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HIST301: Greece, the Roman Republic, and the Roman Empire

Unit 9: Augustus (31 BCE–14 CE) and the Roman Empire (c. 31 BCE–235 CE)   In the years that followed his victory over his rival Marc Antony in 31 BCE, Octavian Caesar instituted a series of political reforms that allowed him to hold a number of key republican offices and powers simultaneously. Octavian, thus, ostensibly restored the Roman Republic while retaining enough political power through his control of the army to possess monarchal authority. Through this ruse, Octavian appeased the traditional Senatorial nobility who bestowed upon Octavian the title of Augustus. Historians refer to the political system that Octavian (Augustus) created as the Principate from the title Princeps Senatusor “leader of the Senate,” which was one of the traditional republican positions that Augustus possessed. Another traditional republican position, Imperator, or “victorious general,” was also reserved for Augustus as the commander of Rome’s armies and is the origin of the word emperor. Augustus also stabilized the Roman Empire’s frontiers; distributed land to the proletariat and war veterans through the establishment of new colonies in Italy, Spain, and Gaul (France); and created thousands of jobs for the proletariat through an ambitious building program in Rome. The Principate as a political system and the policy precedents that Augustus set for future emperors helped promote a period of internal peace and prosperity in the Roman Empire for two hundred years, the Pax Romana or “Roman Peace.”
 
The Principate was not without its flaws, however. Augustus set the precedent of designating a family member to be his successor by insuring that the Senate granted his heir the same powers as himself. In this way, there would be a smooth transition upon Augustus’s death. However, hereditary succession did not always provide a suitable ruler. During the Principate, there were a number of mentally unfit emperors – Caligula, Nero, Commodus, Elagabulus – whose actions created political instability. Also, under the Principate the unexpected death of an emperor without designating a successor resulted in civil wars as rival military commanders did battle with one another to win the empire for themselves, as was the case following the death of Nero in 68 CE and Pertinax in 192 CE. The assassination of Alexander Severus in 235 CE resulted in a 50-year period of civil war between rival armies that ended the Principate and the Pax Romana. In this unit, you will examine the political reforms and policies of Augustus, the social and economic conditions of the Roman Empire in this era, and the weaknesses of the Principate as a political system, which would be its undoing.

Unit 9 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take you approximately 25 hours.
 
Subunit 9.1: 9.5 hours
Subunit 9.2: 2.75 hours
Subunit 9.3: 4.25 hours
Subunit 9.4: 8.5 hours

Unit9 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:
- identify the key features of the Principate as a political system; - analyze the problems of the Principate that resulted in political instability and civil war; - identify the social, cultural, and economic developments of the Pax Romana; and - analyze and interpret primary source documents from the period of classical antiquity using historical research methods.

9.1 Augustus Caesar and the Julio-Claudian Dynasty   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Julio-Claudians: Rome’s First Imperial Dynasty”

<span
style="font-family:&quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;">Link:
The Saylor Foundation’s </span>[<span
style="font-family:&quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;">“The
Julio-Claudians: Rome’s First Imperial
Dynasty”</span>](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/HIST301-6.2-Julio-Claudians-FINAL.pdf)<span
style="font-family:&quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;">
(PDF)  
    
 Instructions: Read this article for a brief narrative of the
Julio-Claudian Dynasty, which was one of the peaks of Roman power
and culture. </span>

<span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif;">Reading this material
and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.</span>
  • Reading: avid W. Koeller’s Web Chronology Project: Meredith L. Oliver, Darren J. Hekhuis, and David A. Nelson’s “The Emperor Augustus (27 BCE–14 CE)” Link: David W. Koeller’s Web Chronology Project: Meredith L. Oliver, Darren J. Hekhuis, and David A. Nelson’s “The Emperor Augustus (27 BCE–14 CE)” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this text, which explains how Octavian moved from being a member of the Second Triumvirate to princeps to consul – maintaining republican administration – to Augustus in 23 BCE.
     
    Reading this material and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: University of Notre Dame’s OpenCourseWare: Professor Elizabeth Mazurek’s “The Age of Augustus I” and “Age of Augustus II” Link: University of Notre Dame’s OpenCourseWare: Professor Elizabeth Mazurek’s “The Age of Augustus I” (HTML) and “Age of Augustus II” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this overview of the reign of the Emperor Caesar Augustus.
     
    Reading this material and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to Elizabeth Mazurek, and the original version can be found here.

  • Reading: Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Daniel C. Stevenson’s Internet Classics Archive: Thomas Bushnell’s Translation of Augustus’s “The Deeds of the Divine Augustus” Link: Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Daniel C. Stevenson’s Internet Classics Archive: Thomas Bushnell’s Translation of Augustus’s “The Deeds of the Divine Augustus” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read “The Deeds of the Divine Augustus,” which is the funerary inscription of Emperor Augustus. (Note that it was written by Augustus himself!) This inscription was set up in a public space for the Roman people to read. What kind of legacy was Augustus attempting to create among the Roman people with this inscription? How do Augustus’s conduct and deeds compare to the heroes on Livy’s account of the early Roman Republic (see subunit 6.4.1)?
     
    Reading this material and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Boise State University: Professor E.L. Skip Knox’s The Roman Empire: “The First Caesars”

    Link: Boise State University: Professor E.L. Skip Knox’s The Roman Empire: The First Caesars (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read through all of the links in Professor Knox’s survey on Roman history. The suicide of Emperor Nero in 68 CE was followed by a brief period of civil war, also known as the Year of the Four Emperors, during which Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian ruled in a remarkable succession. Pay special attention to the consequences of the military and political anarchy that this civil war generated.

    Reading this material and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Tufts University’s Perseus Project: Alfred John Church, William Jackson Brodribb, and Sara Bryant’s version of Cornelius Tacitus’s The Annals: “Books 13–16” Link: Tufts University’s Perseus Project: Alfred John Church, William Jackson Brodribb, and Sara Bryant’s version of Cornelius Tacitus’s The Annals: “Books 13–16” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read all of Books 13–16 in Tacitus’s The Annals. Tacitus (c. 100 CE) was a Roman Senator and historian. This account of Nero’s reign (54–68 CE) is a classic account of the dangers of autocracy and despotism and influenced the framers of the United States Constitution. Also, in Book 15, chapter 44, Tacitus mentions the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the account of Nero’s persecution of Christians in Rome in 64 CE.
     
    Reading this material and taking notes should take approximately 5 hours.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “HIST301 Discussion Forum”

    Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “HIST301 Discussion Forum” (HTML)

    Instructions: Spend a few minutes reflecting on this question about Nero: How was Nero able to exercise power and terrify the Senate into submission?

    Now, share your thoughts on the discussion forum by clicking the link above and creating a (free) account, if you have not already done so. Also, take some time to read responses other students have shared and leave any comments you have on their feedback.

    Sharing your thoughts on the discussion forum should take approximately 30 minutes.

9.2 The Flavian Dynasty   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation: “The Flavian Dynasty”, “Vespasian (70–79 CE): The Founder of a New Dynasty”, “Titus (79–81 CE): Great Promise Cut Short” and “Domitian (81–96 CE): The Last of the Flavians” Link: The Saylor Foundation: “The Flavian Dynasty”“Vespasian (70–79 CE): The Founder of a New Dynasty”“Titus (79-81 CE): Great Promise Cut Short” and “Domitian (81-96 CE): The Last of the Flavians” (PDF)

 Instructions: Read these articles. Although the Flavians ruled for
a relatively short time period, they were extremely popular
emperors. Pay special attention to the characteristics that made
them such crowd-pleasing rulers.  
    
 Reading this material and taking notes should take approximately 30
minutes.  
    
  • Reading: University of Notre Dame’s OpenCourseWare: Professor Elizabeth Mazurek’s “The Flavian Dynasty” Link: University of Notre Dame’s OpenCourseWare: Professor Elizabeth Mazurek’s “The Flavian Dynasty” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this overview of the Flavian emperors Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian.
     
    Reading this material and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to Elizabeth Mazurek, and the original version can be found here.

  • Lecture: YouTube: Khan Academy’s Smarthistory: “Colosseum” Link: YouTube: Khan Academy’s Smarthistory: “Colosseum” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Watch this brief video concerning one of Rome’s iconic structures, the Colosseum, which was built by the Flavian emperors.
     
    Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. It is attributed to the Khan Academy.

  • Reading: Tufts University’s Perseus Project: J. Eugene Reed and Alexander Thomson’s version of C. Suetonius Tranquillus’ “Divus Vespasianus”

    Link: Tufts University’s Perseus Project: J. Eugene Reed and Alexander Thomson’s version of C. Suetonius Tranquillus’ Divus Vespasianus (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this biography. The Roman historian Suetonius (c.100 CE) described himself as a young man during the civil war of 68–69 CE, which brought Vespasian to power.

    Reading this material and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “HIST301 Discussion Forum” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “HIST301 Discussion Forum” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Spend a few minutes reflecting on these questions about Vespasian:
     
    According to Suetonius’s account, how was Vespasian able to secure power? How did Vespasian manage to bring political stability after Nero’s reign and civil war?
     
    Now, share your thoughts on the discussion forum by clicking the link above and creating a (free) account, if you have not already done so. Also, take some time to read responses other students have shared and leave any comments you have on their feedback.
     
    Sharing your thoughts on the discussion forum should take approximately 30 minutes.
     

9.3 The Nerva-Antonine Dynasty: “The Five Good Emperors”   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Trajan (98–117 CE): The Height of Empire” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Trajan (98–117 CE): The Height of Empire” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read this article, which narrates the history of the first two of “The Five Good Emperors,” Nerva and Trajan, who presided over the most majestic days of the Roman Empire.
 
Reading this material and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • Reading: Fordham University: Paul Halsall’s Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: From Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, William Stearns Davis, ed.: “Pliny the Elder (23/4-79 CE): The Grandeur of Rome, c. 75 CE from Natural History Link: Fordham University: Paul Halsall’s Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: From Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, William Stearns Davis, ed.: “Pliny the Elder (23/4–79 CE): The Grandeur of Rome, c. 75 CE from Natural History (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this text, which offers selections from Roman writer Pliny the Elder’s Natural History describing the magnificence of Rome around the end of the 1st century CE. Pliny discusses both the monumental public architecture of the city and the technological accomplishments of the Romans, including the city’s sewer and aqueduct system.
     
    Reading this material and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: David W. Koeller’s Web Chronology Project: Meridith L. Berg, Jelani N. G. Greenidge, and Donita R. McWilliams’s “The Five Good Emperors (96–180)” Link: David W. Koeller’s Web Chronology Project: Meridith L. Berg, Jelani N. G. Greenidge, and Donita R. McWilliams’s “The Five Good Emperors (96–180)” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this text and all embedded links, which discuss the causes and consequences of the harmonious relationship between the Senate and the different members of the Nerva-Antonine Dynasty.
     
    Reading this material and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: University of Chicago: LacusCurtius: Bill Thayer’s version of Cassius Dio’s “Roman History”

    Link: University of Chicago: LacusCurtius: Bill Thayer’s version of Cassius Dio’s Roman History (HTML)

    Instructions: Read Chapters 68, 69, and 72 in Dio’s Roma History, which concern the reigns of the emperors Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius. Cassius Dio (c. 220 CE) was a Roman Senator who wrote his history of Rome in Greek.

    Reading this material and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “HIST301 Discussion Forum” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “HIST301 Discussion Forum” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Spend a few minutes reflecting on these questions about Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius:
     
    Based on Dio’s account, why would these emperors be considered “good” by future generations? What were the policies of these emperors? What were their accomplishments?
     
    Now, share your thoughts on the discussion forum by clicking the link above and creating a (free) account, if you have not already done so. Also, take some time to read responses other students have shared and leave any comments you have on their feedback.
     
    Sharing your thoughts on the discussion forum should take approximately 30 minutes.

9.4 The Severan Dynasty   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation: “Septimius Severus (193–211 CE): Founder of the Severan Dynasty”, “Caracalla (211–217 CE): A Reign of Violence”, “Elagabalus (218–222 CE): East Meets West” and “Severus Alexander (222–235 CE): The Calm before the Storm”

<span
style="font-family:&quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;">Link: The
Saylor Foundation:</span>

<span
style="font-family:&quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;">[“Septimius
Severus (193–211 CE): Founder of the Severan
Dynasty”](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/HIST301-7.2-SeptimiusSeverus-FINAL.pdf), </span><span
style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif;">[“Caracalla (211–217 CE): A
Reign of
Violence”](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/HIST301-7.2-Caracalla-FINAL.pdf), </span>[<span
style="font-family:&quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;">“Elagabalus
(218–222 CE): East Meets
West”</span>](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/HIST301-7.2-Elagabalus-FINAL.pdf)<span
style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif;"> and </span>[<span
style="font-family:&quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;">“Severus
Alexander (222–235 CE): The Calm before the
Storm”</span>](http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/HIST301-7.2-SeverusAlexander-FINAL.pdf)<span
style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif;"> (PDF)</span>

<span
style="font-family:&quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;">Instructions:
Read these articles about the Severan Dynasty, which ruled the Roman
Empire between 193–235 CE. Even though their rise to power in 193 CE
brought peace to the Empire, their rule was characterized by
constant political turmoil. </span>

<span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif;">Reading this material
and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.</span>

<span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif;">Terms of Use: Please
respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage
above.</span>
  • Reading: Boise State University: Professor E. L. Skip Knox’s “The Severi”

    Link: Boise State University: Professor E. L. Skip Knox’s The Severi (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this text and all embedded links from “The Severi: Septimius Severus” through “The Severi: Severus Alexander (222–233).” These readings depict the causes and extent of the social and political upheaval felt throughout the empire following the death of Commodus and the efforts of succeeding rulers to restore peace and order. Pay special attention to the power and influence that various women had over these emperors.

    Reading this material and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes. 

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: University of Chicago: LacusCurtius: Bill Thayer’s version of Cassius Dio’s “Roman History

    Link: University of Chicago: LacusCurtius: Bill Thayer’s version of Cassius Dio’s Roman History (HTML)

    Instructions: Read Chapters 73–80, which discuss the reigns of the emperors Commodus, Pertinax, Septimius Severus, Caracalla, and Elagabalus. Cassius Dio (c. 220 CE) as a Roman Senator witnessed firsthand the reigns of these emperors.

    Reading this material and taking notes should take approximately 6 hours.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “HIST301 Discussion Forum”

    Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “HIST301 Discussion Forum” (HTML)

    Instructions: Spend a few minutes reflecting on these questions about Commodus, Pertinax, Septimus Severus, Caracalla, and Elagabalus:

    Based on Dio’s account, how do these emperors compare to the “good” emperors? How did these emperors come to power? What was their relationship with the Roman army and the Senate? 

    Now, share your thoughts on the discussion forum by clicking the link above and creating a (free) account, if you have not already done so. Also, take some time to read responses other students have shared and leave any comments you have on their feedback.

    Sharing your thoughts on the discussion forum should take approximately 30 minutes.

  • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Units 6–9 Assessment” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Units 6–9 Assessment” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Follow the instructions on the document linked above to complete this written assessment. When you are finished, check your work against the Saylor Foundation’s “Guide to Responding” (PDF)
     
    Completing this assessment should take approximately 1 hour.