Ronald Mellor is Professor of Ancient History, University of California, Los Angeles. He has written several books of which the most recent is “Augustus and the Creation of the Roman Empire”, published in 2005. This book is a historical work on the Augustan Principate. The book provides a detailed account of Augustus and his principate, not only through narration by the author but by also quoting numerous writers and other experts. The main asset of this book is the large amount of primary sources included in the second part.
Octavian who headed the Roman Republic developed a system which left most of the real power to Octavian under the cover of ‘restoration of the republic’. He was the princeps or “first citizen” of the Republic and the governing system was known as the principate. Octavian came to be called Augustus and he enlisted the support of the upper classes. The Senate which elected magistrates, made laws and exercised important judicial functions was under the control of Augustus and hence had no real freedom.
Augustus was a good administrator and he successfully established rational government in the Italian provinces for the first time. The Augustan settlement indirectly established a monarchy with Augustus at the lead. Understanding that he needed more support Augustus built a coalition of supporters close to him. The Senate offered its counsel to Augustus. Under Augustus, the army became truly professional; men enlisted for twenty years and played an important role in bringing Roman culture to the provinces.
Roman culture was at its height during this time. The success of this system introduced by Augustus can be evaluated in its survival even through the reigns of incompetent emperors. The book by Ron Mellor discusses the development of Latin Literature under the patronage of Augustus who promoted the works of Livy, Horace and Virgil. Virgil’s epic poem, the Aeneid, portrayed Augustus as the second founder of Rome. Tacitus wrote a masterful history which borders on satire and Suetonius produced racy biographies of the emperors.
Some excerpts from these writers are included under primary resources in this book. The book also included details of Roman architecture which retained the basic construction techniques of the Greeks, but developed a semi-circular arch and concrete with which they were able to build structures of great size: the Colosseum, the baths and the Pantheon. The first two centuries of the Roman Empire were indeed a “golden age. ” The collection of primary sources included in this book offers multiple viewpoints of the rise, achievements, and legacy of Augustus and his empire.
Ronald Mellor has a fluent style of writing and is easy to read. The book is divided into two parts. The first part provides an introduction to the Roman Empire and how it was created and influenced by Augustus. In this section, the author traces the collapse of the Roman Republic, the rise of Octavian, the rise of Augustus as Princeps, the formation of the New Constitution, the creation of a new class of senators and equestrians, the social and religious reforms of the period and the state of the army during war and during peace.
This section also includes an overview of Italy and the various provinces, the imperial family and succession, all about Rome and the development of Latin Literature. The first part of the book ends with the death and legacy of Augustus and an evaluation of the contributions of Augustus. The second part includes a lot of primary documents that provide the views of the author in the first part with substantial evidence and support. The section is laid out in a creative manner – the traditional literary texts are mixed with a representative selection of legal and inscriptional documents. These primary sources provide readers with an opportunity to explore the information and also to investigate more details regarding the Roman period.
The Rise of Octavian is supported by documents such as “The Achievements of Augustus” by Augustus, 14 C. E; “On Julius Caesar’s Admiration for the Young Octavius” by Nicolaus of Damascus, “On the Ides of March: The Assassination of Julius Caesar” by Suetonius Second Century C. E. “On Octavian’s First Confrontation with Antony” by Appian, Second Century C. E. and “Letters Revealing his Views of Young Octavian” by Marcus Tullius Cicero, 44 B. C. E. Other primary source documents include works of Tacitus, Plutarch, Cassius Dio, Macrobius, Josephus, Gaius, Velleius Paterculus, Horace, Vergil, Vitruvius, Ovid, Strabo, Seneca, Pliny the Elder and Philo of Alexandria.
The Appendix section includes a glossary of Greek and Latin Terms, a chronology of events relating to Caesar Augustus and the Roman Empire (63 B. C. E. –1453 C. E. ), questions for consideration and selected bibliography. Thus, this book is truly valuable for anyone interested in studying and understanding the role of Augustus in the creation of the Roman Empire.