The Rome of Augustus Caesar - Encounters
Eugenio La Rocca
Rome was rebuilt after the Gallic fire without any real plan. Its streets were narrow and winding, its residential buildings tall and poky, and its public buildings designed according to the old Tuscanic tradition with a wealth of wood and terracotta. Julius Caesar alone had attempted to build a new Rome, but adopting a totally new approach that was to earn him indignant disapproval. Augustus, for his part, was only seemingly more cautious but in fact he was just as revolutionary. Thus the famous saying "I found Rome brick and left it marble" really does reflect the reality of the situation. He posed as a new Romulus, refounding the city under the banner of a newly rediscovered peace after decades of civil strife, imbuing his programme for monumentalising the city with symbolic references designed to evince his religious piety and to underscore the similarity between his own person and Rome's first king.
Augustus and the Poets - Encounters
The years in which Octavian - later Augustus - was Rome's undisputed dominus were the same years during which Virgil and Horace composed most of their work and Propertius, Tibullus, Livy, Ovid, Vitruvius and such lesser-known authors as Pompeus Trogus produced their entire opus, along with a host of works that have been partially or totally lost such as the compositions of the unfortunate Cornelius Gallus or of Lucius Varius Rufus: in short, the complete literary output of Rome's golden age. But the age that takes its name from the emperor is being seen increasingly as a workshop whose extraordinary interest lies also in the tensions that make it an exemplary case study of issues and problems at the very core of literary experience and of the construction of a "modern" literature: issues such as the relationship between the artist and authority, the relationship between text and image, the dynamic revisitation of the past to build a collective identity and the urban dimension's central role.
Taking Power - Encounters
Octavian's most resolute adversaries were to be found in Julius Caesar's "party", in the lieutenants who had fought with Caesar first in Gaul and then in the civil war against Pompey and the Senate.
He pitted one against the other with tactical alliances that lasted only as long as they benefited his master plan, his crucial, single-minded blueprint to gain complete control over Caesar's political legacy and his succession.
Ancient Places, New Words: Images of Augustus' Rome - Encounters
The vast monumental and infrastructure programme that Augustus implemented in Rome led to the radical renewal of every material and symbolic aspect of the city. With this programme the prince presented himself as the new founder of its political and religious institutions, of its administrative and management services and of civic life and social practice in a city that was being made ready to become the stage for the new imperial power. This radical revision and redefinition of the very meaning of the urban space was accompanied by the creation of images, descriptions and symbols involving places and monuments in the city's topography in an attempt to create an urban image consistent with the regime's cultural programmes and with its ideological messages. Classical literary, epigraphic, iconographic and archaeological sources allow us to reconstruct the origin of several excellent cases (ranging from the places associated with the myth of Rome's foundation to the images of the "blonde Tiber" and of the "Seven Hills") that are still a powerful presence in the city's culture, history and memory even today.
The Power of Architecture, the Architecture of Power - Encounters
The age of Augustus was the age when Roman architecture reached its peak, the age in which Rome succeeded in expressing an architectural vocabulary of its own that was to survive the test of space and time. It was the first time that architectural forms valid for the city first and later for the entire Roman world were being developed and tested in Rome itself. In the Res gestae, the spiritual legacy in which Augustus decided what part of his activity as a builder he should hand down to posterity, he drafted an impressive list of the architectural projects of his reign that were a direct result of his personal initiative, but they were all set in the imperial capital. The seventy-year-old emperor's eyes and mind did not extend to his work in Nikopolis, Athens, Gaul, the Iberian peninsula, Asia Minor or distant Galatia because it had been overshadowed by the splendour of his achievements in the city of Rome itself.
Augustus in the Politics of His Day: Hero or Tyrant? - Encounters
The myth of Augustus, born during his own lifetime following his victory in the civil war and his pacification of the Republic, has survived for twenty centuries, maintaining certain constant aspects while also adapting to certain changes. From the revolutions of the contemporary age onwards, its "success" has taken on strong political and dramatic overtones, acquiring a sacred quality in the legend of the universal Rome and the celebration of the Italian homeland, or becoming a negative symbol of freedom oppressed and denied.
Augustus the Pop-Star: The Imperial Topos and its Aftermath - Encounters
That the Augustan model has survived is not due to the image of the Princeps so much as to the clever system of political and cultural synthesis in which it played a leading role. Stability as a guarantee of prosperity, natural law as a premise for divine favour, and civic religion as a moral binding agent for the community are some of the stereotypes that have survived down the centuries, offering themselves as anthropological tools useful for resolving centrifugal thrusts in a community in a context sharing the same conception of society and of power. Thus Augustus the pop-star refers to the way in which these concepts surface in popular culture, especially in those political systems that explicitly take their cue from the Augustan imperial model. This is the guile and the rhetoric of power in Star Wars, or the image of military consistency in battle found in cartoons. It is also the stereotype of public communication, such as the Pax Americana or the Napoleonic cult of the state. All of these are elements which go to make up the cultural humus of our subsconcious as Westerners, and on which it is certainly worth endeavouring to shed light.
Virgil's IVth Eclogue between Kingship and Christianity - Encounters
Virgil's IVth Eclogue is one of the most intriguing, enigmatic and, at the same time, most successful pieces of Roman literature. It speaks of a mysterious puer, an extraordinary boy destined to restore peace and prosperity among men. But who is this puer? There was a great deal of speculation as to his identity even in ancient times, in the wake of a mysterious prophecy from the Sybil which left open all kinds of possibilities. Some even considered Octavian Augustus to be a potential candidate. This, until a later Roman emperor decided that in actual fact the boy could only be the Saviour Himself.
Augustus and the New Golden Age - Encounters
Claudio Parisi Presicce
After decades of civil war, new values began to spread with the Augustan age, permeating society and the artistic taste of the era. Thus such concepts as pax, felicitas temporum and pietas, idyllic images of a world devoid of war and weapons in which peace and justice might reign unchallenged in an eternal springtime, began to play a central role. Decorative motifs such as clusters of fruit and vegetables, spiralling acanthus leaves, animals and peasant farmers immersed in bucolic landscapes designed to evoke abundance and prosperity, became all-pervasive both on monuments erected on public soil and on moveable objects of the highest quality intended for adorning private residences and even for accompanying the Roman faithful on their final journey to the underworld.