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Augustus Essay

1470 words - 6 pages

Augustus and His Success in Creating a Strong and Religious State


Throughout his life, Augustus, the first emperor of Rome and self-proclaimed “restorer of the Republic”, sought to improve society. After a disastrous century of disorder, internal turmoil and a political system that was ultimately unsatisfactory for the empire, Augustus attempted to formulate a new Roman government and way of life. He believed that the degradation of Rome was due in large part to a “breakdown in religious tradition as well as political and moral order. Old rites had been forgotten, old temples were allowed to crumble in neglect, and the gods were angry with this”. Augustus attempted to renew peace and stability in Rome through political and moral legislation, at the heart of which was the revival of traditional Roman religion in the state. He believed that the order and prosperity needed so desperately by the Romans relied on the thoughtful fulfillment of religious rites; that is, religious duties to the gods. There were several principle ways in which Augustus sought to reemphasize the traditional religion of Rome. By the reconstruction of public religion and public monuments, the regulation of private behavior, and the emergence of literature which extolled the virtues of piety and morality, Augustus was successful in pressing religion into service in the state, and as a result, renewed a Roman sense of pride, peace and prosperity.

Augustus’ first task in the religious revival of Rome was the restoration of public monuments, namely, the temples of the gods. Aside from appeasing the gods, the refreshed temples proclaimed a sense of renewed Roman faith. Augustus also commissioned the construction of certain monuments to further encourage traditional Roman religion. One such monument was the Ara Pacis Augustae, an elaborate marble altar replete with symbols and meanings that Augustus was trying to propagate in the public, and which celebrated Augustus and his successful domination of much of the known world. It included scenes of religious rites, processionals, Augustus and his family, (thus demonstrating his own piety), as well as conveying a sense of peace and Roman pride. The revitalization of Rome’s religious buildings was an enormous step in the religious revival of the Empire, and the healthy condition of the shrines confirmed for observers the healthy condition of the state as restored by Augustus. Word of this achievement was widespread; coins spread throughout the empire depicting the refreshed and attractive monuments. Ancient Roman coins were often used to convey political ideals, and Augustus “turned this tradition to his own purposes by stamping significant types on the coins such as ‘peace’ and ‘victory’”. Augustus not only commissioned coins which spread word about his achievements, but also those which associated him with the gods-gods which he was making such an effort to revive. Many coins depict pictures or symbols...

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