Augustus: A Turning Point In European History

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With the gift of hindsight, even the staunchest of revisionists can acknowledge that the reign of Augustus was a clear turning point in European History – whether or not this change was a steady evolutionary measure or a rapid revolutionary one is subject to much scrutiny. Certainly when looking at the Senate, the sheer tact of Augustus made the transition from oligarchy to autocracy seem almost seamless to his political contemporaries.[[2]] This was not to say that senators were none the wiser; the position of Augustus during the early principate developed much more organically than one could have expected. Consider the situation as thus: after the war against Antony came to a close, Augustus (or as he was known then, Octavian) was at the head of Rome’s empire: he had, at his disposal, over five hundred thousand legionaries [[3]] (many of whom defected from Antony to Octavian after Actium) as well as a recently seized Ptolemaic treasury – as Tacitus puts it, ‘Opposition did not exist’.[[4]] With this in mind, it seems strange that Octavian developed his power base…show more content…
The fact that throughout the duration of his reign Augustus had complete military authority made any form of senatorial resistance impossible. How did Augustus keep control of such a large body of troops? After Actium, it was Octavian’s main priority to reduce the size of the Roman army from 500, 000 (over fifty legions) to 300, 000 (28 legions – the standard number of legions for much of Augustus’ reign)[[26]]. This would enable two things: legionaries of dubious loyalties would now be disarmed, and fewer inactive troops with a pretext for mutiny. Those dismissed settled in veteran colonies – which were, of course, funded by Augustus'’ vast Ptolemaic treasure.[[27]] The Emperor also dictated the pay of the legions: once again, Augustus’ personal fortune paved the way for
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