* Augustus is left all alone to run the empire.
* In 5 BCE he becomes consul for the 12th time – 18 years since the last time he held the post.
* As consul, he led out his oldest adopted son, Caius, on the day he first donned his toga virilis.
* Not long afterwards, Caius was given the title of princeps iuventutis, the leader of the youth, and made the honorary head of the equestrian order.
* Both of the these titles were brand new and had never been given out before.
* They didn’t come with any formal power, they were just designed to raise his public profile.
* He’s still only 15 years old.
* And while he’s waiting for his sons to grow up, Aug needs to find other men to replace Tibby and Dru.
* So he appoints Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, consul in 16 BCE and married to the elder Antonia, to command the forces in Germany, where he fights a major campaign.
* Ahenobarbus of course is the grandfather of the Emperor Nero who had the same name.
* His successor in Germany is then Marcus Vinicius, suffect consul from 19 BCE, and a homo novus.
* He wasn’t related to Aug at all.
* Son of a Roman knight, he became Governor of Gallia Belgica in 25 BC, when he led a successful campaign into Germania.
* Also governor of Illyricum for 14-13 BC
* so he was trusted, as were all the men who were given new posts.
* Some of them, including Vicinius, even got ovations (Ornamenta triumphalia) as rewards.
* The ancient sources don’t tell us much about what during the next few years.
* Dio’s narrative jumps from 5 BCE to 2 BCE.
* As far we we can tell, Aug didn’t stray too far from Rome.
* He didn’t really have anyone he could leave running Rome while he was away, so he didn’t travel to the provinces.
* Anyone who wanted to petition him, needed to travel to Rome.
* We know of one such petitions.
* Back in 12 BCE, the communities in Asia had suffered from a series of earthquakes and fires, so they were pleading for tax relief.
* Aug gave it to them, and paid the equivalent sum into the treasury from his own money.
* Nice guy Augustus.
* There’s also a great story about a fight amongst two families on the Greek island of Knidos.
* In 6 BC the Greek island community of Knidos sent an embassy to see the princeps.
* Two men are named – Dionysius son of Dionysius, and his colleague Dionysius son of Dionysius son of Dionysius – and they came to accuse a certain Euboulos, son of Anaxandridas, and his wife Typhera of the murder of one Euboulos, son of Chrysippos.
* The victim’s brother and his followers had attacked the accused couple’s house for three nights in succession, as described in Augustus’ letter to the community: ‘The householders Euboulos and Typhera, since they could not achieve safety in their own house, either by negotiating . . . or by barricading themselves against the attacks, ordered one of their household slaves not to kill, as perhaps someone might have been provoked to do by quite justifiable anger, but to force them back by pouring their excrement over them. But the household slave . . . let go of the chamber pot together with what was being poured down, and Euboulos fell under it . . .’
* Apparently the attackers blamed the defenders for killing one of the attackers.
* By dropping a pot of shit on his head.
* The latter had ordered their slaves to be interrogated under torture in the normal Roman way, and the one who had dropped the chamber pot was adamant that he had not intended to do so, although a measure of doubt was expressed about this.
* Augustus went on: ‘I have sent to you the actual interrogations too. I would have been surprised at how much the defendants feared the examination of the slaves at your hands, had you not seemed to have been excessively harsh against them, and tough on crime in all the wrong respects, being angry not with those who deserved to suffer everything whatever, since they launched an attack against someone else’s house at night with violence and force three times . . .’
* Aug found in favour of the people who were attacked.
* Again – nice guy Augustus.
* Herod the Great also had a case in front of Aug around this time.
* He had ten wives and a ton of kids.
* Two of his most favoured sons had been sent to Rome to be raised in Aug’s household.
* But they were sons of his executed wife Mariamme – we’ve told that story on a previous episode – and so Herod didn’t trust them.
* He had recalled them and back in 13, the sons and Herod had both appeared in front of Augustus to accuse each other of treachery.
* And then again in 7 BCE, Herod accused the sons of plotting against him.
* he didn’t go to Rome in person this time, but sent ambassadors.
* Aug ordered a special court be convened including his legate in Syria and other Romans, to try the case.
* The sons were found guilty and executed, even though the Romans had only advocated for imprisonment.
* During the final years of his reign, Herod became increasingly paranoid and had lots of his family executed.
* Aug commented that he would “rather be Herod’s pig than his son”.
* In 4 BCE, a group of young men thought he was on his last legs, and they tore down the Roman golden eagle that Herod had erected over the main gate of the Temple.
* They were arrested and brought before Herod.
* Josephus:
* And when he asked them, first of all, whether they had been so hardy as to cut down the golden eagle, they confessed they had done so; and when he asked them by whose command they had done it, they replied, at the command of the law of their country; and when he further asked them how they could be so joyful when they were to be put to death, they replied, because they should enjoy greater happiness after they were dead.
* listeners to our new Renaissance series will notice the same desire to martyrdom that we see a few hundred years laster with the Christians.
* So Herod had the main group burned alive and others who had urged them to do it were also executed.
* Herod died not long afterwards.
* According to the Jewish historian Josephus:
* After this, the distemper seized upon his whole body, and greatly disordered all its parts with various symptoms; for there was a gentle fever upon him, and an intolerable itching over all the surface of his body, and continual pains in his colon, and dropsical turnouts about his feet, and an inflammation of the abdomen, and a putrefaction of his privy member, that produced worms.
* When he died soon afterwards, around 4 BCE, Aug formed a commission, including Caius, to decide on what was to happen to his kingdom.
* It was decided that it should be divided into three, to be ruled by his three surviving sons.
* In the last year or so of his life, is when Jesus was supposedly born.
* Which places that around 5 BCE, not 1 CE. * Way back in 25 BCE, the communities in Asia had offered a prize to anyone came up with an appropriate way to celebrate Augustus’ achievements.
* In 9 BCE the prize had been awarded to a proconsul.
* And in 5 BCE it took effect.
* All of the communities in Asia changed their calendars, so the first day of the year would now be on 23 September – Augustus’ birthday – which was to be the first day of the new month of Caesar.
* And in 4 BCE he also introduced a new procedure for making it quicker for provincial communities to charge a governor with extortion or other abuses of power.
* He’s always trying to find ways to make life better.
* Although the new system did have a flaw.
* The governors were to be tried by a jury made up solely of senators.
* Who were likely to be sympathetic, especially if they were potential future governors themselves.