The Age of Augustus

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The Age of Augustus
After Julius Caesar, some Roman leaders took the name Caesar as a sign of power. This is also where we get the title of Czar (or Tsar in Russia) and Kaiser in Germany, both areas where Rome had influence. Another term of leadership that comes from ancient Rome is princeps (or prince) meaning “first,” from the title that Augustus Caesar called himself. His official title was “first among equals,” as a sign to Rome that he was attempting to restore long-lost equality and order to Rome. He is considered to be one of the greatest Roman leaders for his actions led to reunifying Rome.

Born Gaius Octavius Thurinus, the man who would become Augustus Caesar was actually adopted by Julius Caesar upon his assassination through his will. Augustus, who ruled from 27BC to 14AD, made great strides toward reforming government by weeding out corruption and the lust for power. In an effort to balance out the power, Augustus allowed for elections for many political offices, though he meddled in the process to only allow the best candidates to win. This allowed lower-class persons to finally get involved in politics and cleaned out those who were there to make money and attain power. The new government was ruled by people who had the best interest of Rome in mind, rather than their own.

Augustus’ military changed from volunteer to professional and he planted many soldiers around the empire on farms to spread out the power and influence of Rome throughout the known world. Rome was returning to the small-town, agrarian life that it had been founded upon. All Italians were granted citizenship. Augustus held both political and military claims to the empire and distributed power to the righteous and intelligent provincial leaders who had no desires for ruling the entire empire and therefore were of no threat to him. This peaceful and prosperous time for the Roman Empire became known as the age of Augustus.

It was during this time that Augustus put a significant amount of money and effort into building the culture of Rome by concentrating on the arts. It what would be considered socialism today, Augustus undertook massive building projects that gave us the Temple to Apollo and the Forum as well as many other temples and buildings that all represented Roman greatness. Artists and sculptors were hired by the state to create works for these buildings.

Building on the era of Cicero that ended with the fall of the Republic, The Golden Age of Roman Literature began with Augustus’ Imperial Rome. All creativity came under the direct patronage of the princeps himself. Augustus hired Maecenas to be the cultural advisor for all of Rome. Maecenas’ job was kind of like an artistic talent scout as he was to find the best people to advance the ideology of Augustus himself. It was during this time that the poets Vergil, Horace and Ovid did their writing.

Many of the poems raised Augustus to be more glamorous than he was, while others spoke of the daily strife that still existed in some forms in Rome. Stories of Roman mythology were written down and spread throughout Europe and the Middle East. Horace is credited with creating satire to describe the moral background of everyday behaviors. Ovid was exiled for creating a series of poems that included stories of sexual seduction, though he had put together the largest collection of Greek and Roman myths to date. The continuation of the Roman Empire into the first centuries AD was an expansion upon the work of Augustus.

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