Augustus is feeling pretty chipper so he and Livia join Tiberius on his trip to the east. It’ll be the princeps’ last trip.
Meanwhile Augustus asked people to just leave him the fuck alone.
In 12 CE Germanicus read a speech out in the Senate where he said the princeps wanted senators to stop formally greeting him and bidding him farewell when he arrived at and left the Forum.
He just wanted to get home quickly to watch his shows and put his feet up.
He also asked them to stop coming to his house.
And to stop inviting him to have dinner at their houses.
JUST LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE.
LEAVE ME ALONE MICHAEL JACKSON
He also changes the arrangements of the consilium principis, the sounding board for the Senate – basically his mini Senate.
Instead of senators being picked by lot and serving six month terms, he just picked the guys he liked and made them permanent.
Which, as it turns out, wasn’t going to be such a long assignment.
And their decisions now counted as if they were decrees of the Senate, not just “suggestions… which you should follow if you know what’s good for you.”
Dio says Augustus would hold these meetings of the mini Senate and his house while he lay on a couch.
The Don Draper school of doing business.
Tiberius and his sons were part of the small council, which made the succession plans easier.
But Augustus still continued to do a considerable amount of work and make important decisions.
Even if he was guided by friends and family.
And he was still as cunning as a fox.
In 13 CE, rich people were bitching about the 5% inheritance tax which he set up to pay for the military treasury.
So he invited senators to come up with their own ideas.
They faffed about, didnt come with much, and he said “fine – instead of an inheritance tax, I’ll just put a levy on your total property holdings”.
And they said “No! The inheritance tax is great!”
Also in 13 he was given another ten year extension of his province and powers.
Which was pretty ambitious.
The guy is 75.
Tiberius was also given the same powers and his head started to appear on the reverse side of coins which had Augustus’s head on the other side.
They were also both given the consular powers to supervise another census which was completed in 14 CE and showed there were 4,937,000 citizens – almost 900,000 more than in the first census Augustus had overseen in 28 BCE.
Which he saw as evidence of his success creating peace and prosperity.
It was 43 years since the suicide of Antony.
But there were signs and omens that his time was coming to an end.
Dio says lightening hit the letter C of Caesar on the base of a statue of Augustus on the Capitoline Hill.
DIO: This led the seers to declare that on the hundredth day after that he should attain to some divine state. They deduced this from the fact that the letter “C” signifies “one hundred” among the Latins, and the remainder of the word means “god” among the Etruscans.
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The word AESAR in Etruscan meant god – which was taken as a sign that he was about to be deified.
And we have birds!
Suetonius claims that when the census was completed, an eagle flew several times about Augustus then perched on a temple above the first letter of the name Agrippa.
Augustus was about to read out a formal vow for the welfare of the Roman people in five years time, but then had Tibbo read it out for him, because he said he wouldn’t be around to see his promise through.
Also – Galba, who was the first non-Caesar to become Emperor, assumed the toga virilis at this time on the very first day of the year.
At some point in the year 13, Augustus apparently went to visit Postumus Agrippa on the island off Sardinia where he was in exile.
Only one person when with him – the former consul Paullus Fabius Maximus – Fabulous to the Max as his friends called him.
But did the trip even really happen?
Some modern scholars think the whole story is a fiction designed to make it look like Augustus wasn’t sure about leaving the throne to Tibbo.
Whether it happened or not, it made no difference to his plans.
He’d already left his will with the Vestal Virgins the previous year and he didn’t change them.
Tibbo would be heir to roughly two-thirds of his estate.
Livia would get the other third.
The only mention of Postumus Agrippa and the two Julias was that they weren’t to be interred in Augustus’ mausoleum.
Even after his death they would get no forgiveness.
Unlike JC, Augustus didn’t turn the other cheek.
Tibbo had been busy in Italy for most of the year doing the census, but late in the summer he went to Illyricum to check that there weren’t any other rebellions about to happen.
Augustus and Livia went with him for some of the way, because there were games being held in the princeps’ honour in Naples.
It was to be Augustus’ last journey, and he was not to see Rome again.
They jumped on a ship but then Augustus fell ill with stomach trouble and diarrhoea.
He figured he’d just eaten some bad clams, no biggie, so they kept going.
Along the way they were passed by a merchant ship from Alexandria.
The crew and passengers greeted him all dressed in white, crowned with garlands, burning incense, like he was already some kind of god.
They called out to him that “through him they lived, through him they sailed, and through him they enjoyed freedom and prosperity”.
He was like “awww you guys” and gave each of his crew forty gold aurei, eg 1000 denarii, and told them to spend it on goods from Alexandria.
They arrived in Capri where he spent four days and seemed to be recovering well from tummy troubles.
He played one of his favourite games.
He got his Roman companions to dress up as Greeks, and his Greek companions to dress up as Romans.
And the Romans were to speak only Greek and the Greeks speak only Latin.
And let the games begin!
That’s what we had to do before TV and YouTube, kids.
He watched some youth doing military drills, threw them a feast, gave out prizes of fruit and delicacies to the crowd, told some jokes and urged them to tell jokes, even at his expense.
He was in good spirits.
But he still had diarrhoea.
Anyway, he crossed over to Naples, and watched the games in his honour.
Then he traveled with Tibbo as far as Beneventum and they said their goodbyes.
Augustus and Livia started back for Rome but they hadn’t gotten very far when Augustus took a turn for the worse.
By a coincidence, he was staying in his country villa in Nola where his birth father had died.
A message was sent to Tibbo to return.
The sources disagree whether or not he got back in time.
Suetonius claims he did and that the two spent a long time along together discussing affairs of state.
When Tiberius left, it was claimed that attendants heard Augustus mutter, ‘Oh unlucky Roman People, to be masticated by such slow jaws.’
After this meeting, Augustus said nothing more about affairs of state, but did boast that he had found Rome made of mud brick and left it in marble.
DIO: He did not thereby refer literally to the appearance of its buildings, but rather to the strength of the empire.
We don’t know how long he held on.
Dio says he ate only figs from a tree he had cultivated himself in the garden.
He also says Livia smeared some of them with poison which she fed to Augustus.
Stories like this, along with the one about the slow jaws, probably date from the time when Tiberius was very unpopular.
Here’s a guy who has never been very healthy and now he’s an old man by Roman standards.
He didn’t eat much in these last days – and his heart finally gave out.
Suetonius claims that on his final day, 19 August 14 CE, Augustus asked several times if there were disturbances outside.
He was worried about either a display of affection or of unrest which might threaten the stability of the state.
He called for a mirror, instructed a slave to comb his hair, and to help him adjust his jaw.
My notes on Suetonius say this was due to weakness.
A more controlled version of Julius Caesar pulling his toga up over his head.
Then, when he was ready, he told them to let in some of his friends.
And he asked them whether they felt he had played his part well in the mime or comedy of life.
Then he slipped into Greek and spoke some lines which may have been a direct quote, or perhaps his own invention of the type of thing said by an actor leaving the stage at the end of a performance:
Since well I’ve played my part, all clap your hands,
And from the stage dismiss me with applause.
Then he was left alone with Livia and his close attendants.
He got agitated for a moment and said he was being carried off by forty young men.
A STABLE OF YOUNG BOYS TO COME BEHIND ME
Suetonius notes that this was the number of praetorian guards who would carry his corpse.
Then he died.
At the ninth hour.
That is, nine hours after dawn.
So late afternoon or early evening.
Held in Livia’s arms, kissing her for the last time.
His last words to her were: “Livia, remember our married life, and farewell.”
Did he expect applause?
DIO: And by asking them for their applause, after the manner of the comic actors, as if at the close of a mime, he ridiculed most tellingly the whole life of man.
Then he dismissed them but before they left, he asked if there was any news from Rome of Livilla, the wife of Tiberius’ son Drusus, who had recently been ill.
Imperator Caesar Augustus, son of the divine Julius, father of his country, was dead.
DIO: Thus on the nineteenth day of August, the day on which he had first become consul, he passed away, having lived seventy-five years, ten months, and twenty-six days (he had been born on the twenty-third of September), and having been sole ruler, from the time of his victory at Actium forty-four years lacking thirteen days.
DIO: His death, however, was not immediately made public; for Livia, fearing that as Tiberius was still in Dalmatia there might be some uprising, concealed the fact until he arrived. This, at any rate, is the statement made by most writers, and the more trustworthy ones; but there are some who have affirmed that Tiberius was present during the emperor’s illness, and received some injunctions for him.
The body had to be carried back to Rome.
The town leaders of Nola carried it to the next town.
They carried him during the night, so the body could rest during the day and avoid the heat of the summer day.
Each day they rested the body in the coolness of the basilica of a town en route.
And then the leaders of that town would carry it during the next night on the next leg.
There were public displays of mourning everywhere.
Very few people could even remember a time when Augustus wasn’t the head of state.
A group of leading equestrians met the body just south of Rome, near the site of the old Alba Longa, and took it on into the City.
It was placed in the vestibule of Augustus’s complex on the Palantine.
The Senate debated how to honour him in death.
As usual, most of their proposals were dismissed as excessive.
SUETONIUS: One man proposed that the name of the month of August be transferred to September, because Augustus was born in the latter, but died in the former; another, that all the period from the day of his birth until his demise be called the Augustan Age, and so entered in the Calendar.
The funeral itself started with a gathering in the Forum, like aristocratic funerals always did.
Perhaps on 8 Sept.
Obviously this site had a strong connection to the death of Julius Caesar as well and that would have been on everyone’s minds.
That’s where this all started.
Actors wore the funeral masks of Augustus’ ancestors.
Others wore the images and insignia of other unrelated great men from Rome’s history.
Even Pompey was among them.
Probably most of the men from the Forum Augustum were there to honour the passing of the greatest Roman of them all.
Augustus was more than simply another aristocrat.
He was the second founder of the City, the man who had restored Rome to peace, prosperity and a proper relationship with the gods.
So in death, as in life, he claimed association with all the great deeds and the heroic leaders of the past.
Julius Caesar’s image was not included, because he was now a god.
But he wasn’t forgotten.
Tibbo mounted the Rostra outside the Temple of the Divine Julius to deliver the first eulogy.
He was dressed in a dark tunic and toga of mourning, as was his son Drusus, who delivered a second eulogy.
Here’s DIO’s version of Tiberius’ eulogy.
It’s quite long but I think it’s a fitting way to end our series.
The second scroll, with all of his acts, is of course the Res Gestae, (Latin “things done”).
He’s written the first draft of it 40 years earlier and had revised it for the last time in the year of his death.
The Senate voted to display it on two bronze pillars in front of his mausoleum, as the Augustus had directed.
The depressions in the ground where both pillars stood can be seen today outside the mausoleum immediately to the left and right of the entrance; they were discovered during excavation by Edmund Buchner only in the 1980s.
The two pillars themselves are lost.
Almost a full copy, written in the original Latin and a Greek translation was preserved on a temple to Augustus in Ancyra (the Monumentum Ancyranum of Ankara, Turkey); others have been found at Apollonia and Antioch, also both in Turkey.
The Senate also had the text of the Res Gestae sent to all Roman provinces, in order to make its contents known there.
The Senate was there of course, and the magistrates-elect for the next year, wearing just their tunics without togas, carried the body to the Campus Martius.
The body was concealed inside a coffin, probably because after three weeks in the summer heat, it was a bit whiffy.
A nice wax effigy of him was carried on top of it, reclining on a couch of ivory and gold.
There were also two gold statues of him carried in the procession.
One was carried by the senators from the Curia Julia which he had restored.
The other was carried in the triumphal chariot.
Of course, everywhere there were sign of Augustus’ lifetime of work.
A pyre was waiting on the Campus Martius and the coffin was placed on top.
Rome’s senior priests – hey I guess the job of pontifex maximus is now up for grabs? – marched around the pyre.
Then the equestrians ran around the pyre, followed by the praetorian guards.
Some of them threw their military decorations onto the coffin, just as JC’s soldiers had done at his funeral.
The praetorian centurions tossed lit torches onto the pile of wood.
As it caught fire, an eagle was released from within the structure and flew away into the air.
I bet it was fucking relieved.
It symbolised the princep’s spirit going up to the heavens to join his father among the gods.
A former praetor, Numerius Atticus, later took a public oath to say that he had clearly seen Augustus’ form ascending to the sky.
Well that’s good enough for me!
Livia paid him a modest amount.
Atticus may intentionally have been identifying Augustus with Romulus, the legendary founder and first King of Rome.
According to Livy (i. 16), after the death of Romulus, a man named Proculus Julius claimed to have witnessed the king descending from the heavens, urging his people not to fear, and proclaiming the future glory of the city.
Livia stayed near the spot of the pyre for five days.
Maybe in some kind of temporary shelter.
Some of her household were there to look after her, as well as some leading equestrians.
And the end of that period, these men, barefoot and with their tunics unbelted, so they hung low around their ankles, gathered the ashes and remains of the bones into an urn.
This was carried to and placed with the Mausoleum that Augustus had built fifty years earlier.
And that, dear friends, is the end of our series on Augustus Caesar.
We’ll be back in a few weeks with the next chapter of our story on the Caesars.
2 years, 8 months. 100 episodes. Started 7 October 2015.