The Age of Augustus (Blackwell Ancient Lives) Paperback – 19 Apr 2007
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"Eck has produced a second edition of The Age of Augustus good news, especially as this is not just the same lucid book of 2003 with additional bibliography, but has a new chapter, a section on the German wars, and new illustrative material, growing by more than forty pages." ( Greece & Rome , 2008) Praise for the first edition: [Eck s] narrative (in this fine translation) is readable, rarely obscure and fluently glosses difficult terms and concepts in a way that obviates the need for a glossary. Moreover, he skillfully handles difficult constitutional matters without confusing the beginner, points out controversial issues, and marks his divergences with current scholarly opinion. (Bryn Mawr Classical Review) The book provides a narrative of Augustus achievements and expenditures on behalf of the Roman res publica Eck is of course a recognized authority. He is the pre–eminent Roman administrative historian, prosopographer, and epigraphist of our time. (The Classical Journal)
From the Back Cover
This concise biography tells the extraordinary story of Augustus, Rome s first monarch. It traces the history of the Roman revolution and Rome s transformation from a republic to an empire.
Werner Eck provides a vivid narrative of Augustus rise to power. From the war against the assassins of Julius Caesar to his struggle against Antony and Cleopatra, this book describes the key aspects of Augustus reign and the expansion of his empire.
This updated edition includes a stemma of Augustus family, new information on the monuments of the Augustan period, a new chapter on legislation, a section on the Augustan wars against the German tribes, and additional maps and illustrations. Organized chronologically and according to specific topics, The Age of Augustus is an ideal resource for anyone approaching the subject for the first time.See all Product description
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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.
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Octavian established power through his legions - settling them, against precedent, within Italy - thus gaining a broad clientele that thought militarily. Public opinion turned against Antony once he named Cleopatra "Queen of Kings" and after it was discovered that he had left Roman territories to her children in his will. In order to avoid a civil war, the Senate declared war on Cleopatra and sent Octavian to defeat both of them. He effectively cut off Antony's supply line across the Adriatic and Antony's soldiers and the eastern kings in his coalition began defecting. The summer brought an outbreak of disease in Antony's camp and come August his troop strength was halved. Octavian decided to make a stand at Actium and a naval battle was fought. Popular belief (and "popular history") holds that he was shocked that his "lover," Cleopatra, had fled the battle and, heartbroken, he sailed after her, abandoning his troops. This completely ignores the historical record and Eck writes that Antony sought "an encounter as a means of fleeing - a decision that may seem paradoxical, but in fact made perfect sense. He did not intend to seek victory, as is evident from the fact that his ships carried large sails, which would only have been in the way in a pitched battle. Antony's actual goal was to break through the blockade and flee." Afterwards, Octavian was able to negotiate favorable conditions with Antony's remaining troops, furthering his base of power.
By now the Roman populace was completely exhausted following two decades of civil war, and men in power remembered the Republic as "no longer living experience, but merely hollow shells." Octavian and his political friends decided that in order to establish their power they had to restore, in name, the old Republic. He initially relinquished his power but the Senate was now also powerless and Octavian remained consul while retaining command of the provinces - the real source of power - and his imperium did not require any additional titles. In 28 and 27 BC, when the Senate celebrated the "restoration of the Republic," this was actually true viewed against the past two decades. In effect, much of Octavian's reforms were to change things by making them stay the same - by reviving Republican traditions under his monarchical rule. Eck writes that "even this apparently conservative epoch is marked by profound change."
Octavian chose for himself the name Imperator (Gaius Julius) Caesar Augustus and instituted slow reforms that were only complete near the end of his life. Later emperors based their powers chiefly on his legal precedents and even took his name - which was initially merely that - and turned its components into a title. At the end of his 45 year rule there were no longer any members of the Senate who hadn't served under a Princeps, and to try to undo or reverse this would create a power vacuum resulting in a civil war.
The German historian Eck's narrative is rather dry but his book is effective, and efficient in its brevity, in recounting the main events and achievements during Augustus' long reign. The main reason for the book's conciseness is that Eck provides little background information or context to the Roman polity, as well as to the key figures that shaped the world from which Augustus emerged. For this reason, the reader would profit by reading a book about Rome around this period(perhaps a biography of Julius Caeser) to better understand the conflicts between political factions and learn about men like Sulla, Pompey, Antony, Cicero and Caeser himself, who were at the center during this tumultuous time in Rome's history.