Augustus The Mighty Saviour Of Rome

2043 words - 9 pages

Augustus first came to power after many years of bloodshed and civil war, and the Roman people longed for peace and the stabilization of society. It will be shown that Augustus achieved this goal through a series of religious, moral, and political reforms, and in doing so, legitimized and strengthened his own position in the transition from republic to empire.
Before considering the role that Augustus played in the religion of Rome, we must first look to the situation that led to Augustus reviving religion and the traditional ways. The last hundred years of the republic was full of revolution, civil war and proscriptions, a period of complete anarchy (Halliday 1922: 132). The republic had ...view middle of the document...

With his rule in place, Augustus went about reaffirming the mos maiorum, he did so by paying attention to cult and ritual, restoration of the temples, and moral legislation (Chisholm 1981: 149). It was not Augustus’ intention to have the Roman public brainwashed into religion, more accurately, he wished to harness the people’s mood for change and direct it toward a new beginning for Rome, the result being positive acceptance of his new regime (Ogilvie 1969:113). Augustus involved himself heavily in religious affairs; he was a member of all four of the states’ major priestly colleges and had an unprecedented accumulation of priesthoods, eventually accepting the role of Pontifex Maximus (Galinsky 2012: 78). “The Pontifices had powerful authority over the most important matters of state. They could not be punished nor held accountable by the senate or people when it concerned religious matters” (Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities 2.73.1, 2). In essence, being appointed Pontifex Maximus gave Augustus full control over religion in Rome, accelerating his efforts to restore traditional religious values (Everitt 2006: 269). As Suetonius tells us, Augustus used his power to revive “certain religious obsolescent rites and appointments” (Suetonius, Augustus 31). One such revival was the restoration of the Arvales, to which Augustus invented sundry posts as occupations for senators (Syme 1980: 100). Most priesthoods were largely populated with the same elite as the senate and magistrates, so these appointed ‘priests’ used religion as a political tool (Vanderspoel 2014: 236). Augustus ended the decision making role that the colleges had traditionally played in the past, thus stemming patrician political influence within this religious position (Libeschuetz 1979: 63).

The Roman people believed in creating a state of equilibrium with the gods called the Pax deorum, in which, divine protection was given in return for correctly performed ritual (Bendlin 2014: 194). Rome had allowed its pontiffs, flamens, and augurs to take over the rituals and ceremonies, worshippers were left confident that the pax deorum was being preserved, so people ceased to attend festivals or even take part (Bailey 1932: 173). Religion in the late republic was affected by the breakdown of Roman institutions (Liebeschuetz 1979: 39) and the people blamed the misfortunes of Rome on this communication breakdown of the pax deorum. This is shown in the poetry of Horace, who states that “[The Roman people had] neglected the gods, [so] they [had] heaped on Italy many grievous calamities, [the only way to rectify this was to] restore the temples and crumbling shrines” (Horace, Odes 3.6.1-20, 33-43). To help in the repair of Roman religion, Augustus started a program of rebuilding the temples and shrines, “building eighty-two in his sixth year as consul” (Velleius, The Acts of Augustus 4.20-21). The rebuilding of the temples also enabled Augustus to rewrite the history of the monuments...

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