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Res Gestae


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(of Augustus). Augustus left four documents with the Vestals to be read, after his death, in the senate. One of these was a record of his achievements, in the style of the claims of the triumphātōrēs (see triumph) of the Roman past, which was to be erected on bronze pillars at the entrance to his mausoleum in the Campus Martius. This is known to us from a copy, updated after Augustus' death, which was piously affixed (with a Greek translation) in front of the temple of Rome and Augustus at Ancyra, capital of Galatia and therefore centre of the imperial cult of the province. Small fragments of other copies have been found at Apollonia and Antioch near Pisidia (also in Galatia); it is likely that copies were widely set up in the provinces.

As it stands, the document seems to have been composed immediately before Augustus' death, but it certainly existed in some form in ad 13. It makes remarkable claims for the legality and constitutional propriety of Augustus' position, and plays down a number of considerations, relating esp. to the period before Actium, which might be seen less favourably.

It emphasizes, first, the honours bestowed on Augustus by the community; second, the expenses incurred by Augustus, as a great benefactor; third, the military achievements of the age and esp. the imperium and personal glory of Augustus. A final summary of the position justifies the resulting auctōritās and dwells on the conferment by all of the title Pater Patriae. This is a record in the tradition of self‐advertisement used by great men under the republic, and not a royal manifesto; it omits anything which might suggest an unconstitutional overall guidance of Roman decision‐making, and is not a complete record of either his legislation or his administrative innovations. The document illustrates very well the speciously libertarian traditionalism which Tacitus so deftly punctures in the opening chapters of his Annals; but it is also a very important source for much detail not provided elsewhere.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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