The reign of Augustus (13BC-14AD) was a period of transition in Roman history. The prior civil wars, which lasted for a generation, had finally destroyed the degenerate and obsolete Republican system. The power and wealth of the empire was concentrated into the hands of warring generals, who ruled the defunct state with military force. These generals, along with the upper classes they represented, began to adopt a lifestyle of superfluous luxury, which was influenced by the lavishness of newly-conquered kingdoms in Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean. This lifestyle was seen as the antithesis of everything “Roman”- simplicity, virtue, and piety, and it led to the devaluation of traditional Roman culture.
When Augustus gained sole control of the empire in 31BC, he found it without an identity. The chaos of the wars had left Rome devastated, both physically and culturally. The traditional ideals that Romans held in such high regard had been forgotten. Augustus set out to repair the damage, not by restoring what the culture had lost, but by creating a new one which was, in essence, an amalgam of two opposites- Roman tradition and Greek extravagance.
The focus of this presentation is to illustrate the formation of this new culture using material evidence, namely, the art and architecture of Augustus’ buildings. In the form and content of Augustan architecture we can see a parallel to the emerging culture that Augustus created, which changed Rome’s image from that of a provincial, Italian state to a dominant world power.
Edward Roe, ’99 Roselle, IL
Major: Classical Studies
Sponsor: John Gruber-Miller