The most biggest lie about roman emperors

Jan 2015
3,354
Australia
#91
Opposition to the Caesars did not worry overly about legality. Since no office actually existed ('Emperor' is a modern word the Romans did not use and the Caesars of Rome did not have a single authority, but instead, held control via packages of titles, powers, and honours the Senate assigned them) there could not be by definition a legal means to oust someone controlling them.
Like the post immediately after this one by Olleus points out, something not existing as an official position on a piece of paper doesn't mean anything if it exists in fact. The Prime Minister of Australia isn't mentioned once in the Constitution either, and to read that document without context you might come away thinking the Governor General was running the country. In reality it's the exact opposite; the GG is nothing but a ceremonial functionary, while the PM is the guy in charge. The fact that as historians we're calling all these people emperors for ease of discussion, even though it wasn't their official title at the time, doesn't change the reality; that these guys were autocrats running Rome, which is what the position (unofficial or otherwise) was all about.

You then say, and I'm still trying to wrap my mind around this, that the opposition to the Caesar/Emperor did "not [need to] worry overly about legality". Well, if there are no legal means to oppose your wishes, and the people who want to oppose them need to act outside the law, that's basically the definition of a dictatorship. Normally when people oppose the power of the person running the country they can at the very least vote against them at the ballot box, etc, or the other governing bodies who share power can try to sack them. Your implicit concession that none of that was possible is the knife in the heart of your argument the emperors were not dictators.

Your paradoxical argument, that "since no office existed there was nothing to overthrow" is clearly not true; there is the de facto office the person with all these powers is holding, whatever they chose to call themselves. For instance, if the Senate (as you claimed) held the same or more powers as in the republic then they should have been able to simply vote to remove the powers from this person. In reality the Senate was a rubber stamp who had no legal redress against this person, and who could be compelled to do more or less anything by them. Power in Rome was not just "about Social Status", some of the Emperors were tremendously unpopular with the public and their peers at large; but because they had de facto power it didn't matter. The client/patron relationship is a complete red herring. In the old days of the Republic there were a bunch of families who formed the ruling class, and the power was divided among them more or less, however the balance ebbed and flowed. In the case of Imperial Rome the power was in the hands of one person, and everyone who wanted something had to ally themselves in some capacity with that person; because there weren't any alternatives. If the one guy in charge wanted to exile you or kick you out of the Senate, or make sure you didn't get any government contracts, etc, to cut you off from the source of your power; then he could. Clients enlisted with a patron because the patron could do stuff for them. If the patron can't do stuff for the client then they're a useless patron and will lose their clients. Similarly, if the patron needs to go through another patron to get things for their clients, then their clients are in effect the clients of someone else, just like different branches of a family under the family head are all under that family head on a chart. In the days of the republic powerful families could get together politically to oppose rival factions. In the Empire the guy in charge would just take the power from anyone trying to oppose him (which would both end the opposition, and prevent opposition from ever happening in the first place because you can see it won't end well).

Your counter point of "well they can assassinate him" only serves to show the vast differences that existed between the power structure in the Empire and Republic, where there were many legal means of opposition, power was shared and balanced to some degree, and there wasn't one guy with insurmountable life powers that neutered all legal opposition, and a host of other powers and structural support that made illegal opposition pretty tough too (for the Senate certainly).

Also the idea that the Senate would remove someone is subject to them debating and voting in that way. The Senate was not a unified body that acted to command. it was composed of Rome's elite who were wealthy enough to qualify, and the majority wanted nothing more than to be important and to enjoy senatorial perks than actually run the city. Even the men sent to oversee provinces did not rule over them directly. Local government remained in power and the governor was there as Rome's representative, the final word in both Roman and native law (Rome did not wipe away local laws when they brought a new provice into the fold - they simply added their own to the mix). Few would have the courage to stand up and declare opposition overtly. It was a very dangerous thing to do because the Caesar knew his position was insecure and thus needed protecting. However, the idea that a veto from a Caesar was meaningfully powerful in the face of a senatorial decree against him is ridiculous. If senators felt safe enough to make such a move, no veto from the offending Caesar could possibly matter. After all, once Nero was left exposed, the vengeful senators declared him 'Enemy of the State' thus he could be legally killed by anyone.
Like I said above; the fact that you can legally oppose the ruler once he's already doomed, is not a mark in favour of your argument. In the Republic you could oppose members of the Senate, no matter how powerful, all the time. The triumvirate, for all it's influence, was in constant conflict with other rival factions; because power was still somewhat dispersed and balanced. The Senate declared Nero their enemy only after he had lost support from everyone; the army, the P.Guard, and the people (in that order of importance); opposing generals were literally closing in with armed forces. At that point the Senate was just trying to get on side with the next Emperor, it was not in any way shaping or effecting the conflict or it's outcome. Indeed, when the Senate tried to do that they only discovered how powerless they were in Imperial Rome. The opposite of the Senate in Republican times, which shaped and controlled events for the most part.
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,127
#92
The problem is that you want Roman Emperors as absolute monarchs. They were not, at least not before Diocletian and even he found it necessary to split his rule into a tetrarchy.

The ruling Caesar did not rule by decree, though this was increasingly something they got away with and utilised leading to the Dominate situation from Diocletian onward. Although you seem utterly fixated by Augustus' tribunician veto, I have to point out that the sources contain almost no evidence of its use - in fact, the only example I can think of is a major one where Augustus got uptight about the murderous bad behaviour of the Senate and denied them control for seven years until they sorted themselves out. In fact, every Caesar had a unique relationship with the Senate and it's a fundamental flaw to believe that the Senate had ceased to act as a governmental body simply because they had accepted autocratic oversight. Although some sources do state that "he Republic had died", they mean something a little different than a complete change of regime. They meant the old spirit of freedom and civic duty. The Senate remained the official government until it subsided into ineffectiveness when Diocletian took control. The Empire remained SPQR by name. Senate and People of Rome. A little odd for a massive empire ruled by an all powerful Caesar don't you think?

The other issue is the common fault of trying to interpret the Roman world by modern themes, standards, structures, behaviour, and mindset. The Romans were of course urbanised sophisticated folk and some of their behaviour is bound to be similar to ours, but there were significant differences. Their politics was not what many expect.

So the empire was a massive swathe of land containing romanised populations? No, it wasn't. Rome was a city state that dominated a commonwealth consisting of imperial provinces, senatorial provinces, military regions, tribal enclaves, and to some extent, client states. These regions were even more diverse because they did not all share the same status even in the same category.

You then say, and I'm still trying to wrap my mind around this, that the opposition to the Caesar/Emperor did "not [need to] worry overly about legality". Well, if there are no legal means to oppose your wishes, and the people who want to oppose them need to act outside the law, that's basically the definition of a dictatorship.
A very poor definition since dictatorships require dictators and that's exactly what Augustus sought to avoid. No-one will argue he became extremely influential or that in private he was a nasty paranoid piece of work, but that was Rome. Augustus nonetheless maintained a relationship with the Senate because he knew they were not powerless. Since his own basis of control was based on an accumulation of powers and had no secure legality or constitutional role, he needed to keep the Senate sweet. In any case, he needed them full stop, since they were the effective government and Augustus knew he would struggle to rule alone - please note the increasing autocratic power and dwindling senatorial control was very much the cause of the later division of the Empire, not to mention beginning the decay of societal dynamism that Polybius had dismissed back in 150BC. After all, before Augustus there were no Emperors, yes? So why was Augustus able to claim in his Res Gestae that he created nothing new?

Your counter point of "well they can assassinate him" only serves to show the vast differences that existed between the power structure in the Empire and Republic, where there were many legal means of opposition, power was shared and balanced to some degree, and there wasn't one guy with insurmountable life powers that neutered all legal opposition, and a host of other powers and structural support that made illegal opposition pretty tough too (for the Senate certainly).
The republican Senate were just as murderous as they always were. And I will quote an example yet again - that of Caligula asking permission from the Senate to hold games. Pointless according to your construct, but Suetonius records it.
 
Mar 2018
473
UK
#93
The problem is that you want Roman Emperors as absolute monarchs. They were not, at least not before Diocletian and even he found it necessary to split his rule into a tetrarchy.

The ruling Caesar did not rule by decree, though this was increasingly something they got away with and utilised leading to the Dominate situation from Diocletian onward. Although you seem utterly fixated by Augustus' tribunician veto, I have to point out that the sources contain almost no evidence of its use - in fact, the only example I can think of is a major one where Augustus got uptight about the murderous bad behaviour of the Senate and denied them control for seven years until they sorted themselves out. In fact, every Caesar had a unique relationship with the Senate and it's a fundamental flaw to believe that the Senate had ceased to act as a governmental body simply because they had accepted autocratic oversight. Although some sources do state that "he Republic had died", they mean something a little different than a complete change of regime. They meant the old spirit of freedom and civic duty. The Senate remained the official government until it subsided into ineffectiveness when Diocletian took control. The Empire remained SPQR by name. Senate and People of Rome. A little odd for a massive empire ruled by an all powerful Caesar don't you think?

The other issue is the common fault of trying to interpret the Roman world by modern themes, standards, structures, behaviour, and mindset. The Romans were of course urbanised sophisticated folk and some of their behaviour is bound to be similar to ours, but there were significant differences. Their politics was not what many expect.

So the empire was a massive swathe of land containing romanised populations? No, it wasn't. Rome was a city state that dominated a commonwealth consisting of imperial provinces, senatorial provinces, military regions, tribal enclaves, and to some extent, client states. These regions were even more diverse because they did not all share the same status even in the same category.


A very poor definition since dictatorships require dictators and that's exactly what Augustus sought to avoid. No-one will argue he became extremely influential or that in private he was a nasty paranoid piece of work, but that was Rome. Augustus nonetheless maintained a relationship with the Senate because he knew they were not powerless. Since his own basis of control was based on an accumulation of powers and had no secure legality or constitutional role, he needed to keep the Senate sweet. In any case, he needed them full stop, since they were the effective government and Augustus knew he would struggle to rule alone - please note the increasing autocratic power and dwindling senatorial control was very much the cause of the later division of the Empire, not to mention beginning the decay of societal dynamism that Polybius had dismissed back in 150BC. After all, before Augustus there were no Emperors, yes? So why was Augustus able to claim in his Res Gestae that he created nothing new?


The republican Senate were just as murderous as they always were. And I will quote an example yet again - that of Caligula asking permission from the Senate to hold games. Pointless according to your construct, but Suetonius records it.

I get the feeling you haven't taken the time to read what the other posters have said here. You've rehashed your previous arguments, but have made no effort to address what we have said.

But there many points to address here.

1) The name SPQR clearly just remained out of tradition. North Korea is called DPRK - Democratic People's Republic of Korea, yet is one of the most absolute dictatorship the world has ever seen.

2) The senate - or rather, the senatorial class - did maintain some importance in government. Most of the Legates and provincial governors where senators until Diocletian I believe. But in that capacity they served more as civil servants than as any kind of executive or legislative. They also served at the Emperor's discretion. Having a group of people that you give jobs to does not mean the emperor was not absolute. It just meant he delegated. Obviously those people he delegated to had some power, but only for as long as the Emperor willed it. In the case of the Senate, one of the reasons Augustus and the early Emperors delegated to it was for the sake of public appearances. But it was delegated power that the Emperor could take back, utterly different from a sort of separation of powers that marks modern constitutions.

3) Nobody said that the Roman empire was homogenous or any of the like. Nor are we judging by modern standards. Using the modern term emperor is just a convenient shorthand which is universally understood.

4) Augustus was definitely trying to achieve a dictatorship. He was just trying to avoid being called a dictator. The two are not incompatible. All the early emperors tried to do this to diminishing degree, until Diocletian stopped pretending. Just because Augustus didn't want to be called a dictator doesn't mean he wasn't. A good modern example might be Putin. Sure, there's a show of democracy and a parliament and all the like, but you'd have to be incredibly naive not too see that all the strings went back to Putin. Yet; if you started a protest in Moscow saying just that, you would be arrested. Should we say that Putin isn't a dictator just because he doesn't want to be called one? Same argument applies to Augustus onwards.

5) Augustus worked with the senate because it was a convenient group of people to delegate to (they were educated in warfare/government and keen to serve), it kept up the appearances, and reduced the likelihood of them rebelling. Every dictator in history has tried to placate people who could eventually challenge their authority. That Augustus does so too does not mean that he is not a dictator.

6) Caligula and the games has been addressed a million times. Rubber stamp. Every dictator does this.



I think the heart of the problem is you have a different concept of autocrat/dictator to the rest of us. I define it as someone from whom all authority in a country/nation/empire is derived, and who has no legal limits to his power (only assassination/rebellion can stop him). You appear to define it as someone who rules and governs alone, without delegating to anyone, not taking advice from anyone, and making no pretence of disguising their power. I would suggest that your definition is not a useful one, as it implies that virtually no one in history has ever been a dictator.
 
#94
I like the above response, and I'd also like to point out that the distinction between the Principate and the Dominate is somewhat artificial. Fewer and fewer scholars are using it. As I've pointed out in a previous post (and in this thread: Favourite Emperor of the 'Crisis' and Tetrarchic Periods (235-306)), the decline of the Senate was a gradual process. Claudius took power through the praetorians and power largely rested with his freedmen and relatives, not the Senate. The Senate as a body didn't act against Nero until the armies and praetorians did. Domitian was only assassinated after he started killing people in his own household. The praetorians killed the Senate's choices for emperors in 238 (Pupienus and Balbinus). Senators had ceased to hold military commands after 270 (before Diocletian). Moreover, ceremonial varied between 'first-among-equals' (e.g. Tiberius, Trajan) and more autocratic (Caligula, Domitian, Aurelian) before Diocletian came along, and emperors had used dominus et deus before Diocletian as well (Domitian, Aurelian, it is generally presumed for other third-century emperors). Sources are also divided on whether it was Aurelian or Diocletian who first introduced bejewelled diadems and gaudy clothes. So it seems to me that emperors were flexible in how they wished to approach their self-representation, and the more autocratic style eventually won out.
 
Likes: benzev
Jan 2015
3,354
Australia
#95
The problem is that you want Roman Emperors as absolute monarchs. They were not, at least not before Diocletian and even he found it necessary to split his rule into a tetrarchy.

The ruling Caesar did not rule by decree, though this was increasingly something they got away with and utilised leading to the Dominate situation from Diocletian onward. Although you seem utterly fixated by Augustus' tribunician veto, I have to point out that the sources contain almost no evidence of its use - in fact, the only example I can think of is a major one where Augustus got uptight about the murderous bad behaviour of the Senate and denied them control for seven years until they sorted themselves out. In fact, every Caesar had a unique relationship with the Senate and it's a fundamental flaw to believe that the Senate had ceased to act as a governmental body simply because they had accepted autocratic oversight. Although some sources do state that "he Republic had died", they mean something a little different than a complete change of regime. They meant the old spirit of freedom and civic duty. The Senate remained the official government until it subsided into ineffectiveness when Diocletian took control. The Empire remained SPQR by name. Senate and People of Rome. A little odd for a massive empire ruled by an all powerful Caesar don't you think?

The other issue is the common fault of trying to interpret the Roman world by modern themes, standards, structures, behaviour, and mindset. The Romans were of course urbanised sophisticated folk and some of their behaviour is bound to be similar to ours, but there were significant differences. Their politics was not what many expect.

So the empire was a massive swathe of land containing romanised populations? No, it wasn't. Rome was a city state that dominated a commonwealth consisting of imperial provinces, senatorial provinces, military regions, tribal enclaves, and to some extent, client states. These regions were even more diverse because they did not all share the same status even in the same category.


A very poor definition since dictatorships require dictators and that's exactly what Augustus sought to avoid. No-one will argue he became extremely influential or that in private he was a nasty paranoid piece of work, but that was Rome. Augustus nonetheless maintained a relationship with the Senate because he knew they were not powerless. Since his own basis of control was based on an accumulation of powers and had no secure legality or constitutional role, he needed to keep the Senate sweet. In any case, he needed them full stop, since they were the effective government and Augustus knew he would struggle to rule alone - please note the increasing autocratic power and dwindling senatorial control was very much the cause of the later division of the Empire, not to mention beginning the decay of societal dynamism that Polybius had dismissed back in 150BC. After all, before Augustus there were no Emperors, yes? So why was Augustus able to claim in his Res Gestae that he created nothing new?


The republican Senate were just as murderous as they always were. And I will quote an example yet again - that of Caligula asking permission from the Senate to hold games. Pointless according to your construct, but Suetonius records it.
I mean, Olleus covers most of your points below so well there's not much point responding to most of this. You're confusing a convenient illusion (like rigged elections in modern day dictatorships, or the name "democratic" in the country's title) with reality. All dictators pretend to care about what their people think, and to be acting for the greater good, etc. There's no evidence of the (genuine) need of Emperors to keep the Senate "sweet", quite the reverse (in reality the Senate was basically powerless, as was explained). The power all flowed from the ruler, so they were the ones who needed to keep onside with him (especially as the chances were they only got into the Senate and stayed there because he willed it). The fact the ruler would delegate isn't evidence of a non-dictatorship. All dictators delegate to people to some degree. It doesn't mean the power isn't all coming from the ruler. Nor does the possibility of assassination or a coup somehow diminish the reality of a dictatorship. Every dictatorship is vulnerable to those things to some degree.
 

caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,127
#96
I get the feeling you haven't taken the time to read what the other posters have said here. You've rehashed your previous arguments, but have made no effort to address what we have said.
There's a lot of that happening on these forums every day. I don't have the time or the inclination to answer absolutely everything, so tough, basically.

1) The name SPQR clearly just remained out of tradition. North Korea is called DPRK - Democratic People's Republic of Korea, yet is one of the most absolute dictatorship the world has ever seen.
Up to a point I agree. Tradition was very important to the Romans. But the idea it represented a 'do not cross' line is not true. Whatever you might say about tradition, it remains peculiar that ego-driven Caesars did not attempt to recreate the Roman Empire in their own image. Nero tried, by the way. He wanted to call the eternal city Neropolis - it was his attempt to build it and the costs involved that led to his death.

2) The senate - or rather, the senatorial class - did maintain some importance in government. Most of the Legates and provincial governors where senators until Diocletian I believe. But in that capacity they served more as civil servants than as any kind of executive or legislative. They also served at the Emperor's discretion. Having a group of people that you give jobs to does not mean the emperor was not absolute. It just meant he delegated. Obviously those people he delegated to had some power, but only for as long as the Emperor willed it. In the case of the Senate, one of the reasons Augustus and the early Emperors delegated to it was for the sake of public appearances. But it was delegated power that the Emperor could take back, utterly different from a sort of separation of powers that marks modern constitutions.
I guess the word 'emperor' is not going to go away. People like it too much irrespective of its lack of validity. On the issue of power - clearly the majority see it in simplistic modern terms as applied in one authority. This is after all the selling point of the Romans these days and to confess, it is the reason I started reading history in the first place. However, the 'emperor' was not fulfilling a political office. He was a dominant member of Roman society acknowledged as such by his peers in the Senate, who in fact were at their most powerful during the reign of Tiberius. His power was not applied in one hit. It was the accumulation of republican titles, offices, powers, and rights as voted to him by the Senate. Many of these required renewal either legally or for continued recognition. This was why the Roman elitye accepted the situation. To have assumed ruling power by one office was to become Rex, and that, for senior Romans,created a need to get rid of a tyrant. The plebs on the other hand rather liked the idea. They got a visible leader instead of a grey mass of toga-wearing elites.

3) Nobody said that the Roman empire was homogenous or any of the like. Nor are we judging by modern standards. Using the modern term emperor is just a convenient shorthand which is universally understood.
No. It isn't. it creates a fallacy because the meaning of the word is defined by later eras.

4) Augustus was definitely trying to achieve a dictatorship. He was just trying to avoid being called a dictator. The two are not incompatible. All the early emperors tried to do this to diminishing degree, until Diocletian stopped pretending. Just because Augustus didn't want to be called a dictator doesn't mean he wasn't. A good modern example might be Putin. Sure, there's a show of democracy and a parliament and all the like, but you'd have to be incredibly naive not too see that all the strings went back to Putin. Yet; if you started a protest in Moscow saying just that, you would be arrested. Should we say that Putin isn't a dictator just because he doesn't want to be called one? Same argument applies to Augustus onwards.
I don't mean to offend but that's probably the most ignorant thing I've read so far. Augustus could have had dictatorship without effort, given the public support for the idea, but even he baulked at the idea. Whereas Julius Caesar had made a pretence of refusing the crown he had nonetheless become Dictator Perpetua, unheard of and unacceptable to many in the Senate. There is a very real distinction between holding a primary office and holding the greatest influence. Augustus fulfilled the latter. The concept of influence was part and parcel of republican life anyway and although Augustus made every use of it, he does not take the step of assuming any form of monarchical title. Of course some sources disagree. Dio complains he was a king by any other name - he would, having experienced Commodus - and Eutropius who wrote about the terrible naked ambition that drove the man. Nonetheless, what is also clear from the sources is that Augustus put the Senate and the voting assemblies back in working order. The title of Dictator remained abolished along the Imperium Magnum ("The greatest command") that empowered it. Augustus wielded the a number of titles, but his 'supreme power' (his own words) was voted to him by the Senate under the title of Imperator which gave him Imperium Maius "The most dignified of command". It was renewed by senatorial vote at least twenty times during his reign.

5) Augustus worked with the senate because it was a convenient group of people to delegate to (they were educated in warfare/government and keen to serve), it kept up the appearances, and reduced the likelihood of them rebelling. Every dictator in history has tried to placate people who could eventually challenge their authority. That Augustus does so too does not mean that he is not a dictator.
6) Caligula and the games has been addressed a million times. Rubber stamp. Every dictator does this.
Caligula didn't need a rubber stamp nor was he the kind of personality that would seek one. He thought the Senate were useless and obstructive to his genius. Little wonder he wanted to move the capital to Alexandria in Egypt, where legally the Senate could not go since Augustus had ruled it so.

I think the heart of the problem is you have a different concept of autocrat/dictator to the rest of us. I define it as someone from whom all authority in a country/nation/empire is derived, and who has no legal limits to his power (only assassination/rebellion can stop him). You appear to define it as someone who rules and governs alone, without delegating to anyone, not taking advice from anyone, and making no pretence of disguising their power. I would suggest that your definition is not a useful one, as it implies that virtually no one in history has ever been a dictator.
Drivel. The role of Dictator in the modern world and the Roman office of Dictator are not quite the same. Both positions of power. No question. Ours is a catch-all phrase for autocratic rulers with no impediment or restraint to control. But the office of Dictator in the Roman world was subject to a plebeian veto - that was why the office fell of use until the late republic. With popular sympathy, Julius Caesar could claim the title with little worry about restraint. Granted, Augustus too had much the same popular sympathy (the Roman mob had forced the Senate to barricade themselves in the Curia and threatened to burn it down if Augustus was not made Dictator) but he refused. If you look closer, you see Augustus taking on a role of 'father to the state'. He was the Patrone of the Roman world (Tom Holland referred to it as 'Godfather' in analogy with the mafia). He ruled not by decree, but by influence. He advised. He maintained republican offices and institutions and indeed encouraged their efficient business. Augustus thought of standing down when he emerged as sole Triumvir. Not the behaviour of a man driven to become a tyrant. Simply a Roman patrician doing what patricians do. Except he was more successful than most.
 
Mar 2018
473
UK
#97
There's a lot of that happening on these forums every day. I don't have the time or the inclination to answer absolutely everything, so tough, basically.
Ok. I was writing to inform you of things, if you can't be bothered to try and learn, I'll save my time and effort. I enjoyed reading your posts for the different perspective they provided. But now you're not even doing that. I gain nothing by reading your posts, and you don't read the one's I write. No reason for this thread to continue.
 
Likes: Caesarmagnus
Jan 2015
3,354
Australia
#98
Pretty much. Cal says Augustus didn't want to be dictator, when in reality it's clear he just didn't want to be called a dictator. The powers he amassed were dictatorial in nature no matter how you slice it, which is why Cal grudgingly admits no legal opposition was possible, the office he had just wasn't called dictator. Not that tough a concept to wrap one's mind around. Once legal opposition is impossible you're a dictator in fact, if not title. But the powers he had were indistinguishable in effect from those of a dictator, between his imperium mais for life, trivunican powers for life, Censor powers for life, control of the important provinces with the armies in them, etc. He was a de facto dictator, period, not above violating the law when it suited him either (see the scandal involving Julia for eg). There was no legal process when guys like Caligula or Tiberius or Nero were ordering the arbitrary deaths of Senators, etc, because they knew they were above the law in fact, however much it might suit them to disguise that most of the time. Nor does the fact Nero was eventually overthrown and replaced by a new Emperor in any way change the fact he had these powers. Dictators can be overthrown.
 
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#99
This thread seems to be winding down, but there are a few points made in Cadrail's last post that I'd like to address.

1. I do not agree that the Senate was at its height during the reign of Tiberius. Yes, Tiberius was a hands-off ruler who sought to defer a great deal of governance to the Senate. The emperorship was still young, and the emperors of the first century as a whole can be said to be working out what exactly their role was. Tiberius played into the fiction that he was a mere servant of the government at large more than most emperors. The advent of Augustus had also ended the power of the popular assemblies, to the benefit of the Senate. But the senators reacted with frustration to Tiberius' hands-off and exceptionally aloof nature, and for much of Tiberius' reign they understood that power really resided with those closest to Tiberius and who controlled access to the emperor, who included his praetorian prefect Sejanus (not a senator) and his praetorians. For many, the reign of Tiberius was a time of terror via treason trials, and while senators were active participants who exploited rivalries in order to prosecute their enemies and who sought to use treason trials to get into the good books of Tiberius and Sejanus, the fact of the latter motivation and the reality of Sejanus' power leads me to the impression that Tiberius' reign was not the height of senatorial power but a sign of things to come that would not favour the power of the Senate as a body.

2. I continue to think that 'emperor' is a convenient term to describe the person assigned the package of powers being discussed. It has potential to misguide, but as long as people understand what the realities of imperial power actually were then I think it should be fine.

3. Augustus did baulk at the title of dictator (he understood the importance of pretence and propaganda, and saw his own unique path to power and influence, that ostensibly preserved the republic, to be the better path), but that says nothing about the reality of his power nor the future understanding that there was indeed a package of powers and honours to be transferred from person to person that ensured that a person was in charge.

4. Caligula evidently saw his power as being something akin to a Hellenistic king (again, Caesars were still playing around with what it meant to be Caesar). When he asked the Senate permission to hold games he was only following one of the customs that had been followed since Augustus. He no doubt understood that the Senate couldn't and wouldn't actually oppose him when he asked for games. Caligula was allowing pretences to remain while drifting further into a more king-like self-representation.

5. Augustus was by far the most powerful man in the empire with effective control of the state from 31 BC to AD 14 (a long time!). He also secured the same power for Tiberius, and had been seeking to do similar for others as far back as the 20s BC with Marcellus. I think it's naive to think that Augustus didn't want to have the most power in the state nor to establish a dynasty. He was playing a game that provided for minimal opposition while establishing his power and providing for a dynasty. Clearly there were Romans who considered the idea of a dictator for life as being un-Republican and tyrannical. Augustus maintained the image of a Republic while ushering in a new political arrangement, one that came to be defined by the transferal of Augustus' powers and titles from one man to another in a way that provided for that man's rule over the state.
 
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caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,127
Okay, let's bring this to a head. frankly neither Olleus nor Caesarmagnus have offered any real historical evidence or insight to their argument which devolves basically into their preferred opinion. Augustus worked with the Senate, not in charge of it, though we agree his influence was such that he held a guiding hand. He was a transitional form of leader, one using republican forms, leading to a situation from the Dominate onwards when one might more realistically describe the Roman Caesar's as 'Emperors'. The idea that merely avoiding calling oneself by a name or such was enough is not convincing. The Romans attached huge importance to titles and usually underpinned them with privilege - for them, social status was everything and Augustus had adopted a role in society as Princeps, "First Citizen", which meant far more to them than either of you. Ideas of Auctoritas are more nebulous and complex than the simplistic modern concepts you offer. In Rome, the one single absolute authority that had any social acceptance was that of the head of family. By social primacy, Augustus was functioning as the City's 'father', and it was this that gave him the apparent power whatever political rights he had accumulated. The Client/Patron system was part of Roman society. It was what made the Senate powerful, it was what made Augustus more so.

I do expect dismissalsand more adverse opinion, but to be honest, you're wasting your time, unless of course either of you actually bother reading the sources and learning something about Roman politics, sociology, and mindset. I'm not an expert - I never claimed to be - but at least I don't believe my opinion is worth more than anyone else.