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The book is a fascinating study of political life in ancient Rome, and the parallels with our own political system are numerous and interesting.
However familiar life and politics in ancient Rome can seem, certain details remind us that we’re confronting a culture that is also distant and strange.
In his old age, Augustus exposed his infant grandson because the baby was born to his daughter from an adulterous affair.
After Caesar Augustus defeated his rival Mark Antony at the battle of Actium in 31 BC, the victor returned to Rome and greeted throngs of celebrating citizens.
A man with a raven on his arm emerged from the crowd, and as he approached Caesar, the bird called out “Hail Caesar, victor imperator!
It’s hard to imagine even the most ardent Democrats supporting the literal deification of Barack Obama or erecting small shrines in his honor throughout Washington DC.
By contrast, after Julius Caesar was posthumously declared a god, Augustus, as his adopted son, became known as the son of god.
Throughout his life he was known as Caesar, a constant reminder of his connection with the popular assassinated leader.
Augustus was an honorific title later added to his name by vote of the Roman Senate.
When the grain supply to Rome fell short of demand, Augustus dipped into his private fortune to fund distributions of grain to 250,000 citizens.
Only a very unusual American president would spend his own money to pay for American citizens’ gasoline after a failed intervention in the Middle East.