on 16 November 2009
If you are looking for a concise, clever and innovative account on both the reign and age of Augustus, then this is the book for you. Eck is a peerless historian on Rome and this work really packs a punch in terms of what it acheives. First it provides a comprehensive overview of the era, no mean feat in itself, but also seeks to challenge established ideas on Augustus too. Not least of all Eck seeks to deconstruct some of the myth that surrounds Augustus.
The first myth that Eck tries to dismantle is the extent to which Augustus' role was constitutional and built upon traditional roles. Eck challenges this and actually looks to see Augustus' assumption of the roles and statuses as something radical - perhaps using the terminology of the res publica but giving it new meaning. This is a fascinating argument providing an extension of the groundwork laid by historians such as Syme in the "Roman Revolution" and also challenging the general consensus amongst Roman Historian's who seem to take Augustus word a little too literally when it comes to the restoration of the republic. The argument has considerably merit and is well handled in a work that is so short.
In keeping with the above Eck also looks at Augustus' relationship with the military, often underplayed as a source of his power, Eck looks at how Augustus often used the threat of coercion to acheive his means either as a young man and Caesar's heir through to when he held proconsular imperium. The enjoyment from this work is perhaps derived from the deconstruction of the Augustan myth, though Eck is quick to point out that Augustus was perhaps acting in way that his peers would have acted and equally that his acheivements as a statesman were unrivalled.
That aside the chapter on the German Wars, the succession are enjoyable in their own right. For those looking for an engaging and entertaining introduction to Augustus, this book is well worth reading.