THE OCTAVIANS, by all accounts, were famous in ancient Velitrae. An 'Octavian Street' runs through the busiest part of the city, and an altar is shown there consecrated by one Octavius, a local commander. Apparently news of an attack by a neighbouring city reached him while he was sacrificing a victim to Mars; snatching the intestines from the fire, he offered them only half-burned, and hurried away to win the battle. The Velitraean records include a decree that all future offerings to Mars must be made in the same fashion, the carcase of every victim becoming a perquisite of the Octavians.
2. King Tarquinius Priscus admitted the Octavians, among other plebeian families, to the Roman Senate, and though Servius Tullius awarded them patrician privileges, they later reverted to plebeian rank until eventually Julius Caesar made them patricians once more. Gaius Rufus was the first Octavian elected to office by the popular vote — he won a quaestorship. His sons Gaius and Gnaeus fathered two very different branches of the family, Gnaeus's descendants held all the highest offices of state in turn; but Gaius's branch, either by accident or choice, remained simple knights until the entry into the Senate of that Gaius Octavius who became famous as Augustus's father. Augustus's great-grandfather had fought as a colonel under Aemilius Papus in Sicily during the Second Punic War. His grandfather, who enjoyed a comfortable income, was apparently content with a municipal magistracy, and lived to an advanced age. These historical details are not derived from Augustus's own memoirs, which merely record that he came of a rich old equestrian family, and that his father had been the first Octavian to enter the Senate. Mark Antony wrote scornfully that Augustus's great-grandfather had been only a freedman, a rope-maker from the neighbourhood of Thurii; and his grandfather, a money-changer. This is as much information as I have managed to glean about Augustus's family history.
3. I cannot believe that Gaius Octavius, the father, was also a money-changer who distributed bribes among the voters in the Campus and undertook other electioneering services. He was certainly born rich enough to achieve office without having to engage in such practices; and proved a capable administrator. After his praetorship, he became governor of Macedonia, and the Senate commissioned him to pass through Thurii on his way there and disperse a group of outlawed slaves who, having fought under Spartacus and Catiline, were now terrorizing the district. He governed Macedonia courageously and justly, winning a big battle in Thrace, mainly against the Bessians; and letters survive from Cicero reproaching his brother Quintus, then proconsular governor of Asia, for inefficiency, and advising him to make Octavius his model in all diplomatic dealings with allies.
4. Gaius died suddenly on his return to Rome, before he could stand as a candidate for the Consulship. He left three children: Octavia the Elder, Octavia the Younger, and Augustus. The mother of Octavia the Elder was Ancharia; the other two were his children by Atia, daughter of Marcus Atius Balbus and Julius Caesar's sister Julia. Balbus's family originated in Aricia, and could boast of many ancestral busts of senators; his mother was also closely related to Pompey the Great. Balbus served first as praetor, and then with a Commission of Twenty appointed under the Julian Law to divide estates in Campania among the commons. Mark Antony likewise tried to belittle Augustus's maternal line by alleging that his greatgrandfather Balbus had been born in Africa, and kept first a perfumery and then a bake-house at Aricia. Cassius of Parma similarly sneers at Augustus as the grandson of a baker and a money-changer, writing in. one of his letters:
'Your mother's flour came from a miserable Arician bakery, and the coin-stained hands of a Nerulian moneychanger kneaded it.'
5. Augustus was born just before sunrise on 23 September, while Cicero and Gaius Antonius were Consuls, at Ox Heads, in the Palatine district; a shrine to him, built soon after his death, marks the spot. The case of a young patrician, Gaius Laetorius by name, figures in the published book of Senatorial Proceedings. Pleading his youth and position to escape the maximum punishment for adultery, he further described himself as 'the occupant and, one might even say, guardian of the place first touched at his birth by the God Augustus'. Laetorius begged for pardon in the name of his 'own especial god'. The Senate afterwards consecrated that part of the building by decree.
6. In the country mansion, near Velitrae, which belonged to Augustus's grandfather, a small room, not unlike a butler's pantry, is still shown and described as Augustus's nursery; the local people firmly believe that he was also born there. Religious scruples forbid anyone to enter except for some necessary reason, and after purification. It had long been believed that casual visitors would be overcome by a sudden awful terror; and recently this was proved true when, one night, a new owner of the mansion, either from ignorance or because he wanted to test the truth of the belief, went to sleep in the room. A few hours later he was hurled out of bed by a supernatural agency and found lying half-dead against the door, bedclothes and all.
7. I can prove pretty conclusively that as a child Augustus was called Thurinus ('the Thurian'), perhaps because his ancestors had once lived at Thurii, or because his father had defeated the slaves in that neighbourhood soon after he was born; my evidence is a bronze statuette which I once owned. It shows him as a boy, and a rusty, almost illegible inscription in iron letters gives him this name. I have presented the statuette to the Emperor Hadrian, who has placed it among the household-gods in his bedroom. Moreover, Augustus was often sneeringly called 'The Thurian' in Antony's correspondence. Augustus answered by confessing himself puzzled: why should a name which he had outgrown be thrown in his face as an insult?
Later he adopted the surname Caesar to comply with the will of his mother's uncle, the Dictator; and then the title Augustus, after a motion to that effect had been introduced by Munatius Plancus. Some senators wished him to be called Romulus, as the second founder of the City; but Plancus had his way. He argued that 'Augustus' was both a more original and a more honourable title, since sanctuaries and all places consecrated by the augurs are known as 'august' — the word being either an enlarged form of auctus, implying the 'increase' of dignity thus given such places, or a worn-down form of the phrase aviuw gestus gustus-ve, 'the behaviour and appetite of birds', which the augurs observed. Plancus supported his point by a quotation from Ennius's Annals:
'When glorious Rome had founded been, by augury august.'
8. At the age of four Augustus lost his father. At twelve he delivered a funeral oration in honour of his grandmother Julia, Julius Caesar's sister. At sixteen, having now come of age, he was awarded military decorations when Caesar celebrated his African triumph, though he had been too young for overseas service. Caesar then went to fight Pompey's sons in Spain; Augustus followed with a very small escort, along roads held by the enemy, after a shipwreck, too, and in a state of semi-convalescence from a serious illness. This energetic action delighted Caesar, who soon formed a high estimate of Augustus's character.
Having recovered possession of Spain, Caesar planned a war against the Dacians and Parthians, and sent Augustus ahead to Apollonia, in Illyria, where he spent his spare time studying Greek literature. News then came that Caesar had been assassinated, after naming him his heir, and Augustus was tempted, for awhile, to put himself under the protection of the troops quartered near by. However, deciding that this would be rash and injudicious, he returned to Rome and there entered upon his inheritance, despite his mother's doubts and the active opposition of his step-father, Marcius Philippus the ex-Consul. Augustus now took command of the Army, and governed the Empire: first with Mark Antony and Lepidus as his colleagues; next, for nearly twelve years, with Antony alone; finally by himself for another forty-four years.
9. After this brief outline of Augustus's life, I shall fill in its various phases; but the story will be more readable and understandable if, instead of keeping chronological order, I use subject headings and begin with the civil wars that he fought.
There were five campaigns in all; associated respectively with the geographical names of Mutina, Philippi, Perugia, Sicily, and Actium. Those of Mutina and Actium were against Mark Antony; that of Philippi against Brutus and Cassius; that of Perugia against Antony's brother Lucius; that of Sicily against Sextus Pompey, son of Pompey the Great.
10. The underlying motive of every campaign was that Augustus felt it his duty, above all, to avenge Caesar and keep his decrees in force. On his return from Apollonia, he decided to punish Brutus and Cassius immediately; but they foresaw the danger and escaped, so he had recourse to the law and prosecuted them for murder. Finding that the officials who should have celebrated Caesar's victory with public Games did not dare to carry out their commission, he undertook the task himself. Because stronger authority was needed to implement his other plans, Augustus announced his candidature for a tribuneship of the people- death had created a vacancy- although neither a patrician nor a senator, and thus doubly disqualified from standing. Mark Antony, one of the two Consuls, on whose assistance Augustus had particularly counted, opposed this action and denied him even his ordinary legal rights, except on payment of a heavy bribe. Augustus therefore deserted the popular party and went over to the aristocrats, well aware that they hated Antony, who was now besieging Decimus Brutus at Mutina and trying to expel him from the province to which he had been appointed by Caesar with the Senate's approval. On the advice of certain aristocrats, Augustus actually engaged assassins to murder Antony and, when the plot came to light, spent as much money as he could raise on enlisting a force of veterans to protect himself and the Constitution. The Senate awarded him praetorian rank, gave him the command of this army, and instructed him to join Hirtius and Pansa, the two new Consuls, in the relief of Mutina. Augustus brought the campaign to a successful close within three months, after fighting a couple of battles. According to Antony, he ran away from the first of these and did not reappear until the next day, having lost both his charger and his purple cloak. But it is generally agreed that in the second engagement he showed not only skill as a commander but courage as a soldier: when, at a crisis in the fighting, the standard-bearer of his legion was seriously wounded, Augustus himself shouldered the Eagle and carried it for some time.
11. Because Hirtius fell in battle, and Pansa later succumbed to a wound, a rumour went about that Augustus had engineered both deaths with the object of gaining sole control over their victorious armies after Antony's defeat. Pansa certainly died in such suspicious circumstances that Glyco, his physician, was arrested on a charge of poisoning the wound; and Aquilius Niger goes so far as to assert that in the confusion of battle Augustus despatched Hirtius with his own hand.
12. However, when Augustus heard that Mark Antony had been taken under Lepidus's protection and that the other military commanders, supported by their troops, w ere coming to terms with these two, he at once deserted the aristocratic party. His excuse was that some of them had contemptuously called him 'the boy', while others had not concealed their view that, once publicly honoured, he should be done away with- to avoid having to pay his veterans and himself what they expected. Augustus showed regret for this temporary defection from the popular cause by imposing a heavier fine on the Nursians than they could possibly meet, and then exiling them from their city; they had offended him by erecting a monument to fellow-citizens killed at Mutina, with the inscription:
'Fallen in the cause of freedom!'
13. As member of a triumvirate consisting of Antony, Lepidus, and himself, Augustus defeated Brutus and Cassius at Philippi, though in ill-heath at the time. In the first of the two battles fought he was driven out of his camp, and escaped with some difficulty to Antony's command. After the second and decisive one he showed no clemency to his beaten enemies, but sent Brutus's head to Rome for throwing at the feet of Caesar's divine image; and insulted the more distinguished of his prisoners. When one of these humbly asked for the right of decent burial, he got the cold answer: 'That must be settled with the carrion-birds.' And when a father and his son pleaded for their lives, Augustus, it is said, told them to decide which of the two should be spared, by casting lots. The father sacrificed his life for the son, and was executed; the son then committed suicide; Augustus watched them both die. His conduct so disgusted the remainder of the prisoners, including Marcus Favonius, a well-known disciple of Cato's, that while being led off in chains they courteously saluted Antony as their conqueror, but abused Augustus to his face with the most obscene epithets.
The victors divided between them the responsibilities of government. Antony undertook to pacify the eastern provinces if Augustus led the veterans back to Italy and settled them on municipal lands. However, Augustus failed to satisfy either the landowners, who complained that they were being evicted from their estates; or the veterans, who felt entitled to better rewards for their service.
14. At this point Lucius Antonius felt strong enough, as Consul and brother of the powerful Mark Antony, to raise a revolt. Augustus forced him to take refuge in the city of Perugia, which he starved into surrender, but only after being twice exposed to great danger. On the first occasion, before the revolt broke out, he had found a private soldier watching the Games from one of the seats reserved for knights, and ordered his removal by an attendant; when Augustus's enemies then circulated a rumour that the offender had been tortured and executed, an angry crowd of soldiers began to demonstrate at once and Augustus would have lost his life had not the missing soldier suddenly reappeared, safe and unhurt. On the second occasion Augustus was sacrificing close to the walls of Perugia, during the siege, when a party of gladiators made a sortie and nearly cut off his retreat.
15. After the fall of the city Augustus took vengeance on crowds of prisoners and returned the same answer to all who sued for pardon or tried to explain their presence among the rebels. It was simply: 'You must die!' According to some historians, he chose 300 prisoners of equestrian or senatorial rank, and offered them on the ides of March at the altar of the God Julius, as human sacrifices. Augustus fought, it is said, because he wished to offer his secret enemies, and those whom fear rather than affection kept with his party, a chance to declare themselves by joining Lucius Antonius; he would then crush them, confiscate their estates, and thus manage to pay off his veterans.
16. The Sicilian war, one of his first enterprises, lasted for eight years .' It was interrupted by two storms that wrecked his fleets-in the summer, too — and obliged him to rebuild them; and by the Pompeians' success in cutting his corn supplies, which forced him to grant a popular demand for an armistice. At last, however, he got his new ships into fighting condition, with 30,000 freed slaves trained as oarsmen, and formed the Julian harbour at Baiae by letting the sea into the Lucrine and Avernan lakes. Here he exercised his crews all one winter and, when the sailing season opened, defeated Sextus Pompey off the Sicilian coast between Mylae and Naulochus; although on the eve of the battle he fell so fast asleep that his staff had to wake him and ask for the signal to begin hostilities. This must have been the occasion of Mark Antony's taunt:
'He could not even stand up to review his fleet when the ships were already at their fighting stations; but lay on his back and gazed up at the sky, never rising to show that he was alive until his admiral Marcus Agrippa had routed the enemy.'
Augustus has been taken to task for crying out, when he heard that his fleets were sunk: 'I will win this war, whatever Neptune may do!' and for removing the god's image from the sacred procession at the next celebration of Games in the Circus. It would be safe to say that the Sicilian was by far his most dangerous campaign. He once landed an army in Sicily and was sailing back to Italy, where the bulk of his forces were stationed, when the Pompeian admirals Demochares and Apollophanes suddenly appeared and he just managed to escape them with a single ship. He was also nearly captured in Calabria: as he walked along the road to Reggio by way of Epizephyrian Locri, he saw a flotilla of two-oared naval vessels heading for the shore and, not realizing that they were Pompeians, went down to greet them on the beach. Afterwards, while hurriedly escaping inland by narrow, winding paths, he faced a new danger. Some years previously he had proscribed the father of Aemilius Paulus, an officer of his staff, one of whose slaves, now seeing a good opportunity to pay off an old score, tried to murder him.
Lepidus, the third member of the triumvirate, whom Augustus had summoned from Africa to his support, thought himself so important as the commander of twenty legions that, when Sextus Pompey had been beaten, he violently demanded the highest place in the government. Augustus deprived him of his legions and, though successfully pleading for his life, Lepidus spent what was left of it in permanent exile at Circei.
17. Eventually Augustus broke his friendship with Mark Antony, which had always been a tenuous one and in continuous need of patching; and proved that his rival had failed to conduct himself as befitted a Roman citizen, by ordering the will he had deposited at Rome to be opened and publicly read. It listed among Antony's heirs the illegitimate children fathered by him on Cleopatra. Nevertheless, when the Senate outlawed Antony, Augustus allowed all his relatives and friends to join him under safe conduct, including Gaius Sosius and Titus Domitius, the Consuls of the year. He also excused Bologna, a city traditionally dependent on the Antonian family, from rallying to his side as the rest of Italy was doing. Presently he defeated Antony in a sea-battle off Actium, where the fighting went on so long that he spent the whole night aboard his flagship.
In winter-quarters on Samos, after this victory, Augustus heard the alarming news of a mutiny at Brindisi among troops whom he had picked from every corps in the Army. They were demanding the bounties due to them and an immediate discharge. He returned to Italy, but ran into two storms: the first between the headlands of the Peloponnese and Aetolia; the second off the Ceraunian Mountains. Some of his galleys went down on both occasions; the rigging of his own vessel carried away and her rudder split. He stayed no more than twenty-seven days at Brindisi, just long enough to pacify the mutineers; then took a roundabout route to Egypt by way of Asia Minor and Syria, besieged Alexandria, where Antony had fled with Cleopatra, and soon reduced it. At the last moment Antony sued for peace, but Augustus ordered him to commit suicide and satisfied himself that he had obeyed by inspecting the corpse. He was so anxious to save Cleopatra as an ornament for his triumph that he actually summoned Psyllian snake-charmers to suck the poison from her self-inflicted wound, supposedly the bite of an asp. Though he allowed the lovers honourable burial in the same tomb, and gave orders that the mausoleum which they had begun to build should be completed, he had the elder of Antony's sons by Fulvia dragged from the image of the God Julius, to which he had fled with vain pleas for mercy, and executed. Augustus also sent cavalry in pursuit of Caesarion, Julius Caesar's bastard son by Cleopatra; and killed him when captured. However, he spared Cleopatra's children by Antony, brought them up no less tenderly than if they had been members of his own family, and gave them the education which their rank deserved.
18. About this time he had the sarcophagus containing Alexander the Great's mummy removed from the Mausoleum at Alexandria and, after a long look at its features, showed his veneration by crowning the head with a golden diadem and strewing flowers on the trunk. When asked 'Would you now like to visit the Mausoleum of the Ptolemies?' he replied: 'I came to see a King, not a row of corpses.'
Augustus turned the kingdom of Egypt into a Roman province; and then, to increase its fertility and its yield of grain for the Roman market, set troops to clean out the irrigation canals of the Nile Delta which had silted up after many years' neglect. To perpetuate the glory of his victory at Actium, he founded a city close to the scene of the battle and named it Nicopolis — or 'City of Victory' — and made arrangements for the celebration of Games there every five years. He also enlarged an ancient local temple of Apollo, and embellished his camp with trophies taken from Antony's fleet, consecrating the site jointly to Neptune and Mars.
19. Next, he suppressed a series of sporadic riots and revolts; besides certain conspiracies, all of them detected before they became dangerous. The leaders of the conspiracies were, in historical sequence: Lepidus the Younger; Varro Murena, and Fannius Caepio; Marcus Egnatius; Plautius Rufus and Lucius Paulus (the husband of Augustus's grand-daughter), aided by Lucius Aridasius, a feeble old man who had been indicted for forgery. Then came Audasius and Epicadus, whose plan had been to rescue Augustus's daughter Julia and his grandson Agrippa Postumus from the prison islands where they were confined, and forcibly take them to the legions abroad. But attempts against Augustus's life were made by men from even the lowest walks of life; so I must not forget one Telephus, a slave, whose task it had been to remind a noble mistress of her engagements; he nursed a delusion that he was fated to become emperor, and planned an armed attack on the Senate as well. Then an Illyrian camp orderly, who had managed to sneak into the Palace without being noticed by the porters, was caught one night near the imperial bedroom, brandishing a hunting-knife; but since no statement could be extracted from him by torture it is doubtful whether he was really insane or merely pretending to be.
20. Augustus commanded armies in only two foreign wars: against the Dalmatians while he was still in his teens, and against the Cantabrians after defeating Antony. In one of the Dalmatian battles his right knee was bruised by a sling-stone; in another, he had one leg and both arms severely crushed when a bridge collapsed. The remain der of his foreign wars were conducted by his lieutenants; though during some of the Pannonian and German campaigns he either visited the front or kept in close touch with general headquarters by moving up to Ravenna, Milan, or Aquileia.
21. Either as a local commander, or as commander-in-chief at Rome, Augustus conquered Cantabria, Aquitania, Pannonia, Dalmatia, and the whole of Illyricum, besides Raetia and the Alpine tribes known as Vindelicians and Salassians. He also checked the raids of the Dacians, inflicting heavy casualties on them — three of their generals fell in action; drove all the Germans back across the Elbe, except the Suebians and Sigambrians, who surrendered and agreed to settle in Gallic territory near the Rhine; and pacified other tribes who gave trouble.
Yet Augustus never wantonly invaded any country, and felt no temptation to increase the boundaries of Empire or enhance his military glory; indeed, he made certain barbarian chieftains swear in the Temple of Avenging Mars that they would faithfully keep the peace for which they sued. In some instances he tried to bind them to their oaths by demanding an unusual kind of hostage, namely women; well aware that barbarians do not feel bound to respect treaties secured only by male hostages. But he let them send acceptable substitutes as often as they pleased. Even when tribes rebelled frequently or showed particular ill-faith, Augustus's most severe punishment was to sell as slaves the prisoners he took, ordering them to be kept at some distance from their own country and not to be freed until thirty years had elapsed. Such was his reputation for courage and clemency that the very Indians and Scythians — nations of whom we then knew by hearsay alone — voluntarily sent ambassadors to Rome, pleading for his friendship and that of his people. The Parthians also were ready to grant Augustus's claims on Armenia and, when he demanded the surrender of the Eagles captured from Crassus and Mark Antony's lieutenants, not only returned them but offered hostages into the bargain; and once, because several rival princes were claiming the Parthian throne, announced that they would elect whichever candidate he chose.
22. The gates of the Temple of Janus on the Quirinal, which had been closed no more than twice since the foundation of Rome, he closed three times during a far shorter period, as a sign that the Empire was at peace on land and at sea. He enjoyed a triumphal ovation after Philippi, and again after his Sicilian successes — and celebrated three full triumphs for his victories won in Dalmatia, off Actium, and at Alexandria.
23. He suffered only two heavy and disgraceful defeats, both in Germany, the generals concerned being Lollius and Varus. Lollius's defeat was ignominious rather than of strategic importance; but Varus's nearly wrecked the Empire, since three legions with all their officers and auxiliary forces, and the general staff, were massacred to a man. When the news reached Rome, Augustus ordered the Guards to patrol the City at night and prevent any rising; then prolonged the terms of the provincial governors, so that the allies should have men of experience, whom they trusted, to confirm their allegiance. He also vowed to celebrate Games in honour of Jupiter Greatest and Best as soon as the political situation improved; similar vows had been made during the Cimbrian and Marsian Wars. Indeed, it is said that he took the disaster so deeply to heart that he left his hair and beard untrimmed for months; he would often beat his head on a door, shouting: 'Quinctilius Varus, give me back my legions!' and always kept the anniversary as a day of deep mourning.
24. Augustus introduced many reforms into the Army, besides reviving certain obsolete practices, and exacted the strictest discipline. He grudged even his generals home-leave, and granted this only during the winter. When a Roman knight cut off the thumbs of his two young sons to incapacitate them for Army service, Augustus had him and his property publicly auctioned; but, realizing that a group of tax-collectors were bidding for the man, knocked him down to an imperial freedman-with instructions that he should be sent away and allowed a free existence in some country place. He gave the entire Tenth Legion an ignominious discharge because of their insolent behaviour, and when some other legions also demanded their discharge in a similarly riotous manner, he disbanded them, withholding the bounty which they would have earned had they continued loyal. If a company broke in battle, Augustus ordered the survivors to draw lots, then executed every tenth man, and fed the remainder on barley bread instead of the customary wheat ration.
Company commanders found absent from their posts were sentenced to death, like other ranks, and any lesser dereliction of duty earned them one of several degrading punishments — such as being made to stand all day long in front of general headquarters, sometimes wearing tunics without sword-belts, sometimes carrying ten-foot poles, or even sods of turf — as though they had been private soldiers whose task it was to measure out and build the camp ramparts.
25. When the Civil Wars were over, Augustus no longer addressed the troops as 'Comrades', but as 'Men'; and had his sons and step-sons follow suit. He thought 'Comrades' too flattering a term: consonant neither with military discipline, nor with peacetime service, nor with the respect due to himself and his family. Apart from the City firebrigades, and militia companies raised to keep order during food shortages, he enlisted freedmen in the Army only on two occasions. The first was when the veteran colonies on the borders of Illyricum needed protection; the second, when the Roman bank of the Rhine had to be held in force. These soldiers were recruited, as slaves, from the households of well-to-do men and women, and then immediately freed; but he kept them segregated in their original companies, not allowing them either to mess with men of free birth or to carry arms of standard pattern.
Most of the decorations with which Augustus rewarded distinguished conduct in the field were valuable silver and gold medallions or collars, rather than mural crowns — so-called because traditionally earned by the first man who scaled an enemy wall. These crowns he awarded as rarely as possible and with due regard to merit; private soldiers sometimes won them. Marcus Agrippa earned the right to fly a blue ensign in recognition of his naval victory, off Sicily. The only fighting men whom Augustus held ineligible for decorations were generals who had already celebrated triumphs, even though they might have fought beside him and shared in his victories; he explained that they themselves had the right to confer such awards at their discretion. The two faults which he condemned most strongly in a military commander were haste and recklessness, and he constantly quoted such Greek proverbs as 'More haste, less speed,' and 'Give me a safe commander, not a rash one,' and the Latin tag: 'Well done is quickly done.' It was a principle of his that no campaign or battle should ever be fought unless more could clearly be gained by victory than lost by defeat; and he would compare those who took great risks in the hope of gaining some small advantage to a man who fishes with a golden hook, though aware that nothing he can catch will be valuable enough to justify its loss.
26. Among the public appointments and honours conferred on Augustus before he was officially old enough to receive them were some extraordinary ones granted him for life. At the age of twenty he created himself Consul, marched on Rome as though it were an enemy city, and sent messengers ahead in the name of his army to demand that the appointment should be confirmed. When the Senate hesitated to obey, one Cornelius, a company commander, opened his military cloak, displayed the hilt of his sword, and boldly said: 'If you do not make him Consul, this will!' Nine years later Augustus undertook his second consulship, and his third after another two years. Having held the next nine in sequence, he declined any more for as many as seventeen years; then demanded a twelfth term, and two years later a thirteenth-but only because he wanted to be holding the highest available office when his adopted sons, Gaius and Lucius Caesar, successively came of age. He held his sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth consulships for a full year each, and the remainder for nine months, or six, or four, or three- except for the second; that was the occasion of his seating himself on the curule chair in front of the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter early on New Year's Day, and resigning his office to a substitute a few hours later. He was absent from Rome at the beginning of his fourth consulship, which found him in Asia; of his fifth, which found him in Samos; and of his eighth and ninth, when he was visiting Tarragona.
27. For ten years Augustus remained a member of the Triumvirate commissioned to reorganize the Government, and though at first opposing his colleagues' plan for a proscription, yet, once this had been decided upon, carried it out more ruthlessly than either of them. They often relented under the pressure of political influence, or when the intended victims appealed for pity; Augustus alone demanded that no one was to be spared, and even added to the list of proscribed persons the name of his guardian Gaius Torranus, who had been an aedile at the same time as his father Octavius. Julius Saturninus has more to say on this subject: when the proscription was over and Marcus Lepidus, in an address to the House, justified the severe measures that had been taken but encouraged the hope that greater leniency would now be shown, since enough blood had been shed, Augustus spoke in a quite opposite sense. 'I consented to close the list,' he said, 'on condition that I should be allowed a free hand in future.' Later, however, he emphasized his regret for this rigorous attitude by creating Titus Vinius Philopoemen a knight — Philopoemen had, it appears, secretly harboured his patron who was on the list of the proscribed.
Under the Triumvirate, many of Augustus's acts won him the hatred of the people. Once, for instance, while addressing a soldiers' assembly at which a crowd of civilians were also present, he saw a Roman knight named Pinarius transcribing his speech; and had him stabbed there and then as taking too close an interest in the proceedings. Again, a spiteful comment by Tedius Afer, Consul-Elect, on some act of Augustus's, provoked him to such frightful threats that Afer committed suicide by jumping from a height. There was also the case of Quintus Gallius the praetor who, while paying Augustus his respects, clutched a set of writing-tablets underneath his robe. Augustus suspected that he had a sword, but dared not have him searched on the spot, for fear of being mistaken; so presently ordered an officer's party to drag him away from the tribunal. Gallius was tortured as if he were a slave; and though he confessed to nothing, Augustus himself tore out his eyes and sentenced him to death. In his own account of the incident, however, Augustus records that Gallius asked for an audience, attacked him unexpectedly, and was removed to prison; that, being then banished from Italy, he disappeared on the way to his place of exile, but whether he was shipwrecked or ambushed by bandits, nobody knew.
The commons awarded Augustus life-long tribunician power, and once or twice he chose a colleague to share it with him for a five-year period. The Senate also voted him the task of supervising public morals and scrutinizing the laws-another lifelong appointment. Thus, although he did not adopt the title of Censor, he was privileged to hold a public census, and did so three times, assisted by a colleague on the first and third occasions, though not the second.
28. Twice Augustus seriously thought of restoring the Republican Constitution: immediately after the fall of Antony, when he remembered that Antony had often accused him of being the one obstacle to such a change; and again when he could not shake off an exhausting illness. He then actually summoned the chief Officers of State, with the rest of the Senate, to the Palace and gave them a faithful account of the military and financial state of the Empire. On reconsideration, however, he decided that to divide the responsibilities of government among several hands would be to jeopardize not only his own life, but national security; so he did nothing. The results were almost as good as his intentions, which he expressed from time to time and even published in an edict:
'May I be privileged to build firm and lasting foundations for the Government of Rome. May I also achieve the reward to which I aspire: that of being known as the author of the best possible Constitution, and of carrying with me, when I die, the hope that these foundations will abide secure.'
And, indeed, he achieved this success, having taken great trouble to prevent his political system from causing any individual distress.
Aware that the City was architecturally unworthy of her position as capital of the Roman Empire, besides being vulnerable to fire and river floods, Augustus so improved her appearance that he could justifiably boast: 'I found Rome built of sun-dried bricks; I leave her clothed in marble.' He also used as much foresight as could have been expected in guarding against future disasters.
29. Among his larger public works three must be singled out for mention: the Forum dominated by the Temple of Avenging Mars; the Palatine Temple of Apollo; and the Temple of Jupiter the Thunderer on the Capitoline Hill. He built his Forum because the two already in existence could not deal with the recent great increase in the number of law-suits caused by a corresponding increase in population; which was why he hurriedly opened it even before the Temple of Mars had been completed. Public prosecutions and the casting of lots for jury service took place only in this Forum. Augustus had vowed to build the Temple of Mars during the Phillipi campaign of vengeance against Julius Caesar's assassins. He therefore decreed that the Senate should meet here whenever declarations of war or claims for triumphs were considered; and that this should be both the starting point for military governors, when escorted to their provinces, and the repository of all triumphal tokens when they returned victorious. The Temple of Apollo was erected in the part of his Palace to which, the soothsayers said, the God had drawn attention by having it struck with lightning. The colonnades running out from it housed Latin and Greek libraries; and in his declining years Augustus frequently held meetings of the Senate in the nave, or revised jury lists there. A lucky escape on a night march in Cantabria prompted him to build the Temple of Jupiter the Thunderer: a flash of lightning had scorched his litter and killed the slave who was going ahead with a torch. Some of Augustus's public works were undertaken in the names of relatives: such as the colonnade and basilica of his grandsons Gaius and Lucius; the colonnades of his wife Livia and his sister Octavia; the theatre of his nephew Marcellus. He also often urged leading citizens to embellish the City with new public monuments or to restore and improve ancient ones, according to their means. Many responded: thus the Temple of Hercules and the Muses was raised by Marcius Philippus; that of Diana by Lucius Cornificius; the Hall of Liberty by Asinius Pollio; the Temple of Saturn by Munatius Plancus; a theatre by Cornelius Balbus; an amphitheatre by Statilius Taurus; and a variety of magnificent buildings by Marcus Agrippa.
30. Augustus divided the City into districts and wards; placing the districts under the control of magistrates annually chosen by lot, and the wards under supervisors locally elected. He organized stations of night-watchmen to alarm the fire brigades; and, as a precaution against floods, cleared the Tiber channel which had been choked with an accumulation of rubbish and narrowed by projecting houses. Also, he improved the approaches to the City: repaving the Flaminian Way as far as Ariminium, at his own expense, and calling upon men who had won triumphs to spend their prize money on putting the other main roads into good condition.
Furthermore, he restored ruined or burned temples, beautifying these and others with the most lavish gifts: for instance, a single donation to Capitoline Jupiter of 16,000 lb of gold, besides pearls and precious stones to the value of 500,000 gold pieces.
31. Finally, on assuming the office of Chief Pontiff vacated by the death of Marcus Lepidus — he could not bring himself to divest his former colleague of it, even though he were an exile — Augustus collected all the copies of Greek and Latin prophetic verse then current, the work of either anonymous or little-known authors, and burned more than two thousand. He kept only the Sibylline Books, and edited even these before depositing them in two gilded cases under the pedestal of Palatine Apollo's image. Since official negligence had allowed the Calendar, reformed by Julius Caesar, to fall into confusion, he put it straight again; and while doing so renamed the month of Sextilis 'August' (although he had been born in September), because it was during Sextilis that he had won his first Consulship and his most decisive victories. He increased the priesthood in numbers and dignity, and in privileges, too, being particularly generous to the College of Vestal Virgins. However, when the death of a Virgin caused a vacancy in this College, and many citizens busily tried to keep their daughters' names off the list of candidates — one of whom would be chosen by lot — Augustus took a solemn oath that if any of his grand-daughters had been of eligible age he would have proposed her.
He also revived certain obsolescent rites and appointments: the augury of the Goddess Safety, the office of Flamen Dialis (a priesthood of Jupiter the Lupercalian Festival, the Secular Games, and the Cross-Roads Festival. But at the Lupercalia he forbade any boys to run who had not yet shaved off their first beards; and at the Secular Games no young people might attend a night performance unless accompanied by an adult relative. The images of the Cross-Road gods were to be crowned twice a year, with wreaths of spring and summer flowers.
Next to the Immortals, Augustus most honoured the memory of those citizens who had raised the Roman people from small beginnings to their present glory; which was why he restored many public buildings erected by men of this calibre, complete with their original dedicatory inscriptions, and raised statues to them, wearing triumphal dress, in the twin colonnades of his Forum. Then he proclaimed:
'This has been done to make my fellow-citizens insist that both I (while I live), and my successors, shall not fall below the standard set by those great men of old.'
He also transferred Pompey's statue from the hall in which Julius Caesar had been assassinated to a marble arch facing the main entrance of the Theatre.
32. Many of the anti-social practices that endangered public peace were a legacy of lawlessness from the Civil Wars; but some were of more recent origin. For example, bandit parties infested the roads armed with swords, supposedly worn in self-defence, which they used to overawe travellers — whether free-born or not — and force them into slave-barracks built by the landowners. Numerous so-called 'workmen's guilds', in reality organizations for committing every sort of crime, had also been formed. Augustus now stationed armed police in bandit-ridden districts, had the slave-barracks inspected, and dissolved all workmen's guilds except those that had been established for some time and were carrying on legitimate business. Since the records of old debts to the Public Treasury had become by far the most profitable means of blackmail, Augustus burned them; also granting title-deeds to the occupants of City sites wherever the State's claim to ownership was disputable. When persons had long been awaiting trial on charges that were not pressed, and therefore continued to wear mourning in public-with advantage to nobody, except their gleeful enemies — Augustus struck the cases off the lists and forbade any such charge to be renewed unless the plaintiff agreed to suffer the same penalty, if he lost the case, as the defendant would have done. To prevent actions for damages, or business claims, from either not being heard or being prorogued, he increased the legal term by another thirty days — a period hitherto devoted to public games in honour of distinguished citizens. He added a fourth inferior division of jurors to the three already existing; these so-called 'Ducenarii' — meaning men whose estates were valued at 2,000 gold pieces — judged cases which involved only small monetary claims. The minimum age for enrolment in a jury was reduced from thirty-five to thirty years; but, observing a general movement to evade jury service, he grudgingly granted each of the four divisions in turn one year's exemption, and closed all courts throughout the months of November and December.
33. Augustus proved assiduous in his administration of justice, often remaining in Court until nightfall; and, if he happened to be unwell, would have his litter carried up to the tribunal. Sometimes he even judged cases from his sick-bed in the Palace. As a judge he was both conscientious and lenient: once, to save a man who had obviously committed parricide from being sewn up in a sack- with a dog, a cock, a snake, and a monkey to typify the four different vices that had led him to this crime — he is said to have asked the accused: 'I may assume, of course, that you did not kill your father?'
On another occasion the witnesses to a forged will were punishable under the Cornelian Law but, besides the usual two tablets for recording their verdict of 'guilty' or 'not guilty', Augustus handed the jurors a third, for acquitting any of the accused whose signature had, in their opinion, either been obtained by false pretences or attached in error. Every year he referred to the City Praetor cases in which Roman citizens had exercised their right of appeal; foreigners' appeals would be handled by particular ex-Consuls whom he had appointed to protect nationals of the province concerned.
34. The existing laws that Augustus revised, and the new ones that he enacted, dealt, among other matters, with extravagance, adultery, unchastity, bribery, and the encouragement of marriage in the Senatorial and Equestrian Orders. His marriage law being more rigorously framed than the others, he found himself unable to make it effective because of an open revolt against several of its clauses. He was therefore obliged to withdraw or amend certain penalties exacted for a failure to marry; to increase the rewards he offered for large families; and to allow a widow, or widower, three years' grace before having to marry again. Even this did not satisfy the knights, who demonstrated against the law at a public entertainment, demanding its repeal; whereupon Augustus sent for the children whom his grand-daughter Agrippina had borne to Germanicus, and publicly displayed them, some sitting on his own knee, the rest on their father's- and made it quite clear by his affectionate looks and gestures that it would not be at all a bad thing if the knights imitated that young man's example. When he then discovered that bachelors were getting betrothed to little girls, which meant postponing the responsibilities of fatherhood, and that married men were frequently changing their wives, he dealt with these evasions of the law by shortening the permissible period between betrothal and marriage, and by limiting the number of lawful divorces.
35. The Senatorial Order now numbered more than 1,000 persons, some of whom were popularly known as the 'Orcus Men'. This was really a name for ex-slaves freed in the masters' wills, but had come to describe senators who had bribed or otherwise influenced Mark Antony to enrol them in the Order on a pretence that Julius Caesar, before he died, had chosen them for this honour. The sight of this sad rabble, wholly unworthy of office, decided Augustus to restore the Order to its former size and repute by two new acts of enrolment. First, each member was allowed to nominate one other; then Augustus and Agrippa together reviewed the list and announced their own choice. When Augustus presided on this second occasion he is said to have worn a sword and a steel corselet beneath his tunic, with ten burly senatorial friends crowding around him. According to Cremutius Cordus, the senators were not even then permitted to approach Augustus's chair, except singly and after the folds of their robes had been carefully searched. Though shaming some of them into resignation, he did not deny them the right to wear senatorial dress, or to watch the Games from the Orchestra seats, or to attend the order's public banquets. He then encouraged those selected for service to a more conscientious (and less inconvenient) discharge of their duties, by ruling that each member should offer incense and wine at the altar of whatever temple had been selected for a meeting; that such meetings should not be held more than twice a month — at the beginning and in the middle — and that, during September and October, no member need attend apart from the few whose names were drawn by lot to provide a quorum for the passing of decrees. He also arranged that privy councillors should be chosen by lot every six months, their duty being to study the drafts of bills which would later be laid before the House as a whole. During debates of critical importance Augustus shelved the custom of calling on members in order of seniority, and instead singled out speakers arbitrarily; this was intended to make all present take an alert interest in proceedings and feel responsible for constructive thought, instead of merely rising to remark: 'I agree with the last speakers.'
36. Among Augustus's other innovations were: a ban on the publication of Proceedings of the Senate; a statutory interval between the conclusion of City magistracies and their holders' departure to appointments abroad; a fixed mule-and-tent allowance to provincial governors, replacing the system by which they contracted for these necessities and charged them to the Public Treasury; the transference of the Treasury from the control of City quaestors to that of ex-praetors or praetors; and the ruling that a Board of Ten, instead of the ex-quaestors, should convoke the so-called Centumviral Court — an ancient tribunal, now consisting of 180 members, that met in the Julian Basilica.
37. To give more men some experience of governmental duties he created new offices dealing with the upkeep of public buildings, roads and aqueducts; the clearing of the Tiber channel; and the distribution of grain to the people — also a Board of Three for choosing new senators, and another for inspecting the troops of knights, whenever this was needed. He also revived the long obsolete custom of appointing Censors; increased the number of praetors; and requested not one colleague but two whenever he held a consulship. The Senate, however, refused this last plea: everyone shouting that it was sufficient detraction from his supreme dignity to acknowledge even a single colleague.
38. Augustus showed equal generosity in recognizing strategic skill, by letting full triumphs be voted to more than thirty of his generals, and triumphal regalia to an even larger number.
Senators' sons were now encouraged to familiarize themselves with the administration; they might wear purple-striped gowns immediately upon coming of age and attend meetings of the House. 'Mien their military careers began, they were not merely given colonelcies in regular legions, but the command of cavalry squadrons; and Augustus usually appointed two to the command of each squadron, thus ensuring that no senior officer lacked experience in this arm of the service.
He frequently inspected the troops of knights, and revived the long-forgotten custom of making them ride in procession; yet he withdrew the spectators' right of challenging knights to dismount while the parade was in progress; and those who were so old or infirm that they would look ridiculous, if they took part, might now send their riderless mounts to the starting point and report to Augustus on foot. Later, all knights over thirty-five years of age who did not wish to retain their chargers, were excused the embarrassment of publicly surrendering them.
39. With the assistance of ten senators, Augustus cross-examined every knight on his personal affairs. Some, whose lives proved to have been scandalous, were punished; others were degraded; but in most cases he was content to reprimand culprits with greater or less severity. The luckiest were those whom he obliged merely to take the tablets handed them, and read his censure in silence where they stood. Knights who had borrowed money at a low rate of interest, in order to invest it at a higher, earned Augustus's particular displeasure.
40. If insufficient candidates of the required senatorial rank presented themselves for election as tribunes of the people, Augustus nominated knights to fill the vacancies; but allowed them, when their term of office had expired, either to remain members of the Equestrian order or to become senators, whichever they preferred. Since many knights had lost so much money during the Civil Wars that they no longer possessed the property qualification of their rank, and therefore refrained from taking their seats in the fourteen rows reserved for the Order at the Circus, he announced that they were not liable to punishment under the law governing theatres — which protected anyone who had once been a knight, or who was a knight's son.
Augustus revised the roll of citizens, ward by ward; and tried to obviate the frequent interruptions of their trades or businesses which the public grain-distribution entailed, by handing out tickets, three times a year, valid for a four months' supply; but was implored to resume the former custom of monthly distributions, and consented. He also revived the traditional privilege of electing all the City magistrates, not merely half of them (he himself had been nominating the remainder), and attempted to suppress bribery by the imposition of various penalties; besides distributing on Election Day a bounty of ten gold pieces from the Privy Purse to every member both of the Fabian tribe — the Octavian family were Fabians — and of the Scaptian tribe, which included the Julians. His object was to protect the candidates against demands for further emoluments.
Augustus thought it most important not to let the native Roman stock be tainted with foreign or servile blood, and was therefore very unwilling to create new Roman citizens, or to permit the manumission of more than a limited number of slaves. Once, when Tiberius requested that a Greek dependant of his should be granted the citizenship, Augustus wrote back that he could not assent unless the man put in a personal appearance and convinced him that he was worthy of the honour. When Livia made the same request for a Gaul from a tributary province, Augustus turned it down, saying that he would do no more than exempt the fellow from tribute — 'I would far rather forfeit whatever he may owe the Privy Purse than cheapen the value of the Roman citizenship.' Not only did he make it extremely difficult for slaves to be freed, and still more difficult for them to attain full independence, by strictly regulating the number, condition, and status of freedmen; but he ruled that no slave who had ever been in irons or subjected to torture could become a citizen, even after the most honourable form of manumission.
Augustus set himself to revive the ancient Roman dress and once, on seeing a group of men in dark cloaks among the crowd, quoted Virgil indignantly:
'Behold them, conquerors of the world, all clad in Roman gowns!'
and instructed the aediles that no one should ever again be admitted to the Forum, or its environs, unless he wore a gown and no cloak.
41. His generosity to all classes was displayed on many occasions. For instance, when he brought the treasures of the Ptolemies to Rome at his Alexandrian triumph, so much cash passed into private hands that the interest rate on loans dropped sharply, while real estate values soared. Later, he made it a rule that whenever estates were confiscated and the funds realized by their sale exceeded his requirements, he would grant interest-free loans for fixed periods to anyone who could offer security for twice the amount. The property qualification for senators was now increased from 8,000 to 12,000 gold pieces, and if any member of the Order found that the value of his estate fell short of this, Augustus would make up the deficit from the Privy Purse. His awards of largesse to the people were frequent, but differed in size: sometimes it was four gold pieces a head, sometimes three, sometimes two and a half; and even little boys benefited, though hitherto eleven years had been the minimum age for a recipient. In times of food shortage he often sold grain to every man on the citizens' list at a very cheap rate; occasionally he supplied it free; and doubled the number of free money-coupons.
42. However, to show that he did all this not to win popularity but to improve public health, he once sharply reminded the people, when they complained of the scarcity and high price of wine, that: 'Marcus Agrippa, my son-in-law, has made adequate provision for thirsty citizens by building several aqueducts.' Again, he replied to a demand for largesse which he had, in fact, promised: 'I always keep my word.' But when they demanded largesse for which no such promise had been given, he issued a proclamation in which he called them a pack of shameless rascals, and added that though he had intended to make them a money present, he would now tighten his purse-strings. Augustus showed equal dignity and strength of character on another occasion when, after announcing a distribution of largesse, he found that the list of citizens had been swelled by a considerable number of recently freed slaves. He gave out that those to whom he had promised nothing were entitled to nothing, and that he refused to increase the total sum; thus the original beneficiaries must be content with less. In one period of exceptional scarcity he found it impossible to cope with the public distress except by expelling every useless mouth from the City, such as the slaves in the slave-market, all members of gladiatorial schools, all foreign residents with the exception of physicians and teachers, and a huge crowd of householdslaves. He writes that when at last the grain supply improved:
I had a good mind to discontinue permanently the supply of grain to the City, reliance on which had discouraged Italian agriculture; but refrained because some politician would be bound one day to revive the dole as a means of ingratiating himself with the people.'
Nevertheless, in his handling of the food problem he now began to consider the interests of farmers and corn merchants as much as the needs of city dwellers.
43. None of Augustus's predecessors had ever provided so many, so different, or such splendid public shows. He records the presentation of four Games in his own name and twenty-three in the names of other City magistrates who were either absent or could not afford the expense. Sometimes plays were shown in all the various City districts, and on several stages, the actors speaking the appropriate local language; and gladiators fought not only in the Forum or the Amphitheatre, but in the Circus and Enclosure as well; or the show might, on the contrary, be limited to a single wild-beast hunt. He also held athletic competitions in the Campus Martius, for which he put up tiers of wooden seats; and dug an artificial lake beside the Tiber, where the present Caesarean Grove stands, for a mock sea-battle. On these occasions he posted guards in different parts of the City to prevent ruffians from turning the emptiness of the streets to their own advantage. Chariot races and foot races took place in the Circus, and among those who hunted the wild beasts were several volunteers of distinguished family. Augustus also ordered frequent performances of the Troy Game by two troops, of older and younger boys; it was an admirable tradition, he held, that the scions of noble houses should make their public debut in this way. When little Gaius Nonius Asprenas fell from his horse at one performance and broke a leg, Augustus comforted him with a golden torque and the hereditary surname of 'Torquatus'. Soon afterwards, however, he discontinued the Troy Game, because Asinius Pollio the orator attacked it bitterly in the House; his grandson, Aeserninus, having broken a leg too.
Even Roman knights sometimes took part in stage plays and gladiatorial shows until a Senatorial decree put an end to the practice. After this, no person of good family appeared in any show, with the exception of a young man named Lycius; he was a dwarf, less than two feet tall and weighing only 17 lb but had a tremendous voice. At one of the Games Augustus allowed the people a sight of the first group of Parthian hostages ever sent to Rome by leading them down the middle of the arena and seating them two rows behind himself. And whenever a strange or remarkable animal was brought to the City, he used to exhibit it in some convenient place on days when no public shows were being given: for instance, a rhinoceros in the Enclosure; a tiger on the stage of the Theatre; and a serpent nearly ninety feet long in front of the Comitium, where popular assemblies were held.
Once Augustus happened to be ill on the day that he had vowed to hold Games in the Circus, and was obliged to lead the sacred procession lying in a litter; and when he opened the Games celebrating the dedication of Marcellus's Theatre, and sat down in his chair of state, it gave way and sent him sprawling on his back. A panic started in the Theatre during a public performance in honour of Gaius and Lucius; the audience feared that the walls might collapse. Augustus, finding that he could do nothing else to pacify or reassure them, left his own box and sat in what seemed to be the most threatened part of the auditorium.
44. He issued special regulations to prevent the disorderly and haphazard system by which spectators secured seats for these shows; having been outraged by the insult to a senator who, on entering the crowded theatre at Puteoli, was not offered a seat by a single member of the audience. The consequent Senatorial decree provided that at every public performance, wherever held, the front row of stalls must be reserved for senators. At Rome, Augustus would not admit the ambassadors of independent or allied kingdoms to seats in the orchestra, on learning that some were mere freedmen. Other rules of his included the separation of soldiers from civilians; the assignment of special seats to married commoners, to boys not yet come of age, and, close by, to their tutors; and a ban on the wearing of dark cloaks, except in the back rows. Also, whereas men and women had hitherto always sat together, Augustus confined women to the back rows even at gladiatorial shows: the only ones exempt from this rule being the Vestal Virgins, for whom separate accommodation was provided, facing the praetor's tribunal. No women at all were allowed to witness the athletic contests; indeed, when the audience clamoured at the Games for a special boxing match to celebrate his appointment as Chief Pontiff, Augustus postponed this until early the next morning, and issued a proclamation to the effect that it was the Chief Pontiff's desire that women should not attend the Theatre before ten o'clock.
45. He had a habit of watching the Games from the upper rooms of houses overlooking the Circus, which belonged to his friends or freedmen; but occasionally he used the Imperial Box, and even took his wife and children there with him. Sometimes he did not appear until the show had been running for several hours, or even for a day or more; but always excused his absences and appointed a substitute president. Once in his seat, however, he watched the proceedings intently; either to avoid the bad reputation earned by Julius Caesar for reading letters or petitions, and answering them, during such performances; or just to enjoy the fun, as he frankly admitted doing. This enjoyment led him to offer special prizes at Games provided by others, or give the victors valuable presents from the Privy Purse; and he never failed to reward, according to their merits, the competitors in any Greek theatrical contests that he attended. His chief delight was to watch boxing, particularly when the fighters were Italians — and not merely professional bouts, in which he often used to pit Italians against Greeks, but slogging matches between untrained roughs in narrow City alleys.
To be brief: Augustus honoured all sorts of professional entertainers by his friendly interest in them; maintained, and even increased, the privileges enjoyed by athletes; banned gladiatorial contests if the defeated fighter were forbidden to plead for mercy; and amended an ancient law empowering magistrates to punish stage-players wherever and whenever they pleased — so that they were now competent to deal only with misdemeanours committed at games or theatrical performances. Nevertheless, he insisted on a meticulous observance of regulations during wrestling matches and gladiatorial contests; and was exceedingly strict in checking the licentious behaviour of stage-players. When he heard that Stephanio, a Roman actor, went about attended by a page-boy who was really a married woman with her hair cropped, he had him flogged through all the three theatres — those of Pompey, Balbus, and Marcellus — and then exiled. Acting on a praetor's complaint, he had a comedian named Hylas publicly scourged in the hall of his own residence; and expelled Pylades not only from Rome, but from Italy too, because when a spectator started to hiss, he called the attention of the whole audience to him with an obscene movement of his middle finger.
46. After thus improving and reorganizing Rome, Augustus increased the population of Italy by personally founding twenty-eight veteran colonies. He also supplied country towns with municipal buildings and revenues; and even gave them, to some degree at least, privileges and honours equalling those enjoyed by the City of Rome. This was done by granting the members of each local senate the right to vote for candidates in the City Elections; their ballots were to be placed in sealed containers and counted at Rome on polling day. To maintain the number of knights he allowed any township to nominate men capable of taking up such senior Army commands as were reserved for the Equestrian Order; and, to encourage the birth-rate of the Roman commons, offered a bounty of ten gold pieces for every legitimate son or daughter whom a citizen could produce, on his tours of the City wards.
47. Augustus kept for himself all the more vigorous provinces — those that could not be safely administered by an annual governor — and nominated his own imperial procurators; the remainder went to proconsuls chosen by lot. Yet, as occasion arose, he would change the status of provinces from imperial to senatorial, or contrariwise, and paid frequent visits to either sort. Finding that certain city-states which had treaties of alliance with Rome were ruining themselves through political irresponsibility, he took away their independence; but also granted subsidies to others crippled by public debts, rebuilt some cities which had been devastated by earthquakes, and even awarded full citizenship to states that could show a record of faithful service in the Roman cause. So far as I know, Augustus inspected every province of the Empire, except Sardinia and North Africa, and would have toured these, too, after his defeat of Sextus Pompey in Sicily, had not a sequence of gales prevented him from sailing; later, he had no particular reason, nor any opportunity, for visiting either province.
48. He nearly always restored the kingdoms which he had conquered to their defeated dynasties, rarely combined them with others, and followed a policy of linking together his royal allies by mutual ties of friendship or intermarriage, which he was never slow to propose. Nor did he treat them otherwise than as imperial functionaries, showing them all consideration and finding guardians for those who were not yet old enough to rule, until they came of age — and for those who suffered from mental illness, until they recovered. He also brought up many of their children with his own, and gave them the same education.
49. His military dispositions were as follows. The legions and their auxiliaries were distributed among the various provinces; one fleet being stationed at Misenum, and another at Ravenna, to command respectively the Western and Eastern Mediterranean. The rest of his armed forces served partly as City police, partly as palace-guards; for after Antony's defeat he had disbanded a company of Calagurritanian Gauls, from near Lyons, and a company of Germans after the Varus disaster- both of which had served in his personal bodyguard. However, he never kept more than three companies on duty at Rome, and even these had no permanent camp but were billeted in various City lodging houses; the remainder he stationed in near-by towns, changing them regularly from summer to winter quarters. Augustus also standardized the pay and allowances of the entire Army — at the same time fixing the period of service and the bounty due on its completion — according to military rank; this would discourage them from revolting, when back in civil life, on the excuse that they were either too old or had insufficient capital to earn an honest living. In order to have sufficient funds always in hand for the upkeep of his military establishment and for pensioning off veterans, he formed an Army Treasury maintained by additional taxation. At the beginning of his reign he kept in close touch with provincial affairs by relays of runners strung out at short intervals along the highways; later, he organized a chariot service, based on posting stations — which has proved the more satisfactory arrangement, because post-boys can be cross-examined on the situation as well as delivering written messages.
50. The first seal Augustus used for safe-conducts, dispatches, and private letters was a sphinx; next came a head of Alexander the Great; lastly, his own head, cut by Dioscurides, the seal which his successors continued to employ. He not only dated every letter, but entered the exact hour of the day or night when it was composed.
51. There are numerous positive proofs of Augustus's clemency and considerate behaviour. To supply a full list of the political enemies whom he pardoned and allowed to hold high government office would be tedious. It will be enough to record that a fine was the sole punishment he awarded Junius Novatus, a plebeian, for circulating a most damaging libel on him under the name of Agrippa Postumus; and that Cassius Patavinus, another plebeian, who openly boasted at a large banquet that he would enjoy assassinating him and had the courage, too, escaped with a mild form of exile. Then again hearing, at an inquiry into the case of Aemilius Aelianus the Cordoban, that the most serious of the many charges brought against him was one of 'vilifying Caesar', Augustus pretended to lose his temper and told the counsel for the prosecution:
'I wish you could prove that charge! I'll show Aelianus that I have a nasty tongue, too, and vilify him even worse!
He then dropped the whole inquiry and never resumed it. When Tiberius mentioned the matter in a letter, with violent expostulations against Aelianus, Augustus replied:
'My dear Tiberius, you must not give way to youthful emotion, or take it to heart if anyone speaks ill of me; let us be satisfied if we can make people stop short at unkind words.'
52. Although the voting of temples to popular proconsuls was a commonplace, he would not accept any such honour, even in the provinces, unless his name were coupled with that of Rome. He even more vigorously opposed the dedication of a temple to himself at home, and went so far as to melt down the silver statues previously erected, and to spend the silver coined from them on golden tripods for Palatine Apollo.
When the people would have forced a dictatorship on him he fell on his knee and, throwing back his gown to expose his naked breast, implored their silence.
53. He always felt horrified and insulted when called 'My Lord', a form of address used by slaves to their owners. Once, while he was watching a comedy, one of the players spoke the line: 'O just and generous Lord!' whereupon the entire audience rose to their feet and applauded, as if the phrase referred to Augustus. An angry look and a peremptory gesture soon quelled this gross flattery, and the next day he issued an edict of stern reprimand. After this he would not let even his adopted children, or grandchildren, use the obsequious word (though it might be only in joke), either when talking to him or about him. Augustus did his best to avoid leaving or entering any city in broad daylight, because that would have obliged the authorities to give him a formal welcome or send-off. During his consulships; he usually went on foot through the streets of Rome; and on other occasions in a closed litter. His morning audiences were open to commoners as well as knights and senators, and he behaved very sociably to all who came with requests — once a petitioner showed such nervousness that Augustus laughed and said: 'Anyone would think you were offering an elephant a small gratuity!' On days when the Senate was in session and the members had therefore refrained from paying their customary call at the palace, he would enter the House and greet each of them in turn by name, unprompted; and after the conclusion of business said goodbye in the same fashion, not requiring them to rise. He exchanged social calls with many noblemen, and always attended their birthday celebrations, until he grew elderly and had an uncomfortable experience at a crowded betrothal party. When a senator named Gallus Cerrinius, whom Augustus knew only slightly, went suddenly blind and decided to starve himself to death, he paid him a visit and spoke so consolingly that Gallus changed his mind.
54. Augustus's speeches in the House would often be interrupted by such remarks as 'I don't understand you!' or 'I'd dispute your point if I got the chance.' And it happened more than once that, exasperated by recriminations which lowered the tone of the debates, he left the House in angry haste, and was followed by shouts of: 'You ought to let senators say exactly what they think about matters of public importance!' When every senator was required to nominate one other for enrolment in the reformed Order, Antistius Labeo chose Marcus Lepidus, an old enemy of Augustus's, then living in exile. Augustus asked: 'Surely there are noblemen more deserving of this honour?' Labeo answered: 'A man is entitled to his own opinion.' Yet Augustus never punished anyone for showing independence of mind on such occasions, or even for behaving insolently.
55. He remained unmoved by the lampoons on him, which were constantly posted up in the House, but took trouble to prove their pointlessness; and instead of trying to discover their authors, merely moved that henceforth it should be a criminal offence to publish any defamatory libel, either in prose or verse, signed with another's name.
56. Though replying in a public proclamation to various ugly and damaging jokes current at his expense, he vetoed a law that would have suppressed free speech in the preamble to wills. Whenever assisting at the City Elections he used to take the candidates with him on a tour of the wards and canvass for them in the traditional manner.
He would also cast a vote himself, in his own tribe, to show that he remained a man of the people. If called upon to give evidence in court he answered questions patiently and did not even mind being contradicted. Augustus's new Forum is so narrow because he could not bring himself to evict the owners of the houses which would have been demolished had his original plan been carried out. He never nominated his adopted sons for offices of state without adding: 'If they deserve this honour.' Once, while they were still boys, and the entire theatre audience stood up to cheer them, he expressed his annoyance in no uncertain terms. Although anxious that his friends should take a prominent share in the administration, he expected them to be bound by the same laws as their fellow-citizens and equally liable to public prosecution. When Cassius Severus had brought a charge of poisoning against Augustus's close friend Nonius Asprena, Augustus asked the Senate what they wished him to do. 'I find myself in a quandary,' he said, 'because to speak in Nonius's defence might be construed as an attempt to shield a criminal, whereas my silence would suggest that I was treacherously prejudicing a friend's chance of acquittal.' Since the whole House consented to his presence in Court, he sat quietly for several hours among the advocates and witnesses, but abstained even from testifying to Nonius's character., He did, however, appear for some of his own dependants, among them a former staff-officer named Scutarius, who had been accused of slander. Yet he intervened successfully in only one case, and then by a personal appeal to the plaintiff. 'I should be most grateful if you would drop your charge against the defendant,' he said. 'I am deeply in his debt for a timely disclosure of Murena's conspiracy.'
57. The degree of affection that Augustus won by such behaviour can easily be gauged. The grateful Senatorial decrees may, of course, be discounted as to a certain extent inspired by a sense of obligation. But the Equestrian Order voluntarily and unanimously decided to celebrate his birthday, spreading the festivities over two days; and once a year men of all classes would visit the Curtian Lake, into which they threw the coins previously vowed for his continued well-being.
They would also climb to the Capitol on New Year's Day with money presents, even if he happened to be out of town. With the sum that thus accrued Augustus bought valuable images of the gods, which he set up in each of the City wards: among them the Apollo of Sandal Street, and Jupiter of the Tragedians.
When his Palace on the Palatine Hill burned down, a fund for its rebuilding was started by the veterans, the guilds of minor officials and the City tribes; to which people of every sort made further individual contributions according to their means. Augustus, to show his gratitude for the gift, took a token coin from each heap, but no more than a single silver piece. His homecomings after tours of the Empire were always acclaimed with respectful good wishes and songs of joy as well; and it became a custom to cancel all punishments on the day he set foot in Rome.
58. In a universal movement to confer on Augustus the title 'Father of his Country', the first approach was made by the commons, who sent a deputation to him at Antium; when he declined this honour a huge crowd met him outside the Theatre with laurel wreaths, and repeated the request. Finally, the Senate followed suit but, instead of issuing a decree or acclaiming him with shouts, chose Valerius Messala to speak for them all when Augustus entered the House. Messala's words were:
'Caesar Augustus, I am instructed to wish you and your family good fortune and divine blessings; which amounts to wishing that our entire City will be fortunate and our country prosperous. The Senate agree with the People of Rome in saluting you as Father of your Country.'
With tears in his eyes, Augustus answered — again I quote his exact words:
'Fathers of the Senate, I have at last achieved my highest ambition. What more can I ask of the immortal gods than that they may permit me to enjoy your approval until my dying day?'
59. Augustus's private physician, Antonius Musa, who had pulled him through a serious illness, was honoured with a statue, bought by public subscription and set up beside Aesculapius's. The will of more than one householder directed that his heirs should take sacrificial victims to the Capitol and carry a placard before them as they went, inscribed with an expression of their gratitude for Augustus's having been allowed to outlive the testator. Some Italian cities voted that their official year should commence on the anniversary of his first visit to them; and several provinces not only erected temples and altars to him and the Roman people, but arranged for most of their cities to hold games in his honour at five-yearly intervals.
60. Each of the allied kings who enjoyed Augustus's friendship, founded a city called 'Caesarea' in his own dominions; and all clubbed together to provide funds for completing the Temple of Olympian Zeus at Athens, which had been begun centuries before, and dedicating it to his guiding spirit. These kings would often leave home, dressed in the gowns of their honorary Roman citizenship, without any emblems of royalty whatsoever, and visit Augustus at Rome, or even while he was visiting the provinces; they would attend his morning audiences with the simple devotion of family dependants.
61. This completes my account of Augustus's civil and military career, and of how he governed his wide Empire in peace and war. Now follows a description of his private life, his character, and his domestic fortunes.
At the age of twenty, while Consul for the first time, Augustus lost his mother; and at the age of fifty-four, his sister Octavia. He had been a devoted son and brother while they lived, and conferred the highest posthumous honours on them at their deaths.
62. As a young man he was betrothed to the daughter of Publius Servilius Isauricus, but on his reconciliation with Mark Antony, after their first disagreement, the troops insisted that they should become closely allied by marriage; so, although Antony's step-daughter Claudia — borne by his wife Fulvia to her ex-husband Publius Clodius — was only just nubile, Augustus married her; however, he quarrelled with Fulvia and divorced Claudia before the union had been consummated. Soon afterwards he married Scribonia, both of whose previous husbands had been ex-consuls, and by one of whom she had a child. Augustus divorced her, too, 'because,' as he wrote, 'I could not bear the way she nagged at me' — and immediately took Livia Drusilla away from her husband, Tiberius Nero, though she was pregnant at the time. Livia remained the one woman whom he truly loved until his death.
63. Scribonia bore him a daughter, Julia; but to his great disappointment the marriage with Livia proved childless, apart from a premature birth. Julia was betrothed first to Mark Antony's son and then to Cotiso, King of the Getans, whose daughter Augustus himself proposed to marry in exchange; or so Antony writes. But Julia's first husband was Marcellus, his sister Octavia's son, then hardly more than a child; and, when he died, Augustus persuaded Octavia to let her become Marcus Agrippa's wife — though Agrippa was now married to one of Marcellus's two sisters, and had fathered children on her. At Agrippa's death, Augustus cast about for a new son-in-law, even if he were only a knight, eventually choosing Tiberius, his step-son; this meant, however, that Tiberius must divorce his wife, who had already given him an heir.
64. Julia bore Agrippa three sons — Gaius, Lucius, and Agrippa Postumus; and two daughters — Julia the Younger, and Agrippina the Elder. Augustus married this Julia to Lucius Paulus whose father, of the same name, was Censor; and Agrippina to Germanicus — the son of Octavia's daughter Antonia by Tiberius's younger brother Drusus. He then adopted Gaius and Lucius, and brought them up at the Palace; after buying them from Agrippa at a token sale — touching the scales three times with a bronze coin in the presence of the City praetor. He trained his new sons in the business of government while they were still young, sending them as commanders-in-chief to the provinces when only consuls-elect. The education of his daughter and grand-daughters included even spinning and weaving; they were forbidden to say or do anything, either publicly or in private, that could not decently figure in the imperial day-book. He took severe measures to prevent them forming friendships without his consent, and once wrote to Lucius Vinicius, a young man of good family and conduct: 'You were very ill-mannered to visit my daughter at Baiae.' Augustus gave Gaius and Lucius reading, swimming and other simple lessons, for the most part acting as their tutor himself; and was at pains to make them model their handwriting on his own. Whenever they dined in his company he had them sit at his feet on the so-called lowest couch; and, while accompanying him on his travels, they rode either ahead of his carriage, or one on each side of it.
65. His satisfaction with the success of this family training was, however, suddenly dashed. He found out, to his misfortune, that the Elder and the Younger Julia had both been indulging in every sort of vice; and banished them. When Gaius then died in Lycia, and Lucius eighteen months later at Marseilles, Augustus publicly adopted his remaining grandchild, Agrippa Postumus and, at the same time, his step-son Tiberius; a special bill to legalize this act was passed by a people's court, consisting of thirty lictors under the Chief Pontiff.
Yet he soon disinherited Postumus, whose behaviour had lately been vulgar and brutal, and packed him off to Sorrento in disgrace. When members of his family died Augustus bore his loss with far more resignation than when they disgraced themselves. The deaths of Gaius and Lucius did not break his spirit; but after discovering his daughter Julia's adulteries, he refused to see visitors for some time. He wrote a letter about her case to the Senate, staying at home while a quaestor read it to them. He may even have considered her execution; at any rate, hearing that one Phoebe, a freedwoman in Julia's confidence, had hanged herself, he cried: 'I should have preferred to be Phoebe's father!' Julia was forbidden to drink wine or enjoy any other luxury during her exile; and denied all male company, whether free or servile, except by Augustus's special permission and after he had been given full particulars of the applicant's age, height, complexion, and of any distinguishing marks on his body — such as moles or scars. He kept Julia for five years on the prison island of Pandataria before moving her to Reggio in Calabria, where she received somewhat milder treatment. Yet nothing would persuade him to forgive his daughter; and when the Roman people interceded several times on her behalf, earnestly pleading for her recall, he stormed at a popular assembly: 'If you ever bring up this matter again, may the gods curse you with daughters as lecherous as mine, and with wives as adulterous!' While in exile Julia the Younger gave birth to a child, which Augustus refused to let the father acknowledge; it was exposed at his orders. Because Agrippa Postumus's conduct, so far from improving, grew daily more irresponsible, he was transferred to the island of Planasia, and held there under military surveillance. Augustus then asked the Senate to pass a decree making Postumus's banishment permanent; but whenever his name, or that of either Julia, came up in conversation he would sigh deeply, and sometimes quote a line from the Iliad:
'Ah, never to have married, and childless to have died!'
referring to them as 'my three boils' or 'my three running sores'.
66. Though slow in making friends, once Augustus took to a man, he showed great constancy and not only rewarded him as his qualities deserved, but even condoned his minor shortcomings. Indeed, it would be hard to recall an instance when one of Augustus's friends fell from favour: apart from Salvidienus Rufus and Cornelius Gallus, two nobodies whom he promoted, respectively, to a consulship and the Egyptian prefecture. Rufus, who had taken part in a plot, was handed over to a Senatorial Court and sentenced to death; Gallus, who had shown ingratitude and an envious nature, was at first merely denied access to the Palace, or the privilege of living in any imperial province; but charges were later brought against him, and he, too, died by order of the Senate. Augustus commended the loyal House for feeling as strongly as they did on his behalf, but complained with tears of the unfortunate position in which he was placed: the only man in Rome who could not punish his friends merely by an expression of disgust for them — the matter must always be taken further. However, as I say, the cases of Rufus and Gallus were exceptional. Augustus's other friends all continued rich and powerful so long as they lived, despite occasional coolnesses; each ranking among the leaders of his Order. It will be enough to mention in this context his annoyance at Marcus Agrippa's show of impatience and at Maecenas's inability to hold his tongue. Agrippa had felt that Augustus was not behaving as warmly towards him as usual, and when Marcellus, not himself, became the second man at Rome, resigned all his offices and went off to Mytilene in Asia Minor; Maecenas was guilty of confiding a state secret to his wife Terentia — namely that Murena's conspiracy had been disclosed.
Augustus expected the affection that he showed his friends to be warmly reciprocated even in the hour of death. For, although nobody could call him a legacy-hunter-indeed, he could never bear to benefit under the will of a man personally unknown to him — yet he was almost morbid in his careful weighing of a friend's death-bed tributes. His disappointment if they economized in their bequests to him, or failed to make at least some highly complimentary mention of his name, was only too apparent; nor could he repress his satisfaction if they remembered him with loving gratitude. But whenever any testator, of whatever Order, left him either legacies or shares in promised inheritances, Augustus at once resigned his rights in favour of the man's grown-up sons or daughters, if he had any; and, in the case of minors, kept the money until the boys came of age or the girls married, whereupon he handed it over, increased by the accumulated interest.
67. Augustus behaved strictly but kindly towards his dependants and slaves, and honoured some of his freedmen, such as Licinius, Celadus, and others, with his close intimacy. A slave named Cosmus, who had complained of him in the vilest terms, was punished merely by being put in irons. Once, when Augustus and his steward Diomedes were out walking together and a wild boar suddenly charged at them, Diomedes took fright and dodged behind his master. Augustus later made a joke of the incident, though he had been in considerable danger, preferring to call Diomedes a coward than anything worse — after all, his action had not been premeditated. Yet, when one Polus, a favourite freedman, was convicted of adultery with free-born Roman matrons, Augustus ordered him to commit suicide; and sentenced Thallus, an imperial secretary, to have his legs broken for divulging the contents of a dispatch — his fee had been twenty-five gold pieces. And because Gaius Caesar's tutor and attendants used their master's sickness and subsequent death as an excuse for arrogant, greedy behaviour in the province of Asia, Augustus had them flung into a river with weights tied around their necks.
68. As a young man Augustus was accused of various improprieties. For instance, Sextus Pompey jeered at his effeminacy; Mark Antony alleged that Julius Caesar made him submit to unnatural relations as the price of adoption; Antony's brother Lucius added that, after sacrificing his virtue to Caesar, Augustus had sold his favours to Aulus Hirtius, the Governor-General of Spain, for 3,000 gold pieces, and that he used to soften the hair on his legs by singeing them with red-hot walnut shells. One day at the Theatre an actor came on the stage representing a eunuch priest of Cybele, the Mother of the Gods; and, as he played his timbrel, another actor exclaimed:
'Look, how this invert's finger beats the drum!'
Since the Latin phrase could also mean: 'Look how this invert's finger sways the world !' the audience mistook the line for a hint at Augustus and broke into enthusiastic applause.
69. Not even his friends could deny that he often committed adultery, though of course they said, in justification, that he did so for reasons of state, not simple passion — he wanted to discover what his enemies were at by getting intimate with their wives or daughters. Mark Antony accused him not only of indecent haste in marrying Livia, but of hauling an ex-consul's wife from her husband's dining-room into the bedroom — before his eyes, too! He brought the woman back, says Antony, blushing to the ears and with her hair in disorder.
Antony also writes that Scribonia was divorced for having said a little too much when 'a rival' got her claws into Augustus; and that his friends used to behave like Toranius, the slave-dealer, in arranging his pleasures for him — they would strip mothers of families, or grown girls, of their clothes and inspect them as though they were up for sale. A racy letter of Antony's survives, written before he and Augustus had quarrelled privately or publicly:
'What has come over you? Do you object to my sleeping with Cleopatra? But we are married; and it is not even as though this were anything new — the affair started nine years ago. And what about you? Are you faithful to Livia Drusilla? My congratulations if, when this letter arrives, you have not been in bed with Tertullia, or Terentilla, or Rufilla, or Salvia Titisenia — or all of them. Does it really matter so much where, or with whom, you perform the sexual act?'
70. Then there was Augustus's private banquet, known as 'The Feast of the Divine Twelve', which caused a public scandal. The guests came dressed as gods or goddesses, Augustus himself representing Apollo; and our authority for this is not only a spiteful letter of Antony's, which names all the twelve, but the following well-known anonymous lampoon:
Those rogues engaged the services
Of a stage manager;
So Mallia found six goddesses
And six gods facing her!
Apollo's part was lewdly played
By impious Caesar; he
Made merry at a table laid
For gross debauchery.
Such scandalous proceedings shocked
The Olympians. One by one
They quit and Jove, his thunders mocked,
Vacates the golden throne.
What made the scandal even worse was that the banquet took place at a time of food shortage; and on the next day people were shouting: 'The Gods have gobbled all the grain!' or 'Caesar is Apollo, true — but he's Apollo of the Torments' — this being the god's aspect in one City 'district. Some found Augustus a good deal too fond of expensive furniture, Corinthian bronzes, and the gaming table. While the proscriptions were in progress someone had scrawled on the base of his statue:
I do not take my father's line;
His trade was silver coin, but mine
Corinthian vases —
the belief being that he enlarged the proscription lists with names of men who owned vases of this sort.
During the Sicilian War another rhyme was current:
He took a beating twice at sea,
And threw two fleets away.
So now to achieve one victory
He tosses dice all day.
71. Augustus easily disproved the accusation (or slander, if you like) of prostituting his body to men, by the decent normality of his sex-life, then and later; and that of having over-luxurious tastes by his conduct at the capture of Alexandria, where the only loot he took from the Palace of the Ptolemies was a single agate cup — he melted down all the golden dinner services. However, the charge of being a womanizer stuck, and as an elderly man he is said to have still harboured a passion for deflowering girls — who were collected for him from every quarter, even by his wife! Augustus did not mind being called a gambler; he diced openly, in his old age, too, simply because he enjoyed the game — not only in December, when the licence of the Saturnalia justified it, but on other holidays, too, and actually on working days. That this is quite true a letter in his own handwriting proves:
My dear Tiberius,
... we had the same company for dinner, except that Vinicius and the elder Silius were also invited; and we gambled like old men all through the meal, and until yesterday turned into to-day. Anyone who threw the Dog — two aces — or a six, put a silver piece in the pool for each of the dice; and anyone who threw Venus — when each of the dice shows a different number — scooped the lot.
Arid another letter runs: My dear Tiberius,
We spent the five-day festival of Minerva very pleasantly keeping the gaming table warm by playing all day long. Your brother Drusus made fearful complaints about his luck, yet in the long run was not much out of pocket. He went down heavily at first, but we were surprised to see him slowly recouping most of his losses. I lost two hundred gold pieces; however, that was because, as usual, I behaved with excessive sportsmanship. If I had dunned every player who had forfeited his stakes to me, or not handed over my legitimate winnings when dunned myself, I should have been at least five hundred to the good. Well, that is how I like it: my generosity will gain me immortal glory, you may be sure!
And to his daughter Julia he wrote:
Enclosed please find two and a half gold pieces in silver coin: which is the sum I give each of my dinner guests in case they feel like dicing or playing 'odd and even' at table.
72. Augustus's other personal habits are generally agreed to have been unexceptionable. His first house, once the property of Calvus the orator, stood close to the Roman Forum at the top of the Ringmakers' Stairs; thence he moved to what had been Hortensius's house on the Palatine Hill. Oddly enough, his new palace was neither larger nor more elegant than the first; the courts being supported by squat columns of peperino stone, and the living-rooms innocent of marble or elaborately tessellated floors. There he slept in the same bedroom all the year round for over forty years; although the winter climate of Rome did not suit his health. Whenever he wanted to be alone and free of interruptions, he could retreat to a study at the top of the house, which he called 'Syracuse' — perhaps because Archimedes of Syracuse had a similar one — or 'my little workshop'. He would hide himself away either here or else in a suburban villa owned by one of his freedmen; but, if he fell ill, always took refuge in Maecenas's mansion. He spent his holidays at seaside resorts, or on some island off the Campanian coast, or in country towns near Rome, such as Lanuvium, or Palestrina, or Tivoli — where he often administered justice in the colonnades of Hercules's Temple. Such was his dislike of all large pretentious country houses that he went so far as to demolish one built by his grand-daughter Julia on too lavish a scale. His own were modest enough and less remarkable for their statuary and pictures than for their landscape gardening and the rare antiques on display: for example, at Capri he had collected the huge skeletons of extinct sea and land monsters popularly known as 'Giants' Bones'; and the weapons of ancient heroes.
73. How simply Augustus's palace was furnished may be deduced by examining the couches and tables still preserved, many of which , would now hardly be considered fit for a private citizen. He is said to have always slept on a low bed, with a very ordinary coverlet. On all but special occasions he wore house clothes woven and sewn for him by either Livia, Octavia, Julia, or one of his grand-daughters. His gowns were neither tight nor full, and the purple stripe on them was neither narrow nor broad; but his shoes had rather thick soles to make him look taller. And he always kept a change of better shoes and clothes at hand; he might be unexpectedly called upon to appear in an official capacity.
74. He gave frequent dinner parties, very formal ones, too; paying strict attention to social precedence and personal character. Valerius Messala writes that the sole occasion on which Augustus ever invited a freedman to dine was when he honoured Menas for delivering Sextus Pompey's fleet into his power; and even then Menas was first enrolled on the list of free-born citizens. However, Augustus himself records that he once invited an ex-member of his bodyguard, the freedman whose villa he used as a retreat. At such dinner parties he would sometimes arrive late and leave early, letting his guests start and finish without him. The meal usually consisted of three courses, though in expansive moods Augustus might serve as many as six. There was no great extravagance, and a most cheerful atmosphere, because of his talent for making shy guests, who either kept silent or muttered to their neighbours, join in the general conversation. He also enlivened the meal with performances by musicians, actors, or even men who gave turns at the Circus — but more often by professional story-tellers.
75. Augustus spared no expense when celebrating national holidays and behaved very light-heartedly on occasion. At the Saturnalia, for instance, or whenever else the fancy took him, he whimsically varied the value of his gifts. They might consist of rich clothing and gold or silver plate; or every sort of coin, including specimens from the days of the early monarchy, and foreign pieces; or merely lengths of goat hair cloth, or sponges, or pokers, or tongs — all given in return for tokens inscribed with misleading descriptions of the objects concerned.
At some dinner parties he would also auction tickets for prizes of most unequal value, and paintings with their faces turned to the wall, for which every guest present was expected to bid blindly, taking his chance like the rest: he might either pick up most satisfactory bargains, or throw away his money.
76. In this character sketch I need not omit his eating habits. He was frugal and, as a rule, preferred the food of the common people, especially the coarser sort of bread, whitebait, fresh hand-pressed cheese, and green figs of the second crop; and would not wait for dinner, if he felt hungry, but ate anywhere. The following are verbatim quotations from his letters:
I had a snack of bread and dates while out for my drive to-day . . . and: On the way back in my litter from King Numa's Palace on the Sacred Way, I munched an ounce of bread and a few hard-skinned grapes.
My dear Tiberius,
Not even a Jew fasts so scrupulously on his sabbaths , as I have done to-day. Not until dusk had fallen did I touch a thing; and that was at the baths, before I had my oil rub, when I swallowed two mouthfuls of bread.
This failure to observe regular mealtimes often resulted in his dining alone, either before or after his guests; but he came to the dining hall nevertheless and watched them eat.
77. Augustus was also a habitually abstemious drinker. During the siege of Mutina, according to Cornelius Nepos, he never took more than three cups of wine-and-water at dinner. In later life his limit was a pint; if he ever exceeded this he would deliberately vomit. Raetian was his favourite, but he seldom touched wine between meals; instead, he would moisten his throat with a morsel of bread dunked in cold water; or a slice of cucumber or the heart of a young lettuce; or a sour apple off the tree, or from a store cupboard.
78. After luncheon he used to rest for a while without removing clothes or shoes; one hand shading his eyes, his feet uncovered. When dinner was over he would retire to a couch in his study, where he worked late until all the outstanding business of the day had been cleared off; or most of it. Then he went to bed and slept seven hours at the outside, with three or four breaks of wakefulness. If he found it hard to fall asleep again on such occasions, as frequently happened, he sent for readers or story-tellers; and on dropping off would not wake until the sun was up. He could not bear lying sleepless in the dark with no one by his side; and if he had to officiate at some official or religious ceremony that involved early rising — which he also loathed — would spend the previous night at a friend's house as near the venue as possible. Even so, he often needed more sleep than he got, and would doze off during his litter journeys through the City if anything delayed his progress and the bearers set the litter down.
79. Augustus was remarkably handsome and of very graceful gait even as an old man; but negligent of his personal appearance. He cared so little about his hair that, to save time, he would have two or three barbers working hurriedly on it together, and meanwhile read or write something, whether they were giving him a haircut or a shave. He always wore so serene an expression, whether talking or in repose, that a Gallic chief once confessed to his compatriots:
'When granted an audience with the Emperor during his passage across the Alps I would have carried out my plan of hurling him over a cliff had not the sight of that tranquil face softened my heart; so I desisted.'
Augustus's eyes were clear and bright, and he liked to believe that they shone with a sort of divine radiance: it gave him profound pleasure if anyone at whom he glanced keenly dropped his head as though dazzled by looking into the sun. In old age, however, his left eye had only partial vision. His teeth were small, few and decayed; his hair, yellowish and rather curly; his eyebrows met above the nose; he had ears of normal size, a Roman nose, and a complexion intermediate between dark and fair. Julius Marathus, Augustus's freedman and recorder, makes his height 5 feet 7 inches; but this is an exaggeration, although, with body and limbs so beautifully proportioned, one did not realize how small a man he was, unless someone tall stood close to him.
80. His body is said to have been marred by blemishes of various sorts — a constellation of seven birthmarks on his chest and stomach, exactly corresponding with the Great Bear; and a number of hard, dry patches suggesting ringworm, caused by an itching of his skin and a too vigorous use of the scraper at the baths. He had a weakness in his left hip, thigh, and leg, which occasionally gave him the suspicion of a limp; but this was improved by the sand-and-reed treatment. Sometimes the forefinger of his right hand would be so numbed by cold that it hardly served to guide a pen, even when strengthened with a long horn finger-stall. He also suffered from bladder pains which, however, ceased to trouble him once he had passed gravel in his urine.
81. Augustus survived several dangerous illnesses at different periods. The worst was after his Cantabrian conquest, when abscesses on the liver reduced him to such despair that he consented to try a remedy which ran counter to all medical practice: because hot fomentations afforded him no relief, his physician Antonius Musa successfully prescribed cold ones. He was also subject to certain seasonal disorders: in early spring a tightness of the diaphragm; and when the sirocco blew, catarrh. These so weakened his constitution that either hot or cold weather caused him great distress.
82. In winter he wore no fewer than four tunics and a heavy woollen gown above his undershirt; and below that a woollen chest protector; also underpants and woollen gaiters. In summer he slept with the bedroom door open, or in the courtyard beside a fountain, having someone to fan him; and could not bear the rays even of the winter sun, but always wore a broad-brimmed hat to protect himself against glare, whether in the Palace grounds or elsewhere. He preferred to travel by litter, at night, and his bearers kept so leisurely a pace that they were two days in arriving at Palestrina or Tivoli; yet, whenever it was possible to reach his destination by sea, he did so. Indeed, he pampered his health, especially by not bathing too often and being usually content with an oil rub — or with a sweat-bath, after which he took a douche of water either warmed over a fire or allowed to stand in the sun until it had lost its chill. When hot brine or sulphur water from the Anio springs was prescribed for his rheumatism he did no more than sit on a wooden bath-seat — calling it by the Spanish name dureta — and alternately dip his wrists and feet into the bath.
83. As soon as the Civil Wars were over Augustus discontinued his riding and fencing exercises on the Campus Martius and used, instead, to play catch with two companions, or hand-ball with several. But soon he was content to go hacking, or take walks, muffled in a cloak or blanket, that ended with a sharp sprint across rough ground. Sometimes he went fishing as a relaxation; sometimes he played at dice, marbles, or nuts in the company of little boys, and was always on the lookout for ones with cheerful faces and cheerful chatter, especially Syrians and Moors — he loathed people who were dwarfish or in any way deformed, regarding them as freaks of nature and bringers of bad luck..
84. Even in his boyhood Augustus had studied rhetoric with great eagerness and industry, and during the Mutina campaign, busy though he was, is said to have read, written, and declaimed daily. He kept up his interest by carefully drafting every address intended for delivery to the Senate, the popular Assembly, or the troops; though gifted with quite a talent for extempore speech. What is more, he avoided the embarrassment of forgetting his words, or the drudgery of memorizing them, by always reading from a manuscript. All important statements made to individuals, and even to his wife Livia, were first committed to notebooks and then repeated aloud; he was haunted by a fear of saying either too much or too little if he spoke off hand. His articulation of words, constantly practised under an elocution teacher, was pleasant and rather unusual; but sometimes, when his voice proved inadequate for addressing a large crowd, he called a herald.
85. Augustus wrote numerous prose works on a variety of subjects, some of which he read aloud to a group of his closer friends as though in a lecture-hall: the Reply to Brutus's Eulogy of Cato, for instance. In this case, however, he tired just before the end — being then already an old man — and handed the last roll to Tiberius, who finished it for him. Among his other works were An Encouragement to the Study of Philosophy and thirteen books of My Autobiography, which took the story only up to the time of the Cantabrian War. He made occasional attempts at verse composition; including Sicily, a short poem in hexameters, and an equally short collection of Epigrams, grams, most of them composed at the Baths. Both these books survive; but growing dissatisfied with the style of his tragedy, Ajax, which he had begun in great excitement, he destroyed it. When friends asked: 'Well, what has Ajax been doing lately?' he answered: 'Ajax has not fallen on his sword, but wiped himself out on my sponge.'
86 He cultivated a simple and easy oratorical style, avoiding purple passages, artfully contrived prose-rhythms, and 'the stink of farfetched phrases', as he called it; his main object being to say what he meant as plainly as possible. An anxiety not to let his audience or his readers lose their way in his sentences explains why he put such prepositions as to or in before the names of cities, where common usage omits them, and why he often repeated the same conjunction several times where a single appearance would have been less awkward, if more confusing. He expressed contempt for both innovators and archaizers, as equally mischievous, and would attack them with great violence: especially his dear friend Maecenas, whose 'myrrh-distilling ringlets' he parodied mercilessly. Even Tiberius, who had a habit of introducing obsolete and difficult phrases into his speeches, did not escape Augustus's ridicule, and Antony was for him a madman who wrote 'as though he wanted to be wondered at rather than understood'. He made fun of Antony's bad taste and inconsistent literary style:
'Your use of antique diction borrowed by Sallust from Cato's Origins suggests that you are in two minds about imitating Annius Cimber or Veranius Flaccus. But at other times it looks as though you were trying to acclimatize in Latin the nonsensicalities of those garrulous Asiatic orators.'
And to a letter praising the intelligence of his grand-daughter Agrippina, he adds: 'But please take great care to avoid affectation in writing or talking.'
87. Augustus's everyday language must have contained many whimsical expressions of his own coinage, to judge from autograph letters. Thus, he often wrote 'they will pay on the Greek Kalends'; which meant 'never' — because the reckoning by Kalends is a purely Roman convention. Another of his favourite remarks was: 'Let us be satisfied with this Cato !' — meaning that one should make the most of contemporary circumstances, however poorly they might compare with the past. He also had a favourite metaphor for swift and sudden actions: 'Quicker than boiled asparagus.' Here is a list of unusual synonyms which constantly appear in Augustus's letters:
baceolus (self-made eunuch) for: stultus (fool)
pulleiacus (wooden-headed) for: cerritus (crazy)
vapide se habere (feel flat) for: male se habere (feel bad)
betizare (be a beetroot) for: languere (be languid) — on the analogy of the colloquial form lachanizare .
Among his grammatical peculiarities occur the forms simus for sumus (we are), and domos for domus (homes), to which he invariably clung as a sign that they were his considered choice. I have noticed one particular habit of his: rather than break a long word at the end of a line and carry forward to the next whatever letters were left over, he would write these underneath the first part of the word and draw a loop to connect them with it.
88. Instead of paying a strict regard to orthography, as formulated by the grammarians, he inclined towards phonetic spelling. Of course, most writers make such slips as transposing or omitting whole syllables, as well as single letters; so I should not have mentioned that Augustus often did the same but for my surprise on finding, in more than one book of memoirs, the story that he once retired a proconsular governor for being ill-educated enough to write ixi for ipsi (the same men). When Augustus wrote in cypher he simply substituted the next letter of the alphabet for the one required, except that he wrote AA for X.
89. He had ambitions to be as proficient in Greek as in Latin, and did very well under the tutorship of Apollodorus of Pergamum, who accompanied him to Apollonia, though a very old man, and taught him elocution. Afterwards Augustus spent some time with Areus the philosopher, and his sons Dionysus and Nicanor, who broadened his general education; but never learned to speak Greek with real fluency, and never ventured on any Greek literary composition. Indeed, if he ever had occasion to use the language he would write down whatever it might be in Latin and get someone to make a translation. Yet nobody could describe him as ignorant of Greek poetry, because he greatly enjoyed the so-called 'Old Comedy', and often put plays of that period on the stage. His chief interest in the literature of both languages was the discovery of moral precepts, with suitable anecdotes attached, capable of public or private application; and he would transcribe passages of this sort for the attention of his generals or provincial governors, whenever he thought it necessary. He even read whole volumes aloud to the Senate, and issued proclamations commending them to the people — such as Quintus Metellus's On the Need for Larger Families, and Rutilius's On the Need for Smaller Buildings#8212; just to prove that he had been anticipated in his recommendations by far earlier thinkers.
Augustus gave all possible encouragement to intellectuals: he would politely and patiently attend readings not only of their poems and historical works, but of their speeches and dialogues; yet objected to being made the theme of any work unless the author were known as a serious and reputable writer, and often warned the praetors not to let his name be vulgarized by its constant occurrence in prize orations.
90. As for Augustus's superstitions: he is recorded to have been scared of thunder and lightning, against which he always carried a piece of seal-skin as an amulet, and to have taken refuge in an underground vault whenever a heavy storm threatened — because, as I have already mentioned, he had once narrowly escaped being struck on a night march.
91. Warnings conveyed in dreams, either his own or those dreamed by others, were not lost on him: for example, before the Battle of Philippi, when so ill that he decided not to leave his tent, he changed his mind on account of a friend's dream — most fortunately, too, as it proved. The camp was captured and a party of the enemy, breaking into the tent, plunged their swords through and through his camp-bed under the impression that he was still in it, tearing the bed-clothes to ribbons. Every spring he had a series of ugly dreams, but none of the horrid visions seen in them came true; whereas what he occasionally dreamed at other seasons tended to be reliable. One day, after he had paid frequent visits to the Temple of Jupiter the Thunderer, founded by himself on the Capitoline Hill, Capitoline Jupiter approached him in a dream with a complaint that the newcomer was stealing his worshippers. He replied: 'I put the Thunderer so close to your Temple because I had decided to give you a janitor.' When Augustus awoke, he hung a set of bells from the gable of the new building to make it look like a front door. Because of another dream he used to sit in a public place once a year holding out his hand for the people to give him coppers, as though he were a beggar.
92. Augustus had absolute faith in certain premonitory sins: considering it bad luck to thrust his right foot into the left shoe as he got out of bed, but good luck to start a long journey or voyage during a drizzle of rain, which would ensure success and a speedy return. Prodigies made a particularly strong impression on him. Once, when a palm tree pushed its way between the paving stones in front of the Palace he had it transplanted to the inner court beside his family gods, and lavished care on it. When he visited Capri, the drooping branches of a moribund old oak suddenly regained their vigour, which so delighted him that he arranged to buy the island from the City of Naples in exchange for Ischia. He also had a superstition against starting a journey on the day after a market-day, or undertaking any important task on the Nones of a month — although, in this case, as he explained to Tiberius in a letter, it was merely the unlucky non-sound of the word that affected him.
93. Augustus showed great respect towards all ancient and long established foreign rites, but despised the rest. Once, for example, after becoming an adept in the Eleusinian Mysteries at Athens, he judged a case in which the privileges of Demeter's priests were questioned. Since certain religious secrets had to be quoted in the evidence, he cleared the court, dismissed his legal advisers and settled the dispute in camera. On the other hand, during his journey through Egypt he would not go out of his way, however slightly, to honour the divine Apis bull; and praised his grandson Gaius for not offering prayers to Jehovah when he visited Jerusalem.
94. At this point it might be well to fist the omens, occurring before, on and after the day of Augustus's birth, from which his future greatness and lasting good fortune could clearly be prognosticated. In ancient days part of the city wall of Velitrae had been struck by lightning and the soothsayers prophesied that a native Velitraean would one day rule the world. Confidence in this prediction led the citizens to declare immediate war against Rome, and to keep on fighting until they were nearly wiped out; only centuries later did the world-ruler appear in the person of Augustus.
According to Julius Marathus, a public portent warned the Roman people some months before Augustus's birth that Nature was making ready to provide them with a king; and this caused the Senate such consternation that they issued a decree which forbade the rearing of any male child for a whole year. However, a group of senators whose wives were expectant prevented the decree from being filed at the Treasury and thus becoming law — for each of them hoped that the prophesied King would be his own son.
Then there is a story which I found in a book called Theologumena, by Asclepias of Mendes. Augustus's mother, Atia, with certain married women friends, once attended a solemn midnight service at the Temple of Apollo, where she had her litter set down, and presently fell asleep as the others also did. Suddenly a serpent glided up, entered her, and then glided away again. On awakening, she purified herself, as if after intimacy with her husband. An irremovable coloured mark in the shape of a serpent, which then appeared on her body, made her ashamed to visit the public baths any more; and the birth of Augustus nine months later suggested a divine paternity. Atia dreamed that her intestines were carried up to Heaven and overhung all lands and seas; and Octavius, that the sun rose from between her thighs.
Augustus's birth coincided with the Senate's famous debate on the Catilinarian conspiracy, and when Octavius arrived late, because of Atia's confinement, Publius Nigidius Figulus the astrologer, hearing at what hour the child had been delivered, cried out: 'The ruler of the world is now born.' Everyone believes this story.
Octavius, during a subsequent expedition through the wilder parts of Thrace, reached a grove sacred to Father Dionysus, where he consulted the priests about his son's destiny. After performing certain barbaric rites, they gave him the same response as Figulus; for the wine they had poured over the altar caused a pillar of flame to shoot up far above the roof of the shrine — a sign never before granted except to Alexander the Great when he sacrificed at that very altar. That night Octavius had another dream: his son appeared in superhuman majesty, armed with the thunderbolt, sceptre, and regal ornaments of Jupiter Greatest and Best, crowned with a solar diadem, and riding in a belaurelled chariot drawn by twelve dazzlingly white horses.
Gaius Drusus records that, one evening, the infant Augustus was placed by the nurse in his cradle on the ground-floor, but had vanished by daybreak; at last a search party found him lying on the top of a lofty tower, his face turned towards the rising sun. Once, when he was just learning to talk at his grandfather's country seat, the frogs broke into a loud chorus of croaking: he told them to stop, and it is locally claimed that no frog has croaked there since. On a later occasion, as he sat lunching in a copse beside the Appian Way, close to the fourth mile-stone, an eagle, to his great surprise, swooped at him, snatched a crust from his hand, carried it aloft — and then, to his even greater surprise, glided gently down again and restored what it had stolen.
Quintus Catulus, after rededicating the Capitol, dreamed two dreams on successive nights. First, Jupiter Greatest and Best beckoned to one of several noblemen's sons who were playing near his altar, and slipped an image of the Goddess Rome into the fold of his gown. Then Catulus dreamed that he saw the same boy sitting in the lap of Capitoline Jupiter he tried to have him removed, but the God countermanded the order because the boy was being reared as the saviour of Rome. Next day, Catulus met Augustus, looked at him with startled eyes — they had never met before — and pronounced him the identical boy of his dreams. Another version of Catulus's first dream is that a crowd of noblemen's children were begging Jupiter for a guardian; the God then pointed to one of them, saying: 'Whatever you need, ask him!', lightly touched the boy's mouth and conveyed a kiss from them to his own lips.
On a New Year's Day, Cicero escorted Julius Caesar, as Consul, to the Capitol and happened to tell his friends what he had dreamed the night before: a boy of noble features; let down from Heaven by a golden chain, stood at the Temple door, and was handed a whip by Capitoline Jupiter At that moment, Cicero's eye caught Augustus, whom his grand-uncle Caesar had brought to the ceremony but whom few of those present knew by sight. He cried: 'There goes the very boy!'
When Augustus celebrated his coming of age, the seams of the senatorial gown which Caesar had allowed him to wear split and it fell at his feet. Some of the bystanders interpreted the accident as a sign that the senatorial order itself would some day be brought to his feet.
As Julius Caesar was felling a wood near Munda in Spain to clear a site for his camp, he noticed a palm-tree and ordered it to be spared, palm-fronds being a presage of victory. The tree then suddenly put out a new shoot which, a few days later, had grown so tall as to overshadow it. What was more, a flock of doves began to nest in the fronds, although doves notoriously dislike hard, spiny foliage. This prodigy was the immediate reason, they say, for Caesar's desire that his grand-nephew, and no one else, should succeed him.
At Apollonia, Augustus and Agrippa together visited the house of Theogenes the astrologer, and climbed upstairs to his observatory; they both wished to consult him about their future careers. Agrippa went first and was prophesied such almost incredibly good fortune that Augustus expected a far less encouraging response, and felt ashamed to disclose his nativity. Yet when at last, after a deal of hesitation, he grudgingly supplied the information for which both were pressing him, Theogenes rose and flung himself at his feet; and this gave Augustus so implicit a faith in the destiny awaiting him that he even ventured to publish his horoscope, and struck a silver coin stamped with Capricorn, the sign under which he had been born.
95. When he returned to Rome from Apollonia at news of Caesar's assassination, the sky was clear of clouds, but a rainbow-like halo formed around the sun; and suddenly lightning struck the tomb of Caesar's daughter, Julia the Elder. Then, when he first took the auspices as Consul, twelve vultures appeared, as they had appeared to Romulus at the foundation of the City; and the livers of all the sacrificial victims were seen to be doubled inwards at the bottom — an. omen which, experts in soothsaying agreed, presaged a wonderful future for him.
96. Augustus even foreknew the successful conclusion of his wars. At Bologna, where the army of the Triumvirs Augustus, Antony, and Lepidus was stationed, an eagle perched on Augustus's tent and defended itself vigorously against the converging attack of two ravens, bringing both of them down. This augury was understood by the troops as portending a rupture between their three leaders; the outcome of which would be obvious. On Augustus's way to Philippi, a Thessalian stopped him to report having been assured of victory by Caesar's ghost, whom he met on a lonely road. Sacrificing one day before the walls of Perugia, Augustus had failed to secure a satisfactory omen, and sent for more victims; at this point the enemy made a sudden sortie from the beleaguered city, and carried off the entire sacrificial apparatus, including the carcasses. The soothsayers unanimously reassured him that whatever disasters had been threatened by the omens would fall upon their present possessors; and this proved to be true.
On the eve of the naval battle off Sicily, Augustus was walking along the shore when a fish leaped from the sea and fell at his feet. Before Actium, he was about to board his ship and give the signal for hostilities to begin, when he met a peasant driving an ass, and asked his name. The peasant replied: 'I am Eutychus ("Prosper") and my ass is called Nicon ("Victory").' To commemorate the victory Augustus set up bronze statues of Eutychus and his ass on the camp site, which he now dedicated to Mars and Neptune.
97. Next, we come to Augustus's death and subsequent deification, both of which were predicted by evident signs. While he was closing a lustrum, or five-year period, with a purificatory ceremony in the crowded Campus Martins, an eagle circled around him several times, then flew to the nearby temple and perched above the first 'A' of Agrippa's name. As soon as Augustus noticed this he ordered Tiberius, who was acting as his colleague in the Censorship, to read out the usual vows for the next five-year period; because, though having composed and recorded them on a tablet, he would not make himself responsible for vows payable after his death. At about the same time lightning melted the initial letter of his name on the inscription below one of his statues. This was interpreted to mean that he would live only another hundred days, since the remainder of the word, namely AESAR is the Etruscan for 'god' — c being the Roman numeral 100.
Again, when sending Tiberius off to Illyricum and planning to accompany him as far as Benevento, Augustus got held up by a long list of cases, and cried: 'I will stay here no longer, whoever tries to detain me!' These words were subsequently recalled as prophetic. He started off for Benevento by road but, on reaching the islet of Astura, met with a favourable breeze and decided to take ship that evening although night voyages were against his usual habits — and so caught a chill, the first symptom of which was diarrhoea.
98. After coasting past Campania, with its islands, he spent the next four days in his villa on Capri, where he rested and amused himself. As he had sailed through the Gulf of Puteoli, the passengers and crew of a recently arrived Alexandrian ship had put on white robes and garlands, burned incense, and wished him the greatest of good fortune — which, they said, he certainly deserved, because they owed their lives to him and their liberty to sail the seas: in a word, their entire freedom and prosperity. This incident gratified Augustus so deeply that he gave each member of his staff forty gold pieces, making, them promise under oath to spend them only on Alexandrian trade goods. What was more, he made the last two or three days of his stay on Capri the occasion for distributing among other presents, Roman gowns and Greek cloaks to the islanders; insisting that the Romans should talk Greek and dress like Greeks, and that the Greeks should do the opposite. He sat for a long time watching the gymnastic training of the many local ephebi - Greeks who had reached their nineteenth year but were not yet old enough to become full citizens — Capri being a very conservative settlement. Afterwards he invited these young men to a banquet at which he presided, and not merely allowed, but expected them to play jokes, and freely scramble for the tokens which he threw, entitling the holders to fruit, sweetmeats, and the like. In fact, he indulged in every form of fun.
Augustus called the residential centre of Capri 'Lubberland', because some of his staff, now settled on the island, were growing so lazy; and referred to his friend Masgaba, who had died there in the previous year, as 'Ktistes', meaning 'the Founder'. When he noticed from his dining-room window that a crowd of torchbearers were attending Masgaba's tomb, he improvised this Greek line:
I see the Founder's tomb ablaze with fire ...
then asked Thrasyllus, Tiberius's astrologer, who was reclining opposite him and did not understand the reference: 'What poet wrote that?' Thrasyllus hesitated, and Augustus capped his own line, reciting :
With torches, look, they honour Masagaba!
and again asked: 'Who wrote that?' Thrasyllus, unable to divine the authorship, mumbled: 'Both lines are very good, whoever the poet was.' Augustus burst out laughing and made great fun of Thrasyllus.
He next crossed over to Naples, although his stomach was weak from an intermittent recurrence of the same trouble, and watched an athletic competition which was held in his honour every five years. Finally, he started off with Tiberius and said good-bye to him at Benevento. Feeling worse on the homeward journey, he took to his bed at Nola, and sent messengers to recall Tiberius — now headed for Illyricum. At his arrival Augustus had a long talk with him in private, after which he attended to no further important business.
99. On the day that he died, Augustus frequently inquired whether rumours of his illness were causing any popular disturbance. He called for a mirror, and had his hair combed and his lower jaw, which had fallen from weakness, propped up. Presently he summoned a group of friends and asked: 'Have I played my part in the farce of life creditably enough?' adding the theatrical tag:
If I have pleased you, kindly signify
Appreciation with a warm goodbye.
Then he dismissed them, but when fresh visitors arrived from Rome, wanted to hear the latest news of his grand-daughter Livilla, who was ill. Finally, he kissed his wife with: 'Goodbye, Livia: never forget whose husband you have been!' and died almost at once. He must have longed for such an easy exit, for whenever he had heard of anyone having passed away quickly and painlessly, he used to pray: 'May Heaven grant the same euthanasia to me and mine!' The only sign that his wits were wandering, just before he died, was his sudden cry of terror: 'Forty young men are carrying me off!' But even this may be read as a prophecy rather than a delusion, because forty Praetorians were to form the guard of honour that conveyed him to his lying-in-state.
100. Augustus died in the same room as his father Octavius. That was 19 August 14 A.D., at about 3 p.m., the Consuls of the year being Sextus Pompey and Sextus Appuleius. Before the close of the following month he would have attained the age of seventy-six. Senators from the neighbouring municipalities and veteran colonies bore the body, in stages, all the way from Nola to Bovillae — but at night, owing to the hot weather — laying it in the town hall or principal temple of every halting place. From Bovillae, a party of Roman knights carried it to the vestibule of the Palace at Rome.
The senators vied with one another in proposing posthumous honours for Augustus. Among the motions introduced were the following: that his funeral procession should pass through the Triumphal Gate preceded by the image of Victory from the Senate House, and that boys and girls of the nobility should sing his dirge; that on the day of his cremation iron rings should be worn instead of gold ones; that his ashes should be gathered by priests of the leading Colleges; that the name 'August' should be transferred to September, because Augustus had been born in September but had died in the month now called August; and that the period between his birth and death should be officially entered in the Calendar as 'the Augustan Age'.
Though the House as a whole decided not to pay him such excessive honours, he was given two funeral eulogies — by Tiberius from the forecourt of Julius Caesar's Temple, and by Tiberius's son Drusus from the original Rostrum — after which a party of Senators shouldered the body and took it to a pyre on the Campus Martius, where it was burned; and an ex-praetor actually swore that he had seen Augustus's spirit soaring up to Heaven through the flames. Leading knights, barefoot, and wearing unbelted tunics, then collected his ashes and placed them in the family Mausoleum. He had built this himself forty-two years previously, during his sixth consulship, between the Flaminian Way and the Tiber; at the same time converting the neighbourhood into a public park.
101. Augustus's will, composed on 3 April of the previous year, while Lucius Plancus and Gaius Silius were Consuls, occupied two note-books, written partly in his own hand, partly in those of his freedmen Polybius and Hilarion. The Vestal Virgins to whose safekeeping he had entrusted these documents now produced them, as well as three rolls, also sealed by him. All were opened and read in the House. It proved that he had appointed Tiberius and Livia heirs to the bulk of his estate, directing that Tiberius should take two-thirds and adopt the name 'Augustus', while Livia took the remaining third and adopted the name 'Augusta'. If either of these two beneficiaries could not, or would not, inherit, the heirs in the second degree were to be Tiberius's son Drusus, entitled to one-third of the reversion; and Augustus's great-grandson Germanicus, with his three sons, jointly entitled to the remainder. Many of Augustus's relatives and friends figured among the heirs in the third degree. He also left a bequest of 400,000 gold pieces to the Roman commons in general; 35,000 to the two tribes with which he had family connections; ten to every Praetorian guard; five to every member of the City companies; three to every legionary soldier. These legacies were to be paid on the nail, because he had always kept enough cash for the purpose. There were other minor bequests, some as large as 200 gold pieces, which were not to be settled until a year after his death because:
'... my estate is not large; indeed, my heirs will not receive more than 1,500,000 gold pieces; for, although my friends have bequeathed me some 14,000,000 in the last twenty years, nearly the whole of this sum, besides what came to me from my father, from my adoptive father, and from others, has been used to buttress the national economy.'
He had given orders that 'should anything happen' to his daughter Julia, or his grand-daughter of the same name, their bodies must be excluded from the Mausoleum. One of the three sealed rolls contained directions for his own funeral; another, a record of his reign, which he wished to have engraved on bronze and posted at the entrance to the Mausoleum; the third, a statement of how many serving troops were stationed in different parts of the Empire, what money reserves were held by the Public Treasury and the Privy Purse, and what revenues were due for collection. He also supplied the names of freedmen and slave-secretaries who could furnish details, under all these heads, on demand.