The Achievements of Augustus Caesar
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The friends of Julius Caesar, Augustus’ adoptive father, slew Julius “because he aspired to be too great too quickly” , with little consideration for Republican sensitivities. “Augustus died peacefully, in his seventy-seventh year, after wielding for half a lifetime power greater than even Julius can have contemplated” . “Augustus always took his time over decisions if it was possible, and carefully went over his facts again and again. [He] made self-control and patience his unfailing principles” . “Once he had decided that a given task was in his power, he pursued it with steadfast determination. He refused to be discouraged by his mistakes, but tried one key after another until he had fitted the lock” [40i].
“His tact served him well in his dealings with the upper classes”  and “even those who lost most by the change were soothed into submission without glaring loss of self-respect” . “His patience made it easy for him to attend long and boring meetings of the senate and listen to silly and incompetent speeches ... Only a tactful man like Augustus could succeed in putting the senators in charge of the traffic lights of the empire—with the assurance that green lights would be turned on whenever his carriage was about to go through” .
“Augustus only slowly acquired respect and devotion among his subjects—slowly, but very surely” . “He got what he wanted from writers and poets, without giving explicit orders. His behavior toward the common people won them over… He did only what he promised to do, no less and no more. This was a remarkable achievement, which demanded the utmost tact, flexibility, patience, and moderation” .
“Augustus’ friends remained true to him, some of them from his youth to his old age; others, once opponents but later his warm supporters, gave him constant and loyal assistance. It was not an accident that he had as his helpers men like Maecenas and Agrippa, nor that men like Messala and Asinius Pollio, once in open and armed opposition, found it possible to accept service under him in a manner entirely consistent with their dignity and with a high sense of personal honor. Such friends are not made and kept by mere shrewdness nor by the skillful cleverness of a political opportunist” .
“Two great benefits were alone enough to render his principate memorable: the happiness of the provinces” and the establishment “for generations the Pax Romana” , the Roman Peace. But the Augustan age was characterised by more.
A great politician told Julius Caesar, “All things which you now see lying stricken and prostrate, as it is inevitable that they should be—through the violence of war, must now be raised up again by you alone. The courts of justice must be reestablished, confidence must be restored, licentiousness must be repressed, the increase of population must be encouraged, everything which has become lax and disordered must be braced up and strengthened by strict laws” . It was not achieved in Julius Caesar’s Republic, but it was well-established in Augustus’ Empire—“the Golden Age” of Rome .
If the previous century of civil strive could be equated to a stroke, perhaps more than one person could have saved it and brought peace. But saving it was, comparatively, a drop in the ocean. Rehabilitating Rome was the hard part. But Augustus did more than just rehabilitate Rome—his “culture program was nothing less than the complete moral revival” . “Few cultural periods in the history of the world have taken their name from their rulers for intrinsic rather than convenient reasons: political power and cultural creativity are not often related. The age of Augustus was different: when Horace said tua aetas, Caesar (‘your era, Augustus’), he had more than politics in mind” . “The distinctive aspect of Augustan culture [is] that it went beyond purely material aspects and satisfaction and was inspired by ideas, ideals, and values. These found their expression across the wide spectrum of government, social policy, art, literature, and religion” . One of Julius Caesar’s famous quotes is “I came, I saw, I conquered” . How different is that to Augustus’ “I found Rome a city of bricks, and left it a city of marble” !
“Yet with all this, Augustus was not indispensable—that was the greatest triumph of all ... It had been Augustus’ most fervent prayer that he might lay the foundations of the new order deep and secure. He had done more than that” .
‘The best tribute to the work of Augustus is not the fact that under him the provinces were well and fairly governed, but that under his successors…relative equity and relative justice continued to prevail; the provinces knew little and cared less about the personal qualities of their Caesars. In the unspectacular arts of peaceful and careful government rather that in the unsubstantial glories of war and conquest or the empty thrills of revolution, the real greatness of Caesar Augustus consists. “The right ordering of the empire he had won was a heavier task than the winning of it”’ .
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