“[奥古斯都]可以夸耀自己继承的是砖 留下的是大理石 ”
— 苏埃托尼乌斯 《奥古斯都的一生》
His reign marked the beginningof one of history’s greatest empires
and the end of one of its first republics.
Was Rome ’ s first emperor a visionary
leader who guaranteed his civilization ’ s place in history
or a tyrant who destroyed its core values?
Find out in History versus Augustus.
The defendant today is Gaius Octavius?
Gaius Julius Caesar/Augustus…
Do we have the wrong guy?
No, your Honor.
Gaius Octavius, born in 63 BCE,
He became Gaius Julius Caesar
upon being named his great-uncle ’ s adoptive son and heir.
And he gained the title Augustus in 27 BCE
when the Senate grantedhim additional honors.
You mean when he established sole authority and became emperor Roman
Is that bad?
Didn’t every place have some kingor emperor back then?
Actually, your Honor,
the Roman people had overthrown their kings centuries before
to establish a republic,
a government meant to serve the people,
not the privilege of a ruling family.
And it was Octaviuswho destroyed this tradition.
Octavius was a model public servant.
At 16, he was electedto the College of Pontiffs
that supervised religious worship.
He fought for Rome in Hispaniaalongside his great-uncle Caesar
and took up the responsibilityof avenging Caesar’s death
when the corrupt oligarchs in the Senatebetrayed and murdered him.
Caesar had been a power-hungry tyrant
who tried to make himself a king
while consorting withhis Egyptian queen Cleopatra.
After his death, Octavius joined his general Mark Antony
in starting a civil war that tore Rome apart,
then stabbed his ally in the back to increase his own power
Antony was a fool.
He waged a disastrous campaign in Parthia
and plotted to turn Roman territories
into personal kingdoms for himself and Cleopatra.
Isn’t that what Caesar had been accused of?
So Octavius destroyed Antonyfor trying to become a king
and then became one himself?
You can see the megalomania
That was a religious honorific.
And Augustus didn’t seek powerfor his own sake.
As winner of the civil war
and commander of the most troops,
it was his duty to restore law and order to Rome
so that other factions didn’t continue fighting.
He didn ’ t restore the law –
he made it subordinate to him!
Augustus worked to restorethe Senate’s prestige,
improved food securityfor the lower classes,
and relinquished control of the army when he resign his consul pose
He used his military influence and personal wealth
to stack the Senate in his favor,
while retaining the powers of a tribune
and the right to celebrate military triumphs.
He kept control of provinces with the most legions.
And if that wasn ’ t enough,
he assumed the consul position twice more to promote his grand children
He was clearly trying to establish a dynasty.
But what did he do with all that power?
Glad you asked, your Honor.
Augustus’s accomplishmentswere almost too many to name.
He established consistenttaxation for all provinces,
ending private exploitationby local tax officials.
He personally financed a network of roadsand employed couriers
so news and troops could traveleasily throughout the realm.
And it was under Augustus
that many of Rome ’ s famous public buildings were constructed.
The writers of the time were nearly unanimous in praising his rule.
Did the writers have any other choice?
Augustus exiled plenty of peopleon vague charges,
including Ovid, one of Rome’s greatest poets.
And you forgot to mention the
intrusive laws regarding citizens ’ personal lives –
punishing adultery, restricting marriagebetween social classes,
even penalties for remaining unmarried.
He was trying to improve the citizenryand instill discipline.
And he succeeded.
His legacy speaks for itself:
a professional army that expandedRome’s frontiers in all directions,
and a government still rememberedas a model of civic virtue.
His legacy was an empire that would go
on to wage endless conquest until it collapsed,
and a tradition of military autocracy.
Any time a dictator in a general’s uniformcommits atrocities
while claiming to act on behalfof”the people,”
we have Augustus Caesar to thank.
So you’re saying Augustus was a good emperor,
and you’re saying there’s no such thing?
We’re used to celebrating historical leaders
for their achievements and victories.
But to ask
whether an individual should have such power in the first place
is to put history itself on trial.
Check out this playlist
for more episodes of our History Versus series,
where we put famous figures like Cleopatra,
Vladimir Lenin and Genghis Khan on trial
“[奥古斯都]可以夸耀自己继承的是砖 留下的是大理石 ”