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Book III
Chapter I

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Augustus
by
John Buchan

published by
Hodder and Stoughton
London 1937

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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Book III
Chapter III

Book III: First Citizen

 p142  Chapter II

Respublica Conservata
(B.C. 27‑23)

Les Lois, dans la signification la plus étendue, sont les rapport nécessaires qui dérivent de la nature des choses.

Montesquieu, L'Esprit des Lois.

Thus do we, of wisdom and of reach,

With windlasses and with assays of bias,

By indirections find directions out.

Hamlet.

I

The stage was set, and the time had come for that abdication which must be the prologue to the new era. On the 13th of January 27 B.C.,1 before a purged Senate, Augustus, now entering upon his seventh consulate, made the gran rifiuto. Seated in his curule chair, his face still pallid from his recent illness, this young man, who had spent half of his thirty‑six years in unremitting toil, resigned to the Roman people all his extra-ordinary prerogatives. He was consul, he had the honorific title of Princeps, he had the tribunician power; everything else he returned to its parent source. He read his speech, for he rarely extemporized and never on grave occasions, and, though we cannot accept the rhetoric with which Dio credits him2 as the authentic words of one who loved an austere style, the purport is clear. "I shall lead you no longer. . . . Receive back your liberty and the Republic; take over the army and the subject provinces, and govern yourself as has been your wont."

The senatorial dovecotes were fluttered. Those members to whom the speech came as a surprise were genuinely alarmed, for they feared the return of the old bad times, of rival armies, divided commands, and administrative chaos. But a sufficient number of senators had been taken into the secret to ensure that what the  p143 Princeps had anticipated would be smoothly effected. Gratefully they welcomed his resignation — and declined it. The powers which he had handed back to them they restored to him in a new form and with a fresh authority.

The Name Augustus First they showed their gratitude by another shower of honours. On January 16 the Senate decreed that the doorposts of his house should be decked with laurel, that on his lintel should be placed the civic crown of oak‑leaves granted to the soldier who had saved a comrade's life in battle, that the month Sextilis should be called after him, and that on a golden shield in the Senate-house should be inscribed a tribute to his "valour, clemency, justice and piety."3 More important, on the motion of the consular Plancus, that old congenital traitor,4 he was given a new name. Just as Sulla had been known as the "Fortunate" and Pompey as the "great," so to all time Octavian should be the name of "Augustus,"5 a term of honour, not a title of office. He would have preferred "Romulus," whom Rome had always saluted as the leader who had brought her out of darkness into light;6 Rome's second founder should have the appellation of her first. But Romulus had been a king, and the most distant monarchical suggestion must be avoided. "Augustus," which met with no criticism, was probably the idea of Maecenas, the éminence grise in the background, and it was cunningly chosen. Its plain meaning was much that of the modern "by the grace of God"; it suggested a favourite of Heaven, someone, in Dio's words, "more than human,"7 but at the same time a man and no eastern divinity. By its derivation it implied the augural function which Augustus always emphasized, for the "lituus" is common on his coins. A line of Ennius had  p144 made familiar the expression "Augustum augurium" as applied to Romulus, Cicero had spoken of Rome's founder as "optimus augur", in 29 B.C. Octavian had celebrated the "augurium salutis." The epithet linked the Princeps to old religious usage and to the first king of Rome, whose name could not be assumed. It was a fitting prelude to the new "inauguratio."8

A saviour had arisen who, having preserved the state from destruction by his emergency powers, had now handed back these powers to the Roman people. The Republic had been restored — or, more properly, conserved, for it had never ceased to exist. The dream of the dead Cicero had come true.9 There was no question of the Princeps laying down his task; a man does not carefully select a new name, with hankerings after that of the founder of Rome, if he has any thought of retirement. His resignation was a matter of form, a piece of wise etiquette, in order that Senate and People might feel that with them rested the shaping of the new state. But the nature of the reconstruction had already been privately agreed, and the Senate was only too ready to abide by the counsel of one who was both the most potent and most expert of living statesmen.

He must hold the chief republican magistracy, not only out of deference to tradition, but in order to give him status in Rome and Italy. The annual consulship combined with the tribunician power would make him the executive head in domestic affairs, and the fact that he would have colleagues would enable him to bring eminent senators into the administrative circle. He must  p145 continue to command the armies, and for that purpose he must have the proconsular imperium and the governorship of those provinces where the army was stationed. This was a commonsense arrangement if the frontiers were to be secure, and there were good precedents for it in Pompey's career. He could not, of course, govern those provinces in person; that must be done through legates of praetorian rank, for which there was also a Pompeian precedent. The ten richer and more settled provinces were left to the Senate to be administered by ex‑consuls and ex‑praetors in the old fashion. In only two, Illyria and Africa, was there any likelihood of trouble. Augustus took the frontier territories of the West, North and East — Spain and Lusitania; the Gauls with their Germanic borderland; Syria and Cilicia; Egypt, which for three years had been administered as his private estate, and Cyprus which was closely attached to it.

In all this there was nothing revolutionary, nothing without sound republican parallels. The Princeps had colleagues in his magistracies of equal powers; the proconsular imperium was shared with the Senate, and if it was only in Africa that a senatorial proconsul had troops under his command, that was because they were not needed elsewhere. If the will of the Princeps was in fact prepotent, the reason lay in his fame and his moral ascendancy, and these were things which could not be legislated for. He realized the profound truth that a revolution, if it is to endure, must be in large part a reaction, a return to inbred modes of thought which have been neglected. He was formally justified in his claim in the Res Gestae: "I declined to accept any office inconsistent with the institutions of our ancestors. . . . I stood before all others in authority, but of actual power I possessed no more than my colleagues in each separate magistracy."10

 p146  New Powers of Senate The same discreet ingenuity was manifest in the other details of the reconstruction. The Senate was exalted in dignity and its sphere of influence enlarged. It had again the control of the ordinary finances, and became the chief legislative body. According to the republican theory the People issued commands and the Senate put these commands into official resolutions.11 The old conjunction was retained, but the popular Assemblies were now rather forms than realities, though Augustus was scrupulous in retaining the semblance of popular control. They still had the formal business of election to the magistracies, and could be used in special circumstances for legislation to which it was desirable to add a specific popular sanction.12 But their ancient judicial functions were not restored, and they had lost their prerogatives of making peace and war. There is evidence that Augustus, like Julius, toyed with the idea of giving the Assemblies greater power and making them representative of the whole body of citizens in Italy;13 but the thing was not feasible, for the actual voters on normal occasions could only be the unrepresentative Roman plebs. But what was lost to the Assemblies was given to the Senate. It became the main law‑giver. It was accorded extensive judicial powers; it was entrusted with onerous executive duties; above all, it was made the ultimate fount of power, since from it the Princeps drew his mandate, and what it had given it could withhold.14 The Princeps might bend it to his will, but that was because of his "auctoritas" and not from any legal privilege. The Senate was more than a modern constitutional monarch, reigning and not governing; it had a substantial amount of governing to its share. It incarnated two main principles; it carried on the traditional aristocracy, and it was wholly Roman, thereby setting Rome before the eyes of the overseas empire as the centre of power. Formally  p147 it had greater purchase than it had enjoyed since the days of Sulla; in practice it had weighty, but carefully defined, executive functions. In spite of the consular, proconsular and tribunician authority of the Princeps, it was a substance, not a shadow.15

A proof that this was the purpose of Augustus is his determination to draw the Senate into administrative work. The great offices of state and the higher military commands were reserved for its members and several new posts were added to the senatorial career. In seeking for an executive for the empire he leaned heavily on the senatorial class. In the instructions written at his death he urged that public business should be entrusted to all who had the ability for it,16 but ceteris paribus he always preferred the old aristocracy. Still more notable evidence is his creation of a cabinet or privy council from the Senate to assist him, even in matters where he had been given supreme authority. This cabinet, afterwards enlarged both in size and length of tenure, consisted of a consul, a praetor, an aedile, a tribune, a quaestor, and fifteen senators chosen by lot, and it held office for six months. It prepared business for the Senate and, being a microcosm of that body, could keep him in touch with the Senate's temper; it appears, too, to have assisted him in his own administrative problems.17

Character of Reconstruction Such was the first scheme of construction; a trial scheme, for it was to last for ten years only, after which it was to be renewed or revised. It was a masterly effort to combine the Republic, not in its pristine form but in the shape to which it had been slowly evolving since the Gracchi, with the demands of the new empire. It must be judged by its practical efficiency, which includes its popular acceptability, not by its conformity to antique modes or laws. Two errors must be avoided. The first,  p148 on which the charge of duplicity against Augustus has been based, is to assume that the later developments of the principate were foreseen at the start by its founder. The settlement of 27 B.C. was meant to be experimental and alterable under the pressure of facts, for Augustus, like Raleigh, believed that "councils to which Time has not been called Time will not ratify."18 Dio is a special sinner in this respect. With the development of the principate up to his own time in his mind, he assumed this development to have been the intention of Augustus, and many later historians have followed his assumption. But the prime merit of the settlement was that the centre of gravity was given freedom to shift as the necessities of government demanded. The second error is to imagine that Augustus had in mind a rigid code of political philosophy and law, to which he deceitfully professed to adhere while undermining its principles. His purpose, on the contrary, was a practical compromise. It is equally idle to credit him, as do the later Greek historians, with the political thought of their own age, or, like the Roman jurists, with the rigid legal conceptions of the old Republic. No man ever lived whose habit of mind was less abstract and more pragmatic.

Did he or did he not restore the Republic? The question is really without meaning, though it has occasioned a wealth of misplaced ingenuity.19 What  p149 republic? That of the old simple city-state? But no antiquarian piety could have brought that to life again, for it would have meant the reduction of the Roman people to a manageable size, the abolition of the system which made rank depend on office, a return to the pre‑Marian composition of the army, and the restoration of primitive manners and morals. No Roman of any class would have accepted such a revolution. Does the question concern the restoration of civic liberty? Then let us be careful in our definitions. The Roman "libertas" was never the Greek "eleutheria"; it was not freedom unfettered, but freedom from arbitrary rule, and did not involve an atomic self-sufficiency, but could be as well, or better, attained as part of a greater whole; it might be defined, in Clerk Maxwell's words, as "an abandonment of wilfulness without extinction of will . . . whereby, instead of being consciously free and really in subjection to unknown laws, it becomes consciously acting by law, and really free from the interference of unrecognized laws." "Principatus" and "libertas" were counterparts, not contradictories.20

Sovereignty Augustus preserved whatever of the republican institutions had still vitality, and adapted them to a new executive purpose. The principate cannot be fully defined by legal categories, though its foundation was deep in ancient law. It was a product of an urgent necessity, an experiment intended to develop, and since it was based upon both the traditions of Rome and upon practical needs, it had an organic elasticity, a real power of adaptation. Monarchy in the common sense it was not; but it might be called a limited monarchy if the emphasis be laid rather on the adjective than on the noun. Mommsen's term "dyarchy"21 has point in regard  p150 to the allocation of administrative duties; but while there was a division of labour there was no division of sovereignty. Or, again, as Oltramare suggests, it may be called in theory a "triarchy" according to Cicero's formula,22 a mingling of royal, aristocratic and popular powers. But it is simpler to look upon it neither as monarchy nor as republic, but as a mixed constitution, a new thing, the development of which must be on the knees of the gods. It began with a balance, but whether the emphasis would shift to Princeps or Senate only time could show.

Of the legal sovereignty in the narrower sense there could be no doubt. It resided, as in republican days, in the Senate and the People. In theory these were supreme; all the powers of the Princeps emanated from them, and what they had granted they could withdraw. This right of resumption was emphasized by the limitation of the grant to ten years. It was a return to the pre‑Sullan constitution. His proconsular power, that imperium which was the foundation-stone of his authority, was the restoration of the old unlimited consular power of the earlier Republic. It was still possible to make out an unanswerable case for complete and undivided popular sovereignty. The Princeps was a magistrate in the traditional sense, with an extra-ordinary jurisdiction established in the republican way after sound republican precedents.

But the legal aspect was not the only, or the most vital, one. In effect Augustus had a status which the laws could not limit, a status won by strong men in all ages despite the forms of a constitution. The dominant fact was his "auctoritas," his personal ascendancy. He was the master of the ultimate argument in any dispute, the army; and, though his military command came from the Senate and could have been withdrawn by the Senate, there was no alternative between its continuance and anarchy.23 The cardinal fact of the principate was that the  p151 legions throughout the empire, where they might be stationed, took the military oath to Augustus and obeyed only him as their sovereign. The logic of facts was to make this high command endure for life, since any change was unthinkable. He was resolved never to let slip those reins of power, and Rome was not less resolved, and it was therefore certain that time would increase and not diminish his influence. The old institutions, though Augustus had all the will in the world to preserve them, were bound to wither in the shadow of the new. He summoned the energies of the past to legitimize the future, but these energies were already half-exhausted. If all his powers had republican precedents, their combination in the hands of one man was a novelty, in one man of extraordinary administrative genius. Not all his constitutional probity and antiquarian zeal could put life into dying things. The mechanism of the small city-state could not long be combined with the mechanism required by a vast empire.

The new polity was confirmed in a law by both Senate and People.24 There was no dissentient voice. Conservative lawyers like Antistius Labeo might doubt, but they were silent, as was the slender school of traditionalists,25 represented later by men like Thrasea Paetus and Helvidius Priscus. Their creed was a sentiment like eighteenth-century Jacobinism in Britain, with much pride of ancestry but without hope of posterity. "Les républicains," in the words of Lamennais, "sont faits pour rendre la république impossible."

II

Augustus in Gaul Most men, having launched a new project of government, would have felt bound to remain at the centre of  p152 things to keep an eye on its working. But so assured was Augustus of the merits of his plan and of the compliance of Rome, and so confident in his star, that after seeing to the repair of the Via Flaminia, the Great North Road, he departed on the first of those journeys which made him, except for the restless Hadrian,26 the chief traveller among the emperors. He realized that in the long run the justification of the principate lay in its practical efficiency, and he was minded to have no mistakes. An imperial civil service, of which Julius had laid the foundations, must be organized, and for that he needed local knowledge. He turned first to what for Rome was the most vital problem, the West.

In the autumn of 27 B.C. he went to Gaul, taking with him his step‑son, Tiberius, Livia's son by her first marriage, now a boy of fifteen, and Marcellus, who may have been a year older, the son by her first husband of his sister Octavia, Antony's widow. His purpose was to reorganize the province which had been won by Julius and secured by Agrippa and Messalla, and to this period we may ascribe the new division into the Narbonese in the south, Aquitania in the south-west, Lugdunensis in the centre, and Belgica in the north. Opinion in Rome, if we may believe the poets, anticipated a fresh effort to conquer Britain, but, though he may have advertised this intention as a warning, the aim of Augustus was consolidation, not conquest. He spent the last months of 27 B.C. in the Narbonese, enlarging and beautifying its cities, establishing schools throughout all Gaul for the teaching of Roman law and the Latin tongue, and holding a census for the purpose of taxation.

But with the beginning of 26 B.C. he had to change his plans. Sudden trouble sprang up in various parts of the empire. The tribes on the Macedonian border were again threatening, in spite of the victories of M. Crassus in the preceding year; the Salassi in the Val d' Aosta were at their old business of raiding, and northern Spain was dangerously restless. Spain, the  p153 oldest Roman province in the West, and the chief source of the empire's mineral wealth, demanded his first attention. His task was to subdue the Asturians and Cantabrians of the north and west, with the two Roman armies, each three legions strong, stationed in Nearer and Further Spain. The details of the campaigns are obscure. In that of 26 B.C. against the Cantabrians he himself commanded, hacked his way to the coast at Santander, and was compelled to supplement field victories by much arduous guerilla warfare. The toil and hardships wrecked his precarious health, and he was forced to retire to Tarraco, leaving the war in 25 B.C. to his lieutenants. Successes of a kind were obtained, but the Iberian mountaineers could only be conquered by a slow process of attrition, and it was not until 19 B.C. and Agrippa's campaign that they were finally subdued. More important than the sword was his policy of town building, the transference of tribes, and the enlistment of tribesmen in legions for foreign service. Military roads acted as bridles for unrest, and new veteran colonies were at once watch-towers and strategic bases.

Arabia and Egypt From the East, too, came disquieting news. One of the main purposes of Augustus's western journey was to examine and adjust the financial system on which he saw that the empire's future must depend. Much of his time in Gaul was devoted to this task; the Spanish campaigns had for their chief motive the safeguarding of the Spanish mines, and the expedition against the Salassi was probably as much an attempt to control the gold production of their Alpine valleys as a matter of frontier defence. But Egypt was the corner-stone of his new economy and any disorders or disasters there were matters of grave concern. He treated the country as a family estate administered by his own prefect, and the first occupant of this high post was his old comrade-in‑arms, Cornelius Gallus, the friend of Pollio and Virgil and himself no mean poet. Possibly on the suggestion of Gallus, in 25 B.C. an expedition was despatched against the Sabaeans, who occupied what was the Eldorado of the age, Arabia, with its fabled wealth of gems and spices and gold. It may have seemed to Augustus an easy way  p154 of filling his treasury, and it caught the imagination of the Roman poets.27 But the expedition was badly handled and failed miserably. Instead of embarking at Berenice it sailed from the northernmost Egyptian harbour, Arsinoe, and had a six months' march before it reached the Sabaean capital. There the legions were compelled to retreat from lack of water and with difficulty recrossed the Red Sea. It was the first and last wild‑cat scheme of exploitation to which Augustus set his hand.

More serious was the situation in Egypt itself. Cornelius Gallus in his new post seems to have let his fancy run riot, and to have been unduly impressed by his own magnificence. Having quelled a rising in the Thebaid, he marched south and declared a protectorate over part of Ethiopia, led perhaps by the old dream of finding the springs of the Nile. Strange rumours began to come out of Egypt, of wild boastings by the prefect and of statues of himself with grandiloquent inscriptions set up throughout the land. He was formally accused at Rome and recalled by Augustus, who forbade him to set foot in the imperial provinces. What followed is obscure. The Senate seems to have been too hasty in interpreting the desires of the Princeps, and to have decreed the banishment of Gallus and the confiscation of his estate, thereby driving him to suicide. Augustus felt deeply the tragic end of his old comrade, not the less since he was also the close friend of Virgil; he shed tears when the news came, and complained bitterly that he was the only man who seemed unable to set limits to his displeasure with his friends.28

Illness The Princeps returned to Italy at the close of 25 B.C. with a preoccupied mind. He was still in bad health, and his new machine seemed to have much grit in it. Apart from foreign anxieties, the situation in Rome was  p155 not easy. He had left Agrippa, his colleague in the consulship of 27 B.C., in general charge of home affairs. But Agrippa had many other things to do, what with reorganizing the imperial army and navy and building noble public monuments, and a year later Augustus appointed Messalla Corvinus to the post of city prefect. It was an old magistracy, this office of "praefectus urbi"; but Messalla, who had a stiff republican sentiment, considered it a too daring innovation, and resigned in six days. It was clear to Augustus that he must still walk warily.

But the matter which most exercised his mind was how the principate was to be carried on in the event of his premature death. The frailty of his body had made him think deeply of the future. There was no question of hereditary succession as in a monarchy; the only hope of continuity was that he should train up the man to succeed him, and familiarize Rome with the prospect. If he died suddenly Agrippa would follow him; but if he were granted a reasonable span of life, he naturally desired to have a successor from his own family. He had two eligible young kinsmen, Marcellus, his nephew by blood, and Tiberius, his step‑son. Julia, his daughter by Scribonia, was now fourteen, and in 25 B.C. she was given in marriage to Marcellus, who was now home from the wars, Agrippa taking charge of the ceremony. In 24 B.C., after his return to Rome, Augustus took formal steps to indicate his views on the succession question. Marcellus was authorized by the Senate to sit among the members of praetorian rank and to stand for the consulship ten years before the legal age, while Tiberius was permitted a premature candidateship of five years. This meant that the former would be curule aedile the following year, and the latter quaestor. These were the same honours as had in 43 B.C. been granted to the young Octavian.

The year 23 B.C. opened badly. There was an abortive conspiracy against the life of the Princeps, in which two eminent senatorians were implicated, one of them, Murena, the conqueror of the Salassi and the brother-in‑law of Maecenas. Beyond question there were still elements  p156 in Rome of disaffection and thwarted ambition which required curbing with a strong hand. Then there was the heavy task of working out in detail the new administrative and financial arrangements for the empire. Agrippa, whose own house had been burned, was now living with the Princeps on the Palatine, and was in close and constant attendance on his master. The young Marcellus was proving a little difficult, for his marriage to Julia and his precocious dignities were hard for youth to support without arrogance, but fortunately Agrippa, the true coadjutor of the Princeps, was too wise a man to take quick offence. To cap all, Augustus fell gravely ill.29 The question of the succession revived in an urgent form, for he was looking death in the face.

He summoned the chief magistrates and senators to his sick-room, and made them what he believed to be a farewell speech. To his fellow-consul, Calpurnius Piso, a republican of the old rock, he gave the detailed statement of the military and financial position of the empire on which he and Agrippa had been long at work. To Agrippa he handed his signet ring, thereby marking him out as the man whom he recommended to the Senate and People as most fitted to carry on his task. Of Marcellus there was no mention; the reins of power could not be entrusted to an untried lad still in his teens. For a little Rome held her breath. Augustus had kept to the strict constitutional etiquette, indicating his preference but leaving the choice of his successor to the Senate. . . . But the choice was not required. A Greek physician, the freedman Antonius Musa, by his cold-water treatments had, before midsummer, restored the Princeps to health.

The Revised Constitution The crisis revealed to Augustus certain defects in his scheme of empire and certain weaknesses in his own position. The annual consulship was not only a personal burden, and because of its collegiality a potential embarrassment, but it limited unduly the offices to which senators might aspire. There was need of drastic reforms in provincial administration, a task in which Agrippa must be his chief agent, and for this purpose he must  p157 have a clear overriding authority, even in the senatorial provinces. The succession question might sleep for the moment; Rome would in time grow accustomed to the thought of Marcellus, and meanwhile Agrippa was the man for an emergency. There was much to be done in Rome itself, and a sharper definition was needed of his actual powers; administrative reform was a difficult business enough without complications about ultra vires. Republican sentiment, too, must be more delicately conciliated, for only thus could it be speeded towards a dignified death. So he prepared himself for a revision of the constitution. First, to clear the ground, he resigned the consulship on July 1, having arranged that his successor should be L. Sestius Quirinalis, who, like Piso, was an old republican and had fought by the side of Brutus.30

III

In July he met the Senate. He began by affirming his fidelity to the constitution, offering, as a proof, to read his will to show that, with death in prospect, he had named no successor, but had left the choice to the Roman people. The Senate declined to hear it. They declared that they needed no evidence on that point; a temporary shortage of cornº in Rome had made them more eager than ever for a strong administrator, and they insisted (the policy having been carefully pre‑arranged) that the time had come when the authority of the Princeps must be more fully defined and enlarged. A senatusconsult, later approved by the Assembly,31 gave that authority its final legal form.

First came the keystone, the imperium. Having relinquished the annual tenure of the consulship, Augustus had now the imperium only as proconsul, and could not exercise it in Rome or in the provinces allotted to the Senate. This difficulty was got over by the grant of a "majus imperium," which was valid over all provinces  p158 and also within the city walls.32 This meant that he had a paramount authority throughout the empire . . . . . . he enlisted all troops, nominated all officers, and the military oath was taken in his name; he was the sole fountain of honour; he decided on the distribution of public lands and the settlement of veterans; and with him lay the declaration of war and the making of peace. He could interfere in the government of the senatorial provinces when he thought it necessary.33 A scheme, paralleled by Pompey's position between 67 and 62 B.C., had been devised for providing that the ultimate command should be held continuously by the same man without peril to the state. Wisely the arrangement was limited to a term of years.

Not less important was the grant of the tribunician power for life — for life, but with an annual renewal, so that all documents could be dated by the years, beginning from 23 B.C., in which he held it. The title now first appears upon his coinage to show the importance which he ascribed to it. It was his supreme link with Rome and its people, and we have already seen what rights it gave him of controlling public affairs. His resignation of the consulship deprived him of certain privileges in regard to the Senate's meetings, and these were specifically restored to him. He was given the consular power of introducing business, the right of convening the Senate, the right of issuing senatorial decrees, and, by means of his privy council, he could settle the agenda for each session.

These prerogatives, an unlimited proconsular imperium and the tribunician power, were the twin foundations of the new version of the principate. He could have had more for the asking, but he judged them enough. They made him in effect all‑powerful. He commanded the armies and ruled the overseas empire. He could direct the deliberations of the Senate and the  p159 Assembly, and control the election of magistrates. He had a tribune's sacrosanctity. He had the ultimate legislative power. Though not Pontifex Maximus until the death of Lepidus in 13 B.C., he was in virtual charge of all religious matters, and nominated the members of the sacred colleges. He presided over the review of the equestrian order. The policy, public works, and the corn supply of Rome were in his hands. Because he could feed the public treasury from his private funds — his own house was the greatest banking and mercantile business in Rome — he was on the way to control the finances of the state. And all these many and varied powers had been acquired without doing violence to republican sentiment, and, while their chief sanction was his personal prestige, they had been solidly buttressed by regular laws.

A Shifting of Emphasis In four years the principate had scarcely begun that process of articulation which was to make it one of the most complex and yet smooth-running systems of government known to history. But, owing to stress of facts, it had had made a daring advance since 27 B.C. The emphasis had clearly shifted from the Senate to the Princeps. Two startling innovations had come into being. The overriding authority of the Princeps was not now, as it was in Pompey's case, conceived as for an emergency only and therefore terminable; though legally it had a limit attached to it, it was realized that it must continue at least as long as Augustus lived, since an alternative was inconceivable. More important, the supreme command was definitely separated from the civil government. Augustus was no longer technically a magistrate; though he had consular, proconsular and tribunician powers he was neither consul, proconsul nor tribune. Subject to the withdrawal of his powers by the Senate and People — which was a practical though not a theoretic impossibility — he had the ultimate say on every question. The day of Byzantine autocracy was postponed for three hundred years, but, with all its republican flavouring, the principate had travelled far from the Republic. The state had now a dual character, in which the ideas of Roman magistracy and Hellenistic monarchy were subtly  p160 blended, and it was precisely this mixture which was to give it its power over the varied populations of the empire. Augustus had not designed the form it took, but his wise opportunism had permitted a constitution to emerge which had an organic vitality because it fitted the facts. A great scholar has reproached him because he "willed the impossible and set up the impermanent";34 but what he willed was tentative, a thing the feasibility of which was left to the test of time, and the taunt of impermanence is idle in the case of an institution which endured for centuries and is still part of the framework of the modern world.

The revolutionary development of 23 B.C. had no serious critics. The literary evidence for the early empire is tainted, for it comes chiefly from intellectuals and traditionalists; far more important is the proof from epigraphy and archaeology of a widespread contentment with the new design, contentment soon to develop into an almost religious veneration. Tacitus puts into the mouth of Galba words which fairly describe the mood of Rome and Italy: "Those whom you are to rule are men who cannot endure either complete slavery or complete liberty."35 The aristocracy acquiesced in it; under the four years of the principate many had restored their fortunes, and some were back at their old business of feathering their nests at the public expense. Augustus had been scrupulous in giving the highest posts to grandees of all parties. If Agrippa and Statilius Taurus were lowly born, he could point on the other side to Valerii, Cornelii, and Calpurnii and descendants of the proud houses of Aemilius Paullus and Scipio.36 The middle classes assented, for they had now some hope of peace and commercial security, and they knew that Augustus intended to make full use of the equestrian order. The puritan section of Roman society, and it was not negligible, saw in him a lover of ancient decorum  p161 and piety. The proletariat, scared by the famine and the floods of the Tiber, looked to him to safeguard their precarious livelihood and their scanty pleasures. What they longed for was competent government, for they were the first victims of inefficiency. It is too often forgotten that the urban mob, and their leaders, the Populares, were never in the modern sense democrats. The provinces looked to Augustus as their protector against the evil days of exploitation by greedy proconsuls. They had no sentimentality about Senate and People, for they had known the harsh incompetence of their rule.37 Youth, too, saw a more spacious future before it, not only in the stimulus of the imperial ideal, but in the facts that political office was now open to young men, and that, since public posts were now salaried, there was a career offered to talent for those of modest means.38 Strabo, who lived through it all, set down the verdict of his contemporaries when he wrote: "Never had Rome and her allies enjoyed richer blessings of peace and prosperity than those which Augustus bestowed upon them from the time when he assumed absolute power."39 Later there were to be revolts against this or that Princeps, but never against the principate.

IV

Having settled the constitution Augustus was now free to devote himself to the task which he had most at heart, the drastic reform of imperial administration. He had little of the lawyer in him and less of the philosopher; his talent, as he knew well, was not for theory, but for practice; he did not think of the abstract perfection of a system but of its meaning in the life of the human beings whom it affected. Persons and things were his concern, not doctrine. But he also understood that a dogma may be not less a fact than a tax or a campaign, and he did not neglect public opinion. He had Ateius Capito as his legal adviser, and the adroit and subtle Maecenas as his  p162 minister of propaganda, the physician who watched over the soul and spirit of Rome.

Agrippa But Agrippa remained his chief counsellor and his principal executive officer. The succession had not been settled, but a provisional arrangement had been reached; Marcellus was to be trained for the task and Rome slowly accustomed to the notion, while in an emergency the state could be left in the strong hands of Agrippa. Contemporary Roman gossip, faithfully reproduced by later historians, naturally assumed some jealousy between the stripling so suddenly exalted and the veteran who had borne the heat and burden of the day. The older man may have his moments of pique, for he was not unambitious,40 but his mission to the East in the autumn of 23 B.C. was not, as the common story went, an enforced exile to prevent friction with Marcellus.41 The explanation is inconsistent with what we know of the characters of both Agrippa and Augustus. He was despatched to the east with a commission to report, for in that quarter lay the chief anxieties of the Princeps. He went as the vicegerent of Augustus with a secondary proconsular imperium, which gave him authority over all the imperial provinces in that quarter; Syria, which ranked as chief of the imperial provinces, was his special duty, but this he governed by legates, preferring to exercise a general control from Lesbos.42 At the same time Augustus may have desired, by Agrippa's absence, to let Marcellus stand out more prominently in Rome's eyes. He was his nephew and the husband of his daughter, and, if there was a son, a future Princeps might be in direct descent of his own blood.

Death of Marcellus That hope was destined to fail, for before the close of the year Marcellus was dead. He caught the same fever which had attacked Augustus, and, though Antonius Musa laboured with his cold-water treatment, he succumbed  p163 to the disease — or to the remedy. We know little of this boy of twenty, but the bitter sorrow of Augustus, and of Octavia who henceforth lived in retirement, and the widespread popular grief,43 suggest that he had all the grace of youth and the promise of manhood. He came of fine stock, for his father was a man of birth and character, and his mother was a saint. His epitaph has been written by Virgil in the noblest lines ever dedicated to an inheritor of unfulfilled renown, when Aeneas in the underworld meets the slender shade with Night fluttering about its brow.44

Heu pietas, heu prisca fides invictaque bello

dextera! Non illi se quisquam impune tulisset

obvius armato, seu cum pedes iridescent in hostem

seu spumantis equi foederet calcaribus armos.

Heu, miserande puer, si qua fata aspera rumpas!

tu Marcellus eris. Manibus date lilia plenis,

purpureos spargam flores animamque nepotis

his saltem accumulem donis, et fungar inani

munere.


The Author's Notes:

1 The date is determined by Ovid Fast. I.587.

2 LIII.4.

3 Mon. Anc. VI.16‑21; C. I. L. IX.5809; Macrob. Saturn. I.12; Liv. Epit. 134.

4 "morbo proditor," Vell. II.83.

5 Velleius (II.91) and Dio (LIII.16) imply that the senatusconsult on this point was supplemented by a law of the Assembly.

6 "o pater, o genitor, o sanguen dis oriundum, tu produxisti nos intra luminis oras."

7 LIII.16. "Augustus" was translated in Greek by Σεβαστός, "venerated," but in Rome, as explained above, it had a richer and more varied connotation. The word is very rare in Latin until the first century B.C. Cicero uses it thirteen times, chiefly in the de Legibus.

8 Haverfield's ingenious linking up of the name with the use of Augº on Mark Antony's coins will be found in J. R. S.  (1915), V.249. For the connection of Augustus with Romulus see J. Gagé in Mél. de l'É. F. (1930), 130‑81. Contemporary Rome was alive to the augural connotation of the name; cf. Ovid. Fast. I.603‑4, and Virg. Aen. VII.153, where Servius explains "Augusta moenia regis" as "augurio consecrata."

9 Within the past decade there had been a Ciceronian revival. The de Legibus had been published, and copies of the de Republica had been multiplied. In September 30 B.C. Cicero's son became Octavian's colleague and "consul suffectus" and officially announced the death of Antony. Cf. Oltramare, "La réaction cicéronienne," in the Rev. des É. L. (1932).

10 Mon. Anc. I.37‑9; VI.21‑3. Some have argued, basing themselves on Ulpian, Dig. I.16 and Dio LIII.32, that Augustus was now invested with an overriding imperium over the senatorial provinces. But I share Professor McFayden's scepticism on this point (C. P., 1921, XVI.34‑7). The influence of Augustus in that sphere under the 27 B.C. arrangement was, I think, due to his general "auctoritas" and not to a specific grant.

11 "senatus censuit populusque jussit," Cic. pro Planc. XVII.42.º

12 After Tiberius there were no more technical "leges," save one or two after antiquarian emperors like Claudius and Nerva.

13 See p205 infra.

14 When he fell sick in 23 B.C. Augustus gave his reports and accounts to his fellow-consul, and he left them to the Senate at his death. See p156 infra.

15 Velleius sums up the official view of the reconstruction: "restituta vis legibus, judiciis auctoritas, senatui majestas, imperium magistratuum ad pristinum redactum modum . . . prisca illa et antiqua reipublicae forma revocata." II.89.

16 Dio LVI.33.

17 This seems clear from the Fifth Edict of Cyrene. These Edicts range in date from 7 to 4 B.C. and were first published by G. Oliverio in Notiziario Archeologico (1927), IV.

18 "Knowing what did actually result from any given act, it is easy to assume that it was part of the conscious purpose of the act, which is not always the case. Even if it is true that the restoration of the Republic was unreal, this is not of itself an adequate proof that Augustus meant it to be unreal or was entirely to blame for its unreality. Indeed, it can be shown that to a large degree the unreality was due to causes for which he was not in any way responsible." Marsh, Founding of the Rom. Emp., 219.

19 The different views may be summarized as follows: For the reality of the restoration the ancient authorities are Mon. Anc. VI.13, and Vell. II.89, and among the moderns, Ferrero, IV.135; E. Meyer, Kleine Schriften, 441‑92; Momms. Staatsr. II.747 sqq.; O. Hirschfeld, Die kaiserlichen Verwaltungsbeamten, 470; Marsh, op. cit., 219; Pelham, Essays, 31‑2; Hammond, The Augustan Principate, 4 sqq., That the restoration was a farce is the view, among ancient authorities, of Tacitus, Ann. III.28; Dio, LII.1; Strabo, XVII.3.25; followed, among moderns, by Gardthausen, N. J. cl. Alt. (1904), 214‑51; Dessau, Gesch. der röm. Kaiserwelt, I.39; Rostovtzeff, Soc. and Econ. Hist. of Rom. Emp., 38‑43, and Rice Holmes, II.180 n. An intermediate position is adopted by Mitteis, Röm. Privatrecht, 352; Schönbauer, Untersuchungen z. röm. Staats- und Wirtschaftsrecht, Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung, XLVII (1927), 264‑318; Kolbe, Von der Republik zur Monarchie (1931), 39‑65, and P. de Francisci, Storia del diritto romano, II.232 sqq.

20 Tacitus (Agric. 3) praised Nerva for having "reunited the principate with liberty," which shows that he did not regard the two things as incompatible.

21 Better perhaps "diarchy" as Gardthausen suggests (II.306 n.), on the analogy of δίθυρος and δίφθογγος.

22 de Rep. I.69.

23 "Augustus did not found a military tyranny or make the army the chief element in his empire. He did, to be sure, concentrate in his own hands the entire military strength of the state, but he did so as the servant of the state, and with a view to preventing the inroads upon the authority of the state, which occurred under the late Republic." Hammond, op. cit., 148; cf. Rostovtzeff, op. cit., 40.

24 Dio LIII.12.

25 The Controversiae of the elder Seneca preserve a few names of irreconcilables, mostly rhetoricians, like Titus Labienus and Cassius Severus.

26 Hadrian spent twelve out of the twenty‑one years of his reign in imperial progresses. Augustus visited every province except Sardinia and Africa.

27 Cf. Hor. Od. I.35; Propertius III.1.

28 Suet. Div. Aug. 66; for the relations of Gallus and Virgil see Ecl. VI and  X. Gallus may have been the author of the Ciris, traditionally ascribed to Virgil; cf. Skrutsch, Vergil und Gallus (1905). According to Servius the odd irrelevance of the second half of the fourth book of the Georgics is due to the fact that it was intended to close with a laudation of Gallus, but the view has obvious difficulties, for which see W. B. Anderson, C. Q. (1933), XXVII.

29 The malady was probably typhoid fever, for which cold compresses and cold baths were once considered the proper treatment.

30 Horace, the court poet, dedicated an ode to him (I.4) placed after odes to Maecenas and Augustus, which shows the political significance of the appointment.

31 Ulpian, DigI.4.1.

32 Dio LIII.32. For a different view from that taken above see McFayden, "The Princeps and the Senatorial Provinces," C. P. (1921), XVI.

33 Cf. the words in the Fifth Edict of Cyrene, ὅσην φροντίδα ποιούμεθα ἐγώ τε καὶ ἡ σύγκλητος.

34 Hirschfeld, Die kaiserlichen Verwaltungsbeamten, 468, quoted in C. A. H. X.181.

35 Hist. I.16.

36 A study of the Fasti shows the preponderance of aristocrats in high office. Cf. Marsh, The Founding of the Rom. Emp., 241‑2.

37 Cf. Tac. Ann. I.2.

38 Dio LIII.15.

39 VI.288.

40 Cf. Vell. II.79, "parendi . . ., sed uni, scientissimus, aliis sane imperandi cupidus." He tried to persuade Horace to celebrate his doings, Od. I.6.

41 Vell. II.93; Dio LIII.32; Suet. Div. Aug. 66; Tib. 10; Pliny N. H. VII.149.

42 Josephus understood the position, Ant. XV.10. The subject is fully discussed by Reinhold, op. cit., 167‑75.

43 Tac. Ann. I.3; C. I. L. V.7376.

44 Aen. VI.878‑86. The lines are untranslatable, but here is Mackail in prose and Dryden in verse:

"Alas his goodness, alas his antique honour, and right hand invincible in war! none had faced him unscathed in armed shock, whether he met the foe on foot, or ran his spurs into the flanks of his foaming horse. Ah poor boy! if thou mayest break the grim bar of fate, thou shalt be Marcellus. Give me lilies in full hands; let me strew bright blossoms, and these gifts at least let me lavish on my descendant's soul, and do an unavailing service."

"A new Marcellus shall arise in thee!

Full canisters of fragrant lilies bring!

Let me with funeral flowers his body strow;

The gifts which parents to their children owe,

This unavailing gift at least I may bestow!"


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