The Roman politician Augustus rose from relatively humble origins to be the most influential governmental figure in Roman history. Shortly before his death, he commissioned a lengthy inscription of what he considered to be his accomplishments and ordered it to be placed in strategic areas across the Roman Empire. This text is known as the Res Gestae, “The Things Accomplished” or, in short, “The Deeds.” Read the copy of the Res Gestae. Choose one recurring theme in this document that signifies something of which Augustus seems especially proud. Can the Res Gestae be considered wholly a document of historical fact, or did Augustus also intend it to serve as propaganda? Given that he had founded not just a dynasty but an entirely new form of government, why do you think Augustus would have emphasized your chosen theme in his epitaph?
The central theme of Res Gestae is the glorification of the achievements of Augustus with limited mention of the disappointments and limitations. This is quite evident from the mention of a plethora of achievements of Augustus right from the huge army he raised at a tender age of 19 that helped in establishment of peace in the empire. Additionally, he also emphasizes on the amount of wealth that was spent during his rule on enhancing the prestige of Rome (Morley 1999). It is evident that Ras Gestae is an attempt to serve as propaganda rather than serve as a unbiased historical fact narration. The biased nature is captured in the title itself that translates into ““The Deeds of the Divine Augustus”. Further, the text is aimed at not informing the people of the day about Augustus but rather to serve as a propaganda literature for the future generations who should remember Augustus as an influential leader and thus ensure that his legacy continues in the minds of people (Katrina 2012). In order to reach a wider audience, there were several copies of the text so as to enhance the overall propaganda and establish the personal prowess of Augustus. This is also evident from the constant mention of the spent funds being personal funds so as to establish his commitment towards Rome along with his wealth and power. This text was not limited to Latin language but was also translated into Greek so as to ensure wider propaganda (Eck 2007). Hence, the emphasis on propaganda limits its usage as a reliable and authentic reference for the period.
Eck, Werner. The Age of Augustus. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2007.
Katrina. "Res Gestae Divi Augusti, 19-21." Ancient History First year Blog. November 12, 2012. https://brizzleancienthistoryfirstyear.blogspot.in/2012/11/res-gestae-divi-augusti-19-21.html (accessed December 26, 2015).
Morley, Neville. Writing Ancient History. New York: Cornell University Press, 1999.