To celebrate the occasion, I've decided to take a look at the lecture by Adrian Goldsworthy that I attended at History Live - without a doubt it was among the best I've ever attended, right up there with Mary Beard's 'Laughter in ancient Rome', and I could have listened for several hours to what he had to say - in fact, he overran by half an hour, and I didn't mind at all, it was that good!
The lecture touched a lot on how Augustus became emperor, and one of the recurring themes was the illegality of it, something which we rarely hear of now. For example, in his Res Gestae, Augustus made no secret that he raised an army of his own when the civil war broke out. Augustus was also supported by the distinguished orator Cicero (himself no fan of Mark Antony) who persuaded the senate to support the rebellion against the rightful consul. I found this really quite interesting, because it goes against the image of Augustus as the ideal emperor and presents a slightly darker side - so how well do we really know him?
It is often said of Augustus that he owed everything to his name, and this was something that Adrian Goldsworthy looked at in his lecture. When Caesar died, Augustus was only 19 years old and nobody expected terribly much of him, certainly not that he'd become emperor. During this period, he tends to be referred to as Octavian, however this is a case of us losing some of the original meaning. This is because Augustus saw himself as Caesar's heir, and he saw himself as a Caesar; this was the name that he owed everything to. The interesting twist is that Augustus never was Caesar's heir - it wasn't legal to adopt someone posthumously.
For the most part, Augustus ruled for the public good, and the peace that Augustus brought was preferable to the civil wars which had broken out during Caesar's lifetime and after his death. Clearly, though, the traditional image of Augustus as someone who served the state at the request of the state isn't quite accurate - and this makes it hard to pin down the real Augustus. In the words of Adrian Goldsworthy, 'the sphinx is still there'.
Normally, this is where I'd have finished my post, but I've also got a bit of news to share as well this time! The other week was A level results day, and this means that I now know where I'll be headed next year. I'm very pleased to say that I'll be going to study Classics at Manchester, my first choice university! The course at Manchester means that next year I'll be studying the Odyssey, Catullus and the Roman Republic, and will hopefully get a chance to write for the university's Classics and Ancient History magazine, the Mamucium - I'll certainly let you know on here if that happens! As a result, there should be some pretty interesting posts next year about studying Classics at university and what it's really like.