Topic#6: Augustus, The Deeds of the Divine Augustus
The Res Gestae was written by Augustus shortly before his death in 14 AD. It gives details about his life and many achievements as the first Roman emperor. The main purpose of the Res Gestae was for Augustus to preserve the memory of himself as a great emperor whose achievements transformed Rome into a great empire. The original was transcribed onto a pair of bronze pillars in Rome following his death but it didn’t survive. There is a copy that exists in Ankara, Turkey in front of a temple for Augustus.
The structure of the Res Gestae is mainly topical with a few parts being structured chronologically. In the Res Gestae Augustus mainly emphasizes his political career, the money he spent from his own fund on the Roman Empire, and his military achievements. Augustus details the many political offices he held and the honors bestowed upon him by the senate. (1-14) He discusses how he gave his own money to soldiers and to building projects. (15-24) He also details his war victories, expansion of the Roman Empire, and the many alliances he made with other nations. (25-33)
Since Augustus is the author of the Res Gestae, a document about his life and achievements as emperor, it is unrealistic to expect it to be objective. Throughout the Res Gestae, Augustus mentions the many times he was honored and offered positions which he turned down for the sake of his colleagues. It is obvious that Augustus wants to present a certain image of himself as a pious and selfless ruler. Therefore, we can’t expect Augustus to mention any of his shortcomings or failures that might contradict this image of himself that he wanted to present. Augustus omits anyth...
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...hievements and he leaves out any of his failures and shortcomings as emperor. He also frames every event in a way that makes him look good. Due to this, the document seems more like propaganda than a sincere reflection of his life to someone who knows about the history of his life as emperor. It doesn’t seem like Augustus’s intentions were for it to be a sincere reflection on his life, it seems more like propaganda to make him look good because it leaves out events that may reflect negatively on him. If Augustus had sincerely reflected on his life, I would have expected him to include his failures as well as his achievements. He might have mentioned things that he regrets and wishes he had done differently in his life. However, Augustus chose to only include events that make him look good. Therefore, the document seems more like propaganda to me.
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