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Article contents

The Succession Planning of Augustus

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 January 2015

Tom Stevenson
Affiliation:
The University of Queensland, t.stevenson@uq.edu.au
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

Erich Gruen has questioned the notion of ‘succession planning’ under Augustus, arguing that the princeps was careful to avoid giving the impression that he wanted to create a heritable dynasty, for it was not in his interest to emphasise autocracy and there was no office of state to pass on. This view seems incomplete, since the prerogatives and resources of the Julian family were of such magnitude that Augustus’ heir could hardly fail to occupy a position of dominance in the state, as everyone surely knew. Moreover, it seems likely that Gruen overestimates the level of opposition to autocracy, that the cause of state stability was aided overall by clear lines of succession, that relevant attitudes were dynamic rather than static, and that there was a higher public profile (and more practical, substantial importance) for the imperial family than Gruen describes.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Australasian Society for Classical Studies 2013

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References

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19 The honours of 27 BC – specifically the name ‘Augustus’, the oak wreath and the laurel branches flanking the door of his house on the Palatine – appeared subsequently in both public and private art. Aes coinage of 23-19 BC bore images of these honours in place of the usual portraits of gods. Cf. EJ p. 45 (date); Aug, . RG 34.2Google Scholar; Ov, . Fast. 1.614Google Scholar; Trist. 3.1.3648Google Scholar; Vell. Pat. 2.91.1; Suet, . Aug. 7.2Google Scholar; Dio 53.16.4, 6-8; Rich (ed. with trans, and comm.), Cassius Dio: The Augustan Settlement (Roman History 53-55.9) (Warminster 1990)Google Scholar ad loc.; Cooley, , Res Gestae (n. 10) 262-71Google Scholar.

20 Severy, , Augustus and the Family (n. 5) 5961Google Scholar argues that the initial concentration was on Augustus himself, rather than on his family.

21 Eck, , Age of Augustus (n. 10) 157Google Scholar: ‘When it came to the descent of his line of blood the behaviour of Augustus could almost be described as obsessive.’

22 For the building programme, see Richardson, , Augustan Rome (n. 4) 93Google Scholar.

23 Suet, . Aug. 63.1Google Scholar; Plut, . Ant. 87.2Google Scholar; Dio 53.1-2.

24 Clark, M., Augustus, First Roman Emperor: Power, Propaganda and the Politics of Survival (Exeter 2010) 131Google Scholar: ‘Julia would have had no expectation of being able to choose her own husband.’

25 Suet, . Aug. 29.4Google Scholar; Dio 53.30.5; Favro, D., The Urban Image of Augustan Rome (Cambridge 1996) 115-17, 162-4Google Scholar. Vergil created his own monument to Marcellus by ending his parade of future Romans in the Aeneid (6.860-886) with Marcellus' untimely death.

26 Dio 54.3.2-4 (who dates the trial to 22 BC); Eck, , Age of Augustus (n. 10) 62-3Google Scholar; Levick, , Augustus (n. 4) 81-2, 175-7Google Scholar. A defence of Dio's date is given by Richardson, , Augustan Rome (n. 4) 103-4Google Scholar.

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34 Friction between Agrippa and Marcellus would not surprise under such circumstances, though evidence for it probably derives largely from uninformed attempts to interpret Agrippa's speedy departure for the East after Augustus' recovery in 23 BC: Vell. Pat. 2.93.2; Plin, . NH 7.149Google Scholar; Tac, . Ann. 14.53, 14.55Google Scholar; Suet, . Aug. 66.3Google Scholar; Tib. 10.1 (comparing Agrippa's withdrawal to that of Tiberius in 6 BC over friction with Gaius Caesar); Dio 53.32.1; Levick, , Augustus (n. 4) 86 (‘absurd’).Google Scholar

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39 Lacey, , ‘19 BC’, Classicum 23 (1983) 30-5, esp. 35Google Scholar; Lacey, , Augustus and the Principate (n. 12) 153Google Scholar; Gruen, , ‘Augustus’ (n. 2) 43Google Scholar. Crook, , ‘Power, Authority, Achievement’ (n. 10) 92Google Scholar, distinguishes between ‘honour’ and ‘power’ in respect of the measures of 19 BC. Levick, Augustus (n. 4) 90, writes that ‘[t]his was the turning point in the Augustan Principate, a victory for the Princeps that changed his relationship with the Commonwealth and its leading members … it means that he was no longer on the attack, using every means to entrench himself; his future efforts went towards consolidation’; cf. 168 (‘19 is a good place for the definitive “start” of the Principate, when relations settled into a stable partem.’).

40 Levick, , Augustus (n. 4) 180Google Scholar. For the development of the idea of the domus Augusta, see Wardle, , ‘Valerius Maximus on the Domus Augusta, Augustus and Tiberius’, CQ 50 (2000) 479-93, esp. 479-80CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Severy, , Augustus and the Family (n. 5) 214-18Google Scholar.

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42 Gruen, , ‘Augustus’ (n. 2) 43Google Scholar.

43 Dio 54.12.4; Crook, , ‘Power, Authority, Achievement’ (n. 10) 92Google Scholar; Severy, , Augustus and the Family (n. 5) 70Google Scholar.

44 Vell. Pat. 2.96.1; Tac, . Ann. 1.3Google Scholar; Suet, . Aug. 96.1Google Scholar; Dio 54.18.2.

45 Galinsky, , Augustus: Introduction to the Life of an Emperor (Cambridge 2012) 129CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

46 Clark, , Augustus, First Roman Emperor (n. 24) 132Google Scholar; ‘[The adoptions] strengthened his bond with Agrippa.’

47 Eck, , Age of Augustus (n. 10) 152Google Scholar, writes of an ‘elegant, two-generation solution’.

48 Gruen, , ‘Augustos’ (n. 2) 44Google Scholar (wrong to label Agrippa as ‘regent’).

49 Tiberius married Agrippa's daughter Vipsania c. 19 BC, and Drusus married Augustus' niece Antonia c. 16 BC: Syme, , The Augustan Aristocracy (Oxford 1987) 314Google Scholar; Severy, , Augustus and the Family (n. 5) 64Google Scholar.

50 Ibid. 59-61. For prayers at the Secular Games for ‘myself, my house, fand] my family’, see Richardson, , Augustan Rome (n. 4) 126Google Scholar.

51 For denarii of 13 BC bearing portraits of Julia with Gaius and Lucius Caesar, see Galinsky, , Augustan Culture (n. 45) 124, fig. 18Google Scholar.

52 Aug, . RG 12.2Google Scholar (trans. Cooley): ‘When I returned to Rome from Spain and Gaul, having settled affairs successfully in these provinces, in the consulship of Tiberius Nero and Publius Quintilius [13 BC], the senate decreed that an Altar of Augustan Peace should be consecrated in thanks for my return on the field of Mars, and ordered magistrates and priests and Vestal Virgins to perform an annual sacrifice there.’ Zanker, , Power of Images (n. 5) 215-30Google Scholar sees the Ara Pacis as a pictorial representation of Augustus' succession plans following Agrippa's death in 12 BC.

53 Galinsky, (ed.), Companion to the Age of Augustus (n. 2) 109, fig. 43Google Scholar.

54 Ibid. 143, fig. 58. For the same pose, see Pollini, J., The Portraiture of Gaius and Lucius Caesar (New York 1987) 298Google Scholar; Severy, , Augustus and the Family (n. 5) 107Google Scholar.

55 Aug, . RG 10.2Google Scholar (trans. Cooley): ‘I rejected the idea that I should become chief priest [pontifex maximus] as a replacement for my colleague [Lepidus] during his lifetime, even though the people were offering me this priesthood, which my father had held. After several years, on the eventual death of the man who had taken the opportunity of civil unrest to appropriate it, I did accept this priesthood; from the whole of Italy a crowd, such as it is said had never before been at Rome, flooded together for my election, in the consulship of Publius Sulpicius and Gaius Valgius [12 BC].’ It is hard to resist the impression of orchestration, but this would mean that a great display of consensus (achieved via an election) was deemed important, since family and state headships were being extraordinarily linked on essentially dynastic grounds (‘priesthood, which my father had held’). Fast, Maff., Praen. and Fer. Cum. (EJ p. 47 = Inscr. Ital. 13.2.74, 121, 279, 420); Ov, . Fast. 3.415-28Google Scholar; Dio 54.27.2 (dating to 13 BC).

56 Lacey, , Augustus and the Principate (n. 12) 169-89Google Scholar, describes penetration by Augustus into Roman family worship rather than pressure for him to assume the office of pontifex maximus and thereby exercise pivotal authority over both state and family worship. For Augustus as pontifex maximus, see Bowersock, G., “The Pontificate of Augustas’, in Raaflaub, and Toher, (eds), Between Republic and Empire (n. 15) 380-94Google Scholar; Severy, , Augustus and the Family (n. 5) 99104Google Scholar.

57 Dio 55.8.6-7; Swan, P., The Augustan Succession: An Historical Commentary on Cassius Dio's Roman History Books 55-56 (9 BC–AD 14) (Oxford 2004) 7882Google Scholar.

58 On compitai worship and the Lares Augusti, see Lacey, , Augustus and the Principate (n. 12) 169-89Google Scholar; Severy, , Augustus and the Family (n. 5) 118-31Google Scholar; Richardson, , Augustan Rome (n. 4) 144-5Google Scholar.

59 Dio 54.28.2-5, 54.29.6; EJ p. 366.

60 Gruen, , ‘Augustas’ (n. 2) 45Google Scholar.

61 For Tiberius as ‘ersatz Agrippa’, see Bleicken, , Augustus: eine Biographie (Berlin 1998) 365Google Scholar; cf. Levick, , Augustus (n. 4) 98Google Scholar (‘Augustus was mimicking his own progress in 23 BC … Tiberius was the new Agrippa.’).

62 Suet, . Claud. 1.6Google Scholar; Dio 54.35.6.

63 Vell. Pat. 2.99.1-2; Tac, . Ann. 1.53.1, 6.51.1-2Google Scholar; Suet, . Tib. 10.1-11.1, 5Google Scholar; Dio 55.9.5-8; Swan, , The Augustan Succession (n. 57) 86-8Google Scholar. Eck, , Age of Augustus (n. 10) 153Google Scholar, believes ‘we will never know for certain just what happened’, while Severy, Augustus and the Family (n. 5) 163, writes that ‘[w]e simply cannot know what motivated this action of Tiberius in 6 B.C.E.’

64 Dio 55.9. Eck, , Age of Augustus (n. 10) 153Google Scholar, thinks that the honours for Tiberius represent a failed attempt to combat Tiberius’ jealousy: ‘It was already too late.’ Clark, , Augustus, First Roman Emperor (n. 24) 143Google Scholar believes ‘it was clear he would be moved aside in favour of Gaius and Lucius Caesar … [and that he despaired of his own] fundamentally subordinate position.’ Galinsky, , Augustus (n. 45) 129Google Scholar, writes that ‘[i]t didn't take much for Tiberius to conclude that he was merely warming the seat for Gaius.’ Cf. Richardson, , Augustan Rome (n. 4) 146Google Scholar.

65 Aug, . RG 14.12Google Scholar (trans. Cooley): ‘[1] My sons, whom fortune took from me when young men, Gaius and Lucius Caesars, the senate and people of Rome appointed as consuls when they were fourteen years old, as a way of honouring me, on the understanding that they should enter upon the magistracy five years later; and the senate decreed that from the day on which they were brought into the forum they should take part in the councils of state. [2] Moreover the Roman equestrians (equites) all together presented each of them with silver shields and spears and hailed each of them as leader of the youth (princeps iuventutis).‘

66 For references and discussion, see Eck, , Age of Augustus (n. 10) 156Google Scholar; Levick, , Augustus (n. 4) 183-4Google Scholar.

67 Gruen, , ‘Augustus’ (n. 2) 46Google Scholar.

68 For an excellent discussion, see Levick, , Augustus (n. 4) 181-3Google Scholar. Richardson, , Augustan Rome (n. 4) 148Google Scholar, emphasises in this connection that Agrippa and Tiberius ‘belonged to different generations’, so that the slight for Tiberius over the succession would have been more obvious and hurtful.

69 Aug, . RG 14.12Google Scholar; 15.2; Ov, . Fast. 3.771-90Google Scholar; Dio 55.9.9-10; Swan, , The Augustan Succession (n. 57) 8891Google Scholar; Cooley, , Res Gestae (n. 10) 172Google Scholar; Richardson, , Augustan Rome (n. 4) 150Google Scholar.

70 Aug, . RG 14.12Google Scholar; Suet, . Aug. 26.2Google Scholar; Dio 55.9.10; Richardson, , Augustan Rome (n. 4) 153Google Scholar. Cf. Severy, , Augustus and the Family (n. 5) 165Google Scholar: ‘In 2 B.C.E., Augustus became the father of two adult sons.’

71 Interpretations of the Forum Augustam vary widely and not everyone sees emphasis on the Julian family. Luce, T.J., ‘Livy, Augustus, and the Forum Augustam’, in Raaflaub, and Toher, (eds), Between Republic and Empire (n. 15) 123-38 at 125Google Scholar, concludes that ‘the Forum Augustam was an amalgam of personal and public elements, with pronounced emphasis on the personal.’ Crook, , ‘Power, Authority, Achievement’ (n. 10) 102Google Scholar, however, believes that ‘[the] emphasis [of the Augustan Forum] is, actually, not so much on the ‘divine family’ (and we may be inclined to guess why not) as on victory and the long, successful tale of Roman imperialism.’ Galinsky, , Augustan Culture (n. 1) 197213Google Scholar, emphasises polysemy and (on 208) ‘a network of associations that relate in various ways to Augustus himself.’ Severy, , Augustus and the Family (n. 5) 167Google Scholar, sees a ‘combination of public and private historical references, rituals, and imagery within this new civic space [which] presented Augustas as the ultimate pater.’ Cf. Levick, , Augustus (n. 4) 217-18Google Scholar; Richardson, , Augustan Rome (n. 4) 154-6Google Scholar.

72 Aug, . RG 14.2Google Scholar; Dio 54.9.9.

73 Aug, . RG 35.1Google Scholar (trans. Cooley): ‘When I was holding my thirteenth consulship [2 BC], the senate and equestrian order and people of Rome all together hailed me as father of the fatherland, and decreed that this title should be inscribed in the forecourt of my house and in the Julian senate house and in the Augustan forum under the chariot, which was set up in my honour by senatorial decree.' Cf. Inscr. Ital. 13.2.119, 407 (Fast. Praen.); Ov, . Fast. 2.119-44Google Scholar; Suet, . Aug. 58.12Google Scholar; Dio 55.10.10. Augustas' tears: Suet, . Aug. 58.2Google Scholar. On the events of 2 BC, see Dio 55.10.1-16; Crook, , ‘Power, Authority, Achievement’ (n. 10) 101-4Google Scholar; Lacey, , Augustus and the Principate (n. 12) 190209Google Scholar; Swan, , The Augustan Succession (n. 57) 91110Google Scholar; Levick, , Augustus (n. 4) 91-2, 185-7Google Scholar; Richardson, , Augustan Rome (n. 4) 153-61Google Scholar.

74 Wardle, A Commentary on Suetonius' Life of Augustus (fortacoming) on Suet, . Aug. 58.2Google Scholar, thinks that although the form domus Augusta is not attested before AD 19, it might arguably be traced back to these words of Messalla; cf. Severy, , Augustus and the Family (n. 5) 213-31Google Scholar.

75 Wardle's commentary (n. 74) reads (on Suet, . Aug. 58.1Google Scholar) in part: ‘Dio states generally (55.10.10) that “previously he was called [Pater Patriae] without a vote“; in 8/7 the Sedunni in the Alps commemorated him as Pater Patriae (CIL 12.136); a milestone from Urgavo in Baetica calls him Pater Patriae in 6/5 (CIL 2.2107); at Pompeii on the temple of Fortuna Augusta (CIL 10.823) and in Pisidian Antioch (CIL 3.6803) he is Parens Patriae.’ I thank David Wardle sincerely for allowing me to read part of his manuscript in draft form.

76 Levick, Augustus (n. 4), expresses the significance of the Pater Patriae title admirably, e.g. 92 (‘[Pater Patriae] came close to implying a supreme auctoritas, virtually emancipating Augustas from the restrictions of the defined powers that had been conferred on him’); 204 (‘Psychologically, without conferring the formal potestas of a father, [Pater Patriae] put Augustus into a parental relationship with all his fellow-citizens no matter how eminent’). Also on the significance of Pater Patriae, see Strothmann, M., Augustus: Vater der Res Publica (Stattgart 2000)Google Scholar, whose treatment is wonderfully comprehensive but somewhat too formulaic and neat in describing evolution through phases governed successively by the ideas of restitutio, saeculum, and pater patriae.

77 For the importance of Julian resources to Augustus, see Severy, , Augustus and the Family (n. 5) esp. 140-57Google Scholar.

78 See the references collected by Cooley, , Res Gestae (n. 10) 273-5Google Scholar; cf. Richardson, , Augustan Rome (n. 4) 153-4Google Scholar.

79 For Julia's rebelliousness, see e.g. Macr, . Sat. 2.5.4, 2.5.8Google Scholar.

80 Suet, . Tib. 11.45Google Scholar. For Julia's downfall, see Sen, . Brev. Vit. 4.5Google Scholar; Ben. 6.32.1; Plin, . NH 21.9Google Scholar; Tac, . Ann. 3.24.2Google Scholar; 4.44.3; Suet, . Aug. 65.12Google Scholar; Dio 55.10.12-16; Swan, , The Augustan Succession (n. 57) 106-10Google Scholar; Levick, , Augustus (n. 4) 185-9Google Scholar; Richardson, , Augustan Rome (n. 4) 157-9Google Scholar.

81 Vell. Pat. 2.101.1; Dio 55.10.17-21.

82 Aug, . RG 27.2Google Scholar; Vell. Pat. 2.102.2-3; Sen. ad Polyb. 15.4; Dio 55.10a.8-10; Crook, , ‘Power, Authority, Achievement’ (n. 10) 104-5Google Scholar; Swan, , The Augustan Succession (n. 57) 133-7Google Scholar; Richardson, , Augustan Rome (n. 4) 163-4Google Scholar. For the unacceptability of Agrippa Postumus, see Tac, . Ann. 1.4Google Scholar; Dio 55.32; Levick, , Augustus (n. 4) 187-9Google Scholar; Galinsky, , Augustus (n. 45) 135-6Google Scholar.

83 Vell. Pat. 2.103.3-104.1; Suet, . Aug. 65.1Google Scholar; Tib. 15.2; 20.3; 68.3; Dio 55.13.1a-2; Swan, , The Augustan Succession (n. 57) 140-3Google Scholar. On designating Tiberius as heir, see Severy, , Augustus and the Family (n. 5) 187-93Google Scholar.

84 Suet, . Tib. 15.2Google Scholar; Dio 55.13.2; Inst. Iust. 1.11.11; Richardson, , Augustan Rome (n. 4) 165Google Scholar.

85 Aug, . RG 6.2Google Scholar; Suet, . Tib. 16.1Google Scholar; Dio 55.13.2; Richardson, , Augustan Rome (n. 4) 165-6Google Scholar.

86 Augustus declared at the formal ceremony that he was adopting Tiberius for the good of the res publica: Vell. Pat. 2.104.1; Suet, . Tib. 21.3Google Scholar; cf. Gruen, , ‘Augustus’ (n. 2) 48Google Scholar (an appeal to supporters of Gaius and Lucius to rally round Tiberius).

87 Dio 55.8.2, 55.9.6, 56.25.1; Swan, , The Augustan Succession (n. 57) 73Google Scholar (‘key motifs were fraternal concord and reconciliation of strife over the succession’), 276-7; Richardson, , Augustan Rome (n. 4) 145Google Scholar.

88 Ov, . Fast. 1.637-50Google Scholar; Suet, . Tib. 20.1Google Scholar; Inscr. Ital. 13.2.114-15 (Fast. Praen.).

89 Vell. Pat. 2.121.1; Tac, . Ann. 1.5471Google Scholar; Suet, . Ti. 21.1Google Scholar; Dio 56.28.1; Crook, , ‘Power, Authority, Achievement’ (n. 10) 111Google Scholar; Swan, , The Augustan Succession (n. 57) 293-4Google Scholar; Richardson, , Augustan Rome (n. 4) 188Google Scholar.

90 Suet, . Tib. 23Google Scholar; cf. 21.3; Aug, . RG 14.1Google Scholar; Vell. Pat. 2.104.1.

91 Vell. Pat. 2.123.1-2; Suet., Aug. 989Google Scholar; Tac, . Ann. 1.5.34Google Scholar; Dio 56.29.2-31.1; Crook, , ‘Power, Authority, Achievement’ (n. 10) 112Google Scholar; Swan, , The Augustan Succession (n. 57) 299305Google Scholar; Richardson, , Augustan Rome (n. 4) 190-6Google Scholar. Agrippa Postumus was murdered on Augustos' orders: Vell. Pat. 2.112.7; Tac, . Ann. 1.56Google Scholar; Suet, . Aug. 65.1, 4Google Scholar; Suet, . Tib. 22Google Scholar; Dio 55.32.1-2; 56.30.2; Richardson, , Augustan Rome (n. 4) 190-1Google Scholar.

92 For the idea of the Principate in AD 14, cf. Kienast, D., Review of E. Ramage, The Nature and Purpose of Augustus' Res Gestae, AJP 110.1 (1989) 177-80 at 179Google Scholar: ‘this new constitution found its definitive form only after Tiberius' accession to the throne; after that it only needed to be developed further.’ Cf. Levick, Tiberius (n. 1) 223Google Scholar: ‘one of the most important events of Tiberius' principate was precisely the death of Augustus and his own accession to sole power; it made the principate a permanency.’ Cowan, E., ‘Tacitus, Tiberius and Augustus’, ClassAnt 28.2 (2009) 179210 at 207Google Scholar, is more circumspect: ‘proclaiming adherence to Augustas was part of a political strategy aimed at maintaining stability at Rome and throughout the empire by stressing continuity with the past and his own suitability as Augustas' successor-continuator.’

93 Aug, . RG 14.1Google Scholar; Suet, . Tib. 23Google Scholar; Tac, . Ann. 3.24.3Google Scholar.

94 I want to express my sincere thanks to Paul Burton and the journal's two anonymous referees for the enormous help they provided in the writing of this paper. Remaining errors or misconceptions are certainly not due to them.

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