Augustus ushered in a period of relative peace and stability in which there was little violence, little bribery or corruption, and little democracy and political debate. He restored order to the Roman domain and modernized many aspects of Roman life.
There was no other man so well fitted to put the new monarchy into an attractive form as Augustus. We have been accustomed to think of this man as merely a shrewd politician. But when we contrast the distracted condition of Rome during the last hundred years with the peace and prosperity which he brought with him, we shall be inclined to look upon him as a wise and successful statesman. His whole policy was a policy of conciliation. He wished to wipe out the hatreds of the civil war. He regarded himself as the chief of no party, but as the head of the whole state. He tried to reconcile the conservative and the progressive men of his time. All the cherished forms of the republic he therefore preserved; and he exercised his powers under titles which were not hateful to the senate or the people. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]
While the Roman bureaucracy managed the daily affairs of the empire, Octavian made it his mission to beautify the city and improve conditions in the provinces. He reformed the tax system by taking a census to determine how much each province should pay in taxes and what beneifits they would receive. When Augustus died in A.D. 14, he achieved a lot and his achievements became more remarkable as time went on. In an effort to avert the civil wars he grew up with, Augustus established clear rules of succession and made it clear his adopted his stepson Tiberius he would be his successor. [Source: Minnesota State University, Mankato, ethanholman.com +]
See Separate Articles AUGUSTUS (RULED 27 B.C.-A.D. 14): HIS LIFE, CHARACTER AND HABITS factsanddetails.com ; AUGUSTUS BECOMES EMPEROR factsanddetails.com ; AUGUSTUS AS EMPEROR OF ROME factsanddetails.com ; AUGUSTUS POLICIES AND REFORMS factsanddetails.com ; AUGUSTUS, PAX ROMANA AND THE ROMAN EMPIRE factsanddetails.com ; OCTAVIAN AND MARK ANTONY AFTER CAESAR’S DEATH factsanddetails.com ; CLEOPATRA (69-30 B.C.) factsanddetails.com ; factsanddetails.com ; CLEOPATRA AND MARC ANTONY factsanddetails.com ; OCTAVIAN, THE BATTLE OF ACTIUM AND THE DEMISE OF ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA factsanddetails.com . Categories with related articles in this website: Early Ancient Roman History (34 articles) factsanddetails.com; Later Ancient Roman History (33 articles) factsanddetails.com; Ancient Roman Life (39 articles) factsanddetails.com; Ancient Greek and Roman Religion and Myths (35 articles) factsanddetails.com; Ancient Roman Art and Culture (33 articles) factsanddetails.com; Ancient Roman Government, Military, Infrastructure and Economics (42 articles) factsanddetails.com; Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy and Science (33 articles) factsanddetails.com; Ancient Persian, Arabian, Phoenician and Near East Cultures (26 articles) factsanddetails.com
Websites on Ancient Rome: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ;
“Outlines of Roman History” forumromanum.org; “The Private Life of the Romans” forumromanum.org|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; Lacus Curtius penelope.uchicago.edu;
The Roman Empire in the 1st Century pbs.org/empires/romans;
The Internet Classics Archive classics.mit.edu ;
Bryn Mawr Classical Review bmcr.brynmawr.edu;
De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors roman-emperors.org;
British Museum ancientgreece.co.uk; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive beazley.ox.ac.uk ;
Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/about-the-met/curatorial-departments/greek-and-roman-art;
The Internet Classics Archive kchanson.com ;
Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources web.archive.org/web; Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy iep.utm.edu;
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy plato.stanford.edu; Ancient Rome resources for students from the Courtenay Middle School Library web.archive.org ; History of ancient Rome OpenCourseWare from the University of Notre Dame /web.archive.org ; United Nations of Roma Victrix (UNRV) History unrv.com
Augustus’s Power and Advisors
Nina C. Coppolino wrote: “There was not a dyarchic division of power between the senate and Augustus. Augustus ultimately had the power of all the legions abroad and of the standing army of 9,000 soldiers in the Praetorian Guard at Rome and in the Italian towns. The senate, however, had important judicial, financial, and probouleutic functions at home, and it was the source of provincial governorships. The basic social hierarchy of Rome was maintained with the senatorial nobility at the top; the equites, who were of the same economic class but lacked the prestige of the senate, still staffed the jury-courts and junior army and procuratorial posts, but now they also got provincial commands. Around Augustus there was not so much a 'party' of political alliance, as a group of friends or clients who were confidants by the personal choice of Augustus. Most important for advisory, administrative, and military positions was the dynastic network of the imperial family. [Source: Nina C. Coppolino, Roman Emperors]
The remarkable prosperity that attended the reign of Augustus has caused this age to be called by his name. The glory of this period is largely due to the wise policy of Augustus himself; but in his work he was greatly assisted by two men, whose names are closely linked to his own. These men were Agrippa and Maecenas. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]
Agrippa had been from boyhood one of the most intimate friends of Augustus, and during the trying times of the later republic had constantly aided him by his counsel and his sword. The victories of Augustus before and after he came to power were largely due to this able general. By his artistic ability Agrippa also contributed much to the architectural splendor of Rome.\~\
The man who shared with Agrippa the favor and confidence of Augustus was Maecenas, a wise statesman and patron of literature. It was by the advice of Maecenas that many of the important reforms of Augustus were adopted and carried out. But the greatest honor is due to Maecenas for encouraging those men whose writings made this period one of the “golden ages” of the world’s literature. It was chiefly the encouragement given to architecture and literature which made the reign of Augustus an epoch in civilization. \~\
Reforms by Augustus
Suetonius wrote: “After he finally had assumed the office of Pontifex Maximus on the death of Lepidus (for he could not make up his mind to deprive him of the honour while he lived) [13 B.C.], he collected whatever prophetic writings of Greek or Latin origin were in circulation anonymously or under the names of authors of little repute, and burned more than two thousand of them, retaining only the Sibylline books and making a choice even among those; and he deposited them in two gilded cases under the pedestal of the Palatine Apollo. Inasmuch as the calendar, which had been set in order by the Deified Julius, had later been confused and disordered through negligence, he restored it to its former system [8 B.C.]; and in making this arrangement he called the month Sextilis by his own surname, rather than his birthmonth September, because in the former he had won his first consulship and his most brilliant victories. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum — Divus Augustus” (“The Lives of the Caesars — The Deified Augustus”), written A.D. c. 110, “Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum,” 2 Vols., trans. J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 123-287]
“He increased the number and importance of the priests, and also their allowances and privileges, in particular those of the Vestal virgins. Moreover, when there was occasion to choose another vestal in place of one who had died, and many used all their influence to avoid submitting their daughters to the hazard of the lot, he solemnly swore that if anyone of his grand-daughters were of eligible age, he would have proposed her name. He also revived some of the ancient rites which had gradually fallen into disuse, such as the augury of Safety, the office of Flamen Dialis, the ceremonies of the Lupercalia, the Secular Games, and the festival of the Compitalia. At the Lupercalia he forbade beardless youths to join in the running, and at the Secular Games he would not allow young people of either sex to attend any entertainment by night except in company with some adult relative.
“He provided that the Lares of the Crossroads should be crowned twice a year, with spring and summer flowers. Next to the immortal Gods he honoured the memory of the leaders who had raised the estate of the Roman people from obscurity to greatness. Accordingly he restored the works of such men with their original inscriptions, and in the two colonnades of his forum dedicated statues of all of them in triumphal garb, declaring besides in a proclamation: "I have contrived this to lead the citizens to require me, while I live, and the rulers of later times as well, to attain the standard set by those worthies of old." He also moved the statue of Pompeius from the hall in which Gaius Caesar had been slain and placed it on a marble arch opposite the grand door of Pompeius' theater.”
Judicial Reforms and Improvements Under Augustus
Augustus gave judges more authority, established the concept of precedence as a cornerstone of justice and helped engender respect for government institutions. His rule though could be harsh. Augustus is reported to have ordered that his executions be carried out "quicker than you can cook asparagus."
Suetonius wrote: “Many pernicious practices militating against public security had survived as a result of the lawless habits of the civil wars, or had even arisen in time of peace. Gangs of footpads openly went about with swords by their sides, ostensibly to protect themselves, and travellers in the country, freemen and slaves alike, were seized and kept in confinement in the workhouses [the ergastula were prisons for slaves, who were made to work in chains in the fields] of the land owners; numerous leagues, too, were formed for the commission of crimes of every kind, assuming the title of some new guild [collegia, or guilds, of workmen were allowed and were numerous; not infrequently they were a pretext for some illegal secret organization]. Therefore to put a stop to brigandage, he stationed guards of soldiers wherever it seemed advisable, inspected the workhouses, and disbanded all guilds, except such as were of long standing and formed for legitimate purposes. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum--Divus Augustus” (“The Lives of the Caesars--The Deified Augustus”), written A.D. c. 110, “Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum,” 2 Vols., trans. J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 123-287]
“He burned the records of old debts to the treasury, which were by far the most frequent source of blackmail. He made over to their holders places in the city to which the claim of the state was uncertain. He struck off the lists the names of those who had long been under accusation, from whose humiliation nothing was to be gained except the gratification of their enemies, with the stipulation that if anyone was minded to renew the charge, he should be liable to the same penalty [i.e., if he failed to win his suit, he should suffer the penalty that would have been inflicted on the defendant, if he had been convicted]. To prevent any action for damages or on a disputed claim from falling through or being put off, he added to the term of the courts thirty more days, which had before been taken up with honorary games. To the three divisions of jurors he added a fourth of a lower estate, to be called ducenarii, and to sit on cases involving trifling amounts. He enrolled as jurors men of thirty years or more, that is five years younger than usual. But when many strove to escape court duty, he reluctantly consented that each division in turn should have a year's exemption, and that the custom of holding court during the months of November and December should be given up.
“He himself administered justice regularly and sometimes up to nightfall, having a litter placed upon the tribunal, if he was indisposed, or even lying down at home. In his administration of justice he was both highly conscientious and very lenient; for to save a man clearly guilty of parricide from being sewn up in the sack [parricides were sewn up in a sack with a dog, a cock, a snake, and a monkey, and thrown into the sea or a river], a punishment which was inflicted only on those who pleaded guilty, he is said to have put the question to him in this form: "You surely did not kill your father, did you?" Again, in a case touching a forged will, in which all the signers were liable to punishment by the Cornelian Law, he distributed to the jury not merely the two tablets for condemnation or acquittal, but a third as well, for the pardon of those who were shown to have been induced to sign by misrepresentation or misunderstanding. Each year he referred appeals of cases involving citizens to the city praetor, but those between foreigners to ex-consuls, of whom he had put one in charge of the business affairs of each province.”
Augustus' Social or Moral Legislation
Along with attempts to restore the old Roman religion, Augustus wished to revive the old morality and simple life of the past. He himself disdained luxurious living and foreign fashions. He tried to improve the lax customs which prevailed in respect to marriage and divorce, and to restrain the vices which he felt were destroying the population of Rome. But it is difficult to say whether these laudable attempts of Augustus produced any real results upon either the religious or the moral life of the Roman people. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]
In attempt to boost the declining birth rate Augustus offered tax breaks for large families and cracked down on abortion. He imposed strict marriage laws and changed adultery from an act of indecency to an act of sedition, decreeing that a man who discovered his wife's infidelity must turn her in or face charges himself. Adulterous couples could have their property confiscated, be exiled to different parts of the empire and be prohibited from marrying one another. Augustus passed the reforms because he believed that too many men spent their energy with prostitutes and concubines and had nothing for their wives, causing population declines.
Under Augustus, women had the right to divorce. Husbands could see prostitutes but not keep mistresses, widows were obligated to remarry within two years, divorcees within 18 months. Parents with three or more children were given rewards, property, job promotions, and childless couples and single men were looked down upon and penalized . The end result of the reforms was a skyrocketing divorce rate.
Suetonius wrote: He revised existing laws and enacted some new ones, for example, on extravagance, on adultery and chastity, on bribery, and on the encouragement of marriage among the various classes of citizens. Having made somewhat more stringent changes in the last of these than in the others, he was unable to carry it out because of an open revolt against its provisions, until he had abolished or mitigated a part of the penalties, besides increasing the rewards and allowing a three years' exemption from the obligation to marry after the death of a husband or wife. When the knights even then persistently called for its repeal at a public show, he sent for the children of Germanicus and exhibited them, some in his own lap and some in their father's, intimating by his gestures and expression that they should not refuse to follow that young man's example. And on finding that the spirit of the law was being evaded by betrothal with immature girls and by frequent changes of wives, he shortened the duration of betrothals and set a limit on divorce.” [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum — Divus Augustus” (“The Lives of the Caesars — The Deified Augustus”), written A.D. c. 110, “Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum,” 2 Vols., trans. J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 123-287]
Public Improvements Under Augustus
Augustus also ushered in a period of civic improvement. He created fire departments, police departments and established a civil service, staffed by members of the political class, capable of running the Roman empire. Roads, bridges, aqueducts, protective walls and temples were built all over the empire. After his death in A.D. 14, he left behind a report to the Roman people called Res Gestae ("What Was Accomplished") that proclaimed, "I was born in a city of brick and left a city of marble."
Suetonius wrote: “He built many public works, in particular the following: his forum with the temple of Mars the Avenger [24 B.C.], the temple of Apollo on the Palatine [28 B.C.], and the fane of Jupiter the Thunderer on the Capitol [22 B.C.]. His reason for building the forum was the increase in the number of the people and of cases at law, which seemed to call for a third forum, since two were no longer adequate. Therefore it was opened to the public with some haste, before the temple of Mars was finished, and it was provided that the public prosecutions be held there apart from the rest, as well as the selection of jurors by lot. He had made a vow to build the temple of Mars in the war of Philippi, which he undertook to avenge his father; accordingly he decreed that in it the Senate should consider wars and claims for triumphs, from it those who were on their way to the provinces with military commands should be escorted, and to it victors on their return should bear the tokens of their triumphs. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum — Divus Augustus” (“The Lives of the Caesars — The Deified Augustus”), written A.D. c. 110, “Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum,” 2 Vols., trans. J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 123-287]
“He reared the temple of Apollo in that part of his house on the Palatine for which the soothsayers declared that the god had shown his desire by striking it with lightning. He joined to it colonnades with Latin and Greek libraries, and when he was getting to be an old man he often held meetings of the Senate there as well, and revised the lists of jurors. He dedicated the shrine to Jupiter the Thunderer because of a narrow escape; for on his Cantabrian expedition during a march by night, a flash of lightning grazed his litter and struck the slave dead who was carrying a torch before him. He constructed some works too in the name of others, his grandsons and nephew to wit, his wife and his sister, such as the colonnade and basilica of Gaius and Lucius [12 B.C.], also the colonnades of Livia and Octavia [33 & 15 B.C.], and the theatre of Marcellus [13 B.C.]. More than that, he often urged other prominent men to adorn the city with new monuments or to restore and embellish old ones, each according to his means. And many such works were built at that time by many men; for example, the temple of Hercules and the Muses by Marcius Philippus, the temple 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 by Marcus Agrippa in particular many magnificent structures. “He divided the area of the city into regions and wards, arranging that the former should be under the charge of magistrates selected each year by lot, and the latter under magistri elected by the inhabitants of the respective neighbourhoods. To guard against fires he devised a system of stations of night watchmen, and to control the floods he widened and cleared out the channel of the Tiber, which had for some time been filled with rubbish and narrowed by jutting buildings. Further, to make the approach to the city easier from every direction, he personally undertook to rebuild the Flaminian Road all the way to Ariminum, and assigned the rest of the high-ways to others who had been honoured with triumphs, asking them to use their prize-money in paving them. He restored sacred edifices which had gone to ruin through lapse of time or had been destroyed by fire, and adorned both these and the other temples with most lavish gifts, depositing in the shrine of Jupiter Capitolinus as a single offering sixteen thousand pounds of gold, besides pearls and other precious stones to the value of fifty million sesterces.
Res Gestae — Augustus’s Accomplishments
The Res Gestae is a list of deeds performed by Augustus that in many cases affected the entire Roman Empire, and of the sums of money he spent upon the Republic and the Roman People. The historian William Stearns Davis wrote: The Res Gestae “is, perhaps, the most famous inscription left us by Antiquity. It is inscribed on marble in a building which was a temple of Augustus in Ankara, Asia Minor [today's Turkish capital]. The original of this document seems to have been set up in bronze before the great Emperor's mausoleum in Rome, and this is one of the copies distributed through the provinces. Only a fraction of the long inscription can be cited, and it is hard to abridge what is throughout of high historical value. It gives us what Augustus wished to have regarded as the leading glories of his reign, distorting and suppressing some facts, but adding much to our knowledge of others. [Source: Augustus (63 B.C.-14 A.D.): Res Gestae Divi Augusti, A.D. c. 14, William Stearns Davis, ed., “Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources,” 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West, pp. 166-172]
The Res Gestae states: “In my twentieth year [44 B.C.], acting on my own initiative and at my own charges, I raised an army wherewith I brought again liberty to the Republic oppressed by the dominance of a faction. Therefore did the Senate admit me to its own order by honorary decrees, in the consulship of Gaius Pansa and Aulus Hirtius. At the same time they gave unto me rank among the consulars in the expressing of my opinion [in the Senate]; and they gave unto me the imperium. It also voted that I, as propreetor, together with the consuls, should "see to it that the state suffered no harm." In the same year, too, when both consuls had fallen in battle, the people made me consul and triumvir for the re-establishing of the Republic.
“The men who killed my father [Julius Caesar, who adopted his nephew as his son in his will] I drove into exile by strictly judicial process, and then, when they took up arms against the Republic, twice I overcame them in battle.
“I undertook civil and foreign wars both by land and by sea; as victor therein I showed mercy to all surviving [Roman] citizens. Foreign nations, that I could safely pardon, I preferred to spare rather than to destroy. About 500,000 Roman citizens took the military oath of allegiance to me. Rather over 300,000 of these have I settled in colonies, or sent back to their home towns (municipia) when their term of service ran out; and to all of these I have given lands bought by me, or the money for farms — and this out of my private means. I have taken 600 ships, besides those smaller than triremes.
“Twice have I had the lesser triumph [i.e., the ovation]; thrice the [full] curule triumph; twenty-one times have I been saluted as "Imperator." After that, when the Senate voted me many triumphs, I declined them. Also I often deposited the laurels in the Capitol, fulfilling the vows which I had made in battle. On account of the enterprises brought to a happy issue on land and sea by me, or by my legates, under my auspices, fifty-five times has the Senate decreed a thanksgiving unto the Immortal Gods. The number of days, too, on which thanksgiving was professed, fulfilling the Senate's decrees, was 890. Nine kings, or children of kings, have been led before my car in my triumphs. And when I wrote these words, thirteen times had I been consul, and for the thirty-seventh year was holding the tribunician power.
“The dictatorship which was offered me by the People and by the Senate, both when I was present and when I was absent, I did not accept. The annual and perpetual consulship I did not accept. Ten years in succession I was one of the "triumvirs for the reestablishing of the Republic." Up to the day that I wrote these words I have been princeps of the Senate forty years. I have been pontifex maximus, augur, member of the "College of Fifteen for the Sacred Rites" [and of the other religious brotherhoods].
“In my fifth consulship, by order of the People and the Senate, I increased the number of patricians. Three times I revised the Senate list. In my sixth consulship, with my colleague, Marcus Agrippa, I made a census of the People. [By it] the number of Roman citizens was 4,063,000. Again in the consulship of Gaius Censorinus and Gaius Asinus [8 B.C.] I [took the census, when] the number of Roman citizens was 4,230,000. A third time . . . in the consulship of Sextus Pompeius and Sextus Appuleius [14 A.D.], with Tiberius Caesar as colleague, I [took the census when] the number of Roman citizens was 4,937,000. By new legislation I have restored many customs of our ancestors which had begun to fall into disuse, and I have myself also set many examples worthy of imitation by those to follow me.
“By decree of the Senate my name has been included in the hymn of the Salii [Davis: as if Augustus were a god], and it has been enacted by law that as long as I live I shall be invested with the tribunician power. I refused to be pontifex maximus in place of a colleague still living, when the people proffered me [that] priesthood which my father had held. [The temple of] Janus Quirinus, which it was the purpose of our fathers to close when there was a victorious peace throughout the whole Roman Empire — by land and sea — and which — before my birth — had been alleged to have been closed only twice at all, since Rome was founded: thrice did the Senate order it closed while I was princeps.
“To each of the Roman plebs I paid 300 sesterces [Arkenberg: about $172 in 1998 dollars] in accord with the last will of my father [Caesar]. In my own name in my fifth consulship [29 B.C.] I gave 400 sesterces [Arkenberg: about $229 in 1998 dollars] from the spoils of war. Again in my tenth consulship [24 B.C.] I gave from my own estate to every man [among the Romans] 400 sesterces as a donative. In my eleventh, twelve times I made distributions of food, buying grain at my own charges. And I made like gifts on several other occasions. The sum which I spent for Italian farms [for the veterans] was about 600,000,000 sesterces [Arkenberg: about $200,000,000 in 1998 dollars] and for lands in the provinces about 260,000,000 [Arkenberg: about $158,600,000 in 1998 dollars].... Four times have I aided the public treasury from my own means, to such extent that I furnished to those managing the treasury department 150,000,000 sesterces [Arkenberg: about $86,000,000 in 1998 dollars].
“I built the Curia [Senate House], and the Chalcidicum adjacent thereunto, the temple of Apollo on the Palatine with its porticoes, the temple of the deified Julius [Caesar], the Lupercal, the portico to the Circus of Flaminius [and a vast number of other public buildings and temples].
“Aqueducts which have crumbled through age I have restored, and I have doubled the water [in the aqueduct] called the Marcian by turning a new stream into its course. The Forum Julium and the basilica which was between the temple of Castor and the temple of Saturn, works begun and almost completed by my father, I finished.
“Three times in my own name and five times in that of my [adoptive] sons or my grandsons I have given gladiator exhibitions; in these exhibitions about 10,000 men have fought. [Besides other games] twenty-six times in my own name, or in that of my sons and grandsons I have given hunts of African wild beasts in the circus, the Forum, the amphitheaters — and about 3500 wild beasts have been slain.
“I gave the people the spectacle of a naval battle beyond the Tiber where is now the grove of the Caesars. For this purpose an excavation was made 1800 feet long and 1200 wide. In this contest thirty warships — triremes or biremes — took part, and many others smaller. About 3000 men fought on these craft beside the rowers.
“I have cleared the sea from pirates. In that war with the slaves I delivered to their masters for punishment 30,000 slaves who had fled their masters and taken up arms against the Republic. The provinces of Gaul, Spain, Africa, Sicily, and Sardinia swore the same allegiance to me. I have extended the boundaries of all the provinces of the Roman People which were bordered by nations not yet subjected to our sway. My fleet has navigated the ocean from the mouth of the Rhine as far as the boundaries of the Cimbri where aforetime no Roman had ever penetrated by land or by sea. The German peoples there sent their legates, seeking my friendship, and that of the Roman people. At almost the same time, by my command and under my auspices two armies have been led into Ethiopia and into Arabia, which is called Felix ["The Happy"] and very many of the enemy of both peoples have fallen in battle, and many towns have been captured.
“I added Egypt to the Empire of the Roman People. When the king of Greater Armenia was killed I could have made that country a province, but I preferred after the manner of our fathers to deliver the kingdom to Tigranes [a vassal prince].... I have compelled the Parthians to give up to me the spoils and standards of three Roman armies, and as suppliants to seek the friendship of the Roman people. Those [recovered] standards, moreover, I have deposited in the sanctuary located in the temple of Mars the Avenger.
“In my sixth and seventh consulships [28 and 27 B.C.] when I had put an end to the civil wars, after having obtained complete control of the government, by universal consent I transferred the Republic from my own dominion back to the authority of the Senate and Roman People. In return for this favor by me, I received by decree of the Senate the title Augustus, the door-posts of my house were publicly decked with laurels, a civic crown was fixed above my door, and in the Julian Curia [Senate-house] was set a golden shield, which by its inscription bore witness that it was bestowed on me, by the Senate and Roman People, on account of my valor, clemency, justice, and piety. After that time I excelled all others in dignity, but of power I held no more than those who were my colleagues in any magistracy. [A kind of supplement to the inscription adds]: The sum of money which he gave into the treasury or to the Roman People or discharged soldiers was 600,000,000 denarii [Arkenberg: about $1,372,000,000 in 1998 dollars] [and names many other public works].
Augustus’s Dealings with the Senate
Suetonius wrote: ““As he was speaking in the Senate someone said to him: "I did not understand," and another: "I would contradict you if I had an opportunity." Several times when he was rushing from the House in anger at the excessive bickering of the disputants, some shouted after him: "Senators ought to have the right of speaking their mind on public affairs." At the selection of Senators when each member chose another, Antistius Labeo named Marcus Lepidus, an old enemy of the emperor's who was at the time in banishment; and when Augustus asked him whether there were not others more deserving of the honor, Labeo replied that every man had his own opinion. Yet for all that no one suffered for his freedom of speech or insolence.” [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum — Divus Augustus” (“The Lives of the Caesars — The Deified Augustus”), written A.D. c. 110, “Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum,” 2 Vols., trans. J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 123-287]
“He did not even dread the lampoons against him which were scattered in the Senate house, but took great pains to refute them; and without trying to discover the authors, he merely proposed that thereafter such as published notes or verses defamatory of anyone under a false name should be called to account.
“When he was assailed with scurrilous or spiteful jests by certain men, he made reply in a public proclamation; yet he vetoed a law to check freedom of speech in wills [the Romans in their wills often expressed their opinion freely about public men and affairs]. Whenever he took part in the election of magistrates, he went the round of the tribes with his candidates and appealed for them in the traditional manner. He also cast his own vote in his tribe, as one of the people. When he gave testimony in court, he was most patient in submitting to questions and even to contradiction. He made his forum narrower than he had planned, because he did not venture to eject the owners of the neighbouring houses. He never recommended his sons for office without adding "If they be worthy of it." When they were still under age and the audience at the theatre rose as one man in their honour, and stood up and applauded them, he expressed strong disapproval. He wished his friends to be prominent and influential in the state, but to be bound by the same laws as the rest and equally liable to prosecution. When Nonius Asprenas, a close friend of his, was meeting a charge of poisoning made by Cassius Severus, Augustus asked the Senate what they thought he ought to do; for he hesitated, he said for fear that if he should support him, it might be thought that he was shielding a guilty man, but if he failed to do so, that he was proving false to a friend and prejudicing his case. Then, since all approved of his appearing in the case, he sat on the benches [the moveable seats provided for the advocates, witnesses, etc.] for several hours, but in silence and without even speaking in praise of the defendant. He did however defend some of his clients, for instance a certain Scutarius, one of his former officers, who was accused of slander. But he secured the acquittal of no more than one single man, and then only by entreaty, making a successful appeal to the accuser in the presence of the jurors; this was Castricius, through whom he had learned of Murena's conspiracy.
“It may readily be imagined how much he was beloved because of this admirable conduct. I say nothing of decrees of the Senate, which might seem to have been dictated by necessity or by awe. The Roman knights celebrated his birthday of their own accord by common consent, and always for two successive days [September 22 and 23]. All sorts and conditions of men, in fulfilment of a vow for his welfare, each year threw a small coin into the Lacus Curtius, and also brought a New Year's gift to the Capitol on the Kalends of January, even when he was away from Rome. With this sum he bought and dedicated in each of the city wards costly statues of the gods, such as Apollo Sandaliarius, Jupiter Tragoedus, and others. To rebuild his house on the Palatine, which had been destroyed by fire, the veterans, the collegia, the tribes, and even individuals of other conditions gladly contributed money, each according to his means; but he merely took a little from each pile as a matter of form, not more than a denarius from any of them. On his return from a province they received him not only with prayers and good wishes, but with songs. It was the rule, too, that whenever he entered the city, no one should suffer punishment.”
Senate Reforms by Augustus
Augustus showed his conciliatory policy in fixing the position which the senate was to assume in the new government. He did not adopt fully the plan either of Sulla or of Julius Caesar; but reconciled as far as possible their different ideas. He restored to the senate the dignity which it had in the time of Sulla. He did this by excluding the provincials and freedmen whom Caesar had introduced into it, and by reducing its number from nine hundred to six hundred members. But still he did not confer upon it the great legislative power which Sulla intended it should have; he rather made it a kind of advisory-body, according to Caesar’s idea. In theory the senate was to assist the emperor in matters of legislation; but in fact it was simply to approve the proposals which he submitted to it. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]
Suetonius wrote: “Since the number of the Senators was swelled by a low-born and ill-assorted rabble (in fact, the Senate numbered more than a thousand, some of whom, called by the vulgar Orcivi [ "freedmen by the grace of Orcus," were slaves set free by their master's will. The Orcivi Senatores were those admitted by Marcus Antonius under pretence that they had been named in the papers left by Caesar] were wholly unworthy, and had been admitted after Caesar's death through favor or bribery) he restored it to its former limits and distinction by two enrolments, one according to the choice of the members themselves, each man naming one other, and a second made by Agrippa and himself. On the latter occasion it is thought that he wore a coat of mail under his tunic as he presided, and a sword by his side, while ten of the most robust of his friends among the Senators stood by his chair. Cremutius Cordus writes that even then the Senators were not allowed to approach except one by one, and after the folds of their robes had been carefully searched. Some he shamed into resigning, but he allowed even these to retain their distinctive dress, as well as the privilege of viewing the games from the orchestra and taking part in the public banquets of the order. Furthermore, that those who were chosen and approved might perform their duties more conscientiously, and also with less inconvenience, he provided that before taking his seat each member should offer incense and wine at the altar of the god in whose temple the meeting was held; that regular meetings of the Senate should be held not oftener than twice a month, on the Kalends and the Ides; and that in the months of September and October only those should be obliged to attend who were drawn by lot, to a number sufficient for the passing of decrees. He also adopted the plan of privy councils chosen by lot for terms of six months, with which to discuss in advance matters which were to come before the entire body. On questions of special importance he called upon the Senators to give their opinions, not according to the order established by precedent, but just as he fancied, to induce each man to keep his mind on the alert, as if he were to initiate action rather than give assent to others. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum — Divus Augustus” (“The Lives of the Caesars — The Deified Augustus”), written A.D. c. 110, “Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum,” 2 Vols., trans. J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 123-287]
“He introduced other innovations too, among them these: that the proceedings of the Senate should not be published; that magistrates should not be sent to the provinces immediately after laying down their office; that a fixed sum should be allowed the proconsuls for mules and tents, which it was the custom to contract for and charge to the State; that the management of the public treasury should be transferred from the city quaestors to ex-praetors or praetors; and that the centumviral court [a very ancient tribunal, consisting at first of 105 members, three from each tribe, but later of 180; it sat in the Basilica Julia, with a spear, the ancient symbol of Quiritary ownership, planted before it. It was divided into four chambers, which usually sat separately, but sometimes altogether, or in two divisions], which it was usual for ex-quaestors to convoke, should be summoned by the Board of Ten [i.e., the decemviri stlitibus iudicandis].
Bureaucracy and Administration Under Augustus
In accordance with his general policy Augustus did not interfere with the old republican offices and magistrates, but allowed them to remain as undisturbed as possible. The consuls, praetors, quaestors, and other officers continued to be elected just as they had been before. But the emperor did not generally use these magistrates to carry out the details of his administration. This was performed by other officers appointed by himself. The position of the old republican magistrates was rather one of honor than one of executive responsibility. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org]
Suetonius wrote: “To enable more men to take part in the administration of the State, he devised new offices: the charge of public buildings, of the roads, of the aqueducts, of the channel of the Tiber, of the distribution of grain to the people, as well as the prefecture of the city, a board of three for choosing Senators, and another for reviewing the companies of the knights whenever it should be necessary. He appointed censors, an office which had long been discontinued. He increased the number of praetors. He also demanded that whenever the consulship was conferred on him, he should have two colleagues instead of one; but this was not granted, since all cried out that it was a sufficient offence to his supreme dignity that he held the office with another and not alone. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum — Divus Augustus” (“The Lives of the Caesars — The Deified Augustus”), written A.D. c. 110, “Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum,” 2 Vols., trans. J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 123-287]
“He was not less generous in honouring martial prowess, for he had regular triumphs voted to above thirty generals, and the triumphal regalia to somewhat more than that number. To enable Senators' sons to gain an earlier acquaintance with public business, he allowed them to assume the broad purple stripe immediately after the gown of manhood and to attend meetings of the Senate; and when they began their military career, he gave them not merely a tribunate in a legion, but the command of a division of cavalry as well; and to furnish all of them with experience in camp life, he usually appointed two Senators' sons to command each division. He reviewed the companies of knights at frequent intervals, reviving the custom of the procession after long disuse. But he would not allow an accuser to force anyone to dismount as he rode by, as was often done in the past; and he permitted those who were conspicuous because of old age or any bodily infirmity to send on their horses in the review, and come on foot to answer to their names whenever they were summoned. Later he excused those who were over thirty-five years of age and did not wish to retain their horses from formally surrendering them.
“XIX. Having obtained ten assistants from the Senate, he compelled each knight to render an account of his life, punishing some of those whose conduct was scandalous and degrading others; but the greater part he reprimanded with varying degrees of severity. The mildest form of reprimand was to hand them a pair of tablets publicly, which they were to read in silence on the spot. He censured some because they had borrowed money at low interest and invested it at a higher rate.
Assemblies of the People and Tribunes Under Augustus
Augustus did not formally take away from the popular assemblies their legislative power, but occasionally submitted to them laws for their approval. This was, however, hardly more than a discreet concession to custom. The people in their present unwieldy assemblies, the emperor did not regard as able to decide upon important matters of state. Their duties were therefore practically restricted to the election of the magistrates, whose names he usually presented to them. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]
Suetonius wrote: “At the elections for tribunes if there were not candidates enough of senatorial rank, he made appointments from among the knights, with the understanding that after their term they might remain in whichever order they wished. Morever, since many knights whose property was diminished during the civil wars did not venture to view the games from the fourteen rows through fear of the penalty of the law regarding theatres, he declared that none were liable to its provisions, if they themselves or their parents had ever possessed a knight's estate. He revised the lists of the people district by district, and to prevent the commons from being called away from their occupations too often because of the distributions of grain, he determined to give out tickets for four months' supply three times a year; but at their urgent request he allowed a return to the old custom of receiving a share every month. He also revived the old time election privileges, trying to put a stop to bribery by numerous penalties, and distributing to his fellow members of the Fabian and Scaptian tribes [Augustus was a member of the latter because of his connection with the Octavian family; with the former, through his adoption into the Julian gens] a thousand sesterces a man from his own purse on the day of the elections, to keep them from looking for anything from any of the candidates. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum — Divus Augustus” (“The Lives of the Caesars — The Deified Augustus”), written A.D. c. 110, “Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum,” 2 Vols., trans. J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 123-287]
“Considering it also of great importance to keep the people pure and unsullied by any taint of foreign or servile blood, he was most chary of conferring Roman citizenship and set a limit to manumission. When Tiberius requested citizenship for a Grecian dependent of his, Augustus wrote in reply that he would not grant it unless the man appeared in person and convinced him that he had reasonable grounds for the request; and when Livia asked it for a Gaul from a tributary province, he refused, offering instead freedom from tribute, and declaring that he would more willingly suffer a loss to his privy purse than the prostitution of the honour of Roman citizenship. Not content with making it difficult for slaves to acquire freedom, and still more so for them to attain full rights, by making careful provision as to the number, condition, and status of those who were manumitted, he added the proviso that no one who had ever been put in irons or tortured should acquire citizenship by any grade of freedom [i.e., even by iusta libertas, which conferred citizenship; slaves who had been punished for crimes or disgraceful acts became on manumission dediticii, or "prisoners of war"].
“He desired also to revive the ancient fashion of dress, and once when he saw in an assembly a throng of men in dark cloaks, he cried out indignantly, "Behold them Romans, lords of the world, the nation clad in the toga," [Verg., Aen. I.282], and he directed the aediles never again to allow anyone to appear in the Forum or its neighbourhood except in the toga and without a cloak.
Economic Policies of Augustus
Suetonius wrote: “He often showed generosity to all classes when occasion offered. For example, by bringing the royal treasures to Rome in his Alexandrian triumph he made ready money so abundant, that the rate of interest fell, and the value of real estate rose greatly; and after that, whenever there was an excess of funds from the property of those who had been condemned, he loaned it without interest for fixed periods to any who could give security for double the amount. He increased the property qualification for Senators, requiring one million two hundred thousand sesterces, instead of eight hundred thousand, and making up the amount for those who did not possess it. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum — Divus Augustus” (“The Lives of the Caesars — The Deified Augustus”), written A.D. c. 110, “Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum,” 2 Vols., trans. J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 123-287]
“He often gave largess [congiarium, strictly a distribution of oil, came to be used of any largess] to the people, but usually of different sums: now four hundred, now three hundred, now two hundred and fifty sesterces a man; and he did not even exclude young boys, though it had been usually for them to receive a share only after the age of eleven. In times of scarcity too he often distributed grain to each man at a very low figure, sometimes for nothing, and he doubled the money tickets [the tesserae nummulariae were small tablets or round hollow balls of wood, marked with numbers; they were distributed to the people instead of money and entitled the holder to receive the sum inscribed upon them — grain, oil, and various commodities were distributed by similar tesserae].
“But to show that he was a prince who desired the public welfare rather than popularity, when the people complained of the scarcity and high price of wine, he sharply rebuked them by saying: "My son-in-law Agrippa has taken good care, by building several aqueducts, that men shall not go thirsty." Again, when the people demanded largess which he had in fact promised, he replied: "I am a man of my word"; but when they called for one which had not been promised, he rebuked them in a proclamation for their shameless impudence, and declared that he would not give it, even though he was intending to do so. With equal dignity and firmness, when he had announced a distribution of money and found that many had been manumitted and added to the list of citizens, he declared that those to whom no promise had been made should receive nothing, and gave the rest less than he had promised, to make the appointed sum suffice. Once indeed in a time of great scarcity when it was difficult to find a remedy, he expelled from the city the slaves that were for sale, as well as the schools of gladiators, all foreigners with the exception of physicians and teachers, and a part of the household slaves; and when grain at last became more plentiful, he writes: "I was strongly inclined to do away forever with distributions of grain, because through dependence on them agriculture was neglected; but I did not carry out my purpose, feeling sure that they would one day be renewed through desire for popular favor." But from that time on he regulated the practice with no less regard for the interests of the farmers and grain-dealers than for those of the populace.
Free-Market Policies under Augustus
Bruce Bartlett wrote in the Cato Institute Journal: “Following the murder of Caesar in 44 B.C., his adopted son Octavian finally brought an end to internal strife with his defeat of Mark Antony in the battle of Actium in 31 B.C. Octavian’s victory was due in no small part to his championing of Roman economic freedom against the Oriental despotism of Egypt represented by Antony, who had fled to Egypt and married Cleopatra in 36 B.C. As Oertel (1934: 386) put it, “The victory of Augustus and of the West meant... a repulse of the tendencies towards State capitalism and State socialism which might have come to fruition ... had Antony and Cleopatra been victorious. [Source: Bruce Bartlett, “How Excessive Government Killed Ancient Rome,” Cato Institute Journal 14: 2, Fall 1994, Cato.org /=]
“The long years of war had taken a heavy toll on the Roman economy. Steep taxes and requisitions of supplies by the army, as well as rampant inflation and the closing of trade routes, severely depressed economic growth. Above all, businessmen and traders craved peace and stability inorder to rebuild their wealth. Increasingly, they came to believe that peace and stability could only be maintained if political power were centralized in one man. This man was Octavian, who took the name Augustus and became the first emperor of Rome in 27 B.C., serving until 14 AD. /=\
“Although the establishment of the Roman principate represented a diminution of political freedom, it led to an expansion of economic freedom. In practice, the average Roman had little real political freedom anyway. His power lay not in the ballot box, but in participating in mob activities, although these were often manipulated by unscrupulous leaders for their own benefit. Especially during the Republic, the mob could often make or break Rome’s leaders (Brunt 1966). Of course, economic freedom was not universal. Egypt, which was the personal property of the Roman emperor, largely retained its socialist economic system (Rostovtzeff 1929, Mime 1927). /=\
“Augustus clearly favored private enterprise, private property, and free trade. The burden of taxation was significantly lifted by the abolition of tax farming and the regularization of taxation.Peace brought a revival of trade and commerce, further encouraged by Roman investments in good roads and harbors. Except for modest customs duties (estimated at 5 percent), free trade ruled throughout the Empire. It was, in Michael Rostovtzeff’s words, a period of “almost complete freedom for trade and of splendid opportunities for private initiative”. /=\
“Tiberius, Rome’s second emperor (14—37 AD.), extended the policies of Augustus well into the first century A.D. It was his strong desire to encourage growth and establish a solid middle class (bourgeoisie), which he saw as the backbone of the Empire. Oertel (1939: 232) describes the situation: ‘The first century of our era witnessed a definitely high level of economic prosperity, made possible by exceptionally favorable conditions. Within the framework of the Empire, embracing vast territories in which peace was established and communications were secure, it was possible for a bourgeoisie to come into being whose chief interests were economic, which maintained a form of economy resting on the old city culture and characterized by individualism and private enterprise, and which reaped all the benefits inherent in such a system. The State deliberately encouraged this activity of the bourgeoisie, both directly through government protection and its liberal economic policy, which guaranteed freedom of action and an organic growth on the lines of “laissez faire, laissez aller,” and directly through measures encouraging economic activity.’ /=\
“Of course, economic freedom was not universal. Egypt, which was the personal property of the Roman emperor, largely retained its socialist economic system However, even here some liberalization did occur. Banking was deregulated, leading to the creation of many private banks. Some land was privatized and the state monopolies were weakened, thus giving encouragement to private enterprise even though the economy remained largely nationalized.” /=\
Food Subsidies in Ancient Rome
Bruce Bartlett wrote in the Cato Institute Journal: “The reason why Egypt retained its special economic system and was not allowed to share in the general economic freedom of the Roman Empire is that it was the main source of Rome’s grain supply. Maintenance of this supply was critical to Rome’s survival, especially due to the policy of distributing free grain (later bread) to all Rome’s citizens which began in 58 B.C. By the time of Augustus, this dole was providing free food for some 200,000 Romans. The emperor paid the cost of this dole out of his own pocket, as well as the cost of games for entertainment, principally from his personal holdings in Egypt. The preservation of uninterrupted grain flows from Egypt to Rome was, therefore, a major task for all Roman emperors and an important base of their power. [Source: Bruce Bartlett, “How Excessive Government Killed Ancient Rome,” Cato Institute Journal 14: 2, Fall 1994, Cato.org /=]
“The free grain policy evolved gradually over a long period of time and went through periodic adjustment. 3 The genesis of this practice dates from Gaius Gracchus, who in 123 B.C. established the policy that all citizens of Rome were entitled to buy a monthly ration of corn at a fixed price. The purpose was not so much to provide a subsidy as to smooth out the seasonal fluctuations in the price of corn by allowing people to pay the same price throughout the year. /=\
“Under the dictatorship of Sulla, the grain distributions were ended in approximately 90 B.C. By 73 B.C., however, the state was once again providing corn to the citizens of Rome at the same price. In 58 B.C., Clodius abolished the charge and began distributing the grain for free. The result was a sharp increase in the influx of rural poor into Rome, as well as the freeing of many slaves so that they too would qualify for the dole. By the time of Julius Caesar, some 320,000 people were receiving free grain, a number Caesar cut down to about 150,000, probably by being more careful about checking proof of citizenship rather than by restricting traditional eligibility. /=\
“Under Augustus, the number of people eligible for free grain increased again to 320,000. Tn 5 B.C., however, Augustus began restricting the distribution. Eventually the number of people receiving grain stabilized at about 200,000. Apparently, this was an absolute limit and corn distribution was henceforth limited to those with a ticket entitling them to grain. Although subsequent emperors would occasionally extend eligibility for grain to particular groups, such as Nero’s inclusion ofthe Praetorian guard in 65 AD., the overall number of people receiving grain remained basically fixed. /=\
“The distribution of free grain in Rome remained in effect until the end of the Empire, although baked bread replaced corn in the 3rd century. Under Septimius Severus (193—211 AD.) free oil was also distributed. Subsequent emperors added, on occasion, free pork and wine. Eventually, other cities of the Empire also began providing similar benefits, including Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch. /=\
“Nevertheless, despite the free grain policy, the vast bulk of Rome’s grain supply was distributed through the free market. There are two main reasons for this. First, the allotment of free grain was insufficient to live on. Second, grain was available only to adult male Roman citizens, thus excluding the large number of women, children, slaves, foreigners, and other non-citizens living in Rome. Government officials were also excluded from the dole for the most part. Consequently, there remained a large private market for grain which was supplied by independent traders.” /=\
Taxation in the Roman Republic and Early Empire
Bruce Bartlett wrote in the Cato Institute Journal: “The expansion of the dole is an important reason for the rise of Roman taxes. In the earliest days of the Republic Rome’s taxes were quite modest, consisting mainly ofa wealth tax on all forms of property, including land, houses, slaves, animals, money and personal effects. The basic rate was just .01 percent, although occasionally rising to .03 percent. It was assessed principally to pay the army during war. In fact, afterwards the tax was often rebated. [Source: Bruce Bartlett, “How Excessive Government Killed Ancient Rome,” Cato Institute Journal 14: 2, Fall 1994, Cato.org /=]
“It was levied directly on individuals, who were counted at periodic censuses. As Rome expanded after the unification of Italy in 272 B.C., so did Roman taxes. In the provinces, however, the main form of tax was a 4 Eligibility consisted mainly of Roman citizenship, actual residence in Rome, and was restricted to males over the age of fourteen. Senators and other government employees generally were prohibited from receiving grain. A tithe levied on communities, rather than directly on individuals. 5 This was partly because censuses were seldom conducted, thus making direct taxation impossible, and also because it was easierto administer, Local communities would decide for themselves howto divide up the tax burden among their citizens. /=\
“Tax farmers were often utilized to collect provincial taxes. They would pay in advance for the right to collect taxes in particularareas. Every few years these rights were put out to bid, thus capturing for the Roman treasury any increase in taxable capacity. In effect, tax farmers were loaning money to the state in advance of tax collections. They also had the responsibility of converting provincial taxes, which were often collected in-kind, into hard cash. 6 Thus the collections by tax farmers had to provide sufficient revenues to repay their advance to the state plus enough to cover the opportunity cost of the funds (i.e., interest), the transactions cost of converting collections into cash, and a profit as well. In fact, tax farming was quite profitable and was a major investment vehicle for wealthy citizens of Rome. /=\
“Augustus ended tax farming, however, due to complaints from the provinces. Interestingly, their protests not only had to do with excessive assessments by the tax farmers, as one would expect, but were also due to the fact that the provinces were becoming deeply indebted. A.H.M. Jones describes the problems with tax farmers: ‘Oppression and extortion began very early in the provinces and reached fantastic proportions in the later republic. Most governors were primarily interested in acquiring military glory and in making money during their year in office, and the companies which farmed the taxes expected to make ample profits. There was usually collusion between the governor and the tax contractors and the senate was too far away to exercise any effective control over either. The other great abuse of the provinces was extensive moneylending at exorbitant rates of interest to the provincial communities, which could not raise enough ready cash to satisfy both the exorbitant demands of the tax contractors and the blackmail levied by the governors.’ /=\
“As a result of such abuses, tax farming was replaced by direct taxation early in the Empire. The provinces now paid a wealth tax of about 1 percent and a flat poll or head tax on each adult. This obviously required regular censuses in order to count the taxable population and assess taxable property. It also led to a major shift in the basis of taxation. Under the tax farmers, taxation was largely based on current income. Consequently, the yield varied according to economic and climactic conditions. Since tax farmers had only a limited time to collect the revenue to which they were entitled, they obviously had to concentrate on collecting such revenue where it was most easily available. Because assets such as land were difficult to convert into cash, this meant that income necessarily was the basic baseof taxation. And since tax farmers were essentially bidding against a community’s income potential, this meant that a large portion of any increase in income accmed to the tax farmers. /=\
“By contrast, the Augustinian system was far less progressive. The shift to flat assessments based on wealth and population both regularized the yield of the tax system and greatly reduced its “progressivity.” This is because any growth in taxable capacity led to higher taxes under the tax farming system, while under the Augustinian system communities were only liable for a fixed payment. Thus any increase in income accrued entirely to the people and did not have to be shared with Rome. Individuals knew in advance the exact amount of their tax bill and that any income over and above that amount was entirely theirs. This was obviously a great incentive to produce, since the marginal tax rate above the tax assessment was zero. In economic terms, one can say that there was virtually no excess burden. Of course, to the extent that higher incomes increased wealth, some of this gain would be captured through reassessments. But in the short run, the tax system was very pro-growth.” /=\
Military and Army Reorganization Under Augustus
While Augustus knew that his power must have some military support, he was careful not to make the army a burden to the people. He therefore reduced the number of legions from fifty to twenty-five. As each legion contained not more than six thousand men, the whole army did not exceed one hundred and fifty thousand soldiers. These legions were distributed through the frontier provinces; the inner provinces and Italy were thus not burdened by the quartering of troops. To support the imperial authority at home, and to maintain public order, Augustus organized a body of nine thousand men called the “praetorian guard,” which force was stationed at different points outside of Rome. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~]
Dr Jon Coulston of the University of St. Andrews wrote for the BBC: “Augustus (ruled 31 B.C. - 14 AD) was able to establish the Roman army on a permanent, financially manageable footing. The number of legions was reduced from 60 to 28 (then down to 25 in 9 AD), and numerous colonies were established in Italy, in the more Romanised provinces and in areas which required tight control. Colonies became an important source of future citizen recruitment. [Source: Dr Jon Coulston, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]
“Legions were grouped initially in regions which were not fully subdued, such as Spain and the Balkans. But in the longer term they were poised for future expansion, as in Germany and Syria. Alongside the legions there were non-citizen regiments, permanently established on the model of legionary cohorts for infantry, and similar sized units (alae) for cavalry. Collectively known as auxilia, these units exploited the regional military traditions of the empire and its fringes to supply cavalry, archers, and light troops. They were commanded by equestrian officers - more politically reliable than the senators whose social standing was necessary for commanding citizen troops. Senators governed provinces and commanded legions, but Augustus was careful to limit their terms in office and to fill sensitive posts with equestrians, such as command of the newly formalised Praetorian Guard. |::|
Suetonius wrote: “Of his military forces he assigned the legions and auxiliaries to the various provinces, stationed a fleet at Misenum and another at Ravenna, to defend the Upper and Lower seas, and employed the remainder partly in the defence of the city and partly in that of his own person, disbanding a troop of Calagurritani which had formed a part of his body-guard until the overthrow of Antonius, and also one of Germans, which he had retained until the defeat of Varus. However, he never allowed more than three cohorts to remain in thc city and even those were without a permanent camp; the rest he regularly sent to winter or summer quarters in the towns near Rome.. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum — Divus Augustus” (“The Lives of the Caesars — The Deified Augustus”), written A.D. c. 110, “Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum,” 2 Vols., trans. J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 123-287]
“After the civil wars he never called any of the troops "comrades," either in the assembly or in an edict, but always "soldiers"; and he would not allow them to be addressed otherwise, even by those of his sons or stepsons who held military commands, thinking the former term too flattering for the requirements of discipline, the peaceful state of the times, and his own dignity and that of his household. Except as a fire-brigade at Rome, and when there was fear of riots in times of scarcity, he employed freedmen as soldiers only twice: once as a guard for the colonies in the vicinity of Illyricum, and again to defend the bank of the river Rhine; even these he levied, when they were slaves, from men and women of means and at once gave them freedom; and he kept them under their original standard [i.e., he kept them apart from the rest in the companies in which they were first enrolled], not mingling them with the soldiers of free birth or arming them in the same fashion
As military prizes he was somewhat more ready to give trappings [the phalerae wre discs or plates of metal attached to a belt or to the harness of horses] or collars, valuable for their gold and silver, than crowns for scaling ramparts or walls, which conferred high honour; the latter he gave as sparingly as possible and without favouritism, often even to the common soldiers. He presented Marcus Agrippa with a blue banner in Sicily after his naval victory. Those vho had celebrated triumphs were the only ones whom he thought ineligible for prizes, even though they had been the companions of his campaigns and shared in his victories, on the ground that they themselves had the privilege of bestowing such honours wherever they wished. He thought nothing less becoming in a well-trained leader than haste and rashness, and, accordingly, favourite sayings of his were: "More haste, less speed"; "Better a safe commander than a bold"; and "That is done quickly enough which is done well enough." He used to say that a war or a battle should not be begun under any circumstances, unless the hope of gain was clearly greater than the fear of loss; for he likened such as grasped at slight gains with no slight risk to those who fished with a golden hook, the loss of which, if it were carried off, could not be made good by any catch.
“In passports, dispatches, and private letters he used as his seal at first a sphinx, later an image of Alexander the Great, and finally his own, carved by the hand of Dioscurides; and this his successors continued to use as their seal. He always attached to all letters the exact hour, not only of the day, but even of the night, to indicate precisely when they were written.
Military Reforms by Augustus
Suetonius wrote: “He made many changes and innovations in the army, besides reviving some usages of former times. He exacted the strictest discipline. It was with great reluctance that he allowed even his generals to visit their wives, and then only in the winter season. He sold a Roman knight and his property at public auction, because he had cut off the thumbs of two young sons, to make them unfit for military service; but when he saw that some tax gatherers were intent upon buying him, he knocked him down to a freeman of his own, with the understanding that he should be banished to the country districts, but allowed to live in freedom. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum — Divus Augustus” (“The Lives of the Caesars — The Deified Augustus”), written A.D. c. 110, “Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum,” 2 Vols., trans. J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 123-287]
“He dismissed the entire tenth legion in disgrace, because they were insubordinate, and others, too, that demanded their discharge in an insolent fashion, he disbanded without the rewards which would have been due for faithful service. If any cohorts gave way in battle, he decimated them [i.e., executed every tenth man, selected by lot], and fed the rest on barley [instead of the usual rations of wheat]. When centurions left their posts he punished them with death, just as he did the rank and file; for faults of other kinds he imposed various ignominious penalties, such as ordering them to stand all day long before the general's tent, sometimes in their tunics without their sword-belts, or again holding ten-foot poles or even a clod of earth [carrying the pole to measure off the camp, or clods for building the rampart, was the work of the common soldiers; hence degrading for officers].
“Furthermore, he restricted all the soldiery everywhere to a fixed scale of pay and allowances, designating the duration of their service and the rewards on its completion according to each man's rank, in order to keep them from being tempted to revolution after their discharge either by age or poverty. To have funds ready at all times without difficulty for maintaining the soldiers and paying the rewards due to them, he established a military treasury, supported by new taxes. To enable what was going on in each of the provinces to be reported and known more speedily and promptly, he at first stationed young men at short intervals along the military roads, and afterwards post-chaises. The latter has seemed the more convenient arrangement, since the same men who bring the dispatches from any place can, if occasion demands, be questioned as well.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\; “The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston, Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932) forumromanum.org |+|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history/ ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, and various books and other publications.
Last updated October 2018