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On the Life of Augustus: Cassius Dio

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The Roman History is a huge and famed work concerning the development of the Roman empire from the early republic to his own day in the post Antoine world. It is history’s main source of information on many central issues in Roman politics and intellectual history. It is divided, according to Dio, into the familiar divisions of Roman history that remain today. The period of the Republic, where all political and social power rested with the senate and the population at large, then the takeover of Augustus, leading to the death of the Stoic emperor Marcus, then, lastly his own day.

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Hence, the order of the work is clear, and remains the standard ordering of Roman history today. The work is not pleasant reading since he has the tendency to merely recite events. He appears at the opposite of Herodotus in this respect. Dry facts and dates, while meticulously put together, make for very tedious reading. Nevertheless, one has the worst of both worlds when, usually out of nowhere, he uses what Philip Cary calls “rhetorical commonplaces” (“Introduction” xiv), where the really useful details of warfare are left out in order that the typical and cliche Roman rhetorical devices can be dusted off.

What needs to be noted early on is that Dio was a senator. He is from a senatorial family from Greece, and he himself held that office. He was a historian and a lifelong civil servant. Hence, there are two biases from his state: a Greek background and, importantly, a class status of high patrician, or a Senator, that one might expect to lead him into anti-empire descriptions, since the empire was built on the increasing irrelevance of the Senate. Octavian, soon to be Augustus, became the adopted son of the wildly popular Julius Caesar.

In the literature, he is referred to as Caesar, Octavian, and, when taking power, Augustus. This can be confusing to the reader. He very quickly sought to take action to claim the throne. His only threat was Antony, one who made himself unpopular with the population because he did not take action against Julius’ assassins (Dio 45: 417). Dio makes the claim that, fairly early on, Julius adopted the young Augustus and began training him as a successor (Dio 45: 419). Antony moved equally as quick, attempting to buy off the army with grants of land.

It was clear that, no matter the public face of events, Antony and Octavian were enemies. Only one man could run the empire over the long term. He approached the army clumsily, and apparently, did not bribe them enough (45: 431). Most soon tool Caesar’s side against Antony. Brutus, the murderer of Julius, was governor of Gaul. He did not trust Antony, and hence, Antony’s pleas to him went unheeded. Ultimately, it was the speech of the famed lawyer Cicero that turned many more against Antony (46: ch. 5). Nevertheless, Antony still had powerful supporters.

Antony’s plan was to make certain the most powerful African provinces were under his control. Brutus in Gaul, however, was backed by the Senate. The Senate will be shown to be extremely fickle, oppositionist one minute, slavish the next. This becomes one of Dio’s most harsh condemnations of his own class. The wording of Dio’s attacks speaks of a highly emotional appeal. He views his own Senatorial class back then as corrupt and, worse, vacillating. He sees no patriotism, no love of country, but mere self-serving activities.

Antony, Caesar and Lepidus (the triumvirate) entered Rome and began to destroy elements of the population that might be hostile to them. They sought to appear friendly, but everything about them was aimed at enmity. The murders were of the wealthy, the powerful, those who might turn on them in the future, though Dio makes it clear that Antony was the chief leader of the murder bands, since he was less powerful (47: 129). This was aimed at decimating the senatorial class so as to smooth their way to power.

Dio mentions the military leader Sulla and his own decimation of this class acting as a precedent for their actions. Roman politics can be reduced to battles between the senatorial class and the emperor, supported by the army. Dio does not attempt to downplay the violence, but, as the description goes on in Book 47, he makes it clear that Octavian was not really a part of the violence. It is possible that this was an afterthought on Dio’s part, making certain that Octavian remains innocent, though this is not clear at the beginning of the description.

Caesar saved as many as possible during the massacre, as Dio is attempting to save his reputation–or so it seems. Antony was to gain power by any means necessary, this Dio makes clear. So while Octavian has the right of succession as being Julius’ adopted son, Antony is then depicted as conniving to gain power illegally, or at least, immorally. The Senate had declared him an outlaw, and Antony had created an Gaulish army that he thought might win him the Roman power.

Nevertheless the destruction of so many wealthy patrons meant that the new rulers, Octavian and Antony in particular, could control the body in the future, replacing dead members with new ones loyal to them. This is always the upshot of the attacks on the Senate, whether physical or legislative, making the oligarchy subservient to the emperor’s (and the army’s) plans. Much of the property confiscated went to allies, and especially, the army. This is yet another recurring theme: paying off the army with lands from conquered peoples is central to effective political rule in Rome.

Dio is honest about the implications of this all-important policy. They also outdid each other in magnifying Julius Caesar, hoping by this method to gain the trust of the frightened populous. Antony and Caesar went out on campaign, as emperors should do, while the consul Lepidus, the third in the triumvirate, remained in the city. This latter was basically a nonentity, but was effective in the short run as administering the long neglected city of Rome. The senate was suspicious of Caesar, since he was growing in popularity.

Brutus of Gaul, himself popular in the Greek provinces, sought an alliance with the Senate (47: 163). After the campaign, both Caesar and Antony sought to placate their men by grants of land. Only the consul was nervous, and he was soon to be dispatched. Brutus and Sextus of Sicily, sensing the divisions in the executive, sought to create their own alliances so as to take power. This will be dealt with later. Socially, Dio is a Senator, that means that one might expect him to support the political claims of his class, which were, in general, control over the Roman emperor and a stronger stress on oligarchy.

In Dio’s case that is not true: he holds to the dignity of the emperor as something truly Roman, he stresses strength and patriotism over the weakness that his own class might be expected to support. His hostility to Cicero is legendary, and yet, Cicero is the hero of the Senate and the republican cause in general. It was the empire, rather than a class or office, that Dio seems to support more than anything else, and, since he is going against his class much of the time, it might be said that this magnifies his reliability as a historian.

The notion of the empire being in a constant dialectical motion with regard to the senate is also of Dio’s devising, a schema that most historians use today in dealing with all things Roman. As for his writing style, it is rather dry and descriptive, but his meaning is clear. In his dealings with the killing of Brutus (48: pg. 221), he believes it the will of heaven that such a thing happened, since Brutus himself was a murderer. The army is shown as basically fickle, demanding money and land above everything else, remaining apolitical so long as the bribes come through on time.

In Augustus’ case, the army was a problem in the early years of the diumvirate with Antony, since the Senate backed Caesar rather than Antony, rightly viewing the future Augustus as being less bloodthirsty that his rival, now taking over Africa, a place that Antony will soon make his base, and the food source of the empire itself. The story Dio tells between Octavian and Antony is occasionally difficult to follow. Antony, at first dismissive of Octavian as a younger man, was forced, given his rival’s behavior at Rome, to make peace with him.

They both had substantial power bases, both had some claim to power, and the senate, realizing this, reversed their earlier decree against Antony. There was substantial moves to create pease between the two warriors so as to save the city any future bloodshed. Nevertheless, Octavian needed to continually placate the army, the “bad guy” in Dio’s narrative, and in order to do this there must be an eviction of many Italians to make way for the land allotments for 10,000 former soldiers. Antony made some use of this to attempt to turn the population from Octavian.

Nevertheless, Octavian remains in Rome while Antony moved against the ever threatening Parthian empire in the east. Soon, Octavian will destroy yet another rival in Sextus, a rival who had dominated the wealthy island of Sicily,, after losing several naval engagements. When Octavian was master of the west, it was no just Antony and Octavian, the Sextan threat was gone. (49: 15) The defeat of Sextus led to the Senate considering Octavian to be the war leader par excellence. Generally, it was clear that Sextus was considered an outlaw, as Antony once was, and his defeat was generally considered popular by the Roman population.

Sextus was using the powerful and strategic island of Sicily in order to control Rome thourgh the manipulation of grain supplies coming from Egypt. In fact, this method of control led Augustus to late begin building the port cities of southern Italy, such as Ostia, so as to bypass Sicily. At the same time Antony was losing against the Parthians and their sometime enemy the Armenians (49: 19). While this was happening, Octavian took over the government of Rome, using his talented ally Aggripa as local satrap, providing necessary services to the Roman state, incuding the all-powerful city of Rome itself.

Antony began creating an “eastern empire” for himself–and is now married to Cleopatra–still, it should be noted, while married to Octavian’s sister, something that caused some problems with the always self-righteous Senate. Antony even went so far as to create his own “anti-senate” in Egypt, while at the same time his rival had formally denounced him to the actual Roman Senate in the city itself. Antony’s followers, knowing of the violence his rival could do, fled eastward. The Roman world was apparently split in two.

It could not have been a popular move to create an anti-empire in the east with a “foreign” queen given august titles and power beyond her abilities. (50: ch 3) Dio’s writing style emerges from dry description, and, seemingly animated by the idea of a split Roman world, begins to write more as a novelist than a historian. This is a change for the better. Naval warfare won the day for Octavian. While massive forces were arrayed in Greece, the battle of Acitum led to an victory for Octavian’s forces, since the fleet of Antony, not inconsiderable, was trapped, and their attempt to move outward was defeated by Octavian.

Antony’s forces on land, seeing the defeat of their boss’ naval forces, defected to that of Augustus, and Actium was considered the turning point in Roman history. (Dio 51). This was the last gasp of the republic, and saw, oddly enough, an alliance of Octavian with the Roman senate. Maybe not so odd, since the Roman population as a whole was outraged by the creation of an anti-empire, giving the eastern lands away to a Grecian queen, Cleopatra. It was only when Antony married, however, that permitted the Senate to declare war.

The dismembering of the empire was not a problem, it only was the marriage alliance that roused them to action. Dio here has no mercy on his fellow senators. Octavian as a military leader is laid out in some detail in book 53. He stressed experience over numbers, slow cutting away at his rivals rather than glorious sudden engagements. Being the ward of Julius Caesar paid off. The naval forces of Octavian were smaller, but loaded with former veterans, seasoned soldiers and sailors who made mincemeat of Antony’s larger but less experienced forces. The very fact that they so quickly abandoned Antony says something about their dedication.

The point now was to take the power given to him, and use it wisely. Few thought the republic was worth saving, and, given the divisions in the empire, it was time to heal, and to create a unified state where the wealthy would have a check placed on their ambition. (Dio, 53 chapters 1 and 2). Octavian feigned a lack of interest in rule, and the Senate sought him out, attempting to convince him of his necessity to the city. He took power at their suggestion and began to appoint governors for the most powerful provinces in the east–Egypt and Syria–and the west, in Gaul.

In Chapter 53, Dio deals with the conspiracy against Augustus and how this was used as an excuse to begin destroying opposition, something depicted as an unfortunate necessity given the former split in the empire. Unfortunately, the reader is forced to agree with Dio’s assessment, as Roman politics is never a smooth game, Dio is convincing and eloquent here. Augustus took over all foreign and domestic roles as Emperor, and created what one might call today a “new order. ” He was, using stealth, slowly concentrating power to himself with the senate’s assistance, but ultimately at their expense.

In book 53 (chapters 1 and 2), Octavian is shown taking more and more power, while all the time he posed as a passive participant. His wild popularity with the people made it possible for him to take full power while retaining the trappings of republicanism, and it is in their ruse that Dio makes the single most famous element of Octavian’s rule. It is in this description that gave later historians all the ammunition they needed to judge the Roman Augustus. Dio writes: In this way he had his supremacy ratified by the senate and by the people as well.

But as he wished even so to be thought democratic, while he accepted all the care and oversight of the public business, on the ground that it required some attention on his part, yet he declared he would not personally govern all the provinces, and that in the case of such provinces as he should govern he would not do so indefinitely; and he did, in fact, restore to the senate the weaker provinces, on the ground that they were peaceful and free from war, while he retained the more powerful, alleging that they were insecure and precarious and either had enemies on their borders or were able on their own account to begin a serious revolt.

His professed motive in this was that the senate might fearlessly enjoy the finest portion of the empire, while he himself had the hardships and the dangers; but his real purpose was that by this arrangement the senators will be unarmed and unprepared for battle, while he alone had arms and maintained soldiers (53: 220). Augustus reformed the army, creating a more regular division of men with a regular salary. This was a central reform. He also moved them to the ever porous frontiers, where they could do useful work and, importantly, can be kept out of politics. The Senate was put in its place.

It was clearly a second rate entity under the Augustinian monarchy. Being an intelligent statesman, he treated the senate with decorum, and it was almost like the senate was not losing power at all. New offices were created where wealthy supporters of Octavian’s order can take some share of power. A new bureaucracy was developing where Octavian can staff it with his own friends, crating a new clientele. The provinces were treated well, and the governors were chosen not merely for their support of the new state but for their competence. Client kingships were permitted to continue.

He treated the provinces the say he treated the senate. In chapter 17 of Book 53, Dio writes: In this way the power of both people and senate passed entirely into the hands of Augustus, and from his time there was, strictly speaking, a monarch; for monarchy would be the truest name for it, no matter if two or three men did later hold the power at the same time. The name of monarchy, to be sure, the Romans so detested that they called their emperors neither dictators nor kings nor anything of the sort; yet since the final authority for the government devolves upon them, they must needs be kings.

The offices established by the laws, it is true, are maintained even now, except that of censor; but the entire direction and administration is absolutely in accordance with the wishes of the one in power at the time. And yet, in order to preserve the appearance of having this power by virtue of the laws and not because of their own domination, the emperors have taken to themselves all the functions, including the titles, of the offices which under the republic and by the free gift of the people were powerful, with the single exception of the dictatorship.

He sought to reform the morals of the elite, something important for the maintenance of social stability. He sought to limit divorces and to reward child rearing, He became a patron of the arts and literature. In book 53, it is clear that our writer is a fan of Octavian. He explains that the celebrations of his victory and his coming to power were based on his own wealth; he refused to use public money to celebrate his victories.

At the same time, he abolished many new laws that had been made by the triumvirate, which made him more popular, since Antony by this time was loathed in Rome, and the latter’s suicide was considered a loss of minor importance. In chapter 19, Dio writes “In this way the government was changed at that time for the better and in the interest of greater security; for it was no doubt quite impossible for the people to be saved under a republic. ” What is the most interesting is Augustus’ address to the Roman people.

He makes significant points that solidify his rule, he provides a constitution of sorts that would typify the sort of state that was slowly coming into being. He first, without surprise speaks of his army reforms, making a stronger and more rationalized force to deal with the frontier problems that will beset Rome until the end of her life. Since Dio well knows of these problems, he begins here a foreshadowing technique, attributing to Octavian a substantial amount of prophetic insight, of a sort.

The army, by being mentioned first in his long speech, shows that army reform was primary in Octavian’s mind, since the loyalties of the army are necessary for any kind of social reform to take place, in fact for any monarch to successfully rule Rome. Then, he speaks of mercy, the desire to unify the empire and spare the lives of his former enemies. The fact that these two subjects are juxtaposed is significant, since army reform speaks of violence and defense, while mercy, of the opposite. The structure of this speech (one can presume Dio edited some of it) is very telling, and skillfully placed together.

Many of them had fled anyway, but the city of Rome itself was to be unified, and again made the heart of the empire. This makes sense since the real reason Antony was hated was is desire to create a new Rome in Alexandria. Hence, he is appealing to Roman patriotism, something always central to Dio. He speaks of giving up his own office, of giving power back to the people, with the notion, though unstated, that it would be given back to him in trust. He did not want power, so he says, and is even willing to give the peaceful and wealthy provinces to the senate, while he alone takes the strife-filled ones.

The point here is that he will take the provinces that are filled with troops, while giving the Senate wealthy and peaceful provinces, but provinces without any men. It was a brilliant tactic, met with approval by Dio. He speaks of himself as a lover of peace, and goes through great pains to connect himself to Julius Caesar, the bringer of peace and plenty to the citizens of Rome (and ton of booty from foreign conquest, distributed to the Roman population). The fact that the civil war is over means the society can be unified again, bringing peace back to the strife-torn Roman state.

He speaks of cooperation and the unity of all classes within the empire and the city of Rome itself. In order to do this, he says, the ancient laws of Rome should be guarded. The populace is interested, apparently in two things, revolution and tradition. Opposites? Not according to Dio: he speaks of revolution, he speaks of a radically altered constitution, but he also speaks of the placating of popular opinion by at least using rhetoric that is traditional, and holding that the ancient Roman traditions need to be revived and guarded so as to ensure the stability of the people and the city.

Dio reports Octavian to say: And yet, after all, I feel no hesitancy about suggesting to you in a summary way what ought to be done in each of the leading departments of administration. And what are these suggestions? In the first place, guard vigilantly the established laws and change none of them; for what remains fixed, even though it be inferior, is more advantageous than what is always subject to innovations, even though it seems to be superior.

Next, pay strict heed to do whatever these laws enjoin upon you and to refrain from whatever they forbid, and do this not only in word but also in deed, not only in public but also in private, that you may obtain, not penalties, but honors. Entrust the offices both of peace and of war to those who are the most excellent and the most prudent, harboring no jealousy of any man, and indulging in rivalry, not to advance the private interests of this or that man, but to keep the city safe and make it prosperous (53: 10). Private interest needs to be rejected, Octavian says.

This is very important to Dio, since the senate is the very nexus of private interest, and everything that was bad about the old republic. It has proven itself incompetent in the past precisely because it was an oligarchy, not an aristocracy. The fact that Dio is part of this class is telling; he is no doubt speaking the truth for he breaks rank with his own class to condemn–at least the old–senate, but clearly praising the new one since it supports the monarchy. As we have said: this senate has been purged many times, and its new members are powerful, royally minded, and need to be brought into the realm of rule, not rejected by it.

Hence one can be a senator and be pro-emperor. But it is the old senate that is to be condemned as a oligarchy. He speaks of treating the provinces well. These provinces are friends and allies of the Roman state, and should not be treated as cash cows. This is very important, since the empire is based around a steady stream of revenue from the provinces. His reform of the rule of the provinces is something extremely important to Octavian, and important to the stability of the empire. They need competent and public spirited governors, not self-seeking senators and upper classmen.

Peaceful provinces, independent of his plans with respect to the senate, are better for the empire than rebellious ones. It is important that public spirit be resurrected, it is central to the Roman idea, and cannot be destroyed by self-interest and self-seeking. Again, this is a central recurring theme throughout this work, and its influence on later generations of historians is incalculable. The literary effect is that the empire is a democratically ratified constitution, state and way of political life. The emperor is populist, the senate, oligarchic. They are opposites, literary types, as it were.

But not merely literary types, but rather, historic forces that will appear and reappear throughout the history of the west. The people, according to Dio (52, pg. 219), demand royal government. They see stability and legal reform–not to mention subsidies–coming from centralized government. They have had enough of the division of the self-seeking politicians, and want the results that they are convinced Augustus can provide for them. Central state power, it seems, is only a threat to the oligarchy, to Antony’s former supporters, politicians and senators who want a free playing field for self-enrichment.

The people then, demand the royal power be taken in full by Octavian (cf. 53: 12). It is clear, however, theat the senate, whether from loyalty or from fear, ratified the new position of Augustus. Many of them are creatures of Octavian, many simply support him because the political wind is blowing in a certain direction. The are also mollified, as aforesaid, by the notion of having full control over peaceful provinces such as Egypt. The plan and development of rule is brilliant here, and the brilliance of it is certainly not lost on Dio.

Dio has created a literary figure, the stuff of legend, in Octavian. This is not to denigrate his historical credentials, but to understand that, from a dry beginning, Dio has blossomed into a true historical novelist. Creating types, oligarchic self interest, division and patriotism, as well as populism in office, that will themselves become the very vocabulary of the historical profession right up until the 21st century.

Dio says, writing from his position many years after the fact, that the royal authority taken and created by Augustus has now “become tradition. ”(53, pg. 59) which is another way of saying that it has worked, for something cannot become tradition unless it has delivered the goods that has withstood the test of time and created an even more powerful, peaceful and prosperous Roman state. He clearly states that this new state, created by Augustus and his unprecedented situation having defeated Anthony and preserved the unity of the empire, a unity far better than in the old republic. “Such is the number and nature of the appellations which those who possess the imperial power employ in accordance with the laws and with what has now become tradition.

At present all of them are, as a rule, bestowed upon the emperors at one and the same time, with the exception of the title of censor; but to the earlier emperors they were voted separately the different times. ” So says Dio in Book 53. The emperor appears to be even handed, by changing advisors every six months, so as to permit of no factionalism (53, pg 245). Factions more than anything else are odious to the people of Rome, who view Octavian as one who has restored unity, and hence, the ability of the state to continue to achieve its aims, significantly, after army reform and transportation reform.

The rebuilding of roads is significant, for it is a central service of the Roman state, and this has been left to abandonment during the long period of civil wars and unrest. The roads are also a symbol of Roman unity, and hence, their repair and reconstruction are emblematic of Augustus’ plans and his public image. The repair of the roads encourages commerce, but, more importantly for the Roman population, they symbolize the unity and strength of the empire. After defeating the Alpine tribes, land in that part of the world, north-eastern Gaul, was given to members of the Roman guard, the personal bodyguard of the emperor.

The praetorian guard itself. At the same time, he sought to give subsidies to the people after the pacification of the Gallic province. Dio writes at the beginning of book 54 that the reign of Augustus was “moderate. ” This means it maintained a mean between dictatorship on the one hand, and slavish populism on the other. He created, in this sense, a new set of political virtues. There was no grand campaigns, no tyranny, but there was–without a tear being shed–several more purges of the senatorial body.

Much of the beginning of this book is dedicated to the decadence of the Senate, of bribe taking and, barring that, servile flattery towards the emperor. Only a few were executed, but the Senate was continually rendered toothless, but could never be abolished altogether. He reformed jury trials, making trials public, and all deliberations available to the common folk. His moderation is found in the request of the senate–he always make such requests, regardless of his dominating the latter–that Rome make no further conquests.

Rome had reached her natural limits, with the understanding that it was now time to rationally govern what the Romans already had, rather than seeking to paper over incompetent rule with promises of future conquests and the slaves and booty that such conquests provided. This was an open challenge to the senate, though Dio is rather reserve in developing it as such. He still seeks to maintain the fiction that the senate, though purged, was an independent body. , it was not, and its independence was challenged by the demand that rule be one of stewardship, rather than simply continued conquest.

The senate later, as Dio well knows, was not up to this challenge. This is what was going on in the city. Augustus administered the subject territory according to the customs of the Romans, but permitted the allied nations to be governed in their own traditional manner; and he did not regard it as desirable either to make any additions to the former or to extend the latter by any new acquisitions, but thought it best to be satisfied with precisely what they already possessed, and he communicated this opinion to the senate (Dio 54, 9)

On page 323, another important piece of legislation is discussed, that against bribe taking. Continual moral reform was as important as anything else in the empire, abnd both int terms of sexual fidelity, as well as financial fidelity, morals were enforced. Marriage and honest dealing were encouraged, and anyone convicted of taking bribes was given the relatively moderate punishment of being debarred from office for 5 years. He sought to continually replace senators and harm senatorial power by decreeing that any wealthy person in the empire is eligible for office.

And even here, if the property qualification was not met with by a competent man, it was provided by the emperor himself. In this way, more and more clients of the king were created, recreating the Roman state, maintaining an oligarchy, but with the understanding that money was the true route to power, not being a part of the formerly closed senatorial class. Here, he could split the upper class over the spoils of office. When he had done this, he purged the senatorial body.

For the members seemed to him to be too numerous even now, and he saw nothing good in a large throng; moreover, he hated not only those who were notorious for some baseness, but also those who were conspicuous for their flattery. And when, as on the previous occasion, no one would resign of his own free will, and Augustus, in his turn, did not wish to incur blame alone, he himself selected the thirty best men (a point which he afterwards confirmed by oath) and bade them, after first taking the same oath, choose five at a time, relatives not to be included, by writing the names on tablets (54: 13)

The local opposition parties were silenced by victorious missions to Gaul, where the endlessly difficult Celtic tribes of the Alpine region were pacified again and again. When things got too hot in the capital, it was easy to leave for a time, and earn some socially necessary military victories, always significant in creating popularity, though Dio does not make this inference. Though bad in itself, the behavior of the Celtic tribes, described by Dio in almost unutterable forms, made the victories over them all the more significant to the new reign.

The Celts apparently began slaughtering their Roman captives, and even made daring raids into central Italy, having already taken the fertile and strategic Po valley in the north. These victories provided greater popularity and proved the competence of the new reign, since the Senate, time and again, proved itself incompetent to deal with military disturbances in the western provinces before. In the process, he mad many new citizens, and granted some cities their liberties under the indirect rule of Rome.

Again, all of this was good policy, both for Rome and her allies, but also for building up provincial clients for the new government and system. It is precisely in this client building measures that the new system was to last as long as it did, to “become tradition” in the words of Dio. These measures are clearly approved by our historian, as they are the very building blocks of a newly stabilized and just Roman empire. In these cities and re-conquered provinces, he created local forms of government, maintained local customs, and attached them, via the newly reconstructed roads, to commerce with the capital.

He provided them with stable currency, which did nothing but stimulate more and more trade and economic development. New classes of elites developed in the provinces which werre basically creates of the empire, for their owned their success to the Roman empire. Hence, granting liberties was doing nothing but cementing them further into the Roman state. This is an issue that Dio returns to again and again. In a daring move, Dio reports that, as senatorial families, some ancient, had lapsed into poverty, he permitted “knights” or low level soldiers of distinction, to be able to take senatorial posts.

Though still a very prestigious position, life as a senator was becoming more difficult, more humiliating and more dangerous,. Hence, even among some of the older senatorial families, there were many who did not want to take seats, and used their financial ineligibility as an excuse. Many lower level soldiers, the Roman knights, were given these posts, making the same a more and more popular body with the population, the army and with the elite in the provinces, many of whom had local bodies similar in composition to the Roman senate, and all basing their legitimacy on the emperor (54- 26).

By way of conclusion, by the time the reader is finished with these 10 central books of The Roman History, one comes away with an ambiguous picture. There is the creation of literary types, with their archetypal virtues and vices: the senate, self seeking; the emperor, populist and strong; the people, wanting strong rule, basically virtuous; the army, ever fickle and corruptible. Ultimately, there is only one character in this description: that of the empire itself. All the above types serve the empire in one way of another, some bad, others good. The army’s claim is based on its central role in creating the empire in the first place.

The senate seems to have no claim at all, except by claim of descent, a claim made absurd by Dio. Dio ends by implying that the empire is best served by a connection between people, army and emperor, and that the senate is far from the repository of political wisdom it was created to be. Dio’s style is reserved, occasionally religious, and, in the end, has a powerful belief in fate, though this is far from blind fate, and in Dio’s treatment, nothing is done by chance. Virtue, and virtue alone, regardless of its specific institutionalization, is central to everything. Man makes his own luck.

Cite this On the Life of Augustus: Cassius Dio

On the Life of Augustus: Cassius Dio. (2016, Sep 18). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/on-the-life-of-augustus-cassius-dio/

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