Ends Justifies the Means: An Account of Augustus’ Res Gestae
his funerary inscription Res Gestae Divi Augusti, Augustus argues that he is a
respected ruler who improved the Roman experience and power. For example, he writes
that he restored many temples and traditions to make Rome great again. Furthermore,
Augustus describes how he expands the Roman territory and brings peace and
order to his new Empire using a well-funded and disciplined military. Through clever
combination of tradition rebuilding, military prowess, and social reform, one
can see that, although Augustus undermined the institution of the Roman
Republic, he ultimately had good intentions in maximizing Roman influence and
the Roman experience.
Augustus ran for president, “Make Rome Great Again” would have been a great
campaign slogan. During his reign, he led a conservative movement that used
past prestige as a model for Rome’s future; Augustus realized that to rebuild Rome,
he had to restore the traditional values and virtues of old Rome. He writes “I rebuilt 82 temples of the gods…by
the authority of the senate, omitting nothing” (Augustus 20). Part of Augustus’
goal in restoring monuments and reviving practices was to create support and pride
in the Roman Empire. Augustus believed that the decline of the Republic was
due, in part, to the decay in public morals, so he focused on enacting laws to
boost morality. According to McKay in History
of World Societies, Augustus promoted marriage and childbearing while
discouraging adultery (157). The Romans, looking upon Augustus as a Messiah of
traditional values, bought into Augustus’ vision of a better society and Rome
prospered as a result. Through his social and religious reform, one can see how
Augustus brought stability and pride to the Roman Empire.
his reign, Augustus spread Roman influence by increasing the size of the Empire
through his army, adding land in northern Europe, Egypt, and Levant (McKay 158).
Augustus funded the army himself, offering HS 170,000,000 to the military
treasury from his own patrimony (Augustus 17). Funding the military through his
own funds demonstrates Augustus’ commitment to defeating Rome’s adversaries and
increasing its power. In Res Gestae,
he writes “Our ancestors wanted Janus Quirinus closed until… peace had been secured
through victory… the senate voted three times in my principate that it be closed”
(Augustus 13). In this example, one can clearly see how Augustus brought peace
and order to the Roman Empire through his army; the new conquered lands
provided places to trade throughout the empire, leading to prosperity and stability.
Through his military prowess, one can see how Augustus maximized Roman
influence and brought peace and order to the Empire.
his reign, Augustus achieved “Pax Romana” and the Roman arts improved greatly; in
fact the period of Augustus’ rule was known as a “golden age of Latin
literature. Roman poets celebrated human accomplishments in works that were
highly polished, elegant in style, and intellectual in conception” (McKay, 157).
Augustus wasn’t just concerned about expanding the Empire; he also cared about
improving the experience of Romans. Through his emphasis on the arts, one can
see how Augustus improved the Roman experience.
regard Augustus as a deceitful dictator; McKay writes on page 156, “Augustus
claimed that he was restoring the republic, but he was actually transforming
the government into one in which all power was held by a single ruler”.
Although this may be true, Augustus had a vision of how he could improve the
Roman Empire by ruling autonomously. In Augustus’ case, the ends justified the
means; he was well-intentioned in becoming an absolute ruler and this is
evidenced through his achievements. During his lifetime, Augustus expanded the Empire,
restored traditional values, improved the economy, and established long peace
throughout the empire. These efforts were very popular among Romans. They
believed that, under Augustus’ rule, they could repeat past glory. Augustus
writes, “The senate… called me father of the country” (Augustus 35), which demonstrates
the Romans’ approval of his rule. Thus, even if he were a dictator who portrayed
himself as a benevolent citizen giving up power, he solely made Rome into one
of the greatest empires ever. Through Augustus’ achievements, one can see how his
successes outweigh his deceitful pursuit of power.
his popular reforms and political shrewdness, Augustus was able to get the
Roman public to buy into his vision of a better Rome. Even as a dictator, the Roman
people fully supporting him, calling him “father of the country”; A united empire,
Rome rediscovered past success with Augustus at the helm. As people of American
society today, we must strive to make society greater for the common interest
of the people.