Three centuries on, when the nativity of the most celebrated man to have been born in Augustus's reign stood in infinitely clearer focus than it had done at the time, a bishop named Eusebius could see in the Emperor's achievements the very guiding hand of God. The coincidence that saw our Saviour begin his mission against such a backdrop was undeniably arranged by divine agency.
After all — had the world still been at war, and not united under a single form of government, then how much more difficult would it have been for the disciples to undertake their travels. Brutal though the methods deployed to uphold it were, the sheer immensity of the regions pacified by Roman arms was unprecedented.
Whether in the suburbs of the capital itself, booming under the Caesars to become the largest city the world had ever seen, or across the span of the Mediterranean, united now for the first time under a single power, or in the furthermost corners of an empire whose global reach was without precedent, the pax Romana brought benefits to millions.
Provincials might well be grateful. The depravities for which both men would end up notorious rarely had much impact on the world at large. It mattered little in the provinces who ruled as emperor — just so long as the centre held. Nevertheless, even in the furthest reaches of the Empire, Caesar was a constant presence. How could he not be? He alone had command of Rome's monopoly of violence: the legions and the whole menacing apparatus of provincial government, which existed to ensure that taxes were paid, rebels slaughtered, and malefactors thrown to beasts or nailed up on crosses.
There was no need for an emperor constantly to be showing his hand for dread of his arbitrary power to be universal across the world. Small wonder, then, that the face of Caesar should have become, for millions of his subjects, the face of Rome. Rare was the town that did not boast some image of him: a statue, a portrait bust, a frieze. Even in the most provincial backwater, to handle money was to be familiar with Caesar's profile.
Within Augustus's own lifetime, no living citizen had ever appeared on a Roman coin; but no sooner had he seized control of the world than his face was being minted everywhere, stamped on gold, and silver, and bronze. Whether he really said it or not, the sentiment was true to the sheer theatricality of his master's performance. Augustus himself, lying on his deathbed, was reported by Suetonius to have asked his friends whether he had played his part well in the comedy of life; and then, on being assured that he had, to have demanded their applause as he headed for the exit.
A good emperor had no choice but to be a good actor — as too did everyone else in the drama's cast. Caesar, after all, was never alone on the stage. His potential successors were public figures simply by virtue of their relationship to him. Even the wife, the niece or the granddaughter of an emperor might have her role to play.
Get it wrong, and she was liable to pay a terrible price; but get it right, and her face might end up appearing on coins alongside Caesar's own. No household in history had ever before been so squarely in the public eye as that of Augustus. The fashions and hairstyles of its most prominent members, reproduced in exquisite detail by sculptors across the Empire, set trends from Syria to Spain.
Their achievements were celebrated with spectacularly showy monuments, their scandals repeated with relish from seaport to seaport. Propaganda and gossip, each feeding off the other, gave to the dynasty of Augustus a celebrity that ranked, for the first time, as continent-spanning.
To what extent, though, did all the vaunting claims chiselled into showy marble and all the rumours whispered in marketplaces and bars approximate to what had actually happened in Caesar's palace? To be sure, by the time that Suetonius came to write his biographies of the emperors, there was no lack of material for him to draw upon: everything from official inscriptions to garbled gossip. Shrewder analysts, though, when they sought to make sense of Augustus and his heirs, could recognise at the heart of the dynasty's story a darkness that mocked and defied their efforts.
Once, back in the days of the Republic, affairs of state had been debated in public, and the speeches of Rome's leaders transcribed for historians to study; but with the coming to power of Augustus, all that had changed. The cockpit of power lay elsewhere now. The world had come to be governed, not in assemblies of the great and good, but in private chambers. A woman's whisperings in an emperor's ear, a document discreetly passed to him by a slave: either might have a greater impact than even the most ringing public oration.
The implication, for any biographer of the Caesars, was grim but inescapable. Meer lezen. Klanten die dit item hebben gekocht, kochten ook. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. Jack Weatherford. World Order. Henry Kissinger. Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind.
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Geverifieerde aankoop. This should have been a wonderfully interesting historical narrative of a fascinating family. On reading the 30 plus reviews of the book both online and in the book itself, the expectation is that it is a stupendous read. Yet it is not. The historical detail and obvious research is remarkable. The fault lies in the writing style which detracts so much from the storyline, that I was fighting to finish it rapidly.
The language is often theatrical, flowery and verbose thus succeeeding in being the focus, whereas the story should be. The book was of interest because of its historical content surrounding a remarkable family. However, the writing style was such a disappointment that I shall not read another of Holland's books and that is a pity because his subject matter is of interest.
Vertaal recensie in het Nederlands. Tom Holland also holds the top spot among my favourite historical writers as some of his other works like Rubricon and Millenium left a lasting impression not least because of his narrative prosaic form of writing. Dynasty is not dissimilar and its prose is presented with the same authority.
The book starts where Rubicon ended, with the death of Caesar to lay the foundation of the phenomenal history of the first five emperors. The book manages to unburden itself from the perceptions of either classical or modern historians. And so the reader gets Holland's interpretation of for example how Octavian first converts himself from a battlefield-coward and bloodthirsty co-tyrant to a divine imperial blueprint while forging the Julio-Claudian dynasty - all through his excellent strategic insight and careful manoeuvring of public opinion.
So to me it was a very lively, refreshing read, that is once more particularly well told. Yet its not academic as the author tends to make assumptions and little is questioned, but for that reason it reads well and I guess I was prepared for that. As such I thoroughly enjoyed this work. Afbeeldingen in deze recensie.
This book is perfect for that. Holland has strong opinions that he advances with evidence from the ancient sources yet never gets caught up in obscure controversies or proofs. You get Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero in context, with evaluations of their careers and legacies.
As a Rome history buff, this was a great pleasure to read. It starts with Octavius, who was Julius Caesar's great nephew and later adopted son. Having observed Caesar's assassination by outraged aristocrats, Octavius was careful to observe the forms of the Republic in piecemeal grants of powers from the Senate, but in reality he was an autocrat supported by military force. His marriage to Livia, whom Holland does not portray as the monster of mini-series, united the Julian family with the stolid Claudians; it enhanced his legitimacy.
In exchange for the maintenance of order and peace on his terms - a welcome relief after a century of violent civil conflict and frequent governmental paralysis - Octavius renamed Augustus imposed his vision on Roman society, first by proscribing conveniently rich enemies and then in wholesale slaughter in a war with Antony. Augustus' vision was essentially conservative.
Rome should return to its ancient virtues of austerity, martial discipline, and family values, minus disorderly things like the Republic. Though avoiding the appearance of a monarchy, he was constantly in search an heir in his immediate family to whom he could pass power. To maintain his political ascendance, he created a number of institutional precedents that were to have consequences in later years.
First, the Senate gradually lost much of its power, in essence it became a rubber stamp that provided legitimacy to his usurpations. Second, he relied on military force for his real power, in particular the Praetorian Guard, which broke precedent in functioning fully armed within the city limits. Third, with the lengthy tenure of the executive and his dependent appointees, the scope of political maneuver was narrowed to a tiny inner circle of courtiers, such as Agrippa.
Fourth, he was viewed as a living god, also adding to his legitimacy and placing the Emperor at the heart of local ritual at the expense of or competing with local deities and traditions. Once Tiberius took over, he tried to follow a mix of the old ways with Augustus' innovations. In Holland's opinion, he was the greatest general of his generation as well as a moderate traditionalist. Unfortunately, as a military man, he lacked Augustus' finesse in management of the Senate and so discounted it further.
It was only towards the end of his reign that his hold on power and perhaps reality began to slip, especially after he permanently quit Rome for Capri. This enabled the Praetorian Guard to emerge as a major player in increasingly murderous courtier battles, its backing seen as so essential that any heir had to cultivate their loyalty with bribes.
It was in Capri that he allowed Caligula to flourish, after having killed or exiled the rest of this family. As such, Caligula abandoned the last trappings of the Republic, opening claiming absolute power and Godhead for himself, humiliating the remaining aristocrats for amusement while neglecting the Empire. Caligula's assassination confirmed the primacy of the Praetorian Guard, which essentially chose to thrust the much-scorned Claudius into power. Because he was relatively competent, it appears, it was during his Principat that the last hope for a restoration of the Republic died.
His successor, Nero, was also a creature of the isolated Court, much as Caligula had been without the psychotic excess, though he did murder his mother and many other members of this family. With his assassination, Rome openly emerged as a military autocracy, with the army and Praetorian Guard as the ultimate arbiters of who became Emperor.
Holland wades into many of the controversies surrounding the Emperors. The role of women, for example, is briefly examined. Livia was a dutiful matron, Messalina Claudius's wife a power-hungry shrew, and Agrippina Nero's mum a savage courtier. The sexual excesses of the Emperors are also discussed, many dismissed as propaganda. I would have wanted much more detail in these areas, but Holland holds back to what can be known. Unfortunately, the book ends abruptly, without much examination of what followed in terms of institutions and the men that operated them.
This is a narrative history, of course, so perhaps I shouldn't have hoped for more. A very fun read nonetheless and accurate so far as I can see. At first, I was not sure that I would be able to get into Tom Holland's writing style. Not because there was anything necessarily wrong with it, but because I was expecting a more scholarly, even dry approach. About twenty pages in, I could not put this book down, and when I did, I could not wait to get back to it.
From Augustus to Nero, we are led through the reigns of Rome's most infamous family in a seamless manner that reads more like a novel than a history. The sector also includes companies involved in online gambling. Big-name casino companies in the sector include Las Vegas Sands Corp. The COVID pandemic and related restrictions have had an adverse impact on many companies within the casino sector.
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