Res Gestae Dıvı Augusti, which copied and written down bronze tablets after Augustus’ death, opens not only the expression of the rememberence of a man, Octavian Augustus, but also; shows us a cross-section of Roman history which begins with last century of the Roman Republic to Early Roman Empire.1 Augustus himself was a product of chaotic history of the last century of Roman Republic and his words actually give us the nature of that area.
The last century of the Roman Republic was in many respects a determining era in Rome’s history: not only because it was a period when, to quota Appian, ‘’violence ruled everything’’, the fate of the men and of the res publica, but also because it was a time when traditional values were collapsing, left behind by new new attitudies of mind and a desire for new standards of living.2
Before starting the analysis the Res Gestae Divi Augusti in this article, to talk about the document itself by asking questions to it will be helpful for understanding the nature and the content of the Res Gestae Divi Augusti. First of all, by answering the questions which are how was Res Gestae Divi Augusti comprised and how did the text itself come today is forming our first step. Augustus, when he died on 19 August AD 14, he left behind him four documents and those documents were given to Vestal Virgins for safe keeping.3 This account included Augustus’s deeds and achievements and; it was written for the Roman people early in his career. He wanted to show how important his actions had been for Rome and how he deserved recognition for them from Romans.4 Despite the fact that document was written for people who lived in Rome, most of the sources of this documents come from Galatia. The source is the Monumentum Ancyranum, an inscription in the temple of ‘Rome and Augustus’ at Ancyra in Galatia, which refers to modern Ankara; here were inscribed on the walls of the temple the Latin text and Greek paraphrase of it.5 Although the text itself seems to be prepared by Augustus himself, ıt is natural to make an argument that inscriptions in provinces might be a copy of Augustus’ own instructions, but in view of its inaccuracies, it is far more likely that it was produced locally.6
Aforementioned above, Augustus wanted to be remembered by the Roman people, by leaving a catalogue named Gestae Divi Augusti. So, why did he want to be remembered? Augustus can be seen as a restorer of the Republic and with his leading to Rome, Augustus himself became a ‘leading figure’ of the Republic. With that point of view, Augustus seemed to want being a ‘’permanent’’ figure for the Republic, and he wanted be remembered with his legacy.7
Augustus addresses the text of the Res Gestae to Roman citizens, and especially to the inhabitants of Rome itself8; for example, ‘’Aegyptium imperio populi Romani adieci’’ (RG 27), means: I added Egypt to the empire of the Roman people. Based on this, in monument, he only mentions the provinces where he is recording their recovery or conquest for the Roman people, and the way in which virtually all the impensae (expenditure) mentioned refer to Rome.9 Therefore, it could be such an argument that, exempt for the city of Rome, the concept of ‘Roman people’ generally refers to inhabitants lived in the city of Rome. With this point of view we can say that both the exclusive nature of the concept of ‘citizenship’ of Roman Empire and the military ideology on conquering non-Roman peoples show us the comprehension of ‘Roman İmperialism’.10
What did Res Gestae Divi Augusti mean to Augustus? Was it written just its own sake, or can we see the preconceptions, assumptions and the world view of Augustus himself? In naturally, since this document was written by a human-being and whole human-beings have preconceptions and point of views to exterior world, we have to evaluate this document comparatively and carefully, in order to reach a better explanation. Augustus abstracts the important events, as he saw them ‘’important’’, between BC 44- AD 13. It is known that Augustus had fought for several civil wars, and in the end he was the one left who could claim power on Rome. In addition to this with his consulships, although the number of Senate was increased, the actual power drew into Augustus hands. With reference to these events, a transition from republic to empire began to be decisive.11 So, how did this process with changing reflect to Gestae Divi Augusti? Although there are some sources which are contemporary with Augustus,12 they are limited and most of them are deprived from the explanation of change in Augustus era. Nevertheless, we can compare the viewpoint of Augustus on that particular period; how he saw the peoples, and important role players in politics in Roman Empire such as Cassius and Brutus and Marcus Antonius and where he placed himself among this picture? In his monument, he always refers to people, but not their name, who fought against him. For example, ‘’Annos endeviginti natus exercitum private consilio et private impensa comparavi, per quem rem publicam ‘a domination factionus’ oppressamin libertatem vindicavi (RG 1), means: At the age of nineteen on my own responsibility and at my own expense I raised an army, with which I successfully championed the liberty of the republic when it was oppressed by the ‘tranny of a faction’. In this phrase, date goes back BC 44 and he, Augustus, raised army against Marcus Antonius because he thought that Roman Republic was oppressed by Marcus Antonius. A second example: ‘’Qui parentem meum trucidaverunt, eos in exilium expuli iudiciis legitimis ultus eorum facinus …(RG 2)’’ means, I drove into exile the murderers of my father, avenging their crime through tribunals established by law … So, in this case, the murderers of his father, because Gaius Julius Caesar adopted Augustus as his son, are clearly Cassius and Brutus. As we see above, Augustus’ components do not appear by name. Based on this, what is excluded in such an account may be as informative as what is pointed out, since it will show the way in which the author wished to ‘slant’ his narrative.13 And, in an obvious way, he propagated in his favor in his monument.
In Res Gestae, he always emphasizes that although permanent consulship was offered to him by senate, he refused it, instead of this; he accepted tribunican power (RG 5-6). Historians argue that after he accepted the title of tribunica potestas, imperium (tribunican power, supreme power) in AD 19, also new era was began: Augustan government. The reason why they make such an argument is that from then on, by applying the title of tribunica potestas, Augustus took control all the tribunes’ powers: sancrosanctity or inviolability, veto over other magistrates, the claim to assemble the Senate, the right to propose laws.14 Much more important among them, henceforth, this power not only applied to the Rome but extended to all of the Empire and its inhabitants.15 Being tribunican power, gave Augustus crucial power that in provinces, all military units was from then on under his control. It is important that in monument, seems that there is no a situation such as monarchy, as if. However, Augustus probably knew that to claim him ‘monarch’ in that time would be probably his end. Like within the framework of a mind game, he succeeded to make his ground substantial. Therefore, tribunician power became an appropriate way of numbering the years’ of an emperor’s reign, and a useful republican pretext to be used in covering the reality of power, which depended without question on imperium.16 As a result, we can easily see this changing process and power competition in Res Gestae.
The Res Gestae also shows Augustus’ attention to games. Three games was given by Augustus and 10.000 men took part in
combat (RG 22-23). Public shows became a routine in his reign. He made the games ‘’routine’’ because between civil wars (BC 44-28), public or gladiator games was not held. The purpose of Augustus was very acceptable: by arranging games continuously for the people, he would be successful to show his generosity to them, his piety to the gods, and his devotion to his family.17 So, by giving people happiness through organizing games, no doubt, was accelerating the recognition of Augustus. Likewise, in many parts of Res Gestae (RG 15-18 for example), Augustus mentions about his aid for the people of Rome. He emphasizes, under his father’s will 1.200 sesterces* paid to Romans and he continues, those largeness of him reached fewer than 250.000 people (RG 15).
Before I cease my words, it would be helpful to ask and answer to it that what this monument and its content give us for historical reliability. First of all, because Res Gestae Divi Augusti can be determined as a certain self-glorification text, like the previous ‘Asiatic’ style of monuments,18 many historian could disprove them. To look Res Gestae with today’s perception may give us valuable information, indeed. By looking this monument, we can understand the people’s time perception which lived in the past, how they saw the world and mechanisms operated it, and changing nature of perception of history. This kind of contemporary source helps us to obtain a second ‘eyes’ for looking to past: ‘eyes’ which show the past to us with ‘perception of past’. As a result, Res Gestae presents us a cross-section of an era: Later Roman Republic. By understanding the text itself, people can be aware of the nature of that chaotic era. Because all people are the member of a society, they reflect the situations, senses and conditions of contemporary era. If we are looking at Res Gestae right now, it means that we, actually, are looking a whole society of Augustan era.
* Eck, Werner. The Age of Augustus. Second. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2007.
* Erskine, Andrew. Debates and Documents in Ancient History: Roman İmperialism. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010.
* Livy, Titus Livius. The History of Rome (Books I-VIII).Translator: D. Spillan. Digireads.com Publishing, 2009.
* Marcel Le Glay, Jean-Louis Voisin, Yann Le Bohec. With new meterial by David Cherry and Donald G. Kyle. A History of Rome. 3. Malden, USA: BLACKWELL PUBLISHING, 2006.
* Marry T. Boatwright, Daniel J. Gargola, Richard J. A. Talbert. A Brief History of the Romans. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
* Moore, P. A. Brunt and J. M., (edited by). RES GESTAE DIVI AUGUSTI: The Achievements of the Divine Augustus. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967.
* T. E. PAGE, E. CAPPS, W. H. D. ROUSE, L. A. POST, E. H. WARMINGTON, (edited by) Appian’s Roman History. London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1964, first published in 1913.
1. Moore, P. A. Brunt and J. M. (edited by) . RES GESTAE DIVI AUGUSTI: The Achievements of the Divine Augustus. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967.pp. 7-8.
2. Marcel Le Glay, Jean-Louis Voisin, Yann Le Bohec. with new meterial by David Cherry and Donald G. Kyle. A History of Rome.Third Edition. Malden, USA: BLACKWELL PUBLISHING, 2006. p. 123.
3. Op. Cit. p.1
4. Eck, Werner. The Age of Augustus. Second. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2007. p. 169.
5. Moore, P. A. Brunt and J. M. (edited by). RES GESTAE DIVI AUGUSTI: The Achievements of the Divine Augustus. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967. p. 1.
6. Ibid. p. 2.
7. Marry T. Boatwright, Daniel J. Gargola, Richard J. A. Talbert. A Brief History of the Romans. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. pp. 181-183.
8. Moore, P. A. Brunt and J. M. (edited by). RES GESTAE DIVI AUGUSTI: The Achievements of the Divine Augustus. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967. pp. 3-4.
9. Ibid. p. 4.
10. Erskine, Andrew. Debates and Documents in Ancient History: Roman İmperialism. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010. pp 43-44. See also: Revell, Louise. Roman Imperialism and Local Identities. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
11. Marcel Le Glay, Jean-Louis Voisin, Yann Le Bohec. with new meterial by David Cherry and Donald G. Kyle. A History of Rome.Third Edition. Malden, USA: BLACKWELL PUBLISHING, 2006. pp 181-226.
12. See: Livy, Titus Livius. The History of Rome (Books I-VIII). Translator: D. Spillan. Digireads.com Publishing, 2009. Also,the book consists of 24 booklet. However, we have fragments of books I-V, and of VIII and IX; we have lost X and XVIIl-XXIV; books VI-VII and XI-XVII are complete, and are valuable records of military history.
13. Moore, P. A. Brunt and J. M. (edited by). RES GESTAE DIVI AUGUSTI: The Achievements of the Divine Augustus. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967. p. 3.
14. Marcel Le Glay, Jean-Louis Voisin, Yann Le Bohec. with new meterial by David Cherry and Donald G. Kyle. A History of Rome.Third Edition. Malden, USA: BLACKWELL PUBLISHING, 2006. p. 189.
15. İbid. p. 189.
* Roman Bronze coin which fixed in Augustan era.
16. Moore, P. A. Brunt and J. M. (edited by). RES GESTAE DIVI AUGUSTI: The Achievements of the Divine Augustus. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967. p. 13.
17. Op. Cit. pp 215-216.
18. Op. Cit. pp 6-7.