Lecture 17: Vergil Aeneid. 6-9.

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: xvii-xviii):

“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 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.”

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.

6.679ff.: 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?

Aeneid Book 7:

7.1-4: Death of Caieta (now modern Gaeta). (deaths: Palinurus, Misenus, Caieta…)

“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.” 

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.



Paper topics

Paper 2 topics

Answer one of the following questions:

— What is the significance of the goddess Venus for Roman politics and poetry?

— “It cost so much to found the Roman nation” (Aeneid 1.33). What, according to Vergil’s epic, are the costs of empire?

— To what extent is Vergil’s Aeneid a reflection of contemporary Rome?

— Discuss the depiction of power and tyranny in Seneca’s Thyestes. 

— Discuss the figure of the father in Roman life, politics, art, and literature.

Go back to the paper 1 prompts for tips for writing.

Further instructions:

  • Your second paper is due April 26th. 
  • This paper must be 5-7 pages in length and will make up 20% of your grade.
  • Format all papers double-spaced with Times New Roman, 12-point font, 1” margins at top and bottom, 1” margins on sides.
  • Papers must be printed and handed in (not emailed) on the stated date to your Teaching Fellow at the beginning of the lecture.
  • All papers MUST include references to primary sources discussed in this course (in lecture and/or in section).

Lecture 16: Vergil Aeneid. 3-6.

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 2-6 from Williams (1996: xvii-xviii):

“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.

“Book 5. The Trojans return to Sicily and celebrate funeral games for Aeneas’ father Anchises who had died there a year earlier. Juno causes the 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.”

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] 

Aeneid 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 Eryalus can win. (Nisus + Euryalus ~ real war of Book 9)

5.362-484: Boxing.

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.

Book 2, Creusa — wife
Book 3, Anchises — father
Book 4, Dido — lover (wife?)
Book 5, Palinurus — helmsman

5.870-871: “Oh, trusting victim of calm sea and sky,
Unburied on some strange shore, Palinurus!”

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.”

6.456-472: Underworld. Dido.

6.494-545: Underworld. Deiphobus.

6.679ff.: Underworld. Anchises.

6.889: “lust for glory in the future.”

6.893: Gates of Sleep — Horn (true), Ivory (false). Ivory. 😮


Further Reading:


Lecture 15: Vergil Aeneid. 1-2.

Lecture 15,  Tuesday March 27th 2018

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 Hieroglyphics, 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 1-3 from Williams (1996: xvi-xvii):

“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.”


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.



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]

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

Lecture 14, Thursday 22nd March 2018

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 Gestae 4): 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.” (see lecture 2)

1) Reverse of gold coin (aureus) of Caninius Gallus, Rome, 12 BCE. Young laurel trees beside the house of Augustus; the corona civica (oak wreath) above (RIC I(2) Aug.419); 2) Reverse of gold coin (aureus) with laurel trees (RIC I(2) Aug.50a) and text: CAESAR AUGUSTUS (Caesar Augustus), 20/19 BCE; 3) Reverse of gold coin (aureus) showing the clipeus virtutis flanked by laurel trees, surrounded by SPQR (RIC I(2) Aug.52a) and text: CAESAR AUGUSTUS (Caesar Augustus), 20/19 BCE. Images: British Museum via OCRE. See Zanker 1988:92.

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

1) Reverse of gold coin (aureus), 19/18 BCE with text: OB CIVIS SERVATOS (For saving the citizens) surrounded by oak wreath (RIC I(2) Aug. 29a);2) Reverse of gold coin, 27 BCE, Jupiter’s eagle with the oak wreath, with text (RIC I(2) Aug. 277); 3) Eagle cameo, after 27 BCE. Eagle of Jupiter carries the palm of victory and the corona civica. Images: British Museum via OCRE. See Zanker 1988:93-4.


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.

Mars Ultor with standards recovered from Parthia

Reverse of 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-AugustusPainted Carrara 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.”

Octavian to Augustus

Lecture 13, Thursday 15th March 2018

Syme 1939: 97: “Caesar lay dead, stricken by twenty-three wounds. The Senate broke up in fear and confusion, the assassins made their way to the Capitol to render thanks to the gods of the Roman State. They had no further plans — the tyrant was slain, therefore liberty was restored.”

Man as God — the Iulium sidus, ‘Julian star’

Augustus c. 19-18 sidus iulium

Silver denarius minted by Augustus, c. 19–18 BCE. Obverse (left): wreathed head of Augustus. Text: CAESAR AVGVSTVS (Caesar Augustus). Reverse (right): comet (star) of eight rays, tail upward. Text: DIVVS IVLIV[S] (Divine Julius). RIC I 37a. Image: Classical Numismatic Group (CC BY-SA 3.0) via wikimedia. Many other coins of this type:

iulium sidus coin type

Horace Odes 1.12.46-48:

[…] micat inter omnis
Iulium sidus velut inter ignis
luna minores.

[…] among them all shines
the Julian star like the moon
among the lesser lights.

In ancient sources, the star of Julius Caesar (Iulium sidus) is associated with either:

a) goddess Venus herself as a star coin type of Julius Caesar 46/45 BCE (RRC 468/2)
b) The sight of a comet at games of Venus Genetrix (=Ludi Victoriae Caesaris) given by Octavian (July 44 BCE). Seneca Natural Questions 7.17.2
Pliny The Natural History 2.94
Suetonius Life of Divine Julius 88
c) 31 BCE: Battle of Actium (Octavian vs. Antony and Cleopatra) Propertius Elegy 4.6.59-60
Horace Ode 1.12.45-4
Vergil Eclogue 9.44-50
Vergil Aeneid 8.678-682 (=Sarah Ruden p188)

a) goddess Venus herself as a star

Silver denarius of Julius Caesar, minted in Spain (46-45 BCE). Obverse (left): bust of Venus, draped, wearing a diadem and with a star in her hair. Lituus. Reverse (right): trophy with an oval shield and the Gallic war horn (carnyx); bearded captive (left) kneels with hands tied behind back, seated woman (right) rests head on hands. Text: CAESAR (Caesar). RRC 468/2. Image: Mantis, Numismatic Technologies Integration Service (American Numismatic Society). See Gurval 1997: 48 on this iconography.

Gurval 1997: 48: “the star is surely the evening star of Venus, which the antiquarian Varro explained…had led Aeneas through the day (per diem) to Italy.”

Venus star JC coin type

b) sight of a comet at the games for Venus Genetrix in July 44 BCE

Pliny (NH 2.94): The only place in the whole world where a comet (cometes, κομήτης*) is worshiped is at a temple at Rome [=Temple of Divine Julius]. The late divine Augustus considered this comet a good omen (faustus) to himself, since it had appeared at the beginning of his rule (44 BCE), at some games which, not long after the death of his father Caesar, as a member of the college founded by him he was celebrating in honour of Mother Venus. In fact he made public the joy that it gave him in these words: ‘On the very days of my games a comet was visible for seven days under the constellation Septentriones*. It was rising about an hour before sunset, and was a bright star, visible from all lands. The common people believed that this star signified the spirit (anima) of Caesar received among the spirits of the immortal gods, and because of this the symbol of a star was added to the statue of Caesar that we shortly afterwards dedicated in the forum.’ This was his public utterance, but privately he rejoiced because he interpreted the comet as having been born for his own sake and as containing his own birth within it; and, to confess the truth, it did have a healthgiving influence over the world.

*Septentriones = the seven (septem) stars closest to the current north star, Polaris; in different sources this word is used for either the Great Bear (Ursa Major) or the Little Bear (Ursa Minor). Generally used as word meaning ‘northern’.

Ursa_Major_-_Ursa_Minor_-_PolarisUrsa Major and Ursa Minor next to the north star, Polaris. In Roman texts, the term Septentriones — a set of seven stars (‘triones’ was thought by the Romans to refer to oxen, Varro LL 7.74-75, Gellius 2.21), were variously applied to either the larger (Vitr. 9.4.6) or the smaller constellation (Cic. ND 2.111). The Greeks called the same constellations ἅμαξαι, hamaxai, ‘wagons’ as well as the Bears (e.g. Homer, Iliad 18.487), and Helice (‘twisty’, Ursa Major) and Cynosure (‘dog-tail’, Ursa Minor). Image: Bonč (CC BY-SA 3.0) via wikimedia.

Suetonius (Life of Divine Julius 88): Caesar died in the fifty-sixth year of his age, and was numbered among the gods, not only by a formal decree, but also in the conviction of the common people. For at the first of the games which his heir Augustus gave in honour of his apotheosis, a comet (stella crinita*) shone for seven successive days, rising about the eleventh hour, [= about an hour before sunset] and was believed to be the spirit (anima) of Caesar, who had been taken to the sky; and this is why a star is set upon the crown of his head in his statue. It was voted that the hall in which he was slain be walled up, that the Ides of March be called the Day of Parricide, and that a meeting of the senate should never be called on that day.

*Both the Greek and Latin for ‘comet‘ = ‘hairy star’ (Greek: κομήτης = cometes, Latin: stella crinita).

Screenshots from Ramsey and Licht’s The Comet of 44 BCE and Caesar’s Funeral Games (1997). On which, Gurval 1997: 40n 3: “The study by Ramsey and Licht is an interdisciplinary, richly documented, and detailed investigation of the appearance of a comet in 44 as both an astronomical phenomenon and a historical event. The collaborative work of a classicist and physicist, it seeks to identify the comet’s sighting; with the assistance of ancient Chinese texts and modern calculations, charts, and graphs, the authors can trace its course, not always or easily visible to mortals below, across two continents


c) associated with the Battle of Actium (31 BCE)

Vergil, Aeneid 8.675-689, translated by Sarah Ruden.

The bronze-braced fleets at Actium, in the middle,
Were lined up there to see. All of Leucate
Was seething with them. Gold shone on the waves.
Caesar Augustus led the Roman forces — 
Senate and people, hearth gods, mighty sky gods.
High on the stern he stood; from his glad forehead
poured two flames. From his head his father’s star rose.
Near him Agrippa — gods and winds both helped him —
Led the line from on high, his head ennobled
With the bright ship beaks of a naval crown.
Antony, victor of the East, the Red Sea,
Brought foreign wealth and jumbled troops against them.
He hauled in Egypt, Oriental powers,
And farthest Bactra. His Egyptian wife
Followed him — outrage! Now the navies clashed.

Pleiades ActiumSite of Actium, off whose waters the Mark Antony and Cleopatra were defeated by Octavian in 31 BCE. Image: Pleiades.

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After Octavian’s defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra at Actium (September 2nd 31 BCE), Octavian founded a new city near Actium called Nikopolis (‘Victory City’), established games there, enlarged the temple of Apollo, and monumentalized the site of his camp with the naval trophies, consecrating it to Neptune and Mars (Suet. Aug. 18). This city became the political, economic, and social focus of northwestern Greece. Every 4 years games held in celebration of Actium. Kostantinos Zachos 2003: 65: “on the spot where he had pitched his tent before the battle and where the leaders of Antony’s decimated army had come to declare their submission, he erected a magnificent trophy monument (tropaeum) with 36 bronze rostra [beaks of ships]* on its facade in an open-air sanctuary.” Images: with kind permission from Christian Lehmann.

*rostrum = the curved end of a ship’s prow, a ship’s beak (originally, ‘bird’s beak’, ‘mouth of an animal’). The speaker’s platforum at Rome was called the ROSTRA because it had been adorned with the prows of enemy ships captured from Antium in 338 BCE. A number of ship prows still survive:

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11 bronze rostra have been found in water near Egadi islands off NW Sicily since 2004. Scholars think that the ships were sunk as part of the final battle of First Punic War, Battle of Aegates Islands (March 10th 241 BCE). Some of the rostra have Latin inscriptions, others Punic (see Prag 2014). Images: 1) bronze rostrum (Egadi 3) on the seabed bronze (source: rpmnautical.org), 2) Egadi 3 being rasied from the seabed, September 2010 (source: historytoday.com), 2) Egadi 3 inspected (source: rpmnautical.org), 3) photograph of Egadi 3 (source: rpmnautical.org).

Significance of Iulium sidus:

Robert Gurval 1997: 41: “Whether fact or fiction, Caesar’s comet or, more importantly, claims of its appearances and interpretations of its meanings must be seen as a conspicuous manifestation of politics and Augustan ideology. What role the myth of the comet played in the political discourse of Caesar’s heir and later in the ideology of a Princeps engaged in the act of legitimizing his established position and securing a succession is the focal point of this.” p45: “Representations of a star as an allusion to the divinity of Caesar can be found on the issues of Octavian dating from the early 30s [BCE]. Representations of the comet, however, appear almost twenty years later, and they be long to the ideology of an emergent Augustan Principate.”

New Pauly (‘Ruler cult’): “After his death, Caesar was worshipped at an altar erected on the site of his cremation, then identified with the comet (sidus Iulium) that appeared at the ludi Victoriae Caesaris (July 44 BC) and finally consecrated (consecratio) as diuus Iulius on a Senate resolution. He was worshipped in the temple of Venus Genetrix until he was given his own temple in 29 BC.”

Rivals in inheritance — Octavian (63 BCE – 14 CE)

  • 15th March 44 BCE: murder of Julius Caesar. C. Octavius (grandson of Caesar’s sister) is adopted through Caesar’s will, becomes his heir. He is 18 years old.

Syme 1939: 112-113: “When C. Octavius passed by adoption into the Julian house he acquired the new legal designation of C. Julius Caesar Octavianus. It will be understood  that the aspirant to Caesar’s power preferred to drop the name that betrayed his origin, and be styled ‘C. Julius Caesar‘. Further, the official deification of his adoptive parent soon [42 BCE] provided the title of ‘Diui Julii filius‘ [= “son of the Divine Julius”]; and from 38 BCE onwards the military leader of the Caesarian faction took to calling himself ‘Imperator Caesar’*…As enemies bitterly observed, the name of Caesar was the young man’s fortune. Italy and the world accepted him as Caesar’s son and heir; that the relationship by blood was distant was a fact of little moment in the Roman conception of the family, barely known or soon forgotten by the inhabitants of the provinces.”

*imperator was a name given by the troops to generals after a victorious battle, sometimes the senate gave or confirmed the title: imperator (Oxf. Class. Dict.): “The first certainly attested imperator is L. Aemilius Paullus in 189 BCE… The increasing influence of the army in the late republic made imperator the symbol of military authority. Agrippa in 38 BCE refused a triumph for victories won under Octavian‘s superior command and established the rule that the princeps should assume the salutations and the triumphs of his legates. Henceforth, apparently, Octavian used imperator as praenomen (imperator Caesar, not Caesar imperator), perhaps intending to emphasize the personal and family value of the title. Thus the title came to denote the supreme power and was commonly used in this sense. But, officially, Otho (ruled 3 months in 69 CE) was the first to imitate Augustus, and only with Vespasian (ruled 69-79 CE) did Imperator (‘emperor’) become a title by which the ruler was known.

Rivals in inheritance — Mark Antony (c. 83-30 BCE)

Cicero (Philippics 13.24): You [Mark Antony], on the contrary, who cannot deny that you were favored by the same Caesar, what would you be today, if Caesar had not conferred so much on you? Would your worth or your lineage have got you anywhere at all? You would have spent your entire life in brothels, gorging, gaming, drinking, as you used to do when you were laying your mouth and mind in the lap of actresses.
“—and you, boy,—”
‘Boy,’ he calls him; but he has found him and will find him not only a man but a very brave man too. That name does indeed go with his age, but it comes very ill from one who makes this boy glorious through his own madness.
“—who owe everything to your name—”
Yes, he ‘owes,’ and splendidly he pays. If Caesar was ‘the father of the fatherland,’* (parens patriae) as you call him—never mind what I think—is not this young man more truly a father to whom we assuredly owe our lives which he snatched from your most villainous hands?

*parens patriae, or pater patriae = ‘father of the fatherland’, an honour granted by the senate. It was given to Cicero for his role against the Catilinarian conspirators (63 BCE), to Caesar after the Battle of Munda (45 BCE), and to Augustus in 2 BCE.

  • cavalry commander under Aulus Gabinius in Palestine and Egypt (57-54 BCE)
  • served Caesar in Gaul till the end of 50 BCE (quaestor 51 BCE)
  • tribune of plebs 49 BCE, supported Caesar’s interests
  • 48 BCE: commanded Caesar’s left wing at the Battle of Pharsalus (against Pompey)
  • he served as magister equitum, Master of Horse to Caesar’s dictator (till late 47 BCE)
  • 44BCE: consul with Julius Caesar

Suetonius (Life of Divine Julius 79): But from that time on he could not rid himself of the odium of having aspired to the title of monarch, although he replied to the commons, when they hailed him as king, “I am Caesar and no king,” and at the Lupercalia, when the  consul Mark Antony several times attempted to place a crown upon his head as he spoke from the rostra, he put it aside and at last sent it to the Capitol, to be offered to Jupiter Optimus Maximus.

Smith 1875: LUPERCALIA — “The festival was held every year, on the 15th of February, in the Lupercal, where Romulus and Remus were said to have been nurtured by the she-wolf; the place contained an altar and a grove sacred to the god Lupercus. Here the Luperci assembled on the day of the Lupercalia, and sacrificed to the god goats and young dogs, which animals are remarkable for their strong sexual instinct, and thus were appropriate sacrifices to the god of fertility…Mark Antony, in his consulship, was one of the Luperci, and not only ran with them half-naked and covered with pieces of goat-skin through the city, but even addressed the people in the forum in this rude attire.”  (Compare Plutarch’s account in his Life of Caesar 61).

Fraternal Strife

Suetonius (Life of Divine Augustus 9): The civil wars which he waged were five, called by the names of Mutina (43 BCE), Philippi (42 BCE), Perusia (41-40 BCE), Sicily (36 BCE), and Actium (31 BCE); the first and last of these were against Marcus Antonius, the second against Brutus and  Cassius, the third against Lucius Antonius, brother of the triumvir, and the fourth against Sextus Pompeius, son of Pompey Magnus.

43 BCE

Battle of Mutina
(Northern Italy)

Mark Antony vs. Octavian and the senate (both consuls die: Aulus Hirtius, Pansa). Octavian consul from 19 August 43 BCE.


43 BCE

Lex Titia

A law is passed which creates the Triumvirate, a legally sanctioned arrangement between Mark Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus (who had also been Caesar’s Master of Horse). [Mark Antony had abolished dictatorship in 44 BCE, Cic. Ph. 1.3.6]

— proscriptions (= death lists). Cicero is killed @ Caieta/Formiae (read Plutarch’s account, Cic. 47ff.)
— 5 year rule. Antony: East, Octavian: West, Lepidus: Africa
— Octavian marries Fulvia’s daughter, Clodia (42 BCE)


42 BCE

Battles of Philippi

Mark Antony and Octavian fight Caesar’s assassins, Brutus and Cassius


Pleiades Philippi

Site of Philippi, where Republican army of Brutus and Cassius was defeated by the forces of Mark Antony and Octavian in 42 BCE. Image: Pleiades.

Battles of Philippi (42 BCE): Mark Antony and Octavian vs. Brutus and Cassius

Syme (1939): 204-204: “The [first] battle was indecisive. Brutus on the right flank swept over the Caesarian lines and captured the camp of Octavianus, who was not there. A certain mystery envelops his movements: on his own account he obeyed a warning dream which had visited his favourite doctor. The other wing of the Caesarians, led by Antonius, broke through the front of Cassius and pillaged his camp. Cassius despaired too soon. Unaware of the brilliant success of Brutus on the right wing, deceived perhaps, as one account runs, through a defect of his eyesight (Plut. Brut. 43), and believing all was lost, Cassius fell upon his sword. Such as the first Battle of Philippi (Oct. 23rd)…After a tenacious and bloody contest, the Caesarian army prevailed. Once again the Balkan lands witnessed a Roman disaster and entombed the armies of the Republic (Lucan, Pharsalia 7.862). This time the decision was final and irrevocable, the last struggle of the Free State. Henceforth, nothing but a contests of despots over the corpse of liberty. The men who fell at Philippi fought for a principle, a tradition and a class — narrow, imperfect and outworn, but for all that the soul and spirit of Rome.”

Suetonius (Life of Divine Augustus 13): Then, forming a league with Mark Antony and Lepidus, he finished the war of Philippi also in two battles, although weakened by illness, being driven from his camp in the first battle and barely making his escape by fleeing to Antony’s division. He did not use his victory with moderation, but after sending Brutus’s head to Rome, to be cast at the feet of Caesar’s statue, he vented his spleen upon the most distinguished of his captives, not even sparing them insulting language. For instance, to one man who begged humbly for burial, he is said to have replied: “The birds will soon settle that question.” When two others, father and son, begged for their lives, he is said to have bidden them cast lots to decide which should be spared, and then to have looked on while both died, since the father was executed because he offered to die for his son, and the latter thereupon took his own life. Because of this the rest, including Marcus Favonius, the well-known imitator of Cato, saluted Mark Antony respectfully as Imperator, when they were led out in chains, but lashed Augustus to his face with the foulest abuse.

41 BCE

Antony goes to the East

Mark Antony meets Cleopatra at Tarsus

Antony in the East (41 BCE) — Becoming Dionysus

Plutarch (Life of Mark Antony 24): Antony crossed over to Asia and laid hands on the wealth that was there. Kings would often come to his doors, and wives of kings, vying with one another in their gifts and their beauty, would yield up their honour for his pleasure; and while at Rome Caesar was wearing himself out in civil strifes and wars, Antony himself was enjoying abundant peace and leisure, and was swept back by his passions into his accustomed mode of life. Cithara-players like Anaxenor, aulos-players like Xuthus, one Metrodorus, a dancer, and such other rabble of Asiatic performers, who surpassed in impudence and effrontery the pests from Italy, poured like a flood into his quarters and held sway there….When Antony made his entry into Ephesus, women arrayed like Bacchants, and men and boys like Satyrs and Pans, led the way before him, and the city was full of ivy and thyrsus-wands and harps and pipes and flutes, the people hailing him as Dionysus Giver of Joy and Beneficent. For he was such, undoubtedly, to some; but to the greater part he was Dionysus Carnivorous and Savage.

1) Seated cithara player from the Villa of P. Fannius Synistor (50 BCE). Image: Met Museum. 2) Dionysiac scene on the interior of a drinking cup from Athens (c. 470 BCE). Bacchant (= follower of Dionysus) with a thyrsus is seized by a satyr. The pair are flanked by satyrs. In the field are phallic flowers. Image: Boston MFA. 3) Bacchant holding a thyrsuswall painting from Casa del Naviglio (Pompeii VI.10.11), 1st c. CE. Image: wikimedia. See pompeiiinpictures.com for line drawings of the Bacchant wall paintings from this house.

Antony and Cleopatra

Plutarch (Life of Mark Antony 25): Such, then, was the nature of Antony, where now as a crowning evil his love for Cleopatra supervened, roused and drove to frenzy many of the passions that were still hidden and quiescent in him, and dissipated and destroyed whatever good and saving qualities still offered resistance. And he was taken captive in this manner. As he was getting ready for the Parthian war, he sent to Cleopatra, ordering her to meet him in Cilicia in order to make answer to the charges made against her of raising and giving to Cassius much money for the war. But Dellius, Antony’s messenger, when he saw how Cleopatra looked, and noticed her subtlety and cleverness in conversation, at once perceived that Antony would not so much as think of doing such a woman any harm, but that she would have the greatest influence with him. He therefore resorted to flattery and tried to induce the Egyptian to go to Cilicia “decked out in fine array”* (as Homer would say), and not to be afraid of Antony, who was the most agreeable and humane of commanders.”

*“decked out in fine array” =  a quotation from Homer Iliad 14.162, where Hera prepares her body to be beautiful so that she can seduce and deceive Zeus. Hera enlists the help of Aphrodite (Iliad 14.190ff.).

Pleiades Tarsus

Tarsus in Cilicia, where Mark Antony and Cleopatra met in 41 BCE. Image: pleiades.

Plutarch (Life of Mark Antony 26): Though she received many letters of summons both from Antony himself and from his friends, she so despised and laughed the man to scorn as to sail up the river Cydnus in a barge with gilded poop, its sails spread purple, its rowers urging it on with silver oars to the sound of the flute blended with pipes and lutes. She herself reclined beneath a canopy spangled with gold, adorned like Venus in a painting, while boys like Cupids in paintings stood on either side and fanned her. Likewise also the   fairest of her serving-girls, attired like Nereïds and Graces, were stationed, some at the rudder-sweeps, and others at the reefing-ropes. Wondrous scents from countless incense-offerings diffused themselves along the river-banks.  Of the inhabitants, some accompanied her on either bank of the river from its very mouth, while others went down from the city to behold the sight. The throng in the market-place gradually streamed away, until at last Antony himself, seated on his tribunal, was left alone. And a rumour spread on every hand that Venus was come to revel with Bacchus for the good of Asia… (27) Cleopatra observed in the jests of Antony much of the soldier and the common man, and adopted this manner also towards him, without restraint now, and boldly. For her beauty, as we are  told, was in itself not altogether incomparable, nor such as to strike those who saw her; but conversation with her had an irresistible charm, and her presence, combined with the persuasiveness of her discourse and the character which was somehow diffused about her behaviour towards others, had something stimulating about itThere was sweetness also in the tones of her voice; and her tongue, like an instrument of many strings, she could readily turn to whatever language she pleased, so that in her interviews with barbarians she very seldom had need of an interpreter, but made her replies to most of them herself and unassisted, whether they were Ethiopians, Troglodytes, Hebrews, Arabians, Syrians, Medes or Parthians. It’s said that she knew the speech of many other peoples also, although the kings of Egypt before her had not even made an effort to learn the native language, and some actually gave up their Macedonian dialect.

Touched by the Hand of Cleopatra

P. 25239: Königlicher ErlaßP. 25239 (= P. Bingen 45) Royal Egyptian decree granting a tax exemption to a Roman [text uncertain: scholars have suggested Publius Canidius, who commanded Antony’s land forces during Battle of Actium (Van Minnen 2000: 29-34); or Quintus Cascellius (Zimmerman 2002: 133-139), see Sarri 2017: 168 n592]. Allegedly contains the signature of Cleopatra herself — γινέσθωι, “ginesthō” = “Make it happen.” Image: Berliner Papyrusdatenbank.

41-40 BCE

War 0f Perusia

Octavian fights Mark Antony’s brother, L. Antonius, and wife, Fulvia.
Octavian divorces Fulvia’s daughter, Clodia. (The marriage was never consumated, Suet. Aug. 62)


Antony’s wives

Plutarch (Life of Mark Antony 10): Antony turned his thoughts to marriage, taking to wife Fulvia, the widow of Clodius Pulcher. She was a woman who took no thought for spinning or housekeeping, nor would she deign to bear sway over a man of private station, but she wished to rule a ruler and command a commander. Therefore Cleopatra was indebted to Fulvia for teaching Antony to endure a woman’s sway, since she took him over quite tamed, and schooled at the outset to obey women.

War of Perusia — Fulvia and L. Antonius are besieged by Octavian (41-40 BCE)

Beard 2016: 344-345: “In and around the modern town of Perugia, dozens of small sling bullets have been unearthed, deadly lead projectiles that were catapulted back and forth between the forces of Octavian when he was besieging the city and Lucius Antonius and Fulvia inside. Many were made in moulds that imprinted a short slogan on the bullet, as if to take a message to the enemy. This was not an uncommon idea in the ancient world: earlier Greek specimens appear with the equivalent of ‘Gotcha’ or ‘Ouch’, and some from the Social War declare ‘Get Pompeius’ (meaning Pompey the Great’s father) or ‘In your gut.’ But the bullets from Perugia are far more eloquent. Some are taunting: ‘You’re famished and pretending not to be,’ reads one message lobbed into the city, where starvation eventually led to surrender. Several others carry brutally obscene messages aimed at predictable pars of the anatomy of their different targets, male and female: ‘Lucius Antonius, you baldy, and you too, Fulvia, open your arsehole’; ‘I’m going for Madam Octavius’ arsehole’; or ‘I’m going for Fulvia’s clitoris.'”

lead sling-bullets Perusine War in 41

Inscribed lead bullets from the War of Perusia. Image: Companion to the Worlds of Roman Women.

Martial (11.20): Malignant one, you who read Latin words with a sour face, read six wanton verses of Caesar Augustus: “Because Antony fucks Glaphyra, Fulvia determined to punish me by making me fuck her in turn. I fuck Fulvia? What if Manius begged me to sodomize him, would I do it? I think not, if I were in my right mind. ‘Either fuck me or let us fight,’ says she. Ah, but my cock is dearer to me than life itself. Let the trumpets sound.” Augustus, you surely absolve my witty little books, knowing how to speak with Roman candor.

40 BCE

Pact of Brundisium

(port in South East Italy)

Mark Antony + Octavian’s armies refuse to fight each other (Appian 5.59)

Mark Antony + Octavian reconcile, “amnesty for past, friendship for future” (Appian 5.64)

— Fulvia dies in exile at Sicyon (Dio Cassius 48.28)

— Antony marries Octavian’s sister, Octavia (Appian 5.64)


39 BCE

Pact of Misenum

(Bay of Naples)

Mark Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus make a treaty with Sextus Pompeius, son of Pompey Magnus, to end his naval blockage of Italy (Plut. Ant. 32).

— Sextus Pompeius is promised command of Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Achaia; a consulship and augurate (App. 5.72-3; Dio Cassius 48.36). Inscriptions (ILLRP 426) show that Sextus used the titles of consul + augur.


38 BCE

Octavian + Livia

— Octavian divorces Scribonia on the day Julia is born (Dio Cassius 48.34), marries Livia shortly after (Suet. Aug. 62)

37 BCE

Pact of Tarentum

(Southern Italy)

Renewal of the Triumvirate for 5 years.

Syme 1939: 225: “The powers of the Triumvirs as conferred by the Lex Titia had already run out with the close of the previous year. Nobody had bothered about that. The Triumvirate was now prolonged for another five years until the end of 33 BCE.”


36 BCE

Removal of Lepidus

Lepidus is deserted by his army, and Octavianus strips him of his triumviral powers (App. 5.122-126, Suet. Aug. 16, Plut. Ant. 55).

Octavian’s defeat of Sextus Pompeius

decisive defeat of Sextus Pompeius at Naulochus (Dio Cassius 49.11)

Mark Antony fails in Parthia, retreats 

Antony’s failures in Parthia (Plut. Ant. 38-40); suffers casualties when forced to retreat through Armenia (Plut. Ant. 41-51)

34 BCE

Mark Antony’s Armenian victory, “triumph” in Egypt, “Donations of Alexandria”

— Mark Antony invades Armenia, captures king Artavasdes, celebrates a triumph at Alexandria (Plut. Ant. 50)

— “Donations of Alexandria.” Antonius grants royal titles to his  children with Cleopatra, and Caesar’s son (Plut. Ant. 54)

Plutarch (Life of Antony 54): Mark Antony was hated, too, for the distribution which he made to his children in Alexandria; it was seen to be theatrical and arrogant, and to evince hatred of Rome. For after filling the gymnasium with a throng and placing on a tribunal of silver two thrones of gold, one for himself and the other for Cleopatra, and other lower thrones for his sons, in the first place he declared Cleopatra Queen of Egypt, Cyprus, Libya, and Coele Syria, and she was to share her throne with Caesarion. Caesarion was believed to be a son of the former Caesar, by whom Cleopatra was left  pregnant. In the second place, he proclaimed his own sons by Cleopatra Kings of Kings, and to Alexander he allotted Armenia, Media and Parthia (when he should have subdued it), to Ptolemy Phoenicia, Syria, and Cilicia. At the same time he also produced his sons, Alexander arrayed in Median garb, which included a tiara and upright head-dress, Ptolemy in boots, short cloak, and broad-brimmed hat surmounted by a diadem. For the latter was the dress of the kings who followed Alexander, the former that of Medes and Armenians.  And when the boys had embraced their parents, one was given a bodyguard of Armenians, the other of Macedonians. Cleopatra, indeed, both then and at other times when she appeared in public, assumed a robe sacred to Isis, and was addressed as the New Isis.

Alexander Helios (‘the Sun’) — Armenia, Media, Parthia
Cleopatra Selene (‘the Moon’) — Cyrenaica, Libya (Dio Cassius 49.41)
Ptolemy Philadelphus (‘Brotherly love’) — Phoenicia, Syria, Cilicia

33 BCE

Octavian consul II

Triumvirate expires at end year.

32 BCE

Tensions rise

Mark Antony divorces Octavia (Plut. Ant. 57).

Octavian seizes Mark Antony’s will and reads it to the senate (Suet. Aug. 17): Antony named public enemy.


31 BCE

Battle of Actium

Cleopatra and Mark Antony are defeated at Actium. They committed suicide in Alexandria (30 BCE, Antony: Plut. Ant. 76-77, Suet. Aug. 17; Cleopatra by poisonous asp, Plut. Ant. 84-86, Suet. Aug. 17).


Study Guide

Midterm Study Guide

The Midterm examTuesday March 20th (wk 9) — 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, or see the jpegs below. You will also receive a physical copy of this in lecture on Tuesday March 13th.

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.

study guide cl102 1study guide cl102 2study guide cl102 3study guide cl102 4study guide cl102 5study guide cl102 6