'Masterly' - Robert Harris, author of Imperium
'Essential reading for anyone interested in Ancient Rome' Independent
Caesar Augustus schemed and fought his way to absolute power. He became Rome's first emperor and ruled for forty-four years before dying peacefully in his bed. The system he created would endure for centuries.
Yet, despite his exceptional success, he is a difficult man to pin down, and far less well-known than his great-uncle, Julius Caesar. His story is not always edifying: he murdered his opponents, exiled his daughter when she failed to conform and freely made and broke alliances as he climbed ever higher. However, the peace and stability he fostered were real, and under his rule the empire prospered. Adrian Goldsworthy examines the ancient sources to understand the man and his times.
Historian and biographer Goldsworthy (Caesar) showcases his deep knowledge of Ancient Rome in this masterful document of a life whose themes still resonate in modern times. Augustus, heir to Julius Caesar and architect of the pax romana, receives a detailed examination of his quasi-mythic public life; one that "speaks of immense and highly focused ambition, and of great political skill, but also of luck." A strong narrative emphasis ties the work together and is enriched by evocative details of Roman life, whether it be bathing practices, voting tendencies, or the contemporary significance of Virgil. Readers may be surprised to find ancient precedents for still-visible cultural phenomena, such as the celebrity status accorded to politicians, public delight in scandal, and leadership "constantly reinforced by... propaganda." Similarly, those attuned to contemporary politics may appreciate Augustus's struggle to initiate a unified Roman order and peace in the fallout of a failing state beset by civil war, political division, and corruption. Despite the work's density, the overall effect that Goldsworthy generates is of meeting a man whose life seems hardly distant from the modern experience. While ancient cultural practices can often feel foreign, the political motivations and machinations, the familial relations and emotions, ring as true today as at the turn of the Common Era. Maps.