Augustus stayed in Rome more now, no longer going out on long tours of the provinces, probably because he’s in his sixties, probably because he doesn’t have someone like Agrippa to leave in charge while he’s away.
* On his birthday in 2 CE, he wrote an interesting letter to Caius
Ninth day before the Kalends of October [i.e. 23 September]
Greeting, my dear Caius, my dearest little donkey, whom, so help me, I constantly miss whenever you are away from me. But especially on such days as today my eyes are eager for my Caius, and whenever you have been today, I hope you have celebrated my sixty-fourth birthday in health and happiness . . . And I pray the gods that whatever time is left to me I may pass with you safe and well, with our country in a flourishing condition, while you both are playing the man and preparing to succeed to my sentry post.25 * This comment about a ‘sentry post’ is interesting.
* It suggests Augustus sees himself as being a sentry or a guard, protecting Rome.
* What do you think he was guarding Rome from? * Apparently there was a whole volume of Aug’s letters to Caius published, but this is the only one that survives.
* It’s pretty cute.
* Similar to his other letters to family members.
* Joking around, pretty light and easy going.
* You have to take this as a sign of his character.
* He probably wrote similar letters to Lucius.
* He seems like he was a good adoptive father to the two boys.
* He wrote to them whenever he wasn’t with them and took a direct interest in them when they were around.
* He personally taught them to swim and to ride.
* SUETONIUS: He taught his grandsons reading, swimming, and the other elements of education, for the most part himself, taking special pains to train them to imitate his own handwriting.
* Around 10 BCE he hired the grammar teacher Marcus Flaccus to teach the boys.
* Flaccus was a freedman who already ran a school in Rome.
* Augustus just said “listen, I’ll pay you 100,000 sesterces a year, and you can move your entire school up onto the Palantine Hill”.
* Which made Flaccus get hard.
* He was installed in a house once owned by Catulus, the famous a Roman statesman and naval commander in the First Punic War. * Augustus had bought a number of houses on the Palentine and combined them to make up his own home.
* It’s be something like buying an entire street in NYC and saying “this is where I live now”.
* They were probably linked by alleys and narrow roads.
* How they all fit together we don’t know.
* The literature and the archaeological record don’t fit together quite well.
* The building that is known today as the House of Livia, because her name was marked on a lead water pipe found there, was where she lived after the death of Augustus.
* but we don’t know where they lived while he was still alive.
* There is a site there today called the House of Augustus but it isn’t clear what that building actually was. * But this is interesting.
* Augustus lived a simple life.
* According to Suetonius, for more than 40 years he slept in the same bedroom in both winter and summer.
* Most aristocrats would have had separate rooms for hot and cold weather.
* But not Augustus.
* In summer he slept with the doors of his bedroom open.
* Or had his couch moved into one of the inner courtyards near a fountain.
* He didn’t like to get up early – I can relate – so when he had to be in another part of the city early in the morning for business, he’d often stay nearby with a friend.
* And by “friend” I mean “the person who had the nicest house”.
* Imagine it’s 8 o’clock at night, there’s a knock at the door, you open it, and Augustus is standing there.
* He says “do I live here?”
* You say “ummm no?”
* He says “Have another go.”
* His bed was apparently “low and simply furnished”.
* And he only got 7 hours of sleep per night.
* A lot more than Julius Caesar or Napoleon,… or ME… but not excessive.
* If he woke up during the night, he liked to be read a bedtime story.
* Suetonius: If he could not resume his sleep when it was interrupted, as would happen, he sent for readers or story-tellers, and when sleep came to him he often prolonged it until after daylight.
* The point is that the evidence suggests he lived quite modestly, despite being filthy rich and insanely powerful.
* Compare him with Donald Trump.
* Or even Mark Antony, who had a golden chamber pot.
* Couches and tables from Augustus’ house survived a century later and Suetonius says they were quite simple and plain.
* Suetonius: The simplicity of his furniture and household goods may be seen from couches and tables still in existence, many of which are scarcely fine enough for a private citizen. They say that he always slept on a low and plainly furnished bed. Except on special occasions he wore common clothes for the house, made by his sister, wife, daughter or granddaughters; his togas were neither close nor full, his purple stripe neither narrow nor broad, and his shoes somewhat high-soled, to make him look taller than he really was. But he always kept shoes and clothing to wear in public ready in his room for sudden and unexpected occasions.
* It sounds like Augustus was trying to make a point.
* A bit like Warren Buffett who supposedly has lived in the same house for 40 years and drives an old beaten up truck.
* Money doesn’t buy you happiness.
* And in Augustus’ case, I’m sure he’s both trying to set a standard for the rest of the elite not to be too ostentatious and also trying to downplay his own wealth.
* “Sure – I bought 20 houses and put a rope around them and I live in them – but look at my furniture! The house is an investment, trust me.” * It was all about comfortable moderation.
* Remember that there was already a lot of over the top luxury in Rome.
* Can you imagine being one of those aristocrats, living large, while Augustus is keeping it real?
* It would be like rolling up to Bill Gates’ house in your brand new Rolls to find out he drives an old beaten up truck and buys his furniture from Ikea.
* Other comparisons are fascinating.
* Cicero had nine villas – Augustus only had three.
* And he didn’t own a huge private art collection.
* Like Agrippa, any art he bought or commissioned was for public display.
* But he did like collecting weird shit.
* His villa on the island of Capri apparently had a collection of ‘bones of giants’, possibly dinosaur fossils.
* And it also had ancient weapons claimed to have belonged to famous heroes. * He lived in the manner he thought was appropriate for a leading senator.
* Simple, but comfortable.
* A bit like your body, Ray.
* When he was home and not receiving guests, he apparently wore clothes that Livia or Octavia made for him.
* And by Livia and Octavia, I mean “Livia and Octavia’s slaves”.
* But supervised by them, of course.
* Making your own clothes was obviously how everyone did it back in ancient times, although by this stage the aristocracy probably had other people do it for them.
* It is said that during the colder months, Aug would wear four tunics over a vest and chest warmer, and leg wrappings (fascia) around his thighs and calves.
* Aristocrats didn’t wear trousers, even though they were known.
* The Gauls and the Germanic tribes wore pantaloons called bracae but the Romans thought they were effete and uncultured.
* Italy, as some citizens put it, was a land of perpetual sun and heat.
* Therefore, heavy clothes were rarely worn.
* In Gaul it was a lot colder.
* Roman emperors wouldn’t wear them for 300 years.
* Complaints about pants show up as early as Cicero (Caesar’s conquest of Gaul was a major source of pants-wearers; as usually happened, soldiers picked up the habit on compaign).
* When he was defending the former Gaul governor Fonteius from accusations of extortion, he cited the wearing of pants as a sign of the “innate aggressiveness” of the Gauls—and an extenuating circumstance for his client:
* Are you then hesitating, O judges, when all these nations have an innate hatred to and wage incessant war with the name of the Roman people? Do you think that, with their military cloaks and their breeches, they come to us in a lowly and submissive spirit, as these do (…)? Nothing is further from the truth.
* Think of it as the “Trouser Defense.”
* But as the Roman army was out on the borders fighting the Gauls and the Germans, they thought “hey these pant things look a lot warmer and easier to fight in than a flappy tunic” and started wearing them.
* And then of course when the Visigoths started to occupy parts of the Roman empire in the late 4th century, people would see them walking around in pants and think “hmm I like that”!
* SHARP DRESSED MAN
* By 397, trousers were becoming so common that brother-emperors Honorius and Arcadius (who we’ve just started talking about on the Renaissance series!) issued an official trouser ban.
* The ban is cited in a code named for their father, Theodosius, which read: “Within the venerable City no person should be allowed to appropriate to himself the use of boots or trousers. But if any man should attempt to contravene this sanction, We command that in accordance with the sentence of the Illustrious Prefect, the offender shall be stripped of all his resources and delivered into perpetual exile.”
* The trouser ban!
* Of course, pants won in the end.
* By a century later, the barbarians had claimed the battle for the sartorial soul of the court of Constantinople, the only Roman court left.
* “By the fifth and sixth centuries, suddenly the so-called barbarian custom, sleeved top and trousers, had become the official uniform of the Roman court. If you were close to the emperor, that’s what you would wear.”
* “Scholars have not yet been able to explain how that happened, trousers going from being banned to be legally required clothes for the Roman court.”
* Anyway back to Augustus.
* Of course, whenever he had official duties to perform, he dressed the part, he went full toga. * He was also into simple food.
* According to Suetonius, he liked to eat simple bread, rather than fancy shit, and he like cheese, figs and a little bit of fish.
* And he liked to snack during the day, rather than sit down to a formal meal.
* From one of his letters: “Not even a Jew, my dear Tiberius, fasts so scrupulously on his sabbaths as I have to‑day; for it was not until after the first hour of the night that I ate two mouthfuls of bread in the bath before I began to be anointed.”
* When he had to attend a big feast, he’d normally eat beforehand or afterwards, so he wouldn’t eat much at the actual feast.
* I suspect this was also to give the impression that he wasn’t a glutton.
* He’d often nibble on stuff while being carried in his litter.
* He wasn’t a big drinker either.
* He’d drink a little bit of wine but if he had too much, he’d throw it up later.
* I’ve thrown up my fair share of wine in the past too, but I can’t honestly say it was deliberate.
* He liked to have good conversations with guests, play dice or other games.
* Sometimes he’d hold blind auctions – where people had to bid for prizes without knowing what they were.
* The prizes would be a mixture of the valuable and joke gifts.
* He was a Joker. * He liked to have guests over for dinner an accepted invitations to have dinner at other people’s houses.
* He never let freed slaves eat with him, but he’d sometimes have guests that were freeborn men but not senators or equestians.
* Because he’s a man of the people.
* As long as they were somewhat upper class.
* He treated everyone with the respect suited to their rank and past service.
* He also had a good sense of humour.
* He loved puns and sarcasm.
* When a hunchback senator was an advocate in a court case that Augustus was judging, and the guy kept asking the princeps to “set me straight if you spot a mistake”.
* Augustus finally said “I’ll correct you, but I can’t set you straight.” * A merchant once brought Augustus a delivery of clothes dyed with Tyrian purple.
* Augustus said he didn’t like the depth of the colour.
* The guy assured him that if he held it up to the light it would look better.
* Augustus replied ‘What? You mean that I’ll have to walk up and down on my balcony so that the Roman people can see that I am well dressed!’
* At one point he owned a slave who was his nomenclator
* his job was to announce the names of guests or of persons generally
* but apparenlty this guy wasn’t very good at remembering names.
* which makes you wonder how he bullshitted himself into the job in the first place
* One day when they were about to go down to the Forum, Augustus told him to get some letter of introduction as he didn’t know anyone there.