Before the news of Varus’ defeat had reached Rome, one of Augustus’ main concerns in 9 CE was how unpopular his legislation encouraging marriage and raising of children was. 

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  • It’s a new law, which is an extension to the one we talked about in July last year – The lex Julia de maritandis ordinibus.
  • This new one was called The Lex Papia Poppaea.
  • Do you know why it was called that? 
  • Translates as PAPA DON’T PREACH
  • Actually the consulship of M. Papius Mutilus and Q. Poppaeus Secundus
  • both of whom ironically enough were single and had no children.
  • Which must have been awkward. 
  • I’ve actually got a clip of Augustus introducing the law 
  • MAWWIAGE. 
  • People didn’t like the laws for a number of reasons. 
  • For a start, Senators and their descendants to the fourth generation were forbidden to marry anyone whose father or mother had been an actor, or someone who is or has been an actor.
  • Because FUCK ACTORS.
  • There were various penalties imposed on people who lived in a state of celibacy, were unmarried or childless. 
  • Previously people had befriend rich, old single people, hoping they’d leave you something in their estate. 
  • But this law was going to force rich people to get married and have kids, which fucked up THAT plan. 
  • And if they didn’t have kids, their estate could go to the state. 
  • And if you think raising kids is expensive now, imagine what it was like when you had to give them all senatorial or equestrian status. 
  • Of course it’s mostly the wealthy who care about these laws, and during a celebration of some games, a group of equites were pretty forceful in their demands that the laws be repealed. 
  • Augustus responded by having a public meeting where he displayed Germanicus’ growing family as an example. 
  • Then he divided up the equestrians in the room into those to have kids and those who didn’t. 
  • And the latter group, the one with no kids, was far bigger. 
  • According to Dio, he first gave a speech to the group with kids. 
  • He said “well done chaps!” and gave them all a reward. 
  • Then he gave a speech to the other group, the ones without kids. 
  • And he tells them they are WORSE than murderers! 
  • DIO: For you are committing murder in not begetting in the first place those who ought to be your descendants; you are committing sacrilege in putting an end to the names and honours of your ancestors; and you are guilty of impiety in that you are abolishing your families, which were instituted by the gods, and destroying the greatest of offerings to them, — human life, — thus overthrowing their rites and their temples. 3 Moreover, you are destroying the State by disobeying its laws, and you are betraying your country by rendering her barren and childless; nay more, you are laying her even with the dust by making her destitute of future inhabitants.
  • He asks them to imagine how angry to original Romans would be if they could see them: How wrathful would the Romans who were Romulus’ followers be, if they could realize that after they themselves had even seized foreign girls, you are not satisfied even with those of your own race, and after they had got children even by enemy wives, you will not beget them even of women who are citizens!
  • They had to kidnap and rape foreign chicks to have kids! You’ve got it so easy! 
  • But, he says – don’t get me wrong, I know being married and having kids sucks ass!
  • And let none of you imagine that I fail to realize that there are disagreeable and painful things incident to marriage and the begetting of children. But bear this in mind, that we do not possess any other good with which some unpleasantness is not mingled, and that in our most abundant and greatest blessings there reside the most abundant and greatest evils.
  • So sure, it sucks, but there are upsides. 
  • This guy was a regular Anthony Robbins. 
  • The precise differences between the Lex Papa Don’t Preach and the earlier law is hard to understand, as they were jammed together by the early sources. 
  • But they were unpopular and in the end seemed to have little effect. 
  • The old aristocratic families went extinct, mostly because of high infant mortality rates.
  • All it really did was make a statement by Augustus about what he considered to be the proper duty of good Romans – get married and have a stack of kids. 
  • These were tough years for Augustus 
  • Unpopular laws, rebellions to the east, rebellions to the west, Varus’ lost legions, children and grandchildren in exile, Ovid in exile, rumours of treason and his overthrow. 
  • He’s old and he seems to have become a little paranoid. 
  • He banned anyone from privately seeking out astrologers, which were popular in Rome, and if a group went to see one, they were forbidden to ask about the end of anyone’s life. 
  • He was apparently trying to avoid anyone to work out when he would die and who his successor would be. 
  • Fuck I don’t know, let me roll this dice. 
  • At the same time he published details of his own birth and the star positions at the time, allowing anyone to case his horoscope if they wanted to. 
  • What the fuck is going on here? 
  • Sounds to me like people were using astrology to predict Augustus’ death and making power plays.
  • According to Ronald Syme, when Agrippa in 33 B.C. expelled astrologers and magicians from Rome, that was only a testimony to their power, an attempt of the government to monopolize the control of prophecy and propaganda.
  • Dio on astrology: Tiberius, it seems, was extremely well versed in the art of divination by means of the stars, and had with him Thrasyllus, who was a past-master of all astrology, so that he had full and accurate knowledge of what fate had in store both for him and for Gaius and Lucius. 2 And the story goes that once in Rhodes he was about to push Thrasyllus from the walls, because he was the only one who shared all his own thoughts; but he did not carry out his intention when he observed that Thrasyllus was gloomy, — not, indeed, because of his gloom, but because, when asked why his countenance was overcast, the other replied that he had a premonition that some peril was in store for him. This answer made Tiberius marvel that he could foresee the mere project of the plot, and so he conceived the desire to keep Thrasyllus for his own purposes because of the hopes he entertained. Thrasyllus had so clear a knowledge of all matters that when he descried, approaching afar off, the ship which was bringing to Tiberius the message from his  p423 mother and Augustus to return to Rome, he told him in advance what news it would bring.
  • Speaking of astrology. 
  • Let me get this straight. 
  • People think that the position of stars and planets, thousands or millions of miles away from the earth, have some kind of impact on your life? 
  • Studies have demonstrated that approximately 25% of Americans, Canadians, and Britons still believe in it. 
  • No wonder the human race is fucked. 
  • Augustus also overturned his own law banning equestrians from participating in the gladiatorial games. 
  • Apparently they were ignoring it anyway, and it was popular with the masses. 
  • As it should be. 
  • Who wouldn’t like to see rich people attacking each other with swords and axes in an arena? 
  • Imagine Trump and …. Mark Zuckerburg going after each other. 
  • New Rule: People with a net worth in excess of $100 million need to fight each other to the death in annual gladiatorial games. Winner takes 50% of the net worth of the dead. The rest goes into the public coffers.
  • But he wasn’t softening up in old age. 
  • In his last years Augustus cracked down with stern measures of repression against certain kinds of political literature.
  • Around this time, the books written by Titus Labienus were publicly burnt. 
  • He was the grandson of ol’ Labia-Anus! 
  • Or the son. It varies. 
  • Labia-Anus the Younger. 
  • Or Labia-Anus the Tight. 
  • Titty PussyBum. Thanks Eric Arthur Blair from Melbourne, Australia. 
  • He was an orator and historian who was so rabid in his views that he was called Titus Labienus Rabienus. 
  • His writings were full of such controversial material that when he recited his works in public, he would have to pass over sections that were too critical.
  • Instead, he would allude to the missing information by saying that they were to be read after his death.
  • Here’s what Seneca the Elder wrote about him: 
  • He was an outstanding declaimer, though not one who performed in public. He didn’t let the public in, both because this custom had not yet been introducedl and because he thought it shameful and indicative of a boastful frivolity For he pretended to the severity of a censor, though his character was quite other; he was a great orator who had wrestled his way through many obstacles to arrive at a reputation for genius amid the grudging acknowledgement of men rather than their consent. He was very poor, very notorious, very hated. But great indeed must be the eloquence that pleases even the reluctant; and since it is the favour of men that marks out genius, their favour that nourishes it, how great must be the force that can burst through all obstacles to its course! There was no-one who did not grant much to the talent_while accusing the man of every crime. His tone was that of the old oratory, his vigour that of the new, his ornament midway between our age and the preceding one: so that he could be claimed by both sides. His freedom of speech was so great that it passed the bounds of freedom: and because he savaged all ranks and men alike, he was known as Rabienus. Amid all his faults, he had a great spirit-one that was, like his genius, violent.
  • His conflict with the government eventually led to his own trial (6 to 8 AD), the first of its kind, where the senate found him guilty  of harming the state and literary treason and as the law stated, his life works were sentenced to the stake.
  • It was also illegal to even own, carry, or read any of the restricted material that was to be burned at the stake.
  • So he decided to kill himself.
  • He went to the mausoleum of his ancestors, walled himself up, and committed suicide.
  • What did he write about that was so shocking? 
  • We don’t know. 
  • There’s no evidence he mentioned Augustus or his family. 
  • Maybe he supported Pompey and the enemies of Julius? 
  • But that has happened before and Augustus let it slide. 
  • So much time has passed, who cares? 
  • Apparently something Labia-Anus the Younger wrote upset someone. 
  • There was another guy who was just as acerbic – Cassius Severus. 
  • He wasn’t friends with Labienus. 
  • In fact, they hated each other. 
  • But when Labienus’ works were banned, Severus said “well you better kill me, because I know his works by heart.”
  • Severus was also fond of writing pamphlets that insulted prominent men and women in the fine old Roman tradition of rhetorical abuse. 
  • Again there’s no evidence he attacked Augustus but around 12 CE he permitted a prosecution under the maiestas law which was remodellied in 6 CE to deal with the vague concept of offences damaging the majesty of the Roman state and people. 
  • He was prosecuted and found guilty. 
  • He was condemned and banished to the island of Crete.
  • Even there he was a nuisance: twelve years later they removed him to the tiny rock island of Seriphus.
  • Was all this to protect Augustus? 
  • Probably not. 
  • It probably had more to do with the old rivalry between the various factions of the elite. 
  • But Augustus was trying to curb their attacks on each other. 
  • He wanted to make Rome nice. 
  • But this kind of censorship and majestas cases increased, to protect the emperor. 
  • The concept of the emperor as divine had much to do with this.
  • It became a maxim that treason was next to sacrilege in gravity.