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  • His reign marked the beginning of one of history’s greatest empires

  • and the end of one of its first republics.

  • Was Rome’s first emperor

  • a visionary leader who guaranteed his civilization’s place in history

  • or a tyrant who destroyed its core values?

  • Find out in History versus Augustus.

  • Order, order.

  • The defendant today is Gaius Octavius?

  • Gaius Julius Caesar/Augustus...

  • Do we have the wrong guy?

  • No, your Honor.

  • Gaius Octavius, born in 63 BCE, was the grand-nephew of Julius Caesar.

  • He became Gaius Julius Caesar

  • upon being named his great-uncle’s adoptive son and heir.

  • And he gained the title Augustus in 27 BCE

  • when the Senate granted him additional honors.

  • You mean when he established sole authority and became emperor of Rome.

  • Is that bad?

  • Didn’t every place have some king or emperor back then?

  • Actually, your Honor,

  • the Roman people had overthrown their kings centuries before

  • to establish a republic,

  • a government meant to serve the people, not the privilege of a ruling family.

  • And it was Octavius who destroyed this tradition.

  • Octavius was a model public servant.

  • At 16, he was elected to the College of Pontiffs

  • that supervised religious worship.

  • He fought for Rome in Hispania alongside his great-uncle Caesar

  • and took up the responsibility of avenging Caesar’s death

  • when the corrupt oligarchs in the Senate betrayed and murdered him.

  • Caesar had been a power-hungry tyrant who tried to make himself a king

  • while consorting with his Egyptian queen Cleopatra.

  • After his death,

  • Octavius joined his general Mark Antony

  • in starting a civil war that tore Rome apart,

  • then stabbed his ally in the back to increase his own power.

  • Antony was a fool.

  • He waged a disastrous campaign in Parthia

  • and plotted to turn Roman territories

  • into personal kingdoms for himself and Cleopatra.

  • Isn’t that what Caesar had been accused of?

  • Well...

  • So Octavius destroyed Antony for trying to become a king

  • and then became one himself?

  • That’s right.

  • You can see the megalomania even in his adopted title – "The Illustrious One."

  • That was a religious honorific.

  • And Augustus didn’t seek power for his own sake.

  • As winner of the civil war and commander of the most troops,

  • it was his duty to restore law and order to Rome

  • so that other factions didn’t continue fighting.

  • He didn’t restore the law - he made it subordinate to him!

  • Not true.

  • Augustus worked to restore the Senate’s prestige,

  • improved food security for the lower classes,

  • and relinquished control of the army when he resigned his consul post.

  • Mere optics.

  • He used his military influence and personal wealth

  • to stack the Senate in his favor,

  • while retaining the powers of a tribune

  • and the right to celebrate military triumphs.

  • He kept control of provinces with the most legions.

  • And if that wasn’t enough,

  • he assumed the consul position twice more to promote his grandchildren.

  • He was clearly trying to establish a dynasty.

  • But what did he do with all that power?

  • Glad you asked, your Honor.

  • Augustus’s accomplishments were almost too many to name.

  • He established consistent taxation for all provinces,

  • ending private exploitation by local tax officials.

  • He personally financed a network of roads and employed couriers

  • so news and troops could travel easily throughout the realm.

  • And it was under Augustus

  • that many of Rome’s famous public buildings were constructed.

  • The writers of the time were nearly unanimous in praising his rule.

  • Did the writers have any other choice?

  • Augustus exiled plenty of people on vague charges,

  • including Ovid, one of Rome’s greatest poets.

  • And you forgot to mention the intrusive laws regarding citizenspersonal lives

  • punishing adultery,

  • restricting marriage between social classes,

  • even penalties for remaining unmarried.

  • He was trying to improve the citizenry and instill discipline.

  • And he succeeded.

  • His legacy speaks for itself:

  • 40 years of internal stability,

  • a professional army that expanded Rome’s frontiers in all directions,

  • and a government still remembered as a model of civic virtue.

  • His legacy was an empire

  • that would go on to wage endless conquest until it collapsed,

  • and a tradition of military autocracy.

  • Any time a dictator in a general’s uniform commits atrocities

  • while claiming to act on behalf of "the people,"

  • we have Augustus Caesar to thank.

  • So youre saying Augustus was a good emperor,

  • and youre saying there’s no such thing?

  • Were used to celebrating historical leaders

  • for their achievements and victories.

  • But to ask whether an individual should have such power in the first place

  • is to put history itself on trial.

His reign marked the beginning of one of history’s greatest empires

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B2 TED-Ed augustus caesar rome emperor julius

History vs. Augustus - Peta Greenfield & Alex Gendler

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/03/19
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