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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 1996
  • Online publication date: March 2008

3 - Augustus: power, authority, achievement



Those who urge the historian to look behind the 'facade' and confront the 'reality' of Augustus' power mostly imply that he should acknowledge that Augustus' ultimate possibility of coercion lay in control of the army. The triumviral age had been the culmination of changes: nevertheless, it was the achievement of Augustus to create a volunteer, professional army, its size determined by himself, 'depoliticize' it, and establish for it an ethos of loyalty to himself and the 'divine family'. One of the reasons why Augustus' formal authority cannot be detached from his actual power is that armies can only with difficulty and exceptionally be recruited and held without a legitimate claim. Tacitus offers an appraisal of Augustus, in contrasting paragraphs: what can be said in his favour and what against. For Tacitus, as for many historians after him, the bad outweighed the good. The shape of Roman Empire was Augustus' contribution.
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