Augustus – First Emperor of Rome

The emperor Augustus, it could be said, set Rome on its path of greatness, and Augustus’s legacy can be seen, even today in 2008. I read recently an excellent biography of the emperor by the British author, Anthony Everitt, entitled Augustus : The Life of Rome’s First Emperor. This excellent account of Augustus’s life portrays in vivid detail the circumstances that placed Augustus in this position of power, what he did once he held the reigns, and how he tried so hard to see a smooth succession of power.

There are dozens of monuments and works of art which are testaments to Augustus’s legacy, such as Ara Pacis, Augustus’s tomb, as well as various statues located at museums throughout Rome. The development of the Palatine could be attributed to Augustus who transferred Rome from a city of clay to a city of marble – the very city which we see today. Statues of Augustus in various guises can be found in Rome, particularly the Augustus Prima Porta located in the Vatican Museum which promotes Augustus’s link to the gods as well as advertising his military victories. Future emperors were always careful not to mess with the precedent (or at least tried not to) set by Augustus and often followed his example in advertising their own accomplishments.

Augustus knew how to market himself and used his image as a way of propogating and promoting his achievements and legacy throughout his decades in power. Think of Augustus as your present day marketing executive. If there was a message that needed communicating, then Augustus was your man! Augustus set this precedent of communicating power and strength through art and architecture where today we might use billboards, the internet or even junk mail. Augustus’s building program in Rome not only rejuvenated the city’s image but also cemented his legacy for centuries come. Mussolini emulated (or one might say copied) Augustus’s methods in the 1930’s when he tried to transform Rome once again into a dominating empire.