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Classics in discussion

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The first emperor and the queen of inscriptions: Augustus in his own words

14:57, Thu 1 Oct 2009

Alison Cooley, of Warwick’s Classics department, discusses Augustus’ account of his long reign.

During the last days of the Roman Republic, one man emerged victorious: Octavian, Caesar’s adoptive son, later called Augustus. After his ascent to power, he pacified large parts of the known world. In Rome, he kept the populace happy with bread and circuses, and slowly eliminated all opposition. Yet he also had to confront major set-backs. For instance, the scandalous infidelity of his daughter and granddaughter became the gossip of the empire.
Augustus built himself a massive mausoleum, and composed an account of his reign, which was placed onto pillars outside it after his death. It is the ‘queen of inscriptions’, and survives in three copies from Galatia, in central Turkey.
So who was this man who became the first emperor of Rome, and shaped history like few others? How did Augustus obtain and retain his colossal power for nearly half a century? And how does his account, recorded in the ‘queen of inscriptions’, differ from other historical sources?