Rome: The Punic Wars – The Conclusion of the Second Punic War

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Whether it was fighting  in a civil war or fighting to expand/defend the Kingdom, Republic, or Empire, Rome rarely rested on its laurels. Previously we’ve brought you Rome: The Punic Wars – The First Punic WarRome: The Punic Wars – The Second Punic War Begins, and Rome: The Punic Wars – The Second Punic War Rages On.

Thanks to Extra Credits, today the war rages on as we conclude our viewing of The Second Punic War!

Carthaginian war elephants engage Roman infantry at the Battle of Zama (202 BC).

In Hispania, a young Roman commander, Publius Cornelius Scipio (later to be given the agnomen Africanus because of his feats during this war), eventually defeated the larger but divided Carthaginian forces under Hasdrubal and 2 other Carthaginian generals. Abandoning Hispania, Hasdrubal moved to bring his mercenary army into Italy to reinforce Hannibal, but never made it and was defeated by Roman forces near the Alps.

Carthage lost Hispania forever, and Rome firmly established her power there over large areas. Rome imposed a war indemnity of 10,000 talents (300 tonnes/660,000 pounds), limited the Carthaginian navy to 10 ships (to ward off pirates), and forbade Carthage from raising an army without Roman permission.

The Second Punic War was brought to a conclusion on the plains of Zama.

The Numidians took the opportunity to capture and plunder Carthaginian territory. Half a century later, when Carthage raised an army to defend itself from these incursions, Rome destroyed her in the Third Punic War (149–146 BC).

By her victory, Rome had taken a key step towards what ultimately became her domination of the Mediterranean world. But that wouldn’t be it for Rome.

Thanks for joining our adventure today. Be sure to stop by again soon to check out The Third Punic War, and other adventures we may have.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Mithraeum of the Circus Maximus: Paying Homage to an Ancient & Mysterious Cult

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Religion and politics are touchy subjects these days, but in Ancient Rome they were whole-heartedly part of daily life. One did not have to walk on eggshells about a particular topic, only speak with facts and conviction in an open debate.

Just like now, however, some things were kept secret. For those considered special enough there were secret societies and cults not open to the general citizenry of Rome.

Get your spelunking hats on because today we’re headed underground in Rome as we explore the Mithraeum of the Circus Maximus!

Before we begin our journey, let’s understand what exactly a Mithraeum was. A Mithraeum (Latin pl. Mithraea) is a Mithraic temple, erected in classical antiquity by the worshippers of Mithras, designed to hold up to 40 people at a time.

Mithraeum in the lowest floor in the Basilica of San Clemente.

The Mithraeum was either an adapted natural cave or cavern, or a building imitating a cave. When possible, the Mithraeum was constructed within or below an existing building, such as the Mithraeum found beneath Basilica of San Clemente in Rome.

While a majority of Mithraea are underground, some feature open holes in the ceiling to allow some light in, perhaps to relate to the connection of the universe and the passing of time. The site of a Mithraeum may also be identified by its singular entrance or vestibule, which stands opposite from an apse-shaped wall in which a pedestal altar at the back stood, often in a recess.

Also its “cave”, called the Spelaeum or Spelunca, with raised benches along the side walls for the ritual meal. Many Mithraea that follow this basic plan are scattered over much of the former territory of the Imperium Rōmānum (Roman Empire), particularly where the Legiones Romanae (Roman Legions) were stationed along the frontiers (such as Britannia).

Romans vs Sassanid Persians

Though scholars debated its origins, it seems the Mithraic cult came to Rome in the 1st Century BC from Persia, brought back by Roman soldiers who had been fighting in the east. Although the Mithras worshipped in Rome is not identical to the Mithra of Persia, there are enough similarities to imply that they are somehow related.

The Mithraeum primarily functioned as an area for initiation, in which the soul descends and exits. The Mithraeum itself was arranged as an “image of the universe”.

It is noticed by some researchers that this movement, especially in the context of mithraic iconography, seems to stem from the neoplatonic concept that the “running” of the sun from solstice to solstice is a parallel for the movement of the soul through the universe, from pre-existence, into the body, and then beyond the physical body into an afterlife.

The Tauroctony, Mithras slaying the Cosmic Bull (Museo Nazionale, Roma).

The cult and religious sanctuaries were open only to initiates, and their rituals secret. The central imagery is of the god Mithras slaying a bull, a motif known as Tauribolium, found in most if not all Mithraea.

Most Mithraea can be dated between 100 BC and AD 300. Although several Mithraea have been discovered throughout the ancient holding of the Roman Empire, including sites in Londinium, and several in Germania, Gallia, and Pannonia, little is known about the actual religious practices of the movement’s followers.

The Circus Maximus was Rome’s largest venue for Ludi (Public Games) connected to Roman religious festivals. Ludi were sponsored by leading Romans or the Roman state for the benefit of the Roman people (Populus Romanus) and gods.

Model of the Circus Maximus in all its glory.

Even at the height of its development as a chariot-racing circuit, the Circus remained the most suitable space in Rome for religious processions on a grand scale, and was the most popular venue for large-scale venationes. With the advent of Christianity as the official religion of the Empire, Ludi gradually fell out of favor.

Banquet scene on the Fiano Romano Mithraic relief. At bottom are Cautes (l) and Cautopates (r).

Dating back to the 2nd Century AD, one of the largest secret Mithraic temples is in Rome hidden next to the famous Circus Maximus. The site features 5 parallel but separate chambers with a central sanctuary paved in white marble, with 2 niches for statues of Caute and Cautopates, and a place of honor which would have held a statue of Mithras.

Beside the Circus Maximus, an ex-pasta factory and current Rome Opera scenery storage facility sits atop the ruins of a sanctuary dedicated to the god Mithras. Discovered in 1931 as part of Rome’s fascist-era building projects, the small subterranean space was once dedicated to the mystery cult.

Who knows what lies beneath the streets of Rome?

Buried 25 feet beneath the modern city, the 2nd Century AD place of worship was adapted from a preexisting public building of the 1st Century AD. The rooms of the original structure were converted into the sacrificial and ritual areas where followers of the god Mithras would venerate their god, make sacrifices, and participate in a ritual meal of bread and wine.

The Mithraeum of the Circus is one of the many places in Rome that reveal the complex urban stratification of the city. The building was built on top of, filled in with silt from the Tiber and debris, and forgotten about until its rediscovery in the 19th Century.

It’s here waiting for you to make an appointment.

Today, the Mithraeum under the Circus Maximus is accessible by appointment only.

We hope you enjoyed today’s journey and look forward to having you back again for more. Please make sure to check extra posts on Facebook and Twitter.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Beck, Roger. “Ritual, Myth, Doctrine, and Initiation in the Mysteries of Mithras: New Evidence from a Cult Vessel”, The Journal of Roman Studies, vol. 90. 2000.

Bowersock, G.; Green, P.; Grabar, O. Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World. Harvard University Press, 1999.

The Mithraeum at Circus Maximus”. Atlas Obscura.

Mithraeum of the Circus Maximus”. Katie Parla.

Book 7; Thought 17

Is any man afraid of change? Why what can take place without change? What then is more pleasing or more suitable to the universal nature? And canst thou take a bath unless the wood undergoes a change? And canst thou be nourished, unless the food undergoes a change? And can anything else that is useful be accomplished without change? Dost thou not see then that for thyself also to change is just the same, and equally necessary for the universal nature?

La Grand-Place, Brussels

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Last week we were in Classical Anatolia (or modern Turkey) as we head to  to check out the Archaeological Site of Ani.

It’s been awhile, but today we’re traveling back into Belgium as we explore La Grand-Place!

Around a cobbled rectangular market square, La Grand-Place in Brussels, the earliest written reference to which dates back to the 12th Century, features buildings emblematic of municipal and ducal powers, and the old houses of corporations. An architectural jewel, it stands as an exceptional and highly successful example of an eclectic blending of architectural and artistic styles of Western culture, which illustrates the vitality of this important political and commercial center.

The Grand-Place testifies in particular to the success of Brussels, mercantile city of Northern Europe that, at the height of its prosperity, rose from the terrible bombardment inflicted by the troops of Louis XIV in 1695. Destroyed in 3 days, the heart of the medieval city underwent a rebuilding campaign conducted under the supervision of the City Magistrate, which was spectacular not only by the speed of its implementation, but also by its ornamental wealth and architectural coherence.

Today the Grand-Place remains the faithful reflection of the square destroyed by the French artillery. It testifies to the symbolic intentions of the power and pride of the Brussels bourgeois who chose to restore their city to its former glory rather than rebuild in a contemporary style, a trend commonly observed elsewhere.

A pinnacle of Brabant Gothic, the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), accentuated by its bell tower, is the most famous landmark of the Grand-Place. The King’s House has been occupied for decades by the City Museum.

Each house has a name and specific attributes, heightened with gold, reminiscent of the status of its occupants. It is interesting to note that this is a rare example of a square without a church or any other place of worship, which emphasizes its mercantile and administrative nature.

How This Relates to Rome:

During Antiquity, the region now known as Brussels was already home to Roman occupation, as attested by archaeological evidence discovered near the center. The origin of the settlement that was to become Brussels lies in Saint Gaugericus‘ construction of a chapel on an island in the river Senne around AD 580.

Provincia Belgica within the Roman Empire (22 BC–5th Century).

The name Belgium is derived from Gallia Belgica, a Roman province in the northernmost part of Gaul that before Roman invasion in 100 BC, was inhabited by the Belgae, a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples.

Thanks for taking the tour with us today. We hope you’re inspired to take further adventures within the Roman Empire.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

History Channel’s Documentary: History of The Byzantine Empire

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Every now and again, it’s nice to just kick up your heels and watch something special. Give yourself a break.

Today we help make that happen, and you’ll learn something, as we present the History Channel documentary History of the Byzantine Empire!

Territorial development of the Byzantine Empire, AD 330–1453 (click image to view expansion).

This history of the Byzantine Empire covers the history of the Eastern Roman Empire from late antiquity until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 AD. Several events from the 4th to 6th Centuries mark the transitional period during which the Roman Empire’s east and west divided.

In AD 285, the Emperor Diocletian (r. 284–305) partitioned the Roman Empire‘s administration into eastern and western halves. Between AD 324 and 330, Constantine I (r. 306–337) transferred the main capital from Rome to Byzantium, later known as Constantinople (City of Constantine) and Nova Roma (New Rome).

Under Theodosius I (r. 379–395), Christianity became the Empire’s official state religion and others such as Roman polytheism were proscribed. And finally, under the reign of Heraclius (r. 610–641), the Empire’s military and administration were restructured and adopted Greek for official use instead of Latin.

Thus, although it continued the Roman state and maintained Roman state traditions, modern historians distinguish Byzantium from Ancient Rome insofar as it was oriented towards Greek rather than Latin culture, and characterized by Orthodox Christianity rather than Roman polytheism.

We hope you enjoyed today’s travel and look forward to having you join us again soon. Please be sure to check us out on Facebook and Twitter since we always have new things going on.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Aurelian Walls: Enclosing an Expanding Rome

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Whenever one thinks of in Rome, Italy, most will conjure up images of amazing architecture or events that took place during the Golden Age of Rome. That would be fair since basic utilities and mundane daily activities typically go without recognition.

That’s not going to be the case today as we explore some city walls while we take a closer look at the Aurelian Walls!

Interior view of the Aurelian Walls near Porta San Sebastiano.

The Aurelian Walls are a line of city walls built between AD 271 – 275 during the reign of the Roman Emperors Aurelian and Probus. The walls enclosed all the Seven Hills of Rome plus the Trastevere district.

The banks of the Tiber within the city limits appear to have been left unfortified, although they were fortified along the Campus Martius. The entire enclosed area comprised 3,500 acres and superseded the earlier Servian Wall built during the 4th Century BC under Roman King Servius Tullius.

Map of Ancient Rome with the Aurelian walls (red) and the Servian Walls (blue).

By the 3rd Century AD, the boundaries of Rome had grown far beyond the area enclosed by the old Servian Wall due to expanse of the Res Publica Romana (Roman Republic). Rome had remained unfortified during the subsequent centuries of expansion and consolidation due to lack of hostile threats against the city.

The citizens of Rome took great pride in knowing that Rome required no fortifications because of the stability brought by the Pax Romana and the protection of the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army). However, the need for updated defences became acute during the Crisis of the Third Century, when barbarian tribes flooded through the Limes Germanicus (Germanic Frontier) and the Roman Army struggled to stop them.

3rd Century AD Roman soldiers battling Gothic troops, as depicted on a contemporary Roman sarcophagus (c. 250 AD – National Museum, Rome).

In AD 270, the barbarian Juthungi and Vandals invaded northern Italy, inflicting a severe defeat on the Romans at Placentia (modern Piacenza) before eventually being driven back. Further trouble broke out in Rome itself in the summer of AD 271, when mint workers rose in rebellion causing 1,000 deaths in the fierce fighting that resulted.

Aurelian’s construction of the walls as an emergency measure was a reaction to the barbarian invasion of 270. The historian Aurelius Victor states explicitly that the project aimed to alleviate the city’s vulnerability.

Radiate of Emperor Aurelian.

It may also have been intended to send a political signal as a statement that Aurelian trusted that the people of Rome would remain loyal, as well as serving as a public declaration of the Emperor’s firm hold on power. The construction of the walls was by far the largest building project that had taken place in Rome for many decades, and their construction was a concrete statement of the continued strength of Rome.

Roman soldiers building Hadrian’s Wall.

The construction project was unusually left to the citizens themselves to complete as Aurelian could not afford to spare a single Legionarius (Legionary) for the project. The root of this unorthodox practice was due to the imminent barbarian threat coupled with the wavering strength of the military as a whole due to being subject to years of bloody civil war, famine, and the Plague of Cyprian.

Although the walls were built in only 5 years, Aurelian himself died before the completion of the project. Progress was accelerated, and money saved, by incorporating existing buildings into the structure.

These buildings included the Amphitheatrum Castrense, the Castra Praetoria, the Pyramid of Cestius, and even a section of the Aqua Claudia aqueduct near the Porta Maggiore. As much as one sixth of the walls is estimated to have been composed of pre-existing structures.

Sentry passage near Porta Metronia.

An area behind the walls was cleared to enable it to be reinforced quickly in an emergency. To aide in the reinforcement, sentry passages were also built

The actual effectiveness of the wall is disputable, given the relatively small size of the city’s garrison. The entire combined strength of the Praetorian Guard, Cohortes Urbanae (Urban Cohorts), and Vigiles Urbani (Watchmen of the City) of Rome was only about 25,000 men (which everyone knew this was far too few men to adequately defend the City).

However, the military intention of the wall was not to withstand prolonged siege warfare since it was not common for the barbarian armies to besiege cities. Instead, the wall was a deterrent against the hit-and-run raid tactics barbarian used against ill-defended targets.

The Mausoleum of Hadrian, usually known as Castel Sant’Angelo.

Parts of the wall were doubled in height by Maxentius, who also improved the watch-towers. In AD 401 under Honorius, the walls and the gates were improved, and the Tomb of Hadrian (located across the Tiber) was incorporated as a fortress in the city defenses.

The full circuit ran for 12 miles surrounding an area of 5.3 square miles. The walls were constructed in brick-faced concrete, 11 feet thick and 26 feet high, with a square tower every 100 Roman feet (97 feet).

A latrine (circled in red) built into the wall near the Porta Salaria.

In the 4th Century AD, remodeling doubled the height of the walls to 52 feet. By 500 AD, the circuit possessed 383 towers, 7,020 crenellations, 18 main gates, 5 postern gates, 116 latrines, and 2,066 large external windows.

The Aurelian Walls continued as a significant military defense for the city of Rome until 20 September 1870, when the Bersaglieri of the Kingdom of Italy breached the wall near the Porta Pia and captured Rome. The walls also defined the boundary of the city of Rome up until the 19th Century, with the built-up area being confined within the walled area.

The Aurelian Walls remain remarkably well-preserved today, largely the result of their constant use as Rome’s primary fortification until the 19th Century. The Museo delle Mura near the Porta San Sebastiano offers information on the walls’ construction and how the defenses operated.

Section of Aurelian wall between the Porta Ardeatina and Porta San Sebastiano.

The best-preserved sections of the walls are found from the Muro Torto (Villa Borghese) to Corso d’Italia to Castro Pretorio; from Porta San Giovanni to Porta Ardeatina; from Porta Ostiense to the Tiber; and around Porta San Pancrazio.

From the northernmost location (moving clockwise), a list of gates (porte) is as follows: Porta del Popolo (Porta Flaminia) – where the Via Flaminia begins; Porta Pinciana; Porta Salaria – where the Via Salaria begins; Porta Pia – where the new Via Nomentana begins, Porta Nomentana – where the old Via Nomentana began; Porta Praetoriana – the old entrance to Castra Praetoria, the camp of the Praetorian Guard; Porta Tiburtina – where the Via Tiburtina begins; Porta 

Section of wall near the Pyramid of Cestius.

Maggiore (Porta Praenestina) – here 3 aqueducts meet and the Via Praenestina begins; Porta San Giovanni – near the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano; Porta Asinaria – where the old Via Tuscolana began; Porta Metronia; Porta Latina – where the Via Latina begins; Porta San Sebastiano (Porta Appia) – where the Appian Way begins; Porta Ardeatina; Porta San Paolo (Porta Ostiense) – next to the Pyramid of Cestius, leading to Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura, where the Via Ostiense begins.

From the southernmost location (moving clockwise), a list of gates in Trastevere is as follows: Porta Portuensis; Porta Aurelia Pancraziana; Porta Settimiana; and the Porta Aurelia-Sancti Petri.

We hope you enjoyed today’s wall climbing experience. Be sure to check us out for updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Aldrete, Gregory S. Daily Life In The Roman City: Rome, Pompeii, And Ostia, Greenwood Press, 2004. ISBN 0-313-33174-X.

Claridge, Amanda. Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide. Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-19-288003-9.

Southern, Pat. The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine, Routledge, 2001. ISBN 0-415-23943-5.

Aurelius Victor. De Caesaribus.

Mancini, Rossana. The Aurelian Walls of Rome: Atlas of a Masonry Schedule. Quasar, Rome, 2001. ISBN 88-7140-199-9.

Museum of the Walls official website

Rome: The Punic Wars – The Second Punic War Rages On

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Whether it was fighting  in a civil war or fighting to expand/defend the Kingdom, Republic, or Empire, Rome rarely rested on its laurels. Previously we’ve brought you Rome: The Punic Wars – The First Punic War and Rome: The Punic Wars – The Second Punic War Begins.

Thanks to Extra Credits, today the war rages on as we continue to view The Second Punic War!

Route of Hannibal’s invasion of Italy during Second Punic War.

While fighting Hannibal in Italy, Hispania, and Sicily, Rome simultaneously fought against Macedon in the First Macedonian War. Eventually, the war was taken to Africa, where Carthage was defeated at the Battle of Zama (201 BC) by Scipio Africanus.

The Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army) under Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus intentionally deprived Hannibal of open battle in Italy for the rest of the war, while making it difficult for Hannibal to forage for supplies. Nevertheless, Rome was also incapable of bringing the conflict in the Italian theatre to a decisive close.

Roman Legions during the Second Punic War.

Not only did the Legiones Romanae (Roman Legions) contend with Hannibal in Italy and with Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal in Hispania, but Rome had embroiled itself in yet another foreign war, the first of its Macedonian wars against Carthage’s ally Philip V, at the same time.

We hope you enjoyed today’s encounter and look forward to having you join us again soon. Make sure to stop by again since we will be concluding the Second Punic War.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Book 7; Thought 12

Bust of a young Marcus Aurelius

Be thou erect, or be made erect. Just as it is with the members in those bodies which are united in one, so it is with rational beings which exist separate, for they have been constituted for one co-operation. And the perception of this will be more apparent to thee, if thou often sayest to thyself that I am a member (melos) of the system of rational beings. But if (using the letter r) thou sayest that thou art a part (meros) thou dost not yet love men from thy heart; beneficence does not yet delight thee for its own sake; thou still doest it barely as a thing of propriety, and not yet as doing good to thyself.

Res Gestae Divi Augusti (or The Deeds of the Divine Augustus)

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Whether this is your first visit, or you’re as seasoned as Caesar’s Legio IX Hispania, we’re glad you’re here now. Based on the site’s name, you can imagine we are fans of the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army) and the extent of the Imperium Rōmānum (Roman Empire).

Today we are going to explore the words of Rome’s 1st Emperor as we explore the Res Gestae Divi Augusti!

Modern display of the Res Gestae Divi Augusti (Mausoleum of Augustus, Rome).

The Deeds of the Divine Augustus is the funerary inscription of Emperor, Imperātor Caesar Dīvī Fīlius Augustus (or simply Augustus). This first-person record of his life and accomplishments is significant for it gives insight into the image Augustus portrayed to the Roman people.

According to the text it was written just before Augustus’ death in AD 14, but it was probably written years earlier and likely went through many revisions. Augustus left the text with his will, which instructed the Senate to set up the inscriptions.

By its very nature the Res Gestae is propaganda for the Principate that Augustus instituted. It tends to gloss over the events between the assassination of Augustus’ adoptive father Julius Caesar and the victory at Actium when his foothold on power was finally undisputed.

Actual piece of an ancient copy of the Res Gestae Divi Augusti.

Various inscriptions of the Res Gestae have been found scattered across the former Roman Empire. The inscription itself is a monument to the establishment of the Julio-Claudian dynasty that was to follow Augustus.

The original, which has not survived, was engraved upon a pair of bronze pillars and placed in front of Augustus’ mausoleum. Many copies of the text were made and carved in stone on monuments or temples throughout the Roman Empire, some of which have survived; most notably, almost a full copy, written in the original Latin and a Greek translation was preserved on a temple to Augustus in Ancyra (the Monumentum Ancyranum of Ankara, Turkey); others have been found at Apollonia and Antioch, both in Pisidia.

The text consists of a short introduction, 35 body paragraphs, and a posthumous addendum. These paragraphs are then grouped in 4 sections: political career, public benefactions, military accomplishments, and a political statement.

  • In my nineteenth year, on my own initiative and at my own expense, I raised an army with which I set free the state, which was oppressed by the domination of a faction. For that reason, the senate enrolled me in its order by laudatory resolutions, when Gaius Pansa and Aulus  Hirtius were Consuls (43 BC), assigning me the place of a Consul in the giving of opinions, and gave me the imperium. With me as Propraetor, it ordered me, together with the Consuls, to take care lest any detriment befall the state. But the people made me Consul in the same year, when the consuls each perished in battle, and they made me a Triumvir for the settling of the state.

The 1st section (paragraphs 2–14) is concerned with Augustus’ political career, and records the offices and political honors that he held. Augustus also lists the numerous offices and privileges he either refused to take or be awarded.

  • I drove the men who slaughtered my father into exile with a legal order, punishing their crime, and afterwards, when they waged war on the state, I conquered them in two battles.
  • I often waged war, civil and foreign, on the earth and sea, in the whole wide world, and as victor I spared all the citizens who sought pardon. As for foreign nations, those which I was able to safely forgive, I preferred to preserve than to destroy. About five hundred thousand Roman citizens were sworn to me. I led something more than three hundred thousand of them into colonies and I returned them to their cities, after their stipend had been earned, and I assigned all of them fields or gave them money for their military service. I captured six hundred ships in addition to those smaller than triremes.
  • Twice I triumphed with an ovation, and three times I enjoyed a curule triumph and twenty one times I was named Emperor. When the senate decreed more triumphs for me, I sat out from all of them. I placed the laurel from the fasces in the Capitol, when the vows which I pronounced in each war had been fulfilled. On account of the things successfully done by me and through my officers, under my auspices, on earth and sea, the Senate decreed fifty-five times that there be sacrifices to the immortal gods. Moreover there were 890 days on which the senate decreed there would be sacrifices. In my triumphs kings and nine children of kings were led before my chariot. I had been Consul thirteen times, when I wrote this, and I was in the thirty-seventh year of tribunician power (14 AD).
  • When the dictatorship was offered to me, both in my presence
    Rome’s original ruler supreme, Augustus Caesar.

    and my absence, by the people and Senate, when Marcus Marcellus and Lucius Arruntius were Consuls (22 BC), I did not accept it. I did not evade the curatorship of grain in the height of the food shortage, which I so arranged that within a few days I freed the entire city from the present fear and danger by my own expense and administration. When the annual and perpetual consulate was then again offered to me, I did not accept it.

  • When Marcus Vinicius and Quintus Lucretius were Consuls (19 BC), then again when Publius Lentulus and Gnaeus Lentulus were (18 BC), and third when Paullus Fabius Maximus and Quintus Tubero were (11 BC), although the Senate and Roman people consented that I alone be made curator of the laws and customs with the highest power, I received no magistracy offered contrary to the customs of the ancestors. What the senate then wanted to accomplish through me, I did through tribunician power, and five times on my own accord I both requested and received from the Senate a colleague in such power.
  • I was triumvir for the settling of the state for ten continuous years. I was first of the senate up to that day on which I wrote this, for forty years. I was high priest, augur, one of the Fifteen for the performance of rites, one of the Seven of the sacred feasts, brother of Arvis, fellow of Titus, and Fetial.
  • When I was Consul the fifth time (29 BC), I increased the number of patricians by order of the people and Senate. I read the roll of the Senate three times, and in my sixth consulate (28 BC) I made
    Marble bust of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa.

    a census of the people with Marcus Agrippa as my colleague. I conducted a lustrum, after a forty-one year gap, in which lustrum were counted 4,063,000 heads of Roman citizens. Then again, with consular imperium I conducted a lustrum alone when Gaius Censorinus and Gaius Asinius were Consuls (8 BC), in which lustrum were counted 4,233,000 heads of Roman citizens. And the third time, with consular imperium, I conducted a lustrum with my son Tiberius Caesar as colleague, when Sextus Pompeius and Sextus Appuleius were Consuls (14 AD), in which lustrum were counted 4,937,000 of the heads of Roman citizens. By new laws passed with my sponsorship, I restored many traditions of the ancestors, which were falling into disuse in our age, and myself I handed on precedents of many things to be imitated in later generations.

  • The Senate decreed that vows be undertaken for my health by the consuls and priests every fifth year. In fulfillment of these vows they often celebrated games for my life; several times the four highest colleges of priests, several times the Consuls. Also both privately and as a city all the citizens unanimously and continuously prayed at all the shrines for my health.
  • By a senate decree my name was included in the Saliar Hymn, and it was sanctified by a law, both that I would be sacrosanct for ever, and that, as long as I would live, the tribunician power would be mine. I was unwilling to be high priest in the place of my living colleague; when the people offered me that priesthood which my father had, I refused it. And I received that priesthood, after several years, with the death of him who had occupied it since the opportunity of the civil disturbance, with a multitude flocking together out of all Italy to my election, so many as had never before been in Rome, when Publius Sulpicius and Gaius Valgius were Consuls (12 BC).
  • The Senate consecrated the altar of Fortune the Bringer-back before the temples of Honor and Virtue at the Campanian gate
    The Blacas Cameo (early 1st Century AD), depicting Augustus wearing an aegis.

    for my return, on which it ordered the priests and Vestal virgins to offer yearly sacrifices on the day when I had returned to the city from Syria (when Quintus Lucretius and Marcus Vinicius were Consuls [19 BC]), and it named that day Augustalia after my cognomen.

  • By the authority of the Senate, a part of the praetors and Tribunes of the Plebs, with Consul Quintus Lucretius and the leading men, was sent to meet me in Campania, which honor had been decreed for no one but me until that time. When I returned to Rome from Spain and Gaul, having successfully accomplished matters in those provinces, when Tiberius Nero and Publius Quintilius were consuls (13 BC), the Senate voted to consecrate the Altar of Augustan Peace in the Field of Mars for my return, on which it ordered the magistrates and priests and Vestal virgins to offer annual sacrifices.
  • Our ancestors wanted Janus Quirinus to be closed when throughout the all the rule of the Roman people, by land and sea, peace had been secured through victory. Although before my birth it had been closed twice in all in recorded memory from the founding of the city, the senate voted three times in my principate that it be closed.
  • When my sons Gaius and Lucius Caesar, whom fortune stole from
    Gaius and Lucius Caesar standing with shields and spears between them.

    me as youths, were fourteen, the Senate and Roman people made them consuls-designate on behalf of my honor, so that they would enter that magistracy after five years, and the Senate decreed that on that day when they were led into the forum they would be included in public councils. Moreover the Roman knights together named each of them first of the youth and gave them shields and spears.

The 2nd section (paragraphs 15–24) lists Augustus’ donations of money, land and grain to the citizens of Italy and his soldiers, as well as the public works and gladiatorial spectacles that he commissioned. The text is careful to point out that all this was paid for out of Augustus’ own funds.

  • I paid to the Roman plebs, HS 300 per man from my father’s will and in my own name gave HS 400 from the spoils of war when I was consul for the fifth time (29 BC); furthermore I again paid out a public gift of HS 400 per man, in my tenth consulate (24 BC), from my own patrimony; and, when Consul for the eleventh time (23 BC), twelve doles of grain personally bought were measured out; and in my twelfth year of tribunician power (12-11 BC) I gave HS 400 per man for the third time. And these public gifts of mine never reached fewer than 250,000 men. In my eighteenth year of tribunician power, as Consul for the twelfth time (5 BC), I gave to 320,000 plebs of the city HS 240 per man. And, when Consul the fifth time (29 BC),I gave from my war-spoils to colonies of my
    Bread for the people

    soldiers each HS 1000 per man; about 120,000 men in the colonies received this triumphal public gift. Consul for the thirteenth time (2 BC), I gave HS 240 to the plebs who then received the public grain; they were a few more than 200,000.

  • I paid the towns money for the fields which I had assigned to soldiers in my fourth consulate (30 BC) and then when Marcus Crassus and Gnaeus Lentulus Augur were Consuls (14 BC); the sum was about HS 600,000,000 which I paid out for Italian estates, and about HS 260,000,000 which I paid for provincial fields. I was first and alone who did this among all who founded military colonies in Italy or the provinces according to the memory of my age. And afterwards, when Tiberius Nero and Gnaeus Piso were consuls (7 BC), and likewise when Gaius Antistius and Decius Laelius were Consuls (6 BC), and when Gaius Calvisius and Lucius Passienus were Consuls (4 BC), and when Lucius Lentulus and Marcus Messalla were Consuls (3 BC), and when Lucius Caninius and Quintus Fabricius were Consuls (2 BC), I paid out rewards in cash to the soldiers whom I had led into their towns when their service was completed, and in this venture I spent about HS 400,000,000.
  • Four times I helped the senatorial treasury with my money, so that I offered HS 150,000,000 to those who were in charge of the treasury. And when Marcus Lepidus and Lucius Arruntius were consuls (6 AD), I offered HS 170,000,000 from my patrimony to the military treasury, which was founded by my advice and from which rewards were given to soldiers who had served twenty or more times.
  • From that year when Gnaeus and Publius Lentulus were Consuls (18 BC), when the taxes fell short, I gave out contributions of grain and money from my granary and patrimony, sometimes to 100,000 men, sometimes to many more.
  • I built the Senate-house and the Chalcidicum which adjoins it and
    Computer generated image of the Temple of the Divine Julius.

    the Temple of Apollo on the Palatine with porticos, the Temple of the Divine Julius, the Lupercal, the portico at the Flaminian Circus, which I allowed to be called by the name Octavian, after he who had earlier built in the same place, the state box at the great circus, the temple on the Capitoline of Jupiter Subduer and Jupiter Thunderer, the Temple of Quirinus, the Temples of Minerva and Queen Juno and Jupiter Liberator on the Aventine, the Temple of the Lares at the top of the holy street, the temple of the gods of the Penates on the Velian, the temple of Youth, and the Temple of the Great Mother on the Palatine.

  • I rebuilt the Capitol and the Theater of Pompey, each work at enormous cost, without any inscription of my name. I rebuilt aqueducts in many places that had decayed with age, and I doubled the capacity of the Marcian aqueduct by sending a new spring into its channel. I completed the Forum of Julius and the basilic which he built between the Temple of Castor and the Temple of Saturn, works begun and almost finished by my father.
    Remains of the Temple of Saturn.

    When the same basilica was burned with fire I expanded its grounds and I began it under an inscription of the name of my sons, and, if I should not complete it alive, I ordered it to be completed by my heirs. Consul for the sixth time (28 BC), I rebuilt eighty-two temples of the gods in the city by the authority of the Senate, omitting nothing which ought to have been rebuilt at that time. Consul for the seventh time (27 BC), I rebuilt the Flaminian Way from the city to Ariminum and all the bridges except the Mulvian and Minucian.

  • I built the Temple of Mars Ultor on private ground and the Forum of Augustus from war-spoils. I built the theater at the Temple of Apollo on ground largely bought from private owners, under the
    Remains of Forum of Augustus with the Temple of Mars Ultor.

    name of Marcus Marcellus my son-in-law. I consecrated gifts from war-spoils in the Capitol and in the Temple of the Divine Julius, in the Temple of Apollo, in the Temple of Vesta, and in the Temple of Mars Ultor, which cost me about HS 100,000,000. I sent back gold crowns weighing 35,000 to the towns and colonies of Italy, which had been contributed for my triumphs, and later, however many times I was named Emperor, I refused gold crowns from the towns and colonies which they equally kindly decreed, and before they had decreed them.

  • Three times I gave shows of gladiators under my name and five times under the name of my sons and grandsons; in these shows about 10,000 men fought. Twice I furnished under my name spectacles of athletes gathered from everywhere, and three times under my grandson’s name. I celebrated games under my
    Harpastum, a form of ball game played in the Roman Empire.

    name four times, and furthermore in the place of other magistrates twenty-three times. As master of the college I celebrated the secular games for the college of the Fifteen, with my colleague Marcus Agrippa, when Gaius Furnius and Gaius Silanus were Consuls (17 BC). Consul for the thirteenth time (2 BC), I celebrated the first games of Mars, which after that time thereafter in following years, by a senate decree and a law, the consuls were to celebrate. Twenty-six times, under my name or that of my sons and grandsons, I gave the people hunts of African beasts in the circus, in the open, or in the amphitheater; in them about 3,500 beasts were killed.

  • I gave the people a spectacle of a naval battle, in the place across the Tiber where the grove of the Caesars is now, with the ground excavated in length 1,800 feet, in width 1,200, in which thirty beaked ships, biremes or triremes, but many smaller, fought among themselves; in these ships about 3,000 men fought in addition to the rowers.
  • In the temples of all the cities of the Province of Asia, as victor, I
    The province of Asia highlighted within the Roman Empire.

    replaced the ornaments which he with whom I fought the war had possessed privately after he despoiled the temples. Silver statues of me-on foot, on horseback, and standing in a chariot-were erected in about eighty cities, which I myself removed, and from the money I placed golden offerings in the Temple of Apollo under my name and of those who paid the honor of the statues to me.

The 3rd section (paragraphs 25–33) describes his military deeds and how he established alliances with other nations during his reign.

  • I restored peace to the sea from pirates. In that slave war I handed over to their masters for the infliction of punishments about 30,000 captured, who had fled their masters and taken up arms against the state. All Italy swore allegiance to me
    The Battle of Actium

    voluntarily, and demanded me as leader of the war which I won at Actium; the provinces of Gaul, Spain, Africa, Sicily, and Sardinia swore the same allegiance. And those who then fought under my standard were more than 700 Senators, among whom 83 were made Consuls either before or after, up to the day this was written, and about 170 were made priests.

  • I extended the borders of all the provinces of the Roman people which neighbored nations not subject to our rule. I restored peace to the provinces of Gaul and Spain, likewise Germany, which includes the ocean from Cadiz to the mouth of the River Elbe. I brought peace to the Alps from the region which is near the Adriatic Sea to the Tuscan Archipelago, with no unjust war waged against any nation. I sailed my ships on the ocean from the mouth of the Rhine to the east region up to the borders of the Cimbri, where no Roman had gone before that time by land or sea, and the Cimbri and the Charudes and the Semnones and the other Germans of the same territory sought by envoys the friendship of me and of the Roman people. By my order and auspices two armies were led at about the same time into Ethiopia and into that part of Arabia which is called Happy, and the troops of each nation of enemies were slaughtered in battle and many towns captured. They penetrated into Ethiopia all the way to the town Nabata, which is near to Meroeand into Arabia all the way to the border of the Sabaei, advancing to the town of Mariba.
  • I added Egypt to the rule of the Roman people. When Artaxes, king of Greater Armenia, was killed, though I could have made it a province, I preferred, by the example of our elders, to hand over that kingdom of Tigranes, son of king Artavasdes, and grandson of King Tigranes, throughzTiberius Nero, who was then my step-son. And the same nation, after revolting and rebelling, and subdued through my son Gaius, I handed over to be ruled by King Ariobarzanes son of Artabazus, king of the Medes, and after his death, to his son Artavasdes; and when he was killed, I sent Tigranes, who came from the royal clan of the Armenians, into that rule. I recovered all the provinces which lie across the Adriatic to the east and Cyrene, with kings now possessing them in large part, and Sicily and Sardinia, which had been occupied earlier in the slave war.
  • I founded colonies of soldiers in Africa, Sicily, Macedonia, each
    Map showcasing the colonies of Augustus (117 AD).

    Spain, Greece, Asia, Syria, Narbonian Gaul, and Pisidia, and furthermore had twenty-eight colonies founded in Italy under my authority, which were very populous and crowded while I lived.

  • I recovered from Spain, Gaul, and Dalmatia the many military standards lost through other leaders, after defeating the enemies. I compelled the Parthians to return to me the spoils and standards of three Roman armies, and as suppliants to seek the friendship of the Roman people. Furthermore I placed those standards in the sanctuary of the Temple of Mars Ultor.
  • As for the tribes of the Pannonians, before my principate no army of the Roman people had entered their land. When they were
    The campaigns of Tiberius, Ahenobarbus, and Saturninus in Germania between 6 BC and 1 BC.

    conquered through Tiberius Nero, who was then my step-son and emissary, I subjected them to the rule of the Roman people and extended the borders of Illyricum to the shores of the River Danube. On the near side of it the army of the Dacians was conquered and overcome under my auspices, and then my army, led across the Danube, forced the tribes of the Dacians to bear the rule of the Roman people.

  • Emissaries from the Indian kings were often sent to me, which had not been seen before that time by any Roman leader. The Bastarnae, the Scythians, and the Sarmatians, who are on this side of the River Don and the kings further away, and the kings of the Albanians, of the Iberians, and of the Medes, sought our friendship through emissaries.
  • To me were sent supplications by kings: of the Parthians, Tiridates and later Phrates son of king Phrates, of the Medes, Artavasdes, of the Adiabeni, Artaxares, of the Britons, Dumnobellaunus and Tincommius, of the Sugambri, Maelo, of the Marcomanian Suebi (…, -)rus. King Phrates of the Parthians, son of Orodes, sent all his sons and grandsons into Italy to me, though defeated in no war, but seeking our friendship through the pledges of his children. And in my principate many other peoples experienced the faith of the Roman people, of whom nothing had previously existed of embassies or interchange of friendship with the Roman people.
  • The nations of the Parthians and Medes received from me the first kings of those nations which they sought by emissaries: the Parthians, Vonones son of king Phrates, grandson of king Orodes, the Medes, Ariobarzanes, son of king Artavasdes, grandson of king Aiobarzanes.

The 4th section (paragraphs 34–35) consists of a statement of the Romans’ approval for the reign and deeds of Augustus.

  • In my sixth and seventh consulates (28-27 BC), after putting out
    Bust of Augustus in a laurel crown.

    the civil war, having obtained all things by universal consent, I handed over the state from my power to the dominion of the Senate and Roman people. And for this merit of mine, by a Senate decree, I was called Augustus and the doors of my temple were publicly clothed with laurel and a civic crown was fixed over my door and a gold shield placed in the Julian Senate-house, and the inscription of that shield testified to the virtue, mercy, justice, and piety, for which the senate and Roman people gave it to me. After that time, I exceeded all in influence, but I had no greater power than the others who were colleagues with me in each magistracy.

  • When I administered my thirteenth consulate (2 BC), the Senate and Equestrian order and Roman people all called me father of the country, and voted that the same be inscribed in the vestibule of my temple, in the Julian Senate-house, and in the Forum of Augustus under the chariot which had been placed there for me by a decision of the senate. When I wrote this I was seventy-six years old.

The appendix is written in the third-person, and likely not by Augustus himself. It summarizes the entire text, and lists various buildings he renovated or constructed; it states that Augustus spent 600 million silver denarii (i.e. 600,000 gold denarii) from his own funds during his reign on public projects.

Ancient currencies cannot be reliably converted into modern equivalents, but it is clearly more than anyone else in the Empire could afford. Augustus consolidated his hold on power by reversing the prior tax policy beginning with funding the aerarium militare with 170 million sesterces of his own money.

Caesar Augustus and his Legions

The Res Gestae was a unique public relations move for the original Emperor of the Roman Empire, whose political career was in many ways experimental. If their frequent use as “history” by later historians (both ancient and modern) who characterized Augustus’ rule according to categories he himself constructed in the Res Gestae is any indication, it is a rather successful piece of propaganda.

For better or worse, the Res Gestae Divi Augusti has been an instrumental piece of history. Whether solely propoganda or actual history, we’re happy to have this piece still available for us to see.

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Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Augustus. Res Gestae Divi Augusti. Cambridge University Press, 14 May 2009. ISBN 978-0-521-84152-8.

Barini, Concetta. Res Gestae Divi Augusti ex Monumentis Ancyrano, Antiocheno, Apolloniensi. Rome, 1937.

Cooley, Alison. Res Gestae divi Augusti: Text, Translation and Commentary. Cambridge University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-521-84152-8.

Gagé, Jean. Res gestae divi Augusti ex monumentis Ancyrano et Antiocheno latinis. Paris, 1935.

Mommsen, Theodor. Res gestae Divi Augusti ex monumentis Ancyrano et Apolloniensi. Berolini: Weidmannos, 1865.

Scheid. John. Res Gestae Divi Augusti: hauts faits du divin Auguste. Belles Lettres, 2007. ISBN 978-2-251-01446-3

Volkmann, Hans. Res gestae Divi Augusti Das Monumentum Ancyranum. Leipzig, 1942.