Res Gestae Divi Augusti

From Academic Kids

Res Gestae Divi Augusti, (Latin: "The Deeds of the Divine Augustus") is a first-person record of the accomplishments of the first Roman emperor, Augustus.

The text consists of 35 paragraphs that may be grouped in four sections and a short appendix. The first part of the Res Gestae (paragraphs 1 – 14) is concerned with Augustus' political career, recording the offices and political honours that he held. The second part (paragraphs 15 — 24) records Augustus' gifts of money, games, and buildings to the Roman people. The third part (paragraphs 25 – 33) describes his military deeds and how he established peace and friendship with other nations during his reign. The last part (paragraphs 34 – 35) sums up Augustus exceptional position in the government. The appendix (written in the third person, and likely not by Augustus himself) summarizes the entire text, and lists the various buildings he constructed; it states 600 million denars from his own funds were spent during his reign towards the public good.

According to the text it was written just before Augustus' death in AD 14, but it was probably written years earlier and revised over the years. Augustus left the text with his will, which instructed the Senate to set up the inscriptions. The original, which has not survived, was engraved upon a pair of bronze pillars and placed in front of Augustus' mausoleum. Many copies of the text were made and carved in stone on monuments or temples throughout the Roman Empire, some of which have survived; most notably, almost a full copy, written in the original Latin and a Greek translation was preserved on a temple to Augustus in Ancyra (the Monumentum Ancyranum, now in Ankara, Turkey); others have been found at Apollonia and Antioch, both in Pisidia.

By its very nature, the Res Gestae are less objective historiography and more propaganda for the principate that Augustus instituted. It tends to gloss over the events between the assassination of Julius Caesar and the victory at Actium when his foothold on power was finally undisputed. Brutus and Cassius are not referred to by name, they are simply "those who killed my father" (actually his adoptive father), neither are his opponents Mark Antony and Sextus Pompeius; the former is "he with whom I fought the war," while the latter is merely a "pirate". Likewise, the text fails to mention his imperium maius and his exceptional tribunicial powers. Often quoted is Augustus' official position on his government: "From that time (27 BC, the end of the civil war) I surpassed all others in influence, yet my official powers were no greater than those of my colleague in office."

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