Week 5 (2/12 and 2/14)

Week 5: Republic to Empire

T, 2/12: Consequences of Conquest

  • Readings

R, 2/14 Augustus

 Class will not meet today due to instructor being out of town at a conference. Instead, you will all watch a documentary on Augustus and post your thoughts on the following question:

*** Was Augustus responsible for the fall of the Roman Republic?*** Use examples from the class lectures, the textbook, and especially  the documentary to support your response.

HERE IS THE PPT FOR LECTURE 7

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Published by tstabler

Professor of History at Loyola University of Chicago https://luc.academia.edu/TanyaStablerMiller http://luc.edu/history/people/facultyandstaffdirectory/millertanyastabler.shtml Twitter: @StablerTanya

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12 Comments

  1. While Augustus marked the official end for the Roman republic and the switch to dictatorship, I don’t think that he alone was the cause of it. Based on the lecture in class, the government was already extremely corrupt, and the idea of the republic was essentially a fallacy anyways. The republic, especially the senate, was filled with aristocratic families and only certain opinions were able to be openly voiced. Power was already guaranteed for a select few, and the only thing a person needed to do was to take advantage of the corruption and make their power last longer.
    The brokenness of the Republic is really shown through Caesar’s death in the senate. If the government is able to openly kill its leader in the middle of their workplace, there is likely something very wrong with the system. Octavian came into power knowing of the bloody dealings of Roman politics, and that he was likely a pawn. He saw this with the death of Caesar before him, and used his father’s death as a political advantage. The system in place gave him the opportunity to seize full control of the Roman government, he did not create the opportunity out of thin air. If Octavian were to try to come to power and seize it in the same way at a more stable point in Roman history, it would have sparked outrage. The unrest in Rome, the political corruption, and the desire of the people to be protected gave him a window, and he took it. He vanquished his political adversaries, and swiftly was able to take power and keep it without looking power hungry. I think that while Augustus was the hand that took down the Roman republic, it was in such a place where if it wasn’t Augustus, someone else would have done the same thing.

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  2. It’s hard to make an argument that Augustus led to the fall of Rome because Rome flourished under his leadership. It was rebuilt and its temples restores, the borders expanding to include Egypt, and the people were finally able to live in peace after decades of civil war. Augustus unified the republic, after the deaths of mark Antony and Cleopatra he had no foes, and the people loved him. But if you look at the long term impact Augustus had, it can be argued that Augustus lead to the fall of Rome. While he was a capable ruler, and the five Emperors after him also were very capable. But Augustus consolidated the power of the empire into one person, and when that power fell into the wrong hands later on there were no checks and balances to prevent the decline of Rome.

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  3. While the fall of the Roman republic often might be tied to the death of Caesar, it’s important to highlight the role that Octavius (Augustus) played in the transition of the republic. Augustus was, in a way, thrown into the mess that was Rome in the aftermath of Caesar’s assassination. After Caesar’s death, what exactly did Augustus do? Well, he went ahead and used his politically savvy brain to expertly defeat Mark Antony, and then form a makeshift alliance with him. As weak as this alliance was, it’s important to note that Augustus didn’t make the expected decision of humiliation. Rather, he was smart enough to try and form a connection with Antony that would be the start of the expansion of his power. I’d be willing to bet that the “old Rome” would’ve opted to punish Mark and be over with the whole process instead of conniving elaborate schemes to slyly extend their control. This contributes to the fall of the Republic by breaking away from what warriors tend to do, and in place of ending his life, Augustus made the decision to extend his reach over Roman territory by placing trust in Mark Antony and dividing control.
    Even though the alliance didn’t work out, Augustus was able to add to the chaos the Republic was already dealing with by slyly getting people to support him in his fight against Mark Antony. According to Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill (documentary), Augustus “said that what he’s doing is delivering Rome from the oppressor. Antony is the oppressor; Antony is the tyrant”. While it’s up for debate, Rome was a republic while it didn’t allow one single person to have full control over it. What Augustus was doing here was essentially eliminating his rival, and solidifying his position as the “lone ruler” of Rome. The minute that the public decided to listen to Augustus and rally against Mark Antony for his “traitorous” relations with Cleopatra, Rome slid away from being a republic and instantly started its path towards the Augustus dictatorship.
    While Rome may have had it’s issues before Augustus, one can firmly say that it still had a system that may have worked had Augustus not pushed the people around at their lowest moment. The aftermath of Caesar’s assassination was beyond chaotic, and Augustus’ decisions only pushed them further away from their ideal “republic” state. Augustus would later go on to make “executive decisions” (like the sexual relations he had in his attempts to bear a son) that would only further prove his intentions of solidifying Rome’s newfound status as a dictatorship. In the end, Augustus played a big role in Rome’s transition to being a dictatorship, and bore much of the responsibility for the fall of the Republic.

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  4. I do not believe Augustus was responsible for the fall of the Roman Republic, partially because I generally believe that nothing can be completely the fault of one person. The state of the republic was already filled with corruption and dishonesty. The actions of their leaders caused tension and disorder within their society. Cicero abused Antoni. Caesar adopted Octavian in exchange for sexual favors, and Augustus was an adulterer who preyed upon the wives and daughters of his enemies. The actions within the government were clear indications of instability. A government that calls for executions on their senators is by no means viable or sustainable. Antoni and Octavian also set out to divide the empire to eliminate opposition. These are the actions of a dictatorship. Later on, the introduction of Cleopatra into the Roman Republic also created tension among the Roman people. Cleopatra wanted Antoni to rebuild a republic in Rome that was centered around Egypt. This only increased tensions.
    Overall Augustus was not a very bad ruler. He was loved by the people, and he was viewed as a god. He had flaws in his character as did other men in power at the time, but I don’t think his flaws were great enough to cause the fall of the republic. I did not think it was right that he was actively lying to his people in many ways, but ultimately it did not cause the fall of republic. The series of events before Augustus caused tension and corruption. Augustus was simply another piece in the equation.

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  5. The fall of the Roman republic was mostly caused and heavily influenced by the previous leaders before Augustus. Caesar caused more problems within the republic (as Augustus declared himself first Roman emperor to fix the economic and political problems within the country) than Augustus ever did. As we talked about in class, Rome’s government was already in a corrupt state which contributed heavily to the downfall of the republic. Augustus wanted to bring peace and organization to Rome and was economically smart while making decisions to stabilize and strengthen the republic and to restore peace. While Augustus contributed to the downfall of the republic by coming into power and taking advantage of his father’s death, the economy and state of peace of Rome was too unbalanced to begin with that his efforts were not enough to truly restore the peace that Caesar’s dictatorship had destroyed by all of the violence and economic turmoil.

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  6. Augustus leadership transformed Rome from a democratic society to a near dictatorship rule, a process that could already be the cause of the fall of the Roman Republic as it fundamentally changes Rome. But Augustus cannot be the sole credit for the fall of the Roman Republic. As the state of Rome was already in some disarray from the corruption and unfair treatment of all citizens that resided and served Rome. But the numerous poisonous developments in the Roman society such as corruption, and unemployment also had a major role in its fall. This combined with the Germans defeating them in battle in some instances only weakened Augustus and the Roman Republic. With the failure and poor health of Augustus personal life, it was slow but sure decline of power. All these issues and several others combined to create the fall of the Roman Republic, it would be short sited to only place the blame on Augustus.

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  7. I feel as though the fall of the republic of the Roman republic was going to happen no matter what, but Augustus was the last straw that broke the republic’s back. From the lecture that the Roman republic was already in decline and continuing to become more corrupt. For example how the very senate assassinated Caesar in order to remove him from power is how shaky the republic stood at the time. The over-reliance of slaves is an example of how the gap between the rich and poor is beyond unbalanced. This was due to the excess amount of citizens not being able to pay debt and keep up with taxation. The state of the Republic was torn with civil war and Augustus took the opportunity to wipe out his political enemies even if at the cost of committing adultery with other people’s wives to gain information. Augustus went great lengths to secure his position of power and was afraid of becoming the very thing he was working against, and that was becoming corrupt just like everyone else before him. There was a fine line where he wanted to protect his people, but not wanting too much so that it would lead to a corrupt leader. Augustus was able to turn a corrupt republic into a monarchy.

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  8. I do not believe that Augustus was the cause of the fall of the Roman Republic. Ultimately, he was the spark that ignited a Roman uprise. At this point in Rome, there was a Crisis: both the independent tribunes and the independent military led the Republic to ruins. While the Republic was supposed to incorportate everyone, this meaning rich white men, the Senate was the aristocrats who really held power. After the death of Julius Caesar, Octavian was the one chosen to take over the Republic. The documentary mentioned that although he was the next in line, Mark Antony was already in Rome, taking the place of Caesar and seeking revenge on his death. Down the road, the Battle of Actium fought between Octavian and Mark Antony, took place and Octavian was victorious.
    Once returning to Rome, it was his time to rule the corrupt city. He offered peace, cheap food, and gifts to the people of Rome. Octavian also started taking initiatives. For example, he ordered the Tiber to be cleaned and improved the water supply. He became Augustus, founder of the Pax Romana, Roman Peace. With this peace came new towns, bars, roads, theaters, and bridges. Rome became a place where trade thrived, and agriculture flourished. This was needed in the empire after all the time of government decline and civil war. Augustus was able to completely flip a city and empire that was in trouble to one of prosperity.
    Even though his rule turned into a dictatorship, people did not seem to mind because he was a man of positive change. In the end, the fall of the Republic was necessary for Augustus to rule and he was not the cause, he was the savior.

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  9. I personally think that Augustus was not responsible for the whole fall of the Roman Republic. I think after Caesar was assasinated, he did his best at taking over Rome while not seeming like he was a tyrant like Caesar. He fixed up the government and also avenged Caesar’s death by teaming up with Anthony for a bit. I think he made it so it seemed like it was more of a ‘fixing the empire’ in a different way than for Caesar. He often gifted citizens and his army with money and other things. The Roman Republic was already falling apart and Octavian did his best to scrape things up together.
    I feel like Octavian could of left the empire in better hands before dying though by failing to choose a heir/successor because he was too selfish and wanted his own bloodline. Unlike Caesar where he basically groomed Octavian and adopted him, Octavian tried to get his own bloodline by forcing Julia, his daughter, to bore him children. If he groomed a specific person to see his way of ruling Rome, maybe things would have went better.

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  10. The Roman Republic was far too plagued by corruption before Augustus took advantage of his political stature to secure himself as the first emperor of Rome. Although Augustus did play a large part in the fall, through his military dictatorships, the reality was that Rome was in no way a well-functioning democracy before. Rather, years before Rome fell its systems were in disarray and functioned more like an oligarchy than anything else.

    Rather than blame Augustus for the fall, the major shortcomings of the state before must be examined. Most importantly was the increased power of the extremely well off, the patricians, which used tribunes as a way to put forth their political agendas – not those that were necessarily best for the state. Patricians did this by exploiting a flaw in the republics system. It was well known that most tribunes had the ultimate goal of becoming consuls, the only way to elevate – through nominations – to this position, however, was by appealing to the Senate’s wishes – or risk face political exile or even death. Unchecked power in the Senate allowed patricians to take actions that, inevitably, caused the government to become unrepresentative of the people.

    A massive influx of slaves was another reason Rome fell. Aristocrats were able to buy slaves and have them work their farms, which put many roman farmers out of work. However, the only people who had the power to enact laws to protect the people were too invested in their own self-interests, not the states, to care. This led to another catalyst, the formation of private armies. Issues important to the people were not being resolved by the patricians, so when citizens who had lost everything to slaves were offered land by Marius and Sulla, they had no option but to join. This, again, was the result only of unchecked power of the aristocrats – Marius and Sulla, which led to a civil war, with neither side fighting for the Republic of Rome but their interests alone.

    Further, Julius Caesar death had a large part to play in the fall of the Republic. Although Caeser’s rule was a dictatorship, the Senate allowed it to happen and go on for a year, until senators realized they were not reaping the same benefits as they did when Caesers was not in power and therefore assassinated him – under the guise of preserving the republic. Caeser’s death was a huge red flag, a well-oiled machine would not allow this.

    Not long after the assassination, after beating Antony and Cleopatra in a final war, Octavian became the leader of Rome and really gave the people what they wanted. He was, without any doubt, all-powerful and had complete control in Rome, illuminated, especially, in disarming the Senate, while personally hoarding all the weapons. Regardless, he restored something the Romans did not have for a very long time, peace. Further, he gave Romans something to be proud of by restoring the monuments and the general image of his empire(“given brick and turned it too marble”). It seems after Crassus and Caeser, the paradigm changed and the reality of a single ruler in Rome became evident. This ruler could have been Antony, it could have been almost anybody, Octavian just happened to gain control by removing his competition. It would be unfair to place the blame for the fall of him, completely.

    Although Augustus was revered as a god by many, an image he worked hard to manufacture, he was not free of mortal constraints. He implemented many laws to “restore traditional family values”(documentary) – “how imperative it is if the world should obey you, there should be a flourishing race of ours”(Augustus). However, he was broke these values far too often to not be called a hypocrite. Regardless, these foibles, again, in no way shift the fall to him.

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  11. The Roman Republic gradually fell over time as seen in leaders such as Gaius Marius. As we spoke about in class, one was supposed to sit on consul for a year, yet his dates were for seven years. “Small” defiance’s of the republic such as these is what led to the eventual downfall. This fact followed by his radical policies and his control gained with success in war led to his sway and role as a dictator. His motive being for self-gain and prosperity for his personal aspirations. Augustus, in contrast, took time and gained the people’s support and unity. He rejoined the military under one allegiance in order to restore organization both politically and socially. While in the end, he lived up to the definition of an autocrat, the people looked up to their leader and continued to praise him once he stepped down. He contributed to the downfall of the Republic, however, he did not fail as a Roman leader.

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  12. Augustus was not responsible for the fall of the Roman republic, but the rulers before and after were the ones responsible. Before Augustus became the emperor, Rome was already corrupt and in wrong hands. Augustus loved Cease so he faouvht Antony to conquer Greece,which then made Rome the biggest empire. Although Augustus won the battle people feared that he would hold a dictatorship and take advantage of the people and Rome. Instead he gave money and gifts to the citizens of Rome. While Augustus was the emperor the empire was happy and in good hands, but after he died everything just fell apart. So it’s not really Augustus’s fault that the empire had a downfall,but the rulers after were the ones that ruined everything. Power can be in ones hands and still be used in a good way. In this case Augustus used the power he had intelligently, but others after him abused the power. Overall, Augustus was not responsible for the downfall of the Roman republic.

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