For years now I have been interested in Roman History–an interest ignited when I first took Latin during my freshman year and further stoked by Westtown’s language trip to Rome and Pompeii. In Rome I enjoyed seeing all of the 2000 year old pieces of history intermingled with the modern city, but I particularly enjoyed taking a day-trip to Ostia Antica, where we could explore the ancient port-city of Rome at our own behest. After returning from the Rome trip my interest in Roman History was fiery and I was ready to throw wood on the fire. Unfortunately counter to my interest, Roman History is seldom taught at Westtown, only being taught briefly at the end of Ancient World History 2 and sporadically throughout the Latin curriculum. That being said, I sought out what little Westtown could offer on the topic, such that now I have knowledge of: the Punic Wars, Julius Caesar’s conquests in Gaul, the Catilinarian Conspiriacy, and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
I thought my hunger for Roman History was sated until my midterm for Latin 3 , for which I had to give a presentation on the Battle of Actium, the decisive battle in the conflict between Octavian (later Augustus Caesar) and Marc Antony. As I did my research I realized that nowhere in all of the classes that Westtown offers is Augustus Caesar taught in depth! Blasphemous! It was then I decided that I wanted to conduct independent research on the topic; I began by reading a few Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica articles on the topic but quickly realized I should have a better understanding of general Roman History before I went crazy with Augustus. With that in mind I read many more articles and decided to order a book on the topic: SPQR by Mary Beard.
Whilst reading SPQR I learned much not only about the history of Rome from its generation as a kingdom to its conversion to Christianity, but also of which archaeological finds and texts inform the current telling of Roman history. Furthermore, it was during my reading of SPQR that I identified exactly what I wanted my topic for this research: “The Ways in Which Roman Emperors Copied the Actions of Augustus Caesar to Justify Their Rule.” I decided that wasn’t a very fun title, so I opted to go with “Acting Like Augustus: How To Justify Your Rule as a Roman Emperor” As it turns out, Julius Caesar was kind of deified after his assassination, and Augustus took that (along with his status as the son of Julius Caesar) in stride and called himself “Divi Filius”, or in English “Son of the Divine”. Those who later filled the role of Emperor not so subtly copied many of Augustus’s actions to justify their rule, effectively “filling his shoes” as “Son of the Divine.”
Over the course of this semester I will be researching the different ways in which the Emperors of Rome copied the specific actions of Augustus Caesar to justify their own rules.
Augustus of Prima Porta. 1st Century. Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Foundation,
commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Statue-Augustus.jpg. Accessed 15 Sept.