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The Cambridge Ancient History
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Book description

The period described in Volume 10 of the second edition of The Cambridge Ancient History begins in the year after the death of Julius Caesar and ends in the year after the fall of Nero, the last of the Julio-Claudian emperors. Its main theme is the transformation of the political configuration of the state and the establishment of the Roman Empire. Chapters 1-6 supply a political narrative history of the period. In chapters 7-12 the institutions of government are described and analysed. Chapters 13–14 offer a survey of the Roman world in this period region by region, and chapters 15–21 deal with the most important social and cultural developments of the era (the city of Rome, the structure of society, art, literature, and law). Central to the period is the achievement of the first emperor, Augustus.

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Contents


Page 1 of 2


  • 1 - The triumviral period
    pp 1-69
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The triumviral period was to be one of the great men feeling their way, unclear how far a legion's loyalty could simply be bought, whether the propertied classes or the discontented poor of Rome and Italy could be harnessed as a genuine source of strength, how influential the old families and their patronage remained. Philippi is a very long way east, and the battles there were fought very late in the year. Even before Philippi, eighteen Italian cities had been marked down to provide land for the triumvirs' veterans; and it fell to Octavian to organize the settlement. Octavian firmly held Tarentum and Brundisium, the two great harbours of southern Italy, and it would be no easy matter for Antony to transport large quantities of troops in several waves and land them on hostile beaches. Octavian himself entered Alexandria without resistance, and in a careful speech announced his forgiveness of the city.
  • 2 - Political history, 30 B.C. to A.D. 14
    pp 70-112
    • By J. A. Crook, Fellow of St John's College, and Emeritus Professor of Ancient History in the University of Cambridge
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The two major literary sources, apart from the Histories of Dio, are Suetonius' lives of Augustus and Tiberius: the Lives are immensely important, but they are organized thematically rather than chronologically. In any case, the new formula for Agrippa was only the first stage in a bigger reformulation, the 'constitutional settlement' of 23 BC Augustus made many other political dispositions in the eastern provinces. In AD 13 the constitutional powers of Augustus and Tiberius were renewed again for ten years, and the imperium of Tiberius was at last declared equal to that of Augustus: he was collega imperil. Factual power would depend on whether the system had become sufficiently ingrained in Roman political life to survive, without seriously imaginable alternative, the rule of successors less skilful and less ruthless than Augustus; and in that respect his long reign had helped to make success somewhat more likely than not.
  • 3 - Augustus: power, authority, achievement
    pp 113-146
  • View abstract

    Summary

    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.
  • 4 - The expansion of the empire under Augustus
    pp 147-197
  • View abstract

    Summary

    A survey of territorial expansion under Augustus tempts conclusions about strategic designs, empire-wide policy, and imperialist intent. It has been claimed, for example, that Augustus adopted and refined a military system of hegemonic rule, resting on a combination of client states and an efficiently deployed armed force stationed in frontier sectors but mobile enough for transfer wherever needed. Many reckon the push to the north as a carefully conceived and sweeping plan that linked the Alpine, Balkan and German campaigns, and aimed to establish a secure boundary of the empire that ran along the line of the Danube and the Elbe. In Asia Minor and Judaea Augustus cultivated client princes, generally keeping in place those already established, regardless of prior allegiances. The imperial policy of Augustus varied from region to region, adjusted for circumstances and contingencies. Augustus reiterated the aspirations and professed to eclipse the accomplishments of republican heroes. The policy may have been flexible, but the image was consistent.
  • 5 - Tiberius to Nero
    pp 198-255
  • View abstract

    Summary

    From Augustus on, as Cassius Dio noted, politics had ceased to be 'public'. The most fascinating source of the information about the Julio-Claudians is to be found in the surviving portions of Tacitus' Annals. Tiberius' first reported action after Augustus' death was to write to all the Roman armies. By inheriting the imperial household, the domus Caesaris, Tiberius controlled greater material resources than were available to any other Roman, either in a private capacity or as a magistrate. A number of the peculiar stories told about Gaius Caligula suggest that, more clearly than other emperors, he saw that the emperor's role symbolized the struggle of man against nature. Most ancient sources treat Claudius as a fool who became emperor by accident. Like other Romans excluded from politics, Claudius turned to intellectual pursuits, and in particular to the study of history. Like Caligula and Claudius at their accessions, Nero promised a new start, and a return to the principles of Augustus.
  • 6 - From Nero to Vespasian
    pp 256-282
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The Spanish denarii refer to the 'Freedom' and to the 'Life-force of the Roman People', with images of Mars the avenger and a liberty-cap. Perhaps the most interesting issue shows personifications of Spain and Gaul with a Victory between them, and the legend 'Harmony of the Spanish and Gallic Provinces'; the reverse represents the 'Victory of the Roman People' driving in a two-horse chariot. The similarity between C. Iulius Vindex's issues and those of Galba indicates collusion between the two legates after they had withdrawn support from Nero, but it cannot prove that Servius Sulpicius Galba was actively involved in Vindex's conspiracy from the beginning. Tacitus' account naturally has its limitations. It depends upon pro-Flavian traditions and was written with hindsight, with the problems of the reigns of Nerva and Trajan in mind. As censors (AD 72-4), Vespasian and Titus freed the Roman people from the moral stain, and from some of the memories, of civil strife.
  • 7 - The imperial court
    pp 283-308
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The work of the last generation of historians has represented a large step towards a better understanding of the early imperial court. Several major studies have extended the detailed knowledge of the freedmen personnel, the equestrian amici principis, and of links among the senatorial elite. Above all, study of contacts between emperors and their subjects, the decision-making process and the distribution of resources and patronage, show the network of imperial personnel in operation and reveal something of the structures within which they operate. In discussing the nascent court of the Julio-Claudian period, it is necessary to generalize more broadly about the function of the court in the structure of imperial power. The social rituals of a court may act as a facade to screen the realities of power. Between Augustus and Nero the patterns of court life were developing, and still far from fixed. The court was a system of power which tended to its own perpetuation.
  • 8 - The Imperial finances
    pp 309-323
  • View abstract

    Summary

    This chapter discusses the management of the imperial finances and the imperial coinage and its production. The collection of imperial indirect taxes continued in the early Principate as in the Republic to be farmed out to publicani. The relative value to the imperial government of indirect as against direct taxes is impossible to assess, but they were probably crucial to the imperial finances. The imperial patrimonium passed from emperor to emperor as part of the office rather than through normal inheritance, as is patent in the cases of the emperors from Otho to Vespasian but was perhaps first recognized on Gaius' accession, whereas no consul, for example, inherited his predecessor's personal fortune. The stability of Roman taxation at a level which was low for each community as a whole is often used to help explain the acceptance and support of Roman rule by the upper classes of the provinces.
  • 9 - The Senate and senatorial and equestrian posts
    pp 324-343
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The quality of senatorial membership concerned Augustus, as well as its size. As his conduct of the reviews in 29 and 18 BC demonstrated, he was determined to rid the Senate of members who were immoral, irresponsible, or lacking means. From that time all members had to be worth at least one million sesterces rather than just showing the modest equestrian census of 400,000, which was all that had previously been required. He appreciated the strain which would result, and over the years did help both worthy existing members who could not show the increased amount, and many prospective entrants. Among Augustus' Julio-Claudian successors similar assistance is known to have been given by Tiberius and by Nero. It should be stressed that the growth of all the equestrian posts was as much an unco-ordinated response to immediate problems as in the case of the senatorial appointments.
  • 10 - Provincial administration and taxation
    pp 344-370
  • View abstract

    Summary

    From one point of view, the provincial administration can be analysed in terms of the complex of coexisting relationships between the different elements, the emperor, the provincial governor and his subordinate officials, the province, the provincial communities as a group, the individual community and finally the individual subject. The functioning of the administrative system in the provinces depended upon a superstructure of military and civil officials, appointed to their positions by the central government and directly responsible to it. In contrast to the relative formality of the bureaucratic structure, an attempt to describe how provincial administration worked in practice must take account of the flexibility which the structure permitted and observe the patterns and relationships which developed in the early imperial period. The conduct of the provincial census was fundamental to the taxation system and to the general management of the controls applied to the population by fiscal means.
  • 11 - The army and the navy
    pp 371-396
  • View abstract

    Summary

    By the middle of the first century BC the Roman army had developed over centuries of all but continuous warfare into a professionally minded force. By the middle of Augustus' reign the number of legions in service stood at twenty-eight. Almost all had seen service in the civil wars. Throughout the late Republic the length of service required of a man joining the legions had been a minimum of six years. Initially the cohorts were responsible directly to Augustus himself, but in 2 BC he appointed two equestrians as praefecti praetorio, i.e. prefects of the praetorium. These were men of administrative ability rather than military expertise. Normally, throughout the Julio-Claudian period, there continued to be two prefects, but on occasion a single individual held sole command. The Roman army of the later first century AD could still look on occasion to forward movement, but for the most part it was settling to a static role of frontier defence.
  • 12 - The Administration of Justice
    pp 397-413
    • By H. Galsterer, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn
  • View abstract

    Summary

    In the view of the large majority of the population, the new trends in the administration of justice were undoubtedly 'progress'. It is best to start with the city of Rome, as the administration of justice there is best known, and with civil jurisdiction. Jurisdiction in Italy in the last century BC was shaped mainly by the consequences of the Social War, when all communities up to the Rubicon became citizen towns. The governor used formulary jurisdiction as did the praetor at Rome. The introduction of one-man rule affected the different branches of the administration of justice in different ways. In Italy jurisdiction in the municipia and coloniae went on as before. Criminal justice in Italian towns probably declined even earlier than civil jurisdiction. In the provinces the jurisdictional duties of the governor became more and more important as the waging of wars became the exception.
  • 13a - Italy and Rome from Sulla to Augustus
    pp 414-433
  • View abstract

    Summary

    In offering an interpretation of the essential features of the changing relationship between Rome and Italy from Sulla to Augustus, one must perforce take for granted much of their earlier history. Unknown on inscriptions outside Roman territory and of extreme rarity outside Rome itself before the Social War, consular dating formulae begin to turn up in all parts of Italy with some regularity. Greek cities of Italy were largely exempt from the convulsions which one shall shortly see to have played a major part in the Romanization of Italy in general. The discussion of the survival of local cultures concentrates on what seem to be four important identifying features of any ancient culture with a claim to be individual and distinctive: language, religion, family structures, and disposal of the dead. The four themes discussed have the merit that the evidence for them carries us to a level far below that of the inner core of the elite.
  • 13b - Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica
    pp 434-448
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Sardinia and Corsica were culturally very distinct from Sicily. Greek influence in both islands was negligible, but in Sardinia there was a considerable legacy of Carthaginian culture in the principal cities of the west coast, which had started life as Phoenician foundations. Both islands received a generally bad press from Roman writers. The importance of Sardinian grain to Italy is highlighted by the events of 40-58 BC. In the provincial reorganization of 27 BC Sardinia and Corsica were reckoned peaceful enough to be made, like Sicily, a province of the Roman people, administered as a single unit under a proconsular governor. Corsica in particular remained largely undeveloped throughout antiquity, and we can sympathize with Seneca's gloom about what he saw as a dismal place of exile. Sardinia's economic importance lay of course, as already noted, in grain. Away from the coastal regions and the main towns, Romanization made little impact under Augustus or the Julio-Claudians.
  • 13c - Spain
    pp 449-463
  • View abstract

    Summary

    In continuation of a republican tradition, social and political contact with Spain was a highly esteemed source of prestige and influence. Augustus established in the Iberian peninsula, as elsewhere, a system of provincial administration which was to undergo only a few modifications during the following three centuries. From 27 BC, the representatives of the princeps in the governance of Spain and particularly in command of the armies were the legati Augusti pro praetore, one in Hispania Citerior and another in Hispania Ulterior. The general trends and the enormous importance of the Augustan policy of urbanization in Spain are clear. Apart from the construction of roads and the consequences of contacts with the Roman population of the peninsula through trade, administration and military control, the main method of Romanization was to make at least the upper classes of the native population see that their interests coincided with those of Rome.
  • 13d - Gaul
    pp 464-502
    • By C. Goudineau, Professeur du Collége de France (chaire d' Antiquités nationales)
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The history of Gaul reflected its new environment, and the new strategic geography formed by the German frontier and the proximity of Britain, with all the attendant social and economic repercussions. The author treats Narbonensis (formerly Transalpina) separately from the Tres Galliae (formerly Comata). From the Augustan period, neither texts nor inscriptions ever use the term Gallia except in a purely geographical sense, as one might say South America or the Far East. A direct, personal relationship with the emperors is noticeable on several occasions up until the reign of Nero. It was a two-way relationship: after a period of agitation, the Gallic provinces, or rather their elites, remained faithful to the descendants of Caesar, who in turn kept faith with the Gauls. Gallia Comata, which had been organized as a single province since Caesar, was divided into three by Augustus, probably in 27 BC.
  • 13e - Britain 43 B.C. to A.D. 69
    pp 503-516
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Numerous reasons have been put forward to explain Rome's decision to invade Britain at this precise juncture. Among them can be listed the military ambition of Claudius, now emperor after Gaius' assassination; the prospect of mineral and other wealth; a surplus of legions on the German frontier after Gaius had created two more to back his abortive invasion attempt; the final suppression of druidism, which had been outlawed in Gaul, no doubt causing many adherents to seek refuge across the Channel. According to Tacitus, Cogidubnus proved a staunch ally to Rome and led his kingdom steadily towards peaceful Romanization until his death, probably in the Flavian period. Trade in Britain, and between Britain and the rest of the empire, increased rapidly, much of it at first probably connected with supplies under army. Totally foreign to British religious practice was the introduction of the imperial cult, with its physical centre at Colchester.
  • 13f - Germany
    pp 517-534
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The establishment of Roman rule in north Gaul can be seen archaeologically at central places like the great Treveran oppidum of the Titelberg in Luxembourg. The most important date for the establishment of the ideology of the new Caesar was the erection at Lugdunum of the Pan-Gallic altar, the Ara Galliarum, traditionally dated to 12 BC, the year of Agrippa's death. The earliest Romanizing tendencies revealed by the historical sources concern only the high Germanic nobility of the area between the Rhine and the Elbe. The overall command of Germanicus over the armies of both Upper and Lower Germany came to an end in AD16. The urbanization process continued in the Lower German military zone and in Gallia Belgica, proceeding from south to north, while in the Upper German military zone west of the Rhine there was no significant progress at all.

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