aeneas visits Evander, an Arcadian living at Pallanteum on the site of Rome, to seek help. Evander sends his son Pallas at the head of the contingent of Arcadians. Venus has a new shield made for her son Aeneas, and the book ends with a description of the pictures from Roman history depicted on the shield — a reminder before the full-scale outbreak of hostilities of why Aeneas has to fight this war against Turnus, and what depends on it.”



Book 2, Creusa — wife

Book 3, Anchises — father

Book 4, Dido — lover (wife?)

Book 5, Palinurus — helmsman

Book 6, Misenus — friend

Book 7, Caieta — nurse

Book 5:

5.1: interea. “Meanwhile…”

5.45ff.: Funeral games for Anchises. Heroic world at play without fatal consequences. Aeneas = Achilles in Iliad 23, recovering sense of leadership.

5.72-103: Sacrifices at tomb of Anchises. Libations. Snake tastes offerings, disappears. Aeneas recognizes his father’s presence.

5.114-285: Ship race.

5.286-361: Foot race. Nisus trips Salius so that his friend Euryalus can win. (Nisus + Euryalus ~ real war of Book 9)

5.362-484: Boxing.

1) Terme Boxer. Bronze statue of a worn-out boxer, wearing the bronze statue of weary boxer wearing leather hand-wrap (caestus); rediscovered at Rome 1885. Image: Wikipedia. 2) Bronze hand with caestus from Verona Archaeological Museum. Image: Gareth Harney on twitter. 3) Two African boxers, 2nd or 1st c. BCE, terracotta. The advancing boxer leads with his left leg. The older, balding boxer staggers backwards from an upper cut. Image: British Museum.

5.485-544: Archery.

5.545-603: lusus Troiae. Troy Game. Labyrinth simile (5.589-591). Maze-like equestrian manoeuvres performed by youths. Known from the time of Sulla (Plut. Cato Minor 3). Revived by Julius Caesar (Suet. Iul. 39). Augustus made this a regular institution performed by noble boys (Suet. Aug. 43). Iulus introduces this intricate ceremony to Alba Longa (5.596-600).



Etruscan oinochoe from Tragliatella near Caere (7th c. BCE) “clearly features two horseback riders, the drawing of a maze, the word TRUIA, and two copulating couples” (Miller 2000: 235). The vase shows that the connection between rituals on horseback and labyrinths existed prior to Vergil. The word TRUIA here probably refers to movement or dancing rather than Troy (the old Latin words amptruare, redamptruare refer to specific, sacral dances, Williams 1996: 433-434). Images: archart.it.

5.571: Iulus rides the Sidonian horse, a gift from Dido.

5.604-63: Juno sends Iris.  Trojan women to burn the ships.

5.664-99: Fire quenched by rain from Jupiter. All but four ships are saved.

5.700-45: Aeneas doubts himself, considers staying in Sicily. Nautes’ advice. Anchises appears in a dream.

5.746-778: A new city is founded in Sicily with a temple to Venus at Eryx. Anchises’ tomb gets a priest.

5.779-826: Venus complains to Neptune. Neptune says one life must be lost.

5.827-871: Palinurus the helsman thrown into the sea by Sleep.

Aeneid Book 6:

6.1: sic fatur lacrimans…” He spoke in tears…”

6.9-39: Temple of Apollo. The doors of Daedalus. The Sibyl. NO TIME FOR GAWKING.

6.136-155: 1) Get the Golden Bough. 2) Bury your friend (Misenus).

6.146-148: “Pluck it. It should fall gladly in your hand, | If fate has summoned you. If not, your whole strength | Will fail — you will not tear it off with hard steel.”

6.211: cunctantem — it hesitates!

6.337-83: Underworld. Palinurus. =’Sorry you’re dead. Have some fame.’ cf. 6.776: “The famous names of places nameless now.”

6.456-472: Underworld. Dido.

6.494-545: Underworld. Deiphobus.

6.566-627: Underworld. Tartarus.


Jan Brueghel the Younger, “Aeneas and the Sibyl in the Underworld” (1630s). Image: Met Museum.

6.679ff.: Underworld. Anchises.

6.756: “Come, hear your destiny, and the future glory”

6.777: Romulus

6.788-794: “– your Romans:
Caesar, and all of Iulus’ offspring, destined
To make their way to heaven’s splendid heights.
Here is the man so often promised you,
Augustus Caesar, a god’s son, and bringer
Of a new age of gold to Saturn’s old realm
Of Latium.”

6.851: Romane, memento — “Roman, remember”

6.853: parcere subiectis et debellare superbos — “spare the conquered, strike down the haughty”

6.861-886: Marcellus. Son of Octavia, Augustus’ sister, who married Augustus’ daughter Julia, was marked as Augustus’ heir, but died at age 19 in 23 BCE. Later sources tell a story of Octavia bursting into tears when Vergil read this passage to her and Augustus.

6.889: “lust for glory in the future.”

6.893: Gates of Sleep — Horn (true), Ivory (false). Ivory. 😮 — ideology of empire is a false dream, with false values?


At the end of Aeneid 6, Aeneas and the Sibyl leave through the ivory gate – the gate of false dreams. Illustrated by MS Vat. lat. 3225 (schedae Vaticanae), folio 57, recto (4th c CE). Image.

Aeneid Book 7:

7.1-4: Death of Caieta (now modern Gaeta).

“Caieta, you as well, Aeneas’ nurse,
Gave lasting fame, in dying, to our shores.
The great West keeps your resting place today
In glory — if there’s glory in the grave.(Aen. 7.1-4; trans. Ruden p144)

7.37-45: Second preface, indicates that Vergil considered the poem to fall into two halves. Invocation of Muse, Erato (Muse of lyric poetry). cf. Aen. 1.8: “Muse, tell me why.”

7.44-45: “This is a higher story starting, | a greater work for me.”

7.45-106: Portents. Lavinia is destined to marry a foreigner.

7.52-57: Lavinia’s mother wants her to marry Turnus, Italian prince. 7.55: “Handsomest was Turnus.” 7.56-57: “Latinus’ consort [Amata] | was ardent” = Amata’s susceptibility to furor. 

7.58-70: “holy signs, each with its terrors.” Laurel tree 🌳 (~ Laurentum) + the bees 🐝.

7.68-70: Augur’s interpretation. 7.70: “new lords in your tower.”

7.71-80: 🔥 Fire in Lavinia’s hair. 7.79-80: “Prophets foretold a glorious destiny | For her, but for the people a great war.”

7.81-101: Latinus consults the oracle of his father, Faunus. 7.96-99: “My child, don’t seek alliance with the Latins | For your daughter — though a wedding is at hand. | Foreigners will arrive, and intermarriage | Will raise our name to heaven.”

7. 116-118: The Trojans eat their tables. 7.116: “Iulus said, ‘Look at us, eating our tables!'” Fulfilling the oracle given to Aeneas by Calaeno the Harpy (3.250f. = Aeneas would not found his city until hunger made Trojans eat their tables)

7.155: Trojans approach King Latinus in peace.

7.245: Trojans give King Latinus gifts from Troy, including Priam’s scepter. The Latins become the Trojans, the Trojans become the Greeks.

7.286-322: Juno is still angry.

7.324-355: the Fury Allecto.

7.360-364: Amata compares Aeneas to Paris.

7.377-384: Amata’s fury. Spinning top simile.

7.413-474: Allecto and Turnus.

7.476-521: Ascanius shoots the tame Italian deer.

7.601-620: Juno opens the Temple of Janus. 7.606: “To claim our standards from the Parthians”

7.641-817: Invocation of muse. Catalogue of Italian warriors. Last comes Camilla (7.803-817) warrior woman.

Aeneid Book 8:

8.81-85: Aeneas sees the white sow with 30 piglets.

8.184-279: Evander of Pallanteum. Feast of Hercules. Story of Hercules and Cacus. Ara Maxima.

8.370-453: Venus asks Vulcan to make new armour for Aeneas.

8.454-607: Evander asks Aeneas to lead the war against Mezentius and Turnus.

8.608-731: Venus brings the armour to Aeneas. The shield is described.

8.615-616: “The Cytherean embraced her son, then set | the arms beneath an oak, in all their splendor.”

8.625-629: “the shield — work beyond telling of.
There the god of fire had etched Italian history
And Roman triumphs, from the prophecies
He knew: all of Ascanius’ line to come,
And every war the clan would fight, in sequence.”

8.630: she-wolf + twins

8.635: Sabine women

8.675-729: Battle of Actium.

8.730: miratur rerumque ignarus imagine gaudet | “Aeneas loved these scenes on Vulcan’s shield | His mother’s gift — but didn’t know the stories.”

Further Reading:


Lecture 14: Vergil Aeneid. 1-4.

Lecture 14,  Thursday October 31st 2019

A new translation

Vergil the poet 

Virgil_mosaic_in_the_Bardo_National_Museum_(Tunis)_(12241228546).jpgMosaic depicting the poet, Vergil, sitting in the centre, holding a scroll containing a line from Aeneid Book 1. On his left, Clio, muse of history; on his right, Melpomene, muse of tragedy (holding a tragic mask). 3rd century CE. Discovered at Hadrumentum in 1896. Currently in The National Bardo Museum, Tunisia. Image: public domain.


Rotated close-up of the mosaic, showing in detail its depiction of Aeneid 1.8-9: Musa, mihi causas memora, quo numine laeso | quidve… 

 Publius Vergilius Maro (70 BCE – 19 BCE)

  • Vergil was born on 15th October 70 BCE in Mantua and died on 21st September 19 BCE in Brundisium. He was buried near Naples.
  • At the time of his death, his fortune amounted to about 10 million sesterces (which suggests the social rank of an equestrian), he owned a house in Rome and had personal contacts to Augustus.

CL 102 Spring 2018-Vergil's Works and relationships[pdf w clickable links: CL 102 Spring 2018-Vergil’s Works and relationships]

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1) Inscription of Cornelius Gallus in Hieroglyphs, Latin, and Greek detailing his achievements in Egypt (ILS 8995), erected at Philae. 16th April 29 BCE. Image: via Epigraphic Database Heidelberg. 2) Inscription of Cornelius Gallus on the Egyptian Obelisk (now in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome). Augustus had moved the obelisk to Alexandria, Egypt; in 37 CE it was moved to Rome by Caligula. The inscription has been deciphered from underneath another (CIL 6.882) from traces left by nail-holes of the bronze letters. Image: EDCS. 3) The Vatican obelisk at Rome. Image: “Dabnu14” (CC-BY-SA-3.0) via wikimedia.

Aeneas: old myth, new purpose

Aeneas appears in Homeric epic (e.g. Iliad 2.819-8235.1806.77-7911.58) where he is already described as a son of Venus. In the Iliad, Poseidon says that Aeneas and his descendants are destined to rule over the Trojans (20.307-308):

“Aeneas will rule the men of Troy in power —

his sons’ sons and the sons born in future years.” (Fagles)

Storage Jar with Aeneas and Anchises

Attic 6th century BCE black-figure amphora depicting Aeneas, carrying his father, Anchises, with his son ahead of him. Escape from Troy. Aphrodite, Aeneas’ mother, stands behind him. Image: Getty villa. (We saw this in lecture 2).

Silver coin (denarius) of Julius Caesar from 47/46 BCE (RRC 458/1). Obverse (left): head of Venus, wearing a diadem. Reverse (right): Aeneas carrying the Palladium (sacred cult image of armed Athena/Minerva, referred to at Aeneid 1.167) in his right hand, Anchises on his left shoulder. Text: CAESAR. Image: American Numismatic Society. (See Zanker 1988 fig. 27b)

Wall paintings of Aeneas (left) and Romulus (right) from a house at Pompeii (IX 13.5 = so-called House of Fabius Ululitremulus) which are thought to reflect the statues erected in the Forum of Augustus (see Zanker 1988: 202). Aeneas carries his father (Anchises), and leads his son, Ascanius/Iulus, out of the destroyed city of Troy. Romulus carries the arms of an enemy defeated in single combat (spolia opima). Image: pompeiinpictures.com. Coloured replica of Aeneas (Vroma), of Romulus (Vroma).


Graffito in the wall of the same house at Pompeii (IX.13.5 = so-called House of Fabius Ululitremulus) with the paintings of Aeneas and Romulus. The inscription is a parody of the opening line of Vergil’s Aeneid 1.1. It reads: Fullones ululamque cano non arma virumq (CIL 4 9131), “I sing the fullers and the screech-owl, not arms and the man.” Some scholars have explained the owl here as a symbol of Minerva, their patron goddess. Ululitremulus’ name means “owl-fearer”. See Milnor 2014: 248-249.  


Wall painting parody of Aeneas/Anchises/Ascanius from Stabiae (1st c. CE). Paul Zanker (1988:209): “To the more perceptive observer, even then, it all became too much. He tried to find respite in irony and humor…The owner of a villa near Stabiae, for example, had painted on his wall a parody of the often copied Aeneas group in the Forum of Augustus, with the heroic ancestors of the princeps depicted as apes with dogs’ heads and huge phalloi.” Image: Vroma.

Look out for the following motifs/symbols: FLAME/FIRE, FURY, GOLD, WOUND, SNAKE. How do these motifs signal the dark side of empire?

Synopsis of Vergil’s Aeneid Books 1-4
from Williams (1996):

Book 1. The poem begins as the Trojans, after seven years of wanderings, are leaving Sicily for Italy, the place of their promised city. But Juno arouses a storm and they are driven off course to Carthage. Here they are hospitably welcomed by the queen Dido. Through the scheming of Venus Dido falls in love with Aeneas and at a banquet asks to hear the story of his wanderings.”

Books 2 and 3. These books are a flash-back in which Aeneas tells to Dido the story of his fortunes prior to the action of Book 1. The second book is intense and tragic, concerned with the events of one single night, the night of Troy’s destruction. The third book is slow-moving, conveying the weary endurance of years of voyaging to reach the ‘ever-receding shores’ of Italy.”

Book 4. The story of the love of Dido and Aeneas is continued. Jupiter sends Mercury to order Aeneas to leave Carthage in order to fulfil his divine mission to found Rome, and he immediately realises that he must sacrifice his personal love for Dido to his national and religious duty. He attempts to explain to Dido why he has to leave her, but she accepts no explanation and, as the Trojans depart, in frenzy and despair she kills herself.”


Aeneid Book 1:

1.1-33: Proem. ARMA VIRUMQUE CANO (1.1)

1.91-101: Aeneas’ first appearance.

1.197-109: Aeneas’ false hope.

1.229-295: Venus, Jupiter, and the Book of Fate.

1.370-410: Venus disguised. Aeneas’ recognition.

1.450-495: The Temple of Juno at Carthage. EkphrasisSUNT LACRIMAE RERUM (1.462)

1.657-756: Cupid disguised as Iulus. Dido poisoned.

Aeneid Book 2:

2.15-234: The Trojan Horse. Sinon the deceiver.

2.199-233: Laocoön and the snakes.

2.270-317: Ghost of Hector. Pastor simile. Beauty in death.

2.506-555: Death of Priam.

2.567-588: Aeneas wants to kill Helen.

2.589-623: Venus and Aeneas.

2.634-672: Anchises won’t leave. Aeneas still wants to fight.

2.673-679: Creusa reminds Aeneas of Iulus.

2.680-694: Iulus’ portent in flame. Thunder on the left, and a comet.

2.707: “Dear father, let them set you on my shoulders.”

2.738-794: Creusa is lost. Creusa’s ghost.

2.781: Creusa tells Aeneas exactly where to go. He will immediately forget.

Trojan_horse_MAN_Napoli_Inv120176Roman wall paintings from a house at Pompeii (IX.7.16). depicting the Trojans bringing the Horse into the city of Troy (as told by Vergil Aeneid Book 2). The Trojans dance happily and drag the wooden horse to the walls of Troy. They ignore the warnings of Cassandra who is seen withdrawing, carrying lighted torches. Image: Sailko (CC BY-SA 3.0) via wikimedia.

Laocoon_and_His_SonsStatue group of Laocoön and his sons being eaten by snakes (as told by Vergil Aeneid Book 2). Discovered in 1506 on the Esquiline Hill at Rome. Pliny the Elder (NH 36.37) describe a statue of a man and his sons eaten by snakes which he saw in the palace of Emperor Titus, identifying its sculptors as Athanadoros, Hagesandros, and Polydoros of Rhodes. He also describes it as made from one block of marble (which it isn’t…). Currently in the Vatican Museum. Debate about its date is vigorous and ongoing. Image: “LivioAndronico” (CC BY-SA 4.0) via wikimedia.

Aeneid Book 3:

3.13-68: Thrace. Polydorus speaks.

3.69-135: Delos. Apollo’s oracle. “Seek your ancient mother.”

3.136-171: Crete. Plague. Aeneas — Penates — Hesperia.

3.209- 257: Strophades (“Turning Islands”). Harpies. “Eat your tables.”

3.280: Actium. “Held Trojan ritual games on Actium’s shore.” — Actian games 29 BCE

3.300-505: Buthrotum. Replica Troy. Helenus and Andromache.

3.558f.: Scylla (in Odysseus’ footsteps).

3.569f.: Cyclops (in Odysseus’ footsteps).

3.707-715: Sicily. Death of Anchises at Drepanum.

Aeneid Book 4:

At regina,…“But the queen…” 3x in Book 4 as a structural feature = 4.1, 4.296, 4.504. Book 4 is constructed carefully like a tragedy. 

4.1-55: Dido and Anna.

4.68: Infelix Dido (cf. 4.68, 4.596, 6.456). Deer simile. Aeneas had shot 7 stags in Book 1 (1.193). At the end of Book 1 Dido had already been called infelix (1.660) — poisoned with passion by Cupid.

4.85: “The towers she started do not rise.” cf. 1.437: “What luck they have — their walls grow high already!” AMOR | MORA

4.91-128: Juno and Venus. 4.125-127: “I’ll be there and — with your sanction — | Join her to him and make her his in marriage | On firm ground.”

4.160-172: Hunt. Storm. THE CAVE. Marriage??? (Juno is goddess of marriage.)

4.173-218: RUMOR. King Jarbas’ jealousy. Jarbas prays to Jupiter (4.206-218).

4.222-237: Jupiter sends Mercury to Aeneas. “This wasn’t what his lovely mother promised…But to rule Italy, beget an empire” (4.227-229). “Does he begrude his son the Roman citadel?” (4.234)

4.259-275: Mercury finds Aeneas, dressed up like a Carthaginian prince, laying foundations. Mercury refers to Dido as Aeneas’ wife (4.265). “Think of your hopes as Iulus grows, your heir, | Owed an Italian realm and Roman soil.” (4.274-275)

4.296: At regina. “But who can fool a lover?”

4.304-330: Dido confronts Aeneas.

4.333-361: Aeneas’ response.

4.338-339: “and as for ‘husband,’ | I never made a pact of marriage with you.” 😮

4.365-387: Dido’s response.

4.394-395: “though he wished | To give some comfort for so great a grief, | Obeyed the gods, returning to his ships”

4.450ff: Dido wishes for death. Dido the Witch.

4.504: At regina.

4.645-671: Death of Dido.

4.671-687: Anna abandoned.

4.693-705: Juno’s pity. Iris takes a lock of hair (~ animal sacrifice). Dido is released.

dido_africaWall painting depicting Dido on a throne at Carthage. Behind Dido, another attendant holds a parasol over her head. On the left, a dark-skinned, black-haired woman holds a tusk; on the right, a woman wearing an elephant headdress. Together they symbolize Africa. In the background a ship — representing the departure of Aeneas. From the House of Meleager at Pompeii (VI.9.2). Image: Vroma. For an exploration of the depiction of race in antiquity, see The Image of the Black in Western Art. From the Pharaohs to the Fall of the Roman Empire. Vol 1. Edited by David Bindman, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. [Mugar: N8232 .I46 2010] 

Further Reading:

  • R. D. Williams’ commentary on Aeneid I-VI [Mugar: PA6802.A1 W5 1996].
  • Paul Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus (1988/1889) [Mugar: N5760 .Z36 1988]
  • On the graffiti of Vergil at Pompeii: Kristina Milnor, Graffiti & the Literary Landscape in Roman Pompeii (2014), available online thro’ BU library, esp. chapter 5: “A Culture of Quotation: Virgil, Education, and Literary Ownership.” (p233-272).
  • On Aeneas, see: Karl Galinksy, Aeneas, Sicily, and Rome (1969) [Mugar: BL 820 A34 F69b]
Study Guide

Midterm Study Guide

The Midterm exam — Tuesday 29th October – will include:

  • Course quiz: questions on Roman history, literature, culture (30 questions)
  • Commentary: identify and comment on literary passages and/or art object (answer 3 out of choice of 5)

Click here for the pdf of the study guide: https://cl102blog.files.wordpress.com/2019/10/midterm-study-guide-cl102-worldofrome-fall-2019.pdf 

The study guide includes all of the questions that can appear in the course quiz, and all of the objects that could appear in the commentary section. Additionally, I’ve given you two examples of what questions in the commentary section will look like (pp4-6), along with sample answers for you to study. If you have any questions about the midterm, or how to prepare for it, be in touch with your teaching fellows or myself.


Lecture 13. The Augustan Principate (27 BCE-14 CE): Politics and Art.

Lecture 13, Tuesday 22nd October 2019

31 BCE: Battle of Actium
Octavian defeats Antony and Cleopatra

After Actium: From Octavian to Augustus

Dio Cassius (51.1): Such was the naval battle [=Battle of Actium, 31 BCE] in which they engaged on the 2nd of September. I do not mention this date without a particular reason, nor am I, in fact, accustomed to do so; but Caesar now for the first time held all the power alone,  and consequently the years of his reign are properly reckoned from that day.

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The Meroë Augustus (27-25 BCE). Bronze head from an over-life-sized statue of Augustus, excavated from under the step of a shrine of Victory in the Kushite city of Meroë. It is thought to have been ritualistically placed there after the head was deliberately removed from the rest of the statue, as a symbol of Meroitic victory over Rome. This act of destruction ironically preserved the head, which was excavated in Sudan in 1910. Strabo (17.54) tells us that statues of Augustus were erected in Egyptian towns near the first cataract of the Nile at Aswan and that an invading Kushite army looted many of them when they raided Roman forts and settlements in Upper Egypt in 25 BCE. Most were later returned as a result of negotiations between the Meroitic Candace (Queen) Amanirenas and the Roman general Gaius Petronius. Images: 1) photograph of the bust from the British Museum, 2) second photograph from British Museum, 3) Pleiades location of Meroë (modern Sudan), an important ancient center of the Kingdom of Kush, a major power from 8th c. BCE to 4th c. CE, 4) UNESCO photograph of Meroë by Ron Van Oers (CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO). Guardian article about the Meroë head featured in British Museum’s exhibit about dissent.

29 BCE: Triple Triumph

13-15th August 29 BCE: Octavian’s triple triumph at Rome, celebrating victories at Illyricum, Actium, Alexandria.

Augustus (Res Gestae4): Twice I triumphed with an ovation, and three times I enjoyed a curule triumph and twenty-one times I was named imperator.

Suetonius (Life of Augustus 22): He twice entered the city in an ovation, after the war of Philippi, again after that in Sicily,  and he celebrated three regular triumphs for his victories in Dalmatia, at Actium, and at Alexandria, all on three successive days.

Augustus’ Res Gestae

Left: what remains of the Temple of Augustus and Roma at Ancyra. Image: public domain. Right: the Latin text of the Res Gestae inscribed into the temple wall. Image: APAAME (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) via Flickr.

Augustus’ RES GESTAE (lit. “THINGS DONE”) = A text in which Augustus himself assessed his achievements, near the end of his life. The original text (which hasn’t survived) was inscribed on bronze tablets and set up outside his family tomb (the Mausoleum). Copies were set up all over the empire. One Latin inscription (with Greek translation) was found at Ancyra, Turkey (known as Monumentum Ancyranum), inscribed in the side wall of a temple dedicated to Augustus and Roma. Read the entire Res Gestae here.

Mausoleum_of_Augustus,_RomeAugustus’ Mausoleum, erected as a dynastic monument to Augustus’ family in the Campus Martius as early as 28 BCE (Suet. Aug. 100). Image: Ethan Doyle White (CC BY-SA 4.0) via wikimedia.

Closing the Temple of Janus


Line drawing (Dennison 1902: 208) of a Neronian coin type (RIC I (2) Nero 438) showing the Temple of Janus (also closed by Nero, Suetonius Nero 13).

Augustus (Res Gestae 13): Our ancestors wanted Janus Quirinus to be closed when throughout the whole rule of the Roman people, by land and sea, peace had been secured through victory. Although before my birth it had been closed twice* in all in recorded memory from the founding of the city, the senate voted three times in my principate that it be closed.

Suetonius (Life of Augustus 22): The Temple of Janus Quirinus, which had been closed but twice before his time since the founding of the city,* he closed three times [first time after Actium, 29 BCE; second time 25 BCE; date of third time debated],  in a far shorter period, having won peace on land and sea.

*Previous closures of Temple of Janus = by Numa, and in 235 BCE after First Punic War (Liv. 1.19). The Temple of Janus as index pacis bellique, “index of peace and war” — Liv. 1.19, Pliny NH 34.33, Varro LL 5.165.

Consolidating Power

27 BCE: The “First Constitutional Settlement”

Ronald Syme (1939: 323): “In his sixth and seventh consulates [28-27 BCE] C. Julius Caesar Octavianus went through a painless and superficial transformation.”

  • Ides (13th) January 27 BCE: Octavian “hands back” his provinces and claims to have restored the republic; with Antony + Lepidus, they had been triumuiri rei publicae constituendae (“three men in charge of establishing republic”)

Augustus (Res Gestae 34): In my sixth and seventh consulates [28-27 B.C.E.], after putting out the civil war, having obtained all things by universal consent, I handed over the state from my power to the dominion of the senate and Roman people.

LEGES ET IVRA P[OPVLO] RESTITVIT Aureus British Museum.jpg

Golden coin (aureus) from 28 BCE. Obverse (left): head of Octavian. Text: IMP CAESAR DIVI F COS VI (Imperator Caesar, son of god, consul for the 6th time). Reverse (right): Octavian, seated on a bench, holding a scroll in his right hand, at feet (left) a scroll-box. Text: LEGES ET IVRA P[OPVLO] RESTITVIT (He has restored to the people their laws and rights). Image: British Museum.

  • 3 days later, 16th January 27 BCE: Takes the name “Augustus”

Augustus (Res Gestae 34): And for this service of mine [the “restoration”], by a senate decree, I was called Augustus and the doors of my house were publicly clothed with young laurel trees and a corona civica (oak wreath) was fixed over my door and a gold shield (clipeus virtutis = “shield of virtue”) placed in the Julian senate-house, and the inscription of that shield testified to the virtue, mercy, justice, and piety (virtus, clementia, iustitia, pietas), for which the senate and Roman people gave it to me. After that time, I exceeded all in influence (auctoritas), but I had no greater power (potestas) than the others who were colleagues with me in each magistracy.

Suetonius (Life of Augustus 7): Later he took the name of Gaius Caesar [44 BCE] and then the surname Augustus [27 BCE], the former by the will of his great-uncle, the latter on the motion of Munatius Plancus. For when some expressed the opinion that he ought to be called Romulus as a second founder of the city, Plancus carried the proposal that he should rather be named Augustus, on the ground that this was not merely a new title but a more honourable one, inasmuch as sacred places too, and those in which anything is consecrated by augural rites are called “august” (augusta), from the increase (auctus) in dignity, or from movements or feeding of the birds (avium gestus gustuve), as Ennius also shows when he writes: “After by augury august illustrious Rome had been founded.”

Augustan iconography


Gold coin (aureus) of Caninius Gallus, Rome, 12 BCE. Obverse (left): head of Augustus. Reverse (right): young laurel trees beside the house of Augustus; the corona civica (oak wreath) above (RIC I(2) Aug.419). Image: British Museum.


Gold coin (aureus), 20/19 BCE (RIC I(2) Aug.50a). Obverse (left): head of Augustus; reverse (right): CAESAR AVGVSTVS above and below laurel branches. Image: British Museum via OCRE.


Gold coin (aureus), 20/19 BCE (RIC I(2) Aug.52a). Obverse (left): head of Augustus; reverse (right): the clipeus virtutis flanked by laurel trees, surrounded by SPQR  and text: CAESAR AUGUSTUS (Caesar Augustus), 20/19 BCE. Images: British Museum via OCRE.

Paul Zanker (1988: 92): “But a major difference in the new “Principate style” was that after 27 BC the impetus for honoring the ruler always came from others — the Senate, the cities, local societies, or private individuals…For those familiar with Roman tradition, such honors suggested many associations with the spirit of the old Republic, while their lack of specificity also admitted a very different interpretation…(p93) The simple honors granted Augustus in 27 BCE were thus turned into tokens of monarchical rule through their use in combination with other symbols, in particular in the decoration of temples for the ruler cult.”

  • laurel = associated with victors, associated with Apollo; laurel trees had traditionally flanked sacred buildings, the Regia and Temple of Vesta
  • corona civica (oak wreath) had traditionally been given to those who rescued comrades in battle, so Augustus now became the rescuer of the entire republic; oak tree was associated with Jupiter


Gold coin (aureus), 19/18 BCE (RIC I(2) Aug. 29a). Obverse (left): head of Augustus. Reverse (right): OB CIVIS SERVATOS (“For saving the citizens”) surrounded by oak wreath. Image: British Museum via OCRE.

Gold coin (aureus), 27 BCE (RIC I(2) Aug. 277). Obverse (left): head of Augustus, text: CAESAR COS VII CIVIBVS SERVATEIS (“Caesar consul 7th time, citizens saved”). Reverse (right): Eagle holding oak wreath, laurels in the background. Image: Münzkabinett via OCRE.


Two-layered onyx cameo depicting the eagle of Jupiter carrying the palm of victory and the corona civica (oak wreath). Possibly commemorating Octavian receiving the title “Augustus” in 27 BCE. Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum. Image: wikimedia.


Suetonius (Life of Augustus 28): He twice thought of restoring the republic… [i.e. he thought about it, he didn’t actually do it]

  • In January 27 BCE Augustus given imperium proconsulare for 10 years over provinces of Syria, Cilicia, Cyprus, Gaul, Spain = everywhere there was a military threat
    • gave up Gallia Narbonensis and Cyprus in 22 BCE, took Dalmatia (Dio Cassius 53.12)
  • He governed these through legates (legati), who held their positions for no time limit (vs. proconsuls or propraetors in senatorial provinces, who held it for 1 year)
    • division irrelevant? Dio Cassius (53.15.4): “The emperor gives instructions to the procurators, the proconsuls, and the propraetors, in order that they may be under definite orders when they go out to their provinces.”
  • Egypt was his personal province, which made him extremely wealthy

Ronald Syme (1939: 323): “Augustus was by far the wealthiest man in the Empire, ruling Egypt as a king and giving account of it to no man.”

Strabo (17.25): But the Provinces have been divided in different ways at different times, though at the present time they are as Augustus Caesar arranged them; for when his native land committed to him the foremost place of authority and he became established as lord for life of war and peace, he divided the whole of his empire into two parts, and assigned one portion to himself and the other to the Roman people; to himself, all parts that had need of a military guard (that is, the part that was barbarian and in the neighbourhood of tribes not yet subdued, or lands that were sterile and difficult to bring under cultivation, so that, being unprovided with everything else, but well provided with strongholds, they would try to throw off the bridle and refuse obedience), and to the Roman people all the rest, in so far as it was peaceable and easy to rule without arms; and he divided each of the two portions into several Provinces, of which some are called “Provinces of Caesar” and the others “Provinces of the People.” And to “Provinces of Caesar” Caesar sends legati and procurators, dividing the countries in different ways at different times and administering them as the occasion requires, whereas to the “Provinces of the People” the people send praetors or proconsuls, and these Provinces also are brought under different divisions whenever expediency requires.

Dio Cassius (53.12): But as he wished even so to be thought democratic, while he accepted all the care and oversight of the public business, on the ground that it required some attention on his part,  yet he declared he would not personally govern all the provinces, and that in the case of such provinces as he should govern he would not do so indefinitely; and he did, in fact, restore to the senate the weaker provinces, on the ground that they were peaceful and free from war, while he retained the more powerful, alleging that they were insecure and precarious and either had enemies on their borders or were able on their own account to begin a serious revoltHis professed motive in this was that the senate might fearlessly enjoy the finest portion of the empire, while he himself had the hardships and the dangers; but his real purpose was that by this arrangement the senators will be unarmed and unprepared for battle, while he alone had arms and maintained soldiers.

Ronald Syme (1939: 323): “In truth it may be regarded merely as the legislation, and therefore strengthening, of despotic power.”

Augustus and the consulship

Augustus consulships

  • suffect consuls became normal: by resigning after 3 (or 4) months, Augustus in effect allowed a man to realize his ambitions; however, did you really want to have a role that the sole ruler of the known world had had??
  • abdication of consulship in June 23 BCE marked transformation of principate: after this, refused to be considered consular candidate; there was trouble and even rioting in Rome, in connection with consulships of 21 and 19 BCE — the people kept insisting on keeping open for him one of the two places

Ronald Syme (1939: 333): “Frail and in despair of life, Augustus returned to Rome [from Spain] in the middle of 24 BCE. He had been away about three years: Rome was politically silent, with no voice or testimony, hoping and fearing in secret. On the first day of January he entered upon his eleventh consulate with [Varro] Murena, a prominent partisan, as his colleague. Three events [23 BCE] — a state trial, a conspiracy, and a serious illness of Augustus — revealed the precarious tenure on which the peace of the world reposed. Meagre and confused, the sources defy and all but preclude the attempt to reconstruct the true history of a year that might well have been the last, and was certainly the most critical, in all the long Principate of Augustus.”

  • Marcus Primus, proconsul of Macedonia (24 or 23 BCE) was brought to trial for high treason (maiestas) for illegally making war on a Thracian tribe (Dio Cassius 54.3). He claimed to have received instructions from Marcellus (d. 23 BCE), Augustus’ nephew. Varro Murena defended Marcus Primus. Augustus appeared as a witness in the trial and denied that he had given the command (Dio Cassius 54.3).
  • A conspiracy arose against Augustus: Fannius Caepio + Varro Murena (Dio Cassius 54.3.4). The conspirators were killed without trial (Dio Cassius 54.3.4).

23 BCE: The “Second Constitutional Settlement”

  • July 1st 23 BCE, Augustus gave up the consulship forever
  • instead took on the tribunicia potestas (“tribunician power”) = right to sumbit bills to the people, right to summon senate, put motions to senate, ius intercessionis (=veto), coercitio, ius auxilii 
    • in 36 BCE he had been given sacrosanctitas of tribune for life (Syme 1939: 336)
    • in 30 BCE he had been given certain powers of tribune (Syme 1939: 336)
    • granted tribunician power to mark successors: Agrippa (18 BCE, Dio Cassius 54.12.4), Tiberius (6 BCE, Dio Cassius 55.9)

New laws for a new age

Suetonius (Life of Augustus 34): He revised existing laws and enacted some new ones, for example, on extravagance, on adultery and chastity, on bribery, and on the encouragement of marriage among the various classes of citizens.

Women in the Classical World (p297): “The Augustan laws, designed to penalize those citizens who remained unmarried or childless (women between 20 and 50 and men after the age of 25) and those who committed adultery or married women or men of the “wrong” social rank or status, had as their goals the moral revitalization of the upper class, the raising of the birth rate among citizens, and the policing of sexual behaviour  in the attempt to reintroduce conservative social values and control the social conduct of an upper class seen as more interested in pleasure and autonomy than in duty and community…The laws, first issued probably in 18 BCE, and amended by supplementary legislation more than 25 years later in 9 CE as the Lex Papia Poppaea, are today known mainly in fragmentary and sometimes distorted from in the writings of later jurists and historians who cite them. Issues of marriage and reproduction that once had been mainly under the control of families now became, at least on paper, public and the purview of the community as a whole. The laws penalized people who did not marry or have children by attacking their eligibility to inherit wealth.”

Visual language of power

Suetonius (Life of Augustus 28): Since the city was not adorned as the dignity of the empire demanded, and was exposed to flood and fire, he so beautified it that he could justly boast that he had found it built of brick and left it in marble. He made it safe too for the future, so far as human foresight could provide for this.

Augustus (Res Gestae 19-21): I built the senate-house and the Chalcidicum which adjoins it and the temple of Apollo on the Palatine with porticoes, the temple of divine Julius, the Lupercal, the portico at the Flaminian circus, which I allowed to be called by the name Octavian, after him who had earlier built in the same place, the state box at the great circus, the temple on the Capitoline of Jupiter Subduer (Feretrius) and Jupiter Thunderer (Tonans), the temple of Quirinus, the temples of Minerva and Queen Juno and Jupiter Liberator on the Aventine, the temple of the Lares at the top of the holy street (Via Sacra), the temple of the gods of the Penates on the Velian, the temple of Youth, and the temple of the Great Mother on the Palatine. (20) I rebuilt the Capitol and the theater of Pompey, each work at enormous cost, without any inscription of my name. I rebuilt aqueducts in many places that had decayed with age, and I doubled the capacity of the Marcian aqueduct by sending a new spring into its channel. I completed the Forum of Julius and the basilica which he built between the temple of Castor and the temple of Saturn, works begun and almost finished by my father. When the same basilica was burned with fire I expanded its grounds and I began it under an inscription of the name of my sons, and, if I should not complete it alive, I ordered it to be completed by my heirs. Consul for the sixth time [28 B.C.E.], I rebuilt eighty-two temples of the gods in the city by the authority of the senate, omitting nothing which ought to have been rebuilt at that time. Consul for the seventh time [27 B.C.E.], I rebuilt the Flaminian road from the city to Ariminum and all the bridges except the Mulvian and Minucian. (21 ) I built the temple of Mars Ultor on private ground and the forum of Augustus from war-spoils. I build the theater at the temple of Apollo on ground largely bought from private owners, under the name of Marcus Marcellus my son-in-law. I consecrated gifts from war-spoils in the Capitol and in the temple of divine Julius, in the temple of Apollo, in the temple of Vesta, and in the temple of Mars Ultor, which cost me about HS 100,000,000.

Ramage & Ramage (6th edition) 2015: 112: “The biographer Suetonius records the boast of Augustus that he had found Rome a city of brick and left it one of marble. By that he meant sun-dried brick, since kiln-fired bricks were not yet in common use. During his rule, the quarries at Carrara in northwest Italy — then called the Luna quarries — were developed. This meant for the first time Roman builders could use a white marble from Italy itself, rather than marble imported from Greek quarries.”

The Forum of Augustus

Left: plan of the Forum of Augustus. Image: “Cassius Ahenobarbus” (CC BY-SA 3.0) via wikimediaRight: Line drawing of the Forum of Augustus. Image: Vroma.org (CC-BY-SA-3.0-MIGRATED) via wikimedia.

  • dedicated 1st August 2 BCE (Dio Cassius 55.10)
  • Augustus had completed the Julian Forum, placed his own forum next to his father’s
  • Luna marble
  • exedrae (semicircular apse) behind each of the two colonnades (the Forum of Trajan will later “quote” this feature)
  • in the porticoes and exedrae there were statues of historical figures (museum/history lesson): Aeneas, Romulus, kings of Alba Longa, members of the Julian Family
  • firewall — gave forum a sense of safety and enclosure
  • central focus = Temple of Mars Ultor (Mars the Avenger), vowed by Octavian at Philippi 42 BCE (Suet. Aug. 29.2; Ov. Fast. 5.569‑578)
    • the statues of gods inside this temple were Mars, Venus, and Divine Julius Caesar (Divus Julius)
  • many works of art were collected in the forum
  • quadriga (4 horse chariot) dedicated to Augustus by the senate (Res Gestae 35)
  • boys put on toga uirilis (toga of manhood) here, and governors set out for their province from here (Dio Cassius 55.10)
  • Ramage & Ramage (6th edition) 2015: 114: “This sculptural program was the visual counterpart to the literary statements regarding the divine and mythological ancestry written by the great Roman poet Virgil in his epic, The Aeneid, composed only a few years later.”

Rome vs. Parthia

  • 53 BCE: Marcus Crassus (triumvir) is defeated and killed at the Battle of Carrhae, losing Rome’s standards (Plutarch Crassus 23)
  • Julius Caesar had planned a military campaign against Parthia to recover lost standards (Suet. Julius 44), but was killed
  • Mark Antony spent much energy (40 BCE, 36 BCE) trying to subdue Parthia, but lost even more standards (Suet. Aug. 21)
  • 20 BCE: Augustus recovers the lost standards via diplomacy of Tiberius (Suet. Tib. 9)
    • kept in a small round temple of Mars Ultor on Capitol at Rome (Cassius Dio 54.8) until the forum Augustum was completed in 2 BCE
      • Augustus in the Res Gestae (29) writes: “I placed (reposui) those standards in the sanctuary of the temple of Mars Ultor.”
  • Augustus (Res Gestae 29): I compelled the Parthians to return to me the spoils and standards of three Roman armies, and as suppliants to seek the friendship of the Roman people.

Silver denarius (RIC I(2) Aug.72), 19 BCE, depicting Mars inside a round, domed temple, holding recovered standards. Text: MARTIS VLTORIS (of Mars Ultor). Image: Münzkabinett Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Silver denarius, (RIC I(2) Aug. 287), 19-4 BCE. Obverse (left): head of Liber (=Dionysus). Text: TVRPILIANVS IIIVIR (name of the issuer, P. Petronius Turpilianus). Reverse (right): Parthian kneeling, extending standard with X-marked vexillum with right hand and holding out left hand. Text: CAESAR AVGVSTVS SIGN RECE (Augustus received the captured standards from the king). Image: Münzkabinett Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

The Prima Porta Augustus

Statue-AugustusCarrara marble statue of Augustus from Prima Porta. Discovered in Livia’s villa at Prima Porta, a few miles north of Rome. Image: public domain.

Copy of the Prima Porta Augustus with restored colour. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Images: Eunostos (CC BY-SA 4.0) via wikimedia.


Detail of reconstructed painted cuirass of Prima Porta Augustus. Image: saturatedspace.com.

  • early 1st c. CE marble copy of a bronze statue c. 20 BCE set up after the return of the Parthian standards
  • evokes the Greek statue: Doryphoros (Spearbearer) by Polykleitos (440s BCE)
  • bare feet = Augustus as hero, or even god
  • Cupid riding a dolphin (bottom left) = reference to Venus, Augustus’ ancestor, mother of Cupid; dolphin symbolizes victory at Actium
  • excessive frontality (back unfinished)
  • larger than life sized (7 feet tall)
  • military breastplate closely shaped and contoured to body (nudity without nudity)
  • military cloak (rouched)
  • central scene: Parthians handing back standards from Carrhae
    • Ramage & Ramage (6th edition) 2015: 123: “Above this scene, the sky god [Caelum] holds up a canopy signifying that the peace implied by the victory scene, and by the figure of Mother Earth holding a cornucopia full of fruit at the bottom of the breast-plate, is now spread throughout Augustus’ empire. Apollo and Diana at bottom left and right are paralleled by the sun god Sol and the moon goddess Luna near the emperor’s shoulders. Thus, the cosmic forces and passage of time are also included in this grand vision of Augustan peace.”